Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Batman celebrates his 80th birthday in <i>Detective Comics</i> #1000, a star-studded anthology extravaganza

Batman celebrates his 80th birthday in Detective Comics #1000, a star-studded anthology extravaganza

Image: Jim Lee, Scott Williams, Alex Sinclair (DC Comics)

In pop culture terms, 80 years is a long time. On the internet, pop culture moments can last for just days before they’re already over, gone in the constant stream of new content and distractions. But Batman has endured for 80 years, and last week Detective Comics #1000 (DC) marked the celebration of that anniversary. The comic is a bit of a contradiction in terms; though it continues the numbering scheme from other issues, it is entirely outside of any current continuity for the character, a single anthology issue that is both a greatest hits album and entirely new.

At nearly one hundred pages, Detective Comics #1000 is well worth the cover price of $9.99. (For context, the average issue of super hero titles is 20 to 30 pages and $4 to $5.) That alone, combined with the remarkable place in history that this book occupies, will be enough to compel a lot of readers to pick it up. But Detective Comics #1000 has a lot to offer long-term fans and new readers alike, with short stories by some of the most recognizable names in Batman lore. The book opens and closes with Scott Snyder and Tom King, the modern masters of Batman for nearly the last 10 years. Greg Capullo and Snyder lean hard into Batman’s role as the World’s Greatest Detective, while Tony S. Daniel and Joëlle Jones help King deliver a perhaps too-wordy take on the size of the Bat-family, making it clear just how not alone the Dark Knight really is.

In between these, the stories run the length and breadth of Batman’s history. There are pages and art that will feel deeply familiar to fans who haven’t picked up a Batman book since the 1970s or early 1980s, and that’s a good thing. Detective Comics: 80 Years Of Batman hit shelves in March and included a lot of early Batman stories, but Detective Comics #1000 manages to capture a very old-school, retro vibe while delivering all new content. They’re all good stories, but of particular note is Paul Dini and Dustin Nguyen’s “Legend Of Knute Brody,” which looks like an incredible new Batman cartoon thanks to inks by Derek Fridolfs and colors by John Kalisz, adding to a hefty dose of Batman: The Animated Series-style humor. “The Precedent” from James Tynion IV and Alvaro Martinez-Bueno does a great job of establishing Bruce’s legacy, but also Alfred’s and Dick’s. Kevin Smith and Jim Lee make a case for a specific type of gun control in “Manufacture For Use,” and Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev create an interesting version of Old Man Bruce in “I Know.” The entry from Warren Ellis and Becky Cloonan’s “The Batman’s Design” is the darkest and most introspective of the stories, and sings thanks in no small part to Jordie Bellaire’s colors. It’s deeply satisfying to see Denny O’Neil’s name in a Batman book again, and his “Return To Crime Alley” is perfectly old school thanks to Steve Epting’s art. “Heretic” by Christopher Priest and Neal Adams as well as “The Last Crime In Gotham” by Geoff Johns and Kelley Jones are just a little anachronistic.

While reading this book is a joy no matter how much Batman knowledge the reader has, the creative teams and the references made on the pages are more enjoyable with even a cursory understanding of the character’s publication history. For some ambitious new readers, it may act as an invitation to explore more names and previous arcs, to dig out old books. Thankfully, it’s not difficult to find any but the most esoteric Batman books, and with DC putting its entire digital library up on DC Universe (where new exclusive shows are also hosted), it’s easier than ever. It’s also nice to see Bill Finger continue to get credit for his contributions to the character, though the second billing he gets isn’t ideal. What’s more frustrating is to realize just how alike many of the creators involved in the production of this book are. Becky Cloonan was the first and along with Joëlle Jones one of only two woman to work on Batman as artists; Devin Grayson, the first and only female writer on a Batman title, wasn’t in Detective Comics #1000. It’s great to see so many talented creators return to the Dark Knight, but Detective Comics #1000 also serves as a reminder of just how homogenous that group has always been, and in many ways continues to be.