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Batman Unauthorized: Vigilantes, Jokers, and Heroes in Gotham City    by Dennis O'Neil order for
Batman Unauthorized
by Dennis O'Neil
Order:  USA  Can
Benbella, 2008 (2008)
* * *   Reviewed by Lance Victor Eaton

Any worthwhile archetype or legend can have more interpretations than seconds in the day and Batman Unauthorized brings this point home with a well-rounded collection of essays that probe deeply into one of DC Comic's most famous and most profitably intellectual properties: Batman. Using the vast mythos evolved over the years in film, comics, books, television, and even Macy Thanksgiving Day Parades, the authors piece together different understandings and takes on Batman that range from humorous (Darren Hudson Hick's The Cost of Being Batman) to haunting (Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Batman in the Real World).

Each of these eighteen essays explores either comic-book Batman, cinematic/television Batman, or a hybrid of the two. Some deal with Batman's family issues (either his actual or chosen family) while others debate the history and success of the film and television franchise over the last seventy years. Yet some - including Mike W. Barr's Batman in Outer Space - go beyond what feels like retreaded ground to give great new insights.

Some essays are remarkable in their scope and accuracy. For example Lou Anders deconstructs exactly how a director can present Batman as near-perfect and follows up with an assessment of Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. From here, he plots out a similar explanation of the Joker and his presumed presence in the second movie (the book being published well in advance of the movie). Anders is dead on the mark in exactly how the film should and would depict the Joker down to the specific actions Batman would be pushed to consider because of the Joker. The most provocative and possibly depressing essay within the collection is undoubtedly Kristine Kathryn Rusch's Batman in the Real World. In it, the science-fiction writer strips down Batman to his essential ideology and reveals in a haunting fashion who would fit the profile of Batman in our world today. Dark knight, indeed!

A problem with an anthology like this is that it needs to be well trimmed to avoid repetition. Many essays start off by explaining aspects of the Batman lore that most readers will know intimately by the 3rd or 4th essay. How many times should the reader be reminded that Batman's second sidekick was killed by the Joker? Apparently, more than six in a book less than 220 pages. Despite that, this is a delightful anthology that will undoubtedly engage fans and provide neophytes with a great range of thought and interpretation on Batman. What shines most is the writers' obvious enjoyment in writing on a topic they hold dear; making this book a labor of love for all involved.

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