Batman Knightcast 28: DETECTIVE COMICS #395 and #397

On this episode of Batman KnightcastChris Franklin and Ryan Daly journey back to the beginning of an historic era for the Caped Crusader. Come along as they review the first two Batman stories by the legendary creative team of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams, originally published in DETECTIVE COMICS #395 and #397.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “I Like It Like That" by Pete Rodriguez.

Thanks for listening!

19 responses to “Batman Knightcast 28: DETECTIVE COMICS #395 and #397

  1. I did a little research and learned that owls and hawks commonly prey on bats. Perhaps, that’s what the Muertos meant when they said “death by birds” would be a fitting end to the Batman. Of course, they used the wrong birds to do the job. If they’d only used owls or hawks instead of falcons, then I think we can all agree that this would have been Batman’s final appearance.

    Thanks for another amazing episode, gentlemen.

  2. The recolored and redrawn artwork can make trying to enjoy reading Neal Adams’ Batman a bit difficult.

    Like Chris, I can’t stand the three “Batman by Neal Adams” hardcovers. While it’s nice to have everything together, all the changes that were made are just *TOO* distracting. I do have most of the O’Neil/Adams run in Showcase Presents: Batman Vol. 5 and 6. I was told on good authority that reprinted these issues exactly as they were originally published… Only in black and white.

    However, when reading the second story you guys covered, in the panel where Bruce is doing yoga, I saw that same horribly redrawn face. So, does that mean the Showcase Presents volumes DO contain Adams’ “special edition-ed” artwork, only in black in white? Or was it just this specific issue.

    Other than some “best of” collected editions (The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told, Batman in the Seventies) and a few Treasury Editions, it seems the only way to truly enjoy reading Neal Adams’ Batman IS to track down the original issues, which can sometimes be cost prohibitive. There are a couple that I am lucky enough to own, like Night of the Reaper and The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge, do I really want to invest the time and money in buying up all those issues?

    1. The subject of continuing to buy single issues in general, is something I personally have been struggling with for awhile.

      I’ve been reading and collecting comics for over 30 years, and I have boxes and boxes and boxes of individual issues, as well as bookshelves of trade paperbacks, hardcovers and “Vagrant-Killing” Omnibuses. I’m getting to the point where I can continue to do one or the other, but I can’t do both.

      I’ve been going in circles, debating the pros and cons of which do I like better, individual issues vs. collected editions, as well as bagging and boarding vs. NOT bagging and boarding. (Because personally, I **really** don’t like having to bag and board my books, unless I have to)

      Regarding my Batman comics, I’ve already sold off all of my “modern” issues. Meaning my individual issues collection stops just before Cataclysm and No Man’s Land. Everything after that point, I’m fine just having the trades of the storylines I like.

      Then, there’s the question of how far back I want to go.

      While it’s nowhere near what I’d call a complete unbroken run, my Batman collection does go back to the Silver Age. Is it worth going back that far? Or would it be more achievable to just pick up where the Showcase Presents volumes left off?

      What do you guys think? Is this something you’ve thought about regarding your own collections? I think it’d be an interesting discussion.

      1. Dan, I think of my collection as more of a reading library. It is past time to do another culling, but the idea is not to keep anything I won’t read again. That keeps me from buying or keeping anything for completist reasons. If I want to read more of a run for which I already have a lot of single issues, like Byrne’s Fantastic Four, I’ll buy single issues to read the ones I missed. They carry the added bonus of letter columns and ads, which I enjoy. If i’m starting from scratch, like with McGregor’s Black Panther, I’ll buy paperbacks. I’ll even go electronic to sample a run, have something to read while I travel, or just be lazy. Please don’t tell any of the purists on the network or any of my friends in the paper industry. As with most things, your objective is the most important factor in decisions regarding method.

  3. “Secret of the Waiting Graves” was one of the first Batman stories I ever read thanks to the legendary Batman: From The Thirties To The Seventies and thus it’s important. For me, anyway. Yeah, it has historical street cred, but it being part of the early days me developing the borderline personality disorder that is my history of comic collecting is a big deal and I’m lucky that it’s also a good story.

    I realized while listening to this that I have never read the second story you talked about despite owning several ways to do so. I feel like I let you both down, the listening audience down, and more importantly I let myself down. I’ll have an explanation on your desk by 8 AM on Monday.

    Thanks for telling me to be easier on myself. Well, thanks Chris. Ryan apparently had other opinions but that’s okay because he is probably right.

  4. These issues were pretty great! I hadn’t read the second one before, so that was fun. And again I’m reminded how much I dig the concept of Bruce Wayne living in the city rather than the mansion. Thanks for the excuse to dive into this era.

    Boy, “Secret of the Waiting Graves” really disturbed me as a kid. Great story, and not as hard to take now, but definitely meant to give younger me the heebie-jeebies.

    Guess that’s all I have 2 say. (Pow!) Ouch! Sheesh, Ryan!

  5. Fun show guys, I really enjoyed it.

    Ok, trivia that no one is interested in. Falcons eat bats. I figure Falcons were used since they can trained and used for falconry. I don’t know if Hawks can be trained, but Eagles can, because Auburn University has some eagles from their raptor center that circle the stadium and land on the field before football games. It is an amazing sight to see.

    Falcons, Hawks, Eagles have been known to attack and kill small dogs. While I love animals, I don’t have a lot of sympathy for hawks or falcons. A hawk once sat on my fence for hours waiting to see if I would bring my small dog back out. Plus, I have a low opinion of my alma mater (Forbes once picked it as one of the worst colleges in the US), and they are the falcons. In Batman’s defense, in one of the Ra’s Al Ghul stories, Talia was going to shoot a watchdog (another reason I’m on team Catwoman) and Batman produced a gadget to distract it so he didn’t have to kill it. Ok, sorry for that tangent….on to the story.

    I didn’t get to read Secret of the Waiting Graves until the 1986 Ra’s Al Ghul reprint. I think it is almost a perfect representation of Batman. He does things that only someone at the top of human performance could do (the rescue of Valdez and capturing the Falcons even though he was fighting off the drugs.) He inspires fright in the villains. I like the silent Batman who lets his prowess do the talking. While I enjoy Denny O’Neil’s writing, later-on he had Batman turn into a inveterate trash-talker, which I hate. As my favorite Auburn coach (RIP Coach Dye) used to say, “if you have to brag on yourself something is wrong. If you’re good enough to be bragged on, someone else will do it for you.” As skilled as Batman is, he shouldn’t be bragging on himself or putting down his opponents. Show don’t tell.

    I can’t really comment on the coloring. By my count, I think I have 8 printings of Secret of the Waiting Graves, including the original, so I can’t keep straight which version was colored which way. Three were in Black & White. Three of the versions I have are the re-drawn ones, unfortunately.

    “Paint a Picture of Peril” is my least favorite O’Neil/Adams story, but it is still pretty good. While I like Batman freaking out Payne’s henchman by standing silently (don’t have Batman trash talk, Denny), I think Batman should have made some move while he had the crooks stunned into inactivity. Letting them shoot him was pretty stupid, although I realize the henchman had to escape to get the plot moving.

    Just for future FYI, as far as I know, Adams didn’t start redrawing his stuff until the Neal Adams books came out. Both of these stories were horribly redrawn.

    As for the logos, here are my favorites. I think childhood nostalgia plays a part in this, since these logos were in use when I started collecting:

    Used this one because it is the first Batman comic I ever got:

    This one was used on B&B when I first started collecting:

    This one predates my birth, but was still being used on merchandising as well as, in modified form, on Batman Family. (Chris, like you, I have this image as a jigsaw puzzle and got mine as a kid).×805.jpg

    Favorite Detective Logo:

  6. Thanks for introducing me to this one, gents. The art is gorgeous. I’ll be looking for the rest of the story on DC Universe.

    Adams and O’Neil’s Batman definitely qualify as one of “my” versions of Batman, although I’m not saying any interpretations are invalid. DCAU, Englehart and Rogers, a lot of Dixon and Moench, and even Grant Morrison’s version (especially in the JLA) are also favorites. Morrison overemphasizes the preparedness angle, and his Bat-villains could go so dark that it impeded my enjoyment of the story, but like the other creators on that list, they all got the personality right — driven, but not psychotic. He can have somewhat normal relationships and crack a joke once in a while.

    I would even include the DeMatteis “straight man” Batman in JLI as a favorite interpretation. People complain that he was different than he was in other comics, but he wasn’t more different than you would expect him to be in a different environment.

    This Batman also makes mistakes and can be outclassed in some fields. Chris, this reminds me of the Hero Points profile of Batman you did with Siskoid. I thought y’all’s estimates of his abilities were low in a couple areas, but too high for Batman to maintain effectively in a great many others. There is tremendous power in being merely competent in a broad range of things and expert in one to three. Army Special Forces teams are a great example of this. I’m comfortable with Batman being the world’s greatest detective, second greatest escape artist, among the top ten or twenty fighters, and somewhere between highly competent and merely proficient on a great many other things. He doesn’t have to the world’s best toxicologist, for example, when merely having journeyman level knowledge of toxicology and a true expert in his contacts list makes him more effective in this area than most of the real crimefighters on the planet. Those assets, plus his money, preparedness, and ability to strategize make him a viable threat to almost any villain.

    I enjoyed the judo breakfall Batman demonstrated in the second story. That’s one of several that we learned in my first college judo lesson, and then practiced in every lesson thereafter. They ought to teach those in kindergarten. They’re pretty easy, and knowing how to distribute the impact of a fall across your body is useful even if you never get in a fight — or never get in an elaborate, single-purpose, inexplicably prepared-beforehand death trap, as in this case.

    I almost forgot to talk about frogmen! Growing up, Jonny Quest, James Bond, and comics like these led me to believe that frogmen were always dangerous and usually quite sinister. My real life experience with frogmen as an adult taught me that they were only mostly dangerous and occasionally sinister. Of course, pop culture was a far more accurate guide on this topic than it was on quicksand, so I shouldn’t complain.

  7. I should have thanked you for introducing me to both these comics, since there were two of them — and for a great podcast.

  8. Nice to listen to some discussion of the first Batman story drawn by Neal Adams that I’d ever read: “Paint a Picture of Peril.” I had the treasury edition you mentioned, C-44, which reprinted it, and it’s basically the only story from it that I truly remembered later – so striking was Adams wonderful craftsmanship. Your gallery post really evoked fond memories. Thanks for another great show.

  9. Impresive podcast. Most impresive. Juan Valdez guess they were coffee drinkers. Or Juan Valdez (activist) The coffee guy was created in 1958, so maybe. Or the foot baller. Any way. For what ever reason. The 2 names could be inspired by them. Maybe they were drinking coffee and couldn’t think of a name so we got this. Death as there last name was fun. This is defantly more Dark Shadows than the uban hero Bats becomes. Still it does fit in the first run of bats. by Will Finger. The cop was kind of cool. And I defantly like that Bats isn’t Bat gwad here. Though how does he [press his fingure into the marbel or stone the grave stones are made of? Were they just created? That’s Bruce lee lrevel skills there if it’s an old peace of concreate. Orson Welles hmm, wonder if O’Neil put him in because of Orson being the Shadow. Huh, not sure how he heald his arm that quick. I screwed up my arms doing Indan clubs. Some goof on U tube said you could practuce hook punches with em… em no. Had to not work out for a week after that.

    Jabs sure, but hooks or uper cuts no. And mine wasn’t as bad as Bats. No idea how he’s using the arm. Now I did work a day at WalMart as part of the cleaning crew after having a hair line fractuer in my sholder bone after falling on a storm drane and my bike fliping and hiting me in the back. And I rode home worked the next day. Noticed I couldn’t lift my arm above my head so had to get an ex ray. Had to ware a sling for a mounth. So maybe adrenalen. I didn’t feel any thing that day. Well after the moment of inpact and noting rideing a bike fast in the rain was a bad idea. Also the back fall he does is bad to. His lower back should be more on the floor. He’s got no choice with his arm. Since it’s arm or neck. Glad he tucks his chin. His spin being bent like that, oy. Maybe it would work, but I wouldn’t tray it and go for a more flat back landing. The Chandaler… probly not. Then again I lifted full cemertal trash cans and dumped them in my cart when I had the hair line facture so maybe. But, not sure the chandaler would keep that big slab of stone would be held up for long. Bats pulling him self out would be more oy. Thren again most stuff in comics are things that would never happen. Like these scuba men with snorkels insteed of tanks. Or the John Wayne punches.
    No one in real life throws them… with out geting pumbled, but in comics they work. Again how masks work in the comics. Yep 40 years on the force. And Gorden can’t reconize Bruce’s jaw line build or height. Don’t care if he does the Cookie moster Christain Bale voice. James is gonna notice him. Just like that one epasoide of BMTAS had the show ware Babs is about to tell Gorden she’s Bat Girl. And he stops her cause as a cop he’d have to do something, but if he fains ignorance he can just glose over it. And clam he had no idea. Or Vicky Vale. A…reporter that can’t tell her boy friend looks simular to Bats. Height weight build and as we’ve learned with the beer bug. Even those masks don’t mask our aperances. So we just go with it. Or all heros would have to ware B>P. type masks. Oh in other comic related stuff and me. I did have one cover published for an indy comi c called KMC comics. Er Kiss Me Comix. That’s what they called the publishing line. A husband and wife team and their freind. Any way the title I drew was the cover to Bounty Hunter No. 9 or 6. Writen and edited by Rod Jenkins. Was his and his wife publishing house. His Wife Barba colored it and did her own comic Serenad. Any way Bounty Hunter was an Afro American hero with a battle suit that gave him powers.

    He was planing to redraw the cover so I was like…oy. I got it around here some ware. And I got paid for it in magnets….ow wow. Kiding it was just cool to get the cover. So yeah I can see your sigh moment of Neal Adams re drawing his own books. And the style change being…huh. Any way cool pod cast can’t wait to hear the next pod cast.

  10. Liz Anne, you mentioned every point I forgot to and about six I didn’t think of. Superhero comics would be ruined for me now if my suspension of disbelief button wasn’t still fully functional.

    “Cookie Monster Christian Bale voice” — that’s funny. I don’t care who you are.

  11. I’m commenting right away because I’m way behind on my commenting and listening to this episode reminded me that I still haven’t commented on the previous one! So I’m trying to type with urgency!
    I just tried to find a copy of Dynamic Classics (1978) that reprinted “Secret of the Waiting Graves,” to see if I could compare the coloring with your samples, but it is either mis-filed (possibly) or missing (probably). I first read it in Batman: 30s to the 70s, (another book that’s gone missing these twenty years!). As a 14-year-old I did not immediately twig the obvious significance of the name Muerta. It’s a fine Batman story. Ryan, don’t seek reason from the Senora, she’s high on her flowers! She’s talking nonsense.
    I’ve not read the second story, but it certainly contains some Denny tropes. The most annoying to me was the housekeeper. It was painfully obvious that she would end up being the lost wife, otherwise why introduce her? Also, the TV as narrator. Bruce, it’s your home, you can turn off the TV if you need to exercise. Especially if there are no other rooms available in the 40-story tall skyscraper you call home! It all seemed terribly forced. The death-trap escape was also more contrived than clever. Oh, well, but it sure looked nice!
    Chris, here on the coast of New England you can walk into art galleries without even trying hard. Look at a map of Massachusetts and find where Rockport is. It’s lousy with galleries. Although they do have walls.
    Also, if you and Martin need more back-up, I’m all about that Swan!
    From a design point of view, I understand your gripes about the covers of this period, but I freakin’ LOVE them! Part of it is the allure, as well as nostalgia. These are comics from just before my time. Comics that have mostly always been out of my price range. I love how bold the logos are! Proudly boasting not only the title, but the characters within! In my collecting days, Batgirl was appearing regularly in Batman family, but she wasn’t then able to boast about being featured so prominently in the logo! Same with Robin. I would look at those covers in the 30s to the 70s book (who the hell has mine?!) and just WANT those comics. That one has a Robin story! So does that one! Yeah, the artwork may have suffered for the space, but those covers made me want to buy those comics!

  12. About that artwork from the 2nd story that was altered to cover where the ad had been: looking at the digital versions, it appears that they just magnified the panel and moved the word balloons around. The art appears exactly the same, but you can’t see as much of the tree.

    Otherwise, another well done episode! Thanks for all your hard work!

  13. Brilliant banter and discussion as ever, boys.

    Like others, I read Secret of the Waiting Graves in Batman From the Thirties to the Seventies and really enjoyed it. The moodiness of the piece was wonderful, and I loved Bruce Wayne, International Man of Mystery – he looked ridiculously sexy in his Mexican dinner suit. The recolouring is a crime against art, the original colours lain down replaced by soulless graduated tints and muted tones…it really dials down the drama.

    Can you imagine being able to live for ever but being banned from ‘extreme excitement’ for fear of crumbling to dust? He’s part of the cover furniture but it’s a good job Dick wasn’t in this story or the Muertos would be after a foursome – it’s so obvious they wanted to add spice to their eternal relationship by bringing Batman into things.

    And much as I love JLGL (praise be his name), that bit of style guide art looks really plastic compared to the darkness around it – why does DC think the world would end if they showed the original ads? In this case we’d have seen a fantastic house ad for Teen Titans and Strange Adventures that evoked the mood of the period.

    I actually like the Golden Age Batman logo at the start of this story, it suits the tone more than would the soon-to-come slick Seventies number. I can’t assess the cover mastheads because the entire package is burned into my brain and has been for 40 years or more… I can’t imagine the cover in any other form. It’s perfect.

    I do own the second issue discussed, I bought it at the time. I agree, this isn’t as memorable a story, I don’t think I’ve read it since it came out, though as you were giving the précis the ending came back to me… poor Kathy. Bruce should have given her a job as Alfred’s co-major domo.

    To answer Ryan’s question, no way would the original art pages have had extra depth that were cut off to make room for house ads, there’s always a flat plan to show where the ads come in, they were pretty immutable at DC at the time, so yeah, it’s Adams redrawing again. Ugh.

    Did you say you thought Orson in this story looked a bit like Orson Welles? I don’t see that.

    I love the cover logo with the Batman and Batgirl figures, they’re telling you this this 15c book is just packed! The logo treatment on Batman #234, on the other hand, is hideous to my eyes, with all the bits of type in the extended bat-shape, it’s too commercial – keep the price and blurb and numbers out of the bat and have the bat neatly wrap the names of the heroes.

    Oh Lord yeah, Ryan and Chris, let’s have a Batman logo show – maybe a poll, too, that you could report back on for the episode.

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