The Essential Batman Encyclopedia

At last it can be told…the secrets behind the Finally Announced Secret Project.

In February 2006, at the New York Comic-Con, it was mentioned to me by Random House exec Scott Shannon that my name had just come up in relation to a project they were discussing with DC Comics. I eagerly awaited word, heard from DC’s Steve Korte that something was cooking and I should be patient.

On September 28, I was formally offered the chance to write the The Essential Batman Encyclopedia, an A-Z updating of Michael Fleisher’s original Batman Encyclopedia, released in 1976. Unlike Michael’s book, which covers Batman, Detective Comics and World’s Finest Comics from 1939 to more or less 1966, this book would cover every Batman comic book appearance in the DC Universe from 1939 through 2007. The entries would differentiate between the various parallel worlds in addition to changes resulting from Crisis on Infinite Earths and Infinite Crisis.

Of course I said yes.

I spent the next few weeks assembling a Master List and wrote a few samples for my editor, Emily Lerner, to get a feel for the best approach. She and Keith Clayton, her counterpart at Random House, asked for some tweaks to the list. I was finally given the go ahead to start the serious researching and writing in December. Initially, Emily asked that I finish the manuscript on June 15 which, silly me, thought was doable while handling a day job and family.

In February, Emily said that an internal shift at DC meant she was handing the book, and me, over to my pal Chris Cerasi. I kept writing and delivering and then in June was asked to come in for a meeting which was essentially sitting down with Chris, fellow editor John Morgan and Steve Korte for some course corrections. It was a substantive and productive meeting. At that point, the deadline was formalized as a more realistic August 31.

That same month, I warned Chris and Keith that keeping the manuscript to 200,000 words was going to prove nigh unto impossible. They pumped up the page count so it’s now 494 pages long with two 16-page color sections.

On August 31, I delivered the final entry, Batman himself, and the final word count weighed in at 316, 933.

Now, let me tell you, there’s no way this could have been done if I didn’t have the month of August without a day job. That bit of timing proved painful but providential. The entire book is with a copy editor and I look forward to seeing what happens next, especially as we begin the graphics selections.

I plundered my collection, I plundered illegally scanned comics I did not own, I scanned websites to check facts and interpretations. Most of all, I relied on the master of the facts, John Wells. With his meticulous character lists, I was able to check where people appeared in addition to their varying interpretations. On some of the most difficult to reconcile entries, I showed him drafts and he turned them around with lightning speed. The final week, he helped me make Bruce Wayne and Batman coherent and allowed me to deliver on deadline.

I cannot thank John enough so let me sing his praises here. La, la, la!

The book is set for a June 10, 2008 release, with The Dark Knight opening in July, it’s a nice bit of timing. Can’t wait to actually hold a printed copy in my hand.

13 comments

  • Tom Galloway

    Congrats; would’ve loved to have helped out, but of course John’s got the database already set up. Look forward to getting a copy.

  • Bob A

    Hey Bobby!
    Right on! What do you need W-W-N for ? Your working in Gotham now… Looking forward to seeing it at my neighborhood Borders.

    Bob (syd de Vicious) Ahrens

  • surabin

    Now I want it now (I have the patience of a 2 year old) still want it now

  • Paul Balze

    Wow, that’s an impressive–and daunting–project. I remember reading and rereading the original 1976 edition and being disappointed that it only went up to 1965 or ’66 (although it did have an entry for the Barbara Gordon Batgirl, whose first appearance was dated January 1967).

    I shudder to think of the work involved in updating Batman’s own entry to cover an additional forty years of material. The thing was about 140 pages in the earlier edition. Of course, I’m assuming the new book will have the same exhaustive recounting of all the adventures, which took up a massive amount of space in the entries for Batman, Robin and the Joker.

  • Susan O

    Wow. Do you have a tentative date for publication yet? I want to make sure our library orders at least one copy. I may even buy myself a copy, though I mostly only follow the movies and cartoons.

  • Gryphon

    Congrats, dude! Can’t wait to see it!

  • Bob

    LOS ANGELES, California (AP) — The bridge of the starship Enterprise is filling up.

    Chris Pine has landed the role of Capt. Kirk in the new “Star Trek” movie.

    Chris Pine, who had been in talks to join the cast of J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” flick, will play the young James Kirk, while Karl Urban will take on the role of Dr. Leonard McCoy, distributor Paramount confirmed Thursday.

    They join previously announced cast members Zachary Quinto as Vulcan scientist Spock, Simon Pegg as engineer Scotty, John Cho as helmsman Sulu, Zoe Saldana as communications officer Uhura and Anton Yelchin as navigator Chekov.

    Leonard Nimoy, who played Enterprise science officer Spock in the 1960s TV series and six “Star Trek” feature films, also will appear as an older version of the Vulcan.

    Eric Bana, the star of Steven Spielberg’s “Munich” and Ang Lee’s “Hulk,” is playing a villain in the “Trek” film, which begins shooting in November and is due out in December 2008.

    Abrams, creator of “Lost” and director of “Mission: Impossible III,” is keeping the plot secret for the film that follows the early days of the “Star Trek” crew, which was led by William Shatner as the bold Capt. Kirk.

    Pine’s credits include the movies “Smokin’ Aces” and “Just My Luck,” while Urban appeared as Eomer in two of the “The Lord of the Rings” movies and “The Bourne Supremacy.”

    >>> I love that they got Simon Pegg for “Scotty”

    Bob A

  • David Peattie

    Whoa, baby! I wish I’d known this was coming when I picked up a replacement copy of the Fleisher edition, in its most recent reprinting. Now I gotta live with knowing I spent that money for nothing.

    As a Batman addict for over 30 years, I well know how much work must have gone into this, and I look forward to reading it when it comes out. But now the question becomes: are there updated and revised companion volumes in the works for DC’s other icon characters, such as Superman and Wonder Woman? And is it too much to hope that we might also get such books for some of the other characters, a bit further down the road?

    And, if the prospect of doing *those* books seems a bit daunting, and John Wells needs any assistance, please feel free to ask me. I’ve been devouring DC books by the dozen since the late Silver Age, and I daresay there’s not much I don’t know.

    But man! This sounds so cool! I want my copy right now, too!

  • Chris Cerasi

    As Bob’s editor for the Batman Encyclopedia, I can tell you all that he did a fantastic job, and that it was and is a great pleasure to work with him. I consider Bob a friend, and it is always nice to collaborate with friends!

    The book is being copyedited and designed now, and I think you all will be VERY pleased when it hits stores next year.

    Rock on, Bob!

  • Scott

    I see that the amazon.com listing is for a paperback edition. Any plans for this in hardcover?

  • Congrats Bob!
    I know a little bit what you went through, just got back from a week off working on a book myself.

  • Scott Rowland

    Great news! I just pre-ordered my copy.