There are so many iterations of Batman that have been around since his original appearance in Detective Comics, it can be a bit overwhelming to the newbie. I'm here to tell you about my favorite pieces of Batman media to perhaps lead you to something that will be fun for you. Batman has been light and campy, dark and gritty and had many, many other personalities over the years. Just as his personality can vary, so does the type of media that he inhabits; comics, movies, TV shows and video games are just a few of the places where you can find The Dark Knight. I know most of you have probably seen the Batman movies, both the ones from Tim Burton and the new versions from Christopher Nolan; but I am going to try to delve into slightly less mainstream variations on The World's Greatest Detective.
Batman: The Animated Series
I was aware of Batman before I was exposed to Batman: TAS, but this was the show that made me a Batman fan for life. Created by Paul Dini (the writer) and Bruce Timm (the artist), Batman: TAS was revolutionary in children's animation in the early '90s and informed many of the ways Batman has been written over the decades following. The idea that Gotham is in an anachronistic noir world, equal parts the '40s and present day, was a visionary idea that allowed a fantasy character like the Batman to become more plausible. The crew didn't talk down to their audience and Batman: TAS was one of the most mature, dark, and character-driven animated series of all time. I HIGHLY suggest giving it a go if you haven't already.
Some of my favorite episodes:
-Heart of Ice: In which Mr. Freeze's background is explained and he becomes a tragic figure representing love and loss and losing yourself to revenge.
-Perchance to Dream: Bruce wakes up one day and he is no longer Batman, in fact he never was. His parents are still alive and his fiancee is Selena Kyle. What is really going on here?
-The Laughing Fish: The first episode I ever saw of this show. A surprisingly scary episode with a dark mystery surrounding The Joker, poisoned fish, and disguises.
Later on there was a streamlined redesign of the show and they produced more episodes, from that series I suggest:
-Mad Love: The origin of the Joker's lover and partner in crime Harley Quinn. She was his clinical psychologist, how did she get driven to a life in crime?
Batman: Arkham Asylum
Want a good Batman video game to play? Well until 2009 there wasn't one. That was until Batman: Arkham Asylum for the X-Box 360, PS3, and PC came out. It takes everything that is cool about Batman - the gadgets, the fistfights, the detective work, the sneaking around, and the classic Batman villains - and puts them together into one fantastic ball of awesomesauce. Plus it was written by Paul Dini, who created Batman: TAS and one of my favorite Batman Baddies, Harley Quinn. The graphics are rad, the story is good, and the play mechanics are some of the tightest out there. If you like video games and are interested in Batman, you can't go wrong.
Batman Graphic Novels You Should Read
Of course the core of Batman is the comics, and the best of them have been collected in graphic novels. A graphic novel collects a few issues or a story arc of a comic and puts them into one book. Here are a few of my favorites, and what I suggest you pick up, should you be presented with the opportunity.
-Batman: The Long Halloween by Jeph Loeb and Time Sale. A fantastic Batman story concentrating on what makes Batman shine - detective work and villains. It's a mystery centering on the early years in Batman's existence. There have been mafia hits going on each consecutive holiday. Batman is searching, with the help of Jim Gordon and a pre-Two Face Harvey Dent, for the killer before tensions rise to an all-out mafia war. If you like The Long Halloween make sure to check out its sequel Dark Victory.
-Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth by Grant Morrison and Dave McKean. If you like a strange, psychological tale, this is for you. It''s dark to a fault, but beautiful and grants you an inside look into the world of Arkham, the place the villains of Batman live when they are taking time off from maiming the populace of Gotham. It may be a bit difficult for a novice comic reader, but if you can get into some unconventional story-telling, definitely give it a try.
-Batman: Thrillkiller by Howard Chaykin and Dan Brereton. This is from a series that DC published called Elsewords. Elseworlds sets up alternate reality worlds that put familiar DC characters in unfamiliar states. Thrillkiller is a steamy noir thriller set in the '60s. Bruce Wayne is the only honest cop on the force and Batgirl is the main vigilante in Gotham. The Joker is an eccentric and insane lady who needs to be stopped. It is fun for anybody with a basic knowledge of the Batman Universe.
Here are a few more to check out: Batman: Black and White, Mad Love, and Batman: The Killing Joke.
If you aren't feeling up for the darker side of Batman, you can always go back in time and watch some of the old Batman series from the '60s or the newer Batman: Brave and the Bold. Batman: B&B is inspired by the lighter age in comics of the '60s and '70s and is sharply animated with an equally sharp sense of humor. It features tons of obscure heroes and villains and is great for people steeped in comics and also people just getting to know them.
Well, that is the end of my Batman Primer, I hope that with the information presented you know a little more about The Caped Crusader than when we started, and with this final entry you have all you need to get started down the road of being a Batman junkie! Whether you are into action, adventure, mystery, romance, comedy or all of the above there is something for you.
Thanks Crystal for the awesome series on Batman! Check out The Uniblog for more pop culture goodness.