Batman: Black and White

July 9th, 2009 by | Tags: ,

Lately DC has been adding an eight-page back-up story featuring a new character to existing comic books.

The Question has been appearing as a back-up to Detective Comics, and the Blue Beetle has been added to Booster Gold.  I love the double feature, both because it gives me a chance to get to know new characters and because it allows ongoing stories of characters who, for reasons that pass understanding, don’t sell well enough on their own.

And now that I’ve pushed some minor characters, let’s get back to the five-hundred pound gorilla; Batman.  This is a guy who’s passed around to any title that needs a boost, from The Outsiders to the Blue Beetle.  (Tough beat on that last one, Battsy.  We all felt it.)

But what would be a different way to present Batman, considering he’s already in at least five books at a time?  I don’t know.  But I know what I want, and that is a return of the Batman: Black and White series.

Batman: Black and White, pitched by Mark Chiarello, was a series of 8-page Batman stories written and drawn by different artists.  The stories ran singly at the end of the newly-created Batman: Gotham Knights, and as 4-story collections.  The art and the writing are superb, the stories wildly disparate, running the gamut from gothic horror, to poetic meditation, to cutsy bat-with-a-baby stories.  There is a story in which Batman frees a genetically-engineered mermaid.  There is one in which Batman threatens someone’s life for killing his son’s cat.  There is one in which Batman is futuristic freedom fighter, and one in which he and an early Catwoman/Batgirl mash-up fight nazis, and one where he bleeds in an alley.

The stories are collected into three volumes, all of which are well-worth getting.  They are a must-have to any fan, partly because of the talent involved, but mainly because they add up to more than the sum of their parts.  The many takes on Batman, his motivations and his effects, his different eras and his absurdities, end up building something far more epic and sweeping than any planned Batman story I’ve ever read.  If I wanted to argue that superhero comics can be moving and artistic, these are the books I would present as evidence.

And if something like that were to come back, I would clamor for people to read it, no matter what book it was stuck to.

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8 comments to “Batman: Black and White”

  1. I’d recommend Spider-Man’s Tangled Web, which was of a similarly short, non-continuity-bound format with rotating creators, and was also very well written most of the time.

  2. Didn’t this run as it’s own series. Oh yeah, I’m on the internet, duh…

    Okay, I’m not crazy for remembering it. It got to be a limited series for a while.

    @ Stig: Heh, Tangled Web was out of continuity, before they hired Snood of http://www.marvunapp.com fame to be the new Marvel Handbook editor. (not that I *know* this was his decision though)
    Example: Kangaroo http://www.marvunapp.com/Appendix/kangaroh.htm

  3. I loved these tpbs. Sure some of the stories were pretty standard but there were lots of gems throughout.

  4. I don’t know if Mark Chiarello has ever had a bad idea. Solo, especially, was sublime. We should’ve gotten a few nice books out of that series.

  5. Those three collections are some of my favourite books. I like this idea, although I’d suggest perhaps widening it’s focus a little- let people do out of continuity stand-alone shorts about any DC character they fancy.

    There are, of course, two problems with this: 1, it’s a very casual-reader friendly approach, ensuring that every issue of a given title will have content that a reader can enjoy whether or not they’ve read the one before it; which doesn’t sound like a problem, untill you consider that it also means that the reader has less incentive to pick up the issue after as well. 2, We wouldn’t be getting Rucka and Hamner’s Question, and that might very well make me cry.

  6. I’ve really been loving the new back-up features as well. Now I actually want Blue Beetle to take over, and for Booster Gold to be the back-up.

    But I really didn’t like the Batman Black and White. While there definately where some good stories in it, the longer the thing was in production the weaker the stories got, as some issues where simply filling the need for a story, not a story needing to be told.

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  7. @Kandou Erik: Hey, can you just use the URL field in the comments to advertise your site, rather than pasting those in each time?

  8. @david brothers: OK. Sorry. I just thought I’d kill two birds with one stone when posting. Won’t do it again. (Sorry for late reply. Only found your reply post in a websearch by accident, months later)