Many moons ago, bored, dissatisfied with video reviews of comics on-line and craving excitement, I decided that I was going to jump on an already crowded bandwagon and promptly purchased two books with the intention of taking the piss out of them.
Instead I kinda ended up falling in love with them.
It was a weird decision to begin with, as I’ve never really written about things I don’t like even way back in the days when I reviewed live music and albums. I’d be critical, but If I didn’t like something, a band for example, I just didn’t bother writing about them. There was and still is enough great artists in my city to keep me busy promoting all the good stuff. Turns out it’s the same with comics, and while I came close to adopting a sarcastic or satirical tone, it turns out I’d much rather be positive and leave a reader with something awesome they can go away and read.
So, the books. It was smack bang in the middle of a harcore Batman Phase that had only just subsided last year that I ended up bidding, and winning, on both Batman 3D and Batman Digital Justice. Then I did nothing, for a really long time. In the case of Batman 3D I procrastinated so long and so hard that in the meantime the wonderful man behind it, Ray Zone passed away. Three years more passed. Yikes.
The best examples of Batman comics? Not really. Entertaining? Hell yes.
FIrst up Batman 3D, by the late Ray Zone. I have to admit that before getting this book I’d never heard of Ray Zone, finding out with a little bit of research that he was responsible for a lot of 3D comics, over the last thirty or so years. Despite his prolific work it seems that Batman 3D is the only book that collects any sizable amount of his comic work in one place, his other books focusing more on the history and mechanics of 3D cinema. From what I can find out about him he discovered 3D comics at a very early age, fell in love with them, and perused them into a career with a monomaniacal zeal.
Every page is rendered in the delightful stereoscopic hues of reds and blues. Instantly bringing to mind old black and white photos of theatres full of 50’s movie goers decked out in 3D glasees. Just in case you don’t have a pair kicking about, a very special pair is included with the book.
Not just any pair of 3D glasses mind you, Batman’s 3D glasses! I’m sure he won’t mind you borrowing them. That right there is the kind of wonderful smile worthy detail that makes you fall in love instantly. If Batman 66′ taught us anything is that beyond fighting crime, Bruce loves bat themed and labelled paraphernalia.
The comic that takes up the main bulk of this book is a John Byrne penned story, Ego Trip. This should have been a huge clue as to the quality of the book. Even if the 3D was a gimmick, when it comes to great stories Byrne is no slouch. The tale opens up with the Penguin, one of the more underused Batman advaseries, even in recent years. While he employs the services of a slew of other villians from Batman’s rouges gallery, he’s the main driving force behind the story. Even though this was released in 1990, the Byrne story has a distincly silver or bronze aged feel to it here. For instance, the inclusion of The Riddler who we first see being pesued by the dark Knight. He might have been, for better or worse the main villian in Snyder’s Zero Year but here he is relegated once again to the slightly comical and ineffective second rate villian. However he does get one redeeming moment.
I won’t recap the whole story here, only to say it has some really great touches to it (Two Faces twin sister Ninja henchmen being a brilliantly bonkers example) and finishes with a touching moment of sympathy from Batman towards Penguin as he explains to Alfred “But understandable Alfred. No one knows better then I how deep can be the scars of childhood”.
As a bonus the rest of Batman 3D is filled with a pin-ups gallery of Batman and his villians from some of the industries top talent. Seriously, I was flicking through this and was stunned by the artists involved. Holy shit, is that a Mike Mignola pinup?
It is! It’s mind blowing to see Mignola work from this early in his career, four years before he’d started work on his long running Hellboy series. Even here you can and his complete command of the black and white spaces in the drawing. It’s slightly unusual to see presented in 3D, with his artwork being particularly famous for it’s “flat” style, but the sutibly gothic atmosphere it produces is magnificent. Among the other treats are work from Alex Toth, Dave Gibbins and George Perez to name a few.
Ray Zones love for 3D shines through on every page and the pictures have incredible depth and many planes. In fact it’s easy to see everyone involved as having a genuine passion for Batman and a desire to make this a really unique book. It’s a few years old now and should be relatively easy to pick up, which I recommend you should.
Next: Pt 2-Batman-Digital Justice