Batman Knightcast 14: BATMAN #407

Batman Year One concludes! Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin review Batman #407, the final chapter in the landmark retelling of the Dark Knight’s origin. Plus, listener feedback from previous episodes.

This episode is dedicated to the memory of Adam West.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Batman Evolution” by the Piano Guys; “Don’t Lose My Number” by Phil Collins.

Thanks for listening!

31 responses to “Batman Knightcast 14: BATMAN #407

  1. You guys laugh, but when Marvel announces Paul Giamatti starring in the DOCTOR DRUID movie, who will be laughing? Kevin Feige!

    Also, Chris’ “2218” runner needs its own cue at this point, ala Shazam! and The Whip.

  2. Toldja it was Gordon’s story. 😉

    How quickly or slowly will the history set out in Year One and its implications impact Batman’s contemporary stories, I wonder.

  3. Great episode fellas.

    For years it nagged at me that this titanic story wraps up without Bruce in his Batman garb. But over time I’ve come to realize it really is a Bruce/Gordon story, Batman is sort of incidental to it. So it makes sense to end with just the two of them, basically stripped of all their defenses, confronting each other.

    I looooove Barbara’s salty response to Bruce introducing his floozy du jour by mentioning she doesn’t speak English: “That must be convenient.”

    Speaking of, are these women that we see on Bruce’s arm at Gotham society functions or lounging around Wayne Manor in the morning hired escorts, or is Bruce taking the role to that extreme and actually sleeping with them? After all, if enough of these women got together, you’d think it would come up that Millionaire Playboy Bruce Wayne has never actually slept with ANY of them, and that gossip would get around.

    For years I had this story in a HC collected edition, which includes that Amazing Heroes cover you mention. This is a nit-pick beyond nit-picks, but it drove me crazy that the editors placed it immediately after the final Gordon “Should be here any minute” panel. That’s such a perfect way to end it, and then you see this shot of Bats in costume, it feels like its part of the story. I wish DC had given us just a blank black page, to really put the period on the sentence. Then run the pin-up on the NEXT page, just to give it that breathing room. I know, I’m thinking way too much about this.

    Re: the feedback: “Nearly beaten to death by Crazy Quilt.” Those are words that have never been uttered before, or will never be uttered again.

    1. I had that question about Bruce and his female companions in my notes, but I failed to mention it. I tend to think he had to sleep with at least a few of them to keep his rep up. And I don’t prescribe to the theory that Bruce is some damaged man-child who is completely oblivious to a woman’s charms either. The moral implications of him sleeping around mostly to keep up appearances is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish I’d rather not get into here, though!


      1. I too have a theory that involves all these women signing non-disclosure agreements, and an entire industry of exclusive prostitutes who believe they’re beards for secretly gay Bruce Wayne.

        1. I was just thinking Bruce may even cultivate that rumor of his being gay just to even build more questions about himself.

          Somewhere, Dr. Frederic Wertham’s corpse just sat up.


          1. You have to give yourself over to the cover story – so if you’re having to sleep with models, that’s the price of saving a city.

  4. Man, this is one crooked world when all I do is agree with Chris Franklin.

    Great review, fellas. Like you both, I also wondered why the series ended the way it did. It’s the inverse of every superhero origin story – he stops the bad guys in his civilian identity. If it was a film today, he’d be unmasked, sure, but he would have started the battle suited up.

    But it works, doesn’t it? Because Batman (Wayne) shows that he’s just a man. He’s not mythic, he’s not “super”, just a practically-minded athlete. And it’s the perfect show of trust for Gordon. A dude in batsuit didn’t save his kid, a member of Gotham City’s best family did. It’s why I think Gordon feigned the degree of his blindness. I’m guessing even the GCPD wouldn’t let someone so visually impaired to pack heat.

    Catwoman was completely wasted in this whole series. Like Ryan, I think she was the one storypoint that Miller allowed to keep things “costumed.”

    Great wrap-up. This is my all-time favorite Bruce Wayne-Batman story. If there more stories like this, I probably would have remained in my Bat-phase.

  5. As usual, I am finding it hard to talk about this without gushing. I really love Batman Year One and I really love this ending. It is Gordon’s story.

    I for one think both Barbara and Jim know who the mystery man who saved their son is. Gordon has to know. I think there have been some stories where a ‘Batman’ is unmasked, it isn’t Bruce under the cowl, and we see Gordon surprised … like he was expecting someone else to be there. Yes, there is the coy ‘I don’t have my glasses’ and ‘my face is in shadow’, but I think that is just to give a sense of doubt so that DC could say ‘we don’t know if Gordon knows’.

    I also don’t quite know why Catwoman had to be part of this story unless it was to give us one example of how Batman’s presence could spur some people to throw on costumes and commit crimes. And if Miller had to choose one to do that with, why not Selena. I suppose we get a little of Harvey Dent’s origins here showing he is in good shape and (at least right now) a good man.

    And yes, I have asked the ‘did he sleep with these women’ question as well. Like you, I think if Bruce never slept with any of them, the gossip would seep out and be known. So my guess is he did bed a few in the sugary walls of stately Wayne Manor.

    BTW, ‘Chris 2218’ sounds like a back-up feature in Mystery in Space. “In the year 2218, only one man still trawls the barren wasteland of Earth looking for Mego dolls in the original box. Armed with his ray gun, a keen eye, and a caustic wit, he is …. Chris 2218!”

  6. Alright, one last time talking Selina. Don’t worry I’m not going to bring up what she uses her whip for during her off hours (*insert that custom whip moan sound effect here.*) Rather I’m going to thank Chris for asking the question that I know has been a pretty big one for me: why is she here? I read this comic for the first time ages ago and kept forgetting she was in it. When the animated adaptation came out I remember it really standing out how she basically didn’t impact the story and they didn’t really pay off her segment in and of itself. Given my faded memories of the comics, I had hoped it was just something lost in the translation and that there is some proper note her story ends on in the comic that justifies her inclusion would be uncovered over the course of your coverage. But alas, that’s a resounding “nnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnope.”

    At this point I’d advocate to just remove her. Because even leaving the origin retcon and everybody’s varied but emphatic feelings about it aside, there’s just no need for her to be her. I’m not entirely sure that Sarah is needed either, if I’m being honest. I feel like they could have generated enough tension between Gordon and Barbara if he was just second guessing the marriage in general or on some level regretting having a kid. Barbara has to still be there, because Jim needs that family connection, but honestly I think dropping the other female characters would have streamlined things a little. And I say that being fully aware that comics have historically been a “boys club” pretty excessively and that’s not something I like about the medium, but sometimes the stories are truly inherently about men and masculine things, and there just isn’t always a place to insert female characters into that.

    And I’m also going to agree that the James Gordon, Jr. thing does take some of the triumph of this moment away. I didn’t read Black Mirror (Snyder’s run didn’t really do much for me and I bailed after the first two volumes,) but I did encounter the character when he showed up in Batgirl, and didn’t care for the development. In general it’s an issue that comics have which is that the longer they go the less there seem to be any normal people who live in these universes. But specifically it impacts Year One the same way that Alien 3 partially ruined Aliens. Aliens is one of the best action movies ever made and the climax is thrilling, but it’s deflating to be watching it and knowing that it’s all happening to Ripley can rescue Newt… who’s just going to die in the opening minutes of the sequel anyways (SPOILER!) And now here we lose some of the triumph of saving a baby if we know that baby is going to grow up to being a serial killer.

  7. Splendid show as ever, though this particular Phil Collins record had me puzzled. Looking at the lyrics – when it’s playing nothing but the chorus goes in – I guess it’s all the shadows and stuff.

    Great spinner rack segment, so much going on. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the JM DeMatteis run of Marvel’s original colour Conan comic, Ryan, but it’s great. Sadly, it’s not on Marvel Unlimited, presumably Dark Horse or someone having the current rights mean Marvel can’t show that stuff.

    I read Batman: Year One as it came out, and remember being impressed – and yet, as with Watchmen, I’ve never bothered going back for a re-read; with Watchmen, it was mainly those Pirates of the Arid Tedium, whereas with Batman Year One it’s the tone… it’s all so very mid-brown. I like urban cop thrillers on screen, I even enjoy comics such as GCPD, but in Batman I want more colour. So yeah, this is undoubtedly seminal stuff, but I’d really rather be reading something with the Terrible Trio or Calendar Man.

    I doubt baby James was covered with poop, as newborns have no depth perception so he’d not be scared. I wonder, though, if being dropped in water is equivalent to being dropped on your head, and that’s why he grew up a bad seed. Give me Tony Gordon, threatening to spank Barbara at Camp Smallville, any day.

    I can’t recall, was Mrs Gordon ever given a name before this story? I wonder if Miller called her Barbara in the hope that would stop anyone bringing in a Barbara Gordon Batgirl or Oracle. If so, he failed, obviously. Having two kids named after their parents – Babs is back to being Jim’s natural daughter – makes the Gordons look like unimaginative egotists (mind, US folk are far more into recycling names than Brits, with all those Jrs and IIIs and the like).

    I don’t mind either way whether you give your thoughts on the Year One cartoon, Ryan; I’ve not watched it, but I’m sure you’ll be entertaining and insightful.

    1. Alan Brennert named Mrs. Gordon in the Greatest Batman Story Ever Told (no arguments) “To Kill A Legend” in Detective Comics #500. This is why there was some bad blood between he and DC over Gotham when it debuted… and he wasn’t compensated for the character as he should have been, much like Gerry Conway and Killer Frost over on The Flash. I believe they have since worked out these royalty issues.


    1. THIS kind of lame podcast…no…wait…

      But seriously, Ryan took the Phil Collins challenge for YO and made it work. It wasn’t my intention when I suggested “In The Air Tonight” for Chapter One, but hey, the guy’s a madman, what can I say.


  8. A small sidetrack but I watched BATMAN & BILL and it opened my eyes to Mr. Finger’s unsung creative influence on Batman. It also made me appreciate Frank Miller’s handling of Finger’s iconic elements like the origin story, Jim Gordon, and Bruce in the study with the bat crashing in. Take notes, “Bladder Spasm” Smith.

    This has been a good set of episodes, Ryan and Chris. You shared the laughter and the pain. Particularly painful for me was Gordon’s healthy affair with Essen. Jim proved himself a hero but this infidelity with a pregnant wife was tough to stomach. Was it animal attraction, or did he think Sarah was the only one who really knew him at all?

    Selina’s ultimate role in this mini is head-scratching. She was present for Bruce’s vigilante debut, then for Batman’s public introduction, but this awkward outing with the Roman… Another story might have built up momentum to a climax amid Bruce and Jim; instead, Miller just let her leave without a trace.

    While Commissioner Gordon is Batman’s status quo ally, I think it would’ve been cooler post-Crisis to spend more time getting there with outlawed Batman fighting crime against all odds.

  9. It’s interesting. For a good while after Year One it was sort of it’s own subcontinuity rather than being the real DCU batman origin, with much of Legends of the Dark Knight being in the ‘Year One’ context. But despite that, nobody ever really did a direct continuation. Even when Loeb/Sale did Long Halloween, they started after most of the rogues gallery was established, after Gordon is finished cleaning up the GCPD. And that’s where most of the interesting bits of story really are.

    Now I’m imagining a version of DC history in which Dick Grayson* died in the Crisis on Infinite Earths and Year One was an actual batman reboot, with a Year Two-Year Three that ran a whole year each in one of the Bat-books, year two focusing on the fall of the crime families and the rise of the Penguin (with the Joker origin as a throughline) and year three giving the Robin and Two-Face origins.

    *Originally had that as Jason Todd, since his story is the one thing in the Batbooks too fresh to abandon, but really what stopped a Batman reboot was probably Nightwing and the titans. And to make it more possible, lost-in-time presumed dead and not coming back until the new origin is in place works just as well.

  10. Also, I don’t think I like the ending with the Joker. I don’t think that there’s room between panels of this story for the Red Hood gang’s heists, leading up to the one on Ace Chemicals, to be happening, especially when the Catwoman storyline has Gotham society unable to conceive of there being more than one masked criminal type out there.

  11. Late again. Listening to this podcast is a fun way to analyze a story I haven’t read in decades. It still looks gorgeous. However, many parts of the story are questionable. I agree with Vera and others about the role of Selina. Disregarding her”proclivities ” her part in this story seems odd. The story is Gordon’s, but it’s about his relationship with his wife and girlfriend not his relationship with Batman. I agree that the Sarah character isn’t necessary. Gordon is facing many moral dilemmas at work. Why add a love interest?Batman is almost written out of this story. As is Bruce Wayne. To wit; how does Bruce/ Batman learn so much about the inner workings of the corrupt GCPD? How does he learn so much about the crime families in Gotham? Why does he show up at the Gordons’ when he does? He had time to put on some “armor” could he not have put on a disguise? Sunglasses, false beard, fake scar, etc. Wayne Industries? Where did that come from? Has Bruce been building a business portfolio all these years? How does he pick which industries to buy? He can’t be starting these places from scratch, even by being a sole investor! I can believe Bruce would call a talent agency to hire a model/actress for the afternoon. As an actor I’ve done lots of weird jobs. (“Sit here on this side of the pool. Don’t look at the camera.” “Wear this corporate logo and wave.”) he could probably utilize half a dozen agencies so as to never have the same girl twice.
    Ryan, when you’re in charge, can I write ” Bruce Wayne, Tyro Researcher?”

  12. Loved every episode of your YEAR ONE coverage! Superbly done!! Almost made me wistful for my Batman Phase. Almost.

    As a fellow balding man, thank you for playing so much Phil Collins. Represent!

  13. It’s way late, but I’m going to comment because I just, finally, read Year One (found a good soul here who lent it to me ) – I thought it would be a good idea to read it before getting around to re-reading Year Two in anticipation of your coverage of that story in upcoming episodes.
    My general impression is that it’s a rather good, but as you and others have noted, it’s basically a Gordon story, rather than a Batman story. And in that regard, even though I know it was supposed to re-write Batman’s origin and early history in post-Crisis DC, I simply can’t think of it as a ‘real’ story that counts, i.e., it’s just not a part of my Batman head-canon. As with another popular Miller Batman story, Dark Knight Returns, it seems more like a really well-written and intriguing Elseworlds installment.
    And incidentally, I totally agree with Vera above, Selina/Catwoman never should have been in this. All of the bits in which she appears could easily have been removed, and it would have absolutely no impact on the overall story – and that would have removed the problematic retooling of her backstory.

  14. I know it’s a bit late but I’m behind of most of my podcast listening and finally listened to the episode this week. A few thoughts.

    1- I was thinking about what you guys were saying about the climax of the issue, with Batman saving Gordon’s son and while I agree with most of what you were saying about why Gordon and his wife don’t reveal Bruce’s identity I wonder if there is more to it. When he saves James Jr. he’s doing more than just saving a baby. He’s doing it with no mask. He is doing it with the knowledge that his career as Batman could be over. If Gordon or his wife either try to arrest him or reveal his identity then it’s all over. Batman is showing Gordon that saving a life is more important to him than those consequences. I have to wonder if at that moment Batman changed in Gordon’s mind from a vigilante to a hero. If he was just a vigilante then even if Gordon didn’t want to, he might of had no choice but to do something about it with the evidence right there in front of him. Gordon viewing him now as a (super) hero might be motive enough for him to ignore that he knows who Batman really is.

    2- You are right that this isn’t really the origin of Batman like Batman Begins was. This is more like the story of Gotham City during the first year of Batman, with Gordon as the focal point. I think that is why they included Catwoman (your thoughts of how well she was used may vary), showing his influence on other citizens. Going on with that, your conversation made me wish this creative team had done another 4 part story, Bruce Wayne The Early Years.

    3- So, who got more mileage out of less? Was it Jeph Loeb with this story (Long Halloween, Dark Victory, etc) or Geoff Johns out of that one Alan More Green Lantern story?

  15. In the crunch to get plans and podcasts done around HeroesCon, I never got around to what I knew would be a very lengthy comment on the final chapter to Year One. Having on average a foot and a half of water dumped on every square inch of your city can free up your time if you’re lucky enough to see somebody down the way get three feet to your house’s none, so two and a half months later, I’m finally on this.

    I don’t recall if I bought Batman #407 before or after the 3-pack from Circus World, and I had read others besides, but this was actually the first single issue I’d ever purchased. To be honest, I don’t think Batman got newsstand distribution in my area, so I think I had to go to the mall to even consider picking up a copy. I got it at Waldenbooks, I think, and it was probably the only chapter of Year One made available to me new. Going into the last part cold, I had no trouble getting into the story. It was a tad obtuse at times, especially the parts with Skeevers and some of the rockier scene transitions. This was my first ever Frank Miller written comic, so I wasn’t used to his jarring scene transitions or talking heads media device (although I’d gotten some of that second hand from Keith Giffen.) I was actually more familiar with Mazzucchelli from reading his run with Denny O’Neill on Daredevil, but I would never have recognized his work here (especially without Danny Bulandi’s distinctive inks.) Regardless of all this, I loved that comic from the first time I read it, at some dimly lit dine-in experience (Sizzler? Pizza Hut? Piccadilly Cafetería?)

    I will brook no criticism of this cover, arguably the best of the set. In a story basically starring Jim Gordon, this was his only cover appearance, and his combative stance against Batman speaks to the nature of their relationship in the early going. Where 404 may be a definitive single image encapsulation of Batman’s origin, 407 is the same for Year One as a whole. The splash is also very nice, certainly better than the dumb pin-up cover to 405, but a pin-up all the same.

    Those early scenes with Sarah Essen– God, I’m with Gordon here. As a kid I wanted to know a woman like that, and as a man these few images trigger sensations passed. The texture of her shirt between your fingers as your hands caress her back; the feeling of her thigh through that skirt pressed against you; the brush of her hair against your neck in a kiss… I can practically smell her perfume as I’m set adrift on memory bliss. I adore the women in this comic, for as little as we get to see them, but made so real by Mazzucchelli’s precise evocation.

    That look Harvey Dent gives an incredulous Gordon was the first time I gave a shit about that character. The importance of his relationship with Batman in a single panel and a couple lines of dialogue. Skeevers is a mess, and highly problematic as the sole African-American of note in this story, but that sequence is classic Miller. We need Lucius Fox to go with the the previously requested Leslie Thompkins. You can really see the Muñoz influence here, or at least I presume so, since I again recognize it second hand from Giffen.

    I try not to judge people based on looks, but Loeb would have to be a hell of a guy for than Bannonesque complexion to not skeeve me out. The cruelty of his and Branden’s grins make it clear that any empathy for his ugly ass would be misplaced.

    I believe my first exposure to the broad playboy flibbertigibbet act was right here, and well sold in so little space. The economy of storytelling is fantastic. Each line of both writer and artist is meticulously calculated to carry enormous weight. It appears at a glance to be decompressed, but each panel is a white dwarf star of precise weight of enormous density. Text layered with context like the meticulous folds of a samurai sword.

    An aside: I am not with Gordon on confessing to an affair to an overdue pregnant woman in a car parked in a millionaire’s driveway far outside of town. You could just barely mitigate some of that with the presumption that he was waiting until after the overly deferred birth, but he could have at least taken her somewhere she could have left if she’d wanted to. As for bringing her along in the first place, I believe that speaks to an intended timelessness of the story. While there are nods to modernity, this is less the New York City of the ’70s & ’80s, more Chicago in the 1930s. Just look at that mid-century nurse in her starched white dress and cap, or the way almost everybody outside the East End wears at least business casual, or y’know, the near absence of non-Caucasians in a 1987 story set in a major city.

    Thirty years ago. my main problem with Selina Kyle’s inclusion was the severe hair. I did not like very short cuts on anyone as a kid, as I perceived it as a sign of overt hostility or rigidity. I liked that I could “hear” Holly’s emphasis on syllables, and Selina’s obsession driving her to distraction. Today, I still feel we needed to see the rise of the spandex fetish, and a role for an “unaccompanied” woman. I’d have preferred she not be a spectator or damsel in apparent distress throughout, though. I liked the costume well enough then, but prefer most every alteration of it to come since. This look works for a first outing, but it’s too basic for as important a figure as Catwoman.

    The building tension across the final set piece is engrossing, and by being self-contained and comparatively constrained, it is clearly superior to the one in part 3. The perfect simplicity of the art overall is grand, and I think you can see improvement across the issues, moving toward the cartooning Mazzucchelli ultimately embraced. In parts of the issue, I do think deadline doom pushed some page toward a looseness of necessity rather than choice, not that it significantly impacts the beautiful nuance. I do miss the bolder, brighter colors and contrasts from the newsprint edition. I’m not sure I agree with what the Gordons had to see or hear, but I do think the creators constructed the finale so that the audience could come to their own conclusions without being disputed. A lot of big events happen as a one page coda, but the trajectory was established, an the emphasis on bonding our heroes was more important than the sort of details already skimmed throughout the story, An excellent conclusion to a landmark work of the medium.

    My first complete reading of Year One was in the original Warner Books paperback around late ’88 or ’89, likely from B. Dalton, probably loaned out to a friend and never returned. This reread was the 2005 hardcover edition. While I hate the moronically cut dust jacket (vest?) and think Chip Kidd’s reputation went to his head, it’s otherwise a well designed package. I’m thankful the O’Neill and Miller text pieces from earlier editions are present. I could have done without Slam Bradley’s Crime Blotter. The new (?) back matter from Mazzucchelli I’m quite taken with. Always dug his Amazing Heroes cover, and the four page comic strip essay made me glad I sprung for the updated edition. There’s an awful lot of Gene Colan and Carmine Infantino in his early submission samples. Grateful for all the promotional materials to be gathered in one place, and those models of Gregory Peck as Bruce Wayne. Glad they skipped on Gordon as a beat cop. Too far back in the day, I say.

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