This week I reviewed Joker, the new graphic novel from Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo. It's a decidedly dour take on the Joker, Batman, and Gotham, as is the custom these days--between Christopher Nolan's Batman movies and the way that the Batman comics have read over the past few years, it's easy to forget that Batman is about as schizophrenic of a superhero as there is.
Okay, so Batman himself might not be schizophrenic (or maybe he is--hell, dude's probably psychopathic, at least), but portrayals of him definitely are, from the '60s TV series to Tim Burton's films to the cartoons to any of the hundreds of ways he's been portrayed in DC's comic books. Adding one more element to that jumbled bat-mythos is Pantheon's Bat-Manga: The Secret History of Batman in Japan. Bat-Manga has been compiled and designed by super-designer and Batman enthusiast Chip Kidd, and it collects some stuff that's slipped under the radar for the past 40 years: Namely, Batman comics that ran in Japan's Shonen King manga anthology from 1966-1967.
In his introduction, Kidd calls these stories, which were written and drawn by Jiro Kuwata, "a fluid cross-cultural blend of the all-American Dynamic Duo viewed through a delirious manga lens of velocity, atomic-age streamlining, and a healthy dose of robots and dinosaurs." That sounds about right to me: Bat-Manga translates and collects these goofy, surreal, fun stories, and also includes photos of old Batman toys from Japan. If it wasn't obvious already, this whole thing is bizarre and bright and incomprehensible and fantastic. Hit the jump for a few more images from the collection, which is in bookstores now.
In conclusion, I would like to note that Lord Death Man is genuinely terrifying, and that I would like some Batman and Robin six-shooters. I would use them well: I would use them to shoot Lord Death Man right in his creepy ghoulish vampiric skeletal excuse for a face.