Monday, June 8, 2015

In Which Batman's Creative Team Finally Remembers Batman has Actual Foes

Batman #251 heralded the return to greatness for Batman.  A hero is only as good as his enemy, and after years of fighting gangsters, we finally start to see a rebirth of the super-villain.  Have Marvel and DC trademarked the term "super-villain"?  If not, I should get on that.

Anyway, check out this gorgeous cover:

When he was first introduced, the Joker was a homicidal maniac.  Over the years, the character reverted to more of a clown, playing it for laughs and keeping in tune with a more kid-friendly Batman.  This issue marks a merging of the two: The Joker still enjoys his giggles, but is reintroduced by going on a murderous rampage.

It fell apart for me right here:

Yeah, it's kind of getting shoved down our throats at that point, but all in all we have to give credit to Denny O'Neil for bringing the character back to glory.

And it wasn't just the Joker who was revitalized.  Subsequent issues would bring back the Penguin, the Catwoman and the Scarecrow, all handled with an eye towards exploring the respective insanity that made them who and they are.  

Here, we see the return of Two-Face from Batman #258.  The infamous two-headed coin that he flips to decide if he will act in evil or good is still very much a part of his character, but he's more vicious and tormented than ever:

Harvey hates what he has become, and deluded himself into thinking that he could simply pay people to ignore his ugliness... both physical and psychological.  Keep in mind these were comics from 40 years ago.  That's some freakin' brilliant writing there.

But, since I'm Adam, I have to point out something unintentionally funny.

Batman #258 was also the first appearance of Arkham Asylum, which is important because now we're seeing the bad guys institutionalized for their insanity rather than simply jailed.  The introduction of Arkham was a game-changer, and the insanity of Batman's foes has been a focal point of the whole Batman cannon ever since.

Anyway, this happened:

I'm Harry Higby... an actor!  And I just confessed to helping a violent man escape from an institution!  What a lucky break for me!  Should I not have told you all that?  I'm an actor, not a lawyer!  But I'll play one if you want me to!

But one of the best reboots had to be the Riddler.  It had previously been established that he had a mental block that kept him from committing crimes without riddles more than a hundred issues earlier in Batman #179, but in Batman #283, this had become a consuming obsession:

The man became consumed by the Riddle.  Again, freakin' genius.

But just in case we're feeling deprived of silliness, here's a bit from the Hostess ad in the back of that issue:

You know, if your special mummy ray gun won't stop a mummy, I'm not sure why you'd even bother carrying around a special mummy ray gun.  

And what is a "special" mummy ray gun?  As opposed to the common one?

But always carry a box of Twinkies:

Actually, those Twinkies will probably still taste about the same in 2000 years, so don't feel the need to rush through 'em.

See you tomorrow!

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