EP0054: Tales of the Batman Len Wein (Part Two) (Review)

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I revisit the first graphic novel I read, “The Untold Legend of the Batman” as well as Len Wein’s other later Batman work including Batman meets Grizzly Adams (sort of).

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Transcript below:

Graham: We take a look at the first graphic novel I ever read and a few more of Len Wein’s Batman tales as we conclude our look at Tales of the Batman: Len Wein. Straight ahead.

[Into Music]

Announcer: Welcome to the Classy Comics podcast where we search for the best comics in the universe. From Boise Idaho, here is your host Adam Graham.

Graham: Concurrently with Wein’s run on Batman the last three months, there was a mini-series released called Untold Legends of the Batman. It was actually only the second mini-series that D.C. Comics had created. The first was 1979’s mini-series, World of Krypton. This Untold Legends of the Batman, kind of serve to really cement what Batman’s origin story had been because there has been a lot of conflicting tales, imaginary tales. There was information in various books and this becomes kind of a definitive Batman origin story which takes existing information on what had happened with Batman and also goes ahead and adds in a new information, new little spins and touches on Batman’s origin story and right there, Untold Legends of the Batman became the definitive Batman origin story for about six years until Crisis on Infinite Earths but for a while it was and it’s actually a pretty good story. It was the first graphic novel that I ever picked up. I got it from a thrift store, must have done it was because the edition I read was from 1982 and it was published in a pocket paperback format in black and white. When I read it, I liked it but I was a bit confused because the only Batman I had ever experienced was the 1960’s Batman T.V. series with Adam West. So, this seemed kind of rough edged. Reading it as an adult, it’s not really that problematic. Batman is rough-edged, but there’s a reason for that that’s revealed as the story goes on. Of course, Batman’s origin story isn’t told directly. It’s actually told through a framing device that there had been some strange attacks on Batman. His father’s Batman costume, his father was the first Batman in this origin story, wearing it as a costume for a party, it’s destroyed and there are other strange goings on leading up to the destruction of the Bat-mobile at the end of Issue 2 and the story follows Batman as he tries to find who’s behind this and keeps running into moments where people are recalling parts of his origin, of his relationship with Robin and Commissioner Gordon and I think that this is actually a really solid origin story. It’s a shame that it was wiped from continuity but it’s still a good read for fans who want to have a handle on the way Batman was pre-crisis or just want to read a really good Batman story. This holds up and is as good if not better than when I remember reading it is a kid.

As a recent writer on Batman, Wein wrote a backup story for Detective Comics #500, which much like the Action Comics #1000 that we reviewed a few weeks ago, was a baby anniversary issue with a lot of stories. Wein got a two-page story where he decided to tell the classic, it was a dark and stormy night tale in the narration with the pictures telling a Batman story. It was one of those things OK. It’s not the greatest thing in the world but I guess it’s an interesting little story.

Then we have a guest story from Action Comics [Detective Comics] #514, Haven, in which Batman is chasing the gangster Maxie Zeus, who thinks he’s a greek god through some tough terrain on winter road and both Zeus and the Bat-mobile crash and Batman is rescued by a bearded mountain man who is friends with the animals. Reading the story, this character Haven, who’d run away from civilization, really reminded me of the T.V. character Grizzly Adams. It’s not a bad story. It’s got some interesting twist in it but I just wonder what possessed Len Wein to think Batman and Grizzly Adams. That’s the team up I want from my Detective Comics guest spot
And then after that you’ve got just a couple of pieces in the book that he wrote much later on you have from 2011, D.C. Retroactive: Batman- The 70’s #1 and the premise of this book is that these are untold tales from the east 1970’s and they have some untold tales from other decades but obviously not written by Wein and this story sees the introduction of a new version of the classic Batman villains, the Terrible Trio and there’s a sense that Batman begins to sense that someone he knows is involved. This follows a lot of those same threads that were never picked up from the Batman run that Wein wrote such as the trouble in the relationship between Lucius Fox and his son as well as the business rival thing. I really do think that Wein’s writing is pretty much as strong as it was back when he was writing Batman 30 years before this retroactive issue was published. It’s a pretty good story. It fits right into his run on Batman and it makes a nice read.

And then finally we have a story from Batman Black and White #5, which involves a scheme by Two-face and it’s a clever scheme. I’m not going to give away the details but Two-face is surprised and somewhat annoyed when he finds himself being pursued by a Robin instead of Batman and there is a twist here. If I had a complaint with this book, or this particular issue, it’s that it really features kind of this gigantic towering Batman who’s just almost monstrous in size. I’m not a fan of that particular look but the writing on the issue is fine. There’s a nice twist. It’s a pretty good little short story and from 2014 so pretty recent but shows Wein definitely able to compete with modern writers.

Overall, I’ll give this book a rating of classy. This contains some pretty good Batman, much of which had never been printed before. So, it’s a treat to read. Probably the one thing that really truly impressed me was the series Untold Legends of the Batman and I also like the Bat-murder Saga. The rest of it is kind of pretty good but not something that is stunning in any way but it’s good, well written Batman. If you liked the Cape Crusader from the 70s and 80s, this is definitely a book that’s worth checking out.

Alright well that’s all for now if you do have a comment send it to me classycomicsguy@gmail.com. Be sure and rate the show on iTunes and follow us on Twitter at classycomicsguy. From Boise, Idaho, this is your host Adam Graham, signing off.

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