The Best BATMAN Comic Never Published by DC

Another great comic DC should be putting out …

Remember how last month we showed you Adrien van Viersen’s passion project and called it the “Best Superman Comic Never Published by DC”?

Well, Adrien’s got some World’s Finest company because illustrator and graphic novelist Andy Fish has been up to the same thing with Batman.

The Death Ray of Hugo Strange is Fish’s tribute to Batman in the Golden Age — a full-size issue broken up into weekly Wednesday installments. And it’s only the first in what will be a series of Bat-tributes covering various eras of the Caped Crusader. (Next up? Holy tease! Read below!)

Now, I highly recommend you check out Andy’ Batman site. (Click here.) Beyond the story pages — some of which you’ll see below — there are process pieces that lay out his thinking and his influences, which are plentiful.

For example, this Batman isn’t just a salute to the comics of the ’30s and ’40s, it’s a celebration of the underappreciated movie serials. (More on that in a moment.) There’s also an Englehart-Rogers vibe to the whole thing, which makes sense given how much that classic Detective Comics run from the ’70s was an homage to the Golden Age.

Like van Viersen, Andy’s not making a red cent off this because he doesn’t own Batman, obviously. Of course, I’d love to see DC put this out officially, at least through its digital channels, even though I know that’s unrealistic on the face of it. Still, (Hugo?) stranger things have happened.

Here’s Andy, on the Secret Origin of the project — and what’s to come:

Dan: Tell me about this project. You note on your site that you’re planning on doing different versions of Batman.

Andy Fish: I grew up watching Batman on TV reruns and reading the mid-’70s issues of Batman and Detective Comics.  With all due respect to what DC is publishing today, that’s not “my” Batman. I wanted to play in the Batman sandbox and all the different versions of Batman, which is what makes him such a great character in the first place.

I wanted to start with a ’40s Batman since that’s my absolute favorite, but after that, and as time and DC Comics allows, I want to explore other Batman eras. There’s so much possibility, Batman in the ’50s was more detective; ’60s pop; ’70s ‘dark avenger roots return’ — lot of supernatural stuff; there’s just a whole wealth of material to mine.

Dan: You start at the Golden Age. The first issue is a pastiche of the early Hugo Strange and Joker stories. But you throw in the ’40s serials, too, which may be a first. Explain.

Andy: 1974 — Giant-sized Batman tabloid book with the great Neal Adams cover. I got that one summer afternoon and on a family trip just read that thing to death. As a kid those tabloid books were HUGE and they cost a whole buck but they were worth every penny.

There was a great Joker story in there where he was part of this crime circus and I read and re-read that over and over again. I get to the inside back over and it’s a feature on Batman on film and there’s a picture of Adam West and Burt Ward from the show but across from it are ANOTHER Batman and Robin — I was blown away! I had to see this other version. I thought the serial costume looked so cool — with the devil’s horns and everything.

This was in the pre-video days so it was a tough go trying to track them down. I saw ads for them as 8mm movies in the back of Famous Monsters magazine but my mom wouldn’t let me get a projector so I was out of luck until VHS came along and a local comic shop was offering bootleg copies of the Batman serials. I got them and spent a whole afternoon in a darkened room watching them and I absolutely loved them.

It hooked me on B-movies, other serials and classic monsters — and I wanted to fit all of those themes into this first series.

Dan: I can’t help but see a Marshall Rogers influence in some of your sequences. How influential were those Detective issues for you?

Andy: For me, Marshall Rogers and Dick Sprang are THE Batman artists, even over Jim Aparo and Neal Adams. I mean I love their take, Bernie Wrightson, Kelley Jones, so many others, but Marshall Rogers, man, he was the real deal. In the late ’70s one of my X-Mas presents was a subscription to Detective Comics and Daredevil from Marvel (interestingly, the first DD was #158, which introduced Frank Miller).

A classic Rogers moment.

The first Detective issue I got in the mail was #476, which was the conclusion of the Steve Englehart/Marshall Rogers series. I had to mail away to back-issue houses to get the rest of the run so I actually read it backwards, because in those days you didn’t know how long a series ran. I loved the idea of the subplots and his take on Hugo Strange was amazing — here was a guy who was both evil AND heroic at the same time.

I think that run from Detective #469-476 is the definitive take on Batman. He was fully confident but not a darkly deranged psychopath as he’s sometimes portrayed. I really dislike it when we have a Bruce Wayne who can’t go two issues without having a flashback to his parent’s murder. I love that Englehart recognized that Bruce Wayne ruled the city by day and Batman by night.

I did this series just for myself, just for fun, then more and more people started to read it and write in and say they were really enjoying it and that it was capturing the Batman they used to know. I went back through all the early issues of Batman for reference, as well as a healthy dose of the serial.

Hugo Strange is really the first super-villain. There was the Monk before him, and that was very tempting because you have the whole vampire thing, but I really thought Hugo fit more the serial feel I was going for. The Joker is definitely going to be only a minor player in this first series.

Dan: Have you approached DC with this? Do you plan to?

Andy: I’ve done freelance for DC in the past, but I feel like editorial is changing so much and they’ve gotten so far away from the Elseworlds line that I didn’t think they’d be interested in it. Who knows?  Maybe if I can get enough people on board they might be interested in it.

Dan: What’s next?

Andy: Definitely a Batman ’66 story — I’ve already got it written, it’s the Cesar Romero Joker and he’s running a crime carnival. I was thrilled that DC did the ’66 comic but I thought the end result was a mixed bag. There’s a bit too much comedy — the show was camp in the first season, not outright parody, and that’s the feel I want to get with it. I also want to have a Batman who is someone a kid could look up to.

After that– who knows?

Now, go straight to Batman by Andy Fish by clicking here. You’ll dig it. I promise.

Oh, and for more Andy Fish Bat-goodness, click here.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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