Sunday, August 21, 2011

Diving Into Digital Part 1: Batman and Me

My first comic was Batman 476 (Apr 92) by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. The cover shows Batman unmasking himself before a shocked Vicki Vale. I remember picking up the issue and thinking how momentous it must be, as surely Batman had never revealed his secret identity to anyone before, and how lucky I was to start reading Batman on this important occasion. I bought the issue and brought it home, only to find out that the cover was a bit of a white lie. Yes, there's a scene in which Batman unmasks himself to a shocked Vicki Vale, but it only happens in Bruce Wayne's imagination.
Taking my cue from Batman 476, I've also started out with a little white lie. In truth, I had read and even owned a few comics before this one--as an elementary school kid, I'd dabbled in G.I.JoeTransformers, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But it was not until as a twelve-year-old I bought Batman 476 that I truly became a comics reader. Despite the cover's deception, I was entranced by Grant's mature, witty script, and by Breyfogle's crisp, dynamic line work. This was a sexy, mysterious, captivating Batman unlike either the Adam West version I'd watched in old reruns or the Michael Keaton version I'd seen more recently. Although the issue was part three of a three-part story, it was easy enough to jump right into it, with enough of a hint of the greater universe it existed within to make me want more. 

And more is what I got: Armageddon Inferno introduced me to others in Batman's universe, not only familiar faces like Superman and Wonder Woman, but unfamiliar ones like Starfire, Guy Gardner, and Lobo; Justice League Spectacular showed me an entirely different group of heroes than I remembered from Super Friends; and Batman: Shadow of the Bat gave me more of the Grant/Breyfogle Batman I'd fallen in love with. From there I worked backward, browsing through the local comic shop's back issue bins, and forward, using the Advance Comics catalog to plan my monthly purchases. 

Nearly twenty years later, I'm still here, immersed in the world of comics. I've tried other genres and fictional universes, from Vertigo to Ultimate Marvel to Craig Thompson's Blankets to Art Spiegelman's Maus. My buying habits have changed as disposable income has ebbed and flowed and interstate moves have given me better or worse access to decent comic shops. I've even tried waiting for the trade. But the constant has always been Batman and the other heroes of the DC Universe. 

It's only appropriate, then, that the impetus for the newest change to my comics buying habits stems from a related change for the DC Universe: next month's New 52 and the accompanying same-day digital release of all DC titles. I've been testing the waters with digital comics for several months now, so when DC announced the relaunch I decided this would be the perfect time for me to complete the switch from print to digital. This blog will chronicle my foray into this brave new world, with reviews of digital releases, news, and musings on the evolution of digital comics as it happens. 

Today seemed like a good day to start the blog, as this morning I bought DC Retroactive: Batman - The 90s and felt like I was twelve again, reading Alan Grant's clever script and seeing Norm Breyfogle's sleek Batman--with the subtle difference that this time it was on a screen instead of on paper.

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