In the late 1970’s, Detective Comics, starring Batman for those that don’t know but should, published a storyline that is now considered one of the greatest and most acclaimed interpretations of the character.
Within the span of six issues, young but established writer, Steve Englehart, along with up-and-coming artist Marshall Rogers (both of whom had just left Marvel Comics), revamped the Batman character for a new generation. It was here that the Dark Knight truly became the dark, pulp-orientated detective we know today. Many will tell you that this is the true version of Batman – the way Bob Kane originally conceived him in 1939.
Over the last year or so, taking a note from competitor Marvel Comics, DC Comics has been actively compiling work by some of their greatest historical artists. Under the “Legends of the Dark Knight” banner, it’s the amazing Marshall Rogers’ turn to get billing here in this 496-page hardcover compilation. But make no mistake – Englehart, the writer, is just as prominent and just as important within these pages.
These two names did more than just re-envision Batman. They actually gave the persona of Bruce Wayne a life as well: the business side of the millionaire playboy is brought front and centre, as is his personal life. You’ve heard of Vicki Vale, but Wayne’s one true love interest, Silver St. Cloud, has her origins in these stories – a character that would be copied many times over (to lesser effect it must be said), most recently in Grant Morrison’s run in the pages of Batman.
But let’s talk, for a moment, on the villains found in Legends of the Dark Knight – Marshall Rogers.
Rupert Thorne is the crime Boss in charge of Gotham’s underworld here. Dr. Hugo Strange is the psychologist transfixed on what motivates the Batman and, under the pen and pencil of Englehart and Rogers, the Joker is the homicidal maniac we all know and fearfully love today. In fact, these characters and plot points would be used in various Batman movies including Tim Burton’s 1989 film and Christopher Nolan’s latest reinterpretation. (Remember that scene at the end of Batman Begins where Gordon introduces the Joker card stating that the villain had threatened Gotham’s water supply? It’s in Legends of the Dark Knight – Marshall Rogers that you’ll see exactly what the Joker does to that water supply! And it’s absolutely murderous lunacy.)
As an added bonus, the 2005 mini series Batman: Dark Detective by Englehart and Rogers, the sequel to their 1977-1978 run, is also included in this compilation.
So make the run this Wednesday and pick up Legends of the Dark Knight – Marshall Rogers. Read the interpretation of Batman that was the starting point for the modern day version found in print, video and the silver screen!
Every Wednesday, JP makes the after-work run to his local downtown comic book shop. Comics arrive on Wednesdays you see and JP, fearful that the latest issue will sell out, rushes out to purchase his copy. This regular, weekly column will highlight a particularly interesting release, written in short order, of course, because JP has to get his – before someone else does!