19 October 2005

Batman: Strange Apparitions

Premise: Even after facing radioactive mosters, mad scientists, cold-blooded assassins, and the Joker, Batman faces the biggest threat of his career: love.

Much like Superman, Batman has undergone numerous changes since his debut in 1939. In his first appearances, he was a vicious vigilante who killed criminals in cold blood. In the 50's & 60's, he was a smiling do-gooder who often duked it out with outlandish villians on giant typewriters. Today, he is a tortured soul who is as dangerous to his friends as he is to his enemies.

Personally, I prefer the Batman of the 1970's. As a response to the campy TV show starring Adam West, the creators of the time returned Batman to his roots as the Dark Knight. They made him more intense and more serious than he was in the previous decade, but he still carried fantastic gadgets and acted like a true hero (Grant Morrison referred to this period of Batman as "James Bond in a cape").

Batman: Strange Apparitions contains a series of stories from this period (1977-78, to be precise). Despite some purple prose and a tenuous grasp of science, writer Steve Englehart delivered engrossing and atmospheric scripts that were quite sophisticated for the time. Marshall Rogers (penciller) & Terry Austin (inker) provided clean, dynamic art that serves the action-packed moments just as well as it does the quiet, dramatic ones.

Many fans consider Englehart, Rogers & Austin's works to be the "definitive" Batman. It would be safe to assume that the people who worked on Batman: The Animated Series would be among those fans, since two of the stories in this book were later adapted for television (including the infamous "Laughing Fish" episode).

Recommended For: fans of Superfriends, Justice League, or any of the Batman films (particularly Tim Burton's 1989 version); people who watch soap operas; film noir afficionados.
Not Recommended For: people who couldn't care less about Batman as a character; people turned off by the 70's aesthetic (all the women have feathered hair, all the men are wearing leisure suits); science majors.

No comments: