With the conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy about to hit our screens, Umapagan Ampikaipakan takes us through some required reading Supergods: What Masked Vigilantes, Miraculous Mutants, And A Sun God From Smallville Can Teach Us About Being Human
by Grant Morrison
464 pages / Spiegel & Grau
IT’S taken the better part of a decade, but the comic book is finally getting some respect. For far too long, the comic book has been literature’s middle child, ignored, undervalued, even disparaged. For the longest time, the comic book was only ever acknowledged by a small underclass of freaks and geeks and dweebs.
This new recognition comes, in part, because of the indelible influence of Hollywood. The runaway success of movies like Spiderman and Batman Begins brought the superhero into the mainstream. So much that cinema seats weren’t just filled by spotty adolescents in costume but by their parents too — by actual grown ups.
Literary credibility, however, would come from another source. That honour belongs to Michael Chabon who, with The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier and Clay, would single-handedly bring the comic book to maturity. He would do so, not by manufacturing ostentation, not by whitewashing it with false airs, but by revealing to the world what was already there. He would take this disregarded art form and give it a past. He would bring its history to life.
In Supergods, Grant Morrison builds on this last decade’s love affair with the comic book by creating a fully formed thesis on the power and the glory of superheroes, on the tangible and mystical pull they have on our collective imaginations. He draws upon decades of lore to create a work that is one part memoir and one part treatise as to why superheroes are worshipped, as to how they’ve come to be such a pervasive influence on our cultural consciousness.
He begins at the beginning, with Superman, with Batman, with the two Captains, Marvel and America, with Spiderman. He moves chronologically through the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Dark Age and the Modern Age. He details the various inspirations and motivations of those early doyens of the industry. He then knits everything together, creating an intricate web of moral and social philosophies, effectively merging entertainment and relevance.
And while there is a hint of grandeur in his prose, it is always grounded in social and cultural analysis, in eight decades of mythology, in those worlds so deftly crafted by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, by Bob Kane, by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby.
But where Morrison really succeeds is in creating a book that works on two distinct levels. For the longtime fan, it is a reaffirmation, it is stating the case for comic books again, as fact. For those curious bystanders, this is a book that will tell you just what all the fuss is about. This is a truly tremendous work. By far, the great geek book of the year.
Batman: Year One
by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli
144 pages / DC Comics
THE inspiration for Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, this is one of the most important comics ever written. It is also one of the best. Dark. Gritty. Deeply philosophical. This is the retelling of a familiar story — of an old story. The origins of Batman are the stuff of legend — repeated, replicated, ripped-off. A young boy witnesses the brutal murder of his parents, inherits a fortune, vows vengeance and retreats behind a mask. Frank Miller’s re-imagining however, is the first to bring forth a critical question. One that will dominate every Batman story that would come after. Which is the mask? The billionaire playboy or the cloaked vigilante that roams the rooftops? Bruce Wayne or Batman?
Batman: The Long Halloween
by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
384 pages / DC Comics
JEPH Loeb’s exploration into the core of what motivates these timeworn characters is both unique and refreshing. Set around a story involving murders occurring on national holidays, this wonderful collection catalyses that strained relationship between The Dark Knight, Commissioner Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent.
It dissects every conflicting notion of justice, of right and wrong. It asks that age old question of whether or not you must sometimes break the law to save it.
Batman: Knightfall, Part One — Broken Bat
by Doug Moench, Chuck Dixon, et. al.
272 pages / DC Comics
BECAUSE you really should be getting yourself ready for the movie event of the year. One of the most complex crossover stories DC Comics has ever indulged in, the ramifications of the Knightfall saga to the Batman mythos, far reaching and long lasting. Witness the evolution of Bane. Witness the breaking of the bat. This is one tale that will leave you gasping for air and on the verge of tears. Christopher Nolan’s epic exploration of Batman and the American Gothic comes to an end this month and the Knightfall saga is the ultimate pre-film primer.