For the past 75 years, Batman has fought crime. Yes, it’s been that long. Ever since Detective Comics #27 back in 1939, the Dark Knight has battled evil. This week, Detective Comics #27 of the rebooted series came out and it’s an issue that commemorates three quarters of a century of a rich man with a bat on his chest. Today, we’re going to look at an issue that is not just a collection of homages and full of love for the character, but also one that has seen a lot of silly marketing ploys before it came out.
First and foremost, as a long-term comic book reader, you will love this issue. There are short stories, one-page artpieces that showcase certain eras of Batman’s career and a story that sets the stage for months to come as well as a story by the current writer Batman that tells the story of The Dark Knight 200 years in the future. Needless to say, DC Comics wants us to read the comic book that comes with a whopping $7.99. Usually, a comic book costs around $3.99. To be fair, they did put a lot of effort into the book and they did publish a lot more pages than they usually do.
On the plus side, there is not one bad story in it. The tales range from the origin of the new Joker in the rebooted DC Universe. It’s pretty much the same origin, only slightly modified. It’s a nice tale with some talk that sees Batman slightly out of character for how we know him today. But it’s only revealed a few pages in that this happened towards the beginning of the Dark Knight’s crusade to eliminate all crime.
The art is good. Period. It’s not extraordinarily awesome or groundbreaking, but the team of artists that work on the over 70 pages of commemorative issue – Bryan Hitch, Neal Adams, Ian Bertram, Francesco Francavilla, Guillem March, Jason Fabok and Sean Murphy – deliver solid work.
Perhaps the most impressive and most interesting story – despite, and we’ll get back to that in a minute, Gothtopia and Year 200 – is titled “Old School”. If you remember the old Batman TV-show from the 1960s starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin, then you’ll love this. There’s also recently been a comic book titled “Batman ’66” that picks up the characters and incarnations from that old TV show. While that book is fun, it’s inconsequential and irrelevant to everything. Writer Gregg Hurrwitz however manages to tie it into subjects that comic book fans debate over on a daily basis. He has his Penguin state that everyone must evolve. Not to stay relevant, but to stay alive. And while Adams’ characters explain this, artist Gregg Hurrwitz has Batman’s outfit and the style change to reflect Batman’s evolution over the years. That’s awesome. Literally nothing about this story sucks. And if you have a bit of money to spare, this story alone is worth it.
The odd thing is that there was no advertising needed to make this a great story. No marketing ploy could have made this story better or worse. Because it’s just a good story.
Detective Comics #27 marks the beginning of Gothtopia, a storyline that sees Gotham City as the safest city in the United States. No crime, no catastrophes, no nothing. Preceding this latest crossover of the Batman-Books, there was a lot of buzz. Funnily enough, the commercial said actually precious little about what Gothtopia was about. But there was buzz. At some point, artist Sean Murphy tweeted a picture of an African American Robin. Everyone immediately jumped to the conclusion that Gothtopia is where said Black Robin had his debut. It isn’t. Murphy doesn’t even work on that story. Instead we get a lot of alternate versions of our favourite Gothamites. Batman wears a white suit and is on good terms with the police. Catbird alias Selina Kyle is his Robin. Et cetera.
The one thing that makes stories like these interesting is the aspect of “How does it fit?” Basically, you get a completely absurd scenario and over the course of the story, the reader – along with the hero – figures out how the hero managed to get there and how to get out and back to normalcy again. Recently, however, they’ve decided that this is apparently not a good premise anymore. Has it been done too often? Do we no longer want to read a hero in another reality that we’re told is his but isn’t. Either way, it’s established right off the bat that Bruce Wayne was drugged and is hallucinating all this. So we didn’t even get ten pages of mystery and we’re at the point where the story has come to the point where there’s nothing left to do but punch everyone in the face.
If this were a one-shot, then this wouldn’t be so much of an issue. But this is a genuine, full-blown story arc and even crosses over into the other Bat-Books and it’s only just begun. However, as a story, it’s nicely done. Well-paced, the art is good and the ideas of the alternate characters are awesome. Blargh. Moving on.
On to the Black Robin. When Sean Murphy tweeted the image, the internet immediately jumped to the conclusion that Black Robin was someone who was to appear in Gothtopia. Here’s a hint: He doesn’t. He appears in one panel in Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy’s future of Batman. And it’s stunts like these that annoy me to no end. You honestly think that Sean Murphy was so excited about this one character who appears in one panel that he just had to tweet it? What about all the other characters that appear in one panels that are equally interesting such as the other Future-Robins? This was orchestrated. This was made for viral controversy. “Oooh, look, a Black Robin. I must read this!”
And that’s not the only one of these stunts. There was also the internet being upset about Frank Miller’s sexist variant cover showing Catwoman in only a fishnet top. Of course DC knew what they were in for. Frank Miller couldn’t write a script without the word “whore” in it if his life depended on it. They knew that the internet would be up in arms after seeing the cover. This isn’t “DC did something stupid today”, this is free advertising. This is actually clever. Annoying, but clever. Also, just because everyone and their cousin got rightfully upset about the objectifying depiction of a character who – while sexy and using her sex appeal to her own advantage at times – has more to offer than just her boobs does not mean that DC’s going to stop.
On the contrary. Frank Miller probably has ten more covers lined up. Because you talk about them. You make them a big deal. Everyone will be aware of whatever comic book he’s drawing the cover for. You’re their advertising strategy.
The third thing that made this issue all the rage was a letter from DC, informing subscribers that the expensive, oversized special issue would not be included in everyone’s subscription. Because it was too expensive to be covered by regular cost. Needless to say, fans were outraged. After all, as a fan, you subscribe to a series to not miss an issue. And to then be told by the people you pay to ensure that you don’t miss anything that you’re going to miss something because they missed including that bit in the deal you made with them, that sucks. I would be offended.
So a few days passed and outrage was had. The story made the rounds on the internet and almost always with the mentioning of the issue being oversized and some names attached to it. Advertising. Needless to say, a few days later DC went back on that decision and a second letter was sent out. Again the letter hit the internet, once more mentioning “oversized” and the list of creators working on the book.
Anyway, here we are. Seventy-five years of Batman. That’s something to be proud of. All in all, Batman was better at times, worse at times. But whatever shade of Batman you like, you will find it in this book. All the stories are solid, fun and it’s an overall enjoyable read. Go get it.