Happy Birthday Batman!!
The Dark Knight turns 82 this year; first appearing in Detective Comics #27. The comic hit newsstands on 30 March 1939 (although the cover date on the issue is May 1939).
Batman (or Bat-Man, as it’s styled in the original comic) saves the day from an evil businessman, Alfred Stryker, trying to take control the Apex Chemical Corporation. In the end Bat-Man punches Stryker so hard he breaks through the railing, falls into a vat of acid and dies. The issue leaves no doubt who the Bat-man is; the final pages reveal Bruce Wayne is the Bat-Man
Interestingly, in Batman ‘89 Jack Napier is ambushed at the Axis Chemical Factory and falls into a vat of acid while fighting Batman. Instead of dying, Jack survives and becomes the arch-enemy of Batman, the Joker.
I’ve been a huge fan of Batman my entire life. As a kid I watched reruns of the Batman TV series with Adam West. When my first son was born he didn’t sleep through the night, like most newborns. At the time Nickelodeon aired the Batman TV series at 2:00am, two episodes, back to back.
We stayed up, or rather I stayed up because he wouldn’t sleep and watched Batman and then he fell asleep shortly afterward. That was our routine for over a year. I think we made it through the series at least three times! On a side note, the series turns 55 this year.
When Batman ‘89 hit the theaters I was visiting my sister in Denver. Her roommate read comic books and was a Batman fan too. The three of us went to the midnight showing at the Tivoli Movie Theater, an old brewery turned movie theater. It was a sold out show!
Batman ‘89 is my favorite Batman movie. It was darker take on the fun and campy Batman TV series. Batman ‘89 has the best score (Danny Elfman), the best soundtrack (Prince), the best Joker (Jack Nicholson) and of course, Vicki Vale.
We don’t need to debate the best Joker today. Feel free to tell me why you think Heath Ledger is the better Joker in the comments. I’ll politely tell you why you are wrong.
Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight #16 “Venom”
That brings us to today’s comic, Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight #16. Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight started out in late 1989 trying to capture new fans following the successful Batman movie. The comic is an anthology series, each story begins and ends in a 5 issue arc. The stories were geared toward those new fans, but were good for the die hard fans too.
The comic focused on the first years of Batman’s career and had the same dark and gritty setting as Frank Miller’s Batman: Year One.
Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight #16 is the first in a 5-issue arc called “Venom.” In the first issue Batman tries to save a kidnapped young girl, but is unable to lift a 600+ pound boulder and the girl dies. Batman blames himself for the girls death; he was to weak to save her.
Batman visits the girls father, Randolph Porter, to tell him of her death and Porter isn’t overly upset about it. Then he shows Batman what the kidnappers wanted, a handful of pills. The man tells Batman the pills are ‘designer drugs’ called Venom and if Batman had them his daughter would still be alive. Batman thinks about it for a minute and leaves.
Oh I thought I was some fine detective. I was right. But I wasn’t strong enough.
Batman tracks down the killers and is injured during a fight with a much bigger opponent. He visits Randolph and gets a supply of the designer drug Venom. And so begins Batman’s downward spiral into drug addiction. The next four issues deal with the drug, Porter’s involvement in the kidnapping and Batman’s addiction.
One interesting note about the drug Venom. It’s the drug that created the villain Bane. Which is why Bane has all those tubes running to his head, it pumps the drug into his system ever 12 hours.
It’s a terrific story arc, as were all the Legend of the Dark Knight stories. Examining Batman’s early years breathed new life into the comic and set sales soaring. Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight ran for 215 issues from November 1989 until March 2007.
All that’s well and good, but what did the ads look like in this drug fueled comic? Let’s take a look.
Challengers of the Unknown
Challengers of the Unknown is a group of heroes exploring paranormal occurrences. Created by Jack Kirby, they originally appeared in 1957. Jack Kirby should be familiar to all comic book lovers, but not for DC titles.
Kirby freelanced for DC for roughly two years. After his time with DC he began freelancing for Atlas Comics, the predecessor to Marvel Comics. At Marvel Kirby teamed with Stan Lee to create the superheros we all know today.
The first team they created was The Fantastic Four, a re-worked version of Kirby’s Challengers of the Unknown characters. Together Kirby and Lee would go on to create other iconic heroes and villains like Hulk, the Original X-Men, Thor, Iron Man, Dr. Doom and Magneto, to name a few.
Let’s get back to Kirby’s original team of superheroes in this ad. This ad is for the second incarnation of Challengers of the Unknown, an 8-part limited series. The comics were OK, not great. Kind of like this ad.
The ad needs color. The bodies all blend together and it’s hard to see what’s going on. This is the cover of issue #2, only the actual cover is in color. Not sure why they went black and white for the ad. It doesn’t work for me.
Justice Society of America
This is another 8-part limited series bringing back the Justice Society of America (JSA). JSA was created in the early 1940’s with over 20 original members! In the 1960’s the group was reinvented as the Justice League of America with the core superheroes as the original members; Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Green Lantern and Martian Manhunter.
JSA received a renewed interest in the late 1980’s and in 1991 DC launched Justice Society of America Vol 1, an 8-part limited series. The series featured an original story set in the 1950’s. It had good sales, good enough for DC to launch an ongoing series in 1992.
This ad isn’t too bad. I know they throw the word ‘new’ in there but to me it looks like they are selling reprints of old comics. Could use better marketing.
American Heart Association
We get our first PSA in this issue (there will be more). This one features Bill Cosby checking his blood pressure.
Remember when Bill Cosby was an entertainment power house? He earned a doctoral degree in education from UMass Amherst, he’s an award winning comedian and actor. He created Fat Albert and hosted “Picture Pages!” Not to mention the show everybody watched in the 1980’s, The Cosby Show.
Cosby’s blood pressure must have skyrocketed in 2018 when he was convicted of aggravate indecent assault. At 81 years old he was sentenced to 3-10 years in prison. His earliest release date is September 2021.
Emerald Dawn II
From one jail bird to another… Emerald Dawn I told the original story of Hal Jordan and how he became Green Lantern.
Emerald Dawn II continues the story and focuses on Jordan’s 90 day jail sentence and his training with Sinestro. You may recall Sinestro was kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps and is the arch-nemesis of Hal Jordan.
Emerald Dawn I & II are good primers for anyone who wants to catch up on Hal Jordan’s origin story. How did he get in jail anyhow? And why doesn’t he use his ring to get out?
American Cancer Association
The second PSA, this one for cancer. The guy in the ad is ready for anything. Don’t be paranoid like this guy.
Cancer sucks, let’s move on.
We The People
The final PSA, actually it’s from the ad council. You can send away for a free copy of the United States Constitution.
Everyone should own a copy of The Constitution. I have three of four copies laying around. Get your free PDF copy here.
An Oliver Stone Film. Stone’s breakout directorial film was Platoon in 1986. Did you know he co-wrote 1982’s Conan the Barbarian, yeah the one with Arnold and wrote the screenplay for 1983’s Scarface.
Stone cranked out hits throughout the 80’s and 90’s; Wall Street, Born on the Fourth of July, JFK, Natural Born Killers and the film in this ad, The Doors.
The Doors is the story of the famous rock band of the same name and the lead singer, Jim Morrison, played by Val Kilmer. The Doors also stars Meg Ryan, Kyle MacLachlan and Billy Idol.
It’s a fantastic movie about the band and Morrison’s life. Kilmer was nominated for Best Actor by the Chicago Film Critics Awards (CFCA) and the MTV Movie awards. He lost the CFCA to Anthony Hopkins for Silence of the Lambs and lost the MTV award to Arnold Schwarzenegger for Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Kilmer wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Jim Morrison which is a crime. Although not as bad as getting snubbed for his portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone.
I liked this movie. I haven’t seen it since it was in the theaters. I need to watch it again and see how well it holds up.
Half the ads in this issue are PSAs. I like the look of the Emerald Dawn II ad the best. With The Doors movie poster coming in a close second. Overall the ads were a little weak. But with the topic and tone of the story ads almost get in the way. Batman turns to drugs due to his self loathing for not saving a little girl.
Batman: Legend of the Dark Knight “Venom” (#16 – #20) is an excellent story about Batman’s slide into addiction and his struggle to overcome it. If you haven’t read it you need too.
Until then, keep your comics bagged and boarded…unless you want to thumb through them to check out the great ads!
Check out the previous installments of
Check Out Those Ads!