Friday, February 22, 2013


Why We Love Detective Comics

#500: Deadman

Well, I'm not real sure Deadman is such a great reason to love Detective Comics. For one thing, he never had a regular series in Detective Comics. I'm not sure he ever appeared in any other issue except #500. (He had a regular series in Strange Adventures in the late 1960s with real nice art by Neal Adams. He bounced around a bit. He was in The Brave and the Bold a few times. And World's Finest, maybe? Here's a chronological list of his appearances for anyone who's interested.)

For another thing, I've never been a big fan, despite the nice art on his earliest appearances. Maybe I'd like him more if I read more of his appearances.

Here's the story on Deadman, taken entirely from memory: He was a circus acrobat named Boston Brand and he was murdered - during his act! - by ... gangsters? Something like that. The League of Assassins?

So he died, but it wasn't quite death. His body died, but he was given powers by ... some cosmic entity. Deepak Chopra or somebody like that. Kahlil Gibran, maybe? The Living Tribunal? Rumi?

(I decided to look it up. He was in Adventure Comics in the late 1970s - nice Jim Aparo art! - and I have those right here because I like the Justice Society series - Joe Staton art! Plus Power Girl! - so it's not a big deal to see if the cosmic dude who gave him his powers is mentioned. Here it is! It's Rama Kushna! Duh!)

So Rama Kushna gives him the power to float around as a disembodied spirit and he can only interfere if he takes over somebody's body temporarily. So that's what Deadman does. He floats around and when he needs to do some super-hero stuff, he takes over sombody's body and kicks ass for a few panels.

I've never found him or his stories particularly gripping. He looks like this:

In Detective Comics #500, in a story with beautiful Carmine Infantino art, Deadman shows up after Batman goes into a coma while he's on a case. (This is a bit too much to go into. A guy wearing shades has set up an attack by hiring thugs to try to get him. When Batman tries to help, a dog with venom-infected teeth bites Batman and so Batman is poisoned and will die very shortly. There is no antitoxin and it will take weeks to develop one. But Batman will die long before then. Got it? This looks like a job for Deadman!)

So Deadman shows up and, I guess, he does his thing. I mean, he goes into Batman's "body," but because Batman is so close to death, what actually happens, I think, is Deadman meets Batman's departing soul on the astral plane or wherever, and Batman's soul seems eager to depart. He's rarin' to go, to face the next phase of existence.

We get several pages that look like this:

Anyway, Batman seems quite weary of his mortal life, and his neverending fight against the evils of the world, and he really has very little trouble evading Deadman and entering the land of the no-longer-living, where Deadman cannot go.

And he removes his bat cowl and he's no longer Batman, he's Bruce Wayne. And there are his parents! And it seems so wonderful that they are together again after so many years!

But .. the spirits of Thomas and Martha Wayne aren't sure it's time for Bruce to rest.

Thomas, Batman's dad, says gently:

There is so much you must yet accomplish on the Earthly plane!

To which Bruce replies:

No! It's not fair ... to be so close ... only to lose you both again!

And Martha, Batman's mama, says:

Pish-tush, Bruce! Your father and I have always been with you ... in spirit, you might say!

(How can you not love Batman's mom? What an awesome mom!)

They discuss it for another page or so, but Bruce is a good boy who listens to his parents. So he goes back to the land of the living. Deadman takes over Robin's body, grabs a syringe from a nurse and injects a bunch of adrenalin into Batman's heart. Then Deadman takes over Batman's body and they crash through a window and - in the final seven pages - they track down the guy with shades and beat him up and get a sample of the poison from the dog that bit Batman in the first place and then, just before Batman collapses, they call an ambulance. With the sample of the poison from the dog, the doctors develop an antitoxin and Batman is saved! Yay!

OK. It makes no sense. But I found Bruce's little meeting with his parents to be very touching.

It's probably way past time to finish these posts about Detective Comics #500, so I'll say a few words about the remaining two stories. The first is a two-page story by Len Wein and Walt Simonson. It's pretty cool. Nice art. Great execution. No dialogue. It should probably be seen to be appreciated. I'm sure I can't do it justice.

Finally, there is a text story by Walter Gibson, the creator of The Shadow. Again, it's great fun, and Gibson has an adequate handle on the character. It's a pleasant diversion.

And that's it for Detecive Comics #500.

See you next week. Maybe I'll talk about The Creeper!


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