The Right Way to Draw Batman (1978)
“… The Face of the Grim Reaper!”
By Sheldon Mayer
Overseen by Paul Levitz
How’s this for a weird one? Over the next three days I’m going to be on vacation… so, I decided it might be fun to cover some “un-normal” bits for the blog.
In 2009 DC Comics released The Batman Vault… a “Museum in a Book” that collected a whole bunch of cool ephemera from the Dark Knight’s history… in the comics, and on the big and small screens.
Included among the goodies is… this strange little booklet by Sheldon Mayer. Story goes, when Paul Levitz came on as editor for the Bat-Books, he wanted their to be a clear continuity between all of the titles. Even though Mayer wasn’t completely “on board” with this idea… he still produced this “how to” instructional booklet.
Let’s take a look!
We open with Batman on a rooftop as a woman in an alley below is attacked. He springs into action… and kayos the baddies, only to be taken unawares by the “victim” herself who wallops him in the back of the head with her loaded pocketbook!
The baddies then decide they’re going to unmask the Batman in order to snap a very valuable picture. However… as they approach the prone crusader, he begins to vanish?! The freaked geeks run off… and as Batman comes to, he meets a new friend… in the nebulous little imp who calls herself Marvelous Miranda.
She informs him that she just saved his life… but he’s too confused to really process what he’s seeing. All he sees is a little girl who’s out way too late. She then vanishes right before his eyes.
Batman rushes home to read every book he has on magic to try and explain what he’d just seen. Alfred helps him sift through his vast library… while expressing concern that perhaps Master Bruce just imagined the whole thing.
We shift scenes to… the Joker, who is throwing darts at an over-sized poster of Batman. He’s working with a little fella… and their main goal on this day is finding out who’s face is behind Batman’s mask…
… Which is why he hired those geeks from earlier to snap a pic! Speaking of the geeks, the lady, Lil, has an idea on how they can get the dosh that the Joker promised them… without even getting the picture. Ya see, she sewed together a cape and cowl… and took a picture of it on a Manikin… after which, they’ll… er, use whatever the 1978 approximation of Photoshop is to superimpose a rando’s face onto it. The face they pick… a de-mustachioed Alfred Pennyworth!
They then deliver the “evidence” to the Joker, and collect their loot. Fearing the Joker will double-cross them with an acid-spewing flower gimmick, Lil grabs the bud off his chest while holding him at gun-point. Lemme tell ya, there are dumb moves… then there’s this. Remember that little fella from before? Well, he’s been hiding in the Joker’s hat with a gun of his own! He mows down the geeks before they even know what hit ’em.
Then, the Joker’s goons head up to the top of the GCPD station (which seems like a risky play) in order to commandeer the Bat-Signal. They include a message to be at the Pier… which, I mean… c’mon. Is Batman really this gullible? Does he think the police are just going to announce where to go where everyone in the city can see it?
Well… I guess he really is that gullible, because he heads over to Pier 3. At that same time, a tank busts through the wall at a baseball game… and with a Silver-Age as hell vacuum, steals all of the money and jewelry from the crowd. The tank driver then pops his head out to reveal himself to be… a de-mustachioed Alfred Pennyworth?!
Meanwhile, at the pier… Batman is ambushed… duh. He’s hit by a paralyzing paper airplane… however, before he can be taken out… Marvelous Miranda makes her shocking return! Lucky for Batman she brought her… uh, anti-paralyzing beam with her. He beats up the baddies… and Miranda, once again… vanishes.
Then… the Bat-Signal… again! This time, Batman reports straight to Commissioner Gordon’s office to ask “what the hell?”. Gordon tells him that this is the first time they’d summoned him all night… which only tells me that Batman didn’t realize… even after the ambush… that he was set up the first time around. I know I’ve given a fair amount of guff to the super-smart “Bat-God”, but c’mon… is he really this ditsy?
Gordon shows him the tape of the “Grim Reaper’s” caper at the ball-park… then marches in their top suspect, Alfred Pennyworth! They used some flesh-colored makeup to block out his mustache… which manages to, well… trick Batman somewhat. Alfred doesn’t say anything.
As Batman leaves, he notices a strange officer enter the Police Department… but he pays him no mind. Seriously…
Turns out this “officer” is actually the Joker. Duh. He grabs Alfred… thinking that he’s really the Batman (uh huh)… and threatens to kill him. At the very same time, Batman discovers another officer tied up in an alley. It’s only now that he puts two and two together… and rushes back inside.
The Joker is surprised to see Batman… because, ya know… he thinks the frail 80-year old man he’s holding hostage is really the Batman. As he (the Joker) tries to make his escape… somebody kicks him! From here, it’s academic… Batman wipes the floor with him.
We wrap up with Batman realizing that “phantom kicker” must’ve been Marvelous Miranda!
That was, uh… interesting. Definitely cool as a novelty… so, it’s got that going for it! I doubt it was ever supposed to be some grand story… so, it’d be silly of me to come down on it for not being one.
My pre-Crisis Bat-Game is pretty lacking… but, I was surprised to see him so goofily flawed here. I mean, he comes across as a real dummy a few times here. While I’m tired to death of the super-genius version of the character… this felt like such a massive swing in the other direction, it actually took me out of it for a bit.
I gotta say, I thought Marvelous Miranda was a pretty cool touch, in a thorn-in-the-side sort of spot… that might otherwise be occupied by Bat-Mite. I’ve tried to do some digging… and it doesn’t look like this character has ever popped up again, which is both unfortunate… and surprising! I’d figure somebody out there would’ve wanted to show off their Batnerd-cred by having her appear. Hey, maybe she was Fifty-Sue from Future’s End?! That actually makes almost too much sense.
The art here… I mean, the title of this project is “The Right Way to Draw Batman“… and it doesn’t even seem like Mayer can get it straight. Certain panels and pages seem rushed… and the quality is kinda all over the place. It’s hard to look at this as a definitive character bible… when it can’t maintain its own consistency!
Overall… this is probably something you don’t need to read… but one of those things it’s fun to have read. I’d most definitely recommend The Batman Vault, if you can get it at a discount… with all of its “pieces”… and since this is one of those “pieces”, I guess I’d recommend this as well. As a novelty… and a period piece, this is worth a look.
|What the booklet looks like.|