July 23, 2008

Find Out Much More About Batman Than You Should Ever Know

Can't be bothered to read our Top 10 Batman Books but still fancy pretending to be a Batman expert? Want to know the secret behind Batman RIP? Wonder what the difference is between the original murder of Bruce Wayne's parents and the current version? What is the origin of the Joker? All you need to answer all of those questions and far too many more is Bob Greenberger's new Essential Batman Encyclopedia.

Released to give the fact-obsessed yet comic-phobic fans of The Dark Knight their batfacts fix, Greenberger's newly updated and rewritten collection of Batman trivia is both exhaustive and exhausting, tracing multiple fictional histories of almost everyone who's ever had any contact with Bruce Wayne whatsoever (It even explains the origins of "Zur-Eh-Arrh," the phrase at the center of the current Batman RIP storyline, but be warned; it's probably not what you expect) alongside a wealth of art from various Batman comics of the last 69 years. It's very much a book to dip in and out of rather than sit down and read, although you'll find yourself getting sucked in to the differences between Earth-1, Earth-2, Post-Crisis and New Earth versions of history (Earth-2's Batman was probably the luckiest, apart from that whole death thing). Greenberger - a former editor for not only DC Comics, but Marvel and the Weekly World News - manages to condense everything into a format that's not only easy to understand, but easy to read, as well; no mean feat when explaining just how Jason Todd managed to be blown up and murdered until Superboy Prime punched the walls of reality.

If the book has a flaw, it's that it's almost too much information; Greenberger has talked about the difficulties of creating entries for minor characters from the 50s, and you can understand why; while every character may be someone's favorite, that doesn't mean that all of them have to be bulking up an already impressive project like this one.

That aside, it's a strange book to recommend; curiously addictive, yet at the same time, utterly unnecessary, it's the kind of book that you should tell people not to get you for your birthday, but secretly covet at the same time. How else, after all, can you easily find out the entire history of Ted Grant?

The Essential Batman Encyclopedia [Random House] [via io9.com]

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