Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Waiting for Wednesday, Volume 3, Issue 37

When I was in my Junior year at college, my laptop's background image was, of course, an image of Batman drawn by Jim Lee. The art featured the Dark Knight, standing in the shadows and looking about as bad as can be.
I mention this because, while in my Junior year, I hadn't read a comic book in at least a decade. I had no idea that the image on my laptop was taken from Jim Lee's epic Hush storyline, or that that particular title was taking comics by storm and helping to usher in a new era in the medium.

I also didn't know that, in just over a year or so, I would embark on a mad hunt of every comics shop in my area to track down a copy of Batman, issue 608, which was the beginning of the Hush arc.

I didn't know any of this stuff, and I honestly didn't care.

But, as I've said many times before on the blog, I've always loved Batman, and I've always wanted to be Batman.

What can I say? Some people have Real Person Aspirations, like becoming a doctor, or a lawyer, or a pumpkin salesman in Michigan. For me--and for as long as I can remember--I've just wanted to be Batman.

You know, but without all the tragedy.

For a whole mess of reasons, Batman has been with me since day one, it seems. Some of my earliest memories (granted, I suffered a couple of concussions in college, so these might not be actual memories) revolve around playing with Batman toys (back when they were, in fact, toys, and not action figures), watching reruns of the Adam West Batman show on TV, and listening to an old record that came with a book about Batman and the Scarecrow.

I have no idea why this came as a record--maybe because it was cheaper than a cassette, or easier to pack with a comic book?--but I remember sitting next to my dad's old record player, listening to that same story, over and over again.

The Scarecrow of that particular story was of the not very scary kind, and the whole thing was very clearly aimed at me and my demographic.

In the end, Batman always foiled the Scarecrow and he did it in exactly the same way, but I still hung on every word. I'm willing to bet that record exists somewhere, in a box under a whole lot of other stuff from many years ago.

A few years later--1989, to be exact--another familiar Batman villain did manage to scare me, and he kept me up at night. When Batman hit theaters in that wonderful, Bat symbol-filled summer, I was right there with my parents and my brother.

Before the movie, we went to an IHOP down the street from the theater (today, the IHOP is still there; the theater is not) and had an early dinner. Then we made our way down the block and to the theater.

I don't think it's possible to explain how excited I was for that film. I was going to see Batman--my hero--up on the big screen, and it was going to be the Greatest Thing Ever.

And, honestly, it absolutely was. The Greatest Thing Ever, I mean.

But Nicholson's portrayal of the Joker scared the crap out of me back then, and I remember coming home and checking behind doors to make sure he wasn't there--waiting for me as he waited for Jack Palance in his office.

Looking back on it now, that's probably one of the main reasons I was always drawn to Batman--the fear. Batman himself was scary (even when he was just Michael Keaton in a muscle suit), but Batman's villains were terrifying.

They still are, actually.

That first Tim Burton Batman movie changed things in terms of comic books and their acceptance in "normal" culture.

I didn't realize it at the time, but comics were becoming mainstream. Batman was everywhere, from drinking cups at McDonald's to magazine covers in supermarkets. The Bat Symbol, especially, became the symbol of that summer and of that year.

Meanwhile, completely unknown to me, comics shops across the country were being flooded with new customers and new, edgier work from creators.

After the first film, I remember being very excited for Batman Returns. I still love the look of that movie, even if it's not the best the Bat has ever been. After that, though, I pretty much abandoned comics and Batman.

Sad to say, but true.

Still, Batman managed to pop up here and there. Like in my Junior year of high school when I was being considered for a fairly prestigious peer group. There was a pretty long process to get selected, and the final part was to sit for an interview with the current year's group.

I honestly can't remember any of the questions except for one: Who would win in a fight, Batman or Superman?

I said, quickly, "Superman. He has powers." Then I paused, and thought about it for a moment. "But Batman has that utility belt, and he's way smarter than I don't know, actually."

Ah, the ignorance of youth.

Flash forward now to my Junior year in college, me staring at my laptop and doing everything imaginable to avoid writing that paper on Yeats that's due in a few hours. I find myself searching for a new desktop image--because, clearly, that is more important than starting my paper.

I stumble across the DC Comics website, see the latest interpretation of Batman, and grab the wallpaper you see above.

Flash forward a year from that moment and I'm in a comics shop in Connecticut, rifling through back issue bins labeled "B". My heart races every time I reach the Batman section and get to the higher numbers.





Nope. Not this time. Next store.

That goes on for a couple of weeks until I finally find a copy of number 608. It was up on the wall of a now-defunct shop (actually, the shop that replaced that one is also gone), sitting behind the most recent issue of the series.

It was in a bag with a board, and the price was $5.00. That day I bought my first back issue.

A year later I have a pretty impressive collection of back issues. I live for Saturday afternoon back issue bin diving like Scrooge McDuck.

A year later and I have all but abandoned back issues to focus on collected editons and graphic novels.

A year later I catch the original art bug.

A year later, I share a blog with this bearded guy at work and we write about fun, geeky, wonderful things.

Three years later we still have that fun, geeky, wonderful blog.

-- -- -- --

Now, I know I've been getting away from what the typical Waiting for is supposed to be like lately, but that should change starting next week. Why? Well, because the books are getting so darn good, that's why.

DC's New 52 launched last week, and I fell for a good number of them, hard, and I'll be buying almost all of their new titles this week as well.

Of particularly high quality were Action, Swamp Thing, and Animal Man. Even Detective, written by Tony Daniel (known more for his outstanding art then for his writing ability), was quite good.

This week, I'm looking forward to Superboy, Frankenstein, Grifter, and Suicide Squad. But the book I'm most excited about is Batwoman, by JH Williams.

If last week was any indication, you might want to get to your store a little earlier today as many of last week's titles sold out before lunch.

DC took a big, bold step, and so far at least, it's paying off.

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