Batman Knightcast 29: Death Strikes at Midnight and Three

On this special Sunday edition of Batman Knightcast, Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin pay tribute to legendary Batman writer and editor Dennis O'Neil, reflecting on how his tenure(s) on the Dark Knight Detective shaped the character's legacy and their own fandom. Then, the boys deliver a dramatic (eh?) reading of the prose story "Death Strikes at Midnight and Three" by O'Neil with illustrations by Marshall Rogers, originally published in DC SPECIAL SERIES #15.

Then, Chris and Ryan discuss the rumor of Michael Keaton's return to the role of Batman on film, the passing of BATMAN FOREVER and BATMAN & ROBIN director Joel Schumacher, and respond to last episode's listener feedback.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Clock Strikes Ten" by Cheap Trick

Thanks for listening!

30 responses to “Batman Knightcast 29: Death Strikes at Midnight and Three

  1. I’ll have more thoughts later, but I just got to the point where Chris put forth that the prose piece would have made a good animated short like DC did back when they launched the direct to DVD animated movie line. On one hand I agree. On the other hand, the point of those shorts was to showcase other DC characters that weren’t getting full movies. So, while it would have been cool, it would have also defeated the point of the shorts. “We’re doing these because most of our movies are JLA, Batman, and a Superman. So…MORE BATMAN!”

    Then again, that seems to be DC’s current mission statement, so maybe Chris is secretly working for DC.

    Probably not. I know he hates a lot of what has happened at the company in the past…20 years.

    1. When I heard that Keaton might be coming back as Batman I had the most neutral reaction ever. I wasn’t excited. I wasn’t disappointed. I like Keaton as Batman quite a bit but when Ryan our forward his concerns about what we’ll get vs what the audience wants vs what Hollywood has given us I found myself nodding in agreement. I have a severe lack of trust in Hollywood’s ability to stick the landing on these things. If it’s a glorified cameo, I’m good. It would be satisfying. If they tried to make him part of the main story in any kind of significant way I don’t think it would work as well.

      I’m all for nostalgia but I don’t need it.

      So I’m with Ryan on this.

      1. So what you’re saying is you’re in complete agreement with Ryan on everything, and consequently, disagreement with me on everything.


        Man, time has not healed those stupid movie bracket wounds! 🙂


        1. If memory serves, Michael’s exact words on that bracket show were, “Superman: The Movie is terrible and anyone who likes it is a big dumb idiot.”

          1. Before this over I will be responsible for everything Chris has ever disliked in comics. Or, at the very least, that I disagree with him about everything.

            Oh, and I do notice that David comes in to egg this on. I picture him laughing and shouting, “Dance, puppets! DANCE!”

          1. Martin – it’s just rigged against better judgement. I love all the bracket episodes, but they all have terrible conclusions.

          2. Similar to bracket systems used by sports (especially basketball), you start out with a bunch of teams (or movies in this case) and they are pitted against each other. Once that first round is over, the winning movies are pitted against each other with half those choices being eliminated. You work your way down until finally you have the final two and then a winner.

            I hope that helps.

          3. None of this is getting read on the next listener feedback section, I hope you all know.

  2. I haven’t read this story, but it sounds amazing, and an interesting experiment based on the images posted. Definitely intrigued enough to try it someday. Thanks for sharing such a unique example of Denny’s storytelling.

  3. I remember this appearing and was far too lazy to read it, it’s funny, I enjoy comics, and I enjoy prose, but have never got along with text pieces that have spot illoes. Bit this sounds rather decent – I love that shopping list of what makes Gotham Gotham.

    As for that woodland Wayne Manor, perhaps it was former architectural student Marshall Rogers using the non-canon piece as a place to suggest a new look.

  4. Impressive pod cast. Most impressive. h that was a cool pros story O’Neil did. And the art was good too. Maybe had he been given an exact points of the story the art would have fit better. Still this works pretty well. I hadn’t read this issue before, but it looks pretty cool. And O’Neil had a great run on Bats. As a writer and editor. I was more of a Much guy, but he did a great job on this book. And with this character. It’s to bad he passed. Ah finding a comic and you know you have it and you can’t find it can be a pain.

    I was gonna do a vid on O’Neils run on WW, but I can’t find it so I’ll have to do my vid on his Power Man and Iron Fist issues. I know the TBS of her WW stuff is here in this room. Been threw 4 boxes. A Chester drawer. All over the place. I went all Tomb Raider on the thing and nothing…..agh. Ah falling face first or the Flair bump. In Judo you learn that on day one. With rolls. That falling on your back. side rolls. And one throw. And you best get it right or they will drop ya lol. Mostly you fall a lot.

    So get use to the matt. You will be on it a lot. I like what he did with night Fall and Knight’s End. Though I didn’t get a lot of those issues with Jean Paul as Bats. At the time I wasn’t near a comic shop. So I could only get them here and there. And well money wasn’t great then. And Super Man was on the triangle run. So I got them hear and there. The Bats story he edited were great. Can’t wait till the next pod cast.

  5. Finally got to listen!

    Great episode. I never knew this story existed, let alone read it in the past, so I can’t thank you enough. Any time I can get more Marshall Rogers Batman I am a happy man. Great stuff.

    As for Keaton, I just don’t want him to be the Flashpoint Thomas Wayne Batman. Make him an old Batman and I’ll be happy. I think Keaton is the best tortured Bruce Wayne in cinema. Just crazy enough. (I think Bale did the best job of playing the playboy immature rich kid Bruce Wayne.) I hope Keaton gets to play the role again.

  6. Great show Ryan and Chris. I read this story in the Greatest Batman stories ever told and can remember the text in the story being slightly off, which ties into your story about Marshall Rodgers being told the art had to be re-arranged post him delivering the art. I really enjoyed the story and O’Neill’s words were very evocative, especially in his description of Gotham and the final fate of Milo Lewes. I enjoyed the dramatic reading you both gave to the story – listening to it, I had the notion that “Anthony Toombs” was used elsewhere in a subsequent Batman story – I thought it may have been the character from the Legends of the Dark Knight storyline “Blink” but he was called something else. The mind played a trick on me in that respect!

    I don’t think there are many prose with illustration stories published with Batman – I know O’Neill did one in a Ms. Tree book and of course, Grant Morrisson wrote a full length issue as part of his Batman run. Do either of you remember any other ones?

    Speaking of O’Neill’s prose, I really enjoyed his adaptation of the Knightfall saga. He knew what to cut from that without impacting on the story, like the majority of the Knightquest involving Jean-Paul (with the exception of the Abattoir ending) and O’Neill’s own Justice League Task Force sidetrip with Bruce Wayne. Totally enjoyed O’Neill’s work on this and is up there with Rucka’s adaptation of No Man’s Land.

  7. “Get this, and get it straight: Crime is a sucker’s road, and those who travel it wind up in the gutter, the prison, or the grave.”
    From the introduction to the “Philip Marlowe” detective radio program.

    Several podcasts that I listen to have spent an episode looking at the work of Denny O’Neil since his death. Your program was the second time this week I heard Denny’s Batman say something similar to this line from a radio adaptation of the hard boiled detective’s adventures. The program was broadcast from 1947 to 1958 when Denny was between eight and nineteen years old. I’m pretty sure that this program must have been one of his inspirations as a writer.

    I was on the pre-internet when Michael Keaton was cast as Bruce Wayne/Batman (I was working in tech support at the time) and the online response was just as aghast (Mr. Mom! Oh, it’s ’66 all over again). I was not concerned about his ability to be Bruce Wayne, but I didn’t know if he could bring the dark of the Dark Knight. I was glad that he did so well with both parts of the role. I think he is a better actor now than he was then so I have no worries that he will not do a good job. I am concerned, as always, that the script will not live up to the comics.

    I am enjoying your podcast more now that you have discarded the ‘completist’ view of an index show.

    Michael Ridge

  8. I thought i was the only Bat-Fan in the world not excited about the Keaton announcement. I like the guy a lot, he’s a great actor, but he’s not this unassailable piece of comic book casting that has never been surpassed! He’s no Chris Reeve, Chris Evans or even Burt Ward! He was fine in those films (one of which is BARELY a Batman movie!) but this nostalgia wave really needs to come crashing down.

    Very enjoyable episode though.

    1. I’ve not been excited about a Batman film since Batman Returns, that was OTT fun… since then the films have become duller and duller; I might be excited about Michael Keaton returning were it not likely in some overly earnest nonsense. ,

  9. Gentlemen, you took a great story (that like Anj, I’d never heard of), and you told it well and even produced it well. Thank you. I enjoyed this facsimile of an old time radio drama. I listened to it the second time with my one of my daughters, and she enjoyed it, too.

    I agree that the little details and practical explanations were super enjoyable in the Knightfall novel, and it was great to see that Denny was already doing them in ’78. He really understood the differences between prose and comics and how to exploit each one’s strengths. Regarding some of those details:

    I looked up Milo’s Llama .25 caliber and found little of note to say about it. Llama was one name for a Spanish firearm manufacturer that had as many imprints as Martin Goodman’s publishing companies. Like Goodman, they had no qualms about copying competitors to mirror their success, and gun patents don’t last as long as character copyrights.

    The Browning 9mm in the story was probably the single-action, semi-automatic “Hi-Power” pistol that is so ubiquitous it wasn’t worth looking up. But I did anyway, because I have a problem. Browning and its licensees produced Hi-Power pistols in so many places that both Axis and Allied forces used them in World War II.

    In contrast, the Berns-Martin spring holster was entirely new to me, and a real find. It was popular, effective and had some interesting history tied up with the Fairbarn-Sykes commando dagger ( Berns-Martin designed a few different configurations. All of them used spring tension to retain the firearm instead of a latch or strap, making “quick draw” possible. However, the design only worked for revolvers, so Denny made a mistake having Benny use it for his semi-auto 9mm. He was in good company, though. Ian Fleming made the same mistake regarding James Bond’s Walther PPK (
    Regarding seventies Batman using fear more than fisticuffs, I also approve. Not only does it make him seem less sadistic and more enjoyable to read, it makes him more realistic. Anyone with any sense would want to minimize both his opportunities to lose and the number of impacts on his bones and joints. After all, he still has to be mobile when Dark Knight Returns rolls around.

    It occurred to me as you were making comparisons that, in his best versions, even the Punisher isn’t as bad as Azbats got. When the creators portray any of these characters as deriving pleasure from inflicting pain on others, the characters stop being good guys, and most of the audience stops rooting for them. Besides, Frank’s actually scarier and more enjoyable when he’s coldly efficient, like what he’s doing is just sanitation work.

    Along those lines, the only thing I disliked in this story was Batman’s lecturing and insulting of Milo and Benny. It isn’t like treating them with contempt will get them to comply or choose a different path. I like it when Batman is righteous, but not self-righteous. Even John Byrne’s Batman, when he first appeared in Man of Steel, was more palatable in this regard. He was a little too sanguine about the prospect of breaking Bull’s leg, but he did express regret because his adversary was “athletic, in his way.” And while he called some portion of the criminal element “gutter slime,” he still felt sorry for the murderous Magpie. Bruce thought of his adversaries as humans, not insects.

    Chris, this Batman was square enough to care about the cook’s tax evasion, and I am more than square enough to appreciate it, just like you. Of course, I’m biased. I have always relied on the kindness of taxpayers.

    I believe the home we see Alfred cleaning in Rogers’ illustrations was the same penthouse we always see atop the Wayne Foundation building . The big architectural flourish of the building was a giant tree in the center and the normal size trees on top ( Those trees were the ones visible in the window. If memory serves, they were meant to signify the Wayne Foundation’s commitment to the environment. They probably also helped Bruce feel at home.

    Dick didn’t join Bats on the mission because he was back at school. As Alfred said earlier, Dick had watched a “dynamite” Buster Keaton flick at the theatre that did cinematic revivals, then left for Hudson U. The theatre was hosting a silent film festival. “Festival” implies multiple films and maybe even multiple showings of those films. Buster Keaton starred in a lot of silent movies. Dick watched one of them and left town shortly after. Toombs sat through a later one – probably several of them, as he was hiding out.

    Speaking of Buster Keaton, I was amazed to hear he was alive, much less capable of playing an older version of the Batman in the upcoming Flash movie. I mean, he was always noted for his physicality and his expressionless, deadpan performance. Obviously, both of those would serve him well as the Dark Kni—Wait. What? It’s MICHAEL Keaton playing Batman in the Flashpoint movie?!?


    Well. This is a little embarrassing. That should be fine, then. Carry on!

  10. Nice job with the dramatization, fellas! This whole comic is a joy that has many pages nestled firmly in my head. Thanks for the background info regarding the planned versus printed use of pictures and type. Even as a kid, I though it seemed a little awkward, but I wouldn’t have been able to explain why. Denny’s story is pretty much a TV detective show of the era. Marshall’s odd perspectives and panel choice are what makes this special. He really made the reader work a little harder to understand the point of each panel, as he was freed from having to show the narrative
    Other things: Cap’n Entropy is correct about the foliage atop the Wayne Foundation Building. “12 miles away…” Using New York City as an analog for Gotham, Manhattan Island is longer than 12 miles, and there are greater distances within city limits across the boroughs. Wayne Manor was still in the past, and future, at time of publication.
    Michael Keaton: I’ve less reaction than Michael B. I dislike the 1989 movie quite a bit, and it’s sequel even less. Keaton, to me, was no Batman or Bruce Wayne. Batman should be able to turn his head. Bruce Wayne should be able to resist overnight guests.

  11. Just dropping this in so I don’t forget to mention it in the feedback:

    I hear you guys on the Wayne residence being the Foundation building. There are indeed, other trees often drawn around the penthouse. BUT, Rogers draws what appears to be a moat around the house, and a pond/lake beyond that. So…I don’t think that’s on the roof of the skyscraper. It could be, but I kind of doubt it.


    1. Marshall was messing with us. There is also, on the right, a telephone or electric cable, carefully fastened to a “tree.”

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