The Batman Vault: a Museum In a Book
Though the ‘Batman’ character has seen a rejuvenation in popularity in the last few years due to Christopher Nolen’s dark and broody re-imagining of the series in film, the franchise in its original comic book form has been going on strong for a very long time, in fact a lot longer than a lot of the movie-goers probably know. From his original ‘Detective Comics’ appearance in 1939 to the recent ‘Batman RIP’ chapters, the comic book version of the winged hero has been through countless storylines, villains and creators and The Batman Vault succeeds in providing just about as much insight into the evolution of the series as can fit in a book of this size.
Rather than attempt to document every major storyline in the history of the character, the book wisely focuses instead on the creation of the series and how these heroes and villains came to be. Many of these tales are accompanied by very rare finds such as a copy of Bill Finger’s original script for Batman #31 and original concept art for the characters. Later on the narrative focuses on the ventures into other media such as the Adam West TV series and the recent movies which all provide a very interesting insight into the development of the character and also the various changes of tone that the series has undergone in it’s various forms over the years.
The text is illustrated throughout both with accompanying artwork and pull-out examples of the period currently being referenced and this is where the book first begins to blow you away. The important thing to note here is just exactly how well-presented and thought-out all of these extras and pull-outs are. Early on you have reproductions of conceptual art and sketches presented on beautiful paper that it’s easy to believe was not too different to the original article. A little later you have replica pages from a colour-by-numbers book that you wouldn’t dare take a crayon to because they have so much charm. There are also goodies such as cut-out masks that were originally included with old editions of the comic and various promotional posters that are all lovingly presented in sturdy plastic wallets that don’t intrude and don’t detract, but rather compliment and stoke the fires of your enthusiasm for what you’re reading.
My only complaint with the book is that the ring binder system they chose to go with can prove to be a little problematic when you’re going through the pages en-masse as they tend to catch on each other and get a little stuck. This in turn gives the book a slight feeling of fragility when you’re going through it which is a shame, especially when you consider that all the little extras throughout are so well-protected. A different ring system or a slightly wider spine would probably have helped in this department.
Overall a thoroughly enjoyable book that will appeal to anyone that is interested in the process of creating a major comic book series and the development of the characters within. Even though the majority of the content is essentially a written essay, you could very easily ignore this and only ever look at the pull-outs and be completely satisfied with your purchase. As it happens the background information is all very well-written and engaging and, all in all, this receives a very high recommendation.