Hey everyone! This is the first entry in a new, occasional series I’ll be running called Comics for Superhero Movie Fans, in which I’ll be recommending comic books for people who like watching superheroes on the big screen.
Why comics? Well for one, it gives me an excuse to talk about comics, which is something I very much enjoy since I am a weekly comics reader. But mostly I want to encourage people to read the books that are the source material for today’s most popular movies (including “Star Wars”; Marvel is publishing a line of “Star Wars” comics set primarily between “A New Hope” and “The Empire Strikes Back,” and since Disney now owns “Star Wars,” these comics are canon). While much is often changed or lost in the translation from page to screen, it’s still true that movie studios pull characters and entire storylines from comics, and comics also offer a rich vein of stories for people who enjoy seeing these colorful characters in action.
So, without further adieu, here’s my first recommendation, and it’s an easy one:
“Batman: Year One”
- Written by Frank Miller.
- Art by David Mazzucchelli
- Coloring by Richmond Lewis
- Lettering by Todd Klein
- The great thing about “Batman: Year One” is its brevity and simplicity; this is the definitive Batman origin story, and as such you don’t need any working knowledge of the broader DC Comics universe, which can be a hurdle for new readers on occasion. As long as you have some vague conception of who Batman is and what his deal is, you shouldn’t get lost.
Why this story?
- As I just said, it’s the definitive Batman origin story. While Batman’s origin had been told before and has been retold since (we’ll likely get to his most recent origin story before long), these four issues sketch out a near-perfect story of how Bruce Wayne began his crime-fighting career. It’s the story everyone keeps going back to, including Christopher Nolan in his Batman trilogy and (to a lesser extent) Zack Snyder in “Batman v. Superman.”
- You’ve likely already seen a handful of moments and characters from this comic. “Batman Begins” borrows the scene where Batman summons a massive colony of bats to protect him from overzealous police. In the comic, it looks like this:
“Batman Begins” also includes Detective Flass, the corrupt Gotham Police officer who’s also Jim Gordon’s partner (remember “SWEAR TO ME!”?). In “Year One” he has a much bigger role as an active antagonist to Gordon, though one of Gordon’s best moments in the story comes when he beats up Flass to show that he won’t be cowed by the corrupt officials in Gotham.
- “Year One” is actually Frank Miller’s best Batman story. “The Dark Knight Returns” is often cited as his best, because it helped touch off the grim and gritty antihero period of comics, but “Year One” holds up better because it doesn’t have the uncomfortable authoritarian overtones of “Dark Knight” and it’s more interested in telling a Batman story than deconstructing Batman as a hero.
- The art is fantastic. Miller is no slouch in the art department himself, but Mazzucchelli created a number of unforgettable images in this story, including Batman dropping in on a bunch of mobsters having dinner and a bat bursting in on Bruce Wayne as he recovers from his first, bloody night as a crime fighter.
That’s all for this first part in the series. Next up: A story from the gang at Marvel.