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Modern Age Batman (1980-present)

/content/features/89/1.jpgThe Batman universe(s) grew in leaps and bounds in the modern era. In 1983, Batman starred in four titles: Batman, Detective Comics, World's Finest (which expired in 1986), and Batman and the Outsiders (which supplanted The Brave and the Bold in 1983 and ran to 1986). Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (1989-2007) primarily focused on stories filling in details of Batman's early years. Batman: Shadow of the Bat (1992-2000) widened the scope to look, darkly, at a variety of characters in Batman's orbit. The Batman Adventures (1992-2004) was a companion book to TV's Batman: The Animated Series. Batman: Gotham Knights (2000-2006) came next, and resembled the old Batman Family title in looking to allies and villains for story material. The Batman Strikes! (2004-2008) was a spin-off comic from the animated TV series The Batman. Today, Batman headlines Batman, Detective Comics, Superman/Batman (since 2003), Batman Confidential (since 2006), and All-Star Batman and Robin (since 2005), featuring the team-up of Frank Miller and Jim Lee.

Frank Miller revolutionized Batman (and arguably the comic-book industry) with the hugely successful graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns (1986), about an aged Batman. Graphic novels have been big business ever since, with trade paperbacks collecting limited series and story arcs from monthlies. DC has also taken to publishing paperback and even hardbound collections, some around a theme and some chronological. Batman is well represented, with books like Arkham Asylum, Year One, Year Two, The Killing Joke, A Death in the Family, Knightfall, No Man's Land, War on Crime, Son of the Demon, The Cult, The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, Hush...the list goes on, with many culled from the pages of the monthly flagship title: Batman.

Against the grain of the sunny pop culture around it, Batman's shadows only deepened in the 1980s, thanks to writers like Doug Moench, Gerry Conway, Mike Barr, Max Allan Collins, Jim Starlin, and Marv Wolfman and artists including Don Newton, Gene Colan, David Mazzucchelli, George Perez, Norm Breyfogle, Brian Bolland, Denys Cowan, Alan Davis, Kevin Maguire, Jerry Bingham, Todd McFarland, Berni Wrightson, and Pat Broderick. During this decade, the original Robin (Dick Grayson) rechristened himself Nightwing to fight crime on his own. The '80s also gave birth to a few important characters: the Ventriloquist (and his dummy Scarface), the imposing Killer Croc, troubled avenger Huntress, Oracle (the new identity of former Batgirl Barbara Gordon), and new Robin Jason Todd. The latter was killed off in a memorable 1988 stunt that allowed readers of the "A Death in the Family" storyline (Batman 426-429) to cast a life or death vote; the decision was narrow: 5271 for life, 5343 for death.

1989 marked Batman's 50th Anniversary, and the biggest Batmania since 1966, thanks to the blockbuster Warner Brothers film Batman, scripted by Sam Hamm and directed by Tim Burton. Hamm penned a three-part Detective Comics story, "Year Three" played out in the Batman comics, Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight premiered, Arkham Asylum hit shelves, and—less than a year after the death of Jason Todd—a third Robin (Tim Drake) joins Batman in the "A Lonely Place of Dying" storyline (#440-442).

Three film sequels—Tim Burton's Batman Returns (1992) and Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997)—followed 1989's Batman, but a new animated Batman series, launched in 1992 (and on in the air, in various forms through 1995), made a greater impact on the comics. Beside its obvious respect for the comics (many of which the series adapted), Batman: The Animated Series served as the basis of an ever-morphing kid-friendly comic title, Batman Adventures (1992-1995)/Batman & Robin Adventures (1995-1997)/Batman: Gotham Adventures (1998-2003)/Batman Adventures (2003-2004), and the show introduced the popular and enduring characters of Renee Montoya and Harley Quinn (the Joker's moll), who have recurred in print ever since. (The show also spawned the 1993 film Batman: Mask of the Phantasm and a chain of spin-off series including Batman Beyond, Justice League, and current revamp The Batman.)

The 1990s saw scads of Batman "event" miniseries and graphic novels (among them Gotham By Gaslight, Sword of Azrael, Black and White, even more character-crossover miniseries (including a Frank Miller penned Batman/Spawn), sprawling, multi-title story arcs (like 1993's "Knightfall" and 1998's "Cataclysm"/"No Man's Land"), and yet more new titles: Batman: Shadow Of The Bat (1992-2000), The Batman Chronicles (1995-2001), and Batman Beyond (1999-2001). The nineties also saw the launch of "Elseworlds," a concept used freely to spin alternate-time and alternate-space stories for established characters, in miniseries or one-offs; Batman has frequently received the Elseworlds treatment. Doug Moench continued to spin Batman stories, alongside writers Chuck Dixon, Greg Rucka, Paul Dini, and Jeph Loeb; '90s artists included Tim Sale, Joe Quesada, Graham Nolan, Norm Breyfogle, Alex Ross, Mark Buckingham, Phil Jimenez, Paul Gulacy, Howard Chaykin, Mike Mignola, John Paul Leon, Mike Parobeck, Brian Stelfreeze, Klaus Janson, and J.H. Williams III. New characters included Azrael (1992), Bane (1993), and a new Batgirl (1999).

/content/features/89/2.jpgThe turn of the century saw trends proceed unabated. New regular title Batman: Gotham Knights supplanted old regular title Batman: Shadow Of The Bat, and Superman/Batman recreated the World's Finest concept. Story arcs seized Batman titles for months at a time—including "Officer Down" (2001), "Bruce Wayne: Murderer"/"Bruce Wayne: Fugitive" (2002), "War Games" (2004), "Face the Face" and "Batman & Son" (both 2006)—and graphic novels continued to flood the market (War on Crime, Detective 27, Frank Miller's 2002 sequel The Dark Knight Strikes Again, and Child of Dreams, a translation of Kia Asamiya's manga take on Batman). The 2000s solidified the superstardom of scribe Jeph Loeb, who teamed with Jim Lee for the blockbuster 2003 "Hush" run in the Batman title. Writers Judd Winick and Grant Morrison successively piloted the Batman title (other writers for the Dark Knight included Alan Grant, Ed Brubaker, and Paul Dini), and artists Kelley Jones, Doug Mahnke, Scott McDaniel, Michael Lark, Mike Mignola and Andy Kubert made their mark on the character. Oh, and in February of 2000, Batman forsook the 34-year-old "New Look" innovation of the yellow oval in his insignia.

 

Works Cited

Beatty, Scott. Batman: The Ultimate Guide to the Dark Knight. New York: DK Children, 2005.

Hughes, Bob. DC Timeline. 2005. http://www.supermanartists.comics.org/batman/batframe.htm (27 May 2005).

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