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Friday, July 18, 2008

"The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” by Robert Greenberger

Batman @ Wikipedia
Official Robert Greenberger Blog
Order “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia
Read An Excerpt

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Robert Greenberger’s professional career began at Starlog Press where he created Comics Scene, the first nationally distributed magazine to cover comic books, comic strips, and animation. From there, he worked at DC Comics as assistant editor and editor on such titles as Crisis on Infinite Earths, Batman, Detective Comics, Star Trek, Starman, Doom Patrol, etc. Bob also worked at Marvel Comics, Gist Communications and Weekly World News. As a freelancer, Bob has written numerous Star Trek novels & short stories and a variety of SF/fantasy short fiction. Most recently, he wrote the novelization of Hellboy II: The Golden Army for Dark Horse Books. He has also written several nonfiction titles for both adults and young adults including coauthoring 2004’s DC Comics Encyclopedia. Bob also writes for and offers commentary on

DESCRIPTION:Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot. So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible . . . I shall become a bat!” So declared millionaire industrialist Bruce Wayne, orphaned as a boy by a murderous thug and driven as a man to battle the scourge of crime by becoming Batman.

Batman swooped into popular culture in 1939—and for nearly seventy years has thrilled audiences in countless comics, live-action and animated television programs, and seven feature films. Prowling the darkened rooftops of Gotham City, roaring through the teeming streets in the sleek, high-powered Batmobile, and leaping into action when the iconic Bat-Signal pierces the night sky, the Caped Crusader is a larger-than-life legend. And now, for the first time in more than thirty years, everything there is to know about Batman the comic book character, is collected in one comprehensive new sourcebook.

From A to Z, this comprehensive sourcebook contains everything you ever wanted to know about the Dark Knight, including entries on The Joker, Amazon Girl, Catwoman, Apokolips, Robin, Doomsday, Sandman, the Justice League of America, Scarecrow, and hundreds more. There are literally hundreds of entries that go into incredible detail fleshing out and linking together the Batman mythos, including the complete details on Batman’s origins and biographies of every character, animal, place, accessory, and vehicle in the Batman universe.

CLASSIFICATION: As the title implies, “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” is an encyclopedia. In other words, the book is “a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on a particular branch of knowledge”—in this case, the comic book universe of Batman—which is organized alphabetically from A (Abattoir) to Z (Zur-en-arrh). As such, “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” is not the kind of book “that you can pick up and read from cover to cover”—as stated by Graeme in his review
HERE—but it is an excellent source of information for browsing through and cross-referencing.

FORMAT/INFO: The Essential Batman Encyclopedia is a large book, both in actual size (10.8 x 8.5 x 0.9 inches) and in page count (388 pages), which is amplified by really tiny print. Features the following highlights:

~Fascinating details and the complete background on Batman’s origins.
~Biographies of every major character in the Batman universe—including his closest allies, from Robin the Boy Wonder and faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth to Commissioner Gordon; and his countless enemies, from the Joker, Penguin, Catwoman, and the Riddler to Scarecrow, Two-Face, Ra’s al Ghul and Poison Ivy.
~Classic black-and-white comic book artwork throughout.
~Two sixteen-page full-color artwork inserts.
~Cover artwork provided by
Jim Lee (see insets), another favorite :)

ANALYSIS: Like “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor” (Reviewed
HERE) was perfectly timed for the big-screen release of the Iron Man film adaptation, “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” is perfectly timed for the big screen release of the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight (Opens July 18, 2008), starring Christian Bale, Aaron Eckhart, Michael Caine, and the late Heath Ledger. And also like “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor”, “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” is much more than a simple movie tie-in product, which is a direct testament to Robert Greenberger’s love and respect for the character and the tremendous amount of time and effort Bob put into making the encyclopedia as thorough as possible. Unfortunately, as informative as “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” is, it’s still far from perfect…

For one, the encyclopedia only covers the comic book aspect of Batman. So if you haven’t been reading the comic books, you may not care about a lot of the information found in the encyclopedia. And even if you have read some of the comic books, you still might not care. I know I didn’t and I’ve read my fair share of Batman comics over the years since the 1990s. Plus, Batman is easily my favorite superhero character of all time, ranking right up there with Spider-Man. The problem you see is not so much the information that the encyclopedia gives us, but the information it fails to provide. Specifically a timeline of the different Batman comic book series and miniseries (Batman, Detective Comics, Superman/Batman, JLA, The Killing Joke, The Dark Knight Returns, etc), their storylines, and the writers & artists who worked on the various titles. Additionally, I think it would have been more interesting to have looked at how the character has evolved over the decades, the impact that the Batman mythos has had on popular culture, and the various interpretations of Batman through different mediums like film, animation, video games, et cetera.

My biggest beef with the encyclopedia though, is the lack of color illustrations—most of the artwork is depicted in black & white except for two sixteen-page full-color artwork inserts—a disturbing trend for recent
Del Rey graphic novels including Terry Brook’sDark Wraith of Shannara” (Reviewed HERE) and Dean Koontz’sIn Odd We Trust” (Reviewed HERE). So just to be clear here, unless you’re Frank Miller or Jeff Smith (Bone), color is always better than black & white. Also, I think the encyclopedia would have been a lot more effective if there had been illustrations provided for every single entry in the book—along with the issue it appears in, artist info, etc—rather than just the more notable ones, although there are some really nice obscure pieces included.

CONCLUSION: Personally I don’t think “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” works as well as “Iron Man: Beneath the Armor”, at least not as an introductory piece to the character. I mean if you’re looking for comprehensive background information that is specifically about Batman the comic book character and his universe, then “The Essential Batman Encyclopedia” provides that—in spades—and is quite an impressive collection of Batman knowledge. But the information provided is depicted in a clinical manner and doesn’t really capture the awe or mysticism of Batman and his legacy. So the encyclopedia is recommended more to hardcore Batman lovers and those readers who have more than a passing interest in the comic books. For those who just have a casual interest in Batman, then I recommend something a little more user-friendly…

NOTE: In the future, authors Martin Pasko and
Phil Jimenez will be providing encyclopedias for DC Comics other two iconic superheroes: Superman and Wonder Woman.


heather (errantdreams) said...

I've never found bats in the least bit intimidating, which always made it a little tough to take Batman seriously. They're like rats or squirrels with wings---vermin at worst, cute at best, which doesn't say 'strike fear into the hearts of men' to me. :) Anyway, the latest movie looks like fun, so I expect I'll go see it. It's been a while since I last took in a Batman movie---all the way back to Keaton, I think.

Robert said...

I'm not intimidated by bats either, but I know some people who are scared to death of them! As far as the film, I have to say The Dark Knight is easily my most anticipated movie of the year. Even though I was slightly disappointed with Batman Begins, I think The Dark Knight will rival the original Burton Batman as the best one yet :)

Mark C Newton said...

You were disappointed with Batman Begins?! I thought that was an awesome movie! Very clever plotting, very subtle characterization, and stylish to watch. Can not wait to see TDK though...

Robert said...

Yeah, I thought Batman Begins had a lot of potential, especially the beginning and the way it explored the origins of the Batman character and how it was grounded in reality. But there were some corny moments in the film that offset the serious nature of the movie, the Rachel Dawes character was just terrible, and the movie devolves into cheesy fare in the third act.

But if you liked Batman Begins, just wait until you get a hold of The Dark Knight ;)

Mark C Newton said...

I've booked myself in for the pre-pre-advance-preview screening on Weds night. £13 over here for that!

I liked the fact that the origin story was long. Christian, in the office, mentioned that superhero films are the only films that have such a long back-story to the lead character. And I think it worked well in this one.

Robert said...

Nice :) I can't wait to see what you think of the movie! I think The Dark Knight does a much better job of exploring what it might be like if a Batman actually existed in the real world...

Mark C Newton said...

"if a Batman actually existed in the real world..."

Surely you mean, how he "already exists"... :)

Robert said...

True, he does already exist in The Dark Knight, but you'll see what I mean when you watch the film ;) Because as much as Batman Begins was grounded in reality, there were still some comic book-esque moments, like Gotham City itself. In The Dark Knight, Gotham City is depicted as an actual city...

Mark C Newton said...

I'm so going to have a geek meltdown soon...

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