Monday, November 12, 2012

Native American Batman: Man-of-Bats

Man-of-Bats from Batman #667, by Grant Morrison and J.H. Williams III.  
As part of my on-again off-again flirtation with collecting Batman comic books, I recently began picking up issues of the Batman Incorporated series (actually two series; an eight issue run before DC Comics reboot, a one-shot, and a second ongoing set in the "New 52" DC Universe). There were two factors that contributed to my choice of this title.
In addition to the Grant Morrison factor (usually, at the very least, I'll sample his mainstream output to see if it peaks my fancy enough to warrant purchase), I was intrigued by the potential for an updated "Batmen of All Nations" concept as handled by the author. Something about the way Morrison reintroduces or remakes previously concepts with silly Silver Age pasts (such as his excellent update of the ridiculous Batman of Zur-En-Arrh in the relatively recent Batman R.I.P arc), I often find myself to explore older DC issues. Inspiring me to revisit past issues is Morrison's greatest gift to this reader.

The cover to Batman #86 (1954) with art by Winslow Mortimer featuring the
original Man-of-THE-Bats and his sidekick Little Raven.

Taken as a whole, the Batman Incorporated series is well-executed and the introduction of the Batman variants from other countries is well-handled with each of the key Bat-folk, a number of which are re imagined, long forgotten characters or Batman disguises from Silver Age DC Comics, being given the opportunity to develop as characters in a way that is organic.

The updated Man-of-Bats and his partner Red Raven on the cover
to Batman Incorporated #7 (2010), cover by Chris Burnham.
Volume 1 also produced one of my favorite comic books issues in recent memory, Batman Incorporated #7. Featuring Native American Man-of-Bats and his protege (and son), Red Raven, the story follows the two as they deal with crime on the Indian Reservation on which they live and dad, as a physician, works. While not the first Morrison-penned appearance of the character Batman Incorporated #7 was my introduction to William "Bill" Great Eagle's alter ego. A story of father and son bonds, dedication and community BI #7 is one of those classic stories that, while not featuring the eponymous character very much, does focus on those qualities that make him (Batman) a great by turning the emphasis to those (Man-of-Bats) inspired by him.

One need not look much further into the back issue bin to find the earlier (though not by too much) appearance of Morrison's Man-of-Bats story arc by Morrison and current Batwoman artist J.H. Williams III. Apparently, just before I began picking up the Batman RIP storyline, the two collaborated on an arc entitled "Batmen of All Nations" which foreshadowed the Batman Incorporated concept.

Batman Incorporated is still being published (now up to issue #5 of the second volume) with very little loss of steam (or quality), and my new search for the Batman Man-of-Bats action figure begins...

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