CLOSE
DC Comics
DC Comics

So You Want to Get Back Into Batman Comics...

DC Comics
DC Comics

So, you want to start reading Batman comics again but it's been a good 20 years since you got into the series. If you're feeling overwhelmed at the thought of everything you might have missed, fear not: Here's all you need to know to get caught up.

There's Been A Reboot

In the summer of 2011, DC Comics relaunched all of their titles with new #1 issues, discarding the numbering system many of the books had used since the 1940s. The company also rebooted the continuity of their entire comic book universe to allow new readers to start fresh without feeling lost in characters' histories. So, in theory, someone looking to start reading Batman again is really only about 2 years behind and could do no worse than starting with Batman #1 without feeling like they're missing anything.

Except It Wasn't a Total Reboot

The thing is, DC was reluctant to just throw out a lot of good stories with all that continuity. To sidestep that problem, the company set the start of the relaunch five years in so that most of the recent, pre-reboot stories can still have "happened" within that five-year timeframe. Yes, that sounds counter-productive, but comic book continuity is best painted with broad strokes. The important thing to know is that the fundamentals of Batman are still the same.

Bruce Wayne has now only been Batman for about six years.

The reboot means the comics feature a younger Batman who is not quite the been-there, done-it, know-it-all he had been written as in the early 2000s.

He’s still got the same old villains (with a few updates)

The Joker had his own face removed and stitched back on, giving him a new look remarkably similar to Heath Ledger’s in The Dark Knight.

Catwoman and Batman still have a complicated relationship, and they've been shown to get quite intimate (especially in a pretty explicit scene in Catwoman #1).

The newer additions to Batman's rogues gallery have been very organized. He unearths a hidden group called the Court of Owls that has been operating on behalf of a secret cabal of wealthy Gothamite families for centuries.

There have been at least four Robins

It’s a little hard to see how Batman could have had so many Robins in just a few years, but there's been
- Dick Grayson, still the first Robin and still currently Nightwing.
- Jason Todd, who was killed by the Joker in a storyline back in the '80s but has been resurrected as the vigilante anti-hero Red Hood.
- Tim Drake, who is now Red Robin and the leader of the Teen Titans.
- And the fourth and most recent Robin is Damian Wayne, Batman's son, who is now deceased.

There was also briefly a female Robin, a young woman named Stephanie Brown who then took on the name the "Spoiler." Also, Carrie Kelly, the Robin from Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns, has been introduced into continuity in recent issues of Batman & Robin, but we don't know what Robin-related plans DC has for her just yet.

Yes, I said "Batman's son"

Damian was the 10-year-old offspring of Batman and Talia Al Ghul and was an awesome, precocious monster -- until he was killed by his own clone. This being comics, it's perfectly reasonable to think he might be back at some point.

Where should you start?

It's a great time to be getting back into Batman because Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo are not only in the midst of what may end up being a classic run on the character, but they are also in the middle of an 11 part origin story called "Zero Year" that began with issue 21 of Batman.

A surprising piece of collateral damage from DC's reboot is that Frank Miller's Batman: Year One, the seminal comic that influenced the entire aesthetic of the Christopher Nolan films, no longer fits the continuity. Snyder and Capullo are repositioning the early years of Batman for a new era, and that's as good a place as any to start reading.

There are a LOT of Batman books out there, but not all of them are worth bothering with. Stick with the simply titled Batman, the highlight of the Bat-comics right now.

After that, here’s how you can catch up on more Batman.

Since you're not completely new to Batman, I'm going to bypass all the usual recommendations. Batman: Year One, The Dark Knight Returns, and Batman: The Long Halloween are classics whether they're in-continuity or not. If you haven't read them, start with those.

Batman & Son
Not only does this story introduce Batman's son Damian, but it is also the beginning of writer Grant Morrison's long run on the book. This is not exactly a stand-alone story and will be more enjoyable if you continue with the followup volumes Batman: The Black Glove and Batman: RIP. It's the perfect entry point to sample Morrison's fast-paced but weird, history-heavy take on the character. From there move on to the first volume of Batman & Robin, featuring art by the great Frank Quitely.

Batman: Court of Owls
Scott Snyder took charge of the main Batman book during the New 52 relaunch. His run begins with issue #1 and the Court of Owls storyline. Snyder is joined by artist Greg Capullo and the two of them are crafting a new post-Christopher Nolan, post-Grant Morrison Batman.

Batman Inc. Vol 1
It's hard to keep recommending recent Batman comics without picking parts of Grant Morrison's 6-year run. It's also hard to pick individual pieces since they all play off each other. However, one of his most interesting contributions to the Batman lore has been the idea of a Bruce Wayne-run corporation of global Batmen who fight crime beyond the confines of Gotham City. Confusingly, because of the reboot, there are two Batman Inc. Vol. 1s out there. You can't go wrong with either one, although the one with the "Demon Star" subtitle does pick up on some threads that began in the previous Volume 1.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Mad Magazine
arrow
Lists
12 Things You Might Not Know About MAD Magazine
Mad Magazine
Mad Magazine

As fast as popular culture could erect wholesome depictions of American life in comics, television, or movies, MAD Magazine was there to tear them all down. A near-instant success for EC Comics upon its debut in 1952, the magazine has inspired generations of comedians for its pioneering satirical attitude and tasteful booger jokes. This month, DC Entertainment is relaunching an "all new" MAD, skewering pop culture on a bimonthly basis and in full color. To fill the gaps in your knowledge, take a look at these facts about the Usual Gang of Idiots.

1. NO ONE KNOWS WHO CAME UP WITH ALFRED E. NEUMAN.


Jamie, Flickr (L) // Boston Public Library, Flickr (R) // CC BY 2.0

MAD creator Harvey Kurtzman was in the offices of a Ballantine Books editor discussing reprints for the fledging publication when he noticed a grinning, gap-toothed imbecile staring back at him from a bulletin board. The unnamed figure was ubiquitous in the early 20th century, appearing in everything from dentistry ads to depictions of diseases. A charmed Kurtzman adopted him as MAD’s mascot beginning in 1954. Neuman later become so recognizable that a letter was delivered from New Zealand to MAD’s New York offices without an address: the envelope simply had a drawing of Alfred.  

2. THEY HAD TO APOLOGIZE ALMOST IMMEDIATELY.

MAD was conceived during a particularly sensitive time for the comics industry, with parents and watchdog groups concerned over content. (It didn't switch to a magazine format until issue #24.) Kurtzman usually knew where the line was, but when he was laid up with acute hepatitis in 1952, publisher William Gaines and others had to step in for him. Gaines thought it would be funny to offer a fictional biography of himself that detailed his father’s Communist leanings, his past as a dope dealer “near nursery schools,” and bouts of pyromania. When wholesalers were shocked at the content and threatened to boycott all of his titles, Gaines was forced to write a letter of apology.  

3. THEY PREDICTED JOHN F. KENNEDY'S ELECTION IN 1960.

But it was a cheat. In the run-up to the 1960 Presidential election, MAD printed a cover that featured Neuman congratulating Kennedy on his victory with a caption that read, “We were with you all the way, Jack!” But the issue was shipped long before votes had been tabulated. The secret? It was a dual cover. Flip it over and Neuman is celebrating Richard Nixon’s appointment to office. Stores were told to display the “right” side of the magazine depending on the outcome.

4. ALFRED BRIEFLY HAD A GIRLFRIEND.


MAD Magazine

A character named Moxie Cowznofski was introduced in the late 1950s as a female companion for Alfred. She made only a handful of cover appearances, possibly due to the fact she looked alarmingly like her significant other.

5. THEY DIDN'T RUN ANY (REAL) ADS FOR 44 YEARS.

From the beginning, Gaines felt that printing actual advertisements next to the products they were lampooning would not only dilute their edge but seem more than a little hypocritical. After some back-and-forth, MAD cut ads starting in 1957. The decision was a costly one—most print publications survive on such revenue—but led to the magazine’s keeping a sharp knife against the throat of seductive advertising, including cigarettes. Faced with dwindling circulation in 2001, Mad finally relented and began taking ads to help pay for a switch to color printing.

6. "SPY VS. SPY" WAS CREATED BY A SUSPECTED SPY.

Cuban cartoonist Antonio Prohias was disenchanted with the regime under Fidel Castro when he began working on what would become “Spy vs. Spy.” Because Prohias’ other newspaper illustrations were critical of Castro, the Cuban government suspected him of working for the CIA. He wasn’t, but the perception had him worried harm might come to his co-workers. To get out of the situation, Prohias came to America in 1960. With his daughter helping translate, he stopped by Mad’s New York offices and submitted his work: his sneaky, triangle-headed spies became regulars.

7. THERE WAS ONE FOLD-IN THEY WOULDN'T RUN.

Artist Al Jaffee, now 94, has been with Mad almost from the beginning. He created the famous Fold-In—the back cover that reveals a new picture when doubled over—in 1964 after seeing the fold-outs in magazines like National Geographic, Playboy, and Life. Jaffee has rarely missed an issue since—but editors backtracked on one of Jaffee’s works that referenced a mass shooting in 2013. Citing poor taste, they destroyed over 600,000 copies.  

8. THEIR MOVIE WAS A DISASTER.

With the exception of Fox’s successful sketch series, 1994’s MAD TV, attempts to translate the MAD brand into other media have been underwhelming: a 1974 animated special didn’t even make it on air. But a 1980 film venture, a military school spoof directed by Robert Downey, Sr. titled Mad Presents Up the Academy, was so awful William Gaines demanded to have their name taken off of it. (Renamed Up the Academy, the DVD release of the movie still features someone sporting an Alfred E. Neuman mask; Mad parodied it in a spoof titled “Throw Up the Academy.”)

9. THE APRIL 1974 COVER HAD PEOPLE FLIPPING.


MAD Magazine

MAD has never made a habit of good taste, but a depiction of a raised middle finger for one issue in the mid-’70s caused a huge stir. Many stores wouldn’t stock it for fear of offending customers, and the company ended up accepting an irregular number of returns. Gaines took to his typewriter to write a letter of apology. Again. The relaunched #1, out in April 2018, pays homage to this cover, though it's slightly more tasteful: Neuman is picking his nose with his middle finger.

10. THEY INVENTED A SPORT.

MAD writer Tom Koch was amused by the convoluted rules of sports and attempted to one-up them in 43-Man Squamish, a game he invented for the April 1965 issue. Koch and artist George Woodbridge (“MAD’s Athletic Council”) prepared a guide that was utterly incomprehensible—the field was to have five sides, positions included Deep Brooders and Dummies, “interfering with the Wicket Men” constituted a penalty—but it amused high school and college readers enough to try and mount their own games. (Short on players? Try 2-Man Squamish: “The rules are identical,” Koch wrote, “except the object of the game is to lose.”) For the less physically inclined, Mad also issued a board game in which the goal is to lose all of your money.  

11. WEIRD AL WAS A GUEST EDITOR.

In what must be some kind of fulfilled prophecy, lyrical satirist “Weird” Al Yankovic was named as a guest editor—their first—for the magazine’s May 2015 issue. Yankovic told Entertainment Weekly that MAD had put him on “the dark, twisted path to becoming who I am today … I needed to pollute my mind with that kind of stuff.” In addition to his collaborations with the staff, Yankovic enlisted Patton Oswalt, Seth Green, and Chris Hardwick to contribute.

12. FRED ASTAIRE ONCE DANCED AS ALFRED E. NEUMAN.

In a scene so surreal even MAD’s irreverent editors would have had trouble dreaming it up, Fred Astaire decided to sport an Alfred E. Neuman mask for a dance number in his 1959 television special, Another Evening with Fred Astaire. No one seems to recall why exactly Astaire would do this—he may have just wanted to include a popular cultural reference—but it was no off-the-cuff decision. Astaire hired movie make-up veteran John Chambers (Planet of the Apes) to craft a credible mask of Neuman. The result is … well, kind of disturbing. But it’s a fitting addition to a long tradition of people going completely MAD.

Additional Sources:
Harvey Kurtzman: The Man Who Created Mad and Revolutionized Humor in America.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Can You 'Hear' These Silent GIFs?
iStock
iStock

GIFs are silent—otherwise they wouldn't be GIFs. But some people claim to hear distinct noises accompanying certain clips. Check out the GIF below as an example: Do you hear a boom every time the structure hits the ground? If so, you may belong to the 20 to 30 percent of people who experience "visual-evoked auditory response," also known as vEAR.

Researchers from City University London recently published a paper online on the phenomenon in the journal Cortex, the British Psychological Society's Research Digest reports. For their study, they recruited more than 4000 volunteers and 126 paid participants and showed them 24 five-second video clips. Each clip lacked audio, but when asked how they rated the auditory sensation for each video on a scale of 0 to 5, 20 percent of the paid participants rated at least half the videos a 3 or more. The percentage was even higher for the volunteer group.

You can try out the researchers' survey yourself. It takes about 10 minutes.

The likelihood of visual-evoked auditory response, according to the researchers, directly relates to what the subject is looking at. "Some people hear what they see: Car indicator lights, flashing neon shop signs, and people's movements as they walk may all trigger an auditory sensation," they write in the study.

Images packed with meaning, like two cars colliding, are more likely to trigger the auditory illusion. But even more abstract images can produce the effect if they have high levels of something called "motion energy." Motion energy is what you see in the video above when the structure bounces and the camera shakes. It's why a video of a race car driving straight down a road might have less of an auditory impact than a clip of a flickering abstract pattern.

The researchers categorize vEAR as a type of synesthesia, a brain condition in which people's senses are combined. Those with synesthesia might "see" patterns when music plays or "taste" certain colors. Most synesthesia is rare, affecting just 4 percent of the population, but this new study suggests that "hearing motion synesthesia" is much more prevalent.

[h/t BPS Research Digest]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios