The House That Batman Built: Comics for Lego Batman Fans
Over the long weekend, I got the chance to go see Lego Batman, a spin-off of the recent Lego movie featuring one of everyone’s favorite characters. I was a little concerned that it would be too childish or just a blatant money grab with no real heart to it. Happily, those concerns were completely unfounded. Lego Batman was a surprisingly clever satire of much of Batman lore (especially some of the more ridiculous villains) as much as it was a cute Lego movie. In the spirit of that clever screenwriting, I wanted to provide a list of some of my favorite Batman stories for anyone who enjoyed the Lego Batman movie. Not all of these are as lighthearted as the movie but they share the twist on the standard Batman themes in clever ways that are well worth your time.
I’m gonna start this one with a caveat: do not read this series if you don’t absolutely love the campy Adam West Batman. Batman ’66 is written by Jeff Parker with art done by a team including Jonathan Case, Ty Templeton, Joe Quinones, Sandy Jarrell, Ruben Procopio and Colleen Coover. It’s marketed as a re-imagining of the 1960’s campy Batman TV show and it one hundred percent delivers on that. If you loved that (and the references like the shark, shark repellent and the bright “pow! bam!” onomatopeias that Lego Batman so delightfully incorporated), then Batman ’66 is a series not to be missed. If this element of Lego Batman wasn’t your thing, move right along.
Batman: Earth One
One of my favorite parts of the movie was the importance of the Batfamily (Barbara Gordon, Richard Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth) to Batman’s success. The need for their help is an important element of Batman’s growth in the movie and helps to alleviate the brooding, lone wolf template that Batman tends to follow. Batman: Earth One takes some of these elements in a much grittier format than Batman ’66 and makes for an extremely entertaining read. The Earth One titles denote a sort of alternate reality for well-known DC characters like Batman, with some sort of twist. In this series, (written by Geoff Johns and illustrated by Gary Frank, Jon Sibal, Brad Anderson and Rob Leigh) Batman’s standard mythology is given little twists that change the tone and setting of the story and make Batman a much more fallible figure than usual. Luckily for him, Alfred is even more of a badass than usual. Instead of being a standard Butler, Johns sets up Alfred as former British special forces, a highly trained and capable man who routinely pulls Batman out of messes that the newly minted Caped Crusader’s impatience and inexperience has created. While Lego Batman’s Alfred is gentler and more understanding, Earth One’s Alfred takes the same capable butler and makes him the highlight of the story.
Gotham City Sirens
Another strength of the Lego Batman movie was its incorporation of not only standard villains but even the incredibly silly ones that most of us have forgotten (possibly intentionally) and made them at least as much of a focus as the heroes. At the risk of spoilers, there’s a very Suicide Squad moment in the story and it is that element that has me recommended a series that I’ve previously reviewed here on Graphic Reviews: Gotham City Sirens. While the Suicide Squad series is generally poorly written, Gotham City Sirens is a highly entertaining series that focuses on three prominent Batman villains/anti-heroines who are well loved among the fans: Catwoman, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Gotham City Sirens is written by Paul Dini, Tony Bedard and Peter Calloway and illustrated by a team including Guillem March, Scott Lobdell, David Lopez, Andres Guinaldo and others. If you ever watched the Batman: Animated Series, you’ll notice Paul Dini’s touch right away. Few people understand the complicated villainess/anti-heroine Harley Quinn better than him and the ways in which he has the three women living and working together both with humor and tension, really suit the series perfectly. It has the same elements of villains trying to get along and having their own emotional needs to deal with, much the way the Lego Batman movie did. It’s long been one of my favorite non-Batman centric stories taking place in Gotham.
There are of course many other great Batman stories but I think these three are excellent choices for anyone who enjoyed elements of the Lego: Batman film. Disagree with my choices or have your own suggestions? Let me know in the comments!