Back in early December, I posted about the upcoming DC Comics Classic Library Series featuring the first three Batman Annuals. Well, the wait is over as DC released The Batman Annuals, Volume 1 hardcover this week. Back in the early 1960’s when DC first published these annuals, it was a great way for fans of the Dark Knight to read some of his earlier (but not too early) Golden Age adventures. So, in a way, this new volume is actually a reprint of a reprint of Golden Age Batman material. The Batman Annual#1 has actually been reprinted in its entirety before in a replica edition in August, 1999, but the complete annuals two and three have never been reprinted.
This volume generally reprints classic Batman and Robin stories from Batman, Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics published between 1950 and 1958. Most of the stories are great Dick Sprang renditions as written by the prolific Bill Finger. There are some classics here, including the story of the 1950’s Batmobile, the origin of the Batcave, tales of the Bat Signal, as well as Two-Face, Joker and other notable villains. I found it quite interesting that the cover of this volume credits Finger, Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff, but nowhere mentions Bob Kane. While this is appropriate because Kane had no involvement in the creation of these stories, it is surprising and a bit refreshing to see DC give credit where credit is due.
Inside, the volume includes complete credits for writing by Finger, Edmond Hamilton, David Vern Reed and France Herron. Artists credited are Sprang, Moldoff, Lew Sayre Schwartz, Charles Paris, Stan Kaye, Win Mortimer and Curt Swan. At the bottom of the credits page, DC has the obligatory, “Batman created by Bob Kane”. The book has a nice introduction by Michael Uslan and an Afterword by Richard Brunning, Senior VP and Creative Director of DC Comics. Like DC’s Archives series, it has biographies of each of the credited creators. My only disappointment is that the table of contents does not reference the original source for each story that appeared in the Annuals (but that information is contained in Uslan’s Introduction).
Here’s what you’ll find in this volume:
Batman Annual #1 (Summer 1961)
“How to be Batman” (Detective Comics #190, December 1952 – Origins of Batman and Robin retold)
“The Strange Costumes of Batman” (Detective Comics #165, November 1950)
“Untold Tales of the Bat-Signal” (Detective Comics #164, October 1950)
“The Origin of the Bat-Cave” (Detective Comics #205, March 1954)
“Batman’s Electronic Crime-File” (Detective Comics #229, March 1956)
“Thrilling Escapes of Batman and Robin” (Detective Comics #221, July, 1955)
“The Amazing Inventions of Batman” (Batman #109, August 1957)
Batman Annual #2 (Winter 1961)
“The Underseas Batman” (Batman #86, September 1954)
“The Lord of Batmanor” (Detective Comics #198, August 1953)
“Batman, Indian Chief” (Batman #86, September 1954)
“The Jungle Batman” (Batman #72, August/September 1952)
“When Batman was Robin” (Detective Comics #226, December 1955)
“Batman the Magician” (Detective Comics #207, May 1954)
“Batman – The Superman of Planet X” (Batman #113, February 1958)
Batman Annual #3 (Summer 1962)
“The Mad Hatter of Gotham City” (Detective Comics #230, April 1956)
“The Human Firefly” (Detective Comics #184, February 1952)
“The Mental Giant of Gotham City (Detective Comics #217, March 1955)
“The Joker’s Aces” (World’s Finest Comics #59 (July-August 1952)
“The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City” (Batman #75, February-March 1953)
“The New Crimes of Two-Face” (Batman #68, December 1951-January 1952)
“The Mysterious Mirror Man” (Detective Comics #213, November 1954)
If you’re a fan of the Golden Age Batman, and especially of the work of Dick Sprang, you’ll want to get this volume. It contains 264 pages and has a cover price of $39.99 (U.S.) It can found for a discount at most online retailers.
Of note, it appears that DC intends to continue with this “Classics Library” series with such collections as “Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore”, “The Flash of Two Worlds” and “The Life and Death of Ferro Lad”. I’m sure Chris over at the Collected Comics Library will keep us posted about these and others yet to be announced.