Basement Party 2

Basement Party 2

Friday, March 23, 2012

Off the (Spinner) Rack 1 - My Comic Collecting "Secret Origin"/Batman #430

Welcome to the inaugural edition of my new semi-regular column about comic books I'm currently reading and old memories of collecting that I like to call "Off the (Spinner) Rack."

Hey kids, remember these? I'm lucky enough to have a vintage one in my office.
The first comics I ever received were a pile of about five Marvel Comics from 1986. The titles included Conan, Transformers, GI Joe, the Avengers, and the Incredible Hulk. My mom bought them for me to keep me occupied during a road trip to visit my grandparents in Florida when I was in first grade, April of 1987, for spring break. Driving from MI to the Orlando area is a good 20 hour trip, and I needed all the diversions I could get.

In hindsight, the comics must have been from a multi-pack, where 3 or more comics would be bundled together and sold (in a sealed plastic bag). It also seemed like the comics featured more of their licensed properties than actual Marvel characters, which might have made the multi-pack more appealing to a mass market. All 5 comics were cover dated Novemeber 1986, when every Marvel comic published that month was given a company-wide trade dress featuring many of their well-known properties. The pic below is a sampling of what some of those covers looked like that month.

I can remember studying those multi-character covers for hours. They are definitely a time-capsule for how the heroes looked in the mid '80s.
Flash forward 1.5 years, to the fall of 1988, when my official phase of collecting had gotten underway. While I loved the comics mom bought me in first grade and spent hours poring over them (that Conan one was pretty gory in retrospect!), I didn't actually start collecting them on a regular basis until 3rd grade. And what got me into regular collecting you ask? That will be a story for another time. But the first Batman comic I ever read was issue #430, which I just reread the other day. The story title? "Fatal Wish."

I can remember mistaking the perspective of Batman walking on a ledge in the city for a giant Batman stalking through the streets! I purchased this at a party store, not far from Gun Lake, where my dad kept our pontoon boat.

The story is a good one, and an excellent intro for an 8 year old into the world of Batman. In it, Batman has to stop a disgruntled banker turned sniper. At one point early on the sniper (named Tim Conrad) yells "I wish you were all dead!" At that moment, Batman has a flashback to a child on the verge of adolescence.

The story then reveals that in the days leading up to the death of his parents, his father, Thomas Wayne, had suffered some financial set-backs. Because of this, one day a frustrated Thomas lashed out at Bruce, striking him with the back of his hand. Bruce was then consoled by his mother Martha, who told him his father didn't mean it. Bruce then yells something out of anger he would later come to regret: "I wish he was dead!"

Father and son eventually made up, and as a peace offering Thomas decided to take Bruce and Martha out to the movies to see "The Mark of Zorro." Those of you familiar with Batman's origin probably see where this is going...walking out of the movie, a thug named Joe Chill attempts a robbery, kills his parents, and the rest is history. The reason they went to the movie could indirectly be traced back to Thomas becoming angry with Bruce.

This issue was also setting up the new status quo for the character, as the previous 4 issues were part of the storyline "A Death In the Family," which featured the Joker killing the second Robin, Jason Todd. When Batman arrives on the scene at the beginning, Commissioner Gordon asks him if Robin is coming tonight, to which Batman lowers his head and quietly says "no." Gordon then asks him if something is wrong, and again Batman quietly says "no." Powerful stuff.

Looking back, that first issue of Batman I ever picked up was a great way to get started in the world of Batman. The origin was retold and a new status quo, with Batman going out without a Robin by his side, was set firmly in place. It also featured art by legendary Batman artist Jim Aparo, whose rendition of the character will always be the most definitive. The following summer the Batman movie came out, featuring Michael Keaton. The summer of the bat was soon to be upon me. But that's a story for another time.


  1. I've got that issue of Batman. Starlin's run was great. I've got some gaps in my collection from that period, but that was definitely a creative high-point in the Batman mythos.

    However, i do have all of Jason Todd's appearances in the main Batman book from his introduction post-Crisis to Death in the Family. Those are some of my favorite stories right there.

    I remember when I read #430 and the "no" responses chilled me to the bone!

  2. My favorite Batman story by Starlin is "The Cult."

  3. I almost forgot, #430 also has a scene where Gordon admits he has "speculations" as to what motivates Batman, kind of implying that he might know his identity. Epic!

  4. Wasn't it in No Man's Land where Bats was going to reveal his identity to Gordon, but Gordon refused to look at his face and said something to the effect of "I'm not stupid. If I wanted to know who you were I would have by now" or something like that. Pretty much implying that he already knows Bruce is Batman.

  5. I do remember that scene. So close. Gordon knows that it has to remain unsaid between them.

  6. I dunno man, I think it can go both ways. I'm in the "Gordon Knows" camp. There's been lots of little hints over the years that suggest it.