Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tales of The Batman: Don Newton

DC continues their series of high-priced collections of Batman stories by a single artist and this time around it's Don Newton. Unlike the Marshall Rogers volume I wrote about a few weeks back, Tales of The Batman: Don Newton is $10 cheaper and 144 pages shorter. Still, at $39.99, one might expect a bit more effort being put into it.

I mentioned in my column about the Rogers book that my script was the first Batman story he drew. I did not realize until I got the Newton book that Don's first Batman story was also one of mine. The story, "With This Ring, Find Me Dead" ran in Batman #305 and was the first half of a two-parter. And that's where the lack of an editor or designer who pays any attention to the material first becomes obvious; in between the two parts of my story is a Denny O'Neil tale from the issue of Detective Comics that went on sale between the two issues of Batman. I could perhaps understand the desire to have Don's work appear chronologically, but they could have fudged it a little. [There's a similar situation later in the book when a Michael Fleisher story that ends with "To be continued--!!" is interrupted by an eight-page short by Marv Wolfman, again, presumably to maintain chronological order.]

As seems to be the case with virtually everything DC reprints these days, they are using the original film negatives and not bothering to fix any problems. As a result,  blurbs for the next issue -- including on sale dates -- are left on the pages, without any regard for their correctness. In one case, the blurb reads, "Next month: Batman has 'A Bad Day in Baja!'" Amusingly, that story begin on the very next page and is titled "Bad Night in Baja."
In another example, the aforementioned Marv Wolfman 8-page story is numbered 1 through 7 with the last page numbered 41!

Similar to the Rogers volume, there is a dearth of information about the artist being spotlighted. The only text is on the back cover flap: "Don Newton was born in1934 and began his career as a professional comic book artist in 1974. After becoming an art teacher in his home of Arizona Newton became an active participant in the culture of comics both as a fan and a creator. He produced distinctive work on iconic characters for companies such as Charlton, Marvel and DC. His work on Batman and several other DC characters is still widely respected for its deft storytelling and characterization. Don Newton passed away in 1984 at the age of 49."
At least, unlike the case of Marshall Rogers, they do acknowledge that Don has died. (By the way, had that paragraph been shown to DC's ace proofreader, Arlene Lo, she probably would have pointed out where there are commas missing.)

The Table of Contents pages provide additional proof that more editorial oversight was needed. The stories written by Denny O'Neil list him as "Dennis J. O'Neil." Okay, I've seen Denny use his full name a couple of times on his work, so maybe that's how he wanted it to appear. But inker Bob Smith, who has always worked under that name, is listed in the ToC as "Robert R. Smith," which is particularly bizarre since I'm pretty sure his middle name is Allen!

And then there are the black pages. I can only presume that the book designer set these up expecting them to be filled with a foreword and an afterword. How else to explain three pages that are solid black save for an inch and a half of spot art at the top? But I can think of no explanation for page 301 being completely black!

I know there are other books in this series. (I have not seen the Gene Colan edition; I don't recall Gene ever having drawn one of my Batman stories, so DC won't be sending me a copy.) One has to hope, though, that at some point in the future, someone will start paying more attention to what they are publishing.


  1. It's not as if I want to play "I can top that with bad DC oversize books", but I have to point this out...

    I just got the Legion of Super-Heroes 100 pager (a so-called "Super Spectacular... not that those folks would know a 100p SS if it came up and bit them in the bum.) It was the "Legion of the Damned" storyline (not very good to begin with, unless the reader doesn't mind bad story, bad art, bad coloring... but nice lettering.

    No, my issue is that at the time, LSH had two books; Legion of Super-Heroes and Legionnaires. This was a crossover story over four issues; Legionnaires 79 and 80, and LSH 122 and 123. The story started in L79, to LSH 122, to L80, to LSH 123 for the wrap-up.

    However, this recent reprint had no one read it or examine it; and the stories were reprinted exactly as I listed them; Legionnaires 79 and 80 (parts 2 and 4) and then LSH 122 and 123 (parts 1 and 3) IN THAT ORDER.

    A five year old could figure out that you should print the stories in order... but in the DCnU, there are no reprint editors. Or no five year olds.

    When a comic book company doesn't care about comic books anymore, something kind of dies... it's sad, really.

  2. Despite the flaws, I may have to check out this volume. There are some artists whose styles are perfectly geared toward specific characters, and Don Newton's style fit Batman perfectly.

    After reading what ELS said about the Legion reprint volume, right now I'm thankful that DC hasn't finished reprinting the JLA/JSA teamups. I hate to imagine how jumbled up the teamup involving the All-Star Squadron fighting Degaton would be, considering that it involved 5 issues spanning two titles.