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.