Sunday, December 8, 2013


Hardcover, 2013
Winter is upon us, and in my mind there's no better superhero to read about on a nice chilly night than the Batman. As a kid I didn't read many DC comics. I was all about Marvel, preferring to get my DC fix from their other media: the Christopher Reeve SUPERMAN films, the Adam West BATMAN series (still in syndication when I grew up in the eighties), and SUPER FRIENDS. Later on, of course, came the Bruce Timm cartoons, starting with BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES. In fact, the comic book spin-off of B:TAS, BATMAN ADVENTURES, was -- and remains -- the only DC comic I ever read regularly on a monthly basis.

I did manage to read the occasional limited series as I got older, but regular monthly DC comics remained a sizable blind spot in my comic book knowledge. Finally, in recent years, I've begun plugging some holes in my DC collection through various collected editions. Among the collections out there are two series of hardcovers from DC, which inexplicably have different titles even though they're essentially the same line: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT and TALES OF THE BATMAN. The books themselves are beautiful, with great design work, slick dustjackets, and top-notch production.

However, both series are creator-centric, reprinting only stories by specific artists (and so far one writer). Due to this approach, the majority of the books contain random stories which make little sense when put together in a single collection. For example, TALES OF THE BATMAN: GENE COLAN contains, in chronological order, several stories illustrated by "Gene the Dean". Unfortunately, these stories were all part of Gerry Conway's run as writer, when BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS were treated essentially as one bi-weekly title. So we wind up with a book which jumps around, skipping chapters integral to the story's continuity.

As a result, I've avoided the majority of these collections. If DC ever sees fit to put together books containing all stories from a specific run, including fill-ins and continuations in other titles -- you know, the way any human being with a lick of common sense would expect them to be assembled -- then I'll gladly pick them up. But until then, most of these books hold no interest to me.

There are, however, three exceptions so far: the writer-centric collection, TALES OF THE BATMAN: ARCHIE GOODWIN, being a compilation of all the writer's work on the character, does not skip issues due to different artists. Also, TALES OF THE BATMAN: DON NEWTON collects an unbroken run of about a dozen straight DETECTIVE COMICS issues, so I plan to pick that up as well. The third, of course, is LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: ALAN DAVIS. Davis has done a small amount of Batman work over the years, and all of it (with the exception of his run on BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS) is collected in the volume. No chapters are skipped, as Davis drew seven straight issues of DETECTIVE COMICS between 1986 and 1987.

There is one oddity in the book, however, that being that the final issue -- number 575 -- is part one of the four-part "Batman: Year Two". The remaining chapters are not collected, as Davis left the book and Todd McFarlane took over art chores at that point. But since I already own "Year Two" in its own trade paperback collection, I had no issues with the missing content in this case. The book does contain the "Year Two" sequel, "Full Circle", which Davis returned to illustrate.

So, for the next two Fridays, I'll spend a little time on this book, covering the contents of DETECTIVE COMICS issues 569 through 574 (I intend to skip "Year Two" and "Full Circle" at this time, and possibly re-visit them another day). In addition to being illustrated by Davis, all six issues are written by Batman veteran Mike W. Barr. I've only ever read one of these issues, so I look forward to checking out this short-lived run in depth.

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