Batman: Character Encyclopedia
Matthew K. Manning
Dorling Kindersley, 2016
208pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
We are definitely in the Age of the Super Hero as books and movies about characters from long-ago comics light up the eyes of our younger readers, particularly the boys. The reserve list for anything of that nature was long in my library last year.
Batman, aka the “Caped Crusader”, the “Dark Knight“, and the “World’s Greatest Detective” was first introduced to the world via Bob Kane, Bill Finger and DC Comics in May, 1939 – before the outbreak of World War II – and is as popular today as ever. After witnessing the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne, has declared war and revenge on criminals and using his Batman alter ego and his supporters Robin, police commissioner Jim Gordon and his butler Alfred Pennyworth, he goes forth to fight crime particularly his arch-enemy The Joker, using his intellect, his wealth and his physical abilities rather than any super-powers. His dream is to create “a better, brighter Gotham City”. This creates a huge scope for writers to produce multiple stories of his escapades which have enthralled audiences for generations.
Throughout this time, many characters have passed through his life and in this newly-published encyclopedia, the reader is introduced to 200 of these through thumbnail sketches, “Vital Stats” and vivid illustrations. Each is designated with a ‘hero’, ‘rogue’, ‘ally’ or ‘neutral’ icon and there is a brief indication of what happened to them in the end. Each character has their own page and the reading is easy making this a wonderful way to capture those who are more entranced with film rather than text and who may be thinking that books have little to offer them. They might even be encouraged to talk about their particular favourite and write or draw a page for a new encyclopedia about super heroes.
For those who still like to teach children how to use encyclopedia, it has all the regular attributes including a contents page and full index (including bolded entries) and because the entries are not in the traditional alphabetical order of encyclopedic format, the reader has to use these to navigate the text. Great, subtle practice – a bit like eating vegetables disguised as drinks or cakes!
I can see this being as popular as all the other super hero titles on the shelves.