COMIC BOOKS: Batman in the Eighties


This is a volume in the DC Comics series collecting great issues of Batman from each decade since the 1940s.

The 1980s were strange years for Batman, a mixture of let-down from the great recovery period for the character in the ‘70s as well as a sneak peek into the fantastic Bat-events of the ‘90s.

In his regular monthly titles of “Batman” and “Detective Comics,” Batman almost became domesticated for most of the decade, sort of a Bat-father knows best in his cave filled with departing Robins (Dick Grayson graduating to Nightwing), etc., and new Robins (Jason Todd and Tim Drake), a paternal Alfred, love interests such as Vicky Vale, Catwoman and Nocturna, with a couple of them almost moving into Wayne Mansion and the Batcave.

But there were other events simmering on the perimeters of Batman’s regular titles.

Frank Miller’s groundbreaking “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” which not only sold copies in the hundreds of thousands but made it onto bestselling book lists, and Miller’s “Batman: Year One,” which originally appeared in the regular monthly titles.

“The Killing Joke” graphic novel which offered a chilling origin story for The Joker while forever altering the Batman’s supporting cast.

The death of Robin, which occurred in the regular series, with the storyline having The Joker killing the Jason Todd Robin but, in truth, readers killed Robin when they were given a chance to phone in a vote to save or kill the newest Robin.

There was the introduction of a third Robin in Tim Drake, a character who made Robin popular again.

A new Batman monthly title, “Legends of the Dark Knight,” was introduced, bringing edgy storylines from numerous authors focusing on stories from Batman’s early days.

And by the end of the ‘80s came the blockbuster movie “Batman,” starring Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Jack Nicholson as arch-enemy The Joker; the movie, along with Miller’s graphic novels, set the tone for the ‘90s when Batman was featured in several extracurricular projects outside of his three monthly titles and soon received a fourth monthly title.

“Batman in the Eighties” contains several Batman stories from the ‘80s, as well as reprints of “Teen Titans,” which changed the course of Batman’s relationship with original Robin Dick Grayson, a Batgirl story and a “Batman and The Outsiders” tale to show how Batman was added to numerous groups and given frequent guest appearances to boost sales for other titles.

But don’t look for reprints of “The Killing Joke,” “The Dark Knight Returns” or “Year One” here. These titles are mentioned in great essays included in the volume and the covers are reprinted but not the stories.

Instead, there are some other gems from Batman’s career in the ‘80s but this volume also strays too far into reprints of Bat-related characters and is not as satisfying as some of the other volumes featuring earlier decades.

The trade paperback edition is, however, suitable for youngsters and adults, which is a plus.

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