Greetings Gothamites, and welcome back to another edition of Gotham Gazette, our monthly look at some of the most notable events going on in Batman’s world.
Did you read last month’s Detective Comics Annual #2? Along with offering a compelling look at what sets Batman apart from most of your street vigilantes looked for “justice,” it was a great blast from the past. During the story, Batman discovers that a group of European criminals are being murdered by the armored vigilante known as the Reaper. The only problem is, Batman fought the Reaper early in his career and he knows that the madman is dead. So, who is this new Reaper?
Some of you might be saying, “New Reaper? I don’t even know who the old one is!” Luckily for you, the old Gazette is here to fill you in on one of the darkest cases from the early days of Batman’s career. The Reaper was first seen in a Batman story from the 1980s called Batman: Year Two. Like Batman, the Reaper was a vigilante who sought to rid the streets of criminals, except he took things a bit farther than Batman did. While Batman will happily hit you in the face with his batarangs, the Reaper uses his scythe, which hurts considerably more. The Reaper’s views on killing put him up against Batman, who wanted to bring the madman to justice.
Batman’s original quest against the Reaper was a bit controversial for its time. The Dark Knight carried the handgun that had been used to kill his parents, thinking it was the only way he’d be able to stop the Reaper. Bruce also made an alliance with the underworld and found himself partnered with Joe Chill—the man who murdered his parents. (Apparently, the past was haunting Bruce even more than usual during his second year, poor guy.) Ultimately, the Reaper was unmasked as Judson Caspian, the father of Bruce’s fiancée Rachel. Judson let himself fall to his death rather then answer for his crimes, and Rachel took the whole thing really hard, calling off her engagement to Bruce and becoming a nun.
You might be thinking that the story sounds similar to the 1993 animated classic Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, and there are definitely some thematic overlaps. But let’s get back to Detective Comics Annual #2. Bruce Wayne is visibly upset to learn that someone has adopted the Reaper identity, and now that you know the backstory, can you blame him?
I had an insane geek out moment when Bruce told Alfred he’d have to check the Black Casebook. As we see Bruce take the Black Casebook off his bookshelf, did you notice the other volumes alongside it? They had me grinning ear to ear. Bruce also had leather bound editions of Gates of Gotham, A Serious House, Untold Legends, Year One and more. That’s right Gothamites, Bruce Wayne collects graphic novels of his own adventures just like we do! I wonder if he collects Funko Pops as well?
The Black Casebook is a concept from Grant Morrison’s epic run on Batman. The idea is that Batman would use the journal to make sense of some of his wackier adventures, like his Silver Age battles with aliens or nutty transformations. Some of those stories were explained away as effects of Dr. Hurt’s deprivation chamber, or Batman hallucinating from his contact with Joker or Scarecrow gas. I prefer to think that those far-out tales happened as they were originally presented, but that’s the beauty of the Black Casebook—it’s all canon!
The story also had one of the funniest Bruce Wayne moments I’ve seen in years. While attending another boring rich person event, Bruce Wayne is approached by an overzealous fan who asks him to sign his stack of magazines. Bruce hands the young man a thick wad of cash and responds, “Here’s one thousand dollars to sign none of them.” He then tells his date for the evening that the anecdote will make a great story about Bruce Wayne’s excessive wealth. Comic-Con season is coming up, I wonder if any writers or artists might try this move.
If you’re wondering who the new Reaper is…you’re just going to have to check the rest of the story yourself. I can promise you that Batman was given a run for his money, in a great fight sequence that pushed the Dark Knight to his limits. I mean, scythes hurt, and Batman has to move fast if he doesn’t want to get hit by one. Plus, the story seems to be setting up a much larger adventure for Bruce. Something tells me this isn’t the last time the Reaper may come calling for Gotham’s finest son…
Until next time!
Joshua Lapin-Bertone writes about TV, movies and comics for DCComics.com and DCUniverse.com, is a regular contributor to the Couch Club and writes our monthly Batman column, "Gotham Gazette." Follow him on Twitter at @TBUJosh.