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.

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These Sparrows Have Been Singing the Same Songs for 1500 Years
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iStock

Swamp sparrows are creatures of habit—so much so that they’ve been chirping out the same few tunes for more than 1500 years, Science magazine reports.

These findings, published in the journal Nature Communications, resulted from an analysis of the songs of 615 adult male swamp sparrows found in six different areas of the northeastern U.S. Researchers learned that young swamp sparrows pick up these songs from the adults around them and are able to mimic the notes with astounding accuracy.

Here’s what one of their songs sounds like:

“We were able to show that swamp sparrows very rarely make mistakes when they learn their songs, and they don't just learn songs at random; they pick up commoner songs rather than rarer songs,” Robert Lachlan, a biologist at London’s Queen Mary University and the study’s lead author, tells National Geographic.

Put differently, the birds don’t mimic every song their elders crank out. Instead, they memorize the ones they hear most often, and scientists say this form of “conformist bias” was previously thought to be a uniquely human behavior.

Using acoustic analysis software, researchers broke down each individual note of the sparrows’ songs—160 different syllables in total—and discovered that only 2 percent of sparrows deviated from the norm. They then used a statistical method to determine how the songs would have evolved over time. With recordings from 2009 and the 1970s, they were able to estimate that the oldest swamp sparrow songs date back 1537 years on average.

The swamp sparrow’s dedication to accuracy sets the species apart from other songbirds, according to researchers. “Among songbirds, it is clear that some species of birds learn precisely, such as swamp sparrows, while others rarely learn all parts of a demonstrator’s song precisely,” they write.

According to the Audubon Guide to North American Birds, swamp sparrows are similar to other sparrows, like the Lincoln’s sparrow, song sparrow, and chipping sparrow. They’re frequently found in marshes throughout the Northeast and Midwest, as well as much of Canada. They’re known for their piercing call notes and may respond to birders who make loud squeaking sounds in their habitat.

[h/t Science magazine]

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18 Smart Products To Help You Kick Off Summer
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iStock

Whether you’re trying to spiff up your backyard barbeque or cultivate your green thumb, these summertime gadgets will help you celebrate the season from solstice to the dog days.

1. ROSÉ WINE GLASSES; $60

Rosé Wine Glass
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Wine not? When the temperature rises and beer isn’t your thing, reach for the rosé. Riedel’s machine-blown SST (see, smell, taste) wine glasses will give the sparkly stuff ample room to breathe, making every refreshing sip worthwhile.

Find It: Amazon

2. NERF N-STRIKE ELITE SURGEFIRE; $25

Nerf SurgeFire
Hasbro

Why It’s Cool: The N-Strike Elite SurgeFire (say that five-times-fast) sports a pump-action rotating drum for maximum foam-based firepower and holds up to 15 Nerf darts in its arsenal.

Find It: Hasbro Toy Shop

3. BUSHEL & BERRY PLANTS; $34

plant
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: You don’t need to have a green thumb to create a brag-worthy garden this summer. Besides producing snackable mid-season berries, these open-growing bushes can be planted immediately for easy set-up to make you look like a botanical pro.

Find It: Amazon

4. INFLATABLE DONUT; $17

Doughnut float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When the only dunking you’re doing is taking a dip in the pool, a 48-inch inflatable donut is the perfect way to stay afloat.

Find It: Amazon

5. STAR SPANGLED SPATULA; $21

American flag spatula
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: O say can you see by your grill’s charcoal light / Meats so proudly we cooked ... with a star spangled spatula. Depending on the specific model, these all-American grilling tools (designed in New Jersey and made in Chicago) are made of a combination of walnut and stainless steel or nylon. As an added bonus: 5 percent of the proceeds go to the Penn Abramson Cancer Center.

Find It: Amazon

6. MLB HOT DOG BRANDERS; $8 AND UP

MLB San Diego Padres Hot Dog BBQ Brander
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Take your hot dogs, sausages, brats, and more out to the ballgame without ever leaving your grill. These branders from Pangea Brands are dishwasher-safe and made of ceramic-coated cast iron.

Find It: Amazon

7. UNA GRILL; $139

grill
MoMA Shop

Why It’s Cool: This portable charcoal-heated grill is as efficient as it is stylish. The compact size lets you cook at the park, after hitting up MoMA, or anywhere in between.

Find It: MoMa Shop

8. HAMBURGER GRILLING BASKET; $21


Why It’s Cool: Made of steel and finished with a non-stick coating, this grilling tool flips four burgers at once and maintains perfect burger proportions to guarantee nobody stays hungry for long.

Find It: Amazon

9. COPPER FIRE PIT; $121

metal fire pit
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: The grill isn’t the only place for a roaring fire this summer. This 100 percent solid copper fire pit makes for the perfect gathering spot at your next BBQ, or just to warm up after a cool summer evening.

Find It: Amazon

10. BENDY STRAW POOL NOODLE FLOAT; $10

Bendy Straw Inflatable Pool Float
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Inflatable pool floats shouldn’t be boring, and this bendy straw float definitely does not suck. This unique spin on traditional pool noodles is sure to make for some cheesy jokes, but at least you’ll be comfortable floating in the pool or at the beach.

Find It: Amazon

11. GRIDDLER DELUXE; $111

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: If you’re looking for some serious panini power, this griddler offers up a versatile lineup of six cooking options in one. And with dual-zone functions you can sling burgers while searing filets and sautéeing vegetables all at the same time.

Find It: Amazon

12. VINTAGE SNOW CONE MAKER; $30

Vintage Snow Cone Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: With its old-timey design, dual cone shelf, and endless flavor options, this snow cone maker is guaranteed create a cool treat.

Find It: Amazon

13. DACHSHUND CORN ON THE COB HOLDERS; $7

Dog Corn Holders
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: While meat-lovers will inevitably scarf down a lot of hot dogs this summer, vegetarians who happen to love another kind of dog will be smitten with these stainless steel, Dachshund-shaped corn on the cob prongs. They’re a fun spin on a summer grilling favorite.

Find It: Amazon

14. ICE CREAM SANDWICH MAKER; $16

Ice Cream Sandwich Maker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Four sandwiches are better than one, especially when they're of the ice cream variety. Make four ice cream sandwiches at once with this homemade spin on a classic cold treat.

Find It: Amazon

15. UE WONDERBOOM; $68

Bluetooth speaker
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Besides delicious food and great company, some memorable tunes are required for the quintessential barbeque. This portable bluetooth speaker offers up some booming sound in a small package, and with a battery power of 10 hours on a single charge you can keep the party going all night.

Find It: Amazon

16. ROLLORS GAME; $38

Rollors Backyard Game
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: When you’re sick of bocce, hate horseshoes, and you’re over cornhole, you might want to take up “rollors,” a family-friendly game that combines your favorite traditional backyard festivities into one game for people of all ages.

Find It: Amazon

17. HAMMOCK; $174

hammock
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Rest easy knowing that this 100 percent hand-woven and hand-dyed cotton hammock contributes to artisan job-creation in Thailand.

Find It: Amazon

18. VSSL SURVIVAL ESSENTIALS; $59

Emergency Survival Tent Outdoors
Amazon

Why It’s Cool: Compact, convenient, and durable, the VSSL Shelter can come in handy when things don’t go quite as planned. The device—which features a lightweight emergency shelter all within the handle of a compact, weather-resistant aluminum LED flashlight—is designed to keep you safe under the worst conditions.

Find It: Amazon

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