Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thoughts On The Batman: The Black Casebook TPB

For those who have not been following the current issues of Batman, let me catch you up to speed. When writer Grant Morrison began his run on Batman with issue 655 (his full run comprising 655-658 and 663-683), he decided to take a unique perspective on the Dark Knight: that every story from Batman's 70 year publishing history happened to him in a 15 year period. He would examine how that amount of stress would affect a person's mental state...and he would also dust off the wacky fifties concepts that many had chosen to neglect. He brought the sci-fi stories of the fifties and sixties back into Batman's canon, explaining that the Caped Crusader transcribed such unexplainable events into the Black Casebook. But more than bring the fifties back, Morrison modernized such characters as the Batmen of All Nations and Bat-Mite and made them part of the stories he told. For fifties Batman fans, each issue brought the excitement of what story Morrison would reference next. For those who were not so familiar with the era, some scratched their heads at where Morrison was pulling all of this from. Before nary an Amazon placeholder appeared, there was speculation across the internet of DC collecting the stories Morrison drew from for his run into one trade paperback. While it didn't come out until months after Morrison's run on the Batman title ended, the collection did indeed arrive back in June.

Alright, enough recap, let's talk about the collection. The cover design for it is simply perfect. The front cover sans the text looks what a journal owned by Batman would look like. The description for the collection on the back cover is designed to look like pen written on a sheet of lined paper, further adding to the journal feel. Dotted across the covers and spine are marks that make the collection look worn, just as the fictional Black Casebook would probably look after 15 years of use. As far as the paper between the covers, it is along the same lines as the paper used in the Batman In The Fifties trade paperback, but of higher quality. The table of contents has a nice touch to it with the word "Closed:" appearing before the issue in which the story originally appeared. Besides assembling in one place the stories that inspired Morrison's Batman run, the collection also includes a three page introduction by Grant Morrison where he explains why he chose the stories he chose to draw upon. As someone who read and enjoyed his run a great deal, it was quite interesting to get a glimpse into how he crafted it.

The stories collected are more scattered than the three annuals from the previous collection I reviewed, so I have compiled a list in the order they appear in the trade paperback:

"A Partner For Batman" from Batman #65
"Batman - Indian Chief" from Batman #86
"The Batmen of All Nations" from Detective Comics #215
"The First Batman" from Detective Comics #235
"The Club of Heroes" from World's Finest Comics #89
"The Man Who Ended Batman's Career" from Detective Comics #247
"Am I Really Batman?" from Batman #112
"Batman - The Superman of Planet X" from Batman #113
"Batman Meets Bat-Mite" from Detective Comics #267
"The Rainbow Creature" from Batman #134
"Robin Dies At Dawn" from Batman #156
"The Batman Creature" from Batman #162

Most of the stories collected have been reprinted before, although there are two or three that have not. In fact, the "Creature" stories had nothing to do with Morrison's Batman run, but he included them because he found the covers interesting.

The only nitpick I have about the collection is that in the spaces where house ads went in the original issues, DC has swapped them out for a Batman oval. The oval of course didn't appear until after the fifties era, and while it's a little annoying, I can overlook it.

With the high amount of already reprinted material, I can see how some fifties Batman fans may pass on this collection. Really, the collection is aimed more at the fans of Grant Morrison's Batman run who have never read this material than the already established fanbase. But with any luck, this collection will lead to a few new fifties Batman fans out there.


Pat said...

Out of curiosity, which issue(s) in the Morrison run had Bat-Mite?

Chris said...

He appeared in #s 672-674 and 678-680. When I finally wrap up the long belated Bat-Mite Month next week, I'll be doing a write up on his interpretation of the character.