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This Batman Halloween Classic Has Accidentally Crossed Over Into the Marvel Universe

An Epic Batman Halloween Story Involve The Marvel Universe!

A Still From Batman Halloween Story
A Still From Batman Halloween Story

Today, we witness the huge Batman Halloween plot, which also involves the Marvel Universe covertly! This is “Look Back,” where every four weeks I will highlight and discuss a single issue of a comic book from the past (often in terms of a larger scale, like the entire series, etc.). Each focus will look at a comic book from a different year that was released in the same month X years ago. The first focus of the month looks at a book that was published 10 years ago this month. The second focus looks at a book that was published 25 years ago this month. The third focus looks at a novel that was published 50 years ago this month. The fourth focus looks at a book that was published 75 years ago this month. The odd fifth week (we look at weeks widely, so if a month includes five Sundays or five Saturdays, it counts as having a fifth week) examines works published 20/30/40/60/70/80 years ago.

 Batman issue 237 By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams & Dick Giordano:

Batman issue 237 By Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams & Dick Giordano
Batman issue 237 By Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams & Dick Giordano

Today, we return to October 1971 for Batman #237, written by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano (based on separate ideas by Bernie Wrighton and Harlan Ellison). The issue is one of the first in a series of quasi-crossovers between DC and Marvel featuring the Rutland, Vermont Halloween Parade. The Rutland, Vermont Halloween March was organized by comic book lover Tom Fagan (who unfortunately died away in 2008), and because Fagan was into superhero books, he was able to convince the parade to take on a superhero bent. This was way before individuals dressed up as superheroes became common, so it was a huge deal in the comic book world in the late 1960s/early 1970s, and a lot of comic book authors admired what was going on there. The parade was mentioned in comics as early as the letter section in Detective Comics #327 in 1964, which was also the first “New Look” Batman issue…

The parade first appeared in comic books in Avengers #83 in 1970. (by Roy Thomas, John Buscema and Tom Palmer). Fagan notoriously donned a Batman costume for the parade on a regular basis, so in this issue, he’s pictured sporting a Nighthawk suit…

Roy Thomas Revisited Rutland In 1971 In A Marvel Comic:

Roy Thomas returned to Rutland in a Marvel comic in 1971, but so did Denny O’Neil, and O’Neil detailed the origins of the issue in an extended article in the magazine’s letter section, which claimed that a group of comic book professionals went to the parade and afterwards… At one point, Al Weiss and Gerry Conway were involved. Berni Wrightson, Eliot Wagner, and I ended ourselves in the woods. I’d say it was around midnight. Except for the rare trillings, mild stirrings, and distant sounds that may have been whistles, wheezes, or moans, it was quiet. And it’s dark. The eye was so black that it imagined strange things that loomed in the night, yearning for anything to appear. “Do you recall that strange man from the party?” Berni inquired. “Who’s that orange-wigged cat?” Sure, we replied. “What if he’s a serial killer?” Is he insane? And what if he dislikes comic book artists and writers? And what if he’s already creeping through the trees?” We could hear the rustling, the stirrings… Later, when we were back in the centre of the revellers after a really remarkable sprint, I assured Bern that I’d exploit his cruel fantasy as a Batman storyline. A few weeks ago, my friend and distinguished science-fiction writer Harlan Ellison recommended I create a novella about Nazi war criminals. I combined Harlan’s and Berni’s ideas, and presto! “The Reaper’s Night!” The most of the credit, though, should go to Tom Fagan and the people of Rutland. Man, That was a fantastic weekend! Peace —DENNY O’NEIL

The issue has a stunning Neal Adams cover:

It begins with Dick Grayson (in a Robin “costume”) hanging out with Weiss, Wrightson, and Gerry Conway at the parade, which features both Marvel and DC characters (plus Captain Marvel from Fawcett Comics)

The young guys are eventually attacked, and when Robin investigates, he is ambushed by a man costumed as the Grim Reaper. He falls and injures himself, and Batman assists him by bringing him to a local doctor, who tells him that a Nazi war criminal is hiding out in the region (and that some of his old Nazi cronies are trying to track him down in search of the gold he brought with him when he fled Germany). Those Nazi goons are most likely the ones that beat up Robin and his buddies.

While on the hunt for the Nazi war criminal, Batman meets Fagan and other comic book authors, with O’Neil himself chatting to a guy costumed as Thor on this page, while Len Wein mocks the guy who is a Spider-Man fan…

The Nazi war criminal is slain by his own Nazis, but Batman discovers that the Reaper is the doctor, who had sent the Nazis’ old pals here to kill him but then opted to take a more personal approach, killing former Nazis. Adams’ portrayal of the Holocaust flashback is breathtaking…

Despite Batman’s knowledge of the truth, the doctor attempts to flee, but when he nearly kills a young Jewish man in his escape, he realizes how far he has gone and instead falls to his own death…

What a beautiful comic book narrative, and what a clever concept by O’Neil to blend the two themes into one! Alan Stewart (who has a blog on 50-year-old comics) did a lengthy feature on this issue.

 

 

 

Azhan Ali
Azhan Ali

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