Science Fiction/Fantasy Art Book Review

Batman: Cover to Cover

(2005) various artists, Titan Books, 24.99, hrdbk, 240pp, ISBN 1-84576-100-6

This is a lovely, if somewhat expensive, "coffee table" book which collects around 250 comic covers featuring Batman. Since his first appearance in 1939 Batman has appeared on over 2000 comic book covers and many of the best are on show here. Of particular pleasure for me are those featuring the talents of Neal Adams, Brian Bolland and Dick Sprang, but all seem to meet the criteria the compilers set themselves. Chief among these criteria are that Batman himself should actually appear on the cover which, sadly, means that you don't get covers like Brian Bolland's for The Killing Joke (which only features the Joker). However, featured artists include the wonderful Alex Ross, Frank Miller (obviously), Dick Giordano (could have done with some more...), Dave Johnson (in a retro-pulp stylie), the beautiful work of Scott Hampton, Bill Sienkiewicz, Kelley Jones, John van Fleet, Mike Mignola, Jim Lee, Paul Gulacy, the masterful Jim Aparo, Mike Golden, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, the stunning Phil Winslade, creator Bob Kane, and many more besides. The book also features brief text pieces by the likes of Neil Gaiman, Neal Adams, Bob Schreck (current editor of the Batman titles), Alex Ross and Mark Hamill (voice of the animated Joker). The book is subtitled 'the greatest comic book covers of the dark knight' and, as always, the choices will be contentious and the editors gleefully invite controversy and other peoples' choices. Always one to play the game, I'd say: what about Kev O'Neill's wonderful cover to Legends of the Dark Knight #38? Or, staying with that title, what about Bryan Talbot's for #39 (or #40 for that matter), or Will Simpson's for #92? There's a section in the book dealing with Gotham City, but somehow they left out the cover of the Harlan Ellison written Detective Comics #567 by Klaus Janson. Most of the Dick Sprang the book included was from his earlier work, but it seems to me they missed a trick by not including Detective #623 (or the issues either side). Though Neal Adams is featured heavily (and perhaps there was just too much to choose from), I'd have liked to see The Saga of Ra's al Ghul #4. Probably because it featured a character from another company they didn't include Glenn Fabry's excellent cover to Batman/Judge Dredd: Die Laughing #1. I could go on, but you get the picture. On the whole I'm not a fan of coffee table books, especially at 25 a pop, and especially when they've only been released to cash in on, say, a movie release (though mentions of Batman Begins are, thankfully, kept to a minimum), but the fact remains that this is a lovely book, as I said at the outset and, if you've got 25 to spare, I can think of worse ways of spending your money...

Tony Chester

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