Cowboys & Aliens vs. Batman

We are in the full swing of summer movie season, and while there are the major installments we book-lovers have been waiting for (ahem, Harry Potter), this summer is dominated by superhero movies. Marvel keeps churning out film after film in its ultimate mission of releasing the much-anticipated Avengers movie in 2012. DC competes by releasing its own signature characters on the big screen (Green Lantern — in 3D), even though their mediocre entries (excepting the Nolan Batman films) tend to disappoint even die-hard fans.

Other comics-inspired films, like Cowboys & Aliens, opening tomorrow, based on Scott Mitchell Rosenberg’s graphic novel, raise the question: when is it worth picking up the source graphic novel and when, as with the heavily anticipated but ultimately disappointing Green Lantern, (opened 6/17), is it best to wait and see? How do you build your collection to sustain interest as well as anticipate new hits?

In the case of Cowboys & Aliens, there’s a handy 2011 reprint available, and, fortunately, you only have to invest in one book. Few readers have shown interest in my library. For right now, I’m refraining from investing unless the movie proves to be a grand success.

Marvel puts out solidly enjoyable stand alone films from Iron Man (2008 & 2010) to Thor (opened May 6) to the eagerly anticipated Captain America: The First Avenger (opened last week and doing well both at the box office and with critics). The comics, however, require understanding of earlier storylines to grasp and can be impenetrable to new readers. Investing in every potentially relevant Green Lantern comic is a fool’s errand and is ultimately unnecessary. Stick to the solid storylines and authors that are already popular, as with Ed Brubaker’s run on Captain America and Geoff Johns’s run on Green Lantern. Roger Langridge’s Thor: The Mighty Avenger is notable for for penciler Samnee’s clean, bright art and is  one of the best reviewed entry tales of the past year, admired by fans, creators, and readers alike. Although the series was regretfully canceled after eight issues, the book still stands as a solid introduction to Thor’s origin and place within Marvel’s pantheon. With all of these purchases, fans will be pleased, books will fly off the shelves, and libraries can stay within their budget.

DC may be losing right now on the movie front, but their books are easier to get into via a convenient entry point. Like Nolan’s Batman movies? Pick up Batman: Year One or Batman: Arkham Asylum (showing movement on amazon — Sales rank: 364, up from 578)
You don’t need to dive in to the current Batman storyline to find a satisfying read with your favorite blockbuster character.  Right now, I’m most curious about which Batman volumes I’ll need to collect to anticipate reader interest in villain Bane for Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Night Rises (coming next summer).  Catwoman I’ve got covered in her own series (relaunching in fall 2011) but Bane (made all the more exciting because he’s being played by the buzz-worthy Tom Hardy) is more of a mystery.  For Bane’s most famous storyline, I’d need volumes one to three of Batman: Knightfall, sadly fallen out of print.  Keep your eyes peeled for a reprint, though, as DC knows to count on the movies to generate interest in older titles.  Bane has made a more nuanced reappearance in the DC universe as part of Gail Simone’s Secret Six, and her relaunch of this series following a supervillain team is a solid addition to a library’s collection (although be quick, as the six volumes are getting hard to find from vendors and the series has been canceled due to DC’s fall reboot.)

If you haven’t already seen it, check out the teaser trailer for The Dark Knight Rises that briefly features Tom Hardy’s Bane.

Thus, in my library, Batman buzz trumps Cowboys & Aliens.  The wind may change, though, and I’m prepped and ready to respond to my patrons if they fall head over heels for Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford battling extraterrestrial threats.

Note: Thanks go out to all my colleagues on the Graphic Novels in Libraries listserv for their help in identifying the best Bane-centric titles.

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