In May of 1939, a comic book company known as Detective Comics Inc. introduced a new character to their 27th issue of their Detective Comics series. This new superhero, created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, evoked the crime noir atmosphere of the era with its featured character Bruce Wayne, a boring young socialite… that harbored a secret life dedicated to fighting crime.
Enter “The Bat-Man.”
After his initial appearance, Batman quickly became the focal point of the title, as well as establishing the standalone Batman series in 1940 due to his immediate popularity.
Regardless of who you are, everyone has a “Batman” story. Whether you read the comics with your friends, watched Adam West and Burt Ward camp it up in the 1960s television series, or took part in the mania that surrounded the 1989 feature film, Batman has transcended pop culture to become an American icon.
And here we are, 80 years later, celebrating the 1,000th issue of Detective Comics.
It was just last year that Superman celebrated his own similar milestones with Action Comics. The two characters have become synonymous with fantasy and imagination, and yet their motivations could not be more dissimilar. Whereas Superman is governed by hope, Batman’s war on crime is fueled by justice.
Detective Comics No. 1,000 takes an anthology approach to the Dark Knight, telling a series of eleven short stories of the character’s motivations, his life, and even perspectives from his rogue’s gallery of villains. The Batman legacy has endured from its “bad guys” just as much from its titular hero, and the psychologically complex cast has provided eight decades worth of perilous challenges and moral boundaries.
The stories from Detective Comics No. 1,000 are both a rewarding experience for long-time fans, and a perfect reintroduction for the casual enthusiast. Stories range from Batman working to conclude his longest unsolved case, the motivations and repercussions of being the man behind the mask, and what it means to re-establish a new family for himself after losing his own parents at a young age.
Some of these tales have humorous moments, others are a reminder of his solitary road in being the self-appointed protector of Gotham City. One story, titled “Manufacture For Use” (written by Kevin Smith with art by Jim Lee), is a particularly moving tribute to the character and his mission.
Like Action Comics, the writers and artists are a veritable “who’s who” of the Batman legacy. while the non-comics savvy crowd may not be as familiar with such names as Denny O’ Neil, Neal Adams, Kelly Jones, or Paul Dini, chances are that if you’ve ever picked up one of the comics over the last four decades or seen the Emmy award winning animated series from the 1990s, you’ve experienced their work.
Like any good anniversary celebration, Detective Comics covers all aspects of Batman’s storied career with its cover art. While there is a “regular” version of the 96-page book, there is also a cover for each decade from the 1930s to the 2010s. Looking back at Batman’s comics and media career, the character has enjoyed (or in some cases, endured) one of the most versatile and unique fictional lives, continually reinventing himself for each new decade and a new audience.
It’s interesting to see a pop culture legend endure as well as Batman has. While comic books had once been considered “niche” meant purely for the youth or not for the mainstream consciousness, we live in an age where comic book based movies dominate movie theaters, with no signs of slowing down. It’s also important not to dismiss the historical value of comic books. They are, after all, one of the very few forms of art that is exclusively of an American origin.
Overall, Detective Comics No. 1,000 does justice to the legacy and character of Batman. If you are a fan of the character or even a casual reader, this is a wonderful tribute book. And even if you’ve “outgrown” comic books, but still have some memory somewhere inside you of actors like Lewis Wilson or Adam West donning those familiar tights, or a late night of reading about Batman and Robin leading a daring escape against one of the Riddler’s fiendish traps…. Do your inner child a favor and revisit an old friend.
After 80 years, Batman is still waiting to share an adventure with you.