Sunday, July 13, 2008

1940s Batman and 1990s Takahashi

Here's how this works: I finish reading something, and I tell you about it, and I try not to bore you to death. This time, reviews of Batman: The Dailies 1943-1946 (Sterling, 2007) and Rumic Theatre (Viz, 1996).

Boy, a little of this goes a long way. In the early 1990s, the now-defunct publisher Kitchen Sink teamed up with DC to reprint the entirety of the wartime Batman newspaper strip. The three books, poorly designed to my eye, with only two strips per page, sold badly and more than fifteen years later, Sterling cobbled up the innards, not even modifying the page numbers, and put them all in one mammoth, heavy hardback that'd bludgeon a runaway hoodlum, apparently with an eye on the remainders table at larger chain bookstores. If you can stand the discomfort of reading the 600-page thing, there's some good stuff. Batman in the 1940s had a lot more in common with Dick Tracy than the modern super-ninja, and our hero routinely comes out on the wrong side of a fistfight with thugs. He gets knocked cold by a thrown can of tomatoes at one point! Only one of these sixteen serials features a name supervillain - the Joker - the rest are pretty colorless villains with pretty colorful criminal schemes. The strips are supplanted with an amazingly exhaustive series of essays and interviews, meticulously researched and not a little dry, but more like the sort of supplements I'd prefer to see more publishers attempt. I reviewed Sterling's companion volume of Sunday strips in the spring (See here.) and can't help but feel that's the better volume, but I'm perhaps biased against this awkward, heavy book which, redesigned to display three or four strips a page would have been a lot thinner and manageable. Recommended with reservations; look for low-cost options first.

Now Rumiko Takahashi is of course well known for her long-running serial stories, but it looks like every few months she creates a one-off thirty-odd page story which appears in one of those weekly Japanese anthologies in addition to, or in lieu of, an episode of Ranma ½ or InuYasha. These are typically light romances, occasionally with some supernatural or magical element. I'm not certain how these were originally compiled in Japan, but this is a mid-90s Viz effort which packages six of these stories in that awful old neither-fish-nor-fowl $16 format that Viz used to use before giving in and going with low-priced digests like they do today. It's long out of print, but you shouldn't have much trouble tracking down a copy - Amazon has links to sellers letting it go quite cheap - and you certainly should, because each of these are charming and clever and, if we're honest, a whole lot better than InuYasha.

(Originally posted July 13, 2008 at hipsterdad's LJ.)

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