Batman Knightcast 16: BATMAN #408

Beginning a bold, possibly disastrous era in the life of the Dynamic Duo! Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin dive headfirst into BATMAN #408, the first part of “The New Adventures” of Batman, and the first appearance of the all-new, all-streetwise Jason Todd.

Let us know what you think! Leave a comment or send an email to: RDalyPodcast@gmail.com or supermatespodcast@gmail.com.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “I’m Not a Juvenile Delinquent” by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers.

Thanks for listening!

45 responses to “Batman Knightcast 16: BATMAN #408

    1. Y’know, even after I said that during the recording, I thought, “Maybe they HAVE covered it on Lonely Hearts… they’ve covered a lot of books I never heard of.”

      1. I started to mention that you had already covered it…then I doubted myself. I should have just stopped and looked it up while recording, but we try to keep things as “live” as possible. Our bads!!!

        Chris

        1. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them you recorded this AGES ago. It’s been on the shelf since the birth, or possibly since the pregnancy, at our current rate.

          Sorry Lonely Hearts fans! We were going to record a new episode last weekend, but a family emergency broke us up. That, and Batgirl Stella won’t return my calls about doing a voice for the Theater. #PublicShaming #PodRibbing

    2. Was going to chime in with also remembering Angel Love already being covered on Lonely Hearts, but looks like I’m not the only one

  1. Later comment: I don’t know much about these stories except what was described in Who’s Who’s Updates. Fay Gunn (Dickens’ Fagin) was such a character. While on the page, I thought that seemed to be an interesting latter-day Batman villain (like Ventriloquist), but you make me see why her cred is so low.

    1. I had an idea for how Fay Gunn could’ve been updated and improved to be a more serious and credible villain, and then realized I was describing Granny Goodness to myself.

  2. I will be listening to this episode on my long drive this afternoon. I was one of those readers just getting into comics as Jason Todd was being transformed from a ginger haired acrobat/Dick Grayson clone to the snotty punk we remember today.

    My main question is why do readers like Damian ( a much more insufferable and callow fellow) when they hated Jason? I always thought a great story would be to reveal that it’s been a lie all along and that Damian is, in fact, not Bruce’s biological son.

    1. Just for the record. I hate Damian. I hate that the characters accept this murderous psychopath as Robin, and I hate that he has subplanted Tim Drake as Robin. I will admit he works in certain stories (I like the new Super Sons title my son has been picking up), but I loathe the character, and his introduction and acceptance into the Batman Family is the true moment I threw up my hands and walked away from modern Batman, and I haven’t really come back as of yet.

      Chris

  3. Since I’m around Chris’ age, my experience followed his. My best friend at the time, Edgar, had loaned me his Year One issues. And then I saw this. “New Adventures.” Ground floor, gents! I bought it at a comics store, all bagged and boarded, so I had no idea what was in store for me until I read it on the ride home.

    And man, was I disappointed. “Ma Gunn.” Even at 11 I could see this was a dumb idea. The fact that it’s just a few weeks between the dismissal of Dick as Robin and Bruce’s eventual decision to train Jason to become the next Robin is pretty stupid. Incidentally, were there then two Robins running around at the DCU at the time? Or did Dick become Nightwing right after Bruce gave him the boot in post Crisis continuity ?

    Other dumb ideas in this issue:
    No security system for the Batmobile. Sure it was the 80s, but there were deterrents. Any car with ejector seats should have some sort of anti-theft device.
    If I was a criminal and new Batman hung out on a certain block at a specific time of year, I’d know to avoid that area and to commit my crime in a different, unwatched part of town.
    Also, Batman just walks around? What is this, Earth Haney?
    Jason gets the drop on Batman.

    Also, like the CFrank, I picked up the Flash the moment it came out and dropped it around the same time he did. Wally is my comics Flash.

    I hope Chris can wade through the next few episodes. He sounded beaten by the coverage material.

    1. DAG and I are agreeing folks. Dogs and cats, living together…

      Yeah, we should have brought up the security system. Batman has one in the Batmobile in the VERY FIRST EPISODE of the TV series. The Batmobile takes care of Riddler’s bomb and defuses it, and also starts an alarm system that brings everyone running. It ejects a bomb in another episode. Yet Jason can just lift the tires off of it. Too bad it didn’t have “the cocoon” that Michael Keaton had.

      I will do my best to look at each issue anew. I want to stick with our network motto of “Find Your Joy”, and I reiterate, I did not WANT to dislike this issue as much as I did. I think once we’re past the discussion of Dick’s sacking, I can better deal with the new Jason origin, since I don’t think it’s a bad idea, just questionably executed.

      Chris

  4. I listened to this episode while laying on the beach in Ocean City. The beautiful view and ocean air helped me get through reliving this particular issue of Batman!

    Chris is right, this issue is a mess. And it’s only made worse by coming right after some of the best Batman comics ever done. I see where Ryan is going, this story would be a lot more forgivable if it had been written in 1966, but it wasn’t. It makes Batman look like a dolt, shortchanges Dick Grayson, and reboots Jason Todd from out of nowhere. Don’t even get me started on Fay Gunn!

    Despite the subject matter, a fine episode!

  5. So, the moment has finally arrived. Ryan and Chris rant– I mean, talk about Batman #408. (I almost wish I had popcorn, for this debate)

    Not to bring in my own personal baggage regarding a different character, but his issue smacks of the very thing I’ve disliked the most about Dan Slott’s Amazing Spider-Man run: Writing the characters to fit the story, instead of writing the story to fit the characters.

    The biggest problem is of course, Batman’s poorly handled firing of Dick Grayson. It’s like the creators were so focused on retelling Jason Todd’s origin, they didn’t care HOW they reached their end goal, so long as they got there… Regardless whether it was a disservice to Dick, or not.

    It’s odd, because on the surface I prefer Jason being a street kid, as opposed to a circus acrobat, just like Dick. It’s the execution that’s flawed.

    Batman: The Animated Series proves that this origin can work, when they introduced their version of Tim Drake. (who has Jason’s Post Crisis backstory) Hell, even the episode “Old Wounds,” where Dick Grayson quits being Robin, is so much better handled than what we were giving here by Max Allan Collins and Co.

  6. With all your Dick Grayson in this episode what do you think of the recent Titans casting? I’m not familiar with this actor.

  7. Super-Bat-Run-On Sentence Coming!

    When you guys went down the road of discussing that Batman heads to crime alley on an annual basis and brought it back to the notion of the non-working 5-6 year timeline (extending it to 9 years), I wasn’t even going down that particular road (which makes complete sense as a constructive criticism)….

    …my head went to thinking, “If Batman always shows up at Crime Alley on a Annual Date, couldn’t any old Joe cross-reference events on that date and put two-and-two together? Wouldn’t they then know Bruce Wayne was Batman?”

    That made me then remember when I watched Batman Returns with my Dad, when Penguin was making his hit-list of the first-born sons of Gotham, my Dad thought he was actually looking to find out who Batman really was.

  8. Welp, despite a three month absence from commenting, I did finally leave word on the last chapter of Year One and am looking forward to Year Two. It’s weird because this is where I flip allegiances and start taking notes on Detective Comics while probably going mum on Batman. I figure I’m in for about eight more issues of ‘Tec before left-swiping on the Grant/Breyfogle run (yeah, you heard me right,) but that’ll take the show into the Starlin run of Batman, where I flip back. Despite prior predictions, I’m probably locked into the show until at least “A Death in the Family,” if not all the way through “A Lonely Place of Dying.” Got your damned hooks into me like a scalloped Batarang.

    I’ve never read Batman 408, and I haven’t been missing out. I like “The New Adventures” angle, which is why it was a terrible idea to launch that branding with an extended flashback to years old New Teen Titans retroactive continuity. It’s also tough to sell “new” when you’re telling the same basic story as was just relayed in a sister title a few weeks prior. It’s all pointless, and only hurts the book going forward. Just focus on establishing the revised Jason Todd and keep Dick out your mouths! My guess is that Denny O’Neill either inherited or created a cluster@#$%, because no competent editor would have allowed so many conflicts and had such a high turnaround of talent in such a short span. My suspicion is that after Len Wein left the book, Dick Giordano was supposed to handle the transition, got lost in his greater responsibilities as vice president of the company (not to mention inking Crisis on Infinite Earths) and dropped the hot mess in O’Neill’s lap (who may have been editing Year One as a separate mini-series, for all I know.)

    Look, I’m going to say it plain, DC obviously was a second choice at best for licensors, and DC would then
    put too much effort into the worst licenses when it put in any effort at all. I realize Marvel treated their licenses as pre-retirement employment for their aging artists, but it was also a proving ground for interesting new artists and monkey bars for their most irrepressible writers. They only ran Masters of the Universe for three issues under Paul Kupperburg and George Tuska, but Atari Force got Gerry Conway, José Luis García-López, Gil Kane, Ross Andru, Eduardo Barreto and Roy Thomas across a couple dozen issues & mini-comics? When they have a team with potential like Michael Fleisher and Mark Texeira, they throw them at Power Lords? Hell, some of DC’s biggest artists of the ’80s were pilfered from Marvel’s Micronauts, by then a defunct toy line and afterthought on Marvel’s schedule. Color me unsurprised that Bob Rozakis and Don Heck didn’t make Centurions happen.

  9. I have been waiting for this review. I have never read the issue. I have heard the hate for it. And I have heard the impending hate for it from you guys.

    And you delivered.

    There is no meat left on the bone for the buzzards to pick at. You guys have flayed, eviscerated, and incinerated this book … rightfully so.

  10. An interesting episode on the start of the Max Allan Collins’ run. It was interesting to hear Ryan speak of this as a Silver Age story that was in the wrong time – listening to the plot, I could not help think that with a bit of tweaking, you could have adapted this story into a Batman ’66 TV episode.

    Discussing the art, you referred to the fact that this was Chris Warner’s only issue. Per the CBR interview that Max Allan Collins did with CBR ( http://www.cbr.com/batman-second-chances-writer-recalls-editorial-clashes-reaction-to-robins-death/ ), Collins intimated that Warner was fired because he missed deadlines, leading to a variety of artists for the Collins’ run.

    Another interesting tidbit that came from the interview was that Toys ‘R Us was looking for Batman comics to bundle with their products in 1989 and after looking at the last 4 years of Batman comics, they overwhelmingly used Collins’ run and he made a lot of money on the back of these reprints. As Collins himself said, “Critics can dismiss that by saying that my stuff was chosen because it was the most juvenile. That’s fine — the money spent well, and I like the idea that younger readers came aboard.” LOL

    On the whole though, this story had too many hiccups and was probably not the way to go after Miller’s Year One. Will be interesting to see how the other stories fare beyond this.

    1. Forgot to mention that Scott Lobdell brought back Fay Gunn in the first few issues of the Rebirth version of Red Hood and the Outlaws – she had just been released from prison and was trying to start up the same School for Criminals but ran afoul of Black Mask.

  11. Oh, I just hated this, from the cover to the last page. From the non-Bat logo to hammy hag Fay Gunn, this was a stew of stupid. You boys did a terrific job of explaining why it was bad and goodness me, Ryan has gone soft with fatherhood… yeah, it might have worked as a one-off Silver Age tale, but as, I think Rob, says above, we’re long past such nonsense being acceptable. If DC were going to advertise their books as being ‘not just for kids’ then a Batman this emotionally and intellectually dumb Just isn’t acceptable.

    The things that bothered me the most were the Crime Alley plotholes – if everyone knows he visits this night every year, yes, as my chums above say, the rest of Gotham would become a massive crime scene and worse, his ID would be shot in about as long a time as it takes to read On This Day… in the Gotham Gazette (as composed by Vicki Vale in her smalls).

    And can you imagine Dick Grayson missing the Fagin pun?

    I can’t recall, given the ‘Did Robin die tonight?’ articles, was there a follow-up in which VV pointed out that the known Robin never returned? Did everyone assume that, yeah, the older Robin was toast? Or did New Teen Titans fans in the DCU realise Robin had become Nightwing?

  12. Another fine episode, although I was having horrible flashbacks to when this story came out. I didn’t read it—I was in one of my lack-of-Bat-interest periods—but Who’s Who Update ’87 filled me in on Jason Todd’s retconned origin. And while it always bothered me how Jason was introduced as a near-clone of Dick, down to his family being “The Flying Todds,” something about Batman catching him steeling the tires seemed flat and boring to me, as if Denny O’Neil et al., we’re under time pressure to come up with a new origin, any new origin, for Jason. (This half-assed-seeming approach to redone origins applies to a lot of post-Crisis retconning, come to think of it; there’s a reason why Power Girl being from Atlantis and Black Canary being an original Justice Leaguer didn’t stand the test of time.) Also, part of my dislike was how it seemed to erase Killer Croc from continuity, and for some reason I loved that dude back then; he was pretty damn creepy in those original Conway-Newton stories and hadn’t been brought back nearly enough. Anyway, keep the nostalgia coming.

      1. You are probably right, Martin. Collins was so deep into Tracy, I think he had a hard time separating what he was writing in a lot of ways. BUT, O’Neil went after him BECAUSE of Tracy, so I guess he got what he paid for…

        Chris

  13. It’s the one we’ve all been waiting for, and man I have to say it really sounds like this story deserves all the crap it gets. It really is a shame that they appeared to knee-cap Jason right out of the gate by having his origin tied up in this abysmal story. Of course if he’d been well written after that he might have recovered JUST enough to not be voted to death by Rob Kelly. I haven’t read this myself, but I remember thinking during the synopsis “wow… Batman is bad at everything in this issue.” He’s bad at crime fighting, he’s bad at vetting of an off the grid “school” for wayward boys, and in his handling of Dick he’s bad at basic logic. Just… WOW. Did he get a concussion between issues that we don’t know about?

    All that being said, one thing I need to put out there, for my own sanity. You guys can have all the divergences on Centurion you want, but how long do you need to go on about how the timeline doesn’t work? Ok, admittedly this is partly my own issue because it’s the kind of geeky nitpick that drives me nuts, because by and large I don’t care. If a timeline makes no sense within the confines of the immediate story being told, (looking at you Allstar Batman and Robin,) that’s one thing. But I honestly do not now and never have cared about consistent timelines of comic book characters. Maybe this is a side effect of rarely keeping up with a comic on an issue by issue basis over the long haul so I had to adopt a loose “I’ll just take the writer’s word for it” attitude by default. Now I’ll grant it’s worth touching on BRIEFLY since Denny O’Neil had made it a stated goal, but it kind of dragged things down for me. Sorry.

    Still a great episode, and worth the wait.

    1. Well, I do think we need to address issues like continuity and timelines in this show, because we are so focused on this new “Post-Crisis” era of Batman, whether the creators saw it as that or not. I think at this point, O’Neil was seeing it that way, hence “The New Adventures” subtitle of the series that begins this issue. But unfortunately, he hasn’t got his act together from one month to the next, so we can’t help but point out the flaws. It’s the curse of deep-dive podcasting on an index show. You are almost honor-bound to point out the connections to the past, present and future of the series, and the inherent flaws and gaffs along the way.

      It comes with the job!

      Chris

      1. I admit that sometimes I don’t worry about continuity as much as I do at other times. And looking back on a comic that is now 30 years old probably shouldn’t bother me at all. That being said I do agree with Chris here. I think it does bear discussing especially considering the context of the timeframe in which it was published. Also, Denny O’Neill, by publishing that timeline in the backmatter, kicked the door wide open to make the continuity an issue/problem to be discussed.

  14. Ok, I know it was a tossed off line, but Ryan don’t even DREAM of absolving the All Star Batman and Robin, the Boy Wonder’s depiction of Vicki Vale because of a 30 year old panel. No amount of precedent can excuse what Miller did. And yes, I do blame Miller almost entirely even though Lee drew it. Why? Because I’ve read the issue 1 script to that monstrosity. I’m not sure exactly how it was made public (and so far as I know it’s the only issue whose script got out,) but allow me to share a few choice excerpts using Miller’s exact words when it came to his notes on how Lee should draw Vicki Vale and please note that all capitalization is as it appears in the script:

    “Detail her BRA. It’ll drive them crazy, Jim.”
    “Keep our eyes on how good she looks. Something tells me you can pull that off, Jim.”
    “BODY SHOT-THIGH UP – give us an even better angle on the babe… She knows what she’s got. Make them drool.”
    “OK, Jim, I’m shameless. Let’s go with an ASS SHOT. Panties detailed… We can’t take our eyes off her. Especially since she’s got one fine ass.”

    Ladies, gentlemen and any variants there-of: Mr. Frank Miller, the poster child for “no, really I SWEAR he used to be good.” Ryan should probably be grateful other issue scripts haven’t emerged because I can only imagine how pervy the man’s instructions on drawing Black Canary were.

    Sorry to go off on a tangent about something that was at beast 30 seconds of the episode… but this could be my only chance to slag off this title in a comment on this particular podcast and I had to jump at it.

    Oh, and I actually like the Faye Gunn/Fagin wordplay. Fight me.

  15. I don’t have much to add to what’s already been said, other than to say that this issue sounds like a real heartbreaker.

    In an attempt to end on a positive note, I will say that my brothers and I enjoyed the old Centurions animated series, and between us had the action figures for the three heroes. I never knew they had a comic book. Too bad it doesn’t sound like it was particularly good. Darn! There goes ending on a positive note.

  16. The negative comments didn’t bother me a bit. It’s OK to be negative, as long as your criticism is fresh, constructive, and entertaining.

    Also, I don’t know if it’s been said, but one way to redeem this story is to say it was a drunken retelling of the actual events by a Red Hood-era Jason Todd.

  17. It was just over a year ago that I started hearing the promos for this podcast, as I binge-listened to Ryan’s Secret Origins show. I wasn’t particularly interested, as this was not the Batman era I was fond of, but one thing stuck with me from those promos. ” ‘…where Batman fires Dick Grayson.’ You wanna get another partner?’ ” I was thinking, “I wonder when that happened? I’m sure glad I stopped reading that stuff.” And then as this episode approached, having by now succumbed to Ryan and Chris’s talents, I realized it was this issue! Which I’ve read. Which I still own. Which I had almost entirely forgotten, save for one page. Which made me stop buying Batman.
    A kid can take the tires off the Batmobile.
    A KID can take the tires off the BATMOBILE.
    It is stupid enough to write that Batman drives to Crime Alley. It is stupid enough to write that he PARKS in Crime Alley. It is stupid enough to imply that there is no anti-theft, alarm system or custom-made un-removable hubcaps on Batman’s personal vehicle. But, a KID, jacking up, unscrewing the lugs, setting down the car, and doing the same on the other side? Alone?
    Bite me.
    Now let’s mix in everything else you and these wonderful commenters, especially David The Bathound Gutierrez, have said, add in the atrocious inks of Mr. DeCarlo, and I nominate this issue the single worst Batman story, 1939-1987 division.
    I was surprised by Ryan’s non-vitriol. Imagine if Roy Thomas had written it! As Dan Doherty notes above, the characters were written to fit the story, the story was not written to fit the characters.
    I really had forgotten most of this issue. that intro of new Jason was so off-putting it wiped the remainder of this putrescence from my mind. I just took a look at the sample pages you provided, and it is even worse than I thought. Now mind you, I’m still coming down from the Kirby centennial, and anything less than Kirby is going to be judged harshly. However that page with the Joker shooting Robin is like anti-Kirby. The panels don’t flow. The P.O.V swings wildly each panel. There is little sense of movement from panel-to-panel. And the other pages are no better.
    That was a momentous month of comics for me. Not only did I quit buying Batman, this month also marked the last month that I purchased all three Superman titles. And Flash and Young All-Stars were one-and-dones for me that month, too.
    I really have restrained myself with this comment. I don’t want to get all Diabolu Frank on this issue. I was thinking about what Ryan said, how it was sort of an out-of-time silver age story, and also thinking about Batman stories by David V. Reed, and I think a key difference is this; those stories were inconsequential. Quick, name a supporting character introduced by David V. Reed! … Time’s up! They weren’t meant to be anything more than a good read. The New Adventures of Batman #408 was published in the age of “significance.” Stories published then, especially at DC in the immediate post-Crisis times, were supposed to be “the true version,” “the only version,” “significant,” and, Rao help us, “collectible.” This was “the real story.”
    And it’s a lousy story.
    But a great podcast!

  18. Another fine episode gentleman!

    I bought this issue off the rack in 1987. I remember reading it and being confused as hell. Is this a current story or a past story? How could a kid steal the tires off the Batman? And lots of other questions that you guys ably addressed. In the interest of brevity, my thoughts about this issue (both in 1987 and now) largely (but not totally) mirror Chris’s.

    Are you guys familiar with an interview with Max Alan Collins published in Amazing Heroes #119 (June 1987)? Very interesting (to say the least) reading and MAC addresses some of the things you mentioned: why Warner was on the book for 1 issue, following Miller/Mazzucchelli and he talks about a lot of other things. Let me share a short passage from Collins in the interview:

    “You really have to match the people up right, you have to find a chemistry and you have to find out whose approaches mesh. No reflection on Ross Andru, whose work generally I like, but give Miller’s ‘Batman: Year One’ script to Ross Andru and give me Mazzucchelli for my four issues and let’s see who’s got the better comic book.”

    Uh….OK, Max.

    And on that note I look forward to your discussion of the upcoming issues and debating why Collin’s issues should really stand up with Miller’s. :)

    1. Wow…just wow. I would put this issue of Batman above DK2 and All-Star Batman. Collins was at least trying to do right by Batman. But no one will ever convince me that Miller hasn’t been laughing his ass off on the way to the bank with DC properties for the past 20 years.

      But #408 is NOWHERE in the same multiverse as DK and Year One, certainly. And way to throw Ross Andru, a comics veteran, under the bus there Max!

      Chris

    1. You are so right, this Jason Todd Robin’s background in being a street kid IS more interesting and more appealing then doing the circus kid Robin story again. I too prefer this direction. It’s too bad, execution and portrayal of the characters is all wrong. It could have really worked but this just does not.

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