80 Years of The Bat is a column created to celebrate the 80th anniversary of one of the most beloved characters ever created, Batman. Since his creation in 1939, Batman has managed to transcend his native medium of comic books. Eight decades later, the character has a presence in every area of entertainment. Over that time, Batman has garnered generations of fans; thus, always remaining relevant. Throughout the remainder of 2019, 80 Years of The Bat will examine decades worth of Batman material from every medium. This time around, I’ll review one of the newest Bat collectibles on the block, Back Issue Magazine’s Batman Movie 30th Anniversary Issue!
I thought I’d heard of all the publications out there related to our wonderful world of geekery. Well, it turns out that I had not. Up until a month or so ago, I must admit that I’d never heard of Back Issue Magazine; a monthly periodical from TwoMorrow’s Publishing. In doing a little research, I found that Back Issue Magazine covers a specific or specific set of topics in each issue.
Of course, the thing that brought Back Issue to my attention is the fact they devoted an entire issue to the film that made me who I am today, Batman (1989)! Considering that this year the movie’s 30th anniversary of Batman ‘89, the market is replete with collectibles related to that occasion; not to mention collectibles produced in honor of Batman’s 80th anniversary. As such, most fans (myself included) have to carefully budget and pick-and-choose what we’ll buy during this Batastic year! After all, most folks don’t have a Batcave full of cash. So, let’s get into this issue and see if it’s worth your hard-earned Bat buck!
Back Issue #113 (July 2019) is a full-color, 79-page issue is packed with content. Content which an even split between the 1989 Tim Burton film; as well as that year in comics. The magazine is produced on fairly-thick stock and paper and contains very few ads as well. For you to get a better idea of what this anniversary special offers, I have provided a brief breakdown on the articles featured within it:
- In Memoriam: Norm Breyfogle- The first page of this magazine is dedicated to the late legendary Batman artist, Norm Breyfogle. This memorial tribute features an iconic piece of art from Breyfogle’s Batman run.
- Back Seat Driver: An Editorial- Michael Eury, a former DC Comics editor during the late 1980s and early 1990s, provides an excellent introduction to this commemorative issue. One which serves to wet readers appetite for everything to follow in the magazine.
- Off My Chest: Guest Column by Michael Uslan- Fandom is all about passion, and one of the passionate people in the comic book movie business is the co-executive producer of every Batman movie in existence, Michael E. Uslan. You can say what you want about, Uslan and some of the films he’s been a part of but he loves The Caped Crusader. In this guest column, Uslan talks about his passion for the character and what led him to get into Bat business and his path to getting Batman ‘89 produced. Frankly, even though I don’t love everything Uslan has produced, we might not have ol’ Bats on any screen, silver or otherwise without him. As such, I enjoy reading or hearing anything this co-executive producer has to say about Batman.
- Michael Uslan, The Boy Who Loved Batman- It’s a doubleheader of Bat love from Michael Uslan! In this interview conducted by Joe Stuber, Uslan discusses Batman ‘89 in a more in-depth fashion. The co-executive producer talks not only about the film’s production; but also the challenges of getting it to that point. I found this to be a fascinating interview. However, I should note that Uslan does reiterate a lot of information he previously on The Shadow of The Bat: The Cinematic Saga of The Dark Knight documentary series (2005).
- Samm Hamm: The Man Who Drove Bruce Wayne Sane- In this interview conducted by Michael Kronberg, Batman ‘89’s co-screenwriter and comic book writer Samm Hamm talks about working in the world of The Dark Knight Detective. The interview is an even split between Batman on the silver screen; as well as the comic book page. The first half of which is devoted to the 1989 movie. For this portion of the interview, Hamm discusses his history with Warner Bros. and how he got the Batman screenwriting gig. Hamm goes in-depth on his original drafts of the film’s screenplay; as well as briefly touching on his unused and unproduced draft of Batman II. Following that, the second half of the interview focuses on Hamm’s work as a writer with DC Comics and his Batman: Blind Justice (1989), in that same year. As with Michael Uslan’s interview, I had heard a few of Hamm’s anecdotes concerning Batman ‘89 before. Still, I find this interview to be very informative as to how Hamm writes The Bat.
- Billy Dee Williams: The Man Who Would be Two-Face…But Wasn’t- Joe Stuber returns to conduct another interview. This time around its with one of the coolest cats around, Billy Dee Williams (who will soon make his return in Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker). Alas, I need to be frank about this interview, folks. I love Williams as much the next movie fan, but the actor provides almost nothing for this interview. The actor’s answers are short and dull. It disappoints to say this, but this interview strikes me more than page-filler.
- Prince Street News- I quite enjoyed this piece. Prince Street News is a humorous, meta-comedic comic strip by Karl Heitmueller, Jr. Rarely, can a writer-artist truly find the humor in The Dark Knight, but Heitmueller, Jr. manages to do just that with this strip. Best of all, this comic strip crosses the universes of “The Big Two” publishers.
- PRO2PRO, “Wait’ll They Get a Load of Me.”: Denny O’ Neil & Jerry Ordway on the Batman Movie Adaptation- This in-depth interview by John Trumbull chronicles the making of the Batman ‘89 comic book adaptation. Writer of the adaptation (and then DC Comics editor) Denny O’ Neil and artist Jerry Ordway discuss how they brought the silver screen to the comic book pages in one of the publisher’s first movie adaptations. As a longtime owner of this particular adaptation, I enjoyed reading how it all came to be. Of course, after reading this interview, I lamented that comic book adaptations of movies as a market don’t seem to exist anymore.
- Batman ‘89 Movie Art Pinup Gallery- The gallery contains a duo pinup paintings. One by painter Keith Birdsong; the other by Jovial Jon Pinto. I’m not going to spoil what two pinups are featured here. However, I will say that both of them are beautiful pieces.
- Batman Rising- This article serves as a transition into what is the second half of this 30th-anniversary issue. That’s to say that, the magazine moves its focus away from the 1989 film. Instead, the focus of this special shifts to Batman comics in ‘89. Glenn Greenberg’s article provides an overview of what a significant year 1989 was for Batman in his native form. Specifically, the article covers works from that year by Jim Starlin, Marv Wolfman, Alan Grant, and Norm Breyfogle. Greenberg provides an excellent look back at Batman comics from this era.
- The Last Batman Newspaper Strip- An excellent article by Dewey Cassell which covers the history of Bats in newspaper comic strips. Following the history portion, the article’s primary focus becomes that of the final Batman newspaper strip published in 1989. Former DC Comics editor, Mike Gold; as well as writers and artists Marshall Rogers and Max Alan Collins discuss working on said strip and difficulties therein. Guys, I hate to admit it, but I wasn’t that informed of Batman’s history in the newspapers before reading this. Therefore, I found this article to be highly-educational and entertaining.
- Catwoman and Religion Through the Eyes of Mindy Newell- In this interview conducted by Steven Wilber, Catwoman writer Mindy Newell talks about her history with the character of Catwoman/Selina Kyle. This interview is a worthwhile read because Newell’s take on the anti-hero is a strong one. Not to mention the fact that Newell had to bring Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One (1987) interpretation of the character into the main comic book continuity and make the character her own.
- Bat-Legacy: The Huntress- This article by Marc Buxton covers the re-introduction of The Huntress in ‘89, post-Crisis on Infinite Earths. Admittedly, I’m not the target audience for this article, as I’m not the world’s biggest Huntress fan. Despite that though, this article has its place in this particular issue.
- Remembering a Serious House on a Serious Earth: A Retrospective of Grant Morrison & Dave McKean’s Arkham Asylum– Writer Michael Chudolinsk provides a final 30th-anniversary piece to close out this Batastic Back Issue. This closer focuses on the dark and adult-oriented graphic novel, Arkham Asylum. While this is a well-written article, I must admit that I’ve not yet read Arkham Asylum. However, considering the timing, I think this year would be a good enough time as any to get around to doing so. Nevertheless, this retrospective is a fine closer to the magazine.
With a cover price of $8.95, Back Issue Magazine’s Batman Movie 30th Anniversary Issue gives you plenty of bang for your bat-buck! Outside of the aforementioned lackluster interview with Billy Dee Williams, the articles featured in this issue provides the prospective reader and collector with what they’re looking for. The only real criticism I have is that I wish the paper and cover were a little more hefty; perhaps something akin to the recently relaunched Fangoria. However, this anniversary issue is still a nice, reasonably priced collectible. (However, I don’t recommend buying it from The WB Shop, like I did or your end up paying double the cover price!)
Back Issue #113 (July 2019): Batman Movie 30th Anniversary Issue is Available Now!
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