Batman Knightcast 23: BATMAN #412 and DETECTIVE COMICS #579

Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin discuss BATMAN #412, the final installment of the abysmal Max Allan Collins run. Then DETECTIVE COMICS #579 marks the series debut of legendary artist Norm Breyfogle. All things considered, it’s a pretty good turning point for both titles.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “The Sound of Silence (live)” by The Fools; “Bad Medicine” by Bon Jovi; “Return of the Mack” by Mark Morrison.

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16 responses to “Batman Knightcast 23: BATMAN #412 and DETECTIVE COMICS #579

  1. Great first half of the episode. Batman and Robin listen to bells every Sunday? What a load of clapper-trap. But this is the best MAC issue. It underlines what we all know at heart – mimes are evil.

    I actually like the anime visual and the gimmick of wanting silence. And that ‘right to remain silent’ bit when she’s arrested is clever.

    It’s hilarious that there are enough mimes and clowns hanging around Gotham that GCPD could quickly put a line-up together. You’d think the city would ban clowns to make the Joker easier to spot.

    It’s cute how Chris’s terrifyingly dismissive AAAURGHHHH sounds exactly like Cindy’s.

    I’ve no problems with the art – classic Silver Age artist meets classic Bronze Age artist and the storytelling is fine. Does every story have to be super-stylised? I wonder if MAC had a say in the art – if you look at the likes of Wild Dog and Ms Tree it seems he likes ‘colouring book art’.

    1. I wouldn’t call Terry Beatty’s art “coloring book”. There’s a sophistication in it’s simplicity. Much like Alex Toth. I would call what we have in this Batman issue unsophisticated at that same level. It’s not simple to evoke mood or feeling. It’s just…simple. At least to me anyway.

      Cindy and I are bound to sound a bit alike after 28 years of being together (23 married)!

      Chris

  2. First, let me reveal my bias. Mark Sweeney and I covered a few issues of Max Allan Collins’ excellent Ms Tree series a few years ago, and Collins listened to the episodes and provided interesting and specific feedback to us. He seemed like a nice fella and I have become a fanboy of his.

    In retrospect, you can see the logic of inviting him to write Batman. He had done Dick Tracy for a while, and Ms Tree was an award-winning mystery series. And although it was more than a decade away, Road to Perdition was excellent. I enjoy his prose novels featuring the character Quarry. The guy can write detective and crime stories.

    But it turns out that Batman isn’t just another detective and crime story. As he would say, “I’m Batman.” And what Collins gave us in these issues was some pretty decent Dick Tracy stories, with decent Dick Tracy villains. But Batman isn’t Dick Tracy. What sounded like a great fit … was in fact a complete misfit. I don’t hate these as much as you two do, but again, I’m inclined to like Collins. I do recognize that these aren’t good as Batman stories, however.

    Keep up the good work, fellers — glad to have had so many episodes recently.

    1. Some good points Professor. In our pile-on ol’ MAC, we probably didn’t reiterate enough that Collins is an accomplished author elsewhere, both in comics, comic strips and novels. Road to Perdition was adapted into a movie starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman for pete’s sake! But yeah, Batman wasn’t really a good fit for him.

      Chris

      Side note: Looking up Road to Perdition on IMDB because of this, I just realized Hank’s son in that film is Tyler Hoechlin, CW’s Superman! Small world.

  3. Great episode guys. I hadn’t read these comics when they first came out. However, this one was tied into something I was into. Dragnet starring Dan Akroyd and Tom Hanks had just come out in the theaters and one of the cable channels was airing a marathon of old Dragnet episodes. Well, all these years later I discovered that Jack Webb had appeared on Johnny Carson in a skit called the Copped Clapper Caper.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgYbogp1Ha0
    Now, when I first read this issue on Comixology and knowing Jason Todd was infamous for bad puns and jokes, I originally thought that this was just Jason being silly. However, having seen the Clapper Caper skit with Carson and Webb, I had to laugh out loud that Jason was probably spending his downtime going to see Dragnet or watching old episodes on TV like I was. (Jason must have seen the Carson/Webb skit somewhere along the way.
    I’ll confess, it took me a little while to warm to Norm Breyfogle’s style as I was used to artists like Jim Aparo and Neal Adams. However, once I did, I really enjoyed it. It’s interesting to note I don’t have many of the pre-Death in the Family issues of Detective but those that I do have on Comixology, have no Robin appearances. In fact, I think the only times I saw Breyfogle’s take on Robin in the Classic Costume were in a two page splash celebrating Detective Comics #600 and later when the “Ghosts” of Jason and Dick were giving Tim advice during the Whim Killings arc in Batman 455-457.

  4. Another great episode, guys.
    This issue of Batman always reminded me of a Hostess ad. Except it was less interesting than most of them. A boring story with lackluster art.
    Collins was not the writer for Batman especially after Year One. I haven’t read the interview mentioned on the show but it sounds like he didn’t take Batman completely seriously. Or at least not seriously enough. Some writers go to far in the other direction.
    On the other hand, the art in the Detective story is magical. Breyfogle knew how Batman should be drawn on a comic page. And amazingly his art would improve over the years.
    I was lucky enough to meet Breyfogle at small convention in Boston well over a decade ago. He seemed like a nice, soft spoken man who was very gracious with my gushing. Denny O’Neil was at the same con and I happy to meet him as well.

  5. MAC was writing the Dick Tracy strip back when I became a hardcore fan of the detective. The story of the punk rockers kidnapping a pregnant Tess & the Angeltop story on her seeking revenge for Flattop are good fun. Collins has been writing the in-depth intros for the IDW Dick Tracy hardcover collections.

    I did get the chance to get Norm Breyfogle’s autograph at the Akron comic con several years ago. Instead of signing a Bat book I had him sign one of his Archie: The Married Life volumes. It’s interesting to see him working in a more realistic & down to earth style without all the superhero razzmatazz. He seemed like a nice unassuming guy. I wish I’d told him about my love for his Batman too.

  6. Collins did a sequel to the Mime story in the prose book The Further Adventures of Batman. I don’t recall it being much better than his comics work on the character.

  7. Great episode, gents; love this show.

    I agree that MAC’s Batman was, on the whole, very lackluster…but I strongly disagree that this was his best story: I actually think that his Penguin tale in Batman Annual #11 is excellent, with a very nice Silver Age flavor that would fit in perfectly with the Barr/Davis run you gush about. (I’m a little disappointed that the Penguin’s girlfriend never showed up again.)

    Of course, that story was helped immensely by the artist, Mr. Frickin’ Breyfogle. Which takes us to the second half of this episode: I never get tired of looking at, discussing, and analyzing this guy’s work, and he clearly got Batman right out of the gate. (Such a perfect synthesis of atmosphere and action.) He will always be MY Batman artist.

    BTW, in 1996, MAC wrote a prestige format Elseworlds one-shot, “Scar of the Bat” (an Untouchables riff, drawn by Eduardo Barretto). Any thoughts on this? Any better than this run?

  8. Not long after you posted this, Mark Evanier posted his “Twenty-Five More Things I Learned About the Comic Book Industry Since I Got Into It In 1970…”
    This list included: ” 79. Some of the people who did poor work in comics may not have been very talented but they were the best person the editor could get at the time…and better than the alternative.” “82. When there are too many different interpretations of a character out there, none of them is the “right” one, especially when it’s Batman.”

    I think the synchronicity is appropriate. Editor O’Neill got his books out on time, but the creators involved did not produce their masterpieces with these particular comics. I haven’t read either of these, but your descriptions of the story elements had me groaning. Church bells. Most churches, even in the 80s, use electronic chimes. Why that particular bell is the noise that pushes the Crime Mime over the edge, when there must be so many more mechanical sounds in Gotham? If she had disabled all the gas-powered leaf blowers, I’d silently applaud her.
    Mr Janus. Was the name Mal-Bon too subtle? Clumps of mud as clues are as cliche as matchbooks with the address of the crooks’ hideout.
    I’m not going to pile on, and I appreciate the restraint you are both using. You acknowledge the deficiencies in these books, but try to find positive things to emphasize. Like Norm Friggin’ Breyfogle.

  9. Those Breyfogle splash pages are the bee’s knees. This Crime Doctor one could have been a cover from a 1940s issue of Detective.

    The Mime had potential–as seen on the cover by Nowlan, she looks amazing. Too bad she never really got a chance.

    So glad you guys are finally steering out of the ditch!

  10. “NORM!”
    “Norman.”
    “What would you say to a beer, Mr Breyfogle?”
    “Wanna see my etchings of Batman?”

    Wait, which podcast is this?

    Being a huge Aparo fan, I didn’t immediately like Breyfogle’s take on Batman. But I’ll admit, the Mud Pack story sold me. (Yes, Mud Pack. Fight me!) I haven’t read this specific issue, but it’s cued up on the DCU app, so I’ll get there!

    Great job as always, guys!

  11. The Mime really does look like Magpie’s sister.

    Love the insights we get into MAC’s ego with that interview. It was kind of worth it having you guys whinge and moan through his issues, because we get this good a (deluded) pay-off. Here’s there thing: It’s as important to examine what didn’t work as what did, and Batman’s post-Crisis growing pains are part of the journey. I’ve never been disappointed with KnightCast even when the hosts were disappointed with the comics.

  12. Another great episode Chris and Ryan.

    Gothosmansion got in before me about the Mime’s further appearance in the “Further Adventures of Batman” anthology – as I recall, it also linked into MAC’s Penguin storyline as the start had the Penguin bragging to Joker by mail about his new love.

    It is great to see the debut of Norm Breyfogle in the monthly comics. I first came across him in the UK reprints which started with the Wagner/Grant run, so coming across this earlier Breyfogle issue is a treat. The story actually read like one of Alan Grant’s stories as spotlighting the Reems family and getting their POV was something Grant did a lot in his stories.

    Great to have Knightcast back on a regular schedule and look forward to the next one.

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