By Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers & Terry Austin (DC Comics)
Many comics fans share a variation of the same dream. They will awake sweaty, desperate and poignantly despairing because they have seen, touched and read a lost issue, produced by their favourite creator or creators, from their most artistically productive period – which just happens to be the dreamer’s most well-beloved – only to awaken to the gloomy realisation that they already have a complete collection and the dream artefact will never be part of it. Spitefully, images and fragments of the lost issue will tantalisingly return to them for days and months thereafter.
In the 1970s Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin produced a run of stories in Detective Comics (collected as Batman: Strange Apparitions, ISBN 1-84023-109-2) that managed to be nostalgically avant-garde and iconoclastically traditional at the same time, setting both the tone and the character structure of Batman for more than a decade to come, and leading, indirectly, to both the award winning cartoon series and the blockbuster movie of 1989. What could be closer to that cruel dream than the reuniting of these talented artists to tell one more story their own magnificent way?
It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, and if I’m totally honest, there are oh, so brief moments where I’m a blown-away kid again, but mostly this feels like a school reunion where you forget yourself for a moment, then catch yourself pogo-ing to “God Save the Queen” in the bar mirror. That was then and you just look like an idiot doing it now.
This plot has once-in-a-lifetime romance Silver Saint-Cloud returning to Gotham City as the fiancé of an aspiring State Governor. She once more meets Bruce Wayne and they take up their old affair. She decides to dump her current man and stay with Wayne, whom she only originally left because she couldn’t cope with his being Batman. But events are further complicated by the Joker whose latest scheme can be best described by his own slogan “Vote for Me …Or I’ll Kill You”.
As well as The Joker’s gubernatorial aspirations Batman also has to deal with the Scarecrow’s unwitting release of Bruce Wayne’s repressed memories of a murder attempt upon himself the night after his parents were killed, Two-Face’s frankly ludicrous clone-plot and a cheesy dream allowing the creators to do their version of many of the Dark Knight’s Rogue’s Gallery.
On a personal note, the co-conspiratorial habit of naming Gotham locations after various Batman creators of the past was charming then, but it’s tired, over-used and not a little annoying now. Just let it go, guys.
Their vision of Batman is a unique and iconic one, and it should never have been shoe-horned into current continuity. It would have been fairer to position it, like many out-of continuity Bat-tales, in its own private universe, perhaps in those distant days of thirty years ago, or even the 1950s.
Not a hoax, not a dream, and definitely not a good use of some very talented people or my childhood memories.
© 2005, 2006 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.