It was the year that Batman literally changed my life.
The time: March 1986. The place: A small candy store and newsstand
in Bristol, England. I was about to become a "born again" Bat-fan.
For the first few years after I'd rediscovered comics while
at college I was a total "Marvel Zombie."
On this particular morning I was headed for work and stopped
off to pick up a packet of mints. Reaching the store I realized
I'd forgotten to pick up the couple of Spider-Man comics
I had intended to read over lunch, but I was sure that I'd seen
a spinner rack of four-color wonder in this particular store
Turning round, sure enough, there it was pushed in between
the ice cream cabinet and the rack of greetings cards.
But horrors of horrors, it only seemed to have copies of books
produced by Marvel's "Distinguished Competition." But I guess
any comic was better than having nothing to read on my lunch
break. I casually spun the rack until something caught my eye.
And that something was the cover of Batman #393.
It featured a cool shot of Batman illuminated by torchlight
and surrounded by knife blades. This looked cool. But my main
memory of the Caped Crusader, like most people's prior to 1989,
was the old ZAP! POW! TV show. I thought the comics would be
the same camp silliness. My memory of the old black and white
U.K. reprints I read as a kid.
I flicked open the book and was stunned by both the art work
and the credits — Doug Moench and Paul Gulacy. I had to
buy this one. I was well and truly hooked and I hadn't read
a single panel yet. When I did read the books I discovered that
the camp Caped Crusader was now the cool Dark Knight and I wanted
to know more.
That weekend it was off to the local comic book store, the
wonderful and much missed Forever People. With the help of the
staff I found every comic released that month that featured
Batman or had any connection to the Batman family.
Here we are 20 years later and I sit in my office surrounded
by Bat memorabilia and a collection of Batman comics
that runs into the thousands.
Thanks to my Bat-obsession (and yes, it did become an obsession)
I have published books and magazine articles on the Dark
Knight, launched websites, made friends around the world
and even got to sit in the Batmobile (the cool one from the
Tim Burton movies).
But a single issue isn't enough to launch such a life change.
The rest of the year was just as good. #394 continued the tale
of espionage that first caught my attention while #395 and #396
introduced me to Film Freak. As a movie nut I loved this underused
and under appreciated addition to the rogues' gallery. With
#397 I got my first look at the modern incarnation of Two-Face,
a much more frightening creature than the one I recalled from
my childhood days of Silver Age reprints.
October 1986 saw Batman #400 hit the newsstands with
an introduction by Stephen King and contributions from an array
of comic greats including John Byrne, George Perez, Art Adams,
Brian Bolland, Berni Wrightson and Joe Kubert. The year finished
off with a cross-over with the excellent Legends mini-series
that relaunched the Justice League and a one-off tale by Jim
Starlin behind a striking cover showing Batman battling himself.
Two months into 1987 and the Frank Miller / David Mazuchelli
classic Batman: Year One debuted in #404 and that was
it for me. I had become a semi-permanent resident of Gotham
here to return to the Comics of 1986.