The Essential Batman Encyclopedia (Mania.com)
Review Date: Thursday, July 17, 2008
The problem with trying to organize all the lore surrounding Bob Kane and Bill Finger’s Batman is pretty simple: there’s too damn much of it to fit in any one book. From the Dark Knight’s founding in 1939 to the character’s schism on multiple Earths and return to a singular entity in Crisis on Infinite Earths (and 2006’s Infinite Crisis), the caped crusader has exercised his legs in literally dozens of different DC titles. The result is a world-renowned superhero archetype, one whose ass-kicking code of justice has been built and tweaked by nearly seven decades of comic Americana.
With an almost regrettable nod to his own hubris Robert Greenberger, former Manager of Editorial Operations at DC Comics and recent author of Hellboy II: The Golden Army novelization, lays out the complications of creating a Batman encyclopedia in a concise, no bullshit preface that will bring even the most casual of fans up to speed with the character’s evolution. Greenberger notes the first attempt at a Batman encyclopedia, undertaken by Michael Fleisher and Janet Lincoln in the 1960s, and its commendable yet incomplete results. Determined to update a Batman compendium to include all the works of the Greater DC Universe (up until November of 2007), Greenberger sets out with tireless bravado…and an almost apologetic shrug for all the inconsistencies and contradictions that have followed Bruce Wayne across different authors and multiple dimensions.
One of the coolest things about Del Rey’s The Essential Batman Encyclopedia is its massive collection of artwork. Throughout the A-to-Z tome comic cells, full page spreads and whole issue covers break up the text to offer a unique visual history of all things related to the Batman. My only gripe here is that there aren’t enough full-color illustrations. Aside from a pretty sweet Joker layout the two 16-page full-color inserts pale in comparison to the black-and-white art featured in the rest of the book.
But Greenberger’s encyclopedia is, after all, an encyclopedia rather than an art book and his research entries are simply top notch. Anyone looking for clear-cut, chronological trees of information will be slightly bewildered by the book’s setup because after the preface all linear facts are chopped up and organized alphabetically by place, character and object names. Each entry, no matter how insignificant or integral, is treated with the utmost care and referenced meticulously to their source material.
While some entries are only briefly sketched out according to their importance, others are mapped out extensively to detail the significance and history of a prominent location or to distill an entire character biography into its most cogent form. Greenberger describes every major hero and villain within the Batman universe with almost slavish obsession and never once shirks the oftentimes meandering lore or intricate subplots for the sake of simplicity. If ever there was a comprehensive Batman resource, this is it.
Mania Grade: A-
Paperback: The Essential Batman Encyclopedia
Author: Robert Greenberger
Publisher: Del Rey