Zero Hour Strikes! Batman’s Ghosts from the Past

In Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 2, Bass and Siskoid follow the Dark Knight’s encounter with the first time anomalies! In Detective Comics #678 by Chuck Dixon, Graham Nolan and Bob McLeod, Batman finds himself on the fateful night, dead at his parents’ feet. In Batman #511 by Doug Moench, Mike Manley and Josef Rubinstein, he’s shocked to find Batgirl was spared the Killing Joke. What the hell is going on here? Plus, your feedback on the inaugural episode, including discussion on Team Titans, the Time Gang, and what the comics landscape was like in 1994!

Listen to the Zero Hour Strikes! Episode 2 below!

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Relevant images and further credits at: Zero Hour Strikes ep.2 Supplemental

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18 responses to “Zero Hour Strikes! Batman’s Ghosts from the Past

  1. The change of Joe Chill not being the killer of the Waynes was one of the dumbest retcons in the history of the character. Dumber than the “urban legend” thing that popped up after Zero Hour. I know that Batman is a fictional character and is art and thus open to interpretations, but for my money and based on the original origins Bruce Wayne didn’t become Batman to get revenge on the killer of his parents. He swore to fight all crime. Batman works best when his mission is to prevent what happened to him from happening to someone else. Revenge might be a factor, but there’s a higher calling than that. Him catching Joe Chill (and eventually Lou Moxon) was more for him than for the mission and it didn’t change anything. I just don’t get the thinking on this, especially if that thinking is, “Well, if he caught his parents’ killer he’d stop being Batman.”

    This was the month I came back to Batman after a three year hiatus and I came back because of Zero Hour. I would spend the next year or so trying to catch up on the whole Knightfall saga with the novelization and the BBC audio drama helping me along. It was a good jumping back on point for the character and the start of a fantastic era for the character.

  2. ^Bailey stole my comment! I let him back in on Superman Movie Minute, and he steals my thunder. Man…

    Seriously, I totally agree with Mike on the whole “did Joe Chill kill the Waynes” thing. I chalk it up to my early reading of The Untold Legend of the Batman and it’s representation of the story of how Batman caught up to Chill. Powerful stuff, and MUCH better than Batman: Year Two. I should know, for obvious reasons!

    I did love me some Chuck Dixon/Graham Nolan Detective Comics though. A highly underrated run of comics. Dixon was one-man Bat-universe in a lot of ways. A golden age in Gotham.

    I think Bass hit the Batman issue’s problems on the head. Just too much weirdness going on. The Robin story hinted at here is MUCH better, as is the Superman: Man of Steel issue which this leads into. I did like Mike Manley’s brief run as artist on the title, though. Dough Moench was always solid, but I preferred Dixon and Alan Grant at the time, and still do.

    Keep up the good work fellas! Hopefully a young Shag and Rob won’t show up at your door anytime soon! And if they do, tell that hippie Shag to get a haircut!!!

    Chris

    1. This is less a comment to you, Chris, and more a response to the issue you and Bass brought up re: “too much going on.”

      For some stories, throwing everything at the fan and being “weird” is very much the point, and I strongly felt that this was such a story. If it’s confusing at parts, it’s because it’s meant to be. To put it another way, it’s a feature, not a bug. Wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey, and all that.

      In a related vein, yeah, old-school Robin doesn’t do anything but “show up” in this story, but as Siskoid says, it’s set up for something else later. If you’re confused *now,* that is still in no way a negative reflection on the story itself.

      Now, everyone is still perfectly welcome to say “it’s just not my thing,” and that’s fine. But that’s a different thing than the quality of the story itself.

  3. I’m a fan of the multiple earth idea-
    I remember buying Batman books for the first time in years – I wanted the multi-verse back SO BAD- so much hope when this came out…
    spoilers- that’s not the emotional reaction I had in the long run-
    Thanks for the memories on this one-

  4. The other Batman retcon to come out of Zero Plot Hour (my denigrating name for it at the time) was O’Neil’s insistence that Batman was just an urban legend, despite his being part of the Justice League.

    Presumably ZH also cleaned up other extraneous bits of Batman non-continuity, like his brother Thomas from the Zany Haney World’s Finest, and Joe Chill’s mother Alice Chilton being Philip Wayne’s housekeeper, and the one who raised young Bruce.

  5. Still listening to the episode, but I wanted to start commenting because… I’m struggling to concentrate. I’m pretty wiped out, so I’ve fallen asleep several times and had to restart the show, plus I keep drifting to other distractions when I am awake. I see you’re doing a hybrid of chronological coverage by publication date and continuity/subject character, so you were compelled to frontload two of the six Batman Family titles that tie directly into Zero Hour in the first month alone. It’s just that, truly, I feel the “modern” Dark Knight is exhausted as a concept of value. Every variation on this emotionally stunted man-child has been exasperatingly played out, and I just. can. not. summon. the. will. to. care. anymore. This is simply a construct of masculinity that as a culture we have mostly, necessarily, moved past; its adherents are the deserved recipients of woke social media scorn; and all avenues of discussion have been trod to quicksand. A tortured metaphor to say ’90s Batman sucks, with all the emphasis of Beavis in Cornholio mode, a reference as dated as this Clinton-Era Caped C***.

    Detective Comics became the “spare” Batman title by the ’80s, although I know Grant/Breyfogle (sp?) have devoted fans, of which I am not one. Aside from a passing interest in Anarky (sp?) , I managed to avoid the book until getting sucked into Knightfall (sp?) a few months late (before going back to pick up what I missed.) I presume the continuity between the two main Bat-titles was looser than triangle-era Superman, but thanks to the demands of the crossover, I found it difficult to distinguish between the two. I’d had more experience with Doug Moench than with Chuck Dixon, but I’d mostly concluded that the former was merely serviceable, and the latter failed to distance himself from that judgement at the time.

    As the flagship, I was more familiar with Batman’s eponymous series, having picked it up sporadically since becoming reacquainted through a three-pack of #401-403 and the purchase of the last chapter of Year One from a mall bookstore. Having been weaned on Jim Aparo in Brave & the Bold and Jim Starlin in general, I naturally gravitated toward that title during their run, especially for “A Death In The Family.” I departed with Starlin afterward, and the book was also caught in my late ’80s anti-DC malaise, a sampling here and there never leading to a second consecutive purchase.

    All this is to say that when I returned for Knightfall, I at least had a nostalgic appreciation for Aparo, even though he was nearly blind by that point and a loose, pale shadow of his former glory. Graham Nolan was just “the other guy.” As someone who has felt acute frustration over an inability of some artists to follow simple instruction in the realm of a pin-up image for a convention commission, I can understand why writers’ artists like Graham could always get work for their clear, reliable, faithful storytelling. As an older, more seasoned fan, I can better appreciate these craftsmen. But in the Chromium Age, as a devotee to the Church of the Excessive Crosshatching, I was unconcerned with how thoroughly these workhorses could till arid soil. Even today, while gathering the aforementioned commissions, I avoided eye contact with Nolan at a recent con, where his overpriced journeyman efforts splayed across a table unburdened by fan attention. All those $300+ shots of Bane flexing like a Joe Weider mentee made Venom seem imaginative by comparison. Friends have excitedly shown me their commissions by some of my longtime comic art whipping boys, so I’ve tried to lay off them lately, but Nolan seems like a perfectly perfunctory, nondescript replacement option for my abuse.

    By Batman #500, I was well over AzBat, and opted out of almost all things KnightQuest. I resumed for KnightEnd, inexplicably given how little entertainment I’d derived from KnightFall. Blame the ’90s again, I guess, for not just saying KnightNight. By that point, Darkhawk artist Mike Manley had taken over Batman. He was objectively an improvement, but only so far as I still think of him as Darkhawk artist Mike Manley, the guy who did way too many Marvel Universe Series III trading cards to not serve as a poster boy for how the company was visibly gutted following the Image Exodus. It similarly demonstrated DC’s deficit of flash (irony?) that a core title could be improved through the addition of Darkhawk artist Mike Manley.

    As for the tales presented here… So one is a grown Batman crying for the loss of his parents, whom he avoided for most of the issue in pursuit of an ultimately needless investigation that invalided other stories… and the other one was about highlighting the trauma inflicted on a female supporting heroine in service to a popular villain that was never adequately adjudicated through teasing the restoration of her unimpeded mobility. Much like Oracle, I can’t get up for this s***.

    Obviously I owe you (and probably the listeners) another meal for the letters section alone. “I can’t believe he read the whole thing.” We loved visiting you guys and just wished we’d had longer, but I was in a hurry to get to Connecticut to saddle unsuspecting artists with my unrealistic expectations. I kid– I got some great pieces (and no tears were shed,) including an extraordinary inking job by a member of the much-maligned-by-me Superman creative team of this period (although I’ve held his particular skills in esteem, and more so now.) Still not over the cognitive dissonance of matching previously disembodied voices to their human hosts (100% with Shag on that) but I was delighted to share corporeal space with them. Even though that was in August, I still don’t feel like the trip is entirely over (surely aided by my still dealing with the consequences of the flooding here in September,) so my Canadian Comix still haven’t left their paper bag (though I’m looking up at my $5 Wanda Blake figure on the shelf as I type.) Looking forward to another trip up north to the inevitable first international Fire & Water traveling con, and maybe we’ll finally cross the threshold of the Lonely Hearts Romance Comics Grotto next time! I made sure to tell Rob that Siskoid doesn’t actually hate him– it only seems that way; which is good since he and Bass are actual Frost Giants that could easily squish us puny little flesh bags…

    1. Batman fatigue? Who’d have thought? I wonder how DC managed that.

      Rob fatigue? Never. I don’t know where the story of my apparently hating him started. Probably from Shagg trying to keep us all apart.

    2. Diablu Frank – interesting comments on Nolan’s work that mirror my own.

      Where do you fall on Paul Ryan (artist, not monster politician)

      1. In the ’90s, the X-books all had the “hot” artists that I was into, and the foundational Marvel super-heroes got the “old timey” artists, referring to journeymen and pencillers heavily indebted to the Silver/Bronze Age like Ryan, Ron Frenz, and Steve Epting. At the time, I was extremely disinterested in most of these backward looking talents, and I especially thought Ryan was basically the most boring candidate for successor to Curt Swan. However, one of my customers started getting commissions in the late ’90s/early 2000s that were essentially faux covers, with multiple characters (usually of African-descent) and backgrounds. Ryan did several for him, including a recreation of the cover to Infinity Gauntlet #2, and the attention to detail was absolutely stunning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another commission with that level of detail and care. I’ve come around to all three of the named artists to varying degrees as I’ve grown older, and while I still don’t gravitate toward Ryan’s comics, on the right project he makes me second-guess that disinclination. I wish his storytelling was more dramatic, but I value his clarity a lot more now than I did back then.

  6. Possible spoiler for Joker movie

    At the end of the movie the Waynes leave from that periods Zoro movie

    ZORO THE GAY BLADE (1981)

    When I saw the movie theater marquee know what’s coming next. So the latest movie to show Batman’s origin used Zoro to tell the audience in the know what the year was and what was going to happen.

  7. Let me get this straight. Batman finds himself in a world where his parents are alive, and he takes no time to watch them, listen to them, or put on a disguise and talk to them? I would love to hear my dad’s voice again. I would be much less interested in what car he was driving, even if it was a classic antique!
    I barely understood what you guys are talking about, but I love to listen to you, so I’m going to stick with the show. I’ll try to limit my snark to “less than Frank.” I’ll be snarky and pithy!

  8. Hi Bass and Siskoid, thanks for a great podcast. I found it interesting that you reviewed both Batman and Detective Comics together as, from what I remember, the Detective Comics issue came out in the same week as Zero Hour 2 (the third issue). Having said that, the Detective Comics tale had no impact on the Zero Hour 2 and was more or less a stand alone, so recounting the story now was a solid option. However, given the interlinks between Batman 511, Superman: Man of Steel 37 and Zero Hour 4, were you tempted to review all of these together?

    The Zero Hour issues was a nice change of pace for the Bat books after the long (but enjoyable) Kinightfall trilogy. It served as a cleanser before we got the final wrap up of the Knightfall saga with Prodigal and Troika coming up post Zero Hour, with the subsequent turning away from the joined storylines to allow Moench, Grant and Dixon tell the stories they wanted to tell – well, at least until Contagion!

    Looking forward to the next episode already!

  9. Some standard “occupier event” issues here. My take was they gave the Bat-team something to do as kind of a palate cleanser between the exhaustion of finishing Knight-saga, and finding the new direction going forward. I waffle between feeling “meh” and “annoyed”, to have a teaser of Babs/Batgirl when I really like her as Oracle, and an unnecessary redo of the Joe Chill element.

    Still, it’s great to hear you guys podcasting on a regular basis again! I’ve been looking forward to you starting up this show, and now it’s really here in force! Thank you, Strikers!

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