[30 October 2009]
PopMatters Comics Editor
In the 1998 hardback collection of Batman: The Long Halloween original series artwork is replaced by a spectacular two-page spread. This is the closing issue of the 13-part series, the second Halloween issue in the year-long mystery that consumed Batman in his early days. Readers are treated to a framing of Batman they have not seen for the entire run of the series. Here is a Batman that is standing tall, a Batman that dominates the page. A Batman that is completely in control. Yet, in keeping with the themes of The Long Halloween this is also a Batman that is dwarfed by the cityscape that stands as background. Here is a Batman that is both dominant, and daunted. The weight of an entire city seems to reach out and crush him in artist Tim Sale’s magnificent rendering.
Annotations to the 1998 hardback’s second appendix suggest that, given the prestige of the edition, editors Bob Kahan and Rick Taylor believed the story’s ending should refocus the roles the three lead characters (Bruce Wayne’s Batman, soon to be Police Commissioner Jim Gordon, and disgraced DA Harvey Dent). Writer Jeph Loeb’s original ending, wherein two monstrous serial killers (Holiday and the Calendar Man) have a battle of wills from inside glass cages at Arkham Asylum, was eventually redacted. It would be replaced with a concise retelling, in captions, of Batman’s origin story, supported by Sale’s spectacular urban vista.
Sale’s artwork elegantly summarizes the themes of The Long Halloween in a compact visual statement. This book plumbs the same depths as Frank Miller’s definitive classic Batman: Year One. More than telling the origin of Batman, the Loeb/Sale work fleshes out the reason Gotham needed a Batman. Batman was a response to pandemic gangsterism and rampant civil corruption. Ironically, these social ills were quickly quelled by the presence of the Batman. But in attempting to defeat the Batman, the Falcone crime family hired and gave free reign to the super-criminals that would eventually come to be Batman’s Rogues’ Gallery. This second scourge would be one that not even Batman could quell. Their ghosts would haunt his beloved Gotham still. In a twisted sense, the Long Halloween, the era that birthed the super-criminals, would never end.