TALES OF THE BATMAN: LEN WEIN (DC, First Printing, 2014; Hardcover)
Collects Detective Comics #408, 444-448, 466, 478, 479, 500, 514, Batman #255, 307-310, 312-319, 321-324, 326, 327, World's Finest Comics #207, The Untold Legend Of Batman #1-3, DC Retroactive: Batman- The '70s #1, and a story from Batman: Black And White #5 (cover dates February, 1971- March, 2014)
Writer: Len Wein
Artists: Pencilers- Neal Adams, Dick Dillin, Jim Aparo*, Ernie Chua, Marshall Rogers, John Calnan, Irv Novick*, Walt Simonson*, Don Newton, Tom Mandrake*, and Victor Ibanez*; Inkers*- Dick Giordano, Joe Giella, Vince Colletta, Frank McLaughlin, Bob Smith, John Byrne, Frank Chiaramonte, and all artists denoted with an * above
Len Wein is one of the greatest writers of the '70s and early '80s and is responsible for so many long lasting characters. Wolverine, Swamp Thing, the X-Men as you know and love them? Wein had a hand in their creation. He has an understanding and deep love for the flagship characters as well. He sadly passed away last fall but his work will live on in the hearts and minds of comic fans everywhere.
The bulk of this book is from 1975-1980, which is prime Bronze Age material that I have never read before. Wein had the good fortune of being paired with some top notch talent like Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, etc. It's a shame how DC has allowed Neal Adams to destroy classic comics like Detective Comics #408, the same re-inked and recolored version found in the Batman By Neal Adams hardcovers and trades. The bastardized version of Batman #255 is included. It's a pity, because it is a fantastic story about Anthony Lupus, a man who is afflicted with Lycanthropy. He goes to see Professor Milo, a certifiable quack who brings his condition to the fore. It's probably one of the best comics of the '70s, completely ruined with the now totally outdated Photoshop and at the time modern computer recoloring from 15 years ago. This George Lucas Star Wars Special Edition thinking was well-intentioned but ultimately doesn't work.
The Jim Aparo issues are equally excellent, with Aparo being almost as good as Neal Adams. He may not have had the inventive panel layouts but his storytelling ability and sense of pacing were equally great.
Len Wein was great at keeping the continuity flowing. While each issue was a complete story there were enough dangling subplots to give returning readers something to look forward to month in and month out. There were very few writers who could successfully pull this trick off, and Wein was one of the best.
Detective Comics #478 is a sentimental favorite of mine. My mom bought it for me as a kid while we were on vacation in northern Michigan during the summer of 1978. It was some weird convenience store in the middle of nowhere that's probably long gone. I am guessing that the whole area is now populated with Starbucks and Walmarts, but back in the late 70s it was “up north” and rural.
Batman had some great Christmas stories. While nobody does Christmas issues anymore for fear of offending anyone, this was not the case back in 1978 when Batman #309 was released. Batman #310 is what really got me, though. I'm a sucker for the Gentleman Ghost, with my first exposure to the character on the SuperFriends cartoons back in the '70s as Gentleman Jim. I love how Wein paints Jim as a ghost but Batman isn't having it. Batman tries to come up with a rational explanation for how he pulls off his capers. Wein had a really good grasp on the character Two-Face. Batman #313 and 314 were among the better Two-Face stories that I've read.
Lucius Fox is featured throughout these issues. Fans of The Dark Knight trilogy will know him as the character that Morgan Freeman portrayed on the screen. Firebug is an interesting character who was motivated by the same kind of grief that Batman was. In his introduction in Batman #318 he wanted to burn down unsafe apartment buildings because those same slumlord apartment buildings killed his family. Wein humanized the villain, a rarity at the time.
We see the Gentleman Ghost return for a rematch and Batman #319. He's such a great villain. Sorry to gush, but I have been a sucker for him since the SuperFriends cartoons were a part of my Saturday mornings in the '70s. Batman #327 was another standout issue. Wein brought Professor Milo back, who was running Arkham Asylum in a somewhat offbeat Silver Age-flavored story.
The Untold Legend Of The Batman mini series was great. The first issue had art by the team of John Byrne and Jim Aparo, which was mindblowingly great. Among my favorites in the book was Detective Comics #514, a story about human nature and why it's best to sometimes leave people alone.
I'm sorry to ramble on and on about this book, but it was so great that I cannot help myself. While this package leaves something to be desired (please refer to The OCD zone below), you get 600+ pages of top notch Batman stories by a writer whose likes we will never be seen again.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 5 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This is the part where I go into tactile sensations and materials used in physical media. Those with heart conditions, high blood pressure, or women who are pregnant should exit my blog at their earliest convenience, as their safety cannot be guaranteed beyond this point.
Linework and Color restoration: This book is all over the place, from abysmal (the Marshall Rogers issues which were repurposed from his artist-centric hardcover), blasphemous (the Neal Adams “commissions”), to serviceable (much of the book). DC never revisits and remasters material when given an opportunity to do so, so unfortunately these lackluster restorations are it for the ages.
|Restoration done for the 1999 BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS trade paperback.|
|Restoration done for LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT: MARSHALL ROGERS hardcover which was used in this book as well.|
DC often leaves a lot to be desired in terms of restoration.
Paper stock: Bright white glossy coated stock. While this is better than the toilet paper they were passing off on folks, the light glare is too harsh for material with flat coloring. I find it best to read this stock in natural sunlight for minimal glare.
Binding: Perfect bound (read: glued). Glued binding on a supposedly high end hardcover is something of a joke. As far as glued bindings go, this one isn't too bad, especially with a page count of over 600 pages. It lays reasonably flat for much of the book.
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Laminated dustjacket with the same cheap boards and chintzy casewrap that DC has been passing off on folks for years.