Mar 1, 2012

Great Back Issues: Detective Comics 572

So I've decided to enter Fully Booked's Blogger challenge, in which all we have to really do is talk about Batman. I was thinking of passing on it, because, as you guys know, I'm not really the biggest Batman fan — which is actually the reason why I finally decided to actually do it. I'll do the X-Men next, somehow.

I'm not gonna try to be creative here. Fully Booked gave us a lot of questions we can possibly answer, and I'm just not that creative. Among them:
  • What kind of cake would you bake for Batman? (Nothing. Batman doesn't eat cake. It would ruin his crimefighting regimen.)
  • What meal would you prepare for Bruce Wayne? (Nilagang baka. Because that's what I would prepare for anyone.)
  • Who is your favorite Batman villain? (The Joker. There's not really much else I can say about that that I didn't say already here.)
  • What would Batman do if he were a citizen of the Philippines? (He'd quit being Batman, knowing he could actually do more good as Bruce Wayne.)

No, Batman isn't one of my favorite characters, at least not these days. These days, I love Nightwing, Batwoman, the Joker, Scarface and the Ventriloquist — but not the Masked Manhunter, no. It's hard for me to think of a Batman story in recent memory that I've really loved, one that actually focused on Batman and not one of his many, many side characters.

Well, that sounds like a good excuse to talk about the Batman story I love the most, doesn't it? I kept thinking about what it was, and I remembered, went through my longboxes and dug it up, and realized there was no contest. My favorite Batman story of all time is Detective Comics #572, "The Doomsday Book." It's written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Alan Davis, Terry Beatty, Dick Giordano, Carmine Infantino, Al Vey,  and ER Cruz. Here's the house ad that DC ran to promote it back in the day, which I always thought was really cool whenever I saw it in a comic when I was younger.

I never actually got to read it as a kid, though. That had to wait until I was in college and I saw it on eBay going for a cheap price, at which point I snatched it up immediately. See, I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, so when I was reminded that this comic, you know, existed, I just had to pick it up.

'TEC #572 was an exercise in serendipity. It was the 50th anniversary of DETECTIVE COMICS, of which Batman was the star. But Batman didn't actually show up until the 27th issue of 'TEC, so they brought in the guy who starred in the first issue of 'TEC, Slam Bradley!

In a way, it's very fitting, because the creators of Slam Bradley were Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. You may have heard of them. Having Slam in here not only really makes this a celebration DETECTIVE COMICS; it also brings in the creators of Superman to the party.

Anyway, Slam gets hired for a case by a guy from London named Thomas Morgan, whose fiancee had just been kidnapped. It turns out the kidnappers were after Thomas as well, so Slam gets into some action, and he's saved by Batman and Robin (alas, this one is Jason Todd). Turns out Batman's been on the case even before Slam was.

The next three chapters focus on three different detectives having solo adventures. The first chapter starred Slam, and showed him rescuing Thomas' fiancee, Mary Watson, who then gives him a startling secret.

The next chapter stars Ralph Dibny, the World Famous Elongated Man! This chapter was drawn by Carmine Infantino, the actual creator of our favorite stretchable sleuth.

It's also Ralph that first meets the villain of the piece, Edgar Moriarty, intent on carrying out the legacy of  his great-granduncle (this is the actual term they used in the book; I'm aware that it's supposed to be great great uncle).

Moriarty gets the better of Ralph in this one, but Slam and Mary show up to save him, and they soon find out that this all has something to do with an untold tale of Sherlock Holmes, which leads us to the next chapter, starring the greatest detective of all time!

Seriously, how cool is that? What's even cooler is that they got Filipino artist ER Cruz to draw it — something that's especially cool because ER did the one issue of the SHERLOCK HOLMES comic that DC put out in the 70s. Which, incidentally, is also a great comic (it adapts two classic Holmes stories).

You can read the whole thing here!

Barr does a great job establishing Holmes' acuity for deduction right off the bat. The rest of the chapter is pretty good too, and it both ties in seamlessly to the rest of the issue and serves as an apt interlude, since it's happening in the past.

When the chapter's done, we cut back to the present and go back to the oh-so-gorgeous Alan Davis art, and then get down to Batman and Robin hanging with Sam and Ralph. The greatest detectives of the DC Universe in one room. Together. Solving a mystery! This is so awesome.

But that's not enough. Once they've stopped the villains, check out who Batman runs into in the end.

And this is why this is my favorite Batman story of all time. Not only does the Masked Manhunter work with the greatest detectives in the history of DC Comics, but he also runs into the greatest detective of all time. And he's "wowed" by it. (And how good is Alan Davis, seriously? Look at those faces.)

And that's the thing. I've mentioned that I'm not really big on Batman — but I love this Batman. This Batman was the one who existed before he turned dark and refused to make friends, before it became "cool" for Bruce to make the rest of the DC Universe look like idiots around him by being condescending. Growing up, what I always loved about the DC heroes was that they were like gods — they enjoyed their capabilities and they showed it. But they were also admirable human beings, who kept their friends close and whom I would easily have said I wanted to grow up to be like.

Today's Batman is withdrawn, treats his friends manipulatively, and subdues his emotions in favor of a cold approach to preserve his aura of terror and fear. Much is made of his being "driven," that he will never rest until all crime is eradicated. Preserved in the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS #572, the comic that came out on the 50th anniversary of DC's flagship title, is the Batman I loved as a child: a truly compassionate, accommodating human being who understands the difference between a crusade and an obsession, who just so happens to be the World's Greatest Detective.

Of our time, anyway.


Anonymous said...

Galing nito Duy. Good Job!


Bob Buethe said...

I suppose that, as a fan of both Sherlock Holmes and the Joker, you've read this story?

The Holmes in the story was only a delusional actor, but behaved close enough to the original article to make it a really fun issue.

Duy Tano said...

I've seen scans of it a long time ago, but I don't have any issues of that Joker run. (They're too expensive!) I wish they'd collect it.

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