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Book Review:
BATMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD, Vol. 1

Author: Bill Ramey
Saturday, November 4, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
A collection of some of the Dark Knight's finest adventures! This volume contains stories from DETECTIVE COMICS #33 (1939), BATMAN #5 (1941), BATMAN #62 (1950), and more!

Over the last year, I’ve been a frequent patron of a local comic book shop. In late 2005, I experienced a Batman comic book renaissance after ignoring The Batman in his original incarnation for nearly a decade. Coinciding with this rebirth, DC Comics sort of revamped the comic book version of The Dark Knight. Gone was the paranoid and virtually unlikable Batman, and in was a more heroic -- but still very dark -- version of the character.

So as I visited my comic shop weekly to pick up the latest Bat-titles, I found myself buying a graphic novel, trade paperback, or Batman book that I might have missed over the years. It has become my goal to become the "World’s Leading Batman Know-It-All." Just kidding -- sort of.

At any rate, I’m here today to give y’all the rundown of one of the recent Bat-books I picked up: BATMAN: THE GREATEST STORIES EVER TOLD.

This anthology offers the readers a look at several versions of The Batman. Here are a few that stand out…

In “ORIGIN,” from DETECTIVE COMICS #33 (November 1939), writer Bill Finger and artist Bob Kane provided the world with an explanation of why Bruce Wayne dresses like a giant black bat and kicks the crap out of criminals.

“THE SECRET LIFE OF CATWOMAN” from BATMAN #62 (December 1950/January 1951) gives us a classic 1950s style Batman story in which Catwoman becomes and agent of the law!

“1963’s “ROBIN DIES AT DAWN” (BATMAN #156, June 1963) foreshadows Robin II’s death in the mid-80s. However, it is a classic example of the smiling, goofy, sci-fi Batman found in the 50s and early 60s.

The great Bat-decade of the 1970s is represented well. Among those stories you’ll find Steve Englehart’s “NIGHT OF THE STALKER” (DETECTIVE COMICS #439, March 1974) and the classic, “THE JOKER’S FIVE WAY REVENGE” (BATMAN #251, September 1973), by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams. There is also a story I remember well from my childhood: “THE BATMAN NOBODY KNOWS” (BATMAN #250, July 1973). This story, in which a group of kids give Bruce Wayne their take on the “real” Batman, must have been the inspiration for a very similar episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES.

For you fans of Frank Miller, the 1980 story, “WANTED: SANTA CLAUS -- DEAD OR ALIVE!” (DC SPECIAL SERIES #21, Spring 1980) features Millers artwork on a story written by the great Denny O’Neal.

Even the 2000s version of The Batman (pre-INFINITE CRISIS) makes an appearance in “24/7” (BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #32, October 2002). Actually, it’s a Bruce Wayne story where the billionaire tries to do good (and honor his deceased parents) in ways unlike his dark alter-ego.

Recognize any of these names: Bob Kane, Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff, Dick Giordano, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, Frank Miller, Dick Sprang, Mike W. Barr, Alan Davis, Mark Millar, Alex Ross, and Devin Grayson among others. You’ll find them all here. Not a bad collection of Bat-talent, huh?

BATMAN: THE GREATES STORIES EVER TOLD provides an excellent representation of the development of The Batman through the 20th century. A must have for Batman and comics fans alike.

Take it from the future "World’s Leading Batman Know-It-All."

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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