Batman’s just swingin’ away there on an off-panel water tower or low-flying plane or something.

§ July 8th, 2024 § Filed under batman, byrne reboot, superman § 10 Comments

Continuing our look at the final pre-reboot Superman stories of the 1980s that aren’t by people named “Moore” or “Gerber,” we now come to World’s Finest #323, cover date January 1986:

It’s by Joey Cavalieri, José Delbo and Alfredo Alcala, and it’s pretty safe to say here Alcala is the star of the show, with his inks applying some heavy texture to the events within:

And check out this swell pic of ol’ Supes himself:

Here’s a close-up, and please, try to avoid swooning:

Anyway, the story has to do with a magical darkness enveloping Metropolis and both Superman and Batman work their separate angles trying to solve this mystery. Of most import to the purpose of this issue, Superman finds himself overwhelmed by the mystical menaces that lurk within the shadows:

But things work out in the end, the bad guy (and bad wolves, no relation) are defeated. However, Batman has some words for his partner:

I mean, it’s only that the cover has the words “THE END” in big, bold letters, and shows Bats and Supes waving goodbye to each other, that we read “oh no, has the World’s Finest team broken up for good?” into this. On the face of it this isn’t a “we’re breaking up” speech, but a “c’mon man, get your act together” one.

However, this is the last issue, and this version of Superman is going away forever (while Batman, with minor adjustments afforded by Frank Miller’s work on the character, is Eternal) and thus it’s time to put a cap on this comic that’s run continuously since 1941:

The story gets a tiny bit metatextual in specifically referencing the real world passage of time in regards to the length of the series’ run. And it’s not a happy ending, in that our heroes’ partnership, while not necessarily dissolved, now has some points of contention in the mix. Which of course sets the groundwork for the New Status Quo being brought in by John Byrne for his revamping of the Superman franchise.

If this all sounds just a little familiar, it should because I discussed this very thing, like, two months ago. I feel justified in repeating myself in that DC is repeating itself as well, in that it had introduced a breaking of the Superman/Batman team (with events surrounding Batman and the Outsiders) and resolved it in an extra-sized World’s Finest #300.

We don’t get that resolution for this later iteration. The issue comes to an uneasy conclusion, “the battle’s done, and we kind of won” if you’ll forgive the quote from the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode. And that tone continues for quite some time, emphasized specifically in Byrne’s version of the relationship, and it takes several years before the two are canonically friends again in current DC Comics.

Outside the aforementioned Moore and Gerber stories, this may be the only “regular DC pre-Crisis continuity” story that actually tries to…well, not so much “wrap things up” as “straight up end” its particular piece of the shared universe. It’s a slightly sour note made the more-so in that it’s a precursor to how things are going to be vis-à-vis the Superman and Batman team, at least for a while.

10 Responses to “Batman’s just swingin’ away there on an off-panel water tower or low-flying plane or something.”

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I have vague memories of reading that story when it came out. It seems a sad ending to the Superman/Batman team, but I guess by that point things had already been going downhill for several years, ever since Batman rage-quit the JLA and former the Outsiders. Even still, it is odd to hear Batman talking down to Superman. Odder still that Superman has no rebuttal.

    It’s also hard to recognize Jose Delbo’s pencil art under Alfredo Alcala’s overpowering inking. I always felt that Alcala’s inking style never meshed well with superhero stories and that sword and sorcery/fantasy and horror/supernatural stories were where he was at his best. The same applies to Tony Dezuniga’s art and inking.

    But then I’ve always thought that there are only a few embellishers who can superimpose their own highly distinctive art style over others’ pencils and really make them pop. As examples I’d include Wally Wood inking over pretty much anybody, P. Craig Russell inking over Steve Ditko’s pencils on ROM, Dave Stevens inking over Jack Kirby pencils, and Jerry Ordway inking over Don Heck’s unpublished Steel pencils (due to the DC Implosion) that got repurposed in an issue of All-Star Squadron.

    Anyway, what I recall enjoying from the last few years of the Bronze Age World’s Finest run were the issues that Trevor von Eeden drew; there were also some nicely drawn stories by Stan Woch, and by Rich Buckler, and some great Ed Hannigan covers.

  • william h richards says:

    “Impetuosity”? Someone had a little Websters on their cornflakes.

  • Oliver says:

    Batman’s illogical angle or not, the farewell “We can only hope… It is not beyond repair” still hits me.

  • Thom H. says:

    Interesting that this story already provides a hint of “Batman is/knows better than Superman” that really took off with The Dark Knight Returns. I suppose both Batman and Superman skewed a little more conservative in their post-Crisis versions, so Batman’s ascendency makes sense.

    @Sean: DeZuniga’s romance comics from the ’70s were gorgeous, too. The costume designs alone…

  • Jacob T. Levy says:

    Huh. I thought I had read the issue ending the pre-Crisis partnership, but I definitely don’t think I’ve ever seen this Alcala-inked artwork. It’s amazing how much some of those panels look like Swamp Thing even without Bissette’s pencils underneath. Maybe I’m remembering #294 and when I read it I didn’t realize it wasn’t the end!

    Funny that WF ended so early (Jan 86) given that the other books you’ve looked at didn’t hit their pre-Moore conclusions for another seven or eight months.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    @Thom H.

    Agreed that DeZuniga’s ’70s romance books looked great…and his Black Orchid stories in Adventure Comics. But I felt that he overpowered a lot of pencilers when he was an inker. There’s one pre-Byrne X-Men issue that he inked and it’s hard to recognize Dave Cockrum’s pencils underneath DeZuniga’s inking; I think the same thing happened when he inked All-Star Squadron and Infinity Inc. By contrast, his inking meshed very well with Gene Colan’s pencils on Batman stories or Dick Ayers pencils on Jonah Hex stories. Of course, when Dezuniga both penciled and
    inked a (generally non-superhero) story it looked great. For example, I really like his art on Arak. And I realize that both Dezuniga and Alcala are master craftsmen top tier artists who are highly versatile–I just think that Rudy Nebres and Pablo Marcos has styles that were more suited to drawing and inking superhero comics. Nebres, in particular, did a great job illustrating a bunch of Red Circle/Archie Adventure Series covers featuring The Fly, Steel Sterling, Black Hood, The Shield, The Mighty Crusaders, etc in the 1980s. And Pablo Marcos’ art on the first issue of the Teen Titans revival–I think it is no. 44– in 1976 is spectacular–it’s a pity that DC didn’t have Marcos continue to draw that title.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “this comic that’s run continuously since 1941:”

    Geez, 1941! Kind of a shame it stopped.

    ” the quote from the musical Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.”


    “Dezuniga and Alcala”

    Those guys were great! I like Dezungia-era Arak as well. Gave it something it didn’t have in the Ernie Colon era- MOOD.

  • Thom H. says:

    I forgot about his Black Orchid stories. Those were gorgeous. Sounds like I need to check out Arak, too. Thanks for the tip!

  • D says:

    Post the Dollar Comics era, was there even a reason to buy World’s Finest anymore? I recall picking it up on occasion when I had an extra 50 or 65 cents but it was always a peripheral book, slightly removed from the main continuity and overshadowed by DCCP and B&B for team-up book fun. I’m not sure what could’ve saved it from cancellation.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I think the best thing in those World’s Finest Dollar Comics was the Trevor von Eeden Green Arrow stories and the Don Newton Captain Marvel stories…also the Steve Ditko Creeper stories that were in there for awhile.

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