Last month, in my comic book club, we were sharing lists of our top five favorite characters, and my five are mostly from the DC universe. The lone non-DC entry is Rorschach (Watchmen), and my number one is Batman – who is celebrating the 75th anniversary of his 1939 Detective Comics bat-debut today. Approximately one month after making that top five list, a book came across my desk to catalog that ROCKED my world – Bill the Boy Wonder, by Marc Tyler Nobleman. I didn’t know about Milton Finger, the man who designed the iconic Batman costume and wrote the stories that introduce many of the beloved sidekicks and villains that populate Batman’s stories. Specifically, I was impressed by the comic book style presentation of the facts in Nobleman’s book, and his use of primary sources brings a tear to the eye of this librarian! It’s a great nonfiction title to use in the classroom, considering the Common Core; there are comprehensive author’s notes and a bibliography. Seriously, though, I have to admit – I cried (beach scene, page ~35).
A specifically cool part of the bat-universe, for me, is Barbara Gordon, daughter of Commissioner Gordon, better known as Batgirl. Librarian, hacker, and technology guru, (as a civilian) Batgirl has a doctorate in library science, is head of the Gotham City Public Library, and was elected to Congress. In fact, Business Week listed her as #8 on their list of the top ten smartest superheroes! What more can you ask for in a comic book heroine? Well, Barbara Gordon has also been a prominent disabled character, depicted in a wheelchair after suffering a spinal cord injury at the hands of the Joker. With intelligence as her defining characteristic, in these story arcs she serves as the go-to information specialist for superheroes in her role as the Oracle.
There are literally hundreds of wonderful bat-things that I could reflect on here. I loved Batman the Animated Series, and I am excited for the upcoming Gotham television show and Son of Batman film. I thought Will Arnett did a great job in the LEGO movie, and, as you can see, I took a picture with the giant LEGO Batman when they had him in the Scholastic Store downstairs. But the basic truth is that when I was growing up my dad would put a Batman comic book down on the table, and tell me to read it so that we could discuss. As recently as Monday, we were going through a box of comics that survived Sandy (the water came within an inch of the tops – thank goodness they were bagged and boarded!), and I walked away with assigned reading, which includes several Shadow of the Bat titles that I somehow missed in the 90s. Reading Batman with my father is a defining bat-experience in my reading journey, and it has served me well in my bat-career.
Happy Birthday Batman, and thank you Milton Finger - for giving me the hero that I needed!