The Essential Batman Encyclopedia

If you think you're a Batman buff, this exhaustive guide to the world of the Dark Knight could be a humbling experience...

author: Robert Greenbergerpublisher: Titan Books (paperback, £18.99)

Someone has been careless at Gotham Police Force. They’ve left behind a secret dossier on all they know about Batman. Look, its says on the front, ‘the ultimate guide to the man behind the mask…and the mythology behind the man’. His origins, his friends, his enemies; everything you ever want to know about the Dark Knight. Secret identities are all revealed so you can plot the capture and downfall, and it’s all presented neatly in A-Z format, so you can select your information easily, making for fascinating reading.

TEBE is a chronological history of every character that has ever graced the pages of Detective Comics, Batman and all the other Bat-related mags since he first appeared on the streets of Gotham. It names all the hoods, gangsters and mob leaders. Sure, we know all about the Joker, the Riddler, the Penguin, even Catwoman (and never knew she had a sister, who sounds like she was a headcase too).

But there’s a load of guys I never met before, all equally as bad as each other, with absurd names like Kite Man, Crazy Quilt, The Gargoyle, Calendar Man, Clockmaster, Killer Moth they’re nowhere in the same league as Two-Face or Poison Ivy. Or the Bane character who nearly put Batman permanently out of action. No wonder Arkham Asylum and Blackgate Penitentiary have been been too full for rats. What a sleaze pit of a city we live in.

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It’s enough to make anyone take crime into their own hands and old Bat-ears seems to have a whole band of allies patrolling our streets, The Huntress, Batgirl, Oracle, as well as that skinny kid in the green pants, Robin. (should have guessed he wasn’t always the same person – no-one can stay that young forever. At times, he was even a boy!). Sections are included on all those do-gooders Batman has teamed up with over the years, including his Justice Leaguer pals (Supes, the Flash, Green Arrow, Zatanna) as well as more of those costumed vigilantes like Ragman, Nightwing, and Azrael.

And there’s plenty of reminders of those incidents which have rocked this city – War Games, No Man’s Land, as well as those world-shattering events which became one Infinite Crisis after another. My head’s still reeling from how Earth-1 differs from Earth-2, or Earth-32! How could anyone make any sense of it all except this Greenberger dude? he’s been poring over all those secret files, reading endless classified documents. He’s got the Batverse summarised neatly and concisely, with all the times and places of their reported appearances in those funny books, feverishly cross-referencing entries.

So many gangsters have terrorised this city with their crimes – Carmine Falconi, Ventriloquist, Lucky Lane, Boss Maroni. But hey, Greenberger’s also done Gotham’s finest proud: Commissioner Gordon may grab the headlines, but he’s had a great team around him over the years – looks, there’ s sassy Renee Montoya; the old slob, Harvey Bullock; ‘Bulldog’ Powell, and Maggie Sawyer. And of course, there’s all that stuff about Gordon’s daughter, Barbara. Can she really have been Batgirl and that computer geek, Oracle?

Even better, there’s the lowdown on the whole Wayne set-up from the family to organisation such as Wayne Enterprises and Foundation to the manor itself. Studying this closely, I can see how Wayne himself operates, and keep tabs on all those colleagues and lovers close to him:Alfred, Silver St Cloud, Talia, Lucius Fox, Vicki Vale. His precious Batcave, Batmobile and the Batsignal are all listed and it figures that a millionaire like him would have an entire wardrobe of batsuits for all occasions. And would he admit to knowing anyone as ridiculous as Batboy or Bat-Mite?

This Encyclopedia is the the deadliest weapon any foe could wish for, and beautifully illustrated too, colour or black and white, identifying the main players. All names, dates, issues, cross-referenced with precision. Now to start planning my ultimate victory…

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