One Batman Too Many!

Last week, I took another look at one of my favorite comics from when I was a kid, and I gotta say: “Unintended Consequences” really holds up. Admittedly, it holds up more like a Road House than a Die Hard, but it’s still a fun, highly enjoyable story with a lot to like about it.

Unfortunately, not all of my childhood favorites can say the same.

 

 

Case in point: The two part saga of Tommy Carma that ran in Batman #402 and 403, by Max Alan Collins with Jim Starlin on art.

Obviously, these issues came out about two years before Batman started throwing car batteries around in #425–and they have the distinction of being the last Batman stories before Miller and Mazzucchelli showed up to drop Batman: Year One and make everybody else look like slackers–but I vividly remember reading “Diplomat’s Son” first. I might just be misremembering, but then again, there’s a shop where I live that has comics from three years ago on its new release wall, so who knows?

Point is: They are not very good, especially considering that they were written by man who created Wild Dog. Twenty years ago, however, I thought these things were awesome. Which probably has a lot to do with the fact that they’re probably the most violent comics you could get at the Ameristop convenience store in 1987.

 

 

Interestingly enough, the sound of Batman breaking someone’s neck is exactly the same noise that Curly Howard makes when Moe pokes Larry in the eyes.

Oh relax: It’s not actually Batman. And if that fact wasn’t made abundantly clear by the fact that he’s handing out the death penalty on Gotham City’s thriving mugger population, it should be a few pages later when the ersatz Dark Knight returns to his lair:

 

 

Even at six years old, I knew the real Batman did not rock a bright yellow pompadour.

So say hello to Tommy Carma. To make a long story short, Tommy here was an overzealous cop who idolized Batman and went right off the deep end when his wife and daughter were killed by a car-bomb meant to keep him from testifying. Cut to a few years later, and he’s roaming around the city in a Batman costume taking out every crook that crossed him while he was on the force.

Like I said, it’s by no means a good story, but it does make an interesting commentary on hero worship and the lines Batman–the real one–will and won’t cross in his vigilante war on crime.

Incidentally? While murder’s right out, that line completely allows for making someone think about their dead daughter and then punching the living shit out of them:

 

 

It’s just how Batman rolls.

And the second issue’s even crazier.

This time around, Collins is joined by Denys Cowan–of The Question–who opens the book showing Tommy in a full-on hallucination, battling Two-Face and the Joker with some of the worst one-liners of all time:

 

 

As bad as that is, I actually really like it. I mean, of course his fight banter’s not going to be any good: He’s not the real Batman.

Unfortunately for Tommy–and Barbara Gordon, Jason Todd, Sarah Essen and about six thousand other Gothamites–he’s not actually killing the Joker, but instead going crazy on a couple of orderlies at Arkham:

 

 

Thus, young Chris learned an intense distrust of men in sleeveless half-shirts that lasts to this day.

Anyway, Tommy pulls off the unheard-of feat of actually escaping from Arkham Asylum, which–in a coincidence that even young Chris thought was bullshit–is right next to Wayne Manor. And when Tommy finds a cave that he uses to hide from the cops, it ends up leading right to… oh, you know where this is going:

 

 

So yeah: From here on out, it’s pretty much the exact same story. Tommy’s dressed as Batman and on the streets looking for revenge and Batman once again shows that violence makes the most efficient problem-solver:

 

 

 

 

Batman is cooler than cool. And that’s ice cold.

And that’s all for Tommy Carma. Well, theoretically, anyway: At the end of the story, Batman walks off into the sunset with him and promises to get him some help. Which, now that I think of it, is exactly how he got into this mess to begin with, but as far as I know, he was never heard from again. And really, that’s a shame.

I mean, this might just be the nostalgia talking, but come on: That Grant Morrison story from a few months ago with the three evil Batmen who had been Gotham City cops before they went over the edge? That would’ve been perfect.

36 thoughts on “One Batman Too Many!

  1. Love the Cowan “I’m crazy havin’ hallucination” decor. I remember these books-and totally ignored them at the time and bought the Miller/Mazzuchelli ones. So that’s what it was about.

  2. You picked some good examples of why comics used to ship on time: no backgrounds. Honestly, are Batman and Batman fighting is sort of orange and pink void? Gotham’s infamous Void district?

  3. If Arkham really was right next to stately Wayne Manor, you’d think Batman would have a more decent response time to breakouts. Save gas on the commute, at any rate.

  4. He would but he has to take half an hour so no one realizes Batman’s running out the front door of stately Wayne Manor to respond to Arkham breakouts. As I recall being able to respond to them faster since he didn’t have to cover for his identity was a major factor in the penthouse era.

  5. Backgrounds or no, I love Cowan’s art, especially the psychadelic hallucination stuff.

    Collins’ scripts, OTOH — ugh.

  6. This story didn’t take place in the Silver Age, so of course it means nothing to Morrison. I doubt if he even thinks Batman was published after 1973 until he took up the reins.

  7. These two comics were packaged with a third that I can’t recall and sold together at Toys-’R'-Us in the eighties. I remember they had a million of them, so they were still selling them years after they came out. Three of the Marvel Secret Wars comics were sold this way too. Some of the first comics I ever bought.

  8. Arkham Asylum, which–in a coincidence that even young Chris thought was bullshit–is right next to Wayne Manor.

    Also right next to Wayne Manor: Moe’s Tavern and the Kwik-E-Mart.

    But only sometimes.

  9. Perhaps Stately Wayne Manor is like the Black Fortress in Krull, and moves randomly at daybreak.

  10. Oh come on, you guys! Everybody knows that Arkham is located on Mersey Island in West-Central Gotham, but Wayne Manor is all the way on the mainland in Bristol, well over the Sprang bridge!

    Or am I the only one who owns the West End Games guide to Gotham City?

    …hm?

    Oh. Well then nevermind.

  11. Thar, Max Allan Collins BLOWS! How about the freaky scene where Tommy’s mother keels over after saying “you’re not the Batman…”

    Dug the Starlin art, though.

  12. It is always wise to distrust men in sleeveless half shirts. Always.

    And I did have some West End games stuff at one point (it was sooo cool back in the day) but I don’t know that I ever had the Gotham map. And I sadly have none of it now.

    Hmmm…wonder if it’s on ebay…

  13. I believe that Tommy Carma appeared in the first issue of Morrison’s run, wasn’t he the cop that shot the Joker ?

  14. Morrison’s drawing on several old Batman stories for his run, so I wouldn’t be surprised if this influenced the three evil Batmen that appeared recently, even if none of them were specifically Tommy Carma. Or possibly not. Someone impersonating Batman and going too far seems like a pretty natural concept.

  15. He’s lucky he tried this in Gotham instead of New York. Sure, he got the crap kicked out of him and was on the receiving end of a couple of lines of ice-cold Bat-Banter, but if he’d tried this with Frank Castle he’d have ended up shot in the face a couple times.

  16. Except that when impersonating the Punisher, there’s no such thing as going too far.

  17. I remember buying these back issues and being absolutely amazed that Collins- a talented writer who obviously had a lot of love for Batman, judging by the essays he wrote at the back of the issues- chose to tell the same story, two issues in a row. To this day, I’m not sure what effect he was going for.

  18. I hate those MAC stories, especially the change to Jason’s origin. He was always such a good boy . . . also, I loved the anniversary issue of Detective Comics, 526, that introduced him as Robin.

    Talking of Detective Comics anniversaries and Denys Cowan art, didn’t Bats also make some promise to help someone whose life he’d ruined at the end of Blind Justice, in issue 600? And it meant nothing, NOTHING!

  19. I have the 1st of those 2 and had no idea the story was continued.
    And, now that I’ve seen part 2, the fact is it didn’t have to be.

  20. Actually, Chuck Dixon wrote a story where some jackass fat postal worker was inspired to impersonate the Punisher… and got shot and killed by the first thug he drew on.

  21. To be fair to Postal Punisher, he was one of like SIX guys running around as the Punisher after “Suicide Run”. Not counting Payback. I’m probably the only person who liked him…