I’d like to blame my son for my recent obsession regarding Batman graphic novels, but that would just not be right. Sure, his love of comics made me think twice about the world of comic books. If I could find something to get into then Owen and I would have something we could share. Something we’d have that was just ours. When I was a kid I didn’t really have that shared sort of hobby with my dad. I was close with him for sure, but I wasn’t into cars or football like he was. I wasn’t even into models like he was. He had a couple really cool model cars he’d made when I was young. He even had gotten a model of an engine that when he was done with it it would actually run.
Anyways, I wasn’t all that mechanically or athletically inclined, so dad and I bonded over The Far Side comics and Mad Magazine. He was athletic and was a gear head, but he was also a really great artist. Despite having those Gary Larson and Don Martin comics to laugh at together, I wanted something more for my son and I to bond over. So while he looked for Deadpool and Spiderman comics to get, I began looking for comics I could collect. One of my best friends had told me about Brian K. Vaughan’s Saga series. I picked up the Saga Deluxe Edition Volume One and loved it. It’s like Romeo and Juliet meets Star Wars with lots of family dysfunction. Beautifully drawn by Fiona Staples, it’s the story of two warring worlds and two of their inhabitants that fall in love in the face of war, violence, and going against their own kind. They end up having a baby and are on the run from bounty hunters, government officials, and their own families. It’s got everything you want in a great action/adventure love story. This was the jumping off point I needed in order to immerse myself in comics.
From there I started following Robert Kirkman’s Outcast, the story of a man with the power to save people from demonic possession. And in the small town he’s found himself in there’s plenty of it going around. I like the fact that religion itself isn’t really brought in. It’s there, but in the periphery. The guy isn’t religious, he just happens to be able to pull demons out of people. It’s been a slow build, but at issue 17 things are starting get going nicely. Great character development and backstory, along with a good build to what our protagonist exorcist has in store for him.
So that brings me to Batman. The Dark Knight. The caped crusader. I’ve been wanting to get into some of the famous Batman stories for some time. Over Christmas I picked up a couple of Frank Miller’s stories, Year One and The Dark Knight Returns, as well as Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke. While I loved Year One, I was a little underwhelmed by The Dark Knight Returns and The Killing Joke. I need to revisit them both, but I felt they didn’t live up to the hype surrounding them all these years. Then a few weeks ago I picked up a couple books by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: Dark Victory. These two, in my opinion, are absolute must reads for anyone a fan of Batman. Exceptional writing and Tim Sale’s illustrations are dark and beautiful. Story-wise they are one continuous story that work so well together. Both are mysteries that were extremely influential on Nolan’s Batman film trilogy, but unfortunately Christopher Nolan didn’t stay true to the stories. His films were a mish mash of Year One and The Long Halloween. I won’t go into great detail of the stories, other than The Long Halloween is the story of a serial killer killing on holidays, starting on Halloween. The Dark Knight, working closely with district attorney Harvey Dent and Lieutenant Jim Gordon, races against the clock to figure out who’s doing the killing. There’s a who’s who of Batman villains in this book, too. Dark Victory sees the continuation of The Long Halloween’s story with new twists, new villains, and new mysteries. Both are a wonderful read from start to finish.
So with my surgery looming near a couple weeks ago I wanted to find something new to read during that initial week home afterwards. Once again, leave it to one of my oldest’s friends to send me in the right direction. My good pal Jason that sent me in Brian K. Vaughan’s direction told me about Paul Pope and his Battling Boy series. Well, while perusing his books I came across one he wrote called Batman Year 100. Seems it was a Batman story that took place in 2039, 1oo years after the birth of the Batman. This seemed too cool not to read, so I had my guy over at Chimp’s Comix see if he could get it in. He did, and I picked it up the day before my surgery. After a few hazy days of pain and a steady dose of pain pills and muscle relaxers I cracked that book open. I can say that this book is probably one of the best Batman books I have read. Sure, I haven’t read a whole lot, but out of the ones I’ve read this is top notch. Pope creates this dystopian future where the Batman is just an urban legend among criminals and crooked cops alike. But Batman is very real. As I said, this story takes place in a dystopian future. Gotham looks more like Los Angeles in Blade Runner than the noir-ish streets created by Miller and Loeb. Officer Jim Gordon(the grandson of the Jim Gordon we knew before) has crossed paths with the Dark Knight himself and is horrified at the thought. How could the Batman be alive still? He’d have to be over 100 years old? Gordon of the future works in yet another corrupt GCPD, which is run by grimy crooked cops and officials and their brand of law is enforced by the Wolves, a group of officers dressed like hockey players and have similar dispositions to them as well. Batman, as well as Robin and a female doctor and her daughter are the tight knit group that fight crime under the cover of darkness. Unlike the Batman’s we’ve seen on screen and page, this Batman is more investigator that knows how to hurt people with his fists than cool gadgets and bulletproof suits. This Batman bleeds(and a lot), but can put fear in the toughest of lugs.
In my eyes, Paul Pope gave new life to Batman. This book was gritty, dark, and drawn in a swiftly sloppy way. The jagged lines and crushed faces seem to carry the story along. It adds an element of danger to the story. I was sad to see the story end, and even more sad that Pope never followed up this story with more Batman Year 100 stories. There were a few one-off stories that were included with some quarterly issues that were included with the Batman Year 100 deluxe edition, but no more graphic novels.
I guess I’ll just have to read it again.
So I guess I have found something my son and I can bond over. It’s great having those weekly trips to the Chimp’s Comix so he can pick up the next book in “The New 52” series of Batman. And if there’s a new issue of Outcast waiting for me, great. Or if something I ordered is in, even better. It’s just a good feeling having those moments with my son. Moments I’ll hold onto forever, and hopefully he will, too. I have to say, the graphic novels have been a wonderful distraction for me leading up to and that first week after the back surgery. It was nice being able to get lost in words and colors for a bit and not have to think about the pending surgery, even if for just a few moments. It also helped that that first week after surgery my kids were on spring break. I can’t tell you how great it was having them home, hanging out with their old man. My wife took care of me wonderfully, changing my bandages, getting up in the middle of the night to make sure I got my pain meds and antibiotics, getting me on the ice pack when I needed to be on it, and just making sure I was okay. She made sure I was going to heal right, and my kids kept my mind from thinking about pain and the huge incision in my back. My son and I watched plenty of old horror movies, listened to records, and played some old school video games as well. And of course, the wife took us in to pick up some comics.
I’m on the road to recovery, thanks to a family I could never do without, in sickness, health, or otherwise. And thanks to some incredible writers and artists that gave old heroes some new tricks. What’s next? Keep healing, some physical therapy, then eventually back to the gym to get back to my Atlas-like shape I was in prior to all of this. And I think I’ll start digging into Paul Pope’s bibliography.
Cause, why not?