Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Untold Legend of the Batman #3







And we know why it shouldn’t be told…


"The Man Behind the Mask!”
Writer – Len Wein
Artist – Jim Aparo
Colorist – Glynis Wein
Editor – Paul Levitz
September 1980

This book proves how hard you have to work to recap and retcon 50 years’ worth of Batman history. The Untold series was meant to show a behind the scenes look at the Bat-mythos with things people didn’t know about Batman. The fact that many of these things amounted to made up fluff that you didn’t really care about, notwithstanding.

Oh, and there was a bad guy in this too. A menacing bad guy with access to Batman’s secrets. And his reveal this issue has to be seen to be believed.



Let’s start in with the charred wreck of the Batmobile, sitting in the sub-basement of the Wayne Foundation in downtown Gotham City. Bruce abandoned the quite country manor and moved to the Wayne Foundation so he could keep Dick Grayson near as the young man attended Hudson University. This new Batcave located in a basement of the building accessible by secret entrances and a private elevator was the current home of Batman and Robin while they lived on the mean streets of Gotham.

Except for the fact that the actual living area in the Wayne Foundation looks to be stationed on the rooftop of a large high-rise over a city block in size, so maybe not that close to those mean streets. You can’t expect Bruce Wayne to actually be THAT close to Gotham streets. They are pretty dangerous.

In last issue, the Batmobile blew up and now is a tangled heap of melted metal. Bruce’s mysterious adversary has apparently beaten him again, forcing Batman to declare war on their mysterious assailant. What else has this enemy done to raise Bruce’s anger?



Oh, the original Bat-costume that Bruce’s father wore to that masked ball those many years ago that might have subconsciously influenced Bruce to decide to become Batman years after his father’s death. Not truly a retcon, The First Batman, a silver age tale first saw Thomas Wayne trouncing mobsters while wearing a Batsuit worn for a masquerade ball, that eventually lead to Thomas’s own death at the hands a mob enforcer. That story was recount in the Untold Legend issues preceding this one.

The loss of that suit and now his car riles Batman up like nothing we’ve ever seen. He forbids Robin from following or helping him.



Which appears to be cool with Grayson, as he has an important call to make.

A call made to this gentleman, fresh out of a car crash filmed for his motion picture studio…



Meet stuntman extraordinaire Jack Edison. Edison also holds the honor of being person who builds the Batmobile each time Batman needs a new one. Here’s a little on how that came to be.




To my knowledge this is Edison’s first appearance and the only recorded history of Batman rescuing him from his burning car. While the bravery aspect of it seems like Batman, what the heck was he doing watching a race in his Batsuit?

As Robin secures a new Batmobile. Batman goes to visit his ears on the street. Also it appears the this page of Batman will be played by Clint Eastwood.



As we mentioned in Batman 322, one of his guys was the aptly racist character called “Shamrock”. Shamrock holds the record for most Irish stereotypes in a character.



But what I DIDN’T know was that the writers of the day had given Batman an entire cast of homeless people each with a unique stereotypical handle. How…quaint?



I’m beginning to see why some of this Batman Legend is untold. I don’t think I want to know it all now.

Finding no leads, Batman heads to Commissioner Gordon’s office, who when you think about it has to be the hardest working police commissioner ever. The man NEVER is home at night. He’s always at the office when Batman drops by. Anyway, Jim Gordon drops some heavy info on Batman.



I always knew there was something fishy about Alfred. Oh, wait! Not him.

This interlude does give Gordon a chance to muse after Batman sneaks off about how his first few encounters with the dark knight detective went.


Jim admits to a very adversarial relationship between the two which culminated when finally confronted with the rival crime fighter.


Leading up to Batman getting away, only to slink back in when Gordon was doing paperwork. Jim didn’t seem to take the unexpected visit with a very welcome air.


In fact, he used the opportunity as an invitation to stay in a jail cell for the cowled adventurer. 


Batman convinces the commish that they are on the same side. And thus many years have passed with the two of them working together to end the spree of various nefarious villains.

And while the effect he had on Jim was astounding, there was one other who Batman influenced even more. 


That’s right, Barbara Gordon’s first encounter with Batman was less a meeting than it was her spying on her Dad at night…


…however, that inspired young Babs to excel at everything, honing her into the amazing crimefighter we soon started calling…well, see for yourself:


Gordon’s mystery guest is Robin, out looking for Batman. I find it odd that Jim knew his daughter was Batgirl. Is that how it has always been?

Next up is Lucius Fox, who spins out his own tale to a brooding Bruce Wayne.


Nice backstory on the character and it leaves Bruce musing alone in his office only for a startling thought to come about when he sees his own reflection in the glass window.



Viewing that reflections leads Batman back to stately-but-abandoned Wayne Manor where he must confront the ghosts of his past.


Those are ghosts, right? No? Just memories? Okay, whatever. …where he must confront the memories of his past. Like saying when he was six that he wanted to be a doctor.



And more memories flood back in, like his Dad saying he’d save the bat costume for him.


It is all too much for Bruce. Suddenly the walls feel like they are closing in on him.

Or maybe the walls ARE literally closing in on him. Really hard to say here because we suddenly have the answer to who’s been causing all of Batman’s recent problems. And the answer will SHOCK YOU!


BRUCE WAYNE!

Yeah, take THAT reader. Bruce Wayne was trying to kill Batman all along. That makes sense, doesn’t it. Because why the hell not? And then we get Bruce’s dead Dad yelling him to never give up and to get out of the rapidly closing tunnel walls that are only moving in HIS MIND! Man, what a surprise ending, huh!
Okay book. You win all the WTF’s I have. All of them. Just take them. Take them and go.



So Batman is officially crazy. I have to applaud the originality of this concept while also wanting to facepalm with both hands. Maybe that’s why this ending has me slapping my face? I don’t know. How do we get Bruce back to being non-crazy is my question, though? Drugs? Intensive therapy sessions? What will make him all better again, because I REALLY want to put this story behind me now.


So Robin knew he was schizo? No? He just showed up in dressed in Bruce’s dad’s old Batsuit for shock value? And now Batman is no longer trying to kill HIMSELF? Make this madness stop please.


Thank you. Now we will never speak of this story ever again…

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Batman #322






Boomerangs vs. Batarangs


"Chaos – Coming and Going!”
Writer – Len Wein
Penciller – Irv Novick
Inker – Vince Colletta
Colorist – Glynis Wein
Letter - Ben Oda
Editor – Paul Levitz
April 1980

Captain Boomerang is what I would consider a “failed” villain.

Now all villains fail, so I better define what I mean by that. Captain Boomerang is a villain that isn’t menacing, scary, or relevant. When you see him on an issue’s cover or shown on the splash page, almost immediately feel relieved for the hero of the book. Look at you, Batman. It is a superhero version of a bye week in football. He’s not a threat. He never successfully does anything.

But to really understand the character of Captain Boomerang, you have to know his backstory:

Captain Boomerang, or George “Digger” Harkness, is Australian.

So now with his background out of the way, we can get on to dealing with this issue. Oh! And when I said he had never done anything successfully I was wrong. He was killed in Identity Crisis, so I suppose we could state that he successfully got himself murdered.

For a time his son took over as Captain Boomerang, but he had actual speed powers and a personality beyond just an Australian accent. DC said THAT ain’t what audiences are looking for and erased him from the scene after the Blackest Night event, bringing back the original.

Digger is a founding member and staple of the Suicide Squad although I’ve never heard anyone say he’s their favorite part of the team. Mostly I think he’s the guy we are all hoping will die, but DC knows if they don’t kill him, we’ll keep buying the issues in hopes he finally bites it. At least that’s what I’m rooting for, anyway.

It has to be his weapon of choice. An arrow, you aim that shit at people. But a boomerang, you kinda generally throw and hope it somehow connects with something either coming or going. And while Digger, like Green Arrow and Hawkeye, loads down his ammo with various special gadgetry effects, there is always the thought in my head that an exploding boomerang that COMES BACK TO YOU IF YOU MISS YOUR TARGET has to be the stupidest thing anyone has ever come up with.

Captain Boomerang is one of the few villains that could defeat himself in a fight, is what I’m getting at.

Nothing proves that more than this stained and dogeared copy of Batman number 322, pitting the dark knight detective against the guy with the accent and the L-shaped sticks.

We begin this tale in quite a different place, however, and with this young woman, who is quite a piece of tail herself.



Yes, that’s Selina Kyle. She’s either pining for Batman or pining for her days as Catwoman or perhaps a little of both. Selina factors into our backstory, setup for next issue. 



Our current issue gets its legs underneath it in the bottom two thirds of the following page, where we travel across the city of Gotham to an early morning paper delivery truck making its rounds.



When suddenly a boomerang cuts the string and messes up the stacks. Yeah, unlike the wording, the boomerang can’t somehow make the newspaper disappear or something.

If this is Captain Boomerang’s big villainous act, he’s going to have to try a lot harder to get me to care.



You know how you can tell you are failing at being a supervillain? When guys working in delivery trucks attempt to catch you, that’s how.

The book allows something stupidly ridiculous to happen just to give Digger a chance at looking menacing.



Try that in real life, I DARE you.

And it looks like the main story in this book is slated for five pages because there’s Batman which means Digger should just give up.



Except he puts someone else in danger so he can escape. Because he is a big pussy is why.

Okay! That’s it. I give up on this story. Batman is totally going to win. Let’s read something that might have a bit more excitement in it.



Woah! Green Arrow is patrolling Star City when one of the skyhook cars breaks free. What is Ollie going to do?



Crap, there is no way that can hold for long. I sure hope everyone gets out okay. Ollie better think of a way to keep them calm.





Mmmmm! Nothing beats Hostess Fruit Pies. My favorite is cherry. What’s yours?

What do you mean I have to go back and review the rest of the Batman-Boomerang issue? I don’t wanna! Please, don’t make me? Please!

FINE!

Batman goes back to his home, which at this juncture in the o’le Bat-timeline was downtown at a place called the Wayne Foundation. Keep that nugget tucked away because it will factor into my upcoming review on issue 3 of the Untold Legend of the Batman. A book I would MUCH rather be reviewing than this one.





Bat-dis at Boomerang noted. As Bruce goes to shower, he asks Alfred to find out who owns the Gotham Guardian as they may be Captain Boomerang’s next target.

Meanwhile, Selina gets some horrible health news.




My lawyer informs me that I’ve just violated Selina’s rights under HIPPA so I need for all of you readers to kindly forget everything you saw in that last page.

Digger explains why he is in Gotham. He is owed some kind of odd Harry Potter money or something. 



Seems, he invested in the Gotham Guardian and the stock tanked or something. So he’s here to collect directly from the owner using THIS:




Yes, that’s the same giant rocket “space-boomerang” he used on the Flash starting way back in Flash 117 and again in Flash 124 and possibly every appearance since because what else has this one trick pony really got? Oh, and it has never ever worked in ridding him of the Flash.




Selina visits the museum while Captain Boomerang polishes his “weapon” (no, I mean the space-boomerang not..”his weapon”), and discovers that the ancient Egyptian clay pots may store the very herbs she would need to cure herself of…whatever the heck she has that you were asked by my lawyers to forget you know about.

But, because she isn’t a criminal anymore she can’t seem to lay a paw on them. That will soon change.

The book takes a bit of a racist turn as we meet one of Batman’s many “colorful street people” who acted as informants for him. This one is code-named Shamrock because he’s a homeless, drunken Irish bum. Or if you want to use less words: Irish.



He’s interrupted by news that the owner of the Guardian is none other than Bruce Wayne’s current business rival, a man he’s never met named…



At that very moment, Gregorian and his manservant/bodyguard Karlyle (no relation) Krugerrand (yes, like the gold coin) are in his penthouse when who should show?



You were hoping I was going to say anyone other than Captain Boomerang. I know. I was hoping I was going to say that too. *flips through book* Are there any more of those exciting Hostess stories in this book? No. Crap.

Anyway, Digger explains how the stock price of Gregorian messed up his finances. Gregorian tries to explain how the stock market works to Digger. Stops. Has to start all over again. Stops AGAIN. Starts up a third time. Realizes from the glazed look in the Aussie’s eye that he still doesn’t understand that the money from the stock purchase didn’t go to Gregorian. 

Luckily Batman shows up then.



And in fighting Digger one of those once in million-billion chances happen.



Oh, don’t laugh. Your skinny butt had so little to do with that…anyway, now would be the time to kill Batman. Except this is Captain Boomerang, the guy that doesn’t understand how things like the stock market work. So instead of killing him…



…he straps him to an overly elaborate and easily escapable deathtrap…



…which he sets off…



…only to then notice that it didn’t contain Batman when leaving the ground.

He was standing RIGHT there! He watched the damn thing take off and failed to notice Batman wasn’t on it. How?...you know, I don’t want to know. Please just let this be over?



All too quickly, it is over. Mainly because I’d like to see Bats beat Digger to within an inch of his life for being so lame.



Sadly we check back in on Selina and her desperation and inability to get help from Bruce has caused her to turn back to a life of crime. I can’t really say I blame her. And at least next issue sounds interesting. Let’s hope that when Batman throws Captain Boomerang in the slammer, he doesn’t come back.