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Batman created by Bill Finger with Bob Kane.

§ May 3rd, 2024 § Filed under batman, free comic book day, pal plugging, sir-links-a-lot § 8 Comments

Okay, I don’t want to overload you with Byrne Superman Reboot talk, so I’ll probably stick to posting about that once or twice a week ’til I feel like I’ve said enough. But keep your comments and questions coming, since, as is my wont, I’ll probably spend some time responding to them in the near future.

I did want to cover a couple of other topics here, such as the fact I didn’t talk much — well, at all — about this year’s Free Comic Book Day. It’s not like I haven’t talked about before, and you can clickity-click that link to have my vast wisdom imparted upon you.

Like the last two or three years or however long it’s been, I can’t keep track, I’ll be posting the freebie tables in front of the store, instead of going through the trouble of rearranging the interior layout to make room for them. As you may recall, I started doing this post-COVID to reduce the number of bodies crammed into my little shop and hopefully lessen the risk of cooties exposure. Seems to have worked out great so far, since my creaky bones no longer have to strain at moving a ton of back issue boxes and heavy wooden tables in the shop, and having a huge crowd in front of the store around tables of free comics certainly grabs attention. And I certainly didn’t see any reduction of folks coming into the shop to take advantage of the sales.

So, yes, it still got a little crowded in the shop, but not nearly as much as if I was trying to have a big sale AND a freebie giveaway in the same space at the same time. It all works out.

I’m mostly ready to go…the bulk of the work occurs the night before and the morning of, so I just gotta get cracking soon as my doors close Friday evening. Plus I’m prepping other material to be given away, so that’ll probably take up my Friday afternoon. Oh, and I’m also taking in a large comics collection on Friday as well, from an out-of-town pal whose only opportunity to bring ’em by is that day, so I’ll probably be doing a little comics juggling over the next 24 hours. If the GUMBY OF SUCCESS was planning on making another visit to my store, now is the time!

Anyway, is this like the…23rd Free Comic Book Day? I mean, I guess it depends if you count that one year where it was called off due to COVID and the freebies were just sent out a few at a time to be given away each week. However you count it, I’ve worked ’em all, and look forward to doing it again this year!

• • •

They said it couldn’t be done, and yet Adam Farrar has done dood it: an oral history of the 1990s Marvel UK comic book series Blackwulf! (Here’s Part Two and Part Three.) It’s a whole lotta comics people in here talking, not just about Blackwulf, but the ’90s comics business in general. And who better to speak about ’90s comics than the man who saw ’em in and escorted ’em out…yours truly, Michael Ricardo Anatoly Sterling. I’m mostly in the first part, with a brief cameo in the second, but you should overcome your disappointment at the lack of me in the third part and read it anyway, but it’s all great.

• • •

Mark Evanier is trying to set the visual record straight on comics legends Robert Kanigher and Bill Finger, in that a photo of the former keeps getting identified as the latter. So he’s asked if comics folks would post this pic (leaving the file name unchanged, in case you decide to download it from here and post it yourself) to get those search engines to propagate the correct information:


Also the title of this very post is my attempt at getting some other Batman-related info scraped up and spread around.

I’d bought World’s Finest #300 new off the stands not having any idea that was what was going on.

§ May 1st, 2024 § Filed under batman, byrne reboot, superman § 10 Comments

Another big change to the Superman mythos made in John Byrne’s 1986 reboot mini-series Man of Steel was the bustin’ up of the long friendship between Supes and the Dark Knight his own self, Batman.

The two characters have been buddy/buddy for decades, almost from their very inception, as seen here on the cover of World’s Best Comics #1 from 1941:


This of course was the first issue of the series that would become known as World’s Finest starting with #2. And the early issues of the comic would feature covers pairing the two (along with Robin, usually) and showing them doing something fun, like, oh, I don’t know, fishing:


The team-ups were just on the covers, however, as Batman and Superman had separate stories inside, along with other characters and their own stories. Eventually the extra-sized comic reduced its page count, and instead of cutting either Superman or Batman out of the book, the two were squeezed together into one story (starting with issue #71). And aside from a brief stint of team-ups featuring Superman with other characters in the early ’70s, and the whole “Super Sons” thing, this was the Supes/Bats crimefighting pals team book ’til its end in 1986.

Except.

There was a short storyline in this series regarding a split between Batman and Superman, spiraling off from Batman’s resignation from the Justice League in Batman and the Outsiders #1:


This development gets followed up in World’s Finest #294 (1983) which presents further acrimony between the two old friends:


See, it says right there in the footnote, “see Batman and the Outsiders #1,” I didn’t lie to you.

Anyway, the two of them are at odds with each other for the next few issues, until this particular storyline comes to its conclusion at the end of the extra-sized anniversary issue #300 (1984):


And all was right with the world until 1986, when John Byrne presented his new status quo for the Superman/Batman relationship in Man of Steel #3:


In that preview article from Amazing Heroes #96, Byrne’s ideas on what the relationship between Superman and Batman are made clear:

And sure enough, in Man of Steel this new more adversarial interaction is revealed right out of the gate as Superman shows up in Gotham to take in this infamous vigilante:


Once Superman sees Batman in action over the course of the story, he softens his stance — i.e. he won’t immediately haul Bats off to the grey-bar hotel — but he’s still not entirely on board:


…leaving Batman with this wistful wink to the audience who just saw the Old Ways swept out the door for the Way Things Are Now:


And that was the status quo for…well, a little while, ’til, like all post-Crisis changes, folks started to turn things back to how they were in little ways. The UnCrisis-ening continues to this day, but this particular portrayal of the Superman/Batman relationship, coupled with what we saw between the two in Frank Miller’s Dark Knight Returns, has had a little more staying power.

I mean, obviously not the “you’re a criminal who should be turned in” part, but definitely the emphasis on “our approaches to crimefighting are different” has remained to a far greater extent than it ever did in the older books. It was probably also an influence on Batman’s general gruffness and reluctance to open up to friendships and such in recent years, not to mention the idea of his having contingency plans to take down the whole Justice League, that sort of thing.

However, the Superman/Batman pairing is too strong an idea, with too much inertia behind it, for it to be forever relegated to “frenemies.” We’ve had multiple Superman/Batman team-up mini-series and regular series, certainly with an emphasis on their differences, but definitely having them as pals again. The current World’s Finest absolutely feels more like the original series with that name.

I appreciate Byrne’s point about Superman and Batman just being too different to be friends…but honestly, having them at such odds with each other was the aberration. It’s having them as friends that feels like the correct, logical, choice.

The cowl stays on.

§ February 19th, 2024 § Filed under batman, dc comics, publishing § 23 Comments


Last time, jmurphy brought up

“But the good news is that LCE #51 is being reprinted full size.”

And indeed they are! The Limited Collectors’ Edition #51 treasury edition from 1977 is coming to shelves in a facsimile edition next month, collecting together theh original Ra’s al Ghul saga by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams. Irv Novick, and Dick Giordano.

The only image I can find on the distributor sites for this facsimile is the one I posted above, showing its original cover. I’m hoping the cover is reproduced authentically, and not “retouched” as they did with 2004 reprint of DC 100 Page Super Spectacular #6 (original / reprint). Or (ahem) “recolored” as some other Adams reprints have been.

I realize I’m probably worrying for nothing, as DC’s facsimile editions of late haven’t had that much after-the-fact fiddling and are presented more-or-less as originally printed. (Though to be fair I haven’t really taken that close a lot to see if the Golden Age facsimiles, like the Superman #1, are the redrawn versions that appeared in the early DC Archives).

The big change of course is getting the material on nice, white paper, versus the newsprint of the originals. Of course, yes, I’ve commented before about the dissonance about seeing work that originally lived on newprint suddenly being all bright and shiny, but having it on those nice, big treasury-sized pages will certainly be welcome and much easier on the ol’ eyeballs.

This will be, I think, DC’s first reprint of a treasury duplicating the original format, versus the treasury-sized hardcover edition they did of Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali (which is Peak Neal Adams Superman in my opinion). There was also a smaller “deluxe edition” hardcover published at the same time, with a new Adams cover and extra bonus material not included in the larger facsimile. I don’t know if the smaller book was given the “recoloring” treatment. Anyway, that story needs to be seen at full size, so I’m not sure why you’d want that “deluxe” version anyway.

But back to this Ra’s al Ghul treasury, which is probably about as good as this particular Bat-villain ever got in print form (outside the frankly demented and evil and great usage in the Batman Beyond cartoon). The treasury includes his first appearance and conflict with Batman, including the famed shirtless (but not cowlless) sword fight:


…and c’mon, if anything deserves to be reprinted on bigger than normal pages, it’s this.

With any luck this facsimile will do well enough to open up more reprints of DC’s treasuries (and spur Marvel along to do the same). It’s obvious why they started with this one (Batman drawn by Neal Adams, duh), but it’d be nice if they brought the Superman Vs. Wonder Woman story drawn by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez back into print — it did get a treasury-sized hardcover reprint a few years back, but man, it should always be available.

And personally I’d like some of those Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer treasuries just to get more Sheldon Mayer in my life. Not really holding my breath for this to happen, honestly.

I hope future treasury reprints, if any, will focus on the ones with new stories that have only appeared there, versus reprinting books that contain reprints themselves. Not to say that something like this Adams Batman collection isn’t worthwhile, and nice to have on Big Ol’ Pages, but I’d rather have any new material from these show up in its original dimensions rather than being shrunk down.

Destined to have been put in a Snyder film.

§ September 25th, 2023 § Filed under batman, dc comics § 11 Comments

So I’m always processing back issues at the shop…I have enough old comics just sitting in the boxes in the back room that I can probably spend the remaining few years of my life just bagging and tagging funnybooks for sale. Usually it’s a pretty quick process and I don’t get held up on any single item, puzzling over what I’m going to price it. But once in a great while, I hit bit of a roadblock that’s got me wondering.

In this case, it’s a copy of Superman und Batman (or just Superman according to the indicia inside), a German comic published in 1968:


This issue features a fairly important story in comics history, the introduction of the modern version of Batgirl (Barbara Gordon). The original English edition was released with a cover date of January 1967 (so likely very late in 1966):


Most striking of course is the color change, from the dark background on the U.S. version, versus the bright white background on the German edition.

Pages inside are good ‘n’ bright. with all the text machine-relettered verus hand printing:


And here’s the back cover because what the heck, I scanned it so here you go:


The original sells for several thousand dollars in good shape. But what of the German reissue? I’ve sold lots of non-English translations of older American superhero comics over the years, and in general they’re priced relatively low to move as more novelties than anything else.

Now, comics in Spanish do well since I live in an era with many speakers of it. But the few German comics I’ve had sit around a bit, but this one may be the exception.

Now, the original Detective #359 can sell thousands of dollars, depending on condition of course. But a reprint of a (cough) “key” story released overseas? This is taking some research as to what the potential price would be, but it’s going to take a while. In the meantime, thought I’d show it to you, because it’s pretty neat!

Also, the title should more accurately be Superman und Batman und Flash, because between the stories featuring Supes and Bats was this Flash story:


“Hey Zack, what’s up.”

They should redo this book in, like, Minecraft graphics.

§ May 22nd, 2023 § Filed under batman § 15 Comments

Just a very quick follow-up on last week’s postings about naughty words in comics…I of course found this panel almost too late to use, which I think you’re agree is perfect:


Found this while flipping through Pepe Moreno’s Batman: Digital Justice graphic novel. I’d posted it on the Twitters, and I felt like it’d been long enough since it was released that I had to explain, no, this was an actual thing that was officially released by DC and not an A.I.-generated abomination. It was a human-made abomination, thank you very much!

But I tease Batman: Digital Justice, which was hailed as a ground-breaking concept, and it was, in a way, in that computers are used in pretty much every level of comic book production. Only things don’t look quite so…computer-y nowadays. Unless they do so on purpose, natch. But Digital Justice was a leap beyond something like the computer-crafted comics Shatter, the look of which I think still holds up in its pixelated retro fashion.

It’s honestly been a while since I’ve read this, but I did read it…it came out in 1990, when you just had to slap a Bat-logo on something and people bought it. And people did buy this graphic novel by the truckload, at least at my former shop. In the decades since copies have popped up in collections now and again and the book is…not the easiest sell now. It’s not primitive-looking enough to be kitsch like Shatter, but just polished enough to look odd to the modern eye. I don’t know if the story itself holds up…Joker gets computerized something something and I’m sure every inch of this book is very much Of Its Time, but then you can say that about pretty much any Batman comic.

So share a kind thought for Batman: Digital Justice, one of the very few Bat-books that will probably not get reprinted anytime soon. But if you ever need a copy, thankfully they’re not hard to find.

Also, when I posted the above panel on Twitter, I thought for certain someone would respond with a certain other panel, but nobody did. Thus, it is up to me:


The circle is complete.

In which I explain a couple of words with about 500 of them.

§ October 14th, 2022 § Filed under batman § 13 Comments

So I got a soupçon of disagreement over my reducing the the Joker’s motivation to “causing chaos.” And…okay, none of you are wrong, and there’s a lot of discussion in the comments there about just what is the Joker’s deal, anyway, but I think my initial generalization is fairly on target still.

And it is a generalization. I was speaking to the opposing forces that Batman and the Joker generally represent in their stories. Batman is a (usually) dour chap dressed in grays, blues, and blacks (and a smattering of yellow) who fights to bring justice and order to a world. Joker is a dude dressed in bright, garish colors who is trying to do…well, more or less the exact opposite of what Batman’s doing. I mean, dropping the resolution even more we have “Batman is a good guy” and “Joker is a bad guy,” a big gray dot bumping up against a big green dot, but that lacks the nuance that makes stories interesting. But as we zoom in and the Joker resolves into view, what exactly makes him tick isn’t so clear cut.

We’ve had various iterations of the Joker over the years, ranging from a merry crime prankster pulling boners, to a homicidal maniac who beats kid sidekicks to death with a crowbar. And we’ve had explanations along the way as to why that is, with Grant Morrison’s interesting suggestion that the Joker undergoes occasional dramatic personality shifts, to Geoff Johns’ simultaneously literal and nonsensical approach of “there were actually multiple Jokers.”

Regardless , their ascribed motivations and plot purposes are always, naturally, to oppose Batman. That’s why the character exists. And there have been so many people writing and drawing and editing the character over the decades that the methods and reasons to that opposition are inconsistent, so much so that attempts have been made, as stated in the previous paragraph, to internalize that inconsistency into the character. And it works with the Joker more so than with another character in the book who’s been inconsistently portrayed over the years — Batman himself — in that the Joker is this “wild and crazy guy” who can be defined by contradictory depictions. Well, sure, Batman can, too, in that Morrison’s idea was that all Batman stories were basically “in continuity,” and the cheery Bat-swashbuckler existed in a continuum with “the Dark Knight,” even maybe near-simultaneously, but that feels more the exception than than the rule.

What I was trying to say with “Joker creates chaos” is that he’s simply the opposite of Batman. That he represents the “contrasts with the hero” type of villain, like “strongest man” Superman versus “smartest man” Luthor. As the Joker’s origin in The Killing Joke becomes increasingly official canon, even the shared element introduced there between Batman and the Joker, in that they were both formed by trauma, leads into their inverse relationship in how they each dealt with it. I wanted to say something other than “Joker is bad because Batman is good” and “creating chaos” seemed like the simplest way of describing our favorite Clown Prince of Crime. Feel free to insert whatever purpose or motivation you’d like instead…given the Joker’s history, it’d probably fit just as well.

Remember when Iron Man changing his armor was a big thing?

§ September 7th, 2022 § Filed under batman, dc comics § 9 Comments

So now that I’m getting my primary comic book shipments from three different distributors, the days I can expect the new titles can vary from week to week. Well, I mean, Diamond’s boxes still turn up the Tuesday morning before the Wednesday on-sale day. The DC Comics boxes will show up at any time between the Wednesday before the next Tuesday’s on-sale date (rare) to, generally, the Monday prior the big Tuesday release. Marvel shipments usually come Monday or Tuesday for Wednesday release.

My DCs for this week arrived last Thursday, and having nothing else better to do at that moment, aside from everything else I have to do, I went ahead and busted opened the boxes and got everything sorted and counted. And did I maybe abuse my evil retailer powers and read a couple of this week’s books way ahead of time?

Sure, of course I did. The Big Event Books, as weirdly frustrating as they usually are, are always must reads for me. Not so much for the fictional in-world changes they make, though I’m interested in those too, but why and how those changes are made, if they can be inferred from the story itself. And a lot of it is also “how far away from the relative simplicity of the original DC Comics Multiverse are they going to get themselves this time?”

Which is a long way of saying “I read Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths #4 and Flashpoint Rebirth Beyond #5 last week, before purt’near everyone else.”

Now I’m not going to discuss that issue of Dark Crisis on Infinite Earths here today, except to say I’ve rarely seen so obvious an example of a comic book’s name made entirely from flopsweat.

But what I am here to discuss, as hinted at by my mostly blind-itemed tweets, is that new issue of Flashpoint Beyond. And those tweets were purposefully vague because 1) I didn’t want to spoil anything from a book that most folks out there couldn’t possibly have had a chance to look at yet, and 2) mmmmm, DC’s distributor frowns on anyone doing stuff like that. So I kept my mouth mostly shut, though I did do a search or two online to see if anyone else was talkin’ about this stuff ahead of time, as mentioned in my linked tweets.

Now that the book is out in the wild, I’m gonna talk about this thing, even though I’m fully aware many of you, while theoretically able to read this book now, have not yet, either because you haven’t been to your local shop yet, or perhaps more wisely you decided to give a pass on anything that was called Flashpoint Beyond. As such

SPOILERS AHEAD

First off, it was kind of weird that DC would be doing two multiversal/self-referential/let’s talk about talking about parallel Earths again series at the same time, with Dark Crisis and Flashpoint sometimes, as with this week, releasing installments simultaneously. And in case you were wondering if everything in Dark Crisis, a series with a few issues to go, was going to turn out okay, don’t you worry kids because Flashpoint Beyond #5 has got you covered:


I realize realistically nobody thought the Justice League was really dead, nor did anyone have any doubt as to whether or not Dark Crisis would conclude with our heroes (presumably) victorious. But maybe some pretense at suspense through a little willing suspension of disbelief does go a long way in enjoying event stories like these, where you do want to wonder “how are our heroes gonna get out of this scrape?” without having it undermined by some other in-universe source telling you “yeah, it’s all fine, don’t sweat it, but enjoy the next, what, three issues of that series.”

Anyway, that’s kind of a minor annoyance, maybe sort of equivalent to the build-up to Iron Man’s new armor in issue #200 of his title, only whoops, here it is on the cover of an issue of Secret Wars II. But then Mr. Terrific, addressed in that panel there, does spend the next page or two describing the structure of DC’s multiverse and omniverse and how it gets messed with from time to time and that’s actually pretty interesting. Though, again, I think some of what he’s explaining is the result of the end of Dark Crisis, so, um.

Here is the big thing I wanted to talk about, however. The one I really wanted to discuss soon as I saw it, but knew I couldn’t until the ol’ distribution/release date embargo was lifted. The phrase that really surprised me when reading this book, just casually tossed out there with barely a “how d’you do” or a “Bob’s your uncle” — and it’s just a name:


That’s what I’d been searching on Twitter and Google with no results last week, and finally got some results Tuesday afternoon as people were equally puzzled about what was going on here.

Oh, to be clear, apparently that’s the Joker’s real name.

On the plus side, “Jack” is the first name, which I think sounds right. And there’s a slight hint of that from Legends of the Dark Knight #50, where the Joker’s cousin starts to use his real name:


…only to have Joker interrupt him and say “nope, we don’t use that name any more.”

Curiously, he’s given the middle name of “Oswald,” which is not only already the name of another Batman villain, the Penguin, but a version of that character is a regular in this series, and only goes by the name. Not that people can’t have the same names, I realize, but it feels weird when it happens in a work of fiction…like, writers avoid that sort of thing to keep confusion to a minimum. And “White” — I saw reference to “Jack White” being one of the Joker’s many alias over the years, and I haven’t done the research on that bit yet, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

We see “Jack” with his family in this alternate “Flashpoint” timeline/Earth/wherever we are, reflecting 1) the backstory as given in The Killing Joke, and the retrofit survival of his wife and child in Three Jokers. And the way the name is just offhandedly presented, we have no real reason to doubt that would be his name…could be a trick, could be an unreliable narrator, but it doesn’t feel that way, despite the source proffering the info.

It also feels weird to just have the name tossed out there after years of teasing, and a relatively recent mini-series where the upshot was “oh sure Batman knows his name but he ain’t gonna say.”

Not that this name is going to stick around longer than any other “real name” for the Joker. The longest lasting is “Jack Napier,” from the first Tim Burton film, which carried over into the ’90s animated series (but later downgraded to “alias” rather than a true name) and currently being used in the ongoing series of alternate timeline White Knight books. He got a real name in that Joker movie, which I’ve already forgotten, he got a backstory and another name in the Gotham TV show, there was a story in Gotham Knights, I believe, where he was given yet another name. I think I said before “Jack Napier” was my favorite because 1) it sounds a little like “jackanapes,” and 2) the fella what played Alfred in the ’66 TV show had the last name “Napier.”

And also, like I said, this is an alternate timeline/parallel Earth thing, and thus not in the regular DC universe. It’s possible whatever changes the whole Flashpoint thing forced onto the timeline somehow altered the Joker’s real name, too, or put some other failed comedian into the Joker’s place with his family. I mean, who knows…seems unlikely we’ll ever see this name again outside of this context.

So that’s what I was going on about on the Twitters, if you made the mistake of following me there. An odd reveal, countering the purpose of another Joker series, seemingly factual in-(a)-universe but easily done away with. Strange, and we’ll see if it stands by the next, and final, issue.

I mean, seriously, the age is given right there in the text.

§ August 26th, 2022 § Filed under batman, multiverse talk § 17 Comments

[um, SPOILERS AHEAD for Dark Knight Returns, I guess]

Joe Gualtieri has a question that should’ve occurred to me during my Old Joker discussion:

“I expect this kind of thing from these apps, but in the specific instance, how did they not think of Dark Knight Returns, never mind any of the stuff you named, Mike?”

Welllll…I forgot, and who knows about the people running the Hot Comics App…something like Dark Knight Returns is probably ancient history to them. But lemme defend myself just a tad here.

The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, as most of us know, is about an older Bruce Wayne who returns to being Batman (hence the title) after having given up the costume a decade earlier. In issue #4 of Dark Knight (or “Chapter 4 of Dark Knight Returns” for you newfangled trade paperback readers) Bruce’s age is specifically stated as being 55:


(Oddly, I found this article that goes through a lot of trouble figuring out Batman’s age in Dark Knight Returns and other related works by Miller…which ignores the explicit statement of 55 and comes to the conclusion that he was 48 in that series.)

Continuing the assumption from my previous post that Joker is likely of a similar age (the symmetry of Batman and Joker being “two sides of the same coin” and whatnot would, at least in my interpretation, possibly preclude too much of an age difference between the two), he would be about 55 as well. When we first see him in Dark Knight, he’s sitting quietly in the asylum watching TV when he sees the news of Batman’s titular returning:


And then he cleans up pretty well for this TV appearance later in the story:


Now, to the Frank Miller who wasn’t yet 30 when writing and drawing Dark Knight Returns, 55 probably seemed terribly ancient to him. It would be inherently ridiculous for someone to still be running around dressed as a bat at that age. You know, instead of just running around dressed as a bat in his twenties, like a normal person.

But we can say neither Batman and the Joker are necessarily old-old in this series. I mean, the working premise of the story is that Bruce Wayne is too old to be doing Batman stuff, which isn’t necessarily the same as being elderly. Heck, even the 70-ish age we’d pinned Joker’s age at in some of his appearances listed in my previous post doesn’t seem as old as it used to. It all comes down to just what you think the world “old” entails. That Justice Society Annual entry in the Hot Comics App could simply be understood as “first appearance of a Joker that’s older that what we’re used to seeing.” They’d still be wrong, of course.

I think what I’m trying to say here, Joe, is that, as a person who as of this writing is 53 years old, I’m not going to think of 55-year-old Joker as old. Nope, no way, I REFUSE.

I wonder if the same Bat-Mite visits all of them.

§ August 10th, 2022 § Filed under batman, dc comics, multiverse talk § 14 Comments

Tim noted

“My first real introduction to alternate universes was reading the classic ‘To Kill A Legend’ in a collection I had as a lad. The idea of Batman going to another universe with the chance to save the lives of his parents BLEW MY LITTLE BOY MIND.”

The comic that story originally appeared in was Detective Comics #500, released in late 1980/early 1981 when I was about 11 years old. Here’s the great jam cover that wrapped around this extra-sized funnybook:


Very early on here on this site, I did a series of posts about anniversary issues, including an entry on this very issue giving an overview of all the contents.

In “To Kill A Legend” by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, the Phantom Stranger shows up to lay all this on the Caped Crusader:


He’s obviously referring to the Earth-2 Batman as the Bruce Wayne whose parents were murdered 40 years ago (at then-press time), pictured there with an image evoking Batman’s first appearance on the cover of Detective Comics #27 back in 1939. The Bruce Wayne of “twenty years later” is Earth-1 Batman, the star of this particular show. (As an interesting side-note, assuming Bruce was somewhere between 5 to 10 years old at the time of the Waynes’ murders, that would put Earth-2 Batman at about 45-50 years old, and Earth-1 Bats at 25-30.)

The interesting implication of this story is not only that there is a new, apparently unnumbered parallel Earth in the DC Universe that may or may not have a Batman (not spoiling the story, you should read it!), but that there is a 20-year-cycle to these events duplicating in alternate universes. Going by that, we should’ve had another couple o’Batmans since then…and in a way, maybe we have, what with all the Crises and Rebirtheries, if perhaps not on a strict 20-year timeline.

It is a very good story, and one of the rare multiversal excursions in the DC Universe that doesn’t involve travel to one of the recognized Earths in the company’s established cosmology. To my knowledge this is the one and only trip to this particular Earth. There’s another parallel Earth that I think was only visisted once, in Justice League of America #38 where they go to…Earth-A? I haven’t read that yet, but I suspect I’ll be reporting on it here very soon.

Overall, this comic is excellent, so, Tim, and everyone else reading this, if you get a chance, give it a gander. I hope DC eventually releases a nice hardcover edition…there’s too much good material in this book as a whole for it to languish in back issue bins or be partially reprinted across trade paperbacks. But then, there are a lot of DC Comics of the past I wish they’d do that to.

Progressive Bully #3: You gotta be kitten me, Batman.

§ June 8th, 2022 § Filed under batman, Bully § 8 Comments


Bully here again, to bring you another installment in an increasingly confusing week of “Progressive Ruin Minus Mike Sterling.” I imagine Mike is lying back in a comfy hammock with a tall glass of lemonade and a pile o’ Swamp Thing comics by his side today. Surely a comics retailer doesn’t really have anything busy to do on a Wednesday?

Let’s start this post off with a quiz! No, don’t fret, this grade will not count towards your final, although I will ask you to use only a #2 pencil and to work neatly within the space provided for you.

Q: Which among his many foes is Batman’s most despicable enemy? I know you have a lot of DC supervillain characters to contemplate while I play the thirty-second-long Final Jeopardy music (those of you in the UK can substitute the Countdown…er, countdown). Is it the Joker? The Riddler? Orca? The Penny Plunderer? When answering, please cite issue numbers and provide panel scans, or at least rip ’em out of your comics and hold them up to the monitor so I can see.

Time’s up!

The answer is, of course, as all true Batman scholars know, Mr. Percy Swann, the deadly and diabolical nogoodnik of the Batman comic strip’s 1944 story “The Missing Heir Dilemma.” Until Swann’s run-in with Batman and Robin, he had previously escaped prosecution by being owned by the Queen, and his ability to break your arms with his mighty wings.

all panels are from “The Missing Heir Dilemma” from the Batman comic strip (1944), script by Alvin Schwartz, pencils by Bob Kane and Jack Burnley, inks by Charles Paris, letters by Ira Schnapp and the DC Bullpen;
as reprinted in Batman: The Dailies 1944-1945

Batman’s been called in by heavyset Golden Age Commissioner Gordon to hunt down confidence trickster Swann, a baddie the Gotham Police have been unable to touch. Maybe if you stopped depending on Batman so much, your men and women of the GCPD would do a more thorough job, Commish? Naw, that’ll never happen. He likes the big spotlight on the roof too much.

Batman and Robin, havin’ nothing else to do today (Penguin’s out of town, Two-Face is beside himself) immediately check out Swann’s hideout at the Hotel Elmo, the swankiest place on Sesame Street in beautiful downtown Gotham City. Please: no Groupon offers.

To be a superior crime lord in Gotham City, you’ve got to have a henchman or two, and Swann’s got one stuffed into a men’s Big & Large Store suit,: the ironically named “Tiny.” As doorman to his boss, Tiny plays rough, bopping Batman and Robin in their respective snoots, but he’s a crook with love in his life. That big ol’ over-stretched heart belongs to Tippie, his little foundling kitten. Already he’s Selina Kyle’s favorite underling.

Batman’s retort? A punch in the guts so loud that Tippie cries out a sound effect of “meow!” I think more supervillains need to have pets that exclaim loudly when their masters are popped a fist of justice. A penguin that awks loudly when Batman kicks Oswald Cobblepot’s posterior, a howler monkey that shrieks for the Joker getting hit over the head, or  a weiner dog that barks ever-so-cutely when Robin hits Condiment King. So far the Sensational Character Find of 1944 is Tippie, all the way, and I just bet we’ll love and cherish his furry little antics all the way through this story!

Genteel Swann pours on the charm and invites the Caped Crusaders in for a cup of tea. You’ve gotta respect that. Why, if he’s offering cookies with that tea I’d already be signing up to work for Swann. Just gimme the sweatshirt that says “HENCH #2” and I’m in, munchin’ on my cookie and giving Batman hard stares.

Round about now you should be getting frightened, very frightened.

Yes, that’s why I called him Batman’s most despicable villain: Swann has killed Tiny’s kitten.

Let us now have a moment of silence for Tippie the kitten.

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For the next couple of months Batman and Robin investigate Swann and his fiendish plan — something about swiping an inheritance by impersonating an heir (see the title of the storyline) — but even when there’s exciting stunts and swashbuckling derring-do it’s hard to keep our minds off that poor little cat. I know, it’s going to take me a long time to get over him, too.

It’s actually a pretty solid storyline, with mysteries and fights and cliffhangers galore, and it’s paced dynamically to keep your interest whether you’re reading it daily or all in a big fat collection. It would have made a dandy movie serial. It’s even got some nice scenes for Bruce and Dick in their civilian roles, as well as Alfred saving the day once again.

And yet still, like Tiny, we cannot forget that Swann coldly and brutally murdered a kitten.

Like all Batman stories from “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” on through to “Tom King’s Big Ol’ Crossover Event ’22,” it all winds up with everybody just punching each other in a swamp. I’m not saying that now would be a good time for Alec Holland to make a guest appearance, but I’m not not saying that either.

No fool Tiny: he’s popped a few punches at the Caped Crusaders, but he’s gettin’ out while the gettin’ is good. Swann too, has turned chicken and flew the coop a few minutes before. Will the next six weeks of the strip just be Batman and Robin chasing them across country?

Suddenly: quicksand! Thanks to animated cartoons and movie serials, the number one fear of my young life. Swann’s trapped waist-deep in the muck, but he’s kept his gun above water. Just shoot the quicksand then, Swann, that’ll work. Tiny, on the other hand, is considering his options very carefully. Now this is a very interesting development we find ourselves in, boss, he might say, if he had the vocabulary and the sense of irony.

Swann shoots Tiny, but Tiny lets Swann drown. It is, as it says in the song, the circle of life. I guess Swann and Tiny won’t be coming back for further adventures in Batman comics, and I for one say of Swann, good riddance, and of Tiny, well, maybe Tippie the kitten is waiting for you on the other side. Batman, meanwhile, shakes his head at all this tragic, tragic waste, but it saves the public a long, drawn-out trial and he can use that “case closed” rubber stamp Alfred gave him for his birthday to cap off his detective notes that evening. One aspect of the adventure that won’t be in the Black Casebook is what happened to the kitten. May we, as Tippie’s sole memory keepers, salute him and shed a soft tear for his peaceful rest.

I told you Swann was a despicable villain, and you may choose to argue with me that the Joker has murdered thousands, that Penguin has driven men and women to their ruin, that Zsasz is an unrepentant serial killer, that Bane has broken so many backs he’s become Santa Prisca’s patron saint of back-breaking (Feast Day August 22, observed). Maybe because I have a cat myself, I will never forget or forgive Swann for killing that kitten, right on the newspaper page in black-and-white in front of impressionable youngsters who flipped past news of this Hitler guy on the front page to see what their favorite hero was up to today.

Rest in peace, Tippie. Roast in hell, Swann.

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