Batman is precious to his fans. And those fans go from children, who are now finding the Adam West, 1960’s version to the ones who cut their teeth on the 1992 animated series. Whether it be in films, television or the original comic book form Batman represents how tragedy shapes us. Joseph McCabe has written ‘100 Things Batman Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die.’ It’s an audacious book title. But as you thumb through the pages you’ll understand that it couldn’t be called anything else.
Designed in an interview format with chunks of information interspersed, ‘100 Things’ is a reference book that you can’t put down. There are interviews with creators, writers, artists, actors etc. who are integral to the Batman mythos. You will search for your favorite storyline to find out why ‘The Killing Joke’ is controversial. Or you may leap straight into an interview with Kevin Conroy (who for thousands of fans is considered the definitive voice of Batman).
Perhaps the best way to start reading this book is from the beginning. Get to know who Bill Finger and Jerry Robinson (the creator of Joker) were as well as how Bob Kane for decades was credited with being the sole creator of Batman. Also, though Robinson has a graphic novel memoir, this guidebook gives clearer context on his contribution to Batman and what Finger meant to him. You will also understand the dynamics between the three men. McCabe’s questions as an interviewer draws considerable information from people that will make anyone from the casual fan to those who’ve never heard of Batman become interested.
More importantly, McCabe invites you into the thought process of what it was like creating storylines, being the voice of some well-loved characters, or those who drew the most iconic looks through his “Gotham Gazette Exclusive” discussions. These conversations will give you an insight into what Paul Dini thought of jettisoning Batman 50 years into the future, who Frank Miller believes to be underrated. And for how long the love of voice-acting has called Mark Hamill. Still, what may be missing may be just as interesting as the tidbits you gain. For one thing, wanting to take the voice of Harley Quinn in a different direction feels as if there’s more to that story than a pact response. After all Arleen Sorkin, the original voice of Quinn hasn’t lost her acting chops.
Then there’s Andrea Romano who is arguably one of the most prolific voice directors in animation for over two decades. She is mentioned, however, her contribution to several of the animations mentioned may not satisfy those who know the names of the ones behind the scenes. Yes, Conroy and Hamill had chemistry, but it was Romano who initially brought that out. To put it plainly, you could tell when she wasn’t directing. She’s that important.
Overall this is a satisfying look into a world you may think you know. Even the largest fan of Batman will find out something they didn’t discern or had long ago forgotten. Six Robins, alternate realities, old or young Batman, even a revamped origin story is a lot to take in. McCabe handles all of this well. His strength is asking the right questions and allowing the likes of Neal Adams and Kelley Jones explain their interpretations of the Bat. If possible, you will feel closer this iconic figure even more.