Years ago I started posting about comics I bought in the back issue bins here. It didn't last long. I sold most of my comics and focused on series I am currently reading and collecting the entirety of Amazing Spider-man. However, I will pick up some random issues if I find a good deal. Recently my LCS had a 5 for $1 sale on back issues. I picked up Batman Legends of the Dark Knight 1-26. This thread will chronicle my thoughts on that series. I'll probably take a break between arcs. My thoughts on issues 1-5 will be in the next post.

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Batman Legends of the Dark Knight #1-5

"Shaman"

Writer- Dennis O'Neil

Pencils- Edward Hannigan

 

Potential Spoilers to follow

 

Years ago I came across issue two of this series. I didn't know what to make of it. Quite intense for a young lad with human sacrifices and impaling and what not. I don't know what happened to that copy. However when I came across it last week and saw that there was issues 1-26 of Legends of the Dark Knight and at 5 for $1 I had to pick them up. I like a good Batman story and was hoping that this purchase wouldn't let me down. So far, it hasn't.

 

The inside cover for issue 1 states that this is the first ongoing title of Batman since 1940! Also that is was created for specialty comic shops instead of newsstands. The series was intended to feature stand alone stories by different creative talents and to stand alone outside of continuity.

 

The opening arc for this series, Shaman, starts with a young Bruce Wayne with the aid of a seasoned bounty hunter tracking a serial killer through the wilds of Alaska. The killer gets the drop on them and kills the bounty hunter. Bruce survives and the killer seemingly falls to his death. Bruce being left for dead on top of a mountain and his rescued by a local tribe. He is healed by a Shaman who relates a story of a bat saving a raven from a disease caused by a vulture. It's important to note that this is not a story that is known to the rest of the world it's special to this tribe. Bruce then goes back to Gotham and takes up the mantle of Batman.

 

Of course drugs and crime run rampant and Bruce has his hands full. He comes across a case involving drugs and murder. He rescues a doctor and patient from some thugs. However the patient, a young woman, screams the name Chubala and then takes her own life. Time passes but the name Chubala rises again along with human sacrifices. There's also a professor who Bruce had financed a trip to Alaska for. This professor has returned with some artifacts of the Alaskan tribes as well with stories from the tribes. More death occurs and Bruce believes it's linked to his initial visit to Alaska years before.

 

After some misteps and more detective work Bruce uncovers all the links and puts an end to the mayhem. He even travels back to Alaska where it all began.

 

This was a good opening arc for the series. I was surprised that it was another origin story of sorts for Batman. However, it was refreshing and a little different. It had more of a mystic vibe to it as well as a different slant why he took the mantle of a bat. Also we don't have mobsters and corrupt cops in this story, which was a nice change of pace.

 

The biggest plus for me was this was a Bruce Wayne story. We see Bruce mingling with high society often while conducting his investigations. Though even as Bruce Wayne he has trouble fitting in and maintaining relationships. Another thing I enjoyed was the disguises he assumed to complete his investigation. Not something you often see in Batman comics today. There are scenes of him forging an alliance with James Gordon but it's not the focus here. This is the tale of a man coming into his own and making the decision of what path to take.

 

All in all I enjoyed this opening arc for this series. Did anybody read this when it first came out and have any thoughts? I'm looking forward to the other issues purchased. The next arc is Gothic by Grant Morrison. My take a break to read other things before getting into that one though.

 

Denny O'Neil does a nice job with the pacing of the story and adding layers to the mystery. The art by Edward Hannigan is nice and compliments to the darkness of the plot.

I didn't read it while it was coming out, but I believe it was still ongoing when I discovered it and started collecting the back issues. I thought the it was incredibly consistent for years--the first 36 issues or so--and consistently interesting even when it didn't live up to its own high standards. I enjoyed not having to worry about continuity, and it featured a lot of terrific creators. I encountered many of them (including Grant Morrison, I think) for the first time here. I realized later that a lot of them showed up again when I started reading Vertigo. You're in for a lot of good reading!

Without commenting on the specific story, this is a good time to interject that Legends of the Dark Knight got me back into comics.

In 1979 I had quit comics cold turkey because they were piling up and I had no time to read any. My only fan contact between 1979 and 1989 was the Comic Buyer's Guide. In 1989 I married for the first (and last) time. Also in 1989 we went to the first night showing of Tim Burton's Batman. Following this we attended the San Diego Con (neither of us liked Bob Kane) and I bought the first issue of Legends of the Dark Knight. This was my first comic in ten years, led to me slowly becoming reinvolved.

Also, please note that this was an early example of a DC comic not having the Comics Code seal!

I think TDKR, Year One, and Killing Joke made the movie more likely, and then amongst potential comics buyers, the movie, those high quality books, and the fairly sustained high quality of the monthlies all combined to make Batman a huge property in the late 80s.

 

Legends of TDK was a pretty respectable way to expand the line.  Thinking about it now, it doesn't look like a tacky cash-grab.  Highly respected creators putting in some good work on self-contained stories that measured themselves against the aforementioned quality breakthrough books.

 

The first thing that struck me about the first storyline was that it was 'interleaved' with the pages of Miller's Year One, which had become instant canon, and the yardstick to follow.  Miller's sketchy rush through a whole calender year does invite writers to 'fill the blanks' of that year, and we'd get a lot of that in this series.

 

I'm right with Jason in being horrified by aspects of this story. The depiction of the afterlife was pretty nasty, especially. I've read loads of subsequent runs in this series, but I'm not sure I read the conclusion of this one.

I don't think I read any more than the first issue for this story. I would read it if I was interested in a particular story. I did read "Gothic" (which I believe was next), and loved it.

I started LOTDK when it was first coming out, and while I did drop it for a couple of years, I've since back filled so that I have the complete series.  I loved the idea of the self contained arcs with the different creative teams, and while not every arc was to my taste, pound for pound, I thought this was the best bat title.  

In a way, this title was my Amazing Spider-man or Fantastic Four, my Firestorm or Nova, a title I was in at the ground floor for to watch it develop.  More than that though, this title just hit all the right buttons for me.  I generally prefer the setup phase of long form stories, seeing the beginning phases of characters' development, mysteries unfurl while they're still mysterious, and defining aspects used while they're still fresh and joyful; this series tended to work as a beginning phase of Batman. Throw in the shifting creative teams to give us a variety of perspectives and keep things fresh and what's not to like?

Figserello said:

Legends of TDK was a pretty respectable way to expand the line.  Thinking about it now, it doesn't look like a tacky cash-grab.  Highly respected creators putting in some good work on self-contained stories that measured themselves against the aforementioned quality breakthrough books.

It's always interesting to see where other people's perspectives lead them.  As you say, I feel that LOTDK was a terrific way to expand the line, going for substance over flash, yet Mr. Silver Age points to LOTDK as a book that heralded the end of the bronze age due to its gimmick nature.  

I read Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight from issue one, but that was back when I bought all the Batman titles -- Batman, Detective Comics, Brave and the Bold -- and back when I bought any given title with the intention of buying them all until the book was canceled.

Touting the book as "the first Batman ongoing since 1940" was a way to entice those readers who must have a book from issue one. Okay, for me, it worked. I don't remember the "Shaman" story arc specifically, but the creative team, Denny O'Neil and Ed Hannigan, was appealing. Also appealing was the series-of-mini-series approach, with top creative teams on board for limited arcs.

I particularly liked the way it handled continuity. It wasn't so much "These stories are not in continuity" as it was, "You decide." If you wanted them to be, they were; if you didn't,  they weren't -- at any rate, we're just telling good stories here. I wish that approach took hold across a broader array of titles. 

It should also be noted that the length of these story arcs was natural. Unlike many multi-issue stories today they weren't padded to sell more books.

I was reading it from the beginning, and kept up with it regularly through the 20s, I think, when I started being more choosy about which I'd pick up and which I wouldn't. (And eventually it largely fell of my radar entirely.)

That first issue's overcover -- was it four different versions? -- felt like a cash grab -- but there was nothing about the story that did. Shaman didn't knock me out (and I really don't have any other impressions of it at this point), but it stuck me as solid, honest storytelling. Gothic made a bigger impression on me. After that came Venom, correct...? And we all know what that led to. 

The series -- originally pretty consistently set in the very early days of Batman -- struck me as always in danger of becoming "How Batman Got His Favorite Keychain for the Batmobile" -- but never quite veered into that esoteric territory in the issues I read. Ultimately, it was whatever the creators brought to it, and they all worked to impress.

I wasn't anywhere near an LCS when LOTDK started.  I was reading Batman and Detective at the time, so I was aware of the existence of it, but it would be years later before I had a chance to read it.  I think that the younger me would not have had much patience with a Bat title that was not exactly in continuity and had 5 parts arcs in the first twenty issues, but that stuff doesn't bother me as much anymore.

Shaman is a good story, but not a great one.  The artwork by Ed Hannigan and John Beatty is well done.  It felt a little stretched out and convoluted at times; to me, it probably would have been a lot better as a two or three parter.  I felt a lot of the twists were not that shocking and there seems to be a few coincidences that are chalked up as deduction of Bruce's part.  But overall, it was an enjoyable enough tale of Batman's early days, as it was nice to see Bruce still learning and not supremely confident in his abilities just yet.  Really, it's just a treat to see things at this point in Batman's career not through the lens of Frank Miller.

If it seems like I'm damning Shaman with faint praise, it's only because I consider the next two arcs to be superb.  That would be Gothic of course by Grant Morrison and Klaus Janson and also Prey by Doug Moench, Paul Gulacy, and Terry Austin.  I haven't read Venom and I don't remember anything about Faith, but I recall enjoying Flyer quite a bit.  Jason, that would take you to issue 26; if you get a chance, I recommend reading Faces (LOTDK 28-30) by Matt Wagner and Blades (LOTDK 32-34) by James Robinson and Tim Sale.

Like others I bought LotDK from the start. Bought all colours of the rainbow for the first issue. Bought just about every issue for the first hundred and then selective issues after that.

But I feel in hindsight I was sold a bill of goods. 

I don't appreciate hearing that all those issues I bought at full cover can be got for a song. I'd rather people keep that to themselves. It seems sadistic--sticking the knife in and twisting it.

While they might have said that LotDK was just legends and not anchored in continuity, I wrote into the book asking why every story was attached somehow to the Year One version of Batman. If it was just legends--then creators ought to have had the right to tell any story they wanted to tell. I found it hard to credit that every single writer and artist only wanted to tell stories about the Year One Batman. Surely the editor was mandating that the stories had to be in that continuity. And many changes to Batman's past effected by LotDK did stick--so they weren't really just legends.

They made a big deal about the title being the first new Batman title in a donkey's age. That was a bit of slight of hand--and even it was true in a very coy fashion--it didn't hold true for long. It was one more step in DC fooling people into buying comics because they thought they would be collectible and one more step in DC monopolizing on the Batman name to sell those comics.

Yes the book had great quality--but it kind of goes to prove the point that great quailty doesn't make comics collectible. Printing comics on bad paper that degrades--doing misprints and recalling comics--printing only a limited run--those are the kinds of things that actualy make comics collectible.

And in the end it didn't prove to be the third leg of the Batman franchise--as it was cancelled long before it reached the kind of high numbers that BATMAN and DETECTIVE attained.

So while I enjoyed LotDK, it leaves a bad aftertaste--as I feel it never really came clean about what it wanted to be. I would put THE BATMAN ADVENTURES and THE BATMAN & ROBIN ADVENTURES well ahead of it. Because those comics were exactly what they represented themselves as being and they delivered a lot more than what one would have expected without smug pretense.

The one thing that no one has seem to mention was that LotDK was supposed to take place before Batman met Robin, though I think that wasn't always clear. Not sure how in continuity the stories were supposed to be but some did resonated throughout the Bat-corner of the DCU.

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