GOTHAM TRIBUNE: Chuck Dixon Picks Five Great Batman Stories

In Part 2 of our chat with classic Batwriter Chuck Dixon, the scribe selects five tales every Batman fan should read:

“Night Of The Stalker,” Detective Comics #439. The simplest of stories so well presented that it changed the game. This one was under Archie Goodwin’s too-short run as editor on ‘Tec. Batman stalks and captures a gang of vicious robbers. Batman barely speaks in the story and is a relentless badass. Steve Englehart scripting from a Sal Amendola and Vin Amendola plot, and Sal Amendola on art.

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“The Strange Costumes of Batman,” Detective Comics #165. Batman is badly wounded and Robin must take over the role of Batman so that Gotham’s criminals don’t know the Dark Knight is down. VERY influential on my writing as I’ve borrowed the concept for “Robin: Joker’s Wild,” a Bartman and Mermaid Man story. My bet would be Bill Finger and Dick Sprang for the creators on this one.

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“The Demon Lives Again!” Batman #244. Denny O’Neil at the high-water mark of the changes he wrought on Batman. This issue, more than any other, saved the character from the camp in-joke he had become. Batman at his most badass. This moves Batman into the place in popular culture that he occupies now. Art by Neal Adams, of course.

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Batman and the Outsiders #1 (1984). Batman tells the JLA to take their job and shove it. He’s going to form his own team and fight crime his way. This is Batman moving into his new role as king of the DCU and closer to the Batgod image we would soon adopt. Mostly I love this issue because of all the JLA characters. Only Aquaman tells him not to let the door hit him in his Bat-ass on the way out. Mike Barr wrote it and the great Jim Aparo did the art.

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“Fear of God,” Legends of the DC Universe #6. Batman is only in this story for a panel or two but it is perhaps one of his most significant stories. Kelley Puckett writes an excellent story featuring Robin and Superman that would have been one of the coolest stories ever written until its final panels lift into the heights of wonderfulness. Others would explore this theme to death later on but Kelley was there first with the best. Art by Dave Taylor and Kevin Nowlan.

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From the Batcomputer: From Chuck’s picks of yesterday to my picks of tomorrow. This week, we have Batman and Two-Face #28, Birds of Prey #28 (a Gothtopia tie-in, for what that’s worth), Harley Quinn #3 plus the usual assortments of Batodds and ends on the racks. My Hot Pick, though? Easy: Batman ’66 #8, featuring King Tut, with art by our friend Ruben Procopio and cover by the inimitable Mike Allred! (And did you catch all that great behind-the-scenes art from Ruben? You should!)

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Author: Dan Greenfield

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4 Comments

  1. Dixon says this about the classic Ra’s Al Ghul issue, “The Demon Lives Again!” (Batman #244): “Denny O’Neil at the high-water mark of the changes he wrought on Batman. This issue, more than any other, saved the character from the camp in-joke he had become.” Once again, writer O’Neil is given primary credit for the “changes HE wrought” on restoring Batman vs. what artist Neal Adams did single-handedly (via a great story by Bob Haney) 4 years before in Brave & Bold #79–not to mention ALL the stories in between. Dixon singles out THIS issue, in particular, for “saving the character from the camp in-joke he had become”? Either Dixon has no clue about the 4 years’ worth of Batman stories that preceded it–written by Haney and O’Neil, of course–or he’s a writer, siding with another writer, O’Neil, over artist Adams. But it’s a disturbing trend I’ve posted about multiple times before here on AA, that Neal gets short shrift for doing what he did with Batman, and others–like the Englehart/Rogers Batman, for example–and O’Neil in particular is cited as Batman’s savior. I will forever call this historical fallacy out, and reiterating as many times, and as long as it takes, that Neal Adams is SOLELY responsible, through his ART and auteurist storytelling, for the restoration of Batman as the creature of the night he is today. Period. ‘Nuff said?

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  2. Well, we all have our opinion. Neal Adams certainly made a contribution to the Batman mythos. But while he had certainly been drawing Batman stories before the one in question appeared, THIS story was the real gamechanger. I was reading these books as they came out.. I am well aware of the Brave and Bold stories you mention. They certainly were the beginning of the sea change for the character. But it all coalesces with The Demon Lives Again. From this story on, Batman is treated differently across all of his titles rather than in select stories after the publication of this issue. Sorry, I didn’t cite your favorites. You’re free to make your own list. .

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  3. Some excellent picks, Chuck. I’ve read every one except “The Strange Costumes of Batman.” Now I’ll have to seek that out. One of my favorites is an early Batman story where Batman takes three bullets going after the thugs who have kidnapped Robin. He just refuses to stop. Talk about badass …

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  4. A note on “night of the Stalker” – Neal Adams actually had the idea of Batman grabbing a crook and pulling him underwater, which is a key scene in the story. Neal actually inks Amendola on that panel. From what I understand, Steve wrote the story from Neal’s suggestion.

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