DC BLACK LABEL: Batman’s Formula For Success

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In the 1996 horror film SCREAM, there’s a movie buff character named Randy who shouts “There’s a formula to it, a very simple formula!”

When it comes to DC’s BLACK LABEL, it has that formula: simplicity.

Since kicking off in 2018 with the Brian Azzarello & Lee Bermejo book BATMAN: DAMNED, we’ve received instant-classic Dark Knight stories such as THREE JOKERS, THE IMPOSTER, ONE DARK KNIGHT, and others. Recently, we just wrapped up a trippy tale found in CITY OF MADNESS, are in the midst of the excellent GARGOYLE OF GOTHAM, and were just served the first chapter of the captivating FIRST KNIGHT.

(Many other Batman books are getting reprinted with the BLACK LABEL moniker, but  retroactively, FYI.)

When it comes to recent, contained tales of the Dark Knight in his original medium (comic books), BLACK LABEL has a very successful track record. Exceptional writers. Premiere artists. Layered storytelling. Contained stories. Low book count.

Simple, easy sell.

That last part is perhaps the biggest takeaway from BLACK LABEL: low book count. These are three (sometimes four) books that promise the reader/fan/consumer that you don’t need to journey outside of THIS story to get the WHOLE. It’s all here.

Black Label is a more recent line in the character’s 85-year history, so how about his two legacy titles, DETECTIVE COMICS (where he debuted) and BATMAN (which launched a year later)?

Not so good.

Reviews for those books have been mixed over the past few years. Crossovers, event tie-ins, long-running arcs, and laughable plot points have tarnished my love for these historical titles that initially shot Batman into pop culture.

Gone are the single-issue adventures.

Gone are the contained stories.

Gone is the originality.

There have been cases in my comic book fandom where it’s been fun to track down titles for an event. I’ve enjoyed taking a detour onto a different path now and then. It’s just gotten to be too often, and too “been there, done that”.

Topically, there are events in BATMAN by Chip Zdarsky that require you to read another one of his Batbooks, THE KNIGHT. In the recent BATMAN & ROBIN book, a character requires you to check up on writer Joshua Williamson’s ROBIN stories to fully understand.

I know it’s nothing new with comics, but it’s been feeling like the norm. Fans can argue there are too many Batbooks these days, and I’d push back that there aren’t as many as you’d think (ask Peter Verra too, as we do monthly wrap-up episodes on The Batman Book Club Podcast). The problem, however, is these books are expecting you to seek out OTHER books to understand what’s going on in THIS book. As a consumer/fan, that’s too much work and too much money.

BLACK LABEL keeps its book count low, and stories contained. It’s simple: One. Two. Three (occasionally Four). It’s simple.

Now add in you’re going to get a complete story, and you have the formula for a Batman BLACK LABEL book.

It should be the gold standard for all Batman comics, not just a specific line.

Until then, BLACK LABEL continues to win the comic book battle.

BLACK LABEL Batman has the formula. It’s that simple. – Ryan Lower

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Ryan Lower
Representing the Midwest, Ryan has been a BOF fan since 2003, and started contributing to the site in 2017. He is the host of “The Batman Book Club” podcast. Ryan has written reviews for comics, animated movies and TV series. He has also appeared on BOF podcasts and Social Hours for Batman discussions, reviews, and interviews. Thanks to BOF, he was able to meet and have a one-on-one discussion with his favorite artist, Lee Bermejo. Follow him on Twitter @lower_ryan.