I woke up one morning and had a dream... Could I own every single issue of Detective Comics, Batman and all of the other subtitles in the Gotham universe?
Insane? Stupid? Inspired?
This can only end in obsession and financial chaos.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Monthly Haul: 'Quiet' October.

A quiet month? It was, until an auction was finishing and I had a glass of red wine in my hand...

374, 434, 435, 708, 709, 710, 711,

Detective Comics:
753-761, 764+765, 767+768, 774 to 781, 783, 840 to 842

Batman & Robin 17+19. Thus completing this series! I wonder how many other comic buyers stopped picking this title up, like me, immediately when Grant Morrison finished his run on the title?

Assorted 'Batgirls', 'Nightwings' and other auxiliary titles. That are too all over the place to really bore you with.

I know that spending a lot of money on funny books based around a man that jumps around, beats people up and wears a cowl isn't (what's the word?)... cool. But I have to admit that I am slowly getting past a lull in the Batman Quest. Yes, I haven't blogged enough. But I work on the impression that if I've not got much to say, then it ain't worth wasting your time.

I was trying to have a quiet month this month. And that went out the window when I got the opportunity to fill out a lot of the collections holes with cheap and helpful deals. Of course, with a glass of cheapo Pinot Noir in my hand the need to expand my Batman stuff was intensified. For example all the Batgirl issues were on a 5 for £1 gig- which was incredibly attractive (at the time)! Then, I got a sniff that I was able to finish the Batman (1940) run from Year One, I thought to hell with that too... Couple of days later, I was filing the run all together, in order, and it made me think that all of this Quest nonsense was really starting to make me a happier person.

Hell, it even inspired me...

So then I was able to scratch off the Batman & Robin books off of the Quest. Then went for the missing Detective Comic titles (from the Grant/Wagner run to the finish) like a starved polar bear. And I'm pretty sure that before the dawning of the apocalyptic (according the Mayan calender) 2012, I ought to nail a few of the other large numbered titles. By my mid-November break, I ought to get the opportunity to actually read these things.

The other thing that dawned on me, that when I start taking out the later titles (and bear in mind that ever since 1989, the Batman family of titles have proliferated to a ridiculous number and I'm at a point that I think they are do-able), the real fun part of hardcore collecting can take place. And that means that I have to learn all about the pitfalls of Silver Age and, even, Golden Age comics. Which means that at some point, my rudimentary levels of grading are going to have to get honed, that and my knowledge base will have to improve. In short, I go from being merely an 'avid collector' to 'slightly obsessed'.

So, if there is a moral to this blog: Kids, don't go through the internet with your wishlist when you have access to a credit card and are slightly pissed. At The Batman Quest, I'd like to promote a sober approach to comic collecting. No really, I do.

Oh and it looks like the 'Animal Man' run is also in the bag...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Fun Times

A great thing happened this week. I completed the first major goal in The Batman Quest. A full run that starts at Miller's 'Year One' Reboot and finishes with the titles termination at #713.

Yessir, I have got a humongous three hundred plus, un-interrupted run of Batman (1940). And to say I'm quite pleased with myself is an under-statement. For those who didn't know, this was what the collection was supposed to be when I looked at my 2011 comic collecting resolutions (true, it got out of control once I started thinking about it a bit more). To collect this run before the end of October, is a moment where I must allow myself to be a bit smug.

This is a longbox full of Batman (1940). And it is MY generations interpretation and rebooting of Batman. So it really matters to, well, me.

So in the words of Red Dwarf android Kryten 2X4B-523P:


And with that these are were the issues I considered to be a problem. If for different reasons;

The John Byrne 'Many Deaths of Batman' issues- I thought I had them, marked them off the list and everything. And then after physically checking the collection, it dawned on me. Oh Crap, how did I miss that? Think I might have to check out how many other gaffes there are in my system!

Issue 672. I couldn't find this anywhere. Until I discovered it in the world famous Ian's Comics And Books (it's in Portsmouth, and if you don't know that, then you ain't a player!)

The last two were #710 and #711. Which was found on the 'Bay. Did I overpay? You bet I over payed. And there'll be a seller out there that should be chuffed to think that his second hand comics might actually appreciate in value. Except they haven't. It's just that I'm incredibly obsessed/anal and incredibly driven/sad to complete this run.

And that's the point of this blog. That I'm bragging to anyone who reads this...

Bragging and Smug.

Yeah. Bring on the Quest!!

Monday, 17 October 2011

The Quest ... in Swindon!

My relationship with Swindon is like Carlos Tevez's with Manchester. Yes, I made a living there, but at the end of the day I always thought it was a shithole. A place that heaped misery and misfortune on me in equal measure. In short, I wouldn't go back there unless I was forced too.

And I was forced to, so I decided to pop into Swindon's only redeeming feature: Swin City.
Swin City sits behind the main shopping area, opposite a huge car park in the New Town's shopping area. And you can't really miss it. How many shops will have a giant, green Hulk painted on the side of the building (probably the only thing of cultural value in New Town)? Believe me, in the UK this sort of blatant marketing behaviour is frowned upon. Especially if you are a sole trader.

Swin City is a small shop that is split over two floor. The main entrance and ground floor, which features new comics, trades and a whole manner of figures. They also sell American candy, if you're interested by that kind of thing. Which I have only tried once (this stuff instantly caused cavities and several fillings).

Upstairs is where the back issues sit, not many for sure. However there is a reasonable number of reasonably priced 'name' books of which Batman is a reasonable percentage. Swin City is also the UK's proudest pusher of 10p comics books. Hell, they work on the philosophy that if it ain't shifting after a year or so, reduce it so it will be sold. And over the years they have done this and I have always left the shop knowing that I have got a few cheapo bargains. If there is one downside to this area is that their prime, key comic books that are hanging on the wall are beginning to become very sun-bleached (and if I was in charge of this place that would be a major issue I would rectify). Occasionally, you can pick up a bargain: I picked up a few early Miracleman issues for a song years ago. As a result there are very good reasons to make rare, repeated visits (should you get past the ridiculous Magic Roundabout, that Swindon is 'famous' for), as you never too sure what new stock might turn up.

The staff are pretty pleasant. You get the impression that these are guys that like a good night out as much as they like their comics. Mind you, being inebriated and inducing any other form of escapism must be a necessity if you have to live and work in this awful town.

Swin City is a shop that is proudly growing (as coverage in the local press attests), and good luck to them. I know that the owner is obviously a shrewd entrepreneur as he managed to acquire another shop in the affluent, student city of Bath (used to be American Dream Comics, never been there but I feel I ought to). The entrepreneurial spirit is also best shown by the importation of American candy, so be mindful of sugar-crazed kids on Swindon's High Streets.

As for my haul, got a couple of Batman back issues. But I mainly picked up a load of 10p back issues that make the trip worthwhile.

And the Hulk on the back of the building? That is really the only decent thing to look at in Swindon.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Holy First Appearances!!!

If you're going to introduce a new villain into a canon, where there is a load of classic villains you'd better go all out. You'd better say something a bit different... and you'd better be arrogant to make the characters first appearance a background story, to make Batman readers sit up and think: okay, bring it. Thank Darkseid that it was Doug Moench and Tom Mandrake who not only brought it, but kicked ass and took names doing it.

Doug Moench makes the Black Mask alter ego Roman Sionis as pretty messed up geezer to start with, made worse by a serious of unfortunate incidents. This is a villain that has decided that his true face is best to be hidden. There is no duality at play with this Batman villain. Duality has been rejected, by permanently affixing a mask onto his face he personifies Black Mask consigning to history Roman Sionis. This is a glorified rejection of all that is good, normal and nice. Also, he has a serious personal grudge against Bruce Wayne (which is a nice change to the villain having a grudge against the Batman) thus therefore bringing interaction to the Dark Knight.

After the 'Crisis' re-set button was pushed in 1986, Black Mask dropped from view and developed from what Moench had originally created into something that the Batman universe was crying out for: a crime lord. Black Mask evolved, or more accurately changed, from an unstable, hammy horror villain into the archetypal gangster that Gotham City probably ought to have almost overnight. Still a bit loony, this new Black Mask-gangster incarnation would expects his followers to also wear masks, to ensure their loyalty and respect. By the 2000's it's fair to say that the Black Mask has been fully developed into a dangerous, manipulative gangster by Batman's key writers, if you need a benchmark storyline I'd suggest the War Games saga, where he is an integral player and a proper bastard.

As a result, Black Mask is very much a top line villain, and deserves it's place on this list. Sadly, somewhere along the way he was killed off, and a Black Mask II was developed. This second incarnation was clumsily introduced after 'RIP', and will probably be thrown into the fireplace of The New 52.

When I read Batman #386 the first time (about a year ago) it became clear to me that this character's origin was too good to be totally ret-conned and forgotten about. The deviantly perverse thought of fixing masks to victims was to be latterly mined by Grant Morrison, of all people. Want proof? Read this issue and the read Professor Pyg's introduction in Batman & Robin #1. There is a genuine nastiness of gluing a mask to a persons face, and this was obviously recognised by Morrison.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Mini Series: Year 100

What's not to like? Paul Pope is becoming comics answer to Stanley Kubrick. I've never gone out of my way to find his Manga stuff (which if I'm honest I ought to), but whenever I see Paul Pope on a cover of a comic book my interest peaks. For me, it's like a trademark of a very individual style and substance. For me, he's the new Frank Miller, a guy who's stuff is always interesting and worth checking out. Thing is, that he isn't as productive as my appetite demands (which is no bad thing!). Like Miller his work on the Bat is quite limited, but always very interesting. Sadly this book never gets the wide appeal I have always felt it deserves. So, if you're not sure when you see it: buy it, and experience something marvellous!

The beauty of this book is the sheer inventiveness of it all. No concept is half baked, everything is thought through, designed to make sense. We get vampire teeth, psychic investigators, a totally different approach to introducing a Robin, a different take on the batmobile. The roughness of Pope's artwork actually is perfect to the grubby dystopian world he has created. Yes, Pope scratchy lines may look messy, but so is the Gotham City that he created around the stories key protagonists. All the while, the core 'Batman' support team is de-constructed in a way which allows a totally new, fresh team all the while retaining the same characteristics of the support team that exists in modern age, continuity Batman. These characteristics are familiar, but aren't necessarily where you would expect to find them. Paul Pope is a clever geezer.

Also, Pope fully utilises the full history of the Batman lore. There are constant references to 1939. Indeed, the Batman costume owes more to the original Bob Kane look, that any recent 'looks'. There are nods to Batman Year One, DKR amongst others. There is also an assumption by Pope (and he's right) that the regular Batman reader will readily accept other men under the Batman cowl (Jean-Paul Valley and Dick Grayson, for example) and that the reader will just get on with it. Truthfully, this book really feels like a logical continuation from the Year One rebirth, and is clever enough to accept the history to incorporate it into its own as cloudy, mythical history.

The pace of the first few pages is a testament to a true master of storytelling in comics, we are immediately engaged in the chase, and before we even wonder what the hell is going on, we are dumped with information. Hell, you could even argue that Pope knew what that the reader and the 'evil government watchers' are thinking the exact same thing. When the 'evil government' see the 'Bat-Man of Gotham' footage, it is the first time, they're world has seen him, and know as little about this character than we do!

The storytelling is also brilliant. Pope expects you, an intelligent reader, is clever enough to understand the intricacies of a thoroughly engrossing plot- which makes Pope's Batman less of a caped crusader and more dark knight detective... And the plot twist is brilliantly executed. And like all great works of fiction, leaves you with questioning what happens next. This is what I like to call Clever Comics!

The genius of this series has seems to have slipped under the radar by the fanboys. What is even stranger here is that this story won the Eisner for best series in the year of it release, this is an important point as the only other Batman story to appear as a winner is DKR. However, you can regularly see a complete NM set of this story on eBay slip through at a bargainous rates. Even more interestingly, you rarely hear anyone rave about it on forum boards.

Therefore, the only reason I can muster is this: that the title itself is 'Batman: Year 100'. In an industry were 'Spiderman 2099', 'Detective Comics One Million' and other future incarnations of classic, contemporary comic book heroes tend to dilute an already cool concept (regardless how well they're done), I think that most readers were deeply suspicious of the book. In comics books there are way too many alternate takes on any big name superhero, and I have read Batman used as an old man, as a vampire, and as a robot. It's true: it is possible to be jaded by too much variation. Especially, when a lot of it was full of half-baked concepts and poorly executed world views. In short Numbers in a comic book title are usually a Bad thing.

Shame, as I think that this is a book doesn't deserve a reputation just as a critically lauded Batman that punters won't risk stumping up their hard earned cash like they would if it were DKR or Watchmen. For those people, I'll categorically state that it really is up there with DKR, Arkham Asylum and Killing Joke! Maybe this fact can be quickly changed.

So spread the word, Batman Year 100 is that Brilliant. If I was in charge of DC, I'd wine, dine, threaten, beg, and bribe Paul Pope to give me a sequel.