Batman Knightcast 9: DETECTIVE COMICS #571

Chris Franklin and Ryan Daly review DETECTIVE COMICS #571, in which the Dynamic Duo confront their fears and the villainous Scarecrow! Plus, listener feedback from last episode.

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Music from the Batman and Batman Returns original motion picture soundtracks by Danny Elfman. Additional music: “Viva Las Vegas” by Elvis Presley; “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult.

Thanks for listening!

25 responses to “Batman Knightcast 9: DETECTIVE COMICS #571

  1. Fab episode , the Scarecrow has always been one of my favourite villains. Evil shrinks are just fun… psychiatric training in the DC Universe must be really bad given all the bad psychiatrists around. Surely someone could fix Scarecrow and Harley and they could open a practice together.

    So Batman knows the villain of the piece is the scarecrow – and he still takes Jason to fight him without any kind of gas mask protection? Did he even check if the boy had any potentially crippling fears that might be activated?

    Still, I like this story so much I put in a British Christmas Batman annual, and yes the fact it was all done-in-one helped!

    The horrible scariness of a scarecrow mask is one of the reasons I never could get on with Cassandra Cain as Batgirl – she just looks too damn creepy, like a gimp propped up in a field.

    1. Wow, I never thought of the huge amount of evil psychologists/psychiatrists in the DCU. Maybe they should form a team.
      Scarecrow! Harley Quinn! Hugo Strange! Dr. Psycho!

      The Fatal Freuds!!!

      Chris

  2. Working backwards: “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? I assume you have another song in mind for Detective 575?

    Too bad this is the last episode of the show, though it will free Chris up for other, more SUPER projects.

    In case you guys never get to it: my fav moment of TDKR is in Book 4, when in the middle of the final battle Robin notices that Batman looks tired, and sags in his saddle like an old man. He notices that she notices and “smiles like it’s funny.” The fact that we don’t see Batman in this moment (the shot is of Robin reacting) is what makes it so powerful. And even though the series is justly famous for its ultra-violence and dynamic action beats, its these quiet moments of grace that I think make that mini more well-rounded than a lot of people remember. That might partly be because the Frank Miller of the 21st Century seems to regard that kind of sublte character stuff with disdain, if not outright mockery.

    This is probably my fav issue of the Barr/Davis run. I think its a perfect spin of the dial for a (at least until Nolan) under-utilized Bat-Villain. I also like that Batman uses his brain/sheer force of will to override the anti-fear toxin. Nowadays Bats would probably just jam a razor-sharp Batarang in his thigh because that’s all cool and dark and badass.

    Nice of Angie to come right out and tell you you’ll never be having sex again. A lot of times that kind of realization is more slow and drawn out. Angie just ripped the band aid right off!

    1. Ha, I like what you did there Mr. Kelly. VERY sneaky.

      That is a nice moment in DKR. And I agree, Miller has lost any and all ability to be subtle. Certain filmmakers who are enamored of him also lack that ability.

      I’m going to suggest a certain song by Billy Joel that may fit Batman: Year Two. At least the love interest in that one.

      Chris

  3. I’m enjoying listening to your episodes compare and contrast the Barr and Miller stories mostly for the differences in their tone. I do appreciate Miller’s work of this era but he did drain all of the fun/hope out of Batman. The grim Dark Knight/Bat=God is just not as appealing to me as the Batman who would smile occasionally or crack a joke now and then. Bruce as the perpetually traumatized avenger of the night is such a downer. The fun of the Barr is apparent on every page. At some point Batman has to be for kids.

    1. I prefer a well-rounded Batman too, but I feel Batman as Miller portrays him in Year One isn’t the overly-obsessed, unlikable man-child we later get. Creators who followed Miller forgot the subtle humor and humanity that Miller brought to the character in this story.

      And in all honesty, in my opinion, any character that is marketed to kids should never be put in something NO kid could or should read. You can lean into some adult themes (like Year One here) but it’s about as far as you ever need to go with these characters. Want to tell darker stories? Go make up your own character. But that’s just me.

      Chris

      1. I totally agree! Year One is a great read from a time when Miller was still reigning in some of his more bombastic instincts. Over the last few years I’ve been teaching an undergrad course on “Superheroes and Comic Book Culture” and many of students have not really liked “Year One” when we’ve read it class. I think it’s the fact that the focus is more on Gordon and less on Bruce/Batman. They seem to be more positive toward The Killing Joke (even though Batman is less the focus of attention there too).

        Lately, I’ve been reading some of the trades based on Batman: Brave & the Bold and Justice League Unlimited. I like Batman when he can play well with others.

        1. That’s discouraging to know young adults prefer the rather nasty Killing Joke over Year One. I don’t hate Killing Joke, but it does now seem wrong headed and just kind of nasty and mean-spirited. Even Moore has kind of disavowed it. I still LOVE the art, though.

          Chris

          1. I still really love TKJ, but I think it lost a lot once it was drafted into “official” continuity, Its such a dark story, with an ending that doesn’t leave you anywhere to go re: the Batman/Joker relationship. If I was Barbara, learning that Batman had a good chuckle with the man who sexually assaulted and shot me would be a horrific betrayal.

          2. Well, if you’re Grant Morrison, you read it as Batman killing the Joker at the end.

            But yes, TKJ should have never been part of canon. Ostrander, Rice, Dixon and Simone made some tasty, tasty lemonade out of the lemons Moore gave to Babs, but it’s just all too nasty. It’s why I don’t like Identity Crisis. Keep that smut out of my super hero FANTASY.

  4. Another great episode! Really enjoyed it! That Galactic Guardians episode Chris mentioned!! Wow! While I’d seen the Scarecrow in Challenge of the Super Friends, THIS was really a Scarecrow story. More importantly, it was the first time I was ever exposed to Batman’s origin. Never forget it. And the animation in that particular episode was fantastic. Really a stand out episode.

    I was thinking the same thing as you gents. Batman’s greatest fear of losing Jason, tied into DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. Clearly they were going for drama using the foreshadowing from DARK KNIGHT which the audience had read, but unknowingly they really were foreshadowing!!

    You should have mentioned how Howard Stern was almost the first theatrical Scarecrow for the next (never produced) Batman movie after BATMAN & ROBIN. Just imagine… that wouldn’t have damaged the character at all! 😉

    Fear the Reaper? Are we gonna hear a repeat during YEAR TWO, or are you just creating a challenge for yourself?

    1. I’ve tried to put Howard Stern as Scarecrow in that same, deep, dark, sealed up vault in my brain that I also placed Damon Wayans as Robin. Kind of like how Batman left the KGBeast to die in that abandoned sewer tunnel. But then you have to bring it up again. Not even Kurt Russell as Batman could have saved that one.

      “The Fear” was the first time Batman’s origin was ever presented in a visual medium outside of comics, so you were probably in good company with LOTS of other folks!

      Chris

  5. Great episode for a great issue! If we did have extra panels to expound on the Alvin Kenner scene, maybe Batman could have put Christopher Chance on retainer posing as Alvin Kenner, and Chance could signal Batman when Scarecrow came a calling. Since we never saw how Batman escaped the pit, then Chance could have thrown him a line when he was checking on how the case was going.

    1. Nice! And what a way to butter up VP Dick Giordano by using one of his favorite characters!

      I remember Gerry Conway had Alfred hire Chance to pose as Bruce Wayne just to throw Vicki Vale off his secret identity, during the Monk/Dala redux storyline in the early 80s. Coming soon to The Overlooked Dark Knight show I’d imagine!

      Chris

  6. I don’t know if this has been brought up on other Social Media, but you guys are not imagining the retcon of Hooker Catwoman from Batman Year One. In the 1995 Annual, Catwoman #2, that whole year of annuals were Year One Origin stories. The ENTIRE Miller Catwoman sequence was Selina ‘hiding out’ from the cops from her last big score. The ‘John’ who walks in to ‘proposition’ her, is speaking CODE and actually tipping off Selina to her next job as a Cat-Burglar. It’s not the greatest story, but it probably helps with the folks who don’t like the Hooker-rization of Catwoman. I know at the time of reading, I got a kick out of the retcon.

    https://s20.postimg.org/yj2lpe8fh/CWYO-_Knightcast.jpg

    1. Thanks Derek! Oddly enough, I just came across this tidbit while doing research for the next episode. I knew I remembered it from SOMEWHERE, but thanks for putting it here on the site for all to see. Yes Virginia, DC officially retconned Selina as hooker away.

      Chris

  7. Nice to have a one and done issue, although was the Scarecrow a bit too high up the Rogue gallery food chain to only deserve one issue? Not that I would want a six part extravaganza but surely Dr Crane deserved a two issue story? :)

    Notwithstanding that, it was a fun issue. My first exposure to the character was from Alan Grant’s 3 parter that officially made Tim Drake Robin. I think another of the first stories I read about him was his cameo in the first Sandman trade with Doctor Destiny. Weird to think how the early Gaiman Sandman was so tied into the DCU.

    It was interesting to hear Ryan’s comments on Dixon’s run. Looking back, I guess the attraction in Dixon’s writing was how he really developed the characterisations of both secondary characters, like Gordon, Bullock, Montoya et al (and arguably if it wasn’t for Dixon’s initially work on the Gotham police, we would never have gotten the Gotham Central series); and on villains like Cluemaster, Riddler, Firefly and spellbinder. By contrast, I guess he did very little with Batman, either the grim avenger in Batman mode or clueless socialite in Bruce mode. Will be interesting to see what you think when you get to these stories.

    Another fun episode and look forward as always to the next one.

  8. Great episode.

    Scarecrow is a perfect villain to pit against the hero who strikes fear into the “cowardly, superstitious lot” of criminals. I now want to go read that later Scarecrow story where he enhances the fear of Batman.

    Ryan, if it’s any comfort, you’re not the only one with those feelings about the Dixon Batman. I’m right there with you.

    But I don’t agree with you on Joe Chill. I like that Batman did eventually meet up with his parents’ killer. It means his mission is about making sure that such tragedies never happen to anyone else, not about some Quixotic quest to capture one guy — where each criminal he stops might be his parents’ killer. (And that was the post Zero Hour logic for removing Chill’s role.). I think Chill is in a way more random for us knowing who he is. As an unknown, he looms much larger. As Joe Chill — he is a criminal like many, he is emblematic of criminals — just a guy. As an unknown, the killer becomes something greater, a lurking presence. It no longer stands for all crime,

    Like Chris, I’m not fond of Chill being some instrument of some vast conspiracy. I grew up with the Pre-Crisis Batman and knew about Lew Moxon, but even then Chill being a hitman instead of a thug took something away from the simplicity of the tale.

    On Gotham City — it strikes me that the Gotham of Year One isn’t the macabre, crazy place of later tales with gothic architecture. Year One’s Gotham is the New York of the 1970s — the New York before the famous “I Love New York” campaign. The urban hell that loomed large in real-life cases like Son of Sam and in films such as Serpico (based on real life) and Taxi Driver. Both those films have been cited as huge influences on Year One. Bruce Wayne does have a Travis Bickle quality, and Holly seems like a comic book version of Jodie Foster’s Iris. The corruption and decay seems more real-world than other Batman tales. (Miller’s Daredevil also seems to take place in 1970s New York which I know was a problem for the Netlfix show that had to ignore over 30 years of gentrification.)

  9. Seemingly like Ryan, I’ve become a comic book originalist in my old age. If you’re going to write a character, you go back to the original stories to determine true north as you layer in later interpretations and your own innovations. So, if you’re going to write Batman, you should take a look at his earliest and most resilient villains. The Scarecrow dates back to 1941 and one of the earliest stories in World’s Finest Comics. Deemed too scary for the Silver Age, he made a comeback in the Bronze with the aid of appearances on Super Friends (where I likely first found him. He’s been a staple of Batman’s rogues gallery ever since, and eventually appears in pretty much every media adaptation, including the three highest grossing films on the Dark Knight’s resume.

    So… why don’t I like the Scarecrow, ranking him far below more commercially challenged rogues like Penguin and Riddler, not to mention less iconic options like Bane and Killer Croc? Part of it is that he’s simply too on the nose. He’s a spooky crook facing a spooky vigilante and they both have the same basic m.o. More to the point, dramatics aside, they’re both kind of harmless. I guess Scarecrow kills people, but I can’t name any, and most of his stories are “imaginary tales” even by comic book standards, since they all end up revolving around delusions created by his fear gas. He’s just another scrawny geek using a gimmick to bolster his ego, and Scarecrow seems so especially one note in his shtick that I frankly find even the Mad Hatter more exciting. Scarecrow simply has too little charisma and is too much like Uatu the Watcher, facilitating one “what if” scenario after another that amounts to nothing. He’s the Bobby Ewing shower of super-villainy, a cheat walking on a pair of gangling legs. Are there any truly great Scarecrow stories? I haven’t read any. The “Over the Edge” episode of The New Batman Adventures, I guess.

    I also have to confess a bias for the Marvel Comics Scarecrow, sometime villain of Captain America, Iron Man and Ghost Rider. He lacks the pedigree of Jonathan Crane, but he’s a creepy serial killing contortionist whose look appeals to me more. I’m also fond of another Marvel Scarecrow, this one an mystical anti-hero later rebranded The Straw Man. DC’s Scarecrow never felt anywhere near as imposing as either, and basically just felt like Joker Lite. The shot of Batman carrying Scarecrow at the end of the story reminds me of an old Gilbert Gottfried joke. One bluer than Batman’s cape.

    Prior to the Year One annuals, the Catwoman retcon was retconned away in her Zero issue. Just try to explain the 1989 mini-series and related Action Comics Weekly strip, though. I think it’s an important distinction too that Miller to my recollection never quite made Selina Kyle a prostitute. She’s a madame in DKR, and a dominatrix in Year One. Those positions may be peripheral to prostitution, but they’re not the same thing.

  10. I’m behind and catching up. Great episode with very keen insights and observations on Batman #404. Looking forward to the discussion on the art. And yes, Chris, believe it or not in a Brave &Bold issue, Batman displays a badge that proves he’s a duly deputized deputy of the law. I think it was a Teen Titans team-up.

    Detective Comics #571 has great Alan Davis art. Scarecrow is not among my favorite villains, but I agree he was well handled on the animated series.

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