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The ’90s Revisited: Robin #1

90s_revisited

robin001Big Bad World

Writer: Chuck Dixon
Penciller: Tom Lyle
Inker: Bob Smith
Letterer: Tim Harkins
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Editors: Dan Raspler, Denny O’Neil
Cover: Brian Bolland
Published by: DC Comcis
Cover Date: January 1991
Cover Price: $1.00

I’ve read this issue before. This might even be the third time I’ve read it–I’m not sure at this point. But for this particular read-through…it came about because I wanted the POSTER that was bound into the issue, without having to rummage through a bunch of unsorted longboxes–so I bought a copy just for the poster. But since I was "handling" the issue, I decided to read it…and quite enjoyed it overall, though unfortunately not quite as much as I’d thought I would.

I’m pretty sure this issue picks up essentially from the pages of a Batman issue, as I seem to recall a scene of Tim debuting the new costume before Bruce and Alfred; but that’s clearly already happened by the time this issue opens.

We open on Tim in the Batcave with Bruce; wearing the then-new (but now highly familiar to me) ’90s Robin costume–the red body, wide yellow belt, green pants, tall/dark boots…and the stylized "R"; as well as the two-colored cape: yellow on the inside, the classic yellow; but black on the outside, so he can wrap into it and blend into shadows same as Batman…not "glow in the dark" or such. The two discuss Tim’s readiness TO be the new Robin, in a bit of Tim’s doubt that I don’t quite remember, but fits for the time. Tim decides to further ready himself, now that he’s "passed" Batman’s training is to take his own journey to train with others in preparation for his role. He heads to Europe, where we quickly learn that another figure from Batman’s past is active: Shiva. Meanwhile, Tim finds the master he sought, though some details aren’t as he expected. He gets drawn into a situation that calls for what Robin can do, that Tim Drake can’t, and gains a potential ally, even as he considers what it’d mean to fail, to let down the Batman.

Which is all a grandiose, vague summary of the issue. It’s interesting to consider a number of "firsts" at the time this was released–first action in the new costume, first "solo" Tim Drake adventure, Tim’s first issue as Robin, first issue of any series–mini or otherwise–of the solo-billed Robin title, etc. And I’ll be doggonned if I am aware of any variant covers. Really! All these firsts…and other than (perhaps) a second printing or such, or maybe some kind of foil-y something or other that I’m not consciously aware of at present, this is THE issue. Period. One cover. One issue. A Brian Bolland image.

Story-wise, this is a very solid first issue. Though I mentioned recollection of a scene preceding this, that’s not integral to this issue. We simply pick up on Tim in costume, apparently freshly made officially Robin, and through dialogue get a bit more detail to fill in gaps on his background and our getting here. He’s given a ‘quest’, we’re introduced to threats and antagonists in addition to the self-set challenge, and get drawn into the story.

I said above I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would–it’s a good issue, and fairly enjoyable in and of itself; certainly nostalgic…especially for me. But that’s part of the problem. One of Tim’s first couple cameos before his full appearance in A Lonely Place of Dying was my first-ever Batman comic…this character was introduced AS I got into comics, and is still around. But this issue by itself–not re-reading the lead-up, not having the rest of the issues handy nor the time to read their contents in one of the TPBs, this is just a snippet of early-Tim Drake stuff. And since this isn’t an ongoing series but "merely" a finite five-issue story, there’s less "need" for the kind of hook an ongoing might need…and I think I frustrated myself not being able to just read the whole story handily in one go.

robin001_posterThe art is quite good, and rather iconic to me. Looking at this, it just screams "early Tim/Robin" to me. The cover isn’t horrible…but the way Robin’s face is, this has gotta be one of the creepiest-looking Robins I can think of! The costume, cape, etc work…but the face just doesn’t fit Tim. I also like that the "corner art" seems to be a carryover from what I recall offhand of the main Batman issues, cementing this as what it is–its own thing, starring Batman’s sidekick, but in a solo title that does NOT emphasize Batman.

If you find this in a bargain bin–or heck, find it for $2 or under, I highly recommend it! Particularly if you’re a fan of Robin, or specifically Tim Drake. But I’d recommend trying to acquire the entire 5-issue mini-series rather than just this isolated issue.

Unless you want the poster…in which case, that ALONE is worth at least a couple dollars!

robin001_blogtrailer

The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 10-18

Here we get into several of the characters I know a lot better, and definitely associate with the ’90s…though also one that I remember by name, but at a glance don’t even remember any details!

xmen_series1_full_010-018

We also see where this set seems to pre-date the "consciousness" of cards like this likely being stored in 9-pocket pages and the "use" of that structure. Given one page late in this series, they weren’t entirely without that, but having just one "landscape" card amidst eight "portrait" cards doesn’t exactly work well for the aesthetics of the "page"…

010a

Lockheed’s had a number of looks, and seems a bit malleable…at least to my conscious mind. This image makes him look a bit larger–so it’s the "conscious" knowledge of his being smaller that I can know that.

010b

I’d swear I’ve seen images of Lockheed on Kitty Pryde’s shoulder like a parrot…but 55 lbs? That definitely stretches stuff a bit. I don’t remember much detail of the character over the years, but this card’s info doesn’t seem to be contradictory to anything…just a bit outta date. And I knew how he got his name, but forgot til re-reading the card. I probably knew that originally from this card. Or Wikipedia.

011a

Given Xavier’s place in the X-Men story, I’m surprised he wasn’t the first card…but then, they’re not going alphabetically nor in order of first appearance and not even by team, so…yeah. This is a fairly typical image of the character, and though I have fond memories of the look (with the golden hover-chair) it seems so dated now, afer getting used to the character in actual wheelchairs or with his legs restored.

011b

Xavier’s description here is pretty generic…and certainly precedes Onslaught, the Illuminati stuff, and obviously the likes of AvX. Though I suppose as I think about it…those added a certain depth the character hadn’t had…even if retcons get old and stale fast.

012a

I’m sure I’ve seen this image–or at least the pose–a number of places other than this card. It’s typical Jim Lee, typical of this character (at least in this ’90s incarnation), etc.

012b

…but no mention on the card of her past, or that this (apparently) isn’t her original body and whatnot. I’m fuzzy on the details, not having read the "Siege Perilous" stuff first-hand as yet, even after all these years.

013a

While I’m sure I was aware of the character before then, I feel like most of my conscious memory of Domino came after the Age of Apocalypse stuff, in the Cable title. This image of her seems a bit harsher and more generic than what I picture in my mind when I think of the character.

013b

This card pretty much sums up what I’d be able to say about the character, despite remembering her from those issues of Cable. And I would not have been able to cite her first appearance or tell you offhand that she’d first appeared in New Mutants #98. This description seems "typical ’90s," as is fitting.

014a

My conscious introduction to Storm was the ’92 X-Men animated series…that look, and that voice are the definitive Storm for me. This card’s image is fairly typical for what I’d think of with the character, except I wouldn’t have recalled her cape having the purple tint or the gold trim.

014b

Nothing stands out much for this card (though I’m noticing the weights of characters seems rather questionable). Her "X-tra Fact" is something I don’t think I’d consciously realized until a recent-ish Nightcrawler series. I have the feeling by the time I’m done offering commentary on this series of cards, I’m gonna be thoroughly kicking myself for not (yet) having gotten to the bulk of the Claremont run.

015a

Meggan…ok. Blond Siryn? For all that my memory has on the character at a name and image.

015b

Huh. Ok, interesting–and here’s a character I’ve learned about by going through these cards. I also like the X-Tra Fact…that’s the sorta detail I definitely took to heart as a kid, and would hold as relatively "absolute" in terms of continuity.

016a

Feral! This is the character I previously couldn’t think of, that I always mix up with Wolfsbane! Two female were-wolf-like characters, X-characters at that, with association with X-Force…no wonder I’ve mixed them up!

016b

So, I probably mix up the names, but most often would think of Wolfsbane, when it comes to the two characters. More details here that I’d hold as certain and be disappointed to not see reflected in a generic, casual appearance of the character involving any kind of action or such.

017a

Now, Cyclops. Possibly my favorite X-character, and this is by far my favorite costume…though I’d swear I never consciously took in all the pouches in the early ’90s. I like the blue, and the gold; I’ll grant that the shorts are rather dated, but the contrast of yellow and blue–evoking prior costumes while becoming iconic for the ’90s–just works for me!

017b

This is another fairly generic description…and it’s quite interesting to see how MUCH the character has grown and changed since the early-1990s…though I really have NOT cared for what’s been done with him since AvX.

018a

I have a mixed bit of thought on Gambit…but he remains one of my definite favorites of the X-Men, for his role in the ’92 cartoon and the Fabian Nicieza series from ’99ish. This is a classic sort of look for the character, and the one I prefer…regardless of how dated or "’90s" it is.

018b

Interesting. Remy Lebeau. I just think of the name with the character…so to consider his name unrevealed (in any form) is a bit odd…but then, he was introduced at most two years before this card was printed, and I’ve been myself aware of the character for most of the last 25-ish years!

I’m more aware OF the "early" stuff with the character, not having actually read his first appearance as yet and "met" the character via the animated series, and he’d already undergone some development well before I realized how "new" a character he was at the time!


Here’s my last post, comments covering the first 9 cards of this series.

The ’90s Revisited: X-Men Series 1, Cards 1-9

Several years back, I started covering this card set, one "page" at a time. (You know, those 9-pocket pages that fit in standard binders and are commonly used for storing trading cards and gaming cards and whatnot).

Life got in the way at the time and I’m pretty sure that was one of the points that I trailed off and let this blog go for awhile.

I’m almost curious myself what I wrote about these back then and how my thoughts/perceptions/memory may have changed since then. But now I’m going to give it another shot, and see if I can get through the entire set this time…and perhaps get a bit more detailed than I had that time.

What I intend for now is to show the entire "page" of cards, and then I’ll offer some sort of comment(s) on the individual cards, which I’ll show further below.

I scanned every one of these myself and did all the editing to make ’em pretty for these posts. If this goes well, I may cover a couple other sets. I suppose time will tell!


It’s interesting-ish to note the mix of "wide" vs "tall" images and the rather arbitrary placement/use of them. As I believe these are all Jim Lee pieces, perhaps it’s just what he felt like drawing, or whoever was working on the card set felt like cropping.

As I think this was one of the "earlier" such card sets (and pre-dates Magic: The Gathering and the whole "collectible card game" thing by a few years) so perhaps they were "learning" what/how to do a card set. C’est la vie.

xmen_series1_full_001-009

Beast and Wolverine I can see as some of the top X-Men…I’m a little surprised at Havok’s place here (but then, I’m typing this in 2017, and these were published in 1992–a quarter-century ago!) Similar goes for the others. I wouldn’t tend to associate Siryn or Wolfsbane with top-level, premiere X-Men…I associate them more with stuff like X-Force or X-Factor. Same for Cannonball.

I’ve noticed, though, that the "X" icon on the cards changes color depending on the character–this seems to correspond a bit to their specific team/title affiliation. I guess we’ll see as we go through the cards!

001a

Typical Beast…and very much a classic rendition of the character. I far prefer this version to the more modern takes.

001b

I don’t care at all, really, for the "stat graph". I do find the description basic and to the point, and the sort of thing that would definitely "informed" my knowledge of the character. I also like the brief info for name, affiliation, and first appearance…though Beast is a character that (now) that’s all information I take for granted.

002a

I’ve always preferred the yellow costume on Wolverine…though I appreciate this one. I’m sure part of that is the ’92 animated series, and that the character had "gone back to" the yellow by the time I was actually getting "into" the X-Men.

002b

Would it be wrong to suggest that this card’s text is "cute," given all the additional info that’s been added to the character in 25 years? In a way, it’s almost laughable how dated the card is for the character as he’s evolved…PARTICULARLY the bit about his "first recorded mission!" First? Pretty sure that’s long since been retconned…and/or I just take for granted how MUCH the character did long before that.

003a

This image of Havok reminds me a BIT of the holographic image from X-Factor #92…though this predates that issue by a year or so at least.

003b

I don’t think I ever realized Havok "absorbed cosmic energy," I just thought his power was some sort of bio-energy projection. Sorta interesting that there’s no mention on the card of Havok being the brother of Cyclops–Scott Summers. I know it, obviously, but you’d only be able to "guess" from the info provided here.

004a

Not really sure what I think of Iceman at this point. This is one of the more boring sort of looks for the character, even if it’s good art. I remember enjoying some of the stuff in the early/mid ’90s with them building the character a bit after Emma Frost got inside his head and utilized aspects of his powers that he himself hadn’t used. There’s also his role in LegionQuest and attempting to freeze Legion solid.

004b

I don’t recall the story this card mentions, of his being unable to control his powers. That strikes me a bit like Rogue’s, perhaps–though I can’t be certain (since I haven’t read the story!). I’ve also never "gotten" the ice-slides as travel…the LOOK is cool (no pun intended) but the physics and such behind it seems questionable. Still…suspension of disbelief and all that, right?

005a

While I don’t consciously recall reading much involving this version of Phoenix, I do recall seeing the character here and there and not being quite sure what to make of the character. That said, that fact and this sort of imagery is part of where I had a real problem with AvX–if the Phoenix was manifesting regularly like this, it was a bit more suspending of disbelief to buy into it as such a rare entity needing to "return," but that’s a bunch of thinking for another time.

005b

Well there’s another thing I’d forgotten–Rachel using her powers to hide the tattoos. I’m sure I knew that along the way because her being shown with OR without them rarely phases me or gives me much pause over the different appearances.

It’s interesting to note the language here–rather than going into the more complex aspects of her history, they say "an alternate reality." Days of Future Past

006a

Nightcrawler’s one of my favorites, yet I rarely think of the character when put on the spot or trying to think of favorites off the top of my head. I guess that’d make him a "forgotten favorite."

006b

Another "X-tra Fact" that I didn’t/don’t recall about the character. Perhaps that’s further push that I need to read the entirety of the Claremont run one of these years. Like Wolverine, definitely interesting-ish to see the character’s background as presented here, compared to what would come over the subsequent 25 years.

009a

Cannonball is a character I remember primarily for "graduating to" the main X-Men team during the ’90s. Something to this costume is a bit off, so I’m thinking I’m more familiar with a different look…I just can’t recall it off the top of my head.

009b

I often "forget" that the New Mutants got their start in a "pilot" of sorts in the graphic novel, and that it was the first appearance of a number of characters. It’s further interesting to consider that that was 1982–maybe 11-12 years before I would have learned much of anything about the character. And that it’s been well over 2 decades SINCE learning of the character!

When I see the character’s last name–Guthrie–I often think of Age of Apocalypse and the character and his family as used there.

008a

I feel like I often mix Wolfsbane up with another character…yet, as I type this, now I can’t think OF the other character! Perhaps it’s more that the character changed over the years and wasn’t restricted just to New Mutants or X-Factor?

008b

And of course, part of the above association with the character is not clarified by the card text. I do recall the character being unable to shift back into a human form, though. And really have gotta get around to reading some of these other key stories from pre-1991/92 that had so much impact on characters as they were in the ’90s when I was actually reading their ongoing stories!

007a

I remember Siryn primarily because of her being in the Spider-Man/X-Force crossover that I initially read in its tpb form (when such things were relatively rare). Her costume is rather recognizable, so she’s one of the more distinct characters for me visually…at least with this costume.

007b

Here’s another case where I’m actually learning about the character NOW from the card–I did not know about her first appearance (and would have pegged it as X-Force #1 or thereabouts…not Spider-Woman…and at LEAST would have thought she was a more recent character than early-’80s! I also don’t recall much of anything about Banshee lamenting a lost child…but then, haven’t read much with Banshee, period, so…yeah.


Perhaps a bit disjointed/random…but that’s my stream-of-conscious commentary on looking through these first 9 cards!

The ’80s Revisited: The Flash #324

flash_vol1_0324The Slayer and the Slain!

Writer: Cary Bates
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Dennis Jensen
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: Phil Felix
Editor: Ernie Colon
Cover: Carmine Infantino, Rodin Rodriguez
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1983
Cover Price: 60 cents

I have the Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash volume, bought a couple years ago. That book has Flash 323-350…basically, the final couple years’ worth of issues of the Silver Age Flash series that took us up to Crisis on Infinite Earths prior to Wally’s series kicking off.

I have "experienced" 28 years of reading new comics myself, all being years after this issue. And in broad strokes I’ve long since "filled in the gaps" or otherwise have "a passing knowledge" of stuff from this "era."

But finding this issue in a 25-cent bin, I was all for it. Sure, I have the issue in that Showcase volume–but that’s black-and-white and a thick volume that’s not the greatest for a randomish, casual read. This issue is in color with all the ads and whatnot in being the actual, original, (vintage) edition.

The cover is what grabbed my attention–The Flash holding Reverse-Flash and exclaiming "Get up, Get up! You can’t be dead!" and a caption proclaiming "But he is–and Flash killed him!" This is both accurate and yet comes off very much as a number of classic covers do–a "technicality" of truth but quite misleading. Of course, I know this isn’t "just" that, but is indicative of an issue with a lasting point that influenced so much at the trailing end of the series.

Then I figured I’d missed the actual occurrence, and "assumed" that this would pick up immediately after the PREVIOUS issue ending on an "Is he or isn’t he dead?" cliffhanger.

What I got from this was a solid read from a key point in pre-Crisis Barry Allen’s life with one of his most dangerous foes, and an issue meeting expectation while drawing me into the then-contemporary story and leaving me curious about a number of things, not limited to: Iris died 40+ issues earlier? I did think that was here. Who is this Fiona, and how important was she as I’ve never consciously been aware of her? And how does an obvious rock-and-hard-place situation stopping a known killer with intent lead to a lengthy story of the Flash on trial?

While I’d half expected to open the issue TO Barry and a dead Thawne, I actually found that the two were still engaged in fisticuffs. Said fisticuffs have made Barry very late for his own wedding, where family and closest friends try to salvage the situation, assuring folks he’ll be there and has NOT left Fiona at the altar. Kid Flash performs a "super feat" rescuing a baby and showing THAT he has the power and speed to do much of what Barry does…and even he is late for the wedding. Or would be, if it was proceeding as it should have. As the wedding situation deteriorates, Wally heads out to try to find Barry, and is intercepted by a Guardian of the Universe (not to be confused with a Guardian of the Galaxy…similar names, different publishers) who does something to dampen his powers, ensuring that no one will interfere with Barry’s fight…at said hero’s request, apparently.

We then switch more fully to the Barry/Eobard fight and see a fraction of what goes on with two mortal combatants at super-speed. Ultimately, seeking to press whatever advantage he maintains, the villain takes the lead, heading to kill the woman who would be Barry’s second wife–forcing Barry to move even faster and decisively to save Fiona’s life. Standing before her as the Flash, he does not tell her that it’s him–Barry–and as she storms away, we learn that Thawne is not just "stopped" but dead.

As said earlier, this cover looks like something right out of the ’70s and classic exaggerated/far-fetched situations. The art inside the issue is solid and seems very much of its time–early 1980s–with all relevant characters being distinct and recognizable, and generally no wonkiness or weirdness throwing me out of the story. Possibly the biggest visual grab for me was that somehow I keep forgetting that Barry was blond, and I’m still used to Wally and thus a Flash without red hair throws me off.

Story-wise, this issue includes a footnote indicating that there were several issues’ worth of development leading to this one–and that by itself serves to pique my interest in finding those issues. It also reminds me that this is from those days long ago BEFORE everything had to be clearly deliniated within a rigid 4-issue or 6-issue "story arc" format…when issues could be issues, telling an ongoing story without necessarily being formulaic X Chapter of Y Story.

I like the structure of this issue, giving us some heroics, super feats, as well as developing the wedding side of things and Fiona’s thinking she realizes what’s happened, then seeing Barry and Thawne and their battle, leading to Barry’s being forced (goaded into?) to kill Thawne to save Fiona.

All in all, I definitely enjoyed this issue. It was an easier read than I expected, half thinking it was gonna drag on and feel overly wordy, as well as thinking I’d be reading simply a random chapter of something–not even a key moment–of a much larger story. Though in a way this IS just another ’80s issue, it being an issue included in that Showcase volume, I feel like it’s an ‘early chapter’ more than an ‘isolated issue’ but found this engaging and interesting, while leaving me interested both in backtracking and getting the later issues (as preferable to "just" a black and white reprint).

For only 25 cents, it was well worth the purchase, a solid read, and I would certainly recommend the issue if you find it in such a bargain bin and don’t mind NOT having the entire 25+ issue "run" necessarily at hand.

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):

Continue reading

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002_blogtrailer

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #1

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0001In the Beginning

Writer: Len Wein
Artists: John Byrne & Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: John Costanza
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: July 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is a comic that I clearly recall coming across in Grandpa’s collection all those years ago–after he’d loaned me a stack to read, and we visited and I found it in his comics cupboard. It stood out to me immediately for the cover being taken up itself by a giant book, with three very recognizable villains (Joker, Penguin, Riddler) apparently teamed up, utilizing the book to learn more about the Batman. The Joker proclaiming "This book will tell us everything we need to know to defeat the Batman!" To this day, this particular issue is rather "iconic" to me, one of the more "singular" stand-out covers IN comics (though a bit behind the third issue of this very series, which I’ll touch on when I get to that issue).

Presently in 2017 (some 37 years after this issue originally saw print!) the issue is definitely a bit "dated" in that it’s clearly from its time…but for me, it’s rather timeless. And it’s easy to see as I read just how much this very issue originally (and still) informs my FOUNDATION with the Batman character and mythos–from Thomas Wayne’s costume, to Leslie Thompkins and Joe Chill and Lew Moxon, the notion of Bruce as the first Robin, and so on.

The issue opens with Batman having a pleasant moment with Alfred, going through mail…only to discover a package with the shredded remains of the most valuable item in the Batcave–the costume once worn by Bruce’s father, which inspired his own look as Batman! This kicks off some nostalgia/reminiscing between Bruce and Alfred, which gives us as readers the background on the costume, the "base" origin with the death of the Waynes and Bruce’s childhood vow and self-training, to some specifics of the training and such, the origin of both his costume and the Robin outfit, and a glimpse in montage of many of the villains faced over the years. We also get the "expanded" origin details of young Bruce having been taken in by his Uncle Philip, and being "raised" by the man’s housekeeper, Mrs. Chilton (unknowingly mother of the man who murdered the Waynes), as well as Batman and Robin’s discovery of Joe Chill and eventually Lew Moxon, and how the Wayne murder case was finally, completely closed. Despite 18+ pages of additional story (the issue has 21), there’s no resolution regarding the destruction of Thomas Wayne’s costume nor the perpetrator.

What we ultimately have here is basically a framing device to give thin "reason" to characters reminiscing in that classic comics way–think all that hard on it, and it’s like–what? These characters have known each other too long, been through too much, to have this sort of stuff in this sort of detail coming up. There’s also the issue of the thought balloons seeming–by 2017 standards to me–being very in-your-face and blatantly stating stuff that would be left to be hinted at or given only as a subtlety.

While I’ve probably known this issue’s art was John Byrne and Jim Aparo, I feel like it’s "consciously" new information to me in the sense that it feels so revelatory. This series being one of THE early introductions for me to Batman, and the character’s background and generally a compact, definitive source on all things Batman…it would seem to clearly explain why I particularly dig Aparo‘s Batman, and any Batman that looks close to how he appears here!

I also wasn’t aware–until rather recently (a couple years or so back)–that this was written by Len Wein. This series is one that, as a kid, simply WAS Batman. I didn’t know the artists, I didn’t know the writer, I just knew that this was Batman, this was his origin and the showing of everything that made up the character and associated characters, and that was that.

So framing device or not, ludicrously blatant detailing of stuff or not…this was a very key comic for me in my youth, and I love it to this day for what it was, and remains, to me, though this is a much different Batman than the one I’ve known for most of the time I’ve been into "current comics," and could functionally be a whole different character (and in a sense, is–this is from a half-decade PRIOR TO Crisis on Infinite Earths!).

I have a definite soft spot for this mini-series, which is also why it hardly phased me to buy a new-to-me copy of all three issues just for the convenience of re-reading the single issues AND seeing the original ads and such, rather than simply grabbing my Tales of the Batman: Len Wein volume off the shelf to re-read it or such.

I’m certainly biased on the issue, but I think if you’re a fan like me and enjoy the different "eras" of Batman, this is an issue well worth reading in some form.

And while I’ll get into it more for the third issue, it should definitely be noted here: there is an audio-drama of sorts out there for this issue…this entire mini-series was made into a "comics on tape" thing with a voice cast, music, and so on, and packaged with reprint editions of each issue.

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