Batman: The Black Casebook is a collection of 1950s bizarre Batman stories that Grant Morrison used in his Batman RIP storyline. Basically he was looking at the same issue of “What if all this crazy crap actually happened to Batman in one lifetime? Even the batshit insane stuff from the 1950s?” that Neil Gaiman looked at in Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? The Black Casebook is a testament to how batshit some of those 1950s stories were.
We’ve got Bat-Mite, Batman pretending to be Indian Chief “Man of the Bats” (seriously terrible), a pile of ridiculous international heroes inspired by Batman, an alternate universe where our Batman has Superman powers, and more. The stories are ridiculous, but it is interesting that Grant Morrison used bits of them to tell a contemporary tale. Interesting doesn’t mean entertaining though. I’d skip this unless you’re a real hardcore Batman aficionado.
Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader? is Neil Gaiman’s story about the funeral of Batman. It came out at a time when Batman had been “killed,” but this story, because it is a Neil Gaiman story, is full of stories.
Everyone talks about how Batman died, his allies, his enemies, and they’re all different. Batman himself narrates the tale from a confused ghost-like vantage point. “How can all the stories be true?” he asks. And really, this is one of the big meta-questions of superhero comics. So much happens to these characters it seems insane that they could survive them all without going insane.
The other parts included in this volume are some old Neil Gaiman Batman stories, which, well, whatever. I did like Batman and Joker hanging out in the green room before their pages, but they did feel like filler, extraneous to the idea I wanted to think harder on. But you need to feel you got your money’s worth I suppose.