Who's the Earth-1 Batman?

Who's This? Stop acting like you don't know.
The facts: While technically first appearing in Detective Comics #27 (May 1939), the Earth-1 or Silver Age Batman is considered to begin with the first appearace of the yellow oval around the bat, which is Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), despite having previewed the new look in World's Finest Comics #141 just before. Despite nips and tucks over the years, Batman has a nearly unbroken history since even before then, or at least it feels that way. He's been the star of TV shows, cartoons, movies, video games, toy lines, coloring books, you name it. When this page from Who's Who was published, a new round of Batmania was still a few years way. He's been truly ubiquitous since the late 80s.
How you could have heard of him: Really?! You want to play this game? Fine. If you think he's an obscure character, check out the April's Fool edition of Who's This.
Example story: Batman #383 (May 1985) "Just as Night Follows Day..." by Doug Moench, Gene Colan and Alfredo Alcala
If I manage to take this series to term, we're gonna be looking at a LOT of Batman stories. Even just in the immediate past and future, there's a lot of Bat material to get through. So what era should I use to exemplify the Bat on his own entry? My first thought went to the O'Neil/Adams era, but ultimately, I decided I wanted to know what Batman was up to THE SAME YEAR his Who's Who entry came out. (In fact, the very next month.) This is the Batman from the entry, jussssst before minor tweaks are made post-Crisis (Year One is more than a year away). And it's a pure Batman story, i.e. it doesn't feature a villain that also gets an entry. Interestingly, the issue contains the annual Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation, which states the book is selling an average of 87,500 units a month. Piddling numbers compared to X-Men which I remember hitting upwards of 600,000 in the 80s. Is this story going to be so different from later Batman tales? We'll see.

It starts in the Bat-Cave, with a very tired Batman who admittedly stars in four monthly books at this point (Batman, 'Tec, World's Finest, and Outsiders). It's only gonna worse from here on out, Bruce.
Modern Batman stories often seem to ignore Bruce Wayne, and you can go several issues before even seeing the face under the mask. So right away, seeing Bruce tune up the Batmobile and update his computer files before going upstairs 3 hours past his bed time and THEN having to haggle over prices with contractors hired to repair Wayne Manor creates a very different relationship between the man and the costume than what we're today used to. He still talks about Bruce Wayne in the third person, but sees him as a "blessed relief" and looks forward to sleeping all day. Fate has other plans. Who else BUT fate, when Jason's school bus breaks down and he needs a ride to school? These days, this would all be handled by Alfred. In 195, it puts Bruce Wayne in an awkward position - a surprise visit to the principal's office!
This is almost sweet compared to Jason's later problems. Coming home from school, flat tire. Back home, Lucius Fox is waiting for him about Foundation business. Finally at noon, Alfred sends him to bed. But the bell rings and it's Julia Pennyworth, Alfred's daughter I didn't realize existed. She asks him on a date the next night, though it's gonna cause him anxiety because her boss is Vicki Vale. But he manages to get up to his bedroom and crash. And the phone rings. It's Vicki and she insists on seeing him... NOW. He's got maybe an hour to get some shut-eye before she gets there. But it's not to be. Remember those contractors?
Heading for Jason's room, he steps into paint, has to take a bath. Falls asleep in there, but is awakened by Alfred announcing Ms. Vale. She wants to discuss another suitor who has proposed, obviously in a bid to make Bruce do the same. Who is she, suddenly? Silver Age Lois Lane?! If he can't commit, then they're on a break. And just like that, it's already time to go pick up Jason at school. At this point, I've got to wonder how fit he is to be driving (and even as that thought comes to me, I turn the page to see Bruce almost lose control of the car). At home, Jason's case worker is waiting, just a quick visit + interview to make sure Bruce is a fit parent that doesn't keep his adopted kid awake all night fighting crime... FIVE HOURS LATER, she leaves, it's dark, and the bat-signal is already lit up.

So yes, if you were wondering when Batman would show up, here it is. Gene Colan Batman. Like, yes please! Good thing the costume tends to give him a second wind! Or maybe the mask is laced with amphetamines.
Turns out it's crime spree night in Gotham. After the convenience store robbery, there's the serial rapist who dresses as a woman to evade police. Well you can't evade the Batman, creep.
While he's up, might as well clean up his cess pool of a city. Thugs, burglars, arsonists, safecrackers, muggers are put to sleep, one after the other. "Why do they have all the luck?" Dawn comes and still the Batman takes care of business. Doesn't he ever sleep, asks one of the crooks?
When and where he can. His mistake was thinking Bruce Wayne could be the sleeper of the two. (And this 24-hour nap is gonna make him miss TWO dates, oh well.)

So to recap the differences between Batman as he is normally played today, and minutes-before-the-Crisis Batman:
-Bruce Wayne has more to do.
-Alfred has less.
-Jason looks pretty happy.
-Vicki Vale was in the picture, but so was Alfred's daughter.
But overall, I'd say this is the modern Gotham, relentlessly dirty. And since the story deals with Batman over-exerting himself, it's not too far FROM the modern presentation. Today, Batman would just work through it and he'd look superhuman. I quite like this story as it shows the toll it would realistically take on Bruce Wayne.

What's Next? Some of his gear.

2 comments:

LiamKav said...

Hey, it's that guy!

(Also, was there ever a period of time where "Next issue: Calendar Man!" worked as an incentive?)

Siskoid said...

Incentive for me, but probably not for teenage nerds.

 

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