Thursday, December 08, 2011

Batman: Tales of the Demon, by various writers and artists

(pb; 1991: graphic novel; "Introduction" by Sam Hamm; "Afterword" by Dennis O'Neil)

From the back cover:

" 'There was no doubt that Batman needed a worthy opponent. We set out consciously and deliberately to create a villain in a grand manner, a villain who was so exotic and mysterious that neither we nor Batman were sure what to expect.

'Hence, Rā's al Ghūl - "the demon's head."' - from the introduction by Sam Hamm"


This graphic novel brings together several Batman-related comic book series: Batman, issues #242-244; Detective, issues #411, 485, 489, 490; and DC Special. They were published in 1971, 1972, 1978, 1979 and 1980.

I owned an earlier, slightly shorter version of this graphic novel when I was kid, in the mid-Seventies - it was a slender, 11x17" affair, its cover showing Batman screaming over a seemingly dead Robin, while Rā's al Ghūl and his sexy daughter, Talia, look on from the background.

It was the first graphic novel that I owned, purchased by one of my aunts - thanks, Ant K! - who knew what a Batman fan I was. (Sadly, I no longer own that comic book - I don't know what happened to it.)

Reading the more recent/retitled effort as an adult, I encountered similar, continual frissons that I'd first felt as a kid, while memorizing the older version - though this time my excitement was mixed with nostalgia.

Rā's al Ghūl was - is - just as dangerous, "exotic and mysterious" (to use the back cover description) as he was when I was a pre-teen; Talia, his seductive daughter, even wilder and more tastefully amatoric, and Batman darker, rougher and more ambiguous in his hero/outlaw identity. This, no doubt, was an intentional, opposite reaction to the entertaining cheesiness of the late Sixties television show, on the part of those who wrote and drew these comics.

Excellent, sensational, visually dramatic and macabre as it was thirty-plus years ago, this graphic novel is book-ended by an "Introduction" (by Sam Hamm) and "Afterword" (by Dennis O'Neil), which provide further, illuminating behind-the-scenes context regarding the tales contained therein.

Worth owning, this.

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