Monday, December 20, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 43: July 1983


The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino


The Brave and the Bold #200

"Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death!"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Dave Gibbons & Gary Martin

Nicholas Lucien grew up on Earth-One as a respectable businessman, but on Earth-Two he grew up as a villain! In 1955, on Earth-Two, Lucien is a very mature-looking 22-year-old who seeks to rule the underworld of Gotham City. Defeated once before by Batman and Robin, Lucien (known as Brimstone) sends Batman a taunting clue and attempts to rob the gate receipts at an archery competition at Gotham Arena. After an appearance by the Dynamic Duo, Brimstone and his gang escape but fail to make off with the loot.

Brimstone's next crime involves robbing the payroll at the Gotham Municipal Waste Disposal plant; again, Batman and Robin make an appearance and again Brimstone and his gang get away empty-handed. Finally, Brimstone lures the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder to the Gotham Bait Co., where he captures them and returns to his hideout. Robin is forced to watch, powerless, as Batman is trapped at the bottom of a pit that begins to fill with hot lava! Fortunately, Batman escapes and he and Robin march Brimstone off to jail.

Fast forward to 1983, where Lucien has been in a coma and in jail since hitting his head fighting Batman decades before. A doctor's injection brings back the villain's consciousness, but he finds himself trapped in an aged, atrophied body. Lucien concentrates hard and...

In 1983, the bombings of three houses of worship in Gotham City lead to riots and looting amid demands to catch the bomber. Batman follows a clue to the Lucien Chemical Co., where he fights off street toughs and meets a villain who calls himself Brimstone and who refers to having met Batman in the past, though Batman has no memory of this meeting. Batman tracks down Brimstone and stops him from setting off a bomb that would have killed three civic leaders and led to more violence in the streets. After being knocked unconscious, Lucien's mind is free of the evil influence of the other Brimstone, who is once again paralyzed but alive in his decrepit body.

Peter: This is a bit of a cheat since there's no real team-up, is there? But, heck, this is a lot of fun anyway and the art is fabulous; I love that Gibbons drew in the 1950s style in the first half and in the contemporary style in the second. The script is a bit complicated, but I appreciate what Barr was trying to accomplish. I was completely lost when we got to the "Batman Dead!" headline. Was this a ruse on the part of the Joker to get Brimstone riled up? Despite some really boring installments (Karate Kid, take a bow), I think I may just miss Brave and the Bold. It had a wonky, go-for-it attitude missing from the other two regular Bat-titles.

Jack: I've always enjoyed Earth-Two stories and I was happy to see this story have roots in both worlds. I really liked the first half of the story, which is a loving tribute to Batman comics of the 1950s, including retro art and plenty of corny quips and perilous cliffhangers. The second half of the story, set in the 1980s, was less successful. Still, as Peter notes, I'll miss The Brave and the Bold, especially for stories like this one that we don't see in the other Bat-comics.

As for the headline about Batman being dead, remember that Batman was dead on Earth-Two. That's why Brimstone got so riled up and took over his counterpart on Earth-One--he wanted to go after Batman and that was the only way to do it.

"Introducing: Batman and the Outsiders"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Jim Aparo

A terrorist named Miklos is being held in chains at Gotham General Hospital, but his devoted followers will do anything to set him free! When one attacks the hospital, he encounters a new heroine named Halo, who is aided by the sudden appearance of Metamorpho. In another part of the hospital, Miklos's followers try to take hostages but must reckon with another new heroine named Katana; Black Lighting pitches in to help her. Outside the building, Batman realizes that something is wrong and summons this new team of heroes, calling them the Outsiders. A terrorist gets close to Miklos and sets off a bomb, alerting the last member of the team, Geo-Force, to the danger inside the building. Happily, Metamorpho protected everyone, and Batman tells Commissioner Gordon that he has joined a new super-team.

Peter: Reading this dreary, meandering mess, it occurs to me that I owe a debt of gratitude to Jack for agreeing to skip Batman and the Outsiders on this journey. I read the first couple issues back in the day when I was buying up all the monthly Bat-titles and I remember it being as sleep-inducing as JSA and JLA (the latter being a title I really liked in the late 90s but couldn't stand up to that point). There's no real reason for the powers-that-be to introduce another Bat-title (especially one populated by a bunch of sixth-tier heroes) other than to put an "Issue One" out there for collectors. Evidently, the comic-buying public agreed with me, since Batman and the Outsiders lasted only 32 issues.

Jack: I agree that this debut of the Outsiders is a bit stiff, but the team survives to this day. Just today, I was reading their latest exploits in the most recent issue of Batman:Urban Legends. I've discovered, to my surprise, that new DC comics can be excellent! I read some other Outsiders a year or two ago in the big Wal-Mart 100-pagers and they were great.

Hannigan & Giordano
Batman #361

"The Most Successful Species!"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Don Newton & Pablo Marcos

Man-Bat has flown off with Jason Bard in his claws and Batman vows to find and rescue his new ward. The Dark Knight visits Man-Bat's wife Francine for help while Man-Bat explains to Jason why bats are "The Most Successful Species!" Now that he has taken Jason to replace the daughter he thinks is dead, Man-Bat plans to inject the boy with bat-serum and turn him into a boy-bat.

Man-Bat flies to the Batcave to get some serum from real bats, while Batman hatches a plan with the help of Vicki Vale. Just as Man-Bat is about to inject serum into Jason, he sees his wife and daughter in the nearby shadows, asking him to leave Jason alone. Batman manages to fight off Man-Bat with a little help from Jason and ends up injecting antidote into the creature, who turns back into Kirk Langstrom.

Bruce Wayne and Jason Bard plan to take in a movie and Commissioner Gordon is disgusted to learn that his new assistant is Harvey Bullock, a bad cop whom he suspended ten years ago.

Peter: I've always had as fond a spot in my heart for Man-Bat as I have for Marvel's Morbius. In fact, I love supernatural characters. Only problem is, based on "The Most Successful Species!" and the last several times the "villain" has been featured in a Bat-adventure, Man-Bat comes off as nothing but a clone of the Lizard. Isn't there anything original these writers could do with one of their most uniquely-designed critters? I like the fact that M-B got a little bit crazy and decided adopting Jason as his own was a great idea (we all know he would have sent the moppet back to Wayne Manor after just a few days), but the whole thing ends on a cliche. A pity.

Jack: There is a sameness to the recent Man-Bat stories, isn't there? He never seems particularly villainous and we know how it's going to end. I was puzzled at Batman's big plan to distract Man-Bat. If I understand it right, he took photos of Francine Langstrom and her daughter, then had Vicki Vale create life-sized cardboard cutouts that Batman placed in the shadows to trick Man-Bat into thinking his wife and child were there. Not only that, but Batman recorded Francine's voice and played it on a loop. He did all of this while Jason was on the verge of getting an injection that would have turned him into a bat. Wouldn't it have been better to grab Francine and the little tyke and head to the museum basement right away? It takes time to make those blow-ups!

Colan & Giordano

Detective Comics #528

"Requiem for Skulls"
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Gene Colan &Klaus Janson

Police are still searching the docks for any sign of the Savage Skull, who seemingly disappeared into the harbor last month. To make matters worse, the mayor has rehired eternal screw-up cop Harvey Bullock to take charge of the case and keep Gordon in line. A stray cop comes across the Skull below the pier and is murdered; Batman soon comes across the corpse and his suspicions are confirmed: the Savage Skull lives!

Meanwhile, Gordon's nerves are frayed and when he discovers the next morning that Harvey Bullock was notified about the dead cop before him, he hits the roof and takes his frustration and exhaustion out on his best friend and ally, the Dark Knight. Batman tells Gordon to take a chill pill and insists he's on the Commish's side. He knows Bullock is a bad cop and they need to team up to bring the goon down. But first they need to find the Skull!

Meanwhile, at Wayne Manor, Jason Todd gets a visit from a creepy clown he once knew at the circus. Stay tuned for more developments on that front. Bullock acts on a hunch and tracks the Skull to an abandoned boxing gym where Jack Crane used to hang out before he became the Savage Skull. Sure enough, the three-quarters-insane Crane is sitting at ringside, dressed in his boxing shorts. Quite a sight. Bullock tells the Skull he has to take him in and the villain's response is predictable. As the Skull's knife begins its descent, James Gordon busts in and saves Bullock, leaving himself open for assault. 

Batman enters none too soon and Crane challenges him to a boxing match. Being a good sport, Bats agrees and the two go toe-to-toe before the Caped Crusader lays the Skull out on the mat. As the count reaches ten and the bell sounds, Bullock thanks Gordon for saving his life and admits he thinks the Commish is an okay dude. Next day, at the press conference, Harvey takes credit for the collar and accuses Gordon of meddling. Bullock announces that Gordon should be fired.

Though there's really not much meat on the bone this time out, "Requiem for Skulls" does its job and entertains. The Skull becomes almost an afterthought here, with the Harvey Bullock situation taking center stage. The boxing scene is ludicrous. I can't help but wonder what would happen if Batman laid a right cross directly into the Skull's face. The guy's got no eyelids. How do those eyeballs stay in their sockets? He's got no lips, so those teeth would be scattered to the four corners of the ring!

I always liked Klaus Janson as Frank Miller's inker (and off-topic nostalgia note--Miller's Ronin series is hyped in this issue's letter column), but he does Gentleman Gene no favors here. It's all got an almost unfinished look to it, doesn't it? It's not awful, though; just a bit off. These Bat-books still have a powerhouse of talent in the art bullpen. It's odd that the Skull story line, begun in Batman, concludes in 'tec a month later.

Jack: Funny, I think Janson is Colan's best inker. He makes the pages look just like 1970s-era Tomb of Dracula. We all knew the Savage Skull was alive when he fell in the water; I'm glad he returned before I forgot about him. The new subplots look promising, both Harvey Bullock and the creepy clown, Waldo.

"Getting Up II: Poisoned Art"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Paris Cullins & Pablo Marcos

The Green Arrow has been blasted out of a thirty-story window by a strong, propulsive aerosol can created by a super-tagger with the moniker of Ozone. Using the thinking part of his brain, Ollie utilizes the spray can to blast himself back up to that thirtieth-story window. When he re-enters the building, he finds Ozone being manhandled by a gun-toting creep. Ollie uses his arrows to free the kid, but Ozone escapes out the window and our hero turns his attention to the overcoat-clad gunman. 

The man explains to Ollie that he's been sent by a government agency called Z.Z.Z to retrieve a canister that Ozone unwittingly stole. The can contains a deadly toxin that could kill the kid and infect the entire city. Rather than call the FBI, Ollie keeps the info close to the vest and goes back to work, joshing with the office tech kid (who seems to be wearing the world's most abysmal scarf). Ollie gets the bright idea to stage an Ozone gallery showing to bring the goofy felon out of hiding. The ruse works, but Ozone gets the better of the Arrow (and several gallery guests) by spraying their feet with a super-glue formula. The kid steals all of their wallets and thanks his fans for showing up.

Peter: I'm not sure where this arc is going, but so far it's filled to the brim with (enjoyable) poppycock. How could an aerosol spray can have enough power for its spray to reach the street and send Ollie back up to the top of the building? Yeah, I know, it's a comic book. Ollie's nonchalance about Ozone carrying around a disease that could kill thousands is, frankly, baffling. Guy barely breaks a sweat! The arc concludes next issue and Cavalieri will have to pack a boatload of expository into that eight pages, but if it's as goofy as this installment, it might be fun.

Jack: I thought the art was better this time out, but the story is still strictly from hunger and the villain is awful. Green Arrow could be such a cool character, but not here. And how does he think anyone doesn't recognize him with that pointy blond beard?


We read 43 issues of The Brave and the Bold, from #158 (January 1980) through #200 (July 1983). These are the best stories from those issues!


1- "The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne" (197)
2- "The Crystal Armageddon" (159)
3- "One of Us is Not One of Us" (173)
4- "Smell of Brimstone, Stench of Death" (200)
5- "Interlude on Earth-Two" (182)


1-"Interlude on Earth-Two"
2-"The Batman's Last Christmas!" (184)
3-"Whatever Happened to What's'ername?" (187)
4-"Those Who Live By the Sword...!"(193)
5-"The Autobiography of Bruce Wayne!"

Next Week...
Jack and Peter will try their darndest
to understand the demons of Jeremiah Cold!


andydecker said...

And so Doug Moench creates a long-lasting character for the Batman franchise. (Even if he later was credited to Archie Goodwin.) The character had enough substance to cross over into the tv-universe and is still active after nearly 40 years. Not bad. Even if he later was softened, I still thought him a lot of fun and back then something new. And personally I always thought that the Sipowicz character on NYPD Blue owed a lot to him.

As I said before, I am not a fan of Colan's art for DC. Too soft and fuzzy, out of focus. Colan on Batman should be a match made in heaven, but it just doesn't klick. Weird.

At least one issue, the Skull story, was solid. Man-Bat is always the same. At least the idea to infect Jason had merit even if we knew it would not happen. Kind of gritty.

I only read the odd issue of Brave & Bold. Some I never forgot because I read them as a impressionable young lad, like the Aparo issues with Aquaman and Green Arrow, but the rest is a blank. I guess it is a sign of the times that it was finally canceled. Marvel Team-Up didn't last much longer. The team-book displaced the random team-up. And while Batman and the Outsiders never could capture my interest, it had its fans.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Andy! Merry Christmas!

John said...

I can gladly concur that Batman Urban Legends is a really enjoyable read. Chip Zdarsky is one of the best writers of his era and his Daredevil was also great.
Detective Comics #528 "Requiem for Skulls" has such beautiful art. I wish Gene Colan & Klaus Janson had drawn more issues together. It's a perfect match !
Harvey Bullock looks and sounds like a character directly taken from the noir movies of Fritz Lang and Billy Wilder. He is shady, dirty and tough as nails, so... a very suitable addition to Gotham's world. There have been many great comic issues and a few amazing TV episodes from Batman T.A.S. with him as the central character and Doug deserves the credit.
I don't know if you make another Batman entry until the end of the year, so I want to wish you all Merry Christmas and happy holidays ! Thank you for the great company !

andydecker said...

John, you are so right!

It never occoured to me before, but Bullock is Orson Welles in Touch of Evil!

To all those tireless writers and archeologists of the pop culture on Barebones a Merry Christmas and a better New Year!

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, John, and Merry Christmas! I definitely see the Touch of Evil cop in the Batman character. Good catch.