Friday May 1, 2009 10:07 am
Happy 70th Birthday Batman!
According to the publication “Chase’s Calendar of Events”, “Detective Comics” # 27 hit newsstands on May 1, 1939. Wikipedia has it as May 2nd, but since I’m a librarian, I’m going to go with Chase as a more reliable resource. Instead of going through a history of Batman and talk about such things as the 60s TV show and the recent Chris Nolan Bat-films, I’ve decided to take a more personal approach. I mean lets face it, as a comic fan you know the history of Batman already. For you older fans you’ve experienced it first hand. Some of you are old enough to remember watching the 60s TV show when they first aired on ABC. So I will discuss my experiences with the character.
I will be 35 years old this July. So I have been alive for half of the 70 years that Batman has been in existence. My first experience with the character did not come with a comic book. It came with a TV show. I was introduced to Batman with the old Hanna-Barbera Super Friends cartoons. In these cartoons, Batman was far from the cool character that we would eventually see in later years. In fact, the Super Friends Batman was pretty lame. The character was portrayed as being just about helpless if he didn’t have his utility belt. Still, I liked him and Robin and I liked super hero cartoons in general. Looking back at these old cartoons with my oldest son who is four, I do not enjoy them because they are quality stories and adventures. I enjoy them more for nostalgia purposes and laugh to myself at how lame some of the things are on those old shows. But had it not been for the Super Friends, I never would have been introduced to the character.
At the same time these cartoons were on Channel 11 here in NYC, they also would air re-runs of the 1960s Batman TV show. Again, Batman was not the cool character that he is today. Adam West’s interpretation of the character was of course very campy. A young man who works in my library as a page looks at old clips of the show on YouTube and wonders how this show was successful and I said that this is all we had; this was all we knew about Batman.
I was not aware of what was going on with the comics at the time I was watching these shows. I did not begin reading comics until about 1984 and then I was only reading Marvel Comics. I picked up an issue of Batman sometime after I started collecting and the book didn’t really interest me. I don’t really remember why, but it wasn’t until 1989 and the first Tim Burton Batman film that coaxed me into giving Batman comics a second look. I vividly remember leaving the Valentine theater in the South Bronx on Fordham Road. My friend Elliot’s grandmother worked there as an usher and we were able to get in and see free movies. I enjoyed the movie and wanted to continue the Bat-experience so I decided to go to my comic book store that was located just down the block.
,Fordham Comics was located in an old building on the bottom corner of Fordham Road. The owner Phil was a jackass, but it was the only store near me and I really didn’t have any choice. I remember I used to have to walk up three flights of old wooden stairs to get to the store. I went into the store that day and looked at the section of DC Comics and found an issue of the self-titled “Batman” series. The issue was #433 and it was part one of a three part story called “The Many Deaths of the Batman”. The cover to the issue was very cool and caught my attention immediately. The cover had Batman’s empty cowl laying on the ground with a knife plunged through it. I picked it up and went home to read it. If you remember this issue, you know that there wasn’t much to read in this issue. The issue was a silent issue and the story was told only through the artwork. I believe there might have been one word said in the story, but over all there were no word bubbles or captions narrating the story. I never read GI Joe #21 so I was unaware of the silent issue that was first done in 1984.
Issue #433 was drawn by veteran Batman artist Jim Aparo whose work I’d never seen before. I was blown away and I felt at the time, who else could draw Batman other than Aparo. Then I saw the work of Norm Breyfogle over in “Detective Comics”. Why DC hasn’t invited Breyfogle back to draw Batman is unknown to me. I think there was a falling out, but if Rob Liefeld can come back to draw for Marvel why can’t Breyfogle come back to DC?
So what is it about Batman that got me hooked 20 years ago? I think the reason I’ve enjoyed Batman over the years is because the various writers over the years have made Bruce Wayne - Batman a true champion for justice. Instead of using his parents death as a footnote in his history they have made it the main focus of Bruce Wayne’s life - his obsession. Bruce knows he will never save them, but the anger and pain he feels over their deaths is a focus point for his revenge against criminals like Joe Chill. Some people may say Bruce is not out for revenge. He’s only trying to save others from suffering what he has suffered. I believe that is certainly apart of it, but lets face it Bruce has a lot of anger in him and I believ that anger comes out from wanting revenge.
As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of Batman this month, we find that the man who was behind the cowl 70 years ago is no longer there. I’m not sure why DC okayed Bruce Wayne’s “death” with the 70th anniversary happening this year, but its almost fitting that this month when “Battle for the Cowl” #3 hits the stands, a new Batman will be born. All signs point to original Robin Dick Grayson taking up the mantle of his mentor, but I wouldn’t put it past DC to have it be someone else.
The new Batman will also have a new Robin fighting along side him. Again all signs point to Damien Wayne, which I believe no question will be the case. As I said in my previous Bat-blogs, I will be checking out the stories featuring the new Dynamic Duo, but if I’m not sold on it, I’m gone. Either way I’m looking forward to the return of Bruce Wayne to the cowl. Lets just hope it’s not too long.
In closing, I would like to dedicate this blog to Batman’s unsung co-creator Bill Finger. Mr Finger was of course the first Batman writer and played a huge part in designing the character, creating the back story of Batman, and creating much of the supporting cast we have experienced through out the years. Because of a deal made with DC at the time, Bob Kane gets sole credit even to this day on anything and everything Batman. I hope that before Batman celebrates his 100th birthday, Mr. Finger will get his due and get an official credit for creating Batman. RIP Mr. Finger and thank you for your work.
Happy Birthday, Batman!
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