Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Thoughts On The DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals Vol. 1 HC

After months of rumors, placeholders, and waiting, the DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals Vol. 1 harcover arrived on April 22nd. Did it live up to the hype? Was it everything that fifties Batman fans across the internet hoped it would be? Of course it was, but let's examine the collection in a little bit more detail.

The hardcover is roughly the same size as an Archive edition, making it a perfect addendum to a line that will likely never feature fifties Batman reprints. The blue and yellow colors on the dustjacket work well together, as do the other elements in the dustjacket's design. The foreground of the front cover is an illustration done in the style of fifties Batman art by Rodney Ramos. Ramos does an excellent job paying homage to the era; in fact, Batman's pose is very similar to the Caped Crusader's on the splash page to the story "Batman The Magician," reprinted in the second annual. The background on the front cover features a rearrangement of the panels on the cover to the second annual and, along with the panels on theb back cover and interior flaps, is a nice sample of what the collection offers.

My favorite element to the dustjacket is one that may not jump out at first glance. The authors listed at the bottom of the front cover are thus: Bill Finger, Dick Sprang, and Sheldon Moldoff. The name of Bob Kane, who for so many years took sole credit for the work of so many creators, is not among them. Of course, none of his work appears in the reprints collected within, but still, I applaud DC Comics for giving credit to the creators who deserve it.

The features inside the book are more than just a reprinting of the annuals. The table of contents is near perfect, including correct creator credits and a sentence long summary of each story. The issues in which the stories originally appeared are absent, but they are referenced in the introduction that follows, provided by writer/producer Michael Uslan. Uslan is no stranger to Batman, having served as executive producer for the films Batman (1989), Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight, as well as writing the Batman newspaper strip and the Detective No. 27 graphic novel. The introduction follows the format of the Batman In The Fifties trade paperback, commenting on the stories being reprinting and making anecdontes and observations here and there. I was happy to see a feature I predicted months ago, a side by side comparison of the original and edited panels from the story "The New Crimes of Two Face," appear at the end of the introduction. There is also an afterward from Richard Bruning, the senior VP-creative director at DC Comics. The afterward is a reminisce from someone who was a kid when the annuals originally hit the stands and a nice note to end on, not counting the creator biographies that make up the real end of the collection.

As for the actual contents collected, c'mon, how can you go wrong? The three earliest, and hardest to find, Batman Annuals collected in one tome. The paper stock used is a heavy, non-glossy one perfect for the stories being collected. The colors in the stories have been reconstructed and look simply fantastic. I'm also happy to say that the extras included in the annuals, such as the "secrets of the utility belt and batarangs" page from the first annual and the pin-up calandar from the second annual, are reprinted along with the stories. The only minor negative to the reprinting is that the binding is semi-tight and there is a little bit of the page lost in the gutter, but it's not to such an extent that it takes away from the enjoyment of reading the stories. And speaking of enjoying the stories, nine of them feature Dick Sprang art. Like I said, how can you go wrong?

If you are a fifties Batman fan and have not yet picked up this collection, I can't recommend it enough. DC Comics pulled out all the stops to produce it and the result is the deluxe treatment that many fifties Batman fans have been clamoring for. And if the "Volume One" is any indication, DC doesn't plan on reprinting just the first three Batman Annuals.


Pat said...

Is there any mention of the editing job done to the Two-Face story in Batman Annual #3?

Chris said...

Yep, they have the original panel and the edited panel from Annual #3 at the end of the introduction.

Pat said...

Cool! I will have to edit my post on the changed origin!