Batman Knightcast 4: BATMAN #402

Ryan Daly and Chris Franklin review BATMAN #402, the first issue written by Max Allan Collins. Is this the beginning of the end already for our dynamic podcast? Or will our intrepid hosts find a fairly enjoyable story amidst all the negative hype? Tune in to find out! Also, listener feedback from episode 3.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “I Still Want You” by The Del Fuegos.

Thanks for listening!

30 responses to “Batman Knightcast 4: BATMAN #402

  1. I remember getting this issue in a 3-pack of comics around the time Batman (1989) was headed to screens. What immediately struck me was the ridiculous length of those ears, turning Batman into a rabbit.

    Not his finest hour.

  2. Fun episode fellas, though it sounded like Ryan needed a bowl of soup throughout. Or maybe that thing Saw Gerrera uses in ROGUE ONE (sorry, wrong show).

    I agree completely, Batman is NOT out for revenge. He’s out to prevent there ever being another 7 year old experiencing the trauma of crime ruining their life. One of the great details I thought BATMAN BEGINS added to the mythos was the idea that Joe Chill was not some snarling, completely evil psycho, he was merely a guy who did something stupid and terrible. If Batman was just out for revenge, he could have stopped his mission the minute Chill buys it.

    1. I always liked the idea that he was out there because of guilt. He’s pretty stunted emotionally and never evolved past the point of a Zorro fantasy. It’s why he’s a dick to everyone close to him – he doesn’t know how to be an adult.

      1. I know that is one way to go, but I prefer a Batman who is more emotionally mature than that. It’s unfortunately what the Post-Crisis Batman evolves into, but I personally subscribe to Rob’s idea of a man who doesn’t want to see anyone go through his personal hell. It may also make him hard to know and distant at times, but he’s not some completely damaged man-child either.


        1. I guess the “jerky Batman” grew out of the 90s/21st century stories. How many times did we see “I’m a loner/Get out of my city, other heroes/oh, wait, I need my family/I’m a loner/Get out of my city…” during this time period? This is the Batman I most remember and the Batman that made me stop reading.

          It scarred me. Like seeing my parents gunned down before me.

          My Batman of preference is Dick Grayson.

          1. I understand.I grew REALLY tired of a Batman who learned to rely on his friends in a major crossover….only to forget it again by the next one. As much as I love the later 90s comic during the heavy Dixon era, all of that flip-flopping became hard to swallow. “Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive” was the final nail in that coffin, that really burned me out on the whole affair for a bit. Of course I still bought the books because I have sickness, but I was pretty honked off.


        2. Yep, I personally prefer the “doesn’t-want-it-to-happen-to-anyone-else” motivation for Batman as well. I think that idea was nicely illustrated in the first section of Batman Annual #9 (written by one of my favorite Bat-scribes, Mike Barr, drawn by Jerry Ordway), in which Batman does everything he can to keep a little boy whose parents are killed by bank robbers from going down the road he did (or from just becoming a revenge-obsessed rage monster). And yes, for all of his psychological baggage, I don’t think Batman should be an emotionally stunted jerk, either.

          1. Franklin – I think you and I had the same breaking point. When Bruce punched Dick for the millionth time, I kind of had it with Bruce/Batman. I’m not sure if it was the editors or the writers or a combination of the two, but their vision of the lone vigilante didn’t mesh with the fact that there were 80 other books out there co-starring or spinning off of Batman. It made for many forced moments that were clearly used to forward the story.

            Also, I think it was in a 1998 SDCC panel with that era’s Bat-writers that turned what was an enjoyable book into a misery cluster for me. Greg Rucka really hammered home the fact that Batman would fail every time he got into the suit because no matter what he did, people died. So he fails every night. And what’s the definition of insanity again?

  3. To me that’s always been an awful cover, it’s such an ugly image. And that Seventies holdout logo without the proper backing bat is all kinds of nothing. I also hate the melodramatic cover blurb, the likes of which Denny would later have in storybook type style for Death in the Family or Captain Atom (‘…and in this darkest moment, Plastique knows compassion’).

    Oh those names, Dick and Jane for the nice young couple, Roach and Spider for the no-marks …. it’s all a bit on the nose

    I think the new Jason origin probably was DON more than MAC but still, he was complicit! Ginger Jason forever!

    So MAC was just meant to be there for a couple of issues and yet he got to write two essays? Yawn, just give us letters.

    It’s interesting that straight away they have Jason being morally off.

    Master-of-everything Marine with a dead wife? Tommy is just one boring bundle of cliches.

    A Batman story with street thugs rather than a proper villain has to be amazing to be worthwhile. This isn’t. Batman’s reluctance to fight Tommy is just dumb. He’s killing people, who cares that he’s a cop, Batman knows people lose it?

    And this is possibly the worst Starlin art I’ve ever seen, from the lazy splash page to the ridiculous ears to Alfred the Peanut.

    Apart from that, fantastic issue.

  4. If the Barr/Davis Batman was an eighties version of the sixties television series then the Max Allan Collins issues were Batman as produced by Stephen J Cannell. Seriously. Read these issues and imagine a Mike Post score playing in the background.

    I am not the biggest fan of Collins’ work on Batman but I don’t loathe it either. Batman 402 and 403 are solid crime dramas with a little bit of that profiling shtick that Criminal Minds has milked for over a decade. Batman has had many, “There but for the grace of God go I” moments and this was one of the better ones in my opinion.

    Count me in as one of those people that believe that Batman is in this to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to another little boy or girl. Sure he has the flashy costume and the cool car and the awesome villains but scratch all that away I think his base need is to protect people. This has gotten lost with some incarnations but it’s the take on the character that I prefer.

    Great episode, fellas! I look forward to the next one. Barr and Davis! Let the Batman using a guy as a human shield or threaten a man with prison violation begin!

    That was snarky. I love those issues. I really do.

  5. I’m of the opposite mindset with “I don’t have to save you”. Batman was faced w/ an unrepentant adversary determined to “finish the job” w/ an entire city. He had unknowingly been merciful to this person earlier in the film and, in return, here he was being pushed to the limit to keep the villain’s plans from reaching fruition. A villain whose manipulation of “economics” contributed to his parents’ deaths. Stuck in a death trap of the villain’s making, I thought Batman had found a cathartic third option between killing him and keeping such a threat alive.

    Dipping back to the earlier Knightcasts, I was watching the 1986 film COBRA and Andrew Robinson, who plays the detective busting Stallone’s _____, would have made an excellent G. Gordon Godrey.

  6. Please excuse the somewhat off-topic observations, but as Transformers are my *first* geekdom love, I was of course pleased to hear your observations about the multitude of Transformers-related comic books coming out the same month as Batman #402. As you might imagine, this period was Transformers golden age. Never before had so many issues of Transformers-related comic fiction been released at the same time, nor at any other time afterward during Marvel’s tenure on the franchise (IDW would surpass this record, but that wouldn’t take place until more than two decades later).

    Regarding the color choices for the Transformers: The Movie crossover, Hot Rod’s pinkish color scheme is partially due to the fact that (unlike most Transformers characters) the new characters introduced in the movie had their animation models created *before* the toys were designs. Hot Rod was intended to be pinkish to help differentiate his design from the more “mature” Rodimus Prime design. Of course, the toys ended up being more or less the same color.

    The block coloring is essentially the work of Nel Yomtov, who perhaps ironically was the most consistent feature of the Marvel run, being the only person to work on pretty much *every* issue (including crossovers) before the franchise was resurrected as “Generation Two.” While his decision to use large blocks of single color is widely mocked, even by Transformers fans, today, it was no doubt done in part due to the large number of characters (many having quite complex detailing) that the franchise required.

    Thanks, as always, for the insight and enthusiasm you bring to this podcast.

  7. This was an interesting episode gentlemen; I’m quite curious about the Batman stories by Collins because I otherwise love his writing, and by that I mean his novels, like his Quarry books and others, which are all real page-turners (to date, I’ve actually read none of his comics work, not even the much-lauded Ms. Tree).
    Like you guys note, it seems like Collins would be a natural fit for Batman, but I’ve noticed that there’s quite a few who seem dislike his work with the character. I’ll be interested in hearing your views on his subsequent stories.
    By the way, on the topic of Collins, I have to recommend his three Jack & Maggie Starr mysteries (A Killing in Comics, Strip for Murder and Seduction of the Innocent), which are all set in the late 1940s/early 1950s and feature very thinly disguised analogs to the major personalities on the comic book and newspaper comics scene of the time. They’re really fun and light-hearted stories with tons of Easter eggs for anyone with even a passing knowledge of comics history in the US.

  8. I think you guys got a little overly nit-picky on the timeline thing. I get that you were trying to illustrate how DC was flying by the seat of their pants in regards to Batman, but I guess it’s just the kind of nit-pickery that makes me start to do the handwave motion and think “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I get the feeling that in general I’m way more forgiving of minor continuity gaffs than many other comic book readers. Continuity is something that is great when it’s tight, but it’s never bothered me when it’s loose, at least so far as continuing stories by multiple creators go. That’s not to say there aren’t some gaffs that make me go “wait, what?” but in my mind if the only way to be sure that it’s a potential mistake is to take out a piece of paper and start doing math then maybe just move along and don’t get hung up on it.

  9. I don’t know Collins from Adam, but I’ve come to the realization that I just don’t like Starlin’s work. I don’t like his writing on DC books, and I don’t like his art which has some very wonky anatomy. There, I’ve admitted it.

    Oh, and a new Hero Points comes out next Tuesday. You can stop the letter-writing campaign now.

    1. I really liked Cosmic Odyssey and put that head and shoulders above his other DC stuff. Having Mike Mignola on art doesn’t hurt.


    The above is a recent interview Max Allan Collins did recently discussing his Batman work. Apparently, a lot of the issues stemmed from the fact that editorial and Collins did not talk a lot during his time on the book, coupled with the fact that there was no unifying vision of Collins’ Batman with a slew of artists portraying Collins’ vision. I guess in today’s world of instant communication, we forget that that wasn’t the case in the 1980s.

    For me, while Collins was not my favourite writer, I did not dislike his stuff. It was probably a bit bland for what Miller had set up in Year One but it was serviceable enough. It may have been even better if he had a consistent artist team in place to portray his vision.

    I enjoyed this episode and get better soon Ryan.

    1. Thanks for the link, Jimmy. CBR has become so ridiculously filled with pop-up ads, I unfortunately don’t got there much anymore. Just too annoying.

      I think the lack of a solid (and consistent) art team really did hurt Collins’ run. After this issue (and the next) I’m going to do my best to give him an even shake.


    2. Thanks for the link! It gives me empathy for the working conditions MAC had, and provided good insights. I wonder how the stories would read if DON, while a brilliant writer himself, let MAC call more of the shots (like the splintered baseball bat bringing Batman down). I’m still not clear who’s idea it was to have Bruce fire Dick, though. That bothers me, but at the end of the day, Bruce is human and is fully capable of a stupid decision. I’m just glad they make amends later!

  11. As previously mentioned, I picked up the three-pack of Batman #401-403 at Circus World, well before it was bought out by KB Toys. Jim Starlin was one of the first comic artists whose work I could recognize and is a lifelong favorite. It’s probable his cover is what got me to buy the package, and a happy surprise to find he did the interiors, too. Starlin wasn’t in peak form, in part because this was the period where he began transitioning out of drawing for most of the late ’80s and early ’90s. He also always hated drawing real things like cars, which is why he did so much sci-fi, and so little urban vigilante stuff. Finally, I think this was around the time Epic Comics became very late in sending Starlin his royalty checks for the bi-monthly Dreadstar, which prompted him to move the title to First Comics. I believe Starlin drew this specific issue of Batman because he needed quick cash to pay his tax bill for that year. Sam DeLaRosa had starting inking him on Dreadstar, and I think he’d adapted his style to a bolder, blocker line to “proof” it against embellishment. I disliked the change because it made his work look stiffer and more cartoony, really emphasizing the Swanderson influence in his work. It was still Starlin, so I was still happy, and it was better than most of his DC work from earlier in the decade. I wish he’d used this style for most of his DC Comics Presents issues, for instance.

    As for the story, I enjoyed the premise and was fine with its execution at the time. I don’t own a copy any more, so I can’t say how it would hold up. I was shocked by the level of violence on display, far exceeding anything I had seen in a mainstream comic up to that point. The previous issue had its gory moments, but they were played much more subtly, though they cumulatively informed me that I was reading The New Adventures of a grim n’gritty Dark Knight. I hadn’t bought Batman regularly ever, outside of Brave and the Bold, so the fact that I began sporadically buying the book up through Knightfall demonstrated the appeal of the Post-Crisis run.

    Speaking of which, in answer to Chris’ request…

    Batman annual circulation
    1981: 110,997
    1982: 108,234
    1983: 97,741
    1984: 89,217
    1985: 75,303
    1986: 89,747
    1987: 193,000
    In 1988, DC Comics stopped publishing their circulation statements. Capital City Distribution averaged about 25K per issue, which jumped to 75,650 for the first part of The Many Deaths of Batman arc in spring of 1989, then 118,650 for the first chapter of Batman Year 3, then peaked at 152,450 for the debut of Robin III at the conclusion of A Lonely Place of Dying.

    Detective Comics annual circulation
    1981: 89,719
    1982: 85,049
    1983: 80,725
    1984: 77,275
    1985: 66,739
    1986: 70,319
    1987: 128,475
    In 1988, Capital City Distribution averaged about 20K per issue, which jumped to 40K in the run-up to the film, and peaked at 84K with #604 (first chapter of The Mud Pack and the major arc out around the same time as the movie, plus it had a bound in mini-poster.)

    1. Thanks Frank! Interesting that Batman and Tec’s circulation DOUBLED in 1987, after steadily declining every years before. And this would be before interest for the movie was starting to kick in, so it may be due to the hype around and after DKR, and DC’s subsequent actions to follow that lead somewhat.


  12. I thought the talk about how long Batman has been active was interesting, but I wouldn’t put too much stock in anything Tommy’s drunk mother said. She didn’t even recognize the difference between Bruce and her own son, even if Tommy was wearing a surprisingly authentic Batman costume! I would say Bruce has been Batman at least nine years in Batman #402, if we say Robin hit the scene in his third year. Now I wonder how long it would be before Bruce felt Robin was ready for patrol, but Dick had enough circus background that his training period wouldn’t have to be as long as most people. I’m really enjoying the show, and look forward to hearing more!

    1. I’m having my 12 year old son, Silas, read the comics covered in this show after I do. He asked me if there was an order he should follow when his “homework” stack from me included Batman #401-402 and Detective Comics #568. I said it didn’t really matter but let him know the publication order. He was wanting to start with Batman #402, which says something about that cover!

  13. Nice job, gentlemen. My experience with Batman in comic books is relatively limited. I’m more familiar with his appearances in TV (beginning with Super Friends) and movies. My first real exposure to him in print was in Grant Morrison’s JLA. I found his portrayal as the mastermind/strategist to be interesting, since that is a role normally played by super villains. I was interested enough to pick up some issues of No Man’s Land, but eventually found him a little too grim for my tastes. So, yes, I did go through a Batman phase. DISCLAIMER: Not all comic book fans may experience a Batman phase. All of that is to say that I’m enjoying this podcast, and I’m looking forward to receiving a proper education in the history of the Dark Knight.

    In regards to Jim Starlin, I’m most familiar with him as the writer of Silver Surfer back in the early 90s, which was one of the first books I followed on a regular basis. It’s interesting to see his work as a penciler/inker. While I’m keeping an open mind on his work, I have to say Batman’s ears are a little to long for me.

  14. Thanks, guys! Another great podcast! I love the discussion.

    Some bullet comments …

    I think I had been inclined to be a bit more forgiving on Collins writing on Batman because I loved the Ms. Tree comic and his work on the Dick Tracy comic strip way back in the day.

    I found it … different seeing Starlin’s take on Batman. I thought his work was always suited for outer space settings where I did enjoy his work. I’m glad I got to see him take a stab at Batman though (but my God, those cowl ears).

    Since it came up in conversation, there was a Joker/Penguin/Riddler team-up story in Brave and Bold #68 (cover dated November 1966) where Batman teamed up with Metamorpho in a story entitled “Alias the Bat-Hulk.” The pencils were done by Mike Sekowsky (who I thought drew Superman and Batman with broad shoulders and wide chests and it was even more exaggerated here), and the story was written by (of course) Bob Haney. There was also a paperback book around the time of Bat-mania entitled “Batman vs. the Three Villains of Doom” by Winston Lyon (but I’ve seen sources online state this was a pen name for William Woolfolk; and another as Winston Groom) where the Joker, the Penguin and the Catwoman were all vying for the Tommy award, an award in crime achievement – so they were not all working together like the big 4 in the ’66 movie.

    Nice mention Chris on the “Where Were You on the Night Batman Was Killed?” storyline from Batman #s 291-294; I loved that story when I was a kid – seeing all those villains and the great covers by Jim Aparo.

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