Bat Signal

Issue 552 – “A Stump Grows in Gotham”

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I’ve talked about comics a lot on this site. I love them, especially superhero stories. But so far, I’ve mainly talked about Marvel comics. I’m definitely a Marvel guy, they just click with me more than the DC heroes, plus I have a subscription to the Marvel Unlimited service which lets me check out loads of crazy old Marvel comics. And honestly, there’s a lot of gaps in my DC knowledge, mainly because they don’t have a similar service that would let me plow through crazy back issues of the characters. And there’s one character in particular that I would love to dive into. Batman. For most of my life I would have probably said he was my favorite superhero, and now he’s really only second to Daredevil. But, to be honest, I haven’t read that many Batman comics. I love the Batman movies, the 60’s show, and the 90’s animated series. And what I’ve read of Batman comics I’ve generally really enjoyed. But it’s a pittance of the thousands of comics that Bruce Wayne has graced. So I’ve decided to change that, and really get into the character. And of course, since I like ridiculous projects that I can chronicle on this site, I decided to go about reading Batman comics in the most complicated way possible. I’m going to randomly select them, with no context for the issues surrounding them, and just enjoy completely random issues, as if I had just pulled out books from a quarter box at a comic shop. I’m narrowing my focus, for now, with just Detective Comics, and have plugged the issues into a random number generator, and will just grab whatever story that gives me. From issue 27 (Batman’s first appearance) to the destruction of the company with the formation of the New 52 in issue 883, I’ll take a look at whatever weird story I come across from the Dark Knight.

And here’s the first go!

My first results was issue #552, which had a Batman story in it called “A Stump Grows in Gotham.” And really, right from the cover I was excited. I’m sure my first issue could have been a really weird one from the 50’s or something, but nope, I got a fun one from the 80’s that features Batman punching some dudes in a cemetery. How could that not be fun? And fun it was, although I was kind of worried for a while.

The issue starts off with Alfred reading a newspaper, that had a front page story about how some land developers wanted to chop down a tree. Slow news day. But it was apparently written by his daughter, which I assumed would have been explained in previous issues, but hey, maybe I’ll get there someday. Being confused by missing information that’s readily available in previous issues is kind of the gist of this series. Anyway, we learn about the tree, and that it’s been cut down and turned into lumber that will be used to make coffins. But whatever, let’s get to Batman!

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There we go. Batman is patrolling Gotham, looking for a Bostonian thug, named Cutter, who is visiting Gotham. Apparently Cutter is just wandering around, approaching all the gangsters in town, and trying to convince them that if they give him $1,000 a month for the rest of their lives, he’ll kill Batman for them. As if no one in Gotham had had that idea before. But Batman overhears this plan, and decided to screw with Cutter in a wonderful prank. He heads to the Batcave to make a potion that will make it look like he’s dead. He then colors his hair red, and does something to “change the structure” of his face. He then wanders off into the night, as a weird ginger, and comes across Cutter. He has a lame fight with him, where Batman takes a quick dive, and makes it look like he just broke his neck on the tree he fell on. So Cutter grabs Batman’s body, sees that he’s a weird redhead he doesn’t recognize, and goes to find a coffin. He gets the coffin that was made from the tree from earlier, and calls up all the gangsters, telling them to come see what he accomplished. So all the gangsters meet in the cemetery, to see if Cutter made good on his promise. And as they all gather around, this happens:

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Hell yes! Batman just bursts out of a coffin, and immediately starts kicking everyone’s ass. Cutter did him a favor by gathering all the shitty gangsters in Gotham who would be willing to kill Batman in one place, so he decided to fake his death and dye his hair to beat them up. He comes flying out of the coffin and just stars beating them all, until every single gangster has been knocked unconscious and tossed in the grave that they dug for him. I guess Batman will then call the cops? I’m not sure, it’s not really brought up, he maybe just did this to kick their asses. Robin shows up and mentions that he got them all on tape, so there’s evidence against them, but Batman really just seemed to want to mess with them more than anything. Which is great.

Now, the issue then had a weird backup story with Green Arrow, where he got himself arrested and put in a jail full of refugees from El Salvador just to bust them all out. It was kind of amusing, but this is about Batman, so who cares about Green Arrow. And what a fun Batman story it was. I had always assumed the 80’s were a pretty dour time for the Caped Crusader, and who knows, maybe further installments of this series will show that to be true, but I definately didn’t expect such a goofy story from this issue. Batman made himself a ginger, faked his death, and burst out of a coffin to beat the bejesus out of some gangsters…for fun? That’s some great superheroics right there. I can only hope that I keep getting stories of this caliber in the future.

The plan is to put one of these up every Sunday, and I’ll try to stick to that. Who knows, maybe I’ll make them more frequent, and maybe I’ll add in other series, like the main Batman one, but for now I think just sticking to Detective Comics is the best bet. So see you next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-website!

Detective Comics #552: “A Stump Grows in Gotham,” was written by Doug Moench and drawn by Pat Broderick and Bob Smith, 1985.

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