One of the ‘things’ that has kept me distracted in the last month or two is Batman. I owned a few of his story arcs and thought I’d have a bit of a reread between novels. Well, that was probably a mistake. I’ve become completely hooked again. But it’s worse than when I first got into the graphic medium, because now I seem to have more disposable money that I can put into sizeable weekly orders from the Book Depository. Plus, every book I buy seems to pave the way for three or four more books that I simply must have!
The problem, I think, is DC. I’d heard that the DC Universe is more complicated and confusing than Marvel and I believe it! I know so much more now than two years ago – about the Justice League and other regularly recurring characters – but it seems the more I learn, the more I realise that I don’t know much at all. There’s so much history and it’s hard to know where to start. But I love it!
Batman is my favourite, obviously. I love reading his trade paperbacks the best. When I reread Earth One, I was so impressed. I forgot how good it was. It’s basically a re-imagining of Batman’s beginnings. He’s inexperienced and rash. Alfred is an ex-marine (or something like that). Gordon is this beaten down cop who lets the criminals of Gotham have their way. Harvey Bullock is there as a transfer from LA. Harvey Dent makes a small appearance, too. For a short book, it really packs in a lot. It’s one of my favourites.
The Dark Knight Rises is a classic for a reason. I really enjoy it. It’s got some great moments between Bruce and Alfred (their relationship is one of the best aspects of Batman, in my opinion – I like it when the writers have fun with it and slide in a bit of droll humour from the Englishman). The panels are all sort of packed in and there’s a kind of messy look to the whole book – the total opposite to the style of comics that come later – but it just works. If you don’t know the story, Batman has been retired for ten years, but he decides to get back into the business because Gotham crime is horrendous. There’s these mutant guys running around slicing and dicing people, and who knows what else going on. So he’s older and really has to push himself to the limits.
Currently, I’m working my way through Grant Morrison’s run. They are great, really. In one of the introductions it mentioned how he looked at the entire seventy years of Batman as one man’s experiences (condensed into a fifteen year career, I think). So he includes a lot of history and references – a lot of which I don’t get. But I suppose the good thing about living in this age is that I can just look up the things I don’t understand. Also, the more I read, the more that clicks into place.
Some events are just so cool, they deserve to be mentioned specifically. I am talking, of course, about when Batman fought a shark in Venom. So cool. I love sharks, I love Batman – it was a good day for me!
I do enjoy reading the stuff that includes all of the DC characters – mainly the Crisis books. But seriously, they open up a whole other world (infinite worlds … see what I did there?). Just when I think I’ve got the characters locked down, heroes like Blue Beetle are brought in. Maybe my ignorance is showing, but I had never heard of that guy before. And that was just the tip of characters that were completely new to me. Not to mention, the characters are often doing whatever they were doing in their current comics, which I usually don’t know anything about, so it takes a bit to catch up.
In a perfect world, I would read all this stuff in order. But it’s just too hard. I’d need like a personal trainer of comics – someone who knew absolutely everything there was to know, and would just hand over whatever book was next. I have to research this stuff extensively, and there doesn’t seem to be one site that lists everything. I’ve got to jump around a lot. The thing is, I’m also getting into other characters – specifically Green Lantern and Superman (also Daredevil, but I don’t even want to think about Marvel right now!) – but my Batman readings have already let loose a lot of spoilers for these characters. Which is fine, I’ll still get to discover the how of these events. The point is, DC’s continuity is a big sprawling mess. It’s like a bowl of spaghetti, and I’m just trying to unravel it strand by strand. And you know what? It’s actually a lot of fun.
Additional: You know what? Turns out I’ve been putting too many words into my searches. Less is more, people. Less is more. I’ve found a rather awesome and very comprehensive list of Batman/sidekick/allies chronology here – result!