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David V. Reed’s Run on Batman – Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed? (Review/Retrospective)

23rd July is Batman Day, celebrating the character’s 75th anniversary. To celebrate, this July we’re taking a look at some new and classic Batman (and Batman related) stories. Check back daily for the latest review.

David V. Reed enjoyed a long run on Batman. While he’s probably more infamous for his rather mean-spirited attack on Batman artist and co-creator Bill Finger in the pages of The Amazing World of DC Comics only a year after Finger passed away, Reed did some interesting things with the character and world of Batman. Perhaps the most notable of these stories is the four-part Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?, an ambitious four-part story offering multiple-choice takes on the death of Batman.

It could be argued that Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? has been a very influential Batman story. David V. Reed’s four-part saga sets up a structure that has been emulated quite a bit over the history of the Caped Crusader. For example, Almost Got ‘Im from Batman: The Animated Series follows a similar structure, with four Batman villains boasting about almost killing Batman. And Neil Gaiman and Adam Kubert’s Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? features many different deaths for Batman.

Long live the Batman!

Long live the Batman!

There are even faint echoes of Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? to be found in the pages of Grant Morrison’s extended Batman run – populated as it is with replacement Batmen, cabals of evil villains boasting about their crimes, and the almost-but-not-quite death of the Dark Knight. Published in 1977, Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed? is a four-parter that seems quite a bit ahead of its time, if a little clumsy in execution.

It’s a decidedly goofy concept, executed in a decidedly goofy manner, but it is also quite wry and astute and perhaps even a little prescient.

Batman drops in...

Batman drops in…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Legacy, Parts 1 & 2 (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

It seems like I’ve spent far too long comparing Superman: The Animated Series to its direct predecessor, Batman: The Animated Series. However, it’s interesting how radically different Bruce Timm structured of the two shows. Batman came and went off the air with episodes that could only barely be described as a pilot and a finalé. On Leather Wings featured a Gotham still coming to terms with Batman, but it wasn’t an origin story. Judgment Day teased the possibility of closing Harvey Dent’s arc (and maybe killing off some recurring bad guys), but it didn’t offer too much else in the way of closure.

In contrast, Superman: The Animated Series opened and closed with two large-scale multi-part episodes designed to bookend the show, opening and closing the character’s arc. While Legacy doesn’t feel absolutely final, with plot points leading directly into Timm’s Justice League television show, it does offer a fitting end for Superman: The Animated Series.

He comes in peace.

He comes in peace.

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Non-Review Review: Superman Unbound

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Superman Unbound is a little disappointing. These direct-to-video animated films can offer brilliant and energetic takes on established comic book characters and stories. The recent two-part adaptation of The Dark Knight Returns and the animated version of New Frontier come to mind. However, Superman Unbound seems to be just treading water, offering a fairly generic Superman story with no real insight into the character and his world.

Up, up and away...

Up, up and away…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Knight Time (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

It’s always fun to compare and contrast Superman and Batman, partially because they are two of the oldest and most iconic superheroes in popular culture, but also because the lend themselves to contrast. Superman is all smiles and primary colours, while Batman is shades of grey and shadows. It’s fun to see the worlds of the two superheroes overlap, if only because they are so radically different in tone, atmosphere, mood and content.

While World’s Finest brought Batman and the Joker to Metropolis to play with Superman and Lex Luthor, Knight Time sees the Man of Steel substituting in for an absentee Batman in Gotham.

I gotta get me one of those...

I gotta get me one of those…

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Superman: The Animated Series – Ghost in the Machine (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Ah, Lex Luthor. Luthor is, in the right hands, an absolutely fascinating character. The arrogant, ruthless, egocentric hero of his own story – the man who resents the world for not acknowledging his genius are recognising his boundless compassion. He’s a crusader against the alien threat that has lulled his city into a false sense of security, and he’s willing to make untold sacrifices in order to expose Superman as the menace that Luthor knows deep down that he is.

Well, not really. Luthor is a greedy and manipulative sociopath with delusions of grandeur and a ruthless streak a mile wide. However, there’s something quite intoxicating about the romantic mythology he’s created from himself. Ghost in the Machine is really the first time we’ve focused on a character taken in by that mythology, somebody won over by Luthor’s propaganda and his alpha male charisma.

Mercy Graves was never the break-out character that Harley Quinn was, but she’s another valuable addition to the DC universe made by Bruce Timm and the rest of DC animation. Ghost in the Machine is as much her story as Superman’s or Brainiac’s, as she finds herself caught in the middle.

Another day in the body shop...

Another day in the body shop…

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52 (Review/Retrospective)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

If you are looking to get a taste of the shared universe that DC have created, a glimpse at the diverse characters and their overlapping worlds who have been cultivated as part of the publisher’s comic book line, then it’s very hard to go wrong with 52. A weekly series set in the wake of one of the company’s line-wide “everything changes” events, it offers a fascinating glimpse into the workings of the minor characters dealing with their own problems and issues in a world without Superman, Batman or Wonder Woman.

Published as fifty-two weekly issues, it serves as something of “a year in the life” of this fictional world. Written by four of the best writers in contemporary comics, each of whom has made outstanding contributions to the company’s output in the not-too-hazy past, 52 might not be the best or most consistent comic book that DC ever published, but it is one of the most insightful, original and fun.

Falling from the sky...

Falling from the sky…

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Superman: The Animated Series – The Way of All Flesh (Review)

To celebrate the release of Man of Steel this month, we’re going Superman mad. Check back daily for Superman-related reviews.

Although it was quite clear from The Last Son of Krypton that Superman: The Animated Series was going to be quite a different beast than Batman: The Animated Series, there were times when the show borrowed a trick or two from its older sibling. Particularly early in the show’s run, there were a number of “villain origin” episodes which seemed to emulate the more successful villain-centric stories from Batman: The Animated Series.

Fun and Games, the origin episode for Toyman, could easily have been adapted for the other show with a minimum of fuss. It was probably too similar, and a demonstration that Timm’s approach to Batman couldn’t be expected to work perfectly for Superman. Feeding Time and The Way of All Flesh are two single episodes designed to introduce two of Superman’s second-tier bad guys, the Parasite and Metallo.

While they retain a stronger sense of serialised storytelling than many of the Batman stories, there’s a very clear attempt on the part of the writers to humanise and almost empathise with these villains. The Way of All Flesh is probably the most successful, in part because Metallo has a great hook for writer Stan Berkowitz to mine, in part because he’s an interesting villain is his own right, and in part because it does this without seeming too much like an attempt to copy Batman: The Animated Series.

The real man of steel...

The real man of steel…

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