Thursday, April 28, 2016

BATMAN: A Celebration of 75 Years Official Review

Batman has been officially 75 years old since 2014, and to commemorate this turning point in the history of the character's legacy, DC released an anthology of stories for most of their DC characters, most notable examples include Superman, Wonder Woman, Shazam, the Joker, etc. Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is just the first part of the goodies DC has bequeathed long-time readers and avid fans. There is also the Visual History almanac of the character (and I own both hefty copies), which served as a chronological catalog to Batman's seventy-five reign, including a varied list of landmark issues, most coveted issues, and recent works in memory. This anthology, however, collects specific comics issues that readers can enjoy for themselves. The stories were divided into specific categories of era. We have the 40's, the 50's-60's, the 70's-80's, the 90's and the 2000's-present.

Originally, I was supposed to write a multi-part review for each Bat-era category, but I have other obligations in real life that cannot be put aside to make more time to do that, and now I opted instead to write one official review for the entire collection itself. I regret to say that this wouldn't be as nuanced and in-depth as I wanted it to be, or what readers of my Bat-blog has come to expect from a lot of my reviews, but nevertheless I'll discuss as much as I could about this collection in case some of you have yet to possess a copy of this, and therefore are curious to know what it has to offer or if it's even worth buying.

On a surface level, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is a must-have anthology. After all, it collects DC Comics' certifiable choice cuts of Batman comics throughout the seven and a half decades everybody's favorite caped crusader has graced us with. Batman has captured so many readers' imagination and sense of danger and intrigue, and this is supposed to highlight exactly why his fictional exploits have lasted for so long and are so heavily ingrained in his fanbase's hearts and minds. In my own personal opinion, however, this collection is a mixed bag of goods. If you're a first-time reader of anything comics, this anthology may not be my first choice for you to get to know Batman with. In both an objective and subjective sense, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is not an advisable route to start with because there are a few valuable graphic novels I think newbies have to experience first if this is truly going to be the first time they will encounter Batman in said medium. This anthology in question is far too varied with its sample stories that newbies who are only familiar with the recent Batman adaptations (read the dark, gritty approach to the character) and hence they may find most of these issues jarring and bizarre, particularly the earlier eras of Batman. 

For example, did you guys know about Batman Of Tomorrow? Here is a sample page:

To those who are more than familiar with the character's earlier years, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is a collection worthy of purchase, primarily for reasons that have something to do with nostalgia. I'm not saying that readers of my generation will be forever incapable of appreciating old-school Batman, but chances are these readers may already have fixed tastes of how they want their Batman to be served to them and so the categories dating back in the 40's, 50's, 60's and some material back in the 70's which this anthology touches upon may not resonate as meaningfully as more recent works have in the 80's to the present which portray Batman in a more serious manner that really focuses on the Dark Knight aspect of his lore. Everyone has a version of Batman they know and love well. Mine was Bruce Timm and Paul Dini's Batman: The Animated Series. To the oldest of fans, Adam West's TV series in 1966 was a childhood favorite, while others prefer the Tim Burton films a lot more, cinematically-speaking. A great number of fans now, however, subscribe to Christopher Nolan's trilogy whose tonality and themes might have influenced their reading choices. It's not to say that these same fans will not enjoy this anthology as much if they do purchase it, but a lot of its earlier material will go over their heads and shock them because it's a complete dissonance to what they know about Batman as a superhero. That being said, early-era Batman is a bottle of laughs and hijinks, IMHO! If you're my age (twenties) and was able to fall in love with Adam West's version of the character later on even if you also still prefer your Batsy dark and brooding, then being able to read these early issues will be an effortless thrill! 

In Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years, the earliest eras portrayed his character in less darker shades than the contemporaries. Batman is a lot more light-hearted in a way you would not believe unless you're over forty and have read the run of these fun titles back in the day. A lot of the material chosen for this anthology are first or memorable appearances of characters such as Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, Catwoman, Poison Ivy, and a few of Bruce Wayne's girlfriends like Vicki Vale and Silver St. Cloud. Some issues also have the most ridiculous plot-lines imaginable that showcases Batman's penchant for over-the-top gadgets and often also involve the mind-boggling schemes of one-note villains who don't belong to the top-shelf Rogues' Gallery. The titles range from the titular Batman, Detective Comics, Batman and Robin, World's Finest, DC Special Series and so on. 

The breadth of this collection is satisfactory yet a little challenging in some places. The varied styles of narrative can be an acquired taste, particularly for those more accustomed to the way comics are drawn and written in these days. Early-era comics tends to tell more rather than show action sequences, relying on the writer's narrative boxes that have a tendency to be indulgent in both speech and character dialogues. Fortunately enough, the choice cuts in Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years have stories where such a narration style works well enough to keep readers interested. My favorite part of this entire anthology were the recent works, of course, starting with BTAS writer Paul Dini's contribution. And yes, this also includes the re-printing of the original first Batman issue of The Case of the Chemical Syndicate which include Batman's origin story at the end.

BEHOLD HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS! I may or may not have started kissing the pages repeatedly after reading them.

In a nutshell, Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is generally a highly recommended work that long-time fans should have in their shelves, but I wouldn't consider it as something I would readily recommend to newbies and more contemporary-inclined fans of Batman who haven't read much about him in comics just yet. That being said, I can't really stop you if you still want to buy this, perhaps either because of posterity reasons or because you want to challenge yourself to get to know old-school Batman. If that is the case, then more power to you! I maintain that to love a fictional character means to explore everything there is to know about him or her, and Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years is the best place to start that quest, if nothing else. If you're interested to know which Bat-titles and story arcs to start with as a newb, then check out my IF YOU WANT TO START READING BATMAN rec list.


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