Monday, April 15, 2019


Art by: Neal Adams & Dick Giordano | Story by: Denny O'Neil
(From an idea by Berni Wrightson with an assist from Harlan Ellison)
Edited by: Julie Schwartz

Note: Screenshots below come from BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOLUME 2 and are not representative of these stories' original colors (the covers are presented as published, however).

I always like when old comics tell you on the cover that you're about to read a "novel" or a "novel-length" adventure/thriller/etc. It really just means the story fills the entire issue (i.e. no backup stories, which were typically included in both BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS around this period). It's one of those sort of quaint cover blurbs which I find a little corny nowadays, but love anyway.

And a novel-length tale this is. (Though technically it does not fill the issue's page count since this was a double-sized installment -- but it does run the length of a single full-issue story.) Set on Halloween in Vermont, it opens with Dick Grayson and some college friends on their way to a party. But when the boys stop a mugging, Dick changes to Robin to pursue the assailants. He finds the corpse of a man in a Batman costume, then is attacked by someone dressed as the Grim Reaper. The real Batman arrives to find his ward dazed, and brings him back to a nearby mansion where the party is in swing. Batman is in town to track some Nazi war criminals, and the manor's owner is a Holocaust survivor named Doctor Gruener, who recognized the villains in the first place.

From here, the story shifts to primarily solo Batman action, as the Caped Crusader goes about his business while Robin recovers. Eventually Batman finds the Nazis, who are after their former leader and his cache of gold, but the lead Nazi is killed. Batman realizes his underlings couldn't have committed the crime, and soon unmasks the true killer.

"It is dark in the Vermont woods this October evening... dark except for the pale, cold glow of a bloated moon shining through branches which pluck at the sky like dead fingers... and an eye atop a distant mansion blinking like an eye of blood, blinking, blinking.

And there are sounds... scrapings, rustlings... the whisper of breeze in the brush--or the stirring of shrouds? None is alive to hear...

...because there is also death in this place! The masked figure of the Batman leans against a birch, unmoving, unbreathing, growing stiff and cold as the dirt... a victim of the... night of the reaper!"

As usual from Adams, the artwork is phenomenal. And, as is often the case with O'Neil, he somehow finds a way to craft a mystery with a very small selection of suspects and still make it work. Plus, his scripting as Gruener describes the horrors of the Holocaust is truly haunting. It's weird for me to realize that when I was a child in the eighties, the Holocaust had happened only around forty years earlier. Someone who was in their twenties during World War II was the same age my parents are now. And this story, published in 1971, is set a scant twenty-some years later! The atrocities of the Nazis were still fresh in memory for the world and, especially, for survivors of the Holocaust.

It's a fine story, and deserving of that "novel-length" blurb, though I do find the sidelining of Robin questionable. Now let me first say that, since we're not reading every issue of BATMAN and DETECTIVE, Robin has put in more appearances at Batman's side than we've seen since we started this project -- but just the same, giving readers their once-in-a-blue-moon Batman/Robin team-up and using it to injure the Teen Wonder and send Batman off on his own feels like paying lip service to the pair's partnership and then proceeding with business as usual. And, lest we forget, O'Neil and Adams just did another story with Robin, "Daughter of the Demon", not so long ago -- and that one featured Robin kidnapped for the majority of the adventure!

Also, this is another issue, like DETECTIVE 408 ("The House that Haunted Batman") to feature a scene from the interior recreated quite faithfully on the cover. In this case, Adams takes a dramatic splash page of the Reaper attacking Robin and redraws it for the cover. And at least he did redraw it! Unlike "The House...", where it appeared Adams or editorial simply repurposed interior artwork, unchanged, for the cover, here it's plainly been redone -- even if the Reaper is in the exact same pose in both images.

Lastly, I should note that this story is part of one of the earliest DC/Marvel "crossovers", with the Halloween party, as described at length here. This is one of those things where a reader could never know what was going on, but it's a fun inside joke for the creators involved and fans who might be in the know.

Next week, Batman and Ra's al Ghul meet again as the climax to the earliest stage of their enmity begins.


  1. What a terrifyingly fascinating review!


  2. The cover to this issue wasn’t as familiar to me as the splash with that striking image of Batman (apparently) staked through the chest to a gnarled tree. I’m not sure if that’s due to just how striking the image is or to my only/mostly having read this story in reprint. (What the cover reminds me of, seeing it now, is the cover to #267, for whatever that’s worth and to keep my streak of linking to slightly later Batman covers from my personal Golden Age of Comics going.)

    Among the creator appearances in-story, Denny O’Neil himself is talking to the big guy dressed as Thor at the party.

    My first exposure to the Rutland Halloween Parade tales came in a Marvel Avengers treasury reprinting the Lady Liberators story, where if memory serves Tom Fagan’s usual Batman costume was transposed to that of Batman’s analogue Nighthawk from the Squadron Supreme (and/or Sinister). I don’t think I got the full scoop on Rutland for several years.

    1. I'm not sure when I first learned about the Rutland thing... I'm pretty certain I had read at least one story featuring it prior to getting the scoop, though I can't recall what story it was exactly -- but my guess would the the Beast vs. Juggernaut issue of AMAZING ADVENTURES.

      I had meant to comment on O'Neil's appearance at the party and forgot. Thanks!