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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #3


untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003The Man Behind the Mask

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1980
Cover Price: 50 cents

This issue is one of THE comics of my youth, up there with my "original 4" or the likes of Superman #75 and X-Men #41. Until I read through this for this reading, though, I would’ve said I had the issue memorized line for line, narration included…but the memory can be a fickle thing, as can a slightly modified/incomplete audio cast recording!

My original copy of this issue was a reprint edition, that came packaged with an audio cassette tape (for those of you old enough to remember what those are!) that had a cast-recording audio of the issue. I’d personally "digitized" a copy of that to my computer years back, several years BEFORE the rise of YouTube, and did so off a nearly-worn-out tape from listening to it so much! As with a couple parts of the first issue of this mini, going back through it and seeing (not just hearing/listening) to the contents of the issue, I was reminded of how much has stuck with me and came from this issue, even shaping parts of me beyond just "a comic book."

The over-arching story of the issue sees Batman leave the aftermath of the exploding Batmobile to Robin and Alfred while he goes out to question folks on the street, talk to Jim Gordon, sleep on it and go to work at the Wayne Foundation, mull over what Gordon said, make a realization and visit the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, and confront the responsible party to the destruction of the precious costume, and leave things at a Batman status quo such that this mini happened, but doesn’t need to have any lasting effects.

In practical terms, the framework allows us to see the "origin" of the guy that keeps the Dynamic Duo supplied with quality, reliable Batmobiles; Commissioner Gordon’s involvement with the duo; the origin/involvement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Lucius Fox.

Story-wise, as with the previous two issues, things are kinda flimsy when you look deeply into ’em. But as a kid, I was not that analytical and just took the issue at face-value, the steady, constant moving-ahead-the-story-doesn’t-stop from the audio rendition, and that was that. It’s stuck with me, such that to ME, this is one of THE most important single issues of all time…while to others, I’m sure it’s "just" some arbitrary Batman comic, a pretty cover, or of note for having been reprinted as a breakfast-cereal comic. (I would love to see an ongoing promotion with modern cereal "prizes" being reprints of small stories/minis from DC!)

Visually, this is a great treat, both the cover AND the interior. We have classic Aparo art, which as I noted with the first issue, means this looked like the same Batman I was familiar with in my earliest days and earliest back-issues with the character, seeming all the more important for the consistency. It also very much "defined" great Batman art for me, where I’ve retroactively determined Aparo to be one of my all-time favorite Batman artists, though I didn’t know one name from another at the time I was first exposed to the issue!

The cover is an iconic one for me, from this issue itself, to its being used as THE cover of the original "collected edition" (mass market paperback black-and-white reprint), and even serves as the cover image of the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover that came out a year or two ago. If I could have a poster of this cover, I’d be all for it!

Overall, this is a consistent piece fitting with the earlier issues, caps stuff off, and was maybe THE most foundational Batman comic of my life!

I definitely recommend the mini-series for older fans of the character and anyone who’d appreciate Aparo‘s art, or Len Wein‘s storytelling and use of characters! As for me…it’s just been enjoyable revisiting the mini and getting my own thoughts out there!


Now having "covered" this series myself, in my own format, I can listen to Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland discuss the series on their new show: The Overlooked Dark Knight. I’d been planning on covering this series here, and discovering their new podcast prompted me to jump on this sooner so that I could get my thoughts out in this way prior to listenig to theirs–which I’m certain is far more detailed and insightful than what I can share here textually!  Having listened to their work in the past, I highly recommend the show just for their involvement alone, as well as whatever other Batman-related topics they cover.

And for the audio itself from the old cassette tapes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, you can find where folks have posted it on YouTube (links worked as of this posting):


Some particular stand-out panels/bits for me from issue #3:

collins

This was the first I recall coming across the name of officer Collins. I don’t recall offhand–I don’t believe he was the officer in the ’66 tv show. I remember being sad when Collins was killed off shortly after No Man’s Land–he was an officer mentioned as having perished around then.

justice00

justice

Again we have the distinction between "The Law" and "Justice" as a key factor for Batman. Also a way to see the ideological differences between Batman and Gordon–how/why they get along, yet also how they’re different.

wish_to_god_i_knew_how_to_help_him

This panel–or at least the audio–REALLY sticks with me, and rings like the end of an issue, a "To Be Contiued…" kinda moment. Probably because this was the END of "Side 1" of the cassette.

bet_your_bifocals

This panel probably wouldn’t fly today, a man speaking to a woman like this. But the "You can bet your bifocals…" has always stuck with me, and comes to mind as an alternative to harsher language.

lucius_01

"If you’d like to talk about it, I’d like to listen." That’s a philosophy I hold to this day with friends and such–I don’t like to pry with people. And Lucius’ calling Bruce on his crap, that he (Lucius) is not just "anyone" but is a friend.

lucius_02

"You wouldn’t ask for water if you were dying of thirst!" Another quote that’s remained with me over the years…applicable to stubbornness and people who might otherwise want or need or could use help but won’t ask. This scene was my first exposure to Lucius Fox, and short as it is, explains and informs so much of how I saw the character growing up.

specters_of_the_past

This panel always seems to come to mind whenever I find MYself in certain spaces, alone with memories.

our_love_our_compassion

This flashback/ghostly memory of young Bruce and Thomas has come back to me more and more as I get older and see friends having kids, and contemplating the age(s) at which stuff might most stand out singularly to kids, even as contemplating stuff in my own life that’s stuck out this way (outside of panels in a comic book)

and_ive_always_responded

The quandary of the helper–always helping others, but what about one’s own needs?

And the notion of a place having "So many ghosts, so many memories…" and to wonder if it was a mistake to go somewhere…I’m no stranger to that.

not_real_dont_exist

Here, that internal struggle of Batman vs. Bruce Wayne…

hold_the_walls_00

After this whole mini-series began with the destruction of the old costume, and then here it shows up again?

Don’t give up! You must never give up!

More phrasing that’s stuck with me.

hold_the_walls_01

It’s never too late . . . The world needs you . . . I ned you–beause you make a difference…because you care!

Something we all perhaps long to hear someone tell us.

hold_the_walls_02

Not sure how Robin got another copy of the old costume so easily, but still can’t deny that an original is far more valuable than even an easily-acquired copy. There’s so much extra, added meaning to something that’s personal, that someone gifts us or that comes to us because of them that makes something otherwise not terribly important into a priceless object.

batgirl_hostess_ad

…and finally, there’s the Hostess ad featuring a comic character, in comic-page styling/format.


untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003_blogtrailer

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