The “joys” of being an accountant during income tax season have caught up with me this week, so my official unofficial researcher John Wells is here to fill in with answers to a number of Batman-related questions…
At what point did Bruce Wayne get upgraded from millionaire to billionaire?
It happened more recently than you might think. My initial thought was that this could have taken place in Miller and Mazzucchelli’s BATMAN: YEAR ONE (1986) or around the time the first Batman movie was released (1989), but they each established the Wayne fortune in the millions.
As writing styles in comics changed and captions fell out of favor during the 1980s, the size of Bruce Wayne’s fortune was rarely mentioned at all. Still, there were the odd references right into the 1990s, as in SHADOW OF THE BAT #7’s description of Bruce as a “multi-millionaire” (1992). It seems to have been Batman group editor Denny O’Neil who finally gave Bruce that upgrade, though. O’Neil first referred to Bruce as a billionaire in 1994’s LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #61 and did so again a few months later in his KNIGHTFALL prose novel. A Chuck Dixon script in 1995’s DETECTIVE COMICS #682 clinched it when Bruce mentioned “Waynecorp showing a thirty-billion increase the last quarter.”
What persons in the comics know the Batgirl secret identity? And how many times was she unmasked or otherwise had her id exposed or found out (with her consent or not)?
— firstname.lastname@example.org ]
I discussed this a bit in an earlier column (at this link: http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/bobro/102671110528924.htm ) but, to recap:
Commissioner Gordon was tipped off to the secret in 1971’s DETECTIVE COMICS #417 when Batgirl accidentally called out “Dad” as she knocked him from the path of a bullet. She’d hoped the noise had drowned out her voice but no such luck. The Commissioner kept his newfound knowledge to himself until Barbara decided to reveal her alter-ego to him a few months later (DETECTIVE #422). A few post-Crisis stories have implied that Gordon suspected the truth much earlier.
Robin and Batgirl deduced one another’s true identities after Dick Grayson spent a college break working as Congresswoman Barbara Gordon’s aide. They mutually traded secrets at the end of 1975’s BATMAN FAMILY #3. Obviously, Batgirl could figure out Batman’s true identity based on Robin’s. And Robin presumably spilled the beans to Batman (who’d probably figured out Batgirl’s secret long ago). It was full disclosure all around.
In the first full-length Batgirl solo story (1976’s BATMAN FAMILY #10, written by the Answer Man himself!), Barbara Gordon was on an excursion boat when she caught sight of approaching trouble. Seeking a secluded place to change into costume, Babs came face-to-face with someone else who had the same idea — Kathy (Batwoman) Kane! After the duo trounced Killer Moth and the Cavalier, Kathy proclaimed Barbara “a most worthy successor” and gave her blessing to use the Batwoman name, an honor Babs refused (lest DC lose the trademark).
1977’s BATMAN FAMILY #12 presented “I Am Batgirl’s Brother,” taking its cue from 1951’s WORLD’S FINEST #53, which indicated that Commissioner Gordon had a son named Tony, Presumed dead in a ballooning accident, Tony Gordon had actually been caught spying on Red China. Escaping, he was given a new identity, as much for the government’s protection as his own, and gained employment at the Smithsonian Institution. Tony had a chance encounter with Batgirl and, as he put it, “even with that mask and costume, I recognized my kid sister on the spot.” Tony rushed to help when Batgirl was injured and, semi-conscious, she mumbled his name. Though Babs had no real recollection of who her savior had been, Tony fled Washington convinced that he’d compromised his true identity.
1978 closed with the resolution of the Tony Gordon subplot in DETECTIVE #s 481-482. Continuing from BATMAN FAMILY #19, Batgirl’s discovery of a Chinese “Superman factory” set her on a collision course with Tony in China. In an abrupt conclusion, Tony was reunited with his sister only to die in an explosion moments later.
1980’s DETECTIVE #489 had Babs abducted by a Professor Theel, who used a memory drug on the young woman in the hopes that he’d find some dirt on her father. Instead, he discovered that she was really Batgirl — but was conveniently killed by a drug dealer before he could do much with the information.
Over the course of the next year, Batgirl befriended Jeff Cotton, an easy-going mechanic who agreed to house and care for her motorcycle. Unfortunately for both of them, Batgirl’s cycle was subsequently sabotaged by a villain named Doctor Voodoo and it blew up as Jeff was working on it (DETECTIVE #501). Wracked with guilt, Batgirl apologized to Jeff but, though he insisted he’d known the risks, she felt something more was in order. “If you’re going to really be my helper,” she said as she pulled back her mask, “you have the right to know that Batgirl is really Barbara Gordon” (DETECTIVE #505).
And finally, just weeks before THE KILLING JOKE, Babs was reunited with her childhood friend, Marcy in 1988’s BATGIRL SPECIAL #1. As kids, the girls had played with homemade Batgirl and Supergirl dolls and, after a real Batgirl had debuted, Marcy had instantly recognized the costume design as her own. “Did you think I wouldn’t know who Batgirl was?” she asked. Recently widowed, Marcy feared that she might lose Barbara, too. At her urging, Babs agreed to give up costumed crime-fighting, unaware of what fate held right around the corner.
Since when did Thomas Wayne have a moustache? I’ve noticed ALL of his flashback appearances in recent years have featured the lip shrubbery, whereas he was previously always clean-shaven. I’m pretty sure it was a post-Crisis retcon, but darned if I know precisely when it happened.
Thomas Wayne was almost uniformly clean-shaven in his pre-Crisis appearances, the sole exception being 1958’s BATMAN #120. Here, Bruce Wayne’s father was revealed to have been a Colonel in the Army, where he’d served as a medic. A portrait showed him in uniform, complete with a well-groomed mustache.
In the opening of Frank Miller’s THE DARK KNIGHT #1 (1986), we learned that Bruce Wayne had grown a thick mustache in the decade since his retirement as Batman. Eight pages into the story, a flashback established that Thomas Wayne had also worn a mustache. The whiskers seemed to represent Bruce’s attempt, at least externally, at becoming Thomas Wayne’s heir rather than The Batman. And in another sense, the mustache reflected Bruce’s self-image. He now saw himself as he’d seen his father: an old man. Consequently, when Alfred noticed that Bruce had subconsciously shaved his mustache, the implications were clear. The Batman was back.
Though never again used as a symbol, the mustache has remained a fixture on Thomas Wayne’s face. It was present in BATMAN #404 flashback to the Wayne murders, absent in DETECTIVE #574’s subsequent flashback (and the following issue’s family portrait) but back again in BATMAN #430. Since then, the facial hair has been the norm but there are still periodic appearances of the clean-shaven Thomas Wayne as in the story of his conflict with a blackmailer in 1999’s DETECTIVE COMICS #733
If you read virtually any history of the Batman titles, a great deal is made of the time Bruce Wayne closed up Wayne Manor and moved into the city proper after Dick left for college. But was there ever a specific issue of one of the books when he and Alfred moved back? Or did it just happen without explanation, post-Crisis?
— Ian Utley (email@example.com)
Bruce’s famous decision to close Wayne Manor took place in 1969’s BATMAN #217, the first step in editor Julius Schwartz’s plan to streamline the series and return it to its roots. Consequently, Dick Grayson was sent off to Hudson University (beginning in his solo series in DETECTIVE COMICS #s 394 and 395) and Bruce moved into the Wayne Foundation building, occupying a penthouse “converted from former executive offices.” The building was eventually redesigned into a rather striking piece of architecture with decorative foliage and a shopping mall in its center. The “new” Wayne Foundation Building was unveiled in a three-page feature in 1976’s LIMITED COLLECTORS’ EDITION #C-44 and made it first appearance in a story proper in BATMAN #278.
In post-Crisis continuity, the Mike W. Barr-scripted DETECTIVE COMICS #s 575-578 established that the Wayne Foundation building was constructed during “Batman: Year Two.” Bruce had intended the penthouse for Leslie Thompkins, who appreciated the gesture but preferred not to put so much distance between herself and her low income patients.
For all the talk of the efficiency of a home in the heart of Gotham, Batman found himself returning to the Batcave beneath Wayne Manor with increasing frequency. That came to an abrupt halt in Bob Rozakis’ story in DC SPECIAL #28, wherein the Quakemaster inadvertently brought the Batcave crashing down around Batman’s pointy ears. Two weeks later, in DETECTIVE COMICS #470, Steve Englehart revealed that a new Batcave had been established beneath the Wayne building in a forgotten, abandoned subway tunnel.
In the end, though, nostalgia won out. For all his attempts at updating the heroes in his charge, Julie Schwartz saw most of his changes at least partially undone. TV newsman Clark Kent, for instance, had returned to the Daily Planet (at least part-time) in the wake of 1978’s Superman: The Movie. And, with editor Dick Giordano and writer Gerry Conway at the helm, Batman took his own great step backwards in late 1982 and early 1983.
Dick Grayson had dropped out of college on the eve of THE NEW TEEN TITANS’ launch back in 1980 and 1981’s BATMAN #344 finally reunited the Batman and Robin team in Gotham City on a permanent basis. Meanwhile, Batman had become convinced that living in the Wayne Foundation building made Bruce Wayne too accessible to people who wanted to conduct business. “It interferes with being the Batman,” he declared to Dick and Alfred in DETECTIVE COMICS #513, “which is why I’ve decided it’s time to return to Wayne Manor.” And they did just that in BATMAN #348, complete with moving the giant penny, robot dinosaur et al. back to the original Batcave. One can only imagine what Dick and Alfred were muttering under their breath.
The Wayne Foundation Building didn’t entirely fade away, of course. By mid-1983, Batman had retooled the auxiliary Batcave into a headquarters for the Outsiders and provided the penthouse to Katana and Halo as a new home (BATMAN AND THE OUTSIDERS #3).
All of the preceding developments have gone unchallenged in current continuity. So, yes, it did “just happen without explanation, post-Crisis.” 2000’s LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT #s 132-136 (by Archie Goodwin, James Robinson, Marshall Rogers and Bob Wiacek) did, however, relate a non-canonical account of Bruce Wayne’s departure from the penthouse. After an enemy of Bruce’s father and grandfather attempted to destroy the Manor, Batman was overwhelmed by its sense of history. “The memory of my father and grandfather gave me strength this night. It’s important I stay close to that inspiration. Perhaps the Wayne home should remain Batman’s lair after all.”
Thanks for the pinch-hit, John. I’ll be back next week. Meantime, you can be a part of this column by submitting your questions using the handy box below.
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