Notes from the Future: Batman #1035
Dateline: 15 May, 2039
It’s been a solid 100 years since the first appearance in print of Batman (whom I believe was called The Bat-Man at the time, for anyone who actually cares about the definite article and the long-forgotten hyphen after all these years. I certainly don’t, but I figure if I don’t mention it, someone will “correct” me and at my advanced age I really don’t need the heartburn from being “set straight” on a stupid detail such as that.)
Today I managed to download a copy of Batman #1035. I hear rumors that DC still sells about 1000 copies a month in hardcopy, to people who order them through the mail or else go down to the local comic shop and browse through the paper-and-ink versions on the “Just In” rack instead of spending their money on DVD archives of five hundred issues of one thing or another, at a stretch, or else the CD-ROM updates that only include about one year’s worth of everything, at a stretch. Personally, I prefer to pay the subscription fee, download the silly things, and print out some of them on my quantum documaterializer if I really want to feel the thrill of flipping the pages over as I go along.
Well, they’ve finally wrapped up “Batman: The Manhunt,” the year-long quest for the Killer of Robin. (Technically the Tenth Robin.)
For those of who came in late, here’s a quick rundown on the fates of the various Robins.
The first Robin is now Nightwing.
The second Robin has died several times, and was dead once again when last heard from..
The third Robin was last seen in an alternate timeline which he liked a heck of a lot better than the mainstream one, and he announced he wasn’t coming back.
The fourth Robin has been dead since 2004.
The fifth Robin never had Batman’s permission to use the name, and eventually gave it up.
The sixth Robin was killed in 2018 by Lady Shiva.
The seventh Robin fought the good fight for about eighteen months, and then a new writer came along who didn’t care for her, and she has simply never been referred to again in dialogue in any Batman-related comic book. Very few people seem to miss her.
The eighth Robin was killed by the Joker. (At that point, it had been nearly twenty years since the Joker had killed anyone who was really “important” in Batman’s continuity, and apparently an editor decided it was about time to remind people of just how dangerous the Clown Prince of Crime can really be.)
The ninth Robin eloped with the fifth Wonder Girl. (Which broke the heart of the sixth Batgirl, and she just hasn’t been the same since then.)
The tenth Robin had several good years until he died so that we could see just how vicious Anthropophagus really was. I know he’s a new villain, and I know he’s got to prove he’s meaner than most, but I ask you, was it really necessary for him to pull a Sweeney Todd and run poor Robin through a giant sausage grinder? He could at least have put the kid of out his misery with a bullet before he started grinding him up, couldn’t he? And serving the sausages at a charity dinner hosted by the Wayne Foundation was really a bit too much.
What really got under my skin, though, was the fact that Bruce Wayne actually took a bite out of one of those sausages before Anthropophagus publicly announced just what was in them. Now that ain’t right!
Batman agreed with me. In the twelve months following that vile event, all of the Batman titles have been dedicated to the ongoing huge crossover, “The Manhunt.” Batman has let any other case slide (or farmed it out to other, second-string superheroes). Heck, DC even found excuses to have tie-ins in other comics featuring anybody who’s ever trained under Batman and just about anybody who’s ever called themselves “Manhunter” (including the Martian Manhunter! But even without him, and even ignoring those crazy robots, how many other Manhunter characters have there been in DCU continuity up through today? Twenty-eight? I think at least eleven of them got in on this.)
And all through these dozens of installments, the various writers involved have steadily dropped hints that Anthropophagus is someone out of Batman’s past; someone who knows a great deal about him; someone who feels he has a personal grudge against him.
A lot of people were afraid it would be one of the former Robins (or other sidekicks, stand-ins, etc. of the Caped Crusader). There was general agreement that it wouldn’t be Tim Drake, and we knew Dick Grayson was still going strong as Nightwing as the leader of the proud group who star in the monthly title, Titans Who Still Pretend to be Teens!
There was strong fear that it would be The Seventh Return of Jason Todd. Or, failing that, The Fourth Return of Bill Mbenga (Robin VI). Maybe even The Third Return of Jean Paul Valley. The First Return of Stephanie Brown was also mentioned as an outside possibility, given that she’s been dead ever since 2004, but it didn’t happen this time either. She would have had to heavily disguise herself to look like such a brawny man as Anthropophagus appears to be, but stranger things have happened . . .
I personally favored the idea that it would be the First Return, or else the First Reboot, of Anton Knight, aka the Night-Thief, aka the Thief of Night, aka the Night-Slayer, aka the Slayer of Night. He was a regular participant in the Bat-titles in Doug Moench’s first run as a Bat-writer back in the mid-1980s, and he’s never been heard from since. Since I seem to be practically the only person left in 2038 who even remembers (or cares about) those old stories, I was definitely going against the trend by predicting this. I took comfort in the knowledge that if I were right, I’d look like a prophet!
Well, I was wrong. Brace yourselves!
For the first half of this comic, it looks very much as if Anthrophagus has simply been a new name and outfit for the Outsider, the villainous incarnation of Alfred Pennyworth from back around the mid-1960s or thereabouts. But this turned out to be a false alarm.
But instead, it was the First Reboot of Thomas Wayne, Junior! Bruce Wayne’s long-lost somewhat brain-damaged older brother whom he never knew he had! A modified version of a character created by Bob Haney in a couple of “World’s Finest” stories way back in the 1970s. The character was killed off in his second appearance, and then hastily swept under the rug and forgotten.
I must say that if you accept the basic concept of Batman fighting a cannibal who actually succeeds in killing and eating “regular characters,” then this story was exceedingly well-written. Although the ending was not all that we might have hoped for. He’s shipping the guy off to the Twentieth Arkham Asylum? (The previous nineteen having been obliterated by huge explosions and such, at one time or another over the years?) What good does he expect that to do?
Then it hit me. Given this guy’s taste for human flesh, sooner or later you just know he’ll manage to get out of his cell. Maybe Batman is taking the calculated risk that this guy, who likes “high-profile” targets, will manage to take out the Joker or Two-Face this time? I always knew Batman’s current “kinder, gentler” pose had to be an act.
And just in case I still need to say it after all this:
That's all well and good, but I want to know how Superman's doing in 2039. (*How* many reboots between now and then?!). ;-)
"Kinder, gentler" act? Wonder what became of the "badass" humorless jerk Batman---aren't there any older fans nostalgic for the days when he'd tell Superman the only time he inspired anyone was when he was dead, or created spy satellites that backfired hideously, or belittled various other heroes in a manner reminiscent of Daffy Duck? ;-)