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Comics of 1986 #32: Batman
© Alan J. Porter
August 11, 2006

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 before.

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 City.

Click here to return to the Comics of 1986.

Alan J. Porter is Bat-comics Bat-editor for Bat-RevolutionSF.

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