Thursday, January 11, 2007
Hard to believe it's been ten years since I did the Berlin Batman story, but it has. It is collected for the first time in the Batman Year 100 trade paperback. Berlin Batman was my first work in "mainstream" comics and my first big comics job printed in color. What if Bruce Wayne were a Jew, born into a Germany suffering under encroaching Nazism? That was the pitch. I had just read Christopher Isherwood's Berlin Stories and George Grosz's autobiography, both of which paint vivid pictures of this place and time, so it seemed a natural turn of events to imagine a shadowy superhero for that world as well.
The building depicted on the page above is actually a building in Paris, a hotel on the corner of Boulevard Montparnasse at Raspail, near the Luxenbourg Gardens. Not very German. I had an old postcard with a photograph of the street corner, shot in 1926. Of course, this is a gross inattention to historical detail, something I wouldn't have cared much about at the time. If I were doing this story now, Id find a much more Bauhaus-inspired building, to make the setting feel more like something out of a German silent film.
You can also tell I didn't care much for historical detail by the fact that I set this story in the fall of 1938, and everybody who cares about this kind of thing knows Batman first appeared on the cover of Detective Comics #27, May 1939.
Historical stories are almost always equally tedious and edifying, because they require a ton of research and image reference. If you fake it, especially on a story set in the 20th century, somebody somewhere will notice. And the devil is in the details, as they say.