Batman: Tales of the Demon by Dennis O'Neil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Way back in the ‘70s when I was a kid who rode his pet dinosaur to school I started reading comic books. One of my favorites was a super-sized Batman collection that featured his first encounter with Ra’s al Ghul, and I probably reread it at least a hundred times. Later, when I was in my 20s, a broken water pipe at my parent’s house soaked some stuff I had stored with them, and that comic was one of the things that was ruined. Oh, and that book which had sold for $2 originally now goes for around $150. More’s the pity.
I didn’t fully appreciate how important that book was in my journey to full blown comic book nerd until much later. Not only was it the introduction of a major Batman villain, but it also came at a time when Denny O’Neil was in the middle of rehabbing the Caped Crusader’s image after he’d become a symbol of camp goofiness. As a stupid kid all I knew of Batman came from Superfriends cartoon and Adam West TV show. So this darker, more adult version of crime fighter driven by childhood trauma was shocking to me.
I also didn’t realize until later how the Neal Adams art locked an image in my brain that became the default setting of MY Batman. To this day that’s what I measure all other versions against.
Revisiting the story after all these years was a treat, and I was shocked at how so many of the panels were burned into my brain. This has some additional early Ra’s stories as well, and while I still think the ones with Adams’ art are the best there’s a lot of fun stuff here courtesy of O’Neil’s writing.
There’s some dated ‘70s silliness to the stories, but this was an important transition phase from the days of Batman using a handy can of shark repellent to the super gritty Dark Knight Returns. It was a great stroll down memory lane for me, and I won’t be storing this copy under any water pipes.
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