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BATMAN: A CELEBRATION

Batman: A Celebration of 75 Years
Various Writers and Artists
432 7x10-inch pages
color
DC Comics hardcover
$39.99

Batman A Celebration of 75 Years coverNow this is the way to do it. The festivities for this 75th anniversary celebrate the notable writers and artists who produced Batman for three-quarters of a century. Bill Finger, Charles Paris, Edward Hamilton, Carmine Infantino, and then the “moderns” — the flamboyant Neal Adams who reset the visual style, Alex Toth who violated the new manner spectacularly (herein, probably the only Batman story he did, a classic of restrained storytelling), Archie Goodwin, Denny O’Neil, Marshall Rogers, Michael Golden, Alan Davis, Tom Mandrake, Jim Aparo, Dick Giordano, Graham Nolan, Rick Burchett, J.H. Williams III, Greg Capullo.

I grew up on the fifties’ Dick Sprang, so it’s nice to see him here — Batman flashing that trademark single-tooth grin. But Jack Burnley inked by George Roussos is the best of the forties — lots of shadowy inking, the sort of art no one else produced until the seventies. The book’s jacket claims the volume “collects the Caped Crusader’s most memorable moments,” but that ain’t what’s here, kimo sabe.

Frank Miller is here, but not his Dark Knight story that changed the Batman mythos. Equally absent are the Joker and the Penguin and other classic Batman villains: this is a celebration of artistry not villainy. And the artistry is mostly of the pictorial kind not the verbal.

The volume reprints the first story from Detective Comics No.27 and the Wayne murder origin from Batman No.1; after that, it pulls up about three stories from every succeeding decade. It concludes with a silly “reimagining” of the first Batman story: using the original story’s pictures, grotesquely enlarged, Brad Meltzer supplies a “voice over” with captions that reflect Bruce Wayne’s thinking about his role as Batman as the events unfold. A nicely poetic intention, but blow-ups of Bob Kane’s lousy inaugural art pretty quickly convert Meltzer’s intention into tedium.

But the book as a whole is a better celebration than anything I’ve seen from Marvel commemorating its 75 years.

For more Rants & Raves with its comics news and reviews, gossip and cartooning lore, visit www.RCHarvey.com

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