Detective Comics #500.

§ May 26th, 2004 § Filed under happy anniversary happy anniversary § 1 Comment

Detective Comics #500 is cover-dated March 1981, and was blurbed as the “500th Anniversary Celebration,” which means, of course, that Detective Comics began publishing in 1481. Actually, this is issue #500 of the long-running series, and this would have been its 43rd or 44th anniversary issue, which isn’t as terribly impressive as a 500th anniversary, but still, it’s nothing to sneeze at.

This is yet another anniversary issue I bought off the stands as a child (11, this time), and apparently I was impressed enough with this issue that I plunked down $1.50 of my hardly-earned money to take it home with me. And I’m glad I did, as it remains a favorite of mine to this day.

This advertising-free 80-pager features the following stories:

  • “To Kill A Legend” by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano – the Phantom Stranger whisks Batman and Robin away to a parallel Earth, where they must prevent the deaths of the parents of the young Bruce Wayne of that world. Or must they?

  • “The ‘Too Many Cooks’ Caper” by Len Wein and Jim Aparo – starring Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s other creation, Slam Bradley, as well as such other DC detective characters as Roy Raymond, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target, and more. A nice reminder that the comic is called Detective Comics for a reason.

  • “Once Upon A Time” by Len Wein and Walt Simonson – a two-page Batman adventure based on, of all things, the story written by that long-suffering author, Snoopy. Yes, even the line “suddenly a pirate ship appeared on the horizon” makes it into the story.

  • “The Final Mystery of Edgar Allan Poe!” by Mike W. Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez – in a nice touch, this story (starring that strechable sleuth, the Elongated Man) centers around a lost magazine edited by the creator of the detective story, Edgar Allan Poe.

  • “The Batman Encounters Gray Face” by Walter Gibson, with illustrations by Tom Yeates – this is an 8-page prose story by Gibson, the creator of the pulp hero the Shadow.

  • “The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel” by Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert – the title of this story, which stars Hawkman and Hawkgirl, doesn’t appear in the story itself, just in the table of contents…which is just as well, since for longtime DC fans, the doctor’s name gives away the surprise ending of the story, involving a character that shared the pages of Detective for several years.

  • “What Happens When A Batman Dies?” by Cary Bates, Carmine Infantino, and Bob Smith – the final story involves Batman, being struck down by a mysterious poison, journeying into the afterlife (accompanied by Deadman) and being confronted by not only all the people he has helped over the years (but apparently died anyway), but by the two people Batman — that is, Bruce Wayne — misses the most. The odd thing about this story…if it were still in continuity, the result would be that Batman would no longer have the emotional baggage from the tragedy of his youth…the very tragedy that feeds the need for vengeance that fuels his vigilante career. But, really, I don’t care, because I love this story anyway.

Inside the back cover is a brief text piece detailing the creators and characters that appear in this issue. A nice bit is the sequence bordering the text piece showing the progression of the jam cover on this issue…a six panel “strip” showing as each piece of the cover is added, along with the signature of the artist responsible. It’s a lot nicer than your standard “key to the cover” that you usually get with this sort of thing.

For a brief period of time, shortly after I had bought this issue, it turned up missing, which made me fairly unhappy as you might imagine. However, as it turns out, it just ended up somehow getting mixed in with a pile of my dad’s gun magazines…and you can maybe see a small measure of irony there, what with losing a Batman comic among gun mags, if you kinda squint a little.

Well, if you were going to get a copy of this today, it’ll cost you a little more than the $1.50 I had to fork over, but it’s a solid and enjoyable package that still holds up all these years later.

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