Batman: 100 Greatest Moments by Robert Greenberger
Batman: 100 Greatest Moments (2019), by Robert Greenberger, like his Flash: 100 Greatest Moments which I previously reviewed (and will borrow some of here due to the similarities) is a browser’s reference book that offers up a comic reader’s cornucopia of illustrations, something one always hopes for in this sort of book. As the title says, it’s a look at an (obviously subjective) list of highlights from the near-century the classic character has been around. While some fans might quibble here and there, the list as a whole is most likely going to find general consensus.
As noted, while one can read it cover to cover, it’s more a browsing kind of book. I say that because it doesn’t go in chronological order, nor does it go into a deep dive in any particular area. So it’s not meant to be read as an analysis, say, of the character’s changes over time or his personality. If one is looking for that sort of thing, there are a slew of such titles. One picks up on Batman’s development as a character and as a hero while reading this work, but as the entries shift around in time, it’s not a unified, linear exploration and the content is broad but shallow (not a criticism, since that’s not the intent here).
Instead of going chronologically, Greenberger has organized the entries by the categories listed below, along with some of their included content:
- “Origins” pretty self-explanatory but also includes the arrival of Dick Grayson
- “Creating the Mythos”: adding the various elements that are now synonymous with the character, like the Bat Signal, the Batmobile, the Batcave, etc.
- “The Batman Family”: the character’s chosen family: Alfred, the various Robins, Batwoman and Batgirl
- “Allies, Friends, and Lovers”: Also pretty self-explanatory and including entries on Commissioner Gordon, Catwoman, Vicki Vale, Superman, and others
- “Enemies”: the famous Rogues’ Gallery, including Joker, Two-Face, Riddler, Scarecrow, Bane, and more
- “Out of This World”: various fantasy, science fiction, and “what-if” tales
Each single entry is typically 3-4 paragraphs long, with a small illustration often accompanying them. The text is informative and readable, not academic, and while it’s occasionally conversational it’s never too informal. Greenberger doesn’t delve into any of the controversy over credit for the character, keeping things lightly descriptive. Each category usually has a few good-sized covers scattered within its section, then each one is followed by full-page excerpts from the discussed comics, ranging from a single page to several pages. Having so many multi-page excerpts was a pleasant surprise and gives the reader a true sense of reading the comic as opposed to the usual single representative images. Even better, it allows you to get a strong sense of the range of artistic choices made by the various illustrators over the years.
The non-linearity can feel a bit chaotic/random, making it difficult to get a sense of unity or cohesive big picture look, though the division into segments helps somewhat with that. And because Batman has remained singular over his years, as opposed to The Flash who has had several people fulfill that role, this is less of an issue here than it was in Flash: Top 100 Moments.
I confess that in the running “war” between the two titans of superhero comics, I long ago enlisted in the Marvel camp. In my earliest comics reading days, though, I did have a short period of time reading a few DC ones, more typically The Flash, though I did read some Batman in that short-lived period. And I have read several of the classic graphic novels over the years such as Year 100 or The Dark Knight Returns. Some of these moments reminded me of why I enjoy Marvel more, but others, particularly some of the later stories, made me think I might have missed a few good tales here and there.
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