Hey there, fellow Bulleteers… okay, I’m never calling us Bulleteers again. This is Richard, aka. Lantern Savage from the forums, aka. That Jerk Who Won The Character Impression Contest.

So I’m looking at this box of comics David Baron sent all the way here to New Zealand, and I’m feeling kinda guilty. There’s a lot of books here that I haven’t read, or hadn’t even thought about reading. One or two I didn’t even know existed. So hey, I thought, why not at least give back to the rest of the Bullets community by reviewing some of these books (while simultaneously hoping that no one thinks I’m trying to gloat about the awesomeness of this box!).

With that in mind… welcome to JokerFish™!

A quick look at my history in comics might help to explain any ridiculous/misguided/awesome opinions I express in the following reviews, so here goes…I’ve been a Batmaniac ever since I was about 5 or 6 (read: 1989), and I saw the first Tim Burton Batman movie. It didn’t, however, spur me on to a childhood of comic book reading. As a late-eighties kid in a mid-sized city in New Zealand, there weren’t a lot of comic book stores around. Even now, most magazine stores where I live will have maybe a handful of titles, but are usually happy to order whatever you’re looking for (for a price). There wasn’t a huge comic culture at school, though I remember X-Men and Wolverine being popular when I was at primary/grade school. Even so, my comic book knowledge initially came from cartoons, movies, video games and trading cards.

Fast-forward to about 2004/2005, when I randomly stumbled across the Wiki page for DC’s Crisis On Infinite Earths. The Star Trek fan in me was intrigued by the idea that there were multiple versions of Batman roaming around in the comics, and so I got my hands on a copy of Crisis, hoping to read me some Batman. Hahahaha, nice try, Past-Richard. I didn’t get much of a Batman fix, but Crisis introduced me to every other character in the DC universe instead. Suddenly hooked, I did my research and found some essential Batman stories to read next (Long Halloween, Year One, Hush, Dark Knight Returns, Killing Joke, Under The Hood), along with Infinite Crisis, 52, and so on and whatnot. I’d say at present I read about 50% of the ongoings DC puts out every month, along with some Wildstorm and Vertigo stuff.

Okay, with all that unnecessary exposition out of the way, you can hereby forgive my following forays into forgotten eras…

And remember, kids: we are a spoiler podcast. We go in-depth into plotlines, story twists and whatnot of the comics we’re reviewing on the show. So, if we’re going over something you haven’t read, you may wanna come back later, so you can better enjooooooooooooooooooooookay let’s not do that ever again.

THE BATMAN CHRONICLES: VOLUME EIGHT

December 1942 – January 1943

Let’s start things off with a classic: good ol’ Bats and the Bare-Legged Wonder. Someone at DC had the smart idea of reprinting all the Batman stories in chronological order, and so here I randomly have Volume Eight, which collects a bunch of comics from December 1942 to the Spring of ’43. The completist in me salivates at the idea of owning every Batman book ever written, in chronological order, in one small space on my shelf. The accountant in me, however, doesn’t. Now that I’ve got one random volume, I just know I’m going to want them all… *puts credit card in a drawer*

In order to spare this little blog from becoming as long as, say, a Raging Bullets podcast, I’ll break the book down into its separate comics, which I’ll review over the coming weeks/months/years/decades.

BATMAN #14

THE CASE BATMAN FAILED TO SOLVE!!!
Writer: Don Cameron
Artist: Jerry Robinson

I think the oldest comic I’d read up until this point was the original Crisis, so I think I beat that by about 42 years with this book.

The first thing I noticed about Batman #14 is that it includes FOUR stories, and runs for about 50 pages – all for 10 cents! Each story is long and filled with plenty of unintentional hilarity, so I’m probably going to have to split this review for every story or two. Batman Forever, indeed…

The basic, solid colors and black ink shading style of the Golden Age art is totally awesome to me – not because I can draw at all, but I definitely know how to color within the lines. Could I have been a 1940’s DC colorist? Probably not. Something tells me it’s probably a lot harder than it looks. I’m sure Art Lyon and David Baron are shaking their heads at me right now.

I can’t help it, but when I read this 40’s Batman dialogue I hear Adam West and Casey Kasem. I know they’re still 20 years away, but that’s just how my brain works. Hearing Kevin Conroy or Christian Bale tell someone “we’ll be there with bells on” would just be weird.

This whodunnit Bat story basically boils down to a game of Clue (which wouldn’t be invented for another 6 years, by the way), except Colonel Mustard and Professor Plum have been replaced with an Englishman, an old cowboy, a stereotypical Chinese guy, a sophisticated woman, Batman, and Robin. The “World’s Greatest Detectives” assemble to listen to an elderly detective’s retirement speech, before the old guy (spoiler) kills himself in front of his friends via an elaborate sun-heat-activated-flintlock-pistol-shooting-while-falling-from-a-window-ledge set-up. This is all meant to confuse his detective friends with an unsolveable murder mystery.

Not two panels ago, this guy was calling these people his “true friends”, and then he makes them suffer through a simulated murder of their good friend on his retirement day. He literally turns purple in front of their eyes. What a wonderful parting gift!

The detectives all go their separate ways to solve the case. This somehow involves Batman coming to conclusions in the strangest ways;

Robin stopping a thug with a bucket of paint (though it looks to me like a bucket of acid, considering the thug’s melting face);

Batman utilizing the rarely-seen Bat-Wallpaper;

and Robin trusting Batman so much that he’d jump out of a fifteenth story window while questioning Bruce’s plans.

In the end, Batman and Robin discover their friend’s death was a suicide. They also happen across a diary of his that mentions he had “indisputable proof that the Batman and Bruce Wayne are one and the same man.” So what do our heroes do? Hide the diary and announce the murder case unsolveable, of course. Just what any superhero would do: lie and steal… for the greater good!

(Also, the Batcave’s trophy room has a giant penguin in it. Just saying.)

I’m not sure what to even say about this story. It was unintentionally HILARIOUS, but I’m sure a lot of the Golden Age Batman was. Where is the old guy’s family during all this? Aren’t they going to be even more distraught if they’re forever left thinking that the detective’s death was an unsolved murder instead of a suicide?

Who are all these other detectives? John Bart, Ezra Plunkett, Grace Seers and Doctor Tsu? Are they Detective Comics alumni perhaps? Google is no help. I can’t tell if they’re meant to be characters of note, or just a random bunch of detectives created specifically for this issue.

And still I’m left with questions: Why is the old guy a floating head of smoke on the cover? How could an unraveled roll of wallpaper be an effective weapon? What exactly did “boner” mean in the 40s??? So many questions, so little blog space…

Worth Picking Up To See: Batman hitting Robin in the head with a shield. Take that, Boy Wonder!