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An Unearthed Treasure,
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This review is from: Bat-Manga! (Limited Hardcover Edition): The Secret History of Batman in Japan (Hardcover)
This is a truly unexpected find. In the introduction Chip Kidd describes how shocked he was to discover that there had been Batman comics produced in Japan back in 1966 describing this find as a `new Holy Bat-Grail'. He presented the information to Paul Levits, the President of DC Comics, saying it was like presenting the skull of John the Baptist to the Pope. Right from the start it's obvious that Chip Kidd is more than a guy putting out some Batman material, he's a major Batman fan producing a book for fans.
I have enjoyed DC Comics for as long as I can remember but oddly enough Batman has never been one of my big favorites. In the last few years, however, I've learned to appreciate the Dark Knight particularly since of all the DC characters he tends to have the highest quality comics and movies. Jiro Kuwata's Batman has more in common with the U.S. comic from the 1940's rather than one from the Mid 1960's but they are easily distinguishable from American Batman comics regardless of the era. The stories are extremely shallow and the artwork is drawn in a very cartoony Japanese style reminiscent of the era. This is not a complaint but readers should be prepared. No one is going to mistake these books for Batman Year One or Frank Miller's Dark Knight in terms of story depth. Imagine it more as if Batman was living in the world of Speed Racer.
Chip Kidd states right up front that these stories are incomplete. The story with `Go Go the Magician' ends with Batman trapped behind a wall of ice suffocating. Still `Go Go' fares better than Dr. Faceless who gets neither a beginning nor an ending. What kind of irks me about this is that Mr. Kidd collected an equal amount of additional material to what's presented after he began preparing this collection for publishing. According to Mr. Kidd this additional material will be published if Bat-Manga sells well enough. But this sounds like a real problem because in order to complete the stories the next book would need to have the beginning of the Dr. Faceless story and the conclusion and the reader would have to go back to this book for the middle portion. Yikes.
So let me get down to brass tacks and tell you exactly what's in this book. There are five stories spanning multiple issues. The first one features Clayface (the only actual Batman villain to put in an appearance. This story is missing its ending. Next up is Lord Death Man, a character with no apparent counterpart in DC Comics. This story is complete. Following Lord Death Man is `Go Go the Magician', a near clone of the Weather Wizard including WW's "weather wand", physical appearance and origin. As mentioned earlier Go Go is absent an ending. Dr. Faceless is vaguely similar to Two-Face if both sides of Harvey Dent's face had been destroyed. Poor Faceless gets neither a beginning nor an ending. Perhaps as a homage to Gorilla Grodd, Karmak is an ape who temporarily gets the intelligence of a brilliant scientist. This one is missing its beginning but it's pretty easy to get the gist of what's going on. The final story, about a politician who transforms into a hyper powerful mutant, is entirely complete. So 40% of the stories are complete and one story has enough that most readers won't miss the beginning. Not so bad. Also, there are no breaks in the stories so except for beginnings and endings the continuity is complete.
I suspect the reason the publishers pushed this collection to market before collecting all the material is because they were so anxious for people to see it. This is one of those products that feels like a labor of love more than an opportunity to turn a quick dollar. It's nicely sized for the material with all sorts of images of quirky Japanese toys and art of Batman spread throughout the book. They even produced the book in its original Japanese right to left layout. It's a really neat book that someone could stick on their coffee table without feeling silly. I just wish they could have waited to collect more material.
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Initial post: Dec 16, 2013 1:30:01 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 16, 2013 1:30:43 AM PST
Dennis M. Roy says:
David -- in point of actual fact, the majority of the stories in this collection ARE based on American Batman stories from DC comics of the 1960s (primarily from DETECTIVE COMICS, the only exception being Lord Death-Man, who is based on the character "Death-Man", who only made a single appearance in BATMAN #180.). See my own review for a complete rundown on the source stories with dates of publication and creator credits.
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