Friday, October 11, 2013

Batman '66: Quite Possibly the Best New Series of 2013

As DC Comics proper has gone the way of shock and schlock, with inventive storytelling giving way to more immediate sensationalistic approaches such as graphic gore and ultra-violence, disguised as being more "mature" and "sophisticated", a shining beacon of light has appeared on the horizon.

I'm still not quite sure how it slipped out. Perhaps the "powers-that-be" expected it to flop as it was positioned in the still emerging DC Digital Firsts line-up. Surely, they didn't predict that it would be the smash hit that it turned out to be.

Shuffled in with 'out of continuity' anthologies, TV tie-ins like ARROW and SMALLVILLE and the BATMAN BEYOND family of books, BATMAN '66 managed to strike a cord with readers.

Some say it's the nostalgic appeal. But keep in mind that the original '60s TV series, although appearing in syndication long after the show's demise, has still yet to appear on DVD. Well, not legally, anyway... (And it could be argued that anyone who really desired to have the series in their collection has either already patiently recorded them off television or bought a bootleg copy at a convention.)
I'm sure nostalgia has a bit to do with it but I would guess that most people who were fans of the show have either moved on from comics or given up on them ever being fun again.

Some say it's the creators involved. This, I cannot deny. Jeff Parker being given writing chores was a stroke of genius. Anyone who's read his AGENTS OF ATLAS series at Marvel would know exactly what to expect. This guy knows how to entertain with his tongue held firmly in his cheek.

The series has a rotating cast of artists doing the interiors but Mike Allred on covers adds icing to the cake. This alone would guarantee sales of the print versions, even after they've been read digitally.
If you were fortunate enough to grab a copy of the Allred issue of SOLO years ago, you would agree that he makes a perfect fit.
But even having Allred aboard would only pull in so many readers.

Some would say it's simply because it's a Batman book. And yes, there are people out there that will buy anything that has "Batman" in the name, just like there are those that will buy anything with an "X-".

But I believe what we have here is a prime example of the right elements being brought together to make something greater than the sum of its parts.

BATMAN '66 is just plain fun.

No, there's no one being decapitated or impaled for shock value.
Nor is there a character needlessly saying a curse word just so a "Mature" tag can be slapped on the cover in hopes of looking "adult" (Here's looking at you, Marvel MAX).
But, by golly... you will still LIKE it!

BATMAN '66 fills a void that some would say started to appear when the (5 year) JUSTICE LEAGUE INTERNATIONAL run by Keith Giffen and J.M. DeMatteis ended. Ever since then, it became taboo for a comic to be taken less than seriously. So much so that even before DC plunged into the darkness that is the New 52, they heralded the upcoming shift in tone by killing off the mascot of that era, the Blue Beetle. Many readers felt there was more to read between the lines here and that DC was saying "there is no going back".

Hopefully, with titles like Mark Waid's DAREDEVIL and Matt Fraction's HAWKEYE (both at Marvel) garnering praise and gaining popularity we're beginning to see the rubber band that has been stretched so far start to snap back.

I sincerely expect to see BATMAN '66 on the nominee list of both the Eisner and the Harvey awards next year. And I hope that it's success will inspire more titles to be made that appeal to readers who step into comics to escape from reality, if even just for a few minutes.

And while I do expect the book to be nominated, and maybe even win an award, that still doesn't amount to much as far as DC is concerned. Both SOLO and WEDNESDAY COMICS won awards and where are they now?
Meanwhile, only one New52 comic has been nominated for an award. And no, it didn't win anything. But it still sells. Because it's "BATMAN".

So in the meantime, I suggest that everyone who enjoys comics, for what they can be, go check out BATMAN '66. You can get the weekly digital versions on Comixology every Wednesday or you can wait and pick up the print edition (collecting three weeks at a time) monthly at your local comic shop. Maybe DC will be smart and keep it around for a long time. I certainly hope so.

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