Friday, 28 September 2012

Batman Unauthorized

Batman Unauthorized
edited by
Dennis O’ Neil

I was given this book a few years ago by a friend I’d met through youtube. We decided we would each send the other a copy of our favourite book, so I ended up sending a copy of Richard Brautigan’s In Watermelon Sugar off to America and waiting with baited breath for the arrival of my package. When it finally arrived I tore  open the package to find….a collection of essays?.....about Batman?
I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised. This is actually a pretty awesome collection, and one I have returned to fairly regularly over the years.

As I said above, Batman Unauthorized is a collection of essays dealing with the various aspects of the Batman mythology. The book was released in the gap between Batman Begins and The Dark Knight so many of the writers are still riding the high of rekindled interest in the franchise that Nolan’s movie created. In fact a couple of the early essays could have been re-titled “Great flick Chris, good job” without much change to their subject matter. I would have preferred at least a little diversity in opinion rather than have the movie portrayed as the best thing to ever happen to the bat (or am I the only one to think it was awful?)

The book does a good job of covering a wide range of topics, from in depth character analysis of character like Batman, The Joker and Ra’s Al Ghul, the differences between the various movie incarnations and even a discussion of Batman in terms of semiotics. Of course, with all collections of this nature there’ll be parts you love and parts you hate (Alex Bledsoe’s To the Batpole, in which we are presented with three variations on a conversation between Alfred and the young Bruce Wayne on the subject of masturbation is a particularly low point).

A couple of the essays, Batman in outer space by Mike W Barr and Frank Miller’s New Batman and the grotesque by Geoff Klock read a little too much like fanboy ramblings. The Frank Miller essay especially in which Klock argues that no matter how awful Frank Miller’s recent batman outings have been, it is our fault for not understanding the genius of Miller, his argument never really extending beyond “No, no, Miller meant that bit to make no sense. He’s just great!”

When it’s good it’s great though. Michael Marano’s Ra’s Al Ghul: Father figure as terrorist, Paul Lytle’s The madness of Arkham Asylum and Alan J Porter’s The dubious origins of the Batman are all great pieces that shed a light on a lot off different topics.
A personal favourite is Darren Hudson Hick’s The cost of being Batman in which thewriter puts together a shopping list of what the reader will need if he/she plans on becoming Batman themselves and how much it will cost (Spoiler: You can’t afford it).

This is a really great book with something for everyone, if you’re already a batman fan you’ll discover a lot of new information and be given fresh perspective on a lot of topics or if you’re a newcomer looking for an in to what can seem a daunting body of work this book can help you get a basic knowledge on the caped crusader’s world.
It’s good, you should give it a shot.
All together now, na na na na na na na na na na na na….

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