Bonus Book #11 – Batman (Winter, 1988)
Writer – Jeff O’Hare
Pencils – Roderick Delgado
Inks – Jerry Acerno
Letters – Helen Vesik
Colors – Matt Webb
Edits – Joey Cavalieri
Executive Edits – Joe Orlando
There’s change (and a chill) in the air for this installment of Bonus Books… it looks as though, with this outing, DC Comics has decided that this ongoing-and-forever project would be coming to an end. In our Bonus Books Bios page, which looks much more “phoned in” than earlier versions (seen at the bottom of this post), DC announces that colorist, Matt Webb “colored the last four Bonus Books”. Meaning, after yesterday’s and this one… there’re going to be two left… and, it looks like they’re all in the can.
This Batman chapter appeared in Detective Comics #595 (Winter, 1988)… another of my nebulous “cover-month fill-ins”, as the indicia doesn’t even bother assigning it a year… much less a month! Heck, maybe this one should’ve been “Winter, 1989”? Whatever the case, tomorrow’s piece will have a firm January, 1989 cover-date… so the more anal among us (read: me) can rest at ease.
Worth noting, I included Denny O’Neil’s letters page commentary regarding the 1-900-Jason Todd gimmick and outcome that, even though it has nothing to do with the Bonus Book, I thought folks might find interesting. I know I did!
We open at S.T.A.R. Labs, where Dr. Klyburn is celebrating the fact that she and her team have created this 100% artificial diamond that can be used to shoot a laser with pinpoint accuracy. I hope this research isn’t coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Anyhoo, this endeavor, “Project: Hot Ice” a success… and could mean good things going forward… orrrr, just be something that bad guys might want to steal. I don’t wanna spoil anything for ya. Meanwhile, a rather paunchy-looking Batman is beating up a trio of thugs down some dingy back alley. After the police arrive to arrest the creeps, Batman notices that one of them had dropped something. Wouldn’cha know it, it’s a S.T.A.R. Labs ID Pass… in fact, it’s Dr. Klyburn’s! If you’re hoping to find out why these geeks had her pass… prepare for disappointment.
We jump ahead to Batman’s visit to S.T.A.R. to return the ID… and while he’s there, he gets a full demonstration of “Project: Hot Ice”. Turns out, this laser is capable of destroying a tank, while not harming the driver inside (it will, however, destroy all of his clothes, sans his boxer shorts). Remember that.
Meanwhile, the Gotham City Prison is receiving it’s monthly supply of meat. As inmates are all loading it into a freezer… they’re complaining about having to work alongside a certain nut case. Ya see, this fella probably belongs in Arkham… however, for whatever reason, they’re trying to “mainstream” him into regular prison. That “nut case”, well, if you haven’t seen the cover… and missed the “Hot Ice” reference, and the fact that we’re working in the freezer right now… you might be shocked to learn that we’re talking about Mr. Freeze.
One of the inmates mocks him for looking like Mr. Clean… and for losing to Batman over and over again. This enrages Freeze, and so, he strips the inmate of his shirt, attaches him to a meathook… and freezes him solid?! An officer rushes in to see what all the hub-bub’s about… and is also frozen! This is a dude they’re trying to “mainstream”, ya kidding me? Anyhoo, this distraction proves to be enough for Freeze and some fellow inmates to escape.
We jump to the next night, where an alarm is sounding at S.T.A.R. Labs. This looks very much like Metropolis’ S.T.A.R. Labs building… which is where Klyburn works, right? So, why is Batman on this case and not Superman? Ehh… maybe all S.T.A.R. facilities look alike? Anyhoo, he swoops in to check it out, and… ta-da! It’s Mr. Freeze.
Batman gets zapped and trapped, while Victor gives him (and us, I suppose) the quick and dirty on his origin. Ya see, he had a mishap in the lab with some “experimental freezing solution”… which led to his being unable to survive in non-freezing environments, hence the groovy helmet.
Freeze straps Batman to a table, and prepares to blast him with the Project: Hot Ice Diamond. Which… I mean, haven’t we already established that it’s harmless against humans… and underwear? Freeze begins by cutting off Batman’s utility belt… but, doesn’t notice that our man had already palmed an extra ‘rang. Batman performs a behind-the-back toss of this Batarang while Freeze tinkers with the settings.
The rang slices through an icicle protruding from the ceiling… sending it down into the computer console, and causing a pretty sizable “boom”.
Freeze goes flying, and cracks his dome when he hits the ground. It’s too warm for him to survive. If Batman doesn’t help him, he will very likely die. And so, Batman does just that. He blasts Freeze right in the head with his freeze-pistol to close off the crack. The first-responders burst into the place… making some very good time, might I add… the explosion must’ve been, what, ten-seconds ago? Batman waxes philosophical about how similar he and Freeze might be… trauma, lashing out, yadda yadda yadda. If only Mr. Freeze wasn’t so damn boring, this might’ve meant something!
Some weeks later, we’re back at Gotham City Prison… back in the freezer unloading more meat. Guess what? They’re still trying to “mainstream” Mr. Freeze! Someone mentions Batman, Vic flips his crap, and we all have a hearty laugh. Really, after seeing this, is it any wonder Gotham is constantly in the state it’s in?!
Sooo, who thought it’d be funny to slip a Silver-Age story into a 1988/89 issue of Detective Comics? I mean, this was pretty weird… full of conveniences, uninvestigated story-threads, crazy pseudo-science, a quick origin story… and nobody learning their lesson in the slightest!
I feel like some “random goon” having Jenet Klyburn’s ID should have been followed up on a little bit, no? I mean, she’s one of the top dogs at the world’s foremost research facility… so, how did he get his grubby paws on the thing? Is she just that out-to-lunch that she didn’t realize it was gone? If so, how the hell did she manage to get into the building?
Project: Hot Ice feels like something right out of a 1950’s Superman story. A laser that can destroy a tank… but not harm a human (though, leaving said human in quite an embarrassing state of undress). It’s not bad or anything… just silly. Ain’t nothing wrong with silly… it’s just one of those touted “world changing” inventions in comics, that somehow, we’ll never hear of again.
Not sure what the GCPD are thinking trying to “mainstream” Mister Freeze in the first place. He’s obviously a very dangerous fellow. Maybe the folks at Arkham find him as boring as I do, and just wanted him to go away? I dunno. Seems like a dumb thing… even dumber yet, why in all hells would they attempt to mainstream him a second time?! He nearly killed a bunch of people… and broke out of jail! Clearly, the Gotham City Prison is not equipped to handle and house such an inmate!
Yeesh… we “comics critique” sorts (too) often dredge up that old chestnut about “suspending our disbelief”. What can I say, It makes us feel wicked smart. But, here we go again… I can believe that Batman can beat up thugs. I can believe that Mr. Freeze can freeze people… heck, I can believe that S.T.A.R. Labs can create a diamond that can destroy anything but a pair of boxer shorts… but, what I can’t believe is that the Gotham Police would try and mainstream Mister Freeze twice in one month. Ay yai yai.
Our writer, Jeff O’Hare, did not go on to be a prolific writer in the field. Man, I feel like I ought to have a macro for that… I’ve typed nearly that exact same sentence a dozen times this week. Jeff’s success was found in designing games for TSR, Parker Brothers, and Mayfair Games. There isn’t a whole heckuva lot about him on the ol’ internet. So, we’ll have to assume he kept working as an English teacher, while helping to design games on the side? I dunno.
Across the table sits our penciller, Roderick Delgado. Guess what? This was the only DC story he drew! Maybe this is why DC decided to shutter the Bonus Books program? I mean, they started hot-n-heavy, brimming with excitement to be working with folks they were certain were going to be the “big names” going into the 1990’s. Total “broken clock” scenario for DC Comics. Roddy would go on to contribute a little bit of art here and there for Marvel’s Punisher family of books in the early 90’s… but, that’s about it. I will say, outside of Batman looking kinda “paunchy” in the opening pages, I think he did a great job here!
Overall… a pretty “meh” outing… which, judging by DC’s lack of enthusiasm for the Bonus Books project at this point, comes as hardly a surprise. Worth noting that this story was reprinted in the fairly recent Batman Arkham: Mister Freeze (2017) Collected Edition… which is available digitally. So, if you’re dealing with chronic insomnia… DC Digital’s got your hook-up!
(Not the) Letters Page:
(Also, not quite the) Letters Page (but interesting, nonetheless):