Detective Comics #517 (1982)

Detective Comics #517 (August, 1982)
“The Monster in the Mirror”
“A Tale of Two Serpents”
Writers – Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz & Cary Burkett
Pencillers – Gene Colan & Jose Delbo
Inkers – Tony DeZuniga & Joe Giella
Letterers – Annette Kawecki & Janice Chiang
Colorists – Adrienne Roy & Tom Ziuko
Editor – Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.60

Well, we ended last issue with Batman gettin’ the bite… now let’s check in on him in all his Vampiri(c) glory!

We open with an awesome first-person perspective.  We are the Batman, and we are frantically heading through the brush on our way back to Wayne Manor.  Of particular interest, Batman enters through the front door… not something you’d expect.  He heads to the washroom and splashes a bit of water on his face… checking the mirror, his fears are realized.  Batman is a vampire!

Alfred hears his master’s scream, and heads in to find out what’s amiss.  Batman swats him away… tells him to leave, before he kills him!  Ya see, he’s got needs now… dirty, horrible needs… needs he can’t control.  I’ll just leave the panels here without comment… maybe I’ll just snicker a bit.

Perhaps realizing the only safety is in solitude, Batman runs off to the Batcave via the entrance behind the grandfather clock.  Alfred tries to collect himself before giving chase, however, before he can there is a ringing at the door.  Why, it’s our old friend Father Green from St. Jude’s!  The same fella who helped Robin.  He appears to know that the Batman is there, and offers Alfred something of a salvation.  He claims to be able to salvage “endangered souls”.

We shift scenes to the WGBS News studio.  Newscaster Olivia Ortega is wrapping up this evenings broadcast, and is about to be met by (former) Commissioner Gordon and his partner Jason Bard.  They are looking for doctored photos of a maskless Batman.  From here they can pop in to the photo studio for follow-up.

This scene leads into another scene wherein Bat-photos are being perused.  “Boss” Thorne is poring over the photos stolen from Vicki Vale last chapter, and checking out Batman’s Bertillon facial measurements to compare with Bruce Wayne’s.  That doesn’t sound good, right?  Seems almost too easy.  

Back at Wayne Manor, Alfred is humoring Father Green.  He is still playing coy about Batman being there, however, that does not stop Green from sharing a history lesson with him.  He speaks of a Louis DuBois… a plantation owner, circa the United States Civil War.  Even post-war, he was a jerk… keeping slaves and all that.

One night, after being an all-around prince to his hired help, he is drawn from his home by the rhythmic sound of drumming.  He ventures deeper and deeper into the woods, he comes to a bayou where he finds the source of the beat.

There is an old woman there.  A basket sits in her lap.  She invites DuBois to reach his hand inside, claiming that he will receive the gift of a long life… and so he does.

Inside, there is a large snake… that plunges its fangs into DuBois’ arm.  He throws the snake off and flees, heading back in the direction he came.  He collapses over a fallen tree, and his wife rushes to his side.  For her troubles, she gets the love bite of her life.  Father Green concludes his tale by stating that DuBois was the man who attacked the Batman, and refers to his “type” as Vampiri

Elsewhere, they say there’s no rest for the wicked… and Batman proves it by going out on patrol.  He comes across a would-be jewel thief clumsily fidgeting with a jewelry stores alarm.  Batman swoops in, recognizes the thief as a Mr. Marley, who he gives a fate worse than jail.  From all appearances, he just “fed” off of poor Marley, however, it is not entirely clear from the art.  Ya gotta figure, even when Batman gets cured… having actually “fed” on another human being is kind of a bridge-too-far.  Gotta figure there’s more to this scene than we’re seeing… least I hope there is!

We head toward our conclusion with Vicki Vale… still at the party, questioning where her date went.  Before she can leave, her arm is grabbed by Dick Grayson.  He advises her that Bruce had to split, and that he was to take her home.  He leads her to a car while Dala and DuBois watch with large-fangy smiles on their faces.

This chapter ends with Batman sitting on a rooftop… weeping.  The sun begins to rise… which doesn’t seem to affect him.  Maybe the Vampiri and vampires aren’t quite the same?  Who knows… either way, he faces the dawn with a newfound resolve to reattain his mortal soul.

We start our backup strip with a snake-tailed Batgirl.  We learn that she had been bitten by Lady Viper shortly before, and her new bottom-half must have been some sort of parting gift.

Batgirl recalls that Lady Viper has the power to shift from her snake form back to human, and so… she concentrates really hard, and whattayaknow, gets her legs back!  Unfortunately, she appears to still have her serpentine lissssp.

Later, she visits a toxicologist in hopes of finding an antidote… gotta wonder what the co-pay on that might be… anyhoo, the Doc tells her he will need a sample of the venom in order to create an antidote… and before he can even finish his sentence, she is on the trail.

Batgirl checks in with her street-level contact, a bag lady… who puts her in touch with a fella called Charlie Trainer.  As luck would have it, he just happened to come across a “snake-woman” in an old boxcar out at the train yard.  Talk about convenient!  Of particular note, during the conversation, a cat seemed to get Chuck’s tongue… which caused Babs to really give in to her sssnakiness.  Grabbed the poor doofus by the collar and everything!

In the boxcar… well, whatta-we-have here… it’s Lady Viper.  The two engage in battle until Barbara is able to “konk” the snake-lady out.  She takes the sample, and quick as a cricket, it’s synthesized into an antidote, and Babs is back in business.

She heads back to the boxcar… for some reason, maybe to arrest Lady Viper… I dunno.  Anyhoo, she heads inside, and finds that Lady Viper is changing into a full-blown snake… as in, no longer a snake-woman… just a snake.  Perhaps a woman-snake… but no longer humanoid… ya dig?  This is due to her having been in her snakey form too long without changing back into a human… something she (rightfully?) blames Batgirl for.  The bit ends with Barbara making a gag that rather than sending Lady Viper to jail, she may just have to send her to the Gotham Zoo… man, talk about kicking someone when they’re down!

Another fun issue of Batman.  Not perfect, or even as good as the opener, but fun nonetheless.

The actual Batman bits were great.  I enjoyed seeing him have to cope with his new dental situation.  It’s not often that we see Batman truly at a disadvantage.  Usually, even when the odds are completely stacked against him, he still maintains his cool.  Here, not so much.  Hell, we even see him go so far as to… feed.  That’s definitely not something I expected.  You’d figure there’s no going back from that… however, for all I know we’ll learn that he didn’t actually “take a bite” next issue.

Where this issue dragged a bit was Father Green’s history lesson.  It just went on too long… could’ve been told in a page, and went on for a half-dozen.  Thankfully, Gene Colan’s art came along for the ride… and was glorious throughout.

We follow-up a bit on the subplot from last issue having to do with the stolen Batman file.  It’s funny that it’s taken so long for someone to do the ol’ Bertillon on Batman’s facial measurements.  I think you walk a fine line when you introduce things like this into superhero comics.  This can be done for any hero with a secret identity… and if it is actually a “thing” in the DC Universe, there’s no reason why people wouldn’t.

The backup feature… was a backup feature.  Nothing Earth-shattering… just felt like page filler.  I do enjoy that Batgirl and Catwoman get a bit of love in the back-half of the Batbooks of the time, but have difficulty getting invested in either.  At least the Catwoman one was funny… in an odd kinda way.  This Batgirl story was pretty boring.

Overall, I enjoyed this quite a bit (no pun intended, maybe).  We’ll check in on our caped-crusader again tomorrow (same bat-time, and all that jazz) to see if there’s a cure in his future…

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0 thoughts on “Detective Comics #517 (1982)

  • Arsene Wenger

    a great issue and Tony De Zuniga's inks on Colan are a masterstroke as in the prior issue of Batman.


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