Batman Knightcast 2: BATMAN #401

Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin continue their exploration of the Darknight Detective's adventures by reviewing BATMAN #401, a tie-in to the Legends miniseries event from 1986.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Material Girl" by Madonna.

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27 responses to “Batman Knightcast 2: BATMAN #401

  1. Alright great episode also loved the first episode I’m really enjoying this run getting a look through.

    This issue I have read when I was picking random issues and I was still getting into batman and I remember enjoying this issue abd I thought magpie was interesting.’
    It’s very interesting to see the effects of dark knight returns being implemented It’s very cool to see.

    I will aggre I loved the beware the batman redesign of magpie abd they did s really interesting take on her also she is going to show up in the lego batman movie based on that design so she might be making a comeback.

    Keep up the good work.

      1. Man that’s is what I love about the movie they are using every batman villain ever.
        Orca,magpie, the eraser the freaking eraser I definitely am going to try and get as many of the figures I can.

        1. When the first trailer came out my son asked me about who these goofy villains were. I told him what I could, but mentioned there was a villain called Condiment King who they didn’t use. Then we saw the latest trailer…

  2. I’ll have some other thoughts later but I think you guys were a little hard on the cover. I’d be more inclined to agree with you about Batman’s absence from the cover if this issue was touted as a bold new era for the character but as you have noted in the past Batman didn’t get a big post Crisis reboot like Superman or Wonder Woman did.

    So it doesn’t bother me that he’s not front and center on the cover. Instead we get a striking if not badly colored figure of Magpie drawn by one of the biggest artists of the era. And that works for me especially with the added design element of the Bat sillouettes in her glasses.

    Then again I rather liked a Magpie so there is a little bit of bias going on. She’s part of Man of Steel and while I have criticisms of that series it represents something important to me so the characters that appeared in it have a measure of importance that in many cases they don’t really deserve.

    Okay. Enough complaining. Back to an amazing episode.

    1. Good point. For our purposes, this IS a bold new era for Batman, but in the reality of the time, it was an editorial change amidst a flurry of reboots. In a few episodes we’ll see the old continuity is still in effect with regards to Catwoman. But then a few issues of Batman later, we’ve got LOTS of new elements, even with Catwoman!. It’s a wild ride.


    2. I was thinking much the same thing as Michael Bailey, and so won’t repeat what he’s already said perfectly well, except to note that Batman *WAS* pushed on to the cover somewhere (I forget Chris’s exact words toward the end) in the form of the reflection in Magpie’s glasses.

      It’s perfectly fine to criticize the cover on it’s own merits (or lack thereof), so don’t really take issue with that. Just the idea that DC did something wrong by not promoting the new era that they weren’t themselves entirely sure had started yet. Remember that, even after COIE, hard restarts were the exception, rather than the norm, for DC heroes. Even the recent “New 52” did more of a hard restart than COIE did, and even THAT had exceptions for Green Lantern and Batman. Indeed, has Batman EVER had a hard restart?

      1. No, they never really have hit that hard reboot button. You can argue they did a soft, stealth reboot with all the changes to the backstory Scott Snyder has put in since New 52 began, especially with Zero Year. But as far as the continuity restarting with a single issue, no, Batman has never REALLY gotten that. Which we’ll get into even more as we move along with the show, me thinks.


  3. Enjoyed this episode even though I never had this issue, so good job, gentlemen. I remember reading the Legends mini as it was coming out, but I hardly ever bought any of the tie-ins. If I had realized von Eeden was doing the art on this one, I might have picked it up, because I love his work, esp. from the late ’70s/early ’80s, but also his more recent stuff, like his two-part Original Johnson graphic novel (haven’t seen any of his work form the ’90s so I can’t comment). The pages you posted on your image gallery page look fantastic.
    By the way, Space Clusters is one of those DC science fiction graphic novels that were being published in the mid-1980s. Here’s the listing at I happen to have it, but I unfortunately I can’t really recommend picking it up: the art by Alex Nino is – as one would expect – spectacular, but the story, by SF writer Arthur Byron Cover, is , well, not necessarily bad, just not very interesting or even memorable.

  4. Great episode fellas! I remember buying this (and MOS 3) off the newsstands at the time, and thinking that Magpie was going to be a big new villain, based on these two high profile appearances. And then…nothing.

    I was thinking Katy Perry would be a great live-action Magpie, but Lady Gaga would work well too.

    I think Von Eeden’s work suffers from bad printing–something about his line work doesn’t always translate onto newsprint. This issue seems like a good example of that.

  5. As a network listener, I’ve heard Magpie mocked here and there across various shows but never really known anything about her aside from just guessing at the “give me all the shinies” gimmick. But that cover, holy tap dancing f#*%! Dear god that’s just so… 80s. It’s every horrible 80s fashion failure dialed up to 11, which would be fine with a gag villain, but if we’re meant to take this seriously, just… no. BAD John Byrne! Go sit in the corner and think about what you did.

    That said, the Batman silhouette in the glasses is a cool thing. But then also, Robin lets her get away because he feels the need to self censor. For crying out loud kid, you kick armed thugs in the head while wearing pixie boots. They’re only tits. They won’t turn you to stone. She doesn’t have kryptonite nipple piercings (though seriously somebody needs to try that trick on Supes.) I really needed Batman to smack him and say “grow up, kid” for that one. OH! That’s the new caption for that Batman slapping Robin meme: “They’re just tits!”

  6. One of the things this revisiting of post-Crisis Batman has made me wonder about is just what was my first issue of Batman or Detective. Because I’m pretty sure it WAS post-Crisis. As a kid, I was more into teams and team-ups, so my earliest Batman stories were in World’s Finest or JLA (I just missed Brave and the Bold I think). I would eventually score some 70s and early 80s Batman, including this very issue (I used it to for a Who’s Magpie? article a while back – ), but I’m right this minute – LIVE! – looking at my collection to see which was my actual first issue of either series…

    Ok, the results are in. My first was Detective 582 because it tied into the Suicide Squad issue of Millennium (cover date Jan 88), then ‘Tec 589 because I was collecting the Bonus Books (Aug 88). My first issue of the eponymous title was Batman #423 (Dec 88) with the McFarlane cover. I would start buying both books pretty regularly in the last quarter of 1989 (by cover date), so around the Mudpack storyline and the Byrne story just before Year 3. And now we know… the REST of the story.

    1. For me, I’m pretty confident that my first introduction to comic-book Batman was the “Batman from the 30s to the 70s” hardcover, which I still consider to be an excellent collection, although I shudder every time I realize that more time has passed *since* then than was covered in that book in the first place….

  7. Magpie is ripe for a comeback in a story called “Magpie Season” which in Australia is the terrifying time of year when Magpies go nuts defending their nests and swoop everyone in sight. Forget Australian snakes and spiders, the most visceral terror I’ve experienced from our native fauna is the day a magpie attacked me while I was riding my pushbike to work. I thought I was unscathed until I parked the bike and removed my helmet and found blood running from my ear down inside my collar. I miss that chunk of ear.

      1. You have to get them before they get you. Plus I hit koalas, not kangaroos. Well, technically I have hit kangaroos with a car, but it was never intentional.

  8. Congrats on a great episode, Chris and Ryan. This episode was before the start of my collecting Batman, but it seemed an interesting story. I guess after this story and the one in John Byrne’s MoS series, was there any need for Magpie to come back? I don’t know if there are any more stories you could tell with her. I do remember Dan Slott using her in the Arkham Asylum: Living Hell miniseries some time back, and thought she was handled well there.

    I enjoyed the review of the Batman artists at the end of the episode. I can’t argue with those chosen but am surprised a few artists were not mentioned such as Graham Nolan (a brilliant fit with Chuck Dixon) and Jason Fabook. Heck, even great artists such as Jim Lee, Brian Bolland, Bryan Talbot, Jerry Robinson, Alex Toth and Darwyn Cooke did not get a mention! Batman gets all the great artists!

  9. Magpie always struck me as a sort of premature, slightly off-model attempt to create Harley Quinn.

    And I wonder if Batman and GCPD had to drop some kind of hint to the Penguin letting him know this exhibition was a trap for some other bird-themed criminal, just to keep him from showing up. (Somewhere there’s a piece of jewelry called ‘The Twin Catbirds’, and someone at a Gotham museum sees no possibile problem in exhibiting it.)

    For top three Batman artists, I’d go Frank Miller, Matt Wagner, and then either Dave McKean (if we’re talking best artists who have done a Batman story that is representative of their other work) or Tony Daniel (if we’re requiring at least a dozen or so bat-books)

  10. All righty…minor complaint out of the way…now to get into the meat of the episode.

    This issue and the Detective issue you’ll be talking about next time are so odd. As you both said so well the Post Crisis Batman is such an odd duck. Not quite out from under the era that came before and not quite into the era that would follow. This issue always felt like an eighties version of the sixties television series. (I could have totally seen Annette Funicello play a late sixties version of Magpie.) The one bright spot of the story was Bruce Wayne arguing with G Gordon Godfrey (or perhaps I should write “G Gordon Godfrey”) and if there was more of that it would have not only been a more interesting issue but also a better fit for Legends. The artwork is just odd. Not bad but just not what I want in a Batman story. I actually laughed at the Robin getting an eye full bit but I agree that in the end it’s damn silly.

    Really the best part of this comic was hearing you two talk about it.

    Looking forward to future episodes. While the Max Allan Collins issues are probably going to be hard for you I am really interested in your takes on Mike W Barr’s Detective run and Jim Starlin’s Batman run.

    Take care, citizens and see you next month.

  11. I’ve been tied up and didn’t reply in a timely manner, so I’ll just skip everyone else’s comments and wait for their reading on the show. I can do that when all I want to say is that I loved the look of this issue, and wish Trevor Von Eeden had done a year of Batman comics featuring that very Dick Grayson-looking Robin instead of doing Thriller. Also, I like Magpie pretty much solely because she’s such a ridiculous post-punk artifact, yet TVE managed to sell her menace and insanity. Finally, I always thought this was a Max Allen Collins story, so one third of my defense of his run must now be awarded to Barbara Randall instead.

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