Weird Batman is Best Batman
When is Batman Day, again? It used to be on May 1, to celebrate the publication month for Batman’s debut in Detective Comics #27. The date was recently shifted to July 23 to better align with San Diego Comic-Con, then moved again in 2015 to September 26. Is that weird? Well, sometimes Batman is weird. Excuse yourself from his “serious” narratives and story arcs, and try out some of his most bizarre stories, listed below and available for checkout.
If this list was a competition of weirdness, then Odyssey is already wearing the crown. The book appears to be about an extended flashback relayed by Bruce Wayne in the Batcave to a mysterious guest who serves as a stand-in for the reader. It seems to try to fill the gap between Batman’s earliest stories where he wielded guns and when the stories took on a sci-fi bent that would put Strange Tales to shame. However, these are attempts to bring order to what is really one of the most maddeningly bizarre Batman stories ever made. Bruce Wayne’s narration scenes feature him shirtless, hairy, smiling towards you, the reader, and holding a banana. Robin crashes a pterodactyl while receiving a phone message and Batman shouts, “Blast you, boy! You scared the string out of my knees!” (This is but one of many anachronistic, dad-humor-level bits of dialog.) Batman clears a crowd from a subway train by opening fire with pistols and continuing to shoot even after the crowd runs from him. I could go on, but you should really read it for yourself and let your uncontrollable laughter attract attention from the concerned people around you who up to that point lived their lives with slightly less madness than you. If you need any further proof, Comics Alliance did an issue-by-issue breakdown of the series.
Jiro Kuwata’s Bat-manga
Batman is already a dark knight facing unspeakable horrors and villainy on a daily basis; what can a manga creator throw at him that would defy the norm? A whole heck of a lot, actually, and the best part is that these stories come from the sixties, so Batman takes absolutely everything at face value as if the miracles before him just come with the job. This series has one of my favorite asides ever, in which Batman and Robin witness the burial of Lord Death Man (a man who can fake his own death, or come back to life, or something in between) and take a plane to Jamaica to celebrate. While relaxing on the beach, they hear about Lord Death Man’s latest crime spree via radio and immediately jet back to Gotham. This happens in the space of a page, and should give you an idea of how many curveballs Jiro Kuwata manages to stuff into each unbelievable chapter.
Batman of Zur-En-Arrh (from Batman RIP)
Sometimes things get so weird for Batman that he, in turn, must out-weird his environment. Grant Morrison’s run of Batman, which includes several other books, features a mental breakdown that results in the reveal of Zur-En-Arrh. Morrison writes with the assumption that all of Batman’s publication history is canon in some form or another, even if some continuity shifting must take place to make everything fit. How does he accommodate Batman’s parallel-world analog Tlano from the planet Zur-En-Arrh, introduced in 1958? Easy – he’s a backup personality Batman created in case he came under psychological attack. “I’m what you get when you take Bruce out of the equation,” he says in a garishly red, yellow, and purple version of his usual costume.
Bruce Wayne, Vampire (From Tales of the Multiverse)
This is more of a natural extension of Batman’s M.O. than anything, right? He already dresses like a bat, lives in an isolated mansion (castle), and descends upon his victims at night, preying on their fear. Just give him long teeth and a thirst for blood and be done with it! In this case, Dracula visits Gotham City and sets Batman’s new life as an undead avenger into motion for us. Doug Moench pens a pretty dramatic fall from grace over the course of three story arcs (collected in one edition), and Kelley Jones, Malcolm Jones III, and John Beatty bring everything sharp, gothic, bloody, and dark to the page to bring that vision to life.
Adam West (From Batman 66)
Any discussion of Batman’s weirdness will be unable to escape the fact that he’s plenty weird by basic definition. This list can’t really touch the legacy of a character so psychotically removed from reality yet so devoted to preserving the status quo. Wayne’s insanity is clearest to me when he’s playing the most cool – meaning, anytime Adam West dons the mantle. The formula for most Batman stories involves his vigilante style of justice bringing the police down on him, but in the Adam West days (and continued in the Batman 66 comics), he was the Gotham City Police Department’s public trump card. Penguin and Mr. Freeze float an iceberg into the harbor and declare diplomatic immunity from police intervention? Better call the caped crusader, who will dispense science factoids and civic engagement trivia while attacking the villains with banter as hard as his fists. If there’s time afterward, he might shake the police commissioner’s hand or crack a pun at home among confidantes. Would you believe that the weirdest thing anyone can do to Batman is… make him a cornball?