Batman Knightcast 1: BATMAN #400


Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin kick off their celebration of the Caped Crusader’s comic book adventures with a discussion of their Bat-fandom and a review of the epic anniversary story from Batman #400.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Change” by John Waite.

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40 responses to “Batman Knightcast 1: BATMAN #400

  1. Thoroughly enjoyed this debut episode!

    I bought Batman #400 off the stands, DC did anniversary issues pretty damn well in the 80s. Sure, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense that in some panels Bats can take out one of his baddies with one punch, when other times it takes him a whole issue, but what the heck.

    I, too, thought that Ra’s was still dropping his broken arm on Bats’ head, a really gross effect. Bolland has a way of making superhero action scenes look impossibly cool but also realistically mundane, like it really is two grown people in silly costumes hitting each other.

    This show will make a great addition to the network, and sorry if Shag and I caused any aggravation by our picks for the JLA 200 episode. I’ll be happy to do the show over and you guys can swap.

      1. Yeah, and when you do the Special Edition get rid of that Conway guy at the beginning. We’re trying to be classy on this show.

  2. Nice first episode; I enjoyed your discussion, as this is one of the Batman books from the period you’ll be covering that I actually have (not sure how much I’ll be able to say the same as you go forward, unless you start hitting some of the annuals, minis, and esp. Elseworlds stuff).
    I have to say that out of DC’s big anniversary issues of the 1980s, I don’t like this one as much as classics like Detective 500, JLA 200 and Superman 400. Even so, it’s a pretty strong issue, and I like it when a whole bunch of different artists contribute. However, I definitely agree with Chris about the Sienkiewicz section. In fact, and this will probably sound heretical, I prefer his earlier art, when his style was “cleaner,” to his material from the mid-’80s onward (for example, I really don’t like the art in Daredevil: Love & War and Elektra: Assassin at all). As for your comparisons between Art Adams and Liefeld, I had to laugh a little, because the first time I ever saw Liefeld’s art, my first thought was, “is this some 14 year-old kid trying to draw like Art Adams?”
    As with pretty much everything else on the network, looking forward to future episodes…

  3. Shag’s Justice League Bwa-Ha-Ha podcast has clearly corrupted me. When you talked about Batman knocking out someone with “one punch” (I think it was in Chapter 9), I expected the sound effect he was using for that phrase in his podcast, and actually found myself disappointed not to hear it….

        1. Then I have to do it every time. You know how many times Batman knocks someone out with one punch in a given issue? This can’t be another “SHAZAM” bit. Leave the “one punch” effect for the Bwa-Ha-Ha Cast.

  4. I have more thoughts to type out but I wanted to quickly jot down the idea that the windmill could also be seen as a Don Quixote reference. Batman is feeling that his mission is hopeless and that he is tilting at windmills.

    Just thinking out loud here.

    1. Well, I think that much is obvious. In fact it’s so obvious, neither Ryan nor I thought of it, and now I feel really dumb for not having thought of it. Brilliant deduction, Mr. Bailey. It dovetails so nicely with Batman’s feelings of ineffectiveness in this issue. Bravo!


  5. Congrats on the new show! Of all the podcasts I listen to, this one is without question the most recent. I’m sure you guys will get the hang of this soon. Don’t let the early bumps in the road discourage you. There’s nowhere to go but up!

    Is he being sarcastic? Is he hiding truths in jokes? Did he just mean it outright? There’s no way to tell. NO POSSIBLE WAY! MWAHAHAHAHAHA!

  6. First off I wanted to say congratulations on producing such a strong first episode. Y’all are veterans at this point so that’s not surprising but it really feels like you’ve been podcasting together for years.

    Second, excellent choices with the score. Elfman’s BATMAN (’89) score is my favorite of all the Batman films and I think whoever edited the episode did a fine job choosing the right music for the right moment.

    Third, I love this book. I will agree that it feels a lot like DETECTIVE COMICS #526 but I think that the whole “all of my enemies against me” thing works for Batman since his rogues gallery is so strong. I read this for the first time in 1999, well after I had read KNIGHTFALL so it was interesting seeing a similar idea played out over a much shorter period of time and written by one of the main people of KNIGHTFALL as well. The various artists all put in some fine work and I pretty much agreed with all of your points about what they produced. When Andy Leyland and I covered this on the now departed Bailey’s Batman Podcast we didn’t notice that Byrne drew the first page until we were about halfway through the issue so bravo on spotting that before we did.

    The question of when the Post Crisis began for Batman is such a muddy one. Officially I stand with those that count Batman #401/the coming of Denny O’Neil as editor as the actual, factual start but holy crap the creative teams don’t support that. I wonder how different it would have been if Bruce got the ground zero reboot that Diana and Clark did. Then we could have avoided Max Allan Collins trying to foist on us whatever version of Batman he had in his head which looked awful when compared to Mike W Barr’s take on the character, which was the eighties version of the sixties show with a Batman more willing to use someone as a human shield or threaten a dope dealer with prison rape to get the info he needed.

    Then there’s Jim Starlin, who was Bronze Age through and through with an eighties political bent.

    I mean it wasn’t until Alan Grant came on to the book that things started to get consistent.

    On the other hand most of the stories are good with issues like Batman #416 being spectacular. So there’s that.

    Anyway, I look forward to the next episode and keep up the great work.

    1. Ryan is the one doing all the editing and production work, so all the kudos belong to him. And I agree, he did a fantastic job.


  7. Get to the Grant/Breyfogle era already!


    Great first episode. The groundwork has been laid. I guess you guys are deep in your “Batman phase”.

    1. I am so glad that those issues are getting the nice hardcover treatment. They really deserve them.

      And I say that because they’re good…not because I collected Detective through the summer of 1989 to the fall of 1990 when I went through one of these so-called “Batman Phases”.

  8. Unlike many, I never really had a ‘Batman’ period. I bought a rave and Bold when it struck me. And I would buy the occasional Batman off the spinner rack. But, outside Grant Morrison, I just haven’t bought a Batman solo title. So I look forward to this discussion mostly to see what I missed month to month.

    That said, I bought a ton of Elseworlds and prestige books with the Dark Knight. And I bought Batman 400. DC knew how to do the ‘gold’ anniversary issues and I thought this was fantastic. This was my first exposure to Art Adams, Steve Rude, and Steve Leialoha. I already loved Bolland, Kubert, and Lightle. So this was all win.

    And I have a soft spot for Ra’s as a bad guy since I first read his stories in the Batman Treasury book.

    Thanks for placing this in the right context in terms of continuity. Makes it even more special.

  9. When Ryan told me this was one of his follow-ups to the brilliant (and sorely missed) Secret Origins podcast, I semi-joked to him that the world needed another Batman podcast.

    I’m glad any reservations I had were wrong. Great episode, guys. I’m not much of a Bat-fan these days, but I fondly (mostly) remember the era you’re covering. Look forward to more.

  10. Congrats on a fine first episode, Batman #400 is a clever place to start; I’m actually sad we won’t get you guys covering the whole Conway/Moench/Newton/Colan etc run (and Tom Mandrake’s work was massively underrated). I loved these years and while there are lots of great individual issues to come, and the odd superb run (Grant and Breyfogle), no modern era maintained the quality for so long. I’m not a fan of Denny O’Neil’s stewardship of the Caped Crusader and co.

    But, I shall love this show because of you two.

    I barely remember this issue’s story, as you say, it’s just Detective Comics #527 again – but not as good. Sure, the art is great but the story? Yipes. And look, the big mystery villain is Ra’s al-Ghul. His stories are always the same:
    “Ho, Detective, be my heir and we shall rule a depopulated Earth!’
    ‘Never, base villain!’
    ‘Oh well, remember to shag Talia on your way out..’

    And what the heck is Robin doing on that cover, auditioning for a marching band?

    1. I think Robin is starting to dance like the dancers in the Micheal Jackson “Smooth Criminal” video, where they go slow motion!

  11. Great show Chris and Ryan.

    My Batman phase (still ongoing!) started shortly after this story with the Grant/Wagner/Breyfogle run but I had a chance to read this recently and I enjoyed the story. I know others have compared it to Detective 526 and the similarities are there to see, but I am a sucker for the Bat villain team ups. For me, I love seeing all the villains get together in an attempt to take down the Bat.

    I have never read the stories (apart from the occasional reprint) of the period coming up to Batman 400 and it is a pity that this run is not collected (as far as I know). It will be interesting to see how the post crisis Batman emerges in the upcoming episodes. Thanks for a great first episode and am looking forward to the upcoming episodes.

  12. Fantastic inaugural episode!! And such a great idea for a podcast! This is a real blind spot for me in Batman history (at least until 1989) so I look forward to exploring it with you! Come 1989, Alan Grant & Norm Breyfogle for the win!!

    While I haven’t read this issue, the windmill you kept referring to made me think of Don Quixote. Being out of sync with reality and the ultimate futility of the battle. Might be some subtext there.

    Excellent job recapping the issue (again, haven’t read it, but followed the story perfectly from your descriptions) and enjoyed your insights!

    Thanks again for the great show! I look forward to going through my Batman phase again with you guys!!

      1. Ryan, I think we need to Special Edition this episode and drop at least one Don Quixote reference in. Just to make us look smarter.


  13. Hi, Gentlemen!

    Great podcast! I’m glad you covered Batman #400. I thought you both did an excellent job on the synopsis and format of your show.

    I can recall when this issue came out; and buying two copies. Whenever Batman hit a hundred milestone issue (from #300 on), I seemed to have some kind of life event going on personally by some coincidence. I look forward to future episodes and hearing your thoughts (and doing some personal reminiscences) for a run of Batman books that I distinctly remember reading and continuing my runs of the titles.

    Outstanding stuff and keep up the excellent work! I’m looking forward to the next and future episodes!
    – Chris Karnes
    – Batman ’66 reviewer on the Batgirl to Oracle podcast

    (A very minor point. Perhaps The Untold Legend of Batman mini-series may have been done in an oversize version at some point, but when it came out originally, I remember it being released as a regular sized three issue comic book mini-series. I’m glad it was referenced.)

  14. Let me say this up front: I do not have enough interest in Batman to support a biweekly sequential indexing show, no matter who the hosts are. I will ghost on you early and often, and it’s nothing personal– it’s just Batman. I definitely had a Batman period, which peaked around 1989, but I grew out of it like you’re supposed to. I think the only time I ever bought Batman comics for more than a few months in a row was during Knightfall, which did an excellent job of curing me of ever doing that again. Killer Croc is at or near the top of my favorite Batman villains because he was the original Bane and did it better, before he was ruined by British writers anyway.

    As a child of the ’80s, I’m willing to grant the cover to #400 iconic status. I’ve never read the issue, only skimming some scans online, but I’ve always found that front image striking. I even bought a parody book called Gnatrat on the strength of its aping this cover. I also love all the special trade dress for the anniversary. I expect I’ll have to buy the real thing, someday.

    I doubt we will ever see books like this one and JLofA 200 again. Let’s be honest– most of us are from a generation that has a religious fidelity to style guides, and there’s simply too much diversity in modern comics to hit the same sweet spot in our aging, corroded hearts. There’s also far too many publishing options and profit to be made outside the Big Two publishers, plus you’d need strong editors and a production pipeline that don’t exist anymore to get such a “murderers row” of top talent on one comic. We also don’t have these types of superstar artists in comics today. I really, really love these sorts of projects, though, and cherish the relatively few that exist.

    Speaking of Rob Kelly’s favorite comic, I actually prefer the selection of artists in this book. I suspect I’ll end up preferring JLoA because of the story and characters, but if nothing else, compare George Perez at the absolute peak of his powers here to his softer effort in the earlier book. I like Pat Broderick, but Steve Lightle us an absolute favorite. Art Adams is a God who was perhaps the most essential influence over the later “Image” style, none of whose practitioners ever matched Adams’ virtuosity. Then there’s Brian Bolland in both comics, a sacred gift to all of fandom. Even Rick Leonardi, an artist I often can’t stand, is so on point here as to win me over to supporting his inclusion among these titans. This is a truly exceptional example of the medium of comics.

    I’ll once again giddily disagree with Michael Bailey by asserting that the whole “all my enemies against me at the same time” bit works for Batman because his rogues gallery is so weak, in raw ability I mean. The notion goes back at least as far as the ’60s Batman movie, and the thing is, these guys are only as dangerous as their ability to keep their distance from the Caped Crusader. The vast majority of Batman’s foes are mentally unstable geeks with sub-optimal physiques and minor gimmick devices/powers. The super strong ones are morons, while the geniuses (of limited scope) are crippled by obsessive compulsions and are short/scrawny/fat/etc. If three major Superman villains team up, it’ll likely take at least the entire Superman family and probably a host of other heroes to address that catastrophe. If Batman must face all of his foes, it’s just the Arkham Asylum graphic novel.

  15. I’m excited about this new great podcast, and plan to enjoy the ride! This period definitely deserves another read, and I’m sure I’ll have a new perspective all these years later.

    Wanting to seem clever, I had a comment in the chamber about Mr. Freeze wearing a different suit than the one hanging in the woods, but you guys addressed it. To me, that is a good litmus test of how thorough you guys are, as if you needed to prove yourselves with your history!

  16. I rather enjoyed both the issue and your discussion. This is an era I’ve never read, so I’m looking forward to your strong and firm, yet gentle, hands guiding me into this new world of Bat pleasure.

    One question: when will I get to hear more?

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