Batman Month – “The Long Halloween”by Bobby Acosta on Jul. 04, 2012, under Batman, Comic Book Movies, Comic Books, DC Comics, Opinion, Reviews
Now that we’ve spent some time discussing Spider-Man and his recent movie outing, we can move onto the biggest release of the summer movie season. While yes, “The Avengers” did provide people with a superhero movie that they may not have expected, one filled with fun and explosions that maintained a smart line of storytelling, it is still not the biggest release.
Even with “The Avengers” smashing all kinds of box office records and earning over $600 million domestically, people are still in a higher form of anxiety for the upcoming Christopher Nolan Batman movie, “The Dark Knight Rises”, the promised end to the Dark Knight Trilogy. What awaits us in this final installment, I may not be sure, but Nolan and the entire crew have put forth a great effort in comic book movie making, and regular movie making in general, and it’s sure to be as memorable as the first two.
With that I welcome you to the first installment of “Batman Month”, an entire month dedicated to the Dark Knight Detective and some of his best, all-engrossing adventures. Over the next three weeks (not counting today), we’ll be reading some of the better Batman stories that anyone can pick up and read without knowing much about him outside of general pop culture knowledge or a vested interest in the movies.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of Batman tales, believe me, and any one of them may be better (in some opinions) than the stories I discuss today, but I’m not talking about the greatest Batman stories of all time. I’m talking about the greatest Batman stories for new readers, people that want to become fans or have any curiosity in our vigilante hero.
Today’s story focuses on Batman’s earliest years, and was a major inspiration for the first two Christopher Nolan Batman movies. Once you read it, it will be definitely easy to pick out which parts were used.
Batman: The Long Halloween
“I believe in Gotham City.” – Bruce Wayne
This was a 12 issue series, published in 1996-1997, back during a time when comic books focused more on having futuristic armor and rippling muscles upon their rippling muscles. This is a tale of Batman in roughly his third year, the year that everything changed in Gotham City.
Our tale begins with Bruce Wayne at the wedding of Johnny Vitti, the nephew of Carmine “The Roman” Falcone, one of the biggest mobsters in Gotham. For anyone that has seen “Batman Begins”, The Roman is a name that may ring a bell.
Bruce is only there because, at one time, his father and Falcone were friends of a sort. This scene reeks of “The Godfather” movie and that sets the tone for the rest of the series. While Bruce speaks with the Falcone about the fate of Gotham and how he believes in its inherent goodness, you understand that currently, this is the mafia’s Gotham. They own this city. However, there lies one obstacle in their way.
Batman has begun to hack away at the mob and their associates, beginning to limit their reach and power.
However, Batman is not the only thing that the Falcone mob has to worry about, as a serial killer, known only as “Holiday” has begun to kill important members of the mafia on important holidays, beginning on Halloween. Thus begins a year full of mystery, murder, hatred, contempt. This is The Long Halloween.
Accompanying Batman on this quest, this dedication to finally wiping out the mob rule over Gotham once and for all, is Commissioner Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, many know him as Two-Face. On top of Gotham City Police headquarters, they make this vow. All of them believe in Gotham City. They believe in each other. (The reason I keep repeating this is because this was the big tagline in “The Dark Knight” for Harvey Dent.) They believe that they can lead the way to redeeming Gotham.
Now, the best part I find on this series is that Batman has absolutely no idea who the killer is.
From this, we receive a great view on the entire mystery. Author Jeph Loeb is no stranger to Batman, and I always love his interpretation on him. We get a great inner monologue running throughout as Batman attempts to figure out the killer. Loeb lays on some thick, dark Batman dialogue that maintains a consistent tone throughout. This is Batman as people know him.
As the mystery deepens, we are shown some of the best looking Batman imagery and villain designs in Batman lore. This is brought to us by Eisner Award winning artist, Tim Sale. Sale’s artwork can best be described as gorgeously simplistic.
His artwork creates a time of decades past, an occasion where mob rule was absolute. This is the age of fedoras, Tommy guns and trench coats. Where does this fit in to Batman’s timeframe? No one should care. It all looks gorgeous.
From the sinister sneer of The Joker to the catty ways of Catwoman (that was bad, I know), Sale brings a brilliant style to each villain he draws. It allows us to enter into Batman’s world, and in that is what I believe creates a master artist.
It takes one thing to read through your script and draw what the artist asks of you. It is another to create an entire world to immerse the reader in. This is what makes great comics so appealing. Artist Sale creates for us the perfect Gotham, filled with dirt, grime and shadows but also possessive of an innate beauty hidden under the surface. This being a viewpoint I could address in another thousand words or so, but I digress. Let’s move on.
Continuing on with the story, the mystery deepens all year and the murders never stop. What holidays matter? Which ones will the Holiday killer strike on? As Batman, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Dent delve further into the unknown, they risk losing themselves and their identities to the crime.
Gordon turns his back on his wife and child, focusing all of his time on trying to keep these new “supervillains” in check. Dent and his wife are facing an estranged marriage, as he attempts to try the mafia. For anyone knowledgeable about Batman lore, they know where this path leads.
This is where, for a time, they prove themselves better than the mob. As they lose their ranks, the Falcone Crime Family must make desperate, rash decisions. To protect themselves, they begin hiring the “freaks” of Gotham. Creatures like The Joker, The Riddler, Poison Ivy, and The Scarecrow are tasked with hunting the killer as well. Instead, what the mob never could have predicted is the unintentional transfer of power.
As the Long Halloween trudges on, the Gotham City we know today is born from the tragedies created in this classic story.
Next Time: Another mystery from the mind of author Jeph Loeb and comics’ superstar Jim Lee. Batman comes face to face with a villain who knows his every move, can influence and control all of his villains and, most dreadfully, his secret identiy. Next week we look at Batman: Hush.
In addition to writing for the column “Comic Matters” for the Tucson Citizen website, Bobby Acosta is also a 5th Grade Elementary school teacher, frequenter of local comic book shop Heroes & Villains, and explorer of the importance of comics. He recommends each and every comic he writes about. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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