DARK NIGHT: A TRUE BATMAN STORY -- the harrowing and eloquent autobiographical tale of writer Paul Dini’s courageous struggle to overcome a desperate situation
Dark Night: A True Batman Story by Paul Dini, Eduardo Risso (illustrator) (2016, Vertigo; 128 pages)
Paul Dini is a very successful writer. He wrote for the primetime TV shows Lost and Clerks. He has written for several comic book series and won an Eisner Award for Mad Love, a story featuring Harley Quinn, a character he created and who is now enjoying huge mainstream attention in the new Suicide Squad film. However, he is most well known for his work in animation, where he won Emmys for shows like Tiny Toon Adventures, Ultimate Spider-man, and Batman, The Animated Series (where Harley was originally introduced).
During his time working on the Batman series, Dini was also, like too many people, the victim of a violent crime. That experience led him to write the graphic novel memoir, Dark Night. The title, a play on words based on a Batman nickname, Dark Knight, focuses on Dini’s very dark night, when he nearly lost his life in an ugly, random attack. That event caused him to reflect on his mortality, his place in life, why bad things happen, and the true meaning of heroes and villains. How Dini deals with that post-traumatic stress is powerful, ironic, humorous, scary, touching, and hits really close to home.
Eduardo Risso’s art, peppered with pop culture references and inner conversations between Dini and his fictional co-workers, is brilliant and provocative. There is a reason why more and more people gravitate toward graphic fiction. The mind’s eye is powerful, and creating a scene in your head from reading a passage works to bring books to life. However, sometimes, readers don’t have all the context or experience necessary to effectively depict those scenes. In those instances, graphic literature can bridge those gaps. Dark Night is a book that should be read and seen.
Find this title in our catalog: Dark Night
Recommended by: Robb
BLACK PANTHER: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION -- an African-American writer brings depth, political intrigue, and a complex backstory to the superhero's story
Black Panther: The Complete Collection by Christopher Priest (2015, Marvel; 416 pages)
Diversity in comics is still a work in progress, but a huge step forward was Marvel Comics’ introduction of the Black Panther in July of 1966. T’Challa, royal son of the fictional African country, Wakanda, took on the mantle of the Black Panther upon the death of his father, using mystical herbs and physical training to protect his nation, then later the world as a member of the Avengers. Black Panther was featured in a few short lived series, but was largely a supporting character who, though an important step toward bringing other races and cultures to graphic literature, still existed mainly as a flatly designed and stereotypical supporting character.
Approaching the 50th anniversary of his first appearance, Black Panther is receiving his first mainstream exposure, as a breakout character, played by Chadwick Boseman, in the smash hit film, Captain America: Civil War. The version of T’Challa in the movie is based heavily on a series written by Christopher Priest from 1998 – 2003. Priest, an African-American writer, added much needed depth to T’Challa, his background, and his country. Rather than just focusing on the Black Panther’s physical prowess in beating up supervillains, Priest added political intrigue, humor, and a complex backstory. T’Challa was a king, a superhero, and an Avenger, still. However, he was also highly educated, a diplomat, and a scientific genius. Wakanda, long shown just as an isolationist country with jungles and a mountain of Vibranium, was painted as an educated nation with a rich culture, burgeoning cities, and super technology made possible by the properties of the meteor-based metal that made the country a desired trading partner. Black Panther became more a Batman level character, and Priest used the series to delve into intricate plots dealing with history, family, and the rights of sovereign nations. He built a vibrant supporting cast and included long under-utilized African American characters to flesh out the stories. Next year, Black Panther will headline his own movie. Before then, reading the three volumes of this collection will set the stage well
Find this title in our catalog: Black Panther: The Complete Collection, Vol. 1
Recommended by: Robb
DC Showcase Presents Justice League of America. Volume 6 by Len Wein (2013, DC Comics)
Comic books have added to pop culture since their inception, but now they are more a part of the mainstream social consciousness than ever before. For those new to the genre, or for those who may have lost touch with it, getting up to speed can present a daunting hurdle. However, one of the best ideas that the two major comic book publishers had in the past 15 years was to publish 500-page retrospective collections of certain titles and/or characters. Marvel Comic collections were titled either Marvel Masterworks or Marvel Essentials. Their DC Comics were called "DC Showcase Presents," hearkening back to the DC Showcase comic series that featured many different characters over the years. These compilations featured the same stories as the original comics, usually reprinted in black and white, rather than the traditional four color comic style, allowing readers a low cost, convenient, one stop shop opportunity to either familiarize themselves with particular characters, or, as they usually do with me, to relive comics read in bygone days.
There are lots of these fantastic collections available both in our library, and our affiliated Alaska Joint Library Consortium, and one I recently read was DC Showcase Presents Justice League of America, Volume 6, which reprinted Justice League of America issues 107 through 132, from 1973 and 1974. That time period was around the time 5 year old me started reading comics, and these storylines featured more than Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, and other JLA stalwarts. They also starred the League's Golden Age counterparts, the Justice Society, and introduced the Freedom Fighters, a group of heroes featured on the book's cover, who hailed from a world where the Nazis won World War II. For me, the best part of this particular installment of DC Showcase was the unexpected and delightful inclusion of one of my top five favorite comic stories ever, a holiday tale titled, "The Man Who Murdered Santa Claus." I first read this story when it was originally published in 1973, and always remembered it. However, reading it with both a childhood nostalgic memory and an adult's point of view gave it new meaning. In this story, a Santa friend of the Justice League (as opposed to THE Santa) was killed by dastardly villain The Key, and the body left with a message that a bomb had been hidden in St. Louis. This was significant, in that St. Louis is a real place, unlike the fictional Metropolis and Gotham City. It was up to the superheroes that could be roused on Christmas Eve to find the bomb and protect the citizenry. The story has a wealth of layers, uncommon to most comic stories. Substitute Green Lantern John Stewart (he of later use in the superb Justice League animated series 30 years later) made his first JLA appearance when first-string ring bearer Hal Jordan slipped on a bar of soap in the shower. Real world issues of race relations, poor housing conditions, and poverty were acknowledged. Each hero got a pseudo death scene and a chance to shine. Red Tornado, an android and recently added team member who had been experiencing feelings of alienation and inadequacy, bolstered his confidence, learned how much his teammates appreciated him, and got a snazzy new costume. Forty-seven-year-old me now has even more love for this story.
Find this series in our catalog: DC Showcase Presents Justice League of America