Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Batman Library, Part 2

Another slow news day, so it's back to looking at some of the best of Batman from the comics. In the first part, I took a look at Batman's early years. This time, I thought I'd cover what are basically the modern classics.

  • Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKeon.

    The gist: The inmates take over Arkham Asylum, holding the staff hostage. Their only demand is that Batman come inside, determined to prove that it's where he belongs. This not for everyone and certainly not for kids. It's a Gothic horror Batman, with non-traditional art and adult concepts. But it was also for many years the best selling original graphic novel of all time, and it has many devoted fans. It's also my favorite work by Grant Morrison, who's been the writer for Batman for the past couple years.

    Any relation to the movies?: Supposedly one of two books given to Heath Ledger to study up for his role as the Joker (though I'm not sure there's any evidence he necessarily read them).

    Villains who appear: A whole bunch, but they're twisted takes on the classic villains. The Joker, Black Mask, Clayface, Killer Croc, The Mad Hatter, Maxie Zeus, Scarecrow, Two-Face. I don't have my copy with me, so I may have even left someone out.

  • The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

    The gist: An older Batman comes out of retirement to kick some ass on the streets of Gotham.

    Any relation to the movies?: Absolutely. There are bits and pieces lifted straight out of this book into both movies. And possibly more importantly, many credit this book and the attention it garnered with making Batman a dark character in the public's eyes after years of associating it with the campy 60s TV series.

    Villains who appear: The Joker, Two-Face, The Mutants, Superman, and very briefly Catwoman.

  • The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland (as I think I mentioned before, I recommend this instead since it costs about the same and includes some other good stories (mostly not Batman))

    The gist: The Joker believes that he was driven insane by having just one really bad day, and sets out to prove his theory by putting Jim Gordon through hell.

    Any relation to the movies?: This was the other book supposedly given to Heath Ledger. And you can see a lot of the characterization from the Dark Knight in this book.

    Villains who appear: The Joker.

  • Tales of the Demon by Dennis O'Neil, Neal Adams, and others

    The gist: The definitive Ra's al-Ghul stories from the 1970s. Though the date might scare some modern readers off (I'm one of them, I have a hard time with the purple prose and downright silliness of most comics before 1985 or so), the work holds up pretty well. Other than the art not having the rich coloring that modern books have, it could almost pass for being recent.

    Any relation to the movies?: Certainly an influence on Batman Begins, though not as strong as some of the other books on this list.

    Villains who appear: Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul.

  • Tower of Babel by Mark Waid and Howard Porter

    The gist: This is a Justice League of America story, but pretty Batman-centric. It's not quite as "classic" as the rest of the books on this list, but it's got a killer concept that comic nerds like me love. Batman has kept detailed plans on how to take out the other members of the Jusice League in case they became a problem, but Ra's al Ghul stole them and put them into action.

    Any relation to the movies?: None whatsoever.

    Villains who appear: Ra's al Ghul, Talia al Ghul.

No comments: