BATMAN ON FILM, since June 1998!

Book Review
THE BATMAN CHRONICLES, Vol. 2

Author: Bill Ramey
Friday, December 8, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
"Continuing the complete and chronological reprinting of every Batman comics story ever published! CHRONICLES VOL. 2 - collecting Batman stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #39-45, BATMAN #2-3, and NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR COMICS #2 - features the Dark Knight facing a host of villains including the Joker, Catwoman, Clayface and many more!"

In my never ending goal to become the World’s #1 Batman Know-It All, I’ve been reading a ton of Batman books, comics, TPBs, and graphic novels of late. Pretty much anything I can get my hands on. Hey, it ain't easy being a Batman-guru, but you got to do what you got to do.

One of my recent acquisitions was THE BATMAN CHRONICLES, Vol. 2. If you are not familiar with the CHRONICLES, DC Comics is reprinting every single Batman story in chronological order over several volumes (there have been two so far).

In Vol. 2, you are treated to Golden Age stories from BATMAN (#s 3 & 4), DETECTIVE (#s 39-45), and from NEW YORK WORLDS FAIR COMICS #2. All are from the year 1940, so The Batman is only a year or so removed from his first debut. These early Batman tales are written by Bill Finger (who should get a “created by” credit for The Batman -- but that’s another story) with art provided by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.

Now, these stories are not nearly as dark and “adult,” if you will, as today’s Batman comic books, but they are certainly not nearly as silly or fantastical as the Silver Age Batman tales. During this period, The Batman was still considered a true vigilante and nuisance by Gotham City police.

Also of note, many of his “wonderful toys” had yet to make an appearance, such as The Batmobile. In fact, he got around Gotham in a regular 40s sedan! There’s also no Alfred or Batcave, which actually originated in the first Columbia movie serial in 1943.

Here are some highlights of Vol 1

In DETECTIVE #39, The Batman takes on a Chinatown “tong” called The Green Dragon. Tongs were Chinese gangs that basically operated in the manner of organized crime.

The classic, yet unrealistic, villain Clayface makes his first appearance in DETECTIVE #40. What struck me when I read this story was that this Clayface is realistic and could possibly work in a future BATMAN film. He’s not a big shape-shifting pile of mud as today, but discontented actor Basil Karlo who disguises his face with makeup (He's sort of Lon Chaney type of dude, although "Basil Karlo" is a nod to actor Boris Karloff).

Perhaps the greatest comic book villain of all time, The Joker, returns to Batman comics in BATMAN #2 and DETECTIVE #45. And Catwoman appears in BATMAN #3 looking nothing like she does today (she sports a tremendously goofy-looking cat mask).

What’s cool about these stories from 1940, is that they are quite readable. It's sort of like watching an those old, but good movies of that era. Sure they are dated -- especially the dialogue and artwork -- but these early Bat-tales are rather well-written. Also, they are not dominated by the inane sci-fi tales that were found in the Batman comics of the 1950s. They are a lot like today's Batman stories, except it’s the early 40s, not the 2000s.

Except everyone...says "say, gee, golly, swell"...smokes up a storm...and wheres wide-rimmed hats.

Personally, I love these THE BATMAN CHRONICLES for their historical importance. Plus, they are pretty fun to read too.

Bill Ramey, AKA "Jett," is the founder and editor in chief of
BATMAN ON FILM, BATMAN IN COMICS, and ON-FILM.NET.

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