blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Detective Comics (1937) #470


There’s a lot to be said about this issue, but the “highlight” has got to be when writer Steve Englehart describes Batman as the “pensive prince of shadows.” This line comes just before Batman goes to the Batcave and yells, “I’m the goddamn Batman,” to himself as a positive self-reinforcement.

I’m only slightly exaggerating; Englehart writes Detective Comics with a boisterous, entirely unwarranted enthusiasm. Unfortunately, he’s incredibly thoughtless too. The first big swing is Batman stops a jewel heist and, while beating up the crook, tells the villain he’s just defending his municipality of residence and, as a citizen, it’s his right to be a vigilante.

Just then, a process server shows up and hands Batman a subpoena for a grand jury. Gotham’s regular folks have had enough of Batman. The issue implies there’s something shady about these elected officials out for Batman, which makes sense—they’re shitty rich white guys just like… oh, wait, just like Bruce Wayne.

And even if Batman thinks they’re corrupt, shouldn’t he have proved it at some point instead of going rogue? Or letting them operate for decades. So no, “your feast is nearly over” here. But he’s now been duly, lawfully told he needs to knock off the vigilante shit, and his response is exactly what you’d expect from a mega-rich white guy.

Englehart writes Batman as an asshole fascist in Detective, but, you know, for kids. Except when Silver St. Cloud shows up, Bruce forgets about his “I’m Bat-Man, and I don’t like girls” monologue. Then Bruce turns on the sultry seventies predatory charm.

Amid all the nonsense, Batman fights Dr. Phosphorus. The story’s title is The Master Plan of Dr. Phosphorus! but he literally just gases people at a stadium. There’s not much master planning to it. Otherwise, he’s waiting around for Batman to show up and kick his ass. Englehart’s Batman’s a killer too.

Seriously, the whole thing reads like a potentially better Val Kilmer and Joel Schumacher Batman movie. It feels like a pseudo-gritty riff on “Batman: The TV Show.”

Either I’m acclimated to Al Milgrom inking Walt Simonson, or the art’s a little better. Simonson and Milgrom’s costumed Batman art is very, very silly—which the exposition sometimes exaggerates, like when Batman “stands motionless” for seven minutes after being served his subpoena. On the other hand, there’s a little more regular people talking this issue; they’re fine with the Bruce and Silver stuff. Not great, but fine.

The Dr. Phosphorus fight’s weak sauce, though, both writing and art.

What a weird, bad comic.

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