What’s it all about?
For some odd reason, at this point in Batman (the magazine) history, every five months, DC would release a “Giant” issue – 64 pages for only a quarter!
Sounds great when you put it that way; however, these giant issues never contained any new material by the current creative team. No, instead of another ground-breaking tale by O’Neil and Adams, you would get a bunch of Golden Age reprints, all connected by some sort of theme. The theme for this particular issue was “Stories featuring Batman’s secret identity, Bruce Wayne!”
For one single quarter, the faithful fan could read (or re-read depending on your age):
The Death Cheaters of Gotham: Men who have been declared legally dead and then revived form a private club, because beyond that they have so much in common. Now someone is killing them off, permanently, one by one. Under the delusion that the only way to catch the killer is to actually join the club, Bruce Wayne swallows poison and dies, counting on Dick Grayson and a visiting physician to resuscitate him.
The Other Bruce Wayne: The man for whom Bruce Wayne was named, his cousin Bruce Wayne, visits Gotham and stays at Wayne Manor. As fate would have it, Bruce is a world-famous detective who begins to suspect that there is more to Bruce than meets the eye! Bruce must work the same case as Bruce without letting Bruce stumble upon proof that he, Bruce, is truly the Dark Knight Detective. What will Bruce do????
The Murder of Bruce Wayne: The members of the International Chemical Company Board of Trustees are being murdered by an insane ex-member. One-by-one, Batman fails to save them until only one last member remains: Bruce Wayne!
What’s this? Commissioner Gordon threatening to suspend Batman?? Ah Commish – look how crestfallen the big lug looks as you are reprimanding him. Can’t you give him just one more chance??
Bruce Wayne’s Aunt Agatha: Bruce’s elderly Aunt visits Wayne Manor and in almost no time does what the visiting world-famous detective Bruce Wayne couldn’t do: discovers Bruce and Dick in their Batman and Robin costumes! Luckily, she is far too feeble-minded to truly understand the implications of what she is seeing, and through some of comicdom’s most ridiculous twists and turns, she ends up disguised as the Joker, rescuing Batman and Robin from certain death at the hands of organized crime. At no point does she even suspect that Bruce truly is Batman! Ridiculous!
The Crime of Bruce Wayne: I can barely keep this up after suffering through that last one. In a nutshell, Commissioner Gordon asks private citizen Bruce Wayne to go undercover in Gotham prison for him and without hesitation, the millionaire accepts. He is convicted of being the masked criminal The Collector and sent to jail, where the other inmates frame him for murder. The wheels of justice spin quickly and in a few day’s time, Bruce is on Death Row awaiting execution. He pleads with the Warden to check with the Commissioner to verify his story, but unfortunately Gordon has spent the last few days in a coma following a nasty car crash. Because of this, Robin teams up with Batwoman to prove Bruce’s innocence. Everything is wrapped up neatly by the end, except for the fate of the poor Commish. No mention is ever made of his condition, but it doesn’t matter because our hero is out of jail! Go Bruce!!
What does Brian think?
Here’s the thing: I have nothing against the Golden Age. I love many of those old comics, in particular All-Star Comics and Plastic Man. These Batman stories, in and of themselves, contain a lot of charm and entertainment value, and I would never say that I dislike them.
However, to publish them in 1971, between the first Ra’s al Ghul appearance and September’s O’Neil/Adams Two-Face story (still a classic today), is just ridiculous. DC was on such a roll at the time modernizing the character that this book is woefully out of place. If these books came out simply because the regular team worked too slowly to provide material on a strict monthly basis, they would have been better served publishing a fill-in issue written by one of the newly hired young writers like Mike Friedrich.
There is a time and place for everything, and August 1971 was neither for this!