First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.19: Detective Comics #595

Bass and Siskoid cover Detective Comics #595, in which Batman hears the call… and doesn’t heed it? We’re doomed! Plus, what Batman means to us!

Listen to Episode 19 below (the usual filthy filthy language warnings may apply), or subscribe to First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast on iTunes!

Relevant images and further credits at: First Strike ep.19 Supplemental

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13 responses to “First Strike: The Invasion! Podcast Ep.19: Detective Comics #595

  1. What’s the Joker’s favorite Chinese restaurant?

    Funny Wok.

    You discussed how Batman is able to rather seamlessly exist in grim & gritty crime noir stories as well as campy kids adventures. He can be uber dark and he can be silly, and everything in between, and most fans will accept the vast spectrum of interpretations of Batman. Superman, on the other hand, struggles to have this same all-encompassing appeal, because, as you pointed out, a dark vision of Superman strikes the wrong chord with fans (usually).

    I wonder if Spider-Man is the only other superhero with the kind of diversity in story potential as Batman. I don’t think you could tell as many Elseworlds-style stories with the wall-crawler as you could with the Dark Knight, because Batman could become Batman in any era, whereas Spider-Man’s origin and powers require the proper scientific setting to begin. But aside from that, Spider-Man can be silly and kid-friendly, a perfect vehicle for moral guidance for young readers. But Spider-Man can also, on occasion, step into the realms of darkness and despair without feeling out of place. Some of his greatest stories are rooted in tragedy and death, from the original death of Uncle Ben, to the death of Gwen Stacy, to Kraven’s Last Hunt.

    Does this comparison hold up, or am I forgetting some crucial bit of Spider-Man truth? And are there any other superheroes with this kind of ubiquity of story?

  2. Lots to chew on in this episode. I think Batman’s attitude toward “answering the call” can be seen as the editorial indifference O’Neil had to Batman’s role in the DCU in general. The Bat and Super offices really didn’t like to share much at this point. By late 88/early 89, two years after the period Ryan and I are currently covering on Knightcast, O’Neil seems to have settled into a very urban Batman. He’s mostly eschewed the more fantastical trappings of the character, even the vehicles beyond the Batmobile. It’s a shame that he limited his scope so much, because a teched-up Batman going in to take out a bunch of aliens would have been a fun romp, and made more sense than him whipping a bunch of Khunds by hand, as Bass points out. The animated series and later JL/JLU proved that the urban, gritty Batman who roughs up gangsters COULD BE the same guy as the Batwing-flying, gadget-laden Batman who fights Darkseid, if done with care.

    Irv Novick was pretty long in the tooth here. He had started in the Golden Age of comics, co-creating the Shield, the first patriotic US hero, predating Captain America! He came to Batman in the late 60s and stayed around the character off and on until the early 80s. He retired around the time of the Crisis and showed up here and there during this period. Yeah, this isn’t his best stuff, but I was never a huge fan of Steve Mitchell’s inks when he wasn’t working over Norm Breyfogle, so that may be part of the issue. But it’s probably mostly age. Novick did solid, dependable work on Batman and Flash in the 70s, much like Dick Dillin on JLA.

    Asking what my favorite Batman period is, is like asking who my favorite kid is! As for comics, the very early Batman (pre-Robin up through about the first year or so post-Robin) have always fascinated me. The Finger/Sprang collaborations, the O’Neil/Adams stories, anything by Chuck Dixon, these are always on the top of my list of favorite Bat-eras. But right now, I’m REALLY loving the genius Barr/Davis run we’re covering on Knightcast, which gives us perhaps the best well-rounded Batman that manages to consolidate nearly all iterations of the character into one. Oh, and you can’t beat the Englehart/Rogers run, of course!

    Good on you Bass for raising your kids on Batman ’66. That was my parenting angle as well! My kids caught all of those nods in The Lego Batman Movie, even the fairly obscure ones!


  3. I agree with you on the Dick Grayson Batman. He’s my favorite version of Batman (sorry, Franklin and Ryan). I’m a huge fan of legacy characters. “Black Mirror” was terrific.

    I imagine O’Neil had a hard time with Batman being in JLI at this time. It’s hard to keep the whole “urban myth” thing going when the character is on-camera in such a high profile team. I’m a bit split on this, to be honest. I’ve always thought the idea of the Bat-Myth is a strong one. But that has to be cultivated, something DC failed to do effectively. It certainly works for Year One Bats, but after a while…

    Great coverage of a crummy issue, guys.

    1. And I’m (generally) predisposed to not liking legacy characters. I thought “Black Mirror” was excellent, but I would’ve preferred if it was a Bruce Wayne Batman story or a Dick Grayson Robin/Nightwing story.

  4. Highly involving episode, I enjoyed the discussion of just why Batman seems to “work” in so many different forms. Siskoid’s comment that no one is screaming about ruined childhoods over LEGO BATMAN was a great observation.

    One of the things I liked about that movie was, plot-wise, it’s basically a straightforward Batman story that with just a few minor tweaks could work in a Batman comic or live-action movie. Despite it being a comedy, it shows respect for the character and his trappings–something IMO BvS does not do with either titular character.

    And I’m not going to bash you for ragging on Irv Novick this time around–from the pages you showed, this was by far not his best work so I couldn’t blame anyone new to his work coming away with a bad impression.

    I hope next episode you will run a promo for new show, Up and Atom: A Captain Atom Podcast.

  5. Great discussions all around.

    I personally believe that the main reason that all versions of Batman work to one extent or another while other versions of Superman ultimately don’t boils down to how the two characters evolved. Superman was the champion of the weak and the oppressed until the higher ups said he needed to be more law abiding like that Batman guy. And that’s where Superman stayed for the next fifty or so years. Thanks to a popular radio show and then a popular television show and then a popular film series Superman was DC’s flagship title through thick and thin. Batman had a fan base but as he went into the sixties the series struggled. He went from grim avenger to the policeman’s friend to the crazy sci-fi hero to the detective to the campy crime fighter to the grim avenger of the night to a soap opera to Miller and on and on. To survive the character had to change with the audience. So the television series from the sixties exists along with Nolan’s version of the character because it appeals to different audiences because Batman has had so many different audiences over the years.

    As for my favorite era…well, I have favorite eras. I loved the Golden Age, pre-Robin material. I love the O’Neil/Adams stories. I love the Englehart/Rogers era. I think Frank Robbin is criminally underrated as a Batman writer. On a more personal level I followed the books on and off from the summer of 1989 to the fall of 1990 and then again from the summer of 1994 to the winter of 1996 and then again from 1998 to about 2004 and then off and on after Infinite Crisis. I actually followed Robin and Nightwing more than any of the Batman titles in the late ’90s until just after No Man’s Land. So I have this really weird relationship with the ongoing books but when I’m in, I am seriously in. There are writers and artists from that era that I like more than others (Dixon, Grant, Breyfogle, Nolan, Rucka, Brubaker) but there is very few books published during my time in Gotham that I actively disliked.

    One more thing and then I’ll give the floor to the next listener; Siskoid at one point talked about how it seemed that the Bat Titles followed a similar course to the Superman books in the ’90s and were interconnected and went from event to event. It might have seemed like that but it actually wasn’t. It’s true that Knightfall went to Knightsquest went to Knightsend went to Prodigal but after that the events were spaced out a little better. Contagion went down in early 1996 and you had Legacy a few months after but there was a long stretch where O’Neil put a moratorium on the crossovers. If you look at the Bat titles in 1997 many of them bear a 1 of 1 tag on the cover. In the end O’Neil didn’t notice a significant rise in sales when the books were isolated and noted that the they sold better when they were part of a crossover which led to Cataclysm in 1998 and then No Man’s Land.

    The Bat book and the Spider titles were never able to make the multiple titles connecting thing work like the Superman titles did. I think the varied creators not wanting to write chapter 5 of 17 eventually got to the Bat and Spider writers. This is a personal opinion and not based on any real research.

    Oddly enough the Batman books had the interconnected thing going right before the Crisis. Batman led into Detective led right back into Batman for several years until O’Neil took over as editor. So basically Batman did it first.

    Great episode. Thanks as always.

  6. At some point in the mid-ish ’90s when I was at ultimate sad sack m.f. mode, I bought numerous packs of index cards and attempted to break down every DC Comic I owned on a single card each. I did this in pencil with notations of creative teams and where the story fit on the Zero Hour timeline. Not only was this effort Quixotic, but fairly early into the internet era it was made even more redundant, foolish, and hopeless than it was to begin with. Years back, I was able to repurpose a few of those cards into lackluster DC Bloodlines posts when I was still trying to get something, anything up on a regular basis (Daily? Weekly?) They’re mostly incomprehensible to the me of today, and we’ve had 2-3 major continuity reboots since Zero Hour, so that was an embarrassing waste of time. Point being, the most resonant aspect of this issue for me is that I’m pretty sure I made up a card for it, but barely remember the story even after listening to your detailed synopsis.

    I guess my “Batman period” was off & on from my earliest awareness until around 1989-1990. I was never a dedicated Batman collector, with the exception of following the first and last “acts” of Knightfall, which effectively ended the potential of my ever having a strong interest in the character again. I read so many great Batman stories in such short secession around the time of the 1989 movie that most of what followed paled terribly by comparison (though Batman Returns > Batman.) I understand how Batman’s versatility can make him one of the most popular figures in popular culture, but I’m confident his being all things to all people contributes to my disdain for him (ditto Spider-Man.) All the things I like about Batman are better exemplified by niche characters unburdened by the corporate mandate to be such a people pleaser, and who can have definitive stories told about them. It certainly diminishes the power of a Dark Knight Returns when we get another “ultimate” Batman story every few years. That said, there have been almost no other characters in fiction with as many palatable stories across as many years of publication as the Caped Crusader.

    As far as favorite runs? I don’t know. I’ll probably stick through Knightcast until the end of the Jim Starlin run, due to my nostalgia for “The New Adventures” and the creator’s oeuvre. I’ll defend The Cult and pre-death Jason Todd. I tended to like Chuck Dixon’s one-off stories, but wasn’t much for his collaborators or extended arcs. Obviously I’m fond of ’80s Miller, and I dig Mike W. Barr’s Ra’s al Ghul stories. There’s good Doug Moench stuff, but also huge swaths of mediocrity. The only Grant/Breyfogle story I remember liking was “The Last Arkham.” Legends of the Dark Knight had some good stories. Most of the ’70s issues I’ve read were fun, and anything drawn by Jim Aparo rates a read. I have a blanket disinterest in the Silver Age and never read much Golden Age, but wasn’t wowed by the ones I did. I’m buying the new, cheap collections, but I started late and only after it registered in my brain that they were also Robin’s earliest adventures. I love Dick Grayson a lot more than any of the identities he’s assumed.

    I agree with Michael Bailey that Superman is a victim of his own success, although Batman was also a victim of Superman’s success throughout the Silver Age. Mort Weisinger had such a rigid view of what a Superman story could be, and variations of that sort of myopia played out under the unfortunately lengthy editorial reigns of Julie Schwartz and Mike Carlin, that nobody who knows what to do with the Man of Tomorrow have been allowed to work on him in a substantial way in generations. Batman has adapted to a variety of audiences while maintaining his essential appeal by necessity of being forced into a Superman storytelling mold for decades, but benefited from less severe and more cultured, tasteful editorial oversight following Jack Schiff’s dismissal. Schwartz got Batman in a way he never did Superman, which helped a lot. Whatever his faults, Denny O’Neill was simply a much better writer and editor than Mike Carlin, and each set the tone for their successors.

    1. With one good turn deserving another I am going to agree with Frank about Julius Schwartz. He certainly had a better handle on Batman than he did on Superman. To be fair Superman did grow a bit in the Bronze Age and we got to see certain themes involving identity and what the angst of being one of the survivors of a dead race meant and his relationship with the Kents but every time he started going down that road a story would come along and drag it right back to a more silly, less mature style. I like most of the Bronze Age Superman stories I’ve read but some of them…not so much.

      His Batman work was always innovative. His initial thought was to emphasize the fact that Batman was a detective and brought that realism back to the book after ten years of sci-fi goofiness. Some of those stories could be fun but reading a bunch of them together can be like eating too many sweets. You don’t feel good and you promise yourself you won’t do that again. After the success of the television series crashed he allowed Denny O’Neil, Frank Robbins and Mike Friedrich to take things away from the camp and back into a more mysterious and urban feel.

      I think it’s telling that the first thing Schwartz did with Superman was try to take half of his powers away. It’s almost like he didn’t want to deal with the character as presented in the early days.

      I will disagree about Mike Carlin but Frank and I are somewhat on the same page right now so I don’t want to ruin that.

  7. Excellent episode. What I remember most about this issue was what a terrible combo Novick and Mitchell were; I was a massive fan of the former, more for his Flash work than his Batman, though that was always good, but age alone can’t explain how off the stuff here is.

    I’m with Michael Bailey in having many fave eras of Batman – peak Sprang, the SF silliness, early Seventies spookiness, Englehart and Rogers… but my longest sustained period of enjoyment was that Eighties period when Batman and Detective were going back and forth, with Gerry Conway, Doug Moench, Gene Colan, Don Newton, Tom Mandrake and co giving us a superior superhero soap.

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