Daily Archives: January 4, 2020

DC Reviews: Batman #319

“Never Give Up the Ghost!”

Script: Len Wein
Pencils: Irv Novick
Inks: Bob Smith, Bill Wormstedt
Colors: Glynis Wein
Letters: Ben Oda
Cover price: 40¢
Cover art: Joe Kubert (pencils), Dick Giordano (inks), Tatjana Wood (colors)

Synopsis: After failing to capture the Gentleman Ghost and his henchmen at the scene of their latest crime, Batman is determined not to let the spectral scoundrel escape a second time. Later, Bruce Wayne ducks out of a costume party at Wayne Manor to apprehend the Gentleman Ghost, who traps Batman in a death trap involving a vat of acid. Batman escapes and catches up with the Ghost and his crew at Wayne Manor, where they intend to steal the jewels that are being donated to charity. Batman stops the theft, but the Ghost eludes the Dark Knight Detective in the end.

Prime Cut Panels: I love this. All I can hear in my head is Edna Mode from The Incredibles: “NO CAPES!”

Wait a second, “hoary foe”…? And the Comics Code Authority was okay with this? (checks dictionary) Ah, it means “greyish white” or “trite and unoriginal.” Well, that’s different than what I thought.  That’s why I like reading the comics, for all the… um… bigly-wordy stuff.

Does anyone else miss the days when the characters in the stories narrated what was happening to them as it was happening to them? “…and the fabric is too strong for me to pull free!” I bet you a shiny nickel Wein was annoyed he had to put that line in to ward off that one annoying fan who would write in about Batman’s predicament: “Well, why doesn’t Batman just rip his cape to get himself free huh huh huh?”

Random Thoughts: There’s a danger in doing these daily reviews of comics from 40 years ago, and that’s falling into a nostalgia trap. Comics from long ago aren’t by definition better than comics today; a character like Batman — one who’s been around for more than 80 years — is going to go through a lot of different phases in his career depending on the times and who’s writing him. And those of us who grew up with him need to be okay with passing him on to the next generation.

Having said that… man, I miss this era of Batman stories. I swear, I’m not “hashtag notmybatman” about the current stuff DC is putting out — I find some of it is actually pretty good, honest! — but diving into these 40-year-old stories makes me glad this was around the time I discovered Batman comics for the first time. Costume parties. Witty mid-battle repartee. Wayne Foundation shenanigans. Bruce Wayne and his soap-opera life being every bit a part of the story as Batman’s adventures. A Dark Knight Detective who acts like a detective once in a while. A Batman who’s fallible, self-effacing and just plain human.

This has everything I want in a Batman comic: a self-contained story with a few pages promising future developments (like the one-page segue into a kidnapping caper that suggests a future appearance by a certain clown prince of crime), with a few examples of Batman’s resourcefulness and never-say-die attitude. If his 1990s cartoon had had an episode with the Gentlemen Ghost, I can easily see this plot used for the script.

Bottom line, the ’80s was a good decade for Batman for a lot of reasons — some of which we might get into later in this mad experiment. Starting the decade with this issue was a good sign of things to come.


The challenge: Can I review a month’s worth of DC books from January 1980 in under a month?