Last night I read comic. And you might think, “there’s nothing particularly remarkable about that, Ed”. You’d usually be right, but I’ve been reading this one for almost 50 years!
And I’m not sure if that length of time deserves a Tempus fugit, a “yikes” or a just a “Gulp!”.
Batman #239, published in 1971. is one of those quintessential comic book Christmas stories. The lead story from this issue is by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick (such an under-rated Batman artist) and Dick Giordano. The Neal Adams cover is intriguing now, and you can only imagine how intriguing it was to my eight-year-old self back in the day.
Back then, we were all kind of graduating from the Batman TV show into more serious comics and a more serious Batman. The Batman of this issue is stripped down – there’s no Robin, Alfred, no Bruce Wayne, no Batcave, no villain (not really) and the Batmobile of the day barely makes an appearance. And then the car gets stuck in the snow!
The story is straightforward: Batman’s on the trail of someone who’s been stealing charity change from Gotham City’s volunteer Santas. Instead of finding a maniacal villain, Batman confronts an ordinary guy who is at the end of his rope. The antagonist is struggling with his personal economic downturn.
It’s a sweet story. In fact, in the world of 2019, as so many struggle with heart-wrenching economic issues, it’s more relevant than ever.
I started reading this story the year it came out and re-reading it on Christmas Eve has become a sort of personal tradition. There’s a bunch of other great comic books in my “Christmas Comics Collection”, but this treasure is number one for me.
As a bonus, this issue also features a 1942 reprint (from Batman #15) 1942) entitled “The Loneliest Men in the World”, by Don Cameron, Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson and George Roussos. Of note: it’s one of the earliest stories in the Batman ongoing series not written by Bat-Co-creator Bill Finger.