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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):

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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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