It was originally supposed to just be a small arc in Legends of the Dark Knight, but because of the timing (#50 was coming out near Halloween, but that issue had been promised to Denny O’Neil) it just happened to work out that the issue had to be a special, prestige format book (according to Loeb on his episode of Fatman on Batman).
I am very happy in how things played out. Their collaboration on a Challengers of the Unknown lead to this. This special lead to a second, which lead to a third, which lead to The Long Halloween, which itself lead to Catwoman: When in Rome and Superman: For All Seasons (I don’t care about Dark Victory – sue me!). Even their work at Marvel on the colour books is fantastic!
But this is where all the Batman greatness started. A little story about fear, and love. This is a story that perfectly captures Bruce Wayne. Yes this is a Batman book, but Bruce Wayne takes centre stage. And without one, you cannot have the other. I don’t care what anyone else says.
It’s Halloween weekend, whatever that means, and by night Batman is chasing the Scarecrow. But during the days Bruce Wayne is falling hard and fast for a woman he met at a Halloween function held at the manor – Jillian Maxwell. While this is happening the two side of him are combating each other. How much of himself does he owe to his parents and the promise he made them to protect the city? How much does he owe of himself to his own happiness? Will Gotham be safe with just the police to protect her? Or are Gordon and his men, who allow Scarecrow to escape after his initial apprehension enough?
Had circumstances been a little different, he may have given up being Batman all together. In his few days with her, Bruce almost took off with Jillian. She was beautiful, she was smart, she was strong, – a triple threat. To good to be true. But because of an exposure to fear gas, Bruce was more afraid of losing himself to Batman that he wasn’t asking the questions of woman that he normally would. Questions that unfortunately keep the right women away as much as the wrong woman. It didn’t take long for Alfred to figure out that she was not only a serial widow, but a serial killer as well, and Bruce was going to be next.
There are some subtle things I loved about the writing of this book. Loeb gave Bruce and Batman their own colour of narration bubble. Bruce blue and Batman grey. This separation of the two as their own character is what helped Kevin Conroy deliver brilliant vocal performances in Batman: The animated series.
Some people like to think that Clark Kent is the true identity while Superman is the guise, and Batman is the true identity while Bruce is the guise. I don’t believe it. Batman’s parents weren’t killed in front of him when he was young. Batman didn’t spend his teen years studying and training, Batman doesn’t run a clean company that does its best for the infrastructural and moral integrity of the city, philanthropical endeavours, and the rehabilitative opportunities it offers Gothamite’s who’ve been given a bad hand. Bruce does. Bruce loves, Bruce cries, Bruce grieves. Batman is a tool for justice, but that is all he is.
Some may argue that sometimes Bruce is just a facade. But they are only seeing work Bruce. Everybody has a work self. The self that shows up to work with a smile despite having a rough sleep, that gets as much done as they can before the end of the day, that doesn’t yell at the idiot coworker they can’t stand. There is still at home Bruce. That Bruce still exists, and wants to come out, but he is smothered by his commitment to protect the city.
Think of the city as Bruce’s baby. how many parents get the time they need for themselves, especially with young children. That doesn’t mean that their only role is Dad or Mom, it just means that other desires go on the back burner. Their life, their friends, their identity still exist, they have just reorganized their time and priorities.
I hope this makes as much sense to you as it does to me.
But if Gotham is a child, it has other parents to take care of it. Gordon and the police. One scene portrayed Bruce and Jillian being mugged. Instead of pursuing the mugger, he decided to let the cops do their job and catch the guy. They did, to his surprise.
This book reminded me of a blue-eyed/black-eyed study that Jane Elliot did in Iowa for the documentary A Class Divided. It is a study of racism, but it applies elsewhere as well. Elliot divided the children according to eye color. One day if you were brown-eyed you got special treatment, got told you could do whatever you wanted, that you were smarter, faster, stronger, all around better people, than blue-eyed kids. The next day, the roles were reversed. It was shown that on the days that the brown eyes were treated better, they felt they could accomplish more, and did better on a quiz, but the blue-eyed kids, who had to sit in the back, were told they don’t deserve to use the water fountain or the outside equipment and told they were stupid and slow, scored lower. When the roles were reversed the scores reversed.
What if the only reason the cops aren’t catching villains is because they are constantly being told they need Batman, that only Batman can bring in the crazies, and that they are sub par to other Police systems. What if having Batman there is preventing them from doing their job on a mental level? I don’t have the answer, I’m just postulating.
This is not the first time we saw Sale’s mastery of the character, but it is a definitely a fantastic opportunity to look at it again. And he is getting better and better at what he does. Other issues he drew, with other writers, can be found in Tales of the Batman: Tim Sale. If you look at that book you see his style getter and better with each issue.
Tim has a very distinct look for the character that beautifully utilizes shadows in a way that maximizes the mood. His action shots are gorgeous, while his black and white pieces portray a romance of an early 40’s noir flick. His shot of the party is awesome. Not only do they make subtle Clark Kent/Superman jokes by having Bruce and Jillian only wear glasses and a very thin domino mask as their disguises, but Sale filled the room with random costumes plus spot on versions of Hobbs, Phoney Bone, Madman, and Cerberus, from comics of the day!
Great work from a great team. Had The Long Halloween never come out, this may have been my favourite comic of all time. It’s definitely up there.
Thanks for reading! Happy Halloween.
Images from: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/S/cmx-images-prod/DigitalPage/9329240/2c29bc4d43376980f95ef129bc89c383._SX640_QL80_TTD_.jpg, http://static.comicvine.com/uploads/scale_small/1/11785/312127-20593-123428-1-batman-legends-of-t.jpg, http://cultureburst.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/ABSOLUTE-BATMAN-HAUNTED-KNIGHT-HC.jpg