Bat Signal

Issue 574 – “My Beginning… and My Probable End”

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Hello there everyone and welcome back for another week of Bat Signal, my ongoing project to read random issues of Detective Comics with little to no context. And I’m going to be really honest with you all right at the top. We’re in for a weird bummer today folks. I was kind of worried when I first pulled this issue and saw the cover, because I assumed that this was a part of the infamous “A Death in the Family” story, what with Batman holding a seemingly dead Robin. Luckily we don’t have to deal with that today, nor in fact will we ever because some research proved that that story happened in Batman and not Detective Comics. But that doesn’t mean that we’re completely off the hook. Because this issue is plenty weird on it’s own. I actually did a little research about this book, since it seems like such an anomaly, but I’ll get to that at the end. Needless to say I haven’t really talked about an issue like this one yet, so this is going to be a fun little experiment. So let’s get on with it and discuss this weird Batman origin story that doesn’t appear to have anything to do with the far more famous Batman origin story that was published the exact same year.

The issue starts off with some narration about the park of Gotham City that used to be known as Park Row, and inevitably came to be called Crime Alley after the brutal murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne. We see it go from one of the classier parts of the city to one of the worst, just in a matter of years. And once that exposition is done we see a couple thugs stand outside the Thomas Wayne Memorial Clinic where Dr. Leslie Thompkins practices medicine. The two men plan to head inside and rob Leslie, but their plan is ruined when Batman himself comes running up to the building, holding a prone and battered Robin. The thugs run away and Batman kicks his way into the Clinic, terrifying Leslie in the process. But as soon as she sees who it is, and the condition that Robin is in, Leslie snaps into crisis mode and starts getting to work. She also drops all pretense and starts calling Batman by his name, trying to get the full story.

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Bruce is obviously rather shook up about this whole incident. And Leslie doesn’t even try to sugar-coat it, flat out telling Bruce that it’s all his fault, and tells him that the only thing he can do is leave the room and start praying. So Bruce leaves, takes a seat in the waiting room, and starts flashing back to his parent’s murder. It’s fairly boilerplate, and really doesn’t do anything new with the story we’ve all seen a thousand times. We see Thomas and Martha bring a happy Bruce out of a movie theater, only to get stopped by Joe Chill, and shot. The only thing that seems out of the ordinary is that we see Joe Chill drop his gun, which then bounces into a bush, all of which Bruce noticed. Oh, and there’s also the fact that after the police were done with the crime scene and the bodies of the Wayne’s were carted away we see that Bruce stayed with Leslie, instead of being  brought home by Alfred like normal.

But once Bruce is done reminiscing about the worst night of his life, he’s brought back to reality by Leslie. She comes in and tells Bruce that she’s done everything she could, and now it’s just up to Jason’s will and strength. Bruce explains that Jason will be fine, since he’s a fighter, but that just gets them in a fight. Leslie admonishes Bruce for letting this child be put in situations where he could get killed by a lunatic obsessed with Alice in Wonderland. Bruce argues that this is a better life for Jason than he had before he was Robin, but Leslie isn’t buying it. She starts telling Bruce about how worried she was for him when his parents were killed, and how she kept an eye on him after the murder. We’re then shown another flashback to the night of the murder where a little Bruce escapes Leslie’s house and returns to the crime-scene, taking Joe Chill’s gun. I’m not quite sure what’s going on with that, but it’s okay because we’re about to be given another weird plot element.

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Yeah, according to this issue Leslie Thompkins became Bruce Wayne’s foster-mother, and I guess raised him with Alfred. Leslie then complains that she failed Bruce, since she tried her best to be a loving influence on him and he still ended up Batman. She remembers how angry and quick-tempered he was when he was a child, and Bruce decides to tell her stories about when he went to college. Apparently by that time in his life he already knew that he was going to try and have two different personas in life, so he started making Bruce Wayne a vapid nitwit when he went to college, blowing off classes and just generally being the biggest pain in the ass on campus.

But at night he was hitting the books, studying to become the genius that he is as Batman. And things even got so far that he started taking theater classes just to become an expert one make-up to create elaborate disguises so he could still attend classes and learn things, just not as  Bruce Wayne. And I guess it paid off, because all of those experiences help craft him into the crime-fighter that he is today. Leslie tells him that his life sounds pretty sad, which gets them into another fight where Bruce calls her life sad. The two continue to squabble like this for a while until they’re stopped by the sudden awakening of Jason. Bruce rushes to his side, ready to tell Jason that he can quit being Robin if he wants. But instead Jason just says that they have work to do and they run off into the morning, ignoring the fact that he almost just died.

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This issue is really weird. Like, really weird. So weird that I decided to do some research on it, which I usually don’t do. And what I found out ended up making this issue make less sense. This issue came out the same year as Frank Miller’s Batman Year One did over in the Batman title. That story is one of the most well-known and well-regarded origin stories that Batman has ever had, and became the agreed upon story for years to come. And yet this story came out at the tail end of it, and seems to be existing in it’s own continuity. Hell, I looked up the idea that Leslie Thompkins raised Bruce Wayne, and that’s apparently only in this story. Nowhere else took that idea, and it’s been lost to the sands of time. As it stands I guess this is a fine retelling of the Batman origin, nothing too special about it, but when you look at it from the angle of continuity, it’s just strange. It’s like this issue was in an Elseworld’s or something, since no one ever used the concepts it was introducing. I suppose the fact that we saw Bruce Wayne steal Joe Chill’s gun comes up in a later story, but overall this issue seems to take place in a weird continuity bubble, which makes for a strange and disorientating read.

“My beginning and My Probable End” was written by Mike W Barr, penciled by Alan Davis, inked by Paul Neary, colored by Adrienne Roy, and lettered by Richard Starkings, 1987.

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