Batman #350 (1982)

Batman #350 (August, 1982)
“Nightmare in Crimson”
“Those Lips, Those Eyes”
Writers – Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz & Bruce Jones
Artists – Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga
Letterers – Ben Oda & Adam Kubert
Colorists – Adrienne Roy & Tom Ziuko
Editor – Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.60

Now I gets ta’ askin’ myself… I says “Self, why should Soopaman have all the fun fighting… and becoming a vampire?  Whattabout Batman?”… and so, here we are.  Batman takes a walk on the vampiric side.

Of note… being a big 90’s comics fan, I’m both surprised and disappointed that this big “350th” issue isn’t covered in foil and hologram stickers!

We open with Robin, Dick Grayson running for his life away from an outstretched hand.  There appear to be several upside-down crucifixions in his path.  He runs into the waiting arms of a woman called Dala, who I’m assuming is his current love-interest.  She flashes a smile full of pointed teeth and her arms turn to wings… and next thing we know, Robin wakes up.

Was the entire thing a dream?  Well, I’m sure we’ll find out before long.  He wakes up to find a priest watching over him.  He claims to have found Robin darting out into traffic earlier that evening.  He almost struck him with his car, but luckily that was not the case… Robin collapsed, and the kindly priest decided to take him back to… wherever they are.  He offers Robin the bed for the night, but Dick declines.  Of interest, he glances in the mirror, and the reflection is fuzzy… whether that’s his eyes playing tricks on him remains to be seen.

We shift scenes to Batman returning home from an adventure at the Headmaster’s Crime Academy (which sounds like something we’ll have to check out sometime soon!) He is remarkably upbeat… but that’s probably just my post-Crisis talking.  He lands his newfangled batplane and taxis into the barnside entrance to the Batcave.

He greets Alfred, who is quite pleased to see him.  Ya see, he’s got something on his mind… something disturbing.  But before he can explain, Dick Grayson wheels on in.  He’s acting like kind of a jerk here, which is not lost on Bruce.  Bruce also notes that Robin’s motorcycle sounded “almost ghostly”.  Oohhhh…

Up in the manor, Dick informs Bruce that Dala invited them both to a big soiree at her place that night.  It is apparently very important to Dala that Bruce attend.  Bruce is rather agreeable, and says he’ll be there.  Robin removes his domino mask revealing blood-red eyes.

We hop to Vicki Vale’s office at the Picture News.  There’s a fella in there rummaging through her files.  I’m sure if I were more familiar with this era I’d know who this guy is… but I gotta plead ignorance.  He finds the file labelled “Batman” and pockets it.  He escapes the office just as Vicki enters.  Her phone rings, and it’s Bruce!  He asks her to go to Dala’s party with him, and she’s down with it.  We (or at least, I) learn that at this point in time Vicki Vale knows that Bruce Wayne is Batman!  Wasn’t expecting that.

That night at the party, Bruce watches as Dick is led away from the group and into the house by Dala.  He gets the feeling that something’s not quite right about this.  Taking advantage of his date Ms. Vale chasing a story, Bruce ducks into house himself… until he gets to a locked door.

Yeah, like that’s gonna stop him.  He picks the lock with the quickness and enters… an empty room.  There is nothing but wooden beams in the room, however, upon further inspection, with use of the bat-flashlight, Bruce finds bloodstains on the floor.  He peeks out the window to see Dala leading Dick further away.  Time to suit up.

Now caped and cowled, Batman hops out the window and swings down to the ground.  The priest from the opening pages is here, and recognizes the Batman.  Vicki Vale, now done with her chat with the Sheik is looking for her date.  Batman reaches his destination and hears laughter… and assumes he’s just overreacted and Dick and Dala are just… ahem, enjoying each other’s company.  That’s not the case, however… a purple clad vampire leaps from the shadows and onto our man.

The vampire… who Batman totally doesn’t believe in, by the way… grips him by the throat, then sinks his fangs into Batman’s neck.  Batman, still not believing in vampires, kicks the creep away… and bashes him over the head with a branch… I mean, he really gives it to him here.  This is like a killing blow… if Batman really doesn’t think this dude is supernatural… then this was meant to kill!  Bruce reaches for his neck… and finds that he’s bleeding.  The definitely-not-a-vampire coldcock’s the Bat, and we are… [to be continued…]

We start our backup feature with a shot of Selina Kyle in bed.  Seems like she had one helluva night… she’s achy, and can’t remember anything.

She gets up and notes that her dress is all sticky… outta the gutter, you!  It’s nothing like that… in fact, it’s blood!  But whose?  Oh, it’s probably from the dead prostitute in the living room.

Selina gets all noir-y and finds a matchbook with the lamp from A Christmas Story on it.

Not a finguh!

She’s still too foggy to know what’s going on.  There’s a noise from the bathroom, and so she decides to throw on her Catsuit and investigate.  What she finds is a goony individual trying to climb out the window.  She ain’t havin’ that… and so she jumps headfirst into the fella!

This doesn’t work so good… seemed to have hurt her more.  The goon runs away, and Selina has a flashback.  Looks like Burt Reynolds is putting the dead girl (before she was dead, natch) into the backseat of a cab.

Selina decides her best course of action would be to buy a short blonde wig and pose as the dead girl for her shift at the address on the matchbook.  As she walks in, she is called Candy, and is told that she “goes on” in fifteen minutes.

As she gets on stage for her strippy dance, she recognizes the goofball from the hotel… and so, she jumps headfirst into the fella.

If at first you don’t succeed…

This is just as successful as it was the first time, as the dude gets away.  This time, however, Catwoman is able to give chase… but winds up doing her best “Hang in There” impression rather than catching the crook… we are [to be continued…]

Gotta say… I loved this issue.  Really wasn’t expecting to be so taken with it, but it really scratched an itch for me.  I wanted a sorta-kinda scary story, and this was just that.  And it was a different kind of scary… more like uncomfortable, I guess.  Having Bruce be our point-of-view character for the second half and watching him follow a very spaced out Dick Grayson was really fun… even a bit tense.

Gotta plead ignorance on much of Batman’s place in the world during 1982.  I was surprised to see him so upbeat… really not used to that.  Definitely not the Batman I was brought up on, but I must say I enjoyed it.  I could get behind a Batman who smiles every now and again.  Seems like a much healthier dude in these pre-Crisis days. 

Gene Colan’s art here was pretty much just what the doctor ordered.  He just seems to be the go-to guy for all things vampire… not a bad reputation to have when you do what you do so well!

The backup feature was just kind of there.  Decent enough filler, and it was drawn quite well… fun to write about, I’ll give it that!  Being that this is a serialized backup, there were bits that didn’t quite explain themselves… like Selina being mistaken for the blonde dancing girl for instance… unless I just missed something.  I did learn one thing from this… when Catwoman wants to attack someone… she falls back on her ol’ reliable “collide with their body head first” offense.

We’ll continue our coverage of Batman’s trip down vampire lane tomorrow.  I’m already looking forward to it!

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