Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest 9 - Batman: Bat-murderer!

The Beloit College Mindset List is an invaluable resource understanding the current generation. It helps college professors understand the perspective of entering freshmen; it should help people understand the audience he/she/they are trying to reach.

There was a time before trade paperback collections; padded monthly comics designed for trade paperback collection and graphic novels. There was a time when comic books only reprinted themselves in comic book pages. The value and collectibility of a comic book was high. Print runs were low and so was the cover price. Welcome to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths world.

I've been re-organizing my paperback collection and found in a box of Batman paperback books, The Best of DC #9 - Batman. It's one of my treasured favorites. It collects the Detective Comics #444 - Bat Murderer storyline that ran from issues 444 to 448 and a 1969 reprint of Batman #216 - Angel - or Devil?
From a time when we enjoy full, complete creator credits, it is amazing to see a story with only three credits; writer, artist and editor. "Bat-murderer" is credited to writer Len Wein, artist Jim Aparo, and editor Julius Schwartz. That's it. There's no penciller, inker, colorist, letterer or assistant editor credits. Missing is the staple "Batman created by Bob Kane" credit!

The story is collected from 100 page issues of Detective Comics. Twelve-page original lead material, followed by several reprint stories. Wein's script is heavy melodrama. It opens with Commissioner Gordon scolding a Sargent for lighting the Bat-Signal. He then waxes eloquent and explains to this subordinate why the signal must go dark. Gordon is such a cool, philosophical, everyman boss. Wein's script. Is. Full. Of. Importance; highlighted by bold words. This is classic comics.

Gordon calls The Batman in to investigate why so many professionals are in Gotham. The Batman's investigation leads him to Talia and later to her father, Ra's Al Ghul, Sterling Silversmith and The Creeper, before he reaches the solution to the mystery. This is the alternative Batman to the Super Friends, The New Adventures of Batman and Adam West's campy Batman of 1966. This is The Darknight Detective rather than Caped Crusader.

I must confess to a man-crush on Jim Aparo. Aparo was my first Batman artist, here in this digest and over in the three issue The Untold Legend of the Batman, The Brave and the Bold and then The Outsiders. He was a much leaner follow-up to Neal Adams. While Marshall Rogers is enjoyable, Aparo is more signature.
It's a noticeable change when Ernie Chan and Dick Giordano take over the story midway through to the conclusion.

In the end, it is a mystery if a smoking gun. Every bit a mystery that the Hush storyline would later be for Loeb and Lee.

Angel - or Devil? from Batman 216 is included to fill to 100 pages. It's a spotlight on the returned Alfred (who had spent some years deceased; and revived with a split personality as The Outsider), his niece Daphne and brother Wilfred. Both are thespians. There's a nice wink to Dick being incapacitated by a cold and unable to help Batman as Robin. That happened a lot before he left for college at upstate Hudson University. There's also a nod to the television series with a safe in the base of Shakespeare's bust. Dick Grayson's Robin is the only one who doesn't see a whole lot of action. This is more of an Alfred spotlight, with Batman as a supporting player, much like an enjoyable episode of Batman: The Animated Series.

Copies of this digest are very rare. If you have a copy treasure it and enjoy it. You might find a copy available for sale on eBay for upwards of $25! But it is certainly worth tracking down.

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