Batman Archives, Vol. 1
by Bill Finger, Bob Kane (DC Comics, 1997)

Going back to where it all began, Batman Archives, Vol. 1 collects the very first Batman stories. The edition is a must-have for collectors, though it should be kept in mind that the original stories are quite different from the much more sophisticated Batman of the current era.

This beautiful hardcover reprints Detective Comics Nos. 27 through 50 and includes the first appearance of Batman (#27), Robin (#38), Clayface (#40), as well as Batman's greatest rival/arch enemy, the Joker (#45). This is "pre-crisis" Batman, which conceptually is not the same as the present-day Batman. Early Batman was very much a dark knight, one who carried a gun and wasn't afraid to use any means necessary to achieve the ends, including torture and death. The drawings and stories are rough around the edges but the essential Batman, the avenging detective, is at the center of every tale.

From a historic perspective it's fascinating to see how the components that came to define the character and his world. Batman, for example, doesn't appear as the actual Batman for the first six issues. He's just a rich guy fighting crime by dressing up as a bat. Later, he becomes more of a hardcore hero who definitely concerned more with vengeance than justice. At one point he sends a mobster a box containing a baseball bat. It's very interesting to watch him evolve into a protagonist with a more human side but who is still driven by an inner demon, a hero who is every bit as determined to fight crime as he was from his first appearance.

Batman has been a fixture of American culture for over 50 years, an icon who is on the level of Superman and Wonder Woman. The Batman Archives is an invaluable addition to the library of fans of early and modern Caped Crusader.

review by
Mary Harvey

1 April 2017

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