Books to Make Your Kid a Batfan: Downtown Bookworks Big Book of Super-Villains

Our friends at Downtown Bookworks are at it again, with another delightful children’s book based on DC Comics characters. Following up on the excellent Big Book of Super HeroesBig Book of Girl Power, and Big Book of Superpowers, they’re turning their attention to the bad guys with The Big Book of Super-Villains, coming this fall. They provided Batman News with an advance copy of the book for review, so I dug in to see if this one meets the high quality standards of previous entries in the Big Book series.

Lots of Bronze Age goodness

The artwork is the most obvious draw when you flip through a Downtown book, and the BBoSV continues their strategy of pulling heavily from the Bronze Age. There are some older pulls, too, and a great Bronze-esque render of Harley Quinn (who didn’t exist back then), but, by and large, the pictures are of preexisting work from the Bronze Age. I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I think this is a great strategy for introducing kids to comics characters—in particular, getting acquainted with pre-modern coloring will make it easier for them to jump into comics from any age, because their expectations won’t be molded by the more realistic coloring and lighting effects that you frequently find in today’s books.

Lots of nifty tidbits

Downtown has also built a reputation for shining a light on lesser-known characters and lore, and The Big Book of Super-Villains fits right in. We get the characters we expect, like Joker, Lex, and Harley, but there are pages dedicated to Giganta, Black Adam, Dr. Sivana, and many more, too. On top of that, there’s plenty of info about origins and tactics, so your kids will be experts on a cadre of evil-doers in no time.

I’ve never had a bad thing to say about anything I’ve received from Downtown, but I regret that there is one small issue this time around. The page for Penguin prints his pre-villain name as “Oswald Chesterfield Copperpot,” and I trust our faithful Batman News readers to notice the difference between “Copperpot” and “Cobblepot”. I searched the web to see if perhaps my own knowledge of the character didn’t go back far enough—after all, not many of us know that Two-Face was originally one Harvey Kent before his name was changed to the more widely known Harvey Dent; but such changes occur in the life of long-time characters, so I figured it was possible. Sadly, I found no such evidence for Penguin, so it appears to be a legitimate error. I applaud them for the effort of putting in his name, and it’s not a huge deal, but it is there, so I’m letting you know.

A book so bad it’s good

Even with that error, The Big Book of Super-Villains is another slam dunk for Downtown. These books are bursting with the affection that their creators have for these characters, and if we’re going to raise up a generation of kids that love to read and love to read comics—if books of any kind are to compete with moving pictures on high-definition screens—then we have to show them that there’s something appealing—something lovable—in words and pictures on pieces of paper. Downtown is committed to that end, and they’re doing an outstanding job at it. Look for The Big Book of Super-Villains this fall.