There are many great Batman stories to read. Some short and sweet, others lengthy bloated epics.
But now and then something surprises you.
You read a story that you have never heard of, and it really touches you in some way.
Batman: 1947 by Scott Hampton is one of those stories.
I read the 8 page story this week for the first time, and I have to say it is one of my all time favourite Batman stories, and you won’t find it in a traditional Batman comic book.
The Batman: 1947 story featured in an obscure showcase for artists called “SOLO” from DC Comics, the 12 issue series ran in 2004, and each issue featured a selected artist. Every short story in the issue was by the same artist, with various writers.
I mainly took a look at them recently for any Batman related content,and was pleasantly surprised by the short story drawn by Scott Hampton and written by John Hitchcock with Scott Hampton. if you have read any of Batman Black and White, stories then SOLO is like a colour version of that (but with any characters from the DCU).
Take a look at the images below, I’ve written some brief comments below the pics, but mostly I just want you to take a moment, pause for a breath, and really pay attention to this story. Don’t just skin over it looking to rush to the end, okay?
Breathe in deep, and read slowly.
While only a few pages long, Batman: 1947 is a powerful short story. It gets so much right about Batman.
I love how the comic starts off in a world that is more on the side of realism than traditional comic art. The actor who is playing Batman gets into the unfortunate situation of chasing real criminals and encountering real danger while giving a public performance, and gives chase to some criminals as the crowd eggs him on.
The panel where the real Batman drops into frame, tells us that this not the real world (where Batman is fictional), but is most likely Gotham City. The contrast between the meek looking actor and the powerful looking Batman is one you can really feel.
Batman has such presence and power in that single panel that when I read the story I was like:
“YES! This Scott Hampton guy gets how to show Batman”
Batman easily takes cares of the criminals, then disappears into the night.
I love that he lets the actor Batman take the credit for stopping the criminals.
Batman is no glory hound, he does what he does out of a sense of duty, not for credit and glory. The actor Batman turns to see the real Batman on a distant rooftop, looking like another statue, a Gargoyle or Grotesque, a protector – no -Guardian of Gotham who wards off evil spirits and Guards the city against threats.
Batman briefly moves from urban legend, to solid physical presence and then back into a mythic archetype in the space of only a few panels. Scott Hampton gets the mythic resonance of Batman just right.
The contrast in the panel of the skinny actor who appears fully lit in the background, with the broad shouldered, large chested Titan of Gotham, the Batman in the foreground, and who appears in shadow is just perfect.
The actor gets to a be real hero for one night, and goes home to his family.
If you go back and look at the story again, you will see that Batman appears in only 6 panels of the story. He appears for two pages in a row, then on the second to last page you see him as a silhouette in the distance. This sort of minimalism was also used to good effect in Ed Brubaker’s Gotham Central series, where the focus is on other characters, and not Batman himself, and has also been used in other short stories where the focus is another characters perspective.
Well, I loved this story, and please read it again before you move on, take a moment to savor the beautiful art and the short but powerful story that put a big smile on my face this week. I think it is one of the best Batman short stories I have ever read. I just love it!