The Art of Batman: Strange Apparitions (1977-1978)

When it comes to older comic book stories it is easy to think of them in a certain way. Just like some, I think of a lot of pre-’80s comics to be either goofy, or boring.

:books:📚Issues: Detective Comics #469#476, #478-#479

🖊Writer(s): Steve Englehart (#469#476) and Len Wein (#478#479)

:art:🎨Artist(s): Marshall Rogers (#471#476, #478#479) and Walt Simons (#469#470)

🗨Best Quote: “The Batman makes no reply.”

I’ve read enough comics that proceed the ’80s which I think are boring like Stan Lee’s X-Men – yes, I do not like that comic book- or goofy in a sense where for instance heroes speak in ridiculous tones (ex. Aha! I am free of your grasp and now I will use my powers against such villainy!). But this was a much different experience and if you’re someone who eye rolls every time they see an older comic, this is especially for you.

The story starts quite simple. A villain known as Dr. Phosphorus poisons Gotham City as part of his revenge scheme while it is up to the Caped Crusader to save it. It sounds very simple, but the more the tale progresses the more it becomes a statement. If you love Batman and what this intends are his aspects of a detective, fighter, tactician, hero, and a partner, then this comic is for you. You get everything within this story. The allegory starts off with an unheard of villain, Dr. Phosphorus, but again the more you read the more this becomes an ultimate Batman tale which later brings Batman’s best villains to date. On top of being everything you would want out of a Batman story, there is more.

What I always hated as hardcore Batman fan was the, “Batman can do anything because…….he’s BATMAN!” mentality that is very easy for a writer to fall into. With this comic, though we see the flaws of Batman, we see his imperfections, we see him fail, we see him be who he is and that is human. What Englehart especially was able to do is create a piece of literature about a man who cannot do anything he wants to. There are zero distracting conveniences within the story. Zero. The writer understands who Batman really is. At one moment the reader sees Bruce question his actions and I loved that! That’s what we, people, do!

We also see Batman fall in love! We don’t see him get aroused by Catwoman’s appearance, rather readers see him show feelings that haven’t been shown before to such extent. Her name is Silver St. Cloud and to my experience she is the best Batman love interest to date. This isn’t some mandatory lover like you see in many superhero stories. The usage of Silver is brilliant!

Helps that she is also beautiful
She is more than just a pretty romantic woman who is there to serve a checklist of things needed in a superhero comic. This was the first time I actually believed in a romantic relationship with Batman/Bruce Wayne! It is a perfect interaction and might become part of my top 10 favorite comic book couples of all time. It feels REAL!

As for other relations they’re done equally as good. Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and other characters I really don’t want to spoil for you, feel natural and add constant quality. There are scenes when Batman is also very, very cruel, but that’s who he is! Today we sometimes see the hero as calm, cool and always collected but NO! That is for Superman. The moment Batman sees a criminal he will kick his ass and if lucky the criminal might not have broken bones.

This Batman story isn’t only one of the most definitive tales of the Dark Knight, but it also shines a new light that we should really see him in more often. In a light of a person who has seen twisted things, who can’t do everything right even if planned days in advance. If you are hesitant to read this because of a possibly predictable plot with some lame-o Dr. Phosphorus, TRUST ME! You don’t know what you’re missing out on. Villains and allies are all surprises you wouldn’t want me to spill out. Now I see why this was a blueprint for Tim Burton’s Batman motion picture, an inspiration for Batman: The Animated Series and a creation of the things we wouldn’t imagine Batman to be today without this graphic novel. The storytelling surpasses most modern Batman comics and has set a standard for all comics that came after it at early years of the masterful Bronze Age. Batman: Strange Apparitions is amazing, don’t let the aged print fool you because like the saying goes there is more to it than meets the eye. Nine out of ten.



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