DETECTIVE COMICS #514
(MAY 1982)

BATMAN'S LOST IN THE SNOW
LEN WEIN WARMS OUR HEARTS


"Haven!"
(17 pages)
Part 1 of 1

Cover pencils - Don Newton
Cover inks -
Dick Giordano
Cover colouring - Anthony Tollin

Story - Len Wein
Art - Don Newton
Inks - Frank Chiaramonte
Colours - Adrienne Roy
Lettering - John Costanza
Editor - Dick Giordano

Second feature - Batgirl, "Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth!" (8 pages)
Letters page - "Batcave" (1 page)

 
At the very core of his existence, the Batman is a creature of the night. This is, of course, made obvious by the choice of his name and the "totem animal" which inspires his appearance. It is also a consequence of what drives his very being - crime. Fighting it more often than not is a nocturnal business and takes place in the shadows of a very specific location: Gotham City. These few elements define the Batman to the extent that even people with just a fleeting knowledge of this popular culture icon will instantly associate the character with them.

Over the course of his long publication history, the Batman has seen numerous takes by different generations of writers on these defining pillars of his characterization. Prolongued straying either estranged the readers (such as the crazy sci-fi take on Batman in the 1950s and early 1960s) or only proved successful temporarily (as the TV series inspired campiness of the mid- to late-1960s) and eventually lead to successive writers taking the character back to his nocturnal and urban roots - and the latter periods have proven to be the artistically most successful periods in the Batman's existence not just in comics but other media as well.

In some ways, this also makes it attractive for writers to come up with the occasional story which takes the Darknight Detective down a different path rather than the beaten track. Usually they involve changing the location or the nocturnal background - or both (a third attempt, which regularly falls flat on its nose, is to change the individual behind the mask and cowl). During the early 1980s, writers would try to work some changes into those two parameters, and Detective Comics #514 (cover dated May 1982, on sale February 25th 1982) is one of the more successful examples of its period.

 

PLOT SUMMARY

Batman is hot on the heels of Maxie Zeus (freshly escaped from Arkham Asylum) and his goons as they try to make a getaway in their car to the Northern woodlands of Gotham City. The chase takes place in the most dismal conditions as night has fallen and it has been snowing for hours on end. In a fit of madness Zeus - who in tune with his name refers to himself as "a god" - deliberately causes his car to careen off the road, whilst Batman himself loses control over the Batmobile on the icy road too and skids over a cliff.

 
The Batmobile bursts into flames whilst the Batman takes a bad fall and finds that the severe weather is growing increasingly too much for his weakend body, and he falls to the ground, unconscious. A small sparrow sets down on his body, flies off, then returns again but this time in the company of a man who checks Batman's pulse and then shoulders the almost lifeless body.

Back in the Wayne Foundation Building, Alfred and Dick share troubled feelings as they both know that one night... the Batman will not return.

 
 
At yet another location, Zeus and his men may have managed to shake off the Batman, but they too now find themselves lost in the snowstorm and abandon their car as Zeus is certain that fate will provide them with a haven somewhere.

This is precisely the name the stranger who picked up Batman and has now taken him to the warmth of his cabin gives to an enquiring Darknight Detective - "I am simply...Haven". This mountain of a man calls nature and its animals his friends as they flock around him, including a sparrow that mysteriously found Batman. Thankful for the help received, the Darknight Detective nevertheless remembers what he came here for and soon ventures out into the cold and dark again, in spite of protests from Haven.

Out in the wilderness, however, Batman stumbles across a bear and although he manages to eventually cause the animal to tumble down a hillside the vigilante is lost again - and once more, Haven is there to help him.

 
However, upon returning to the cabin, Batman and Haven discover that Zeus and his gang have since found the place. Held at gunpoint, the two are told by Zeus to fight each other gladiator style - to the death - but Haven announces that he will never again raise his hand against a fellow man.

Provocations, slappings and beatings cause no reaction in the hermit, but when Zeus kills the sparrow with his bare hand even Haven explodes and attacks the gangsters, who shot him at point blank. Batman makes use of the ensuing confusion to take out Zeus and his goons and then sees to the slowly dying Haven who explains the reasons for his way of life.

 
 
Once an irate person who accidentally killed a man he then chose to leave civilization behind in order to become a better person and find - peace.
 

REVIEW & ANALYSIS

After two consecutive two-issue story arcs crossing over from Batman into Detective Comics, DC took a break from this newly introduced crossover format in order to analyze the first wave of reader as well as sales feedbacks before deciding on whether or not to continue with this formula. The production for the cover date of May 1982 thus saw two stand-alone stories in both Detective Comics and Batman, whilst also giving writer Gerry Conway a break as the writing of Detective Comics #514 was handed to Len Wein who, in spite of being only 34, already was a comic book veteran at the time.

 


Len Wein in 1982
(photo by Alan Light)

  His single issue story for Detective Comics #514 - which had no imminent direct links to the new Batman/Detective Comics continuity and was completely self-contained - may have been a "fill-in" from a production point of view, but on a content level Wein provided readers with a Batman tale which can be considered unique in many ways.

First of all, Wein acknowledges inspiration for his story from outside the world of comics by explicitly refering to an album by songwriter Dan Fogelberg and by quoting from the poem "Requiem" by Robert Louis Stevenson - and readers versed in 1970's TV pop culture may even wonder if NBC's The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (1977-1979) didn't also add a touch or two as the visuals of Haven do bear a certain resemblance to that show's star Dan Haggerty.

Secondly, Wein takes the reader from a common Batman motive - chasing an escaped inmate from Arkham Asylum - very swiftly to completely unconventional territory in both the strict sense of the word as well as in a metaphorical sense.

 
For here the Darknight Detective - an urban character through and through - finds himself desperately struggling against the forces of nature as his chase leads him out into the wilderness. This is a territory which is certainly not his own and which restricts his agility and his powers so much that in the end he needs to be saved by someone who is as much at home here as Batman is in the concrete jungle of Gotham City.
 
 
On the level of metaphor, Wein puts forward the question what we would do when civilization and the societies we have built turn into monstrosities - would we simply try to find or even create our own peace and "haven" somewhere else, such as Haven, or would we face life the hard way and make a conscious stand trying to change things ?
 
Wein is far from blaming those who seek to be at their own peace - which is what most of us would no doubt try to do - as long as this includes trying to be at peace with the world.

At the same time, Wein underscores the fundamental concept of the Batman - as long as there are members of society with bad will and no scruples, the world needs a Darknight Detective to protect the peaceful individuals from going under, which ultimately serves to help make the world a better place.

The result is a story which runs high on moral philosophy and real life ramifications but still manages to stay clear from feeding too much of it to its readers (although the way Haven's animal friends act in almost human ways does at times feel very cutesy indeed).

Overall, it is an interesting and engagingly different take on the Batman mythos which illustrates nicely that the underlying elements and principles of the Darknight Detective's existence are valid no matter what the setting and the specific storyline may be - Batman, quite simply, reflects certain constants in individuals and society alike.

Len Wein's extraordinary plotting for this issue is complemented by the ever solid artwork to be expected from Don Newton, whose pencils provide a dramatic depth and cinematographic feel to this interestingly different story and its blizzard setting, highlighted by great inks from Frank Chiaramonte and a fitting mix of colours (and at times lack thereof) from Adrienne Roy.

 
 

FACTS & FIGURES

The splash page to "Haven!" carries the text "WITH THANKS TO DAN FOGELBERG AND "NETHERLANDS" FOR THE INSPIRATION."

Nether Lands was the fourth album by American singer-songwriter Dan Fogelberg, released in 1977, with the album's title refering to Nederland, Colorado, where one of the studios used to record the album was located (www.danfogelberg.com). The reference by author Len Wein most likely refers to the title track of the album.

 
 
 

* * *

High on this mountain
The clouds down below
I'm feeling so strong and alive
From this rocky perch
I'll continue to search
For the wind and the snow and the sky.
(...)

I've seen the bottom
And I've been on top
But mostly I've lived in between
And where do you go
When you get to the end of your dream?
Off in the nether lands
I heard a sound
Like the beating of heavenly wings
(...)

Once in a vision
I came on some woods
And stood at a fork in the road
My choices were clear
Yet I froze with the fear
Of not knowing which way to go

(excerpts from Netherlands lyrics are EMI Music Publishing)

* * *

 

 TRIVIA

"Haven!" was reprinted in 1983 in DC's digest Best of DC #35 but then remained unavailable other than in its original single issue format up until the publication of Tales of the Batman: Len Wein in 2014 which collects Wein's work on the Caped Crusader and includes Detective Comics #514.

The villain featured in this story, Maxie Zeus, first appeared in Detective Comics #483 (April/May 1979) in "The Curse of Crime Alley".

"Haven!" also saw publication in a number of foreign language versions, the first being fairly soon after its original publication, i.e. in November 1982, when it featured in the Norwegian Gigant #9.

 
  Published by Semic AS (Nordisk Forlag), Gigant was a monthly 68-pages title which featured DC material translated and compiled for the Norwegian market. Gigant was published from April 1977 until March 1985 to a total of 62 issues, each featuring one DC character - and apart from Batman, its Norwegian readers could also enjoy e.g. Sumpvesenet (Swamp Thing) or Mirakelkvinnen (Wonder Woman).

Semic AS published a wide range of comic books, many of which featured adapted and translated material originally taken from US publications. Batman starred in Lynvingen from February 1997 up until August 1981, with some of the 52 issues printed in Hungary (which, of course, was still behind the Iron Curtain at the time). He then appearaed again in Batman from January 1989 to October 1991 and then again from January 1994 to June 1995 (with the latter run featuring material from Batman Adventures). Other superhero titles from Semic included Marvel Spesial (1987-1989) and DC Presenterer (1988-1989).

 
  Between 1977 and 1978 Semic was also known as Williams Forlag AS, a reference to its partner company Williams which in turn belonged to Warner Brothers - and which strangely enough did not have the publishing rights to Batman nor Superman for the German language markets of Germany, Switzerland and Austria at the time. "Haven!" was thus published by the German publishing house Ehapa (who had the exclusive distribution rights for DC from 1966 up until 1989, with the exception of Green Lantern and Horror) in Batman Extra #6 in 1982, shortened by one page (which was a common practice at Ehapa at the time in order to fit more advertising space into their comics). The cover emphasizes Batman's struggle with the bear and is taken from an interior page panel of Detective Comics #514.  
 
"Haven" was also reworked in 1984 for the Dutch market as second story of Batman #6 by Baldakijn publications [1], and the exact same content - Batman #347 together with Detective Comics #514 - was published in February 1984 for the Spanish market in Batman vol. 1 #2 by publisher Zinco [2].

Detective Comics #514 carries both a full page interior cover advertisement for the Avco Embassy movie Swamp Thing as well as a half-page in-house advert for DC's Saga of the Swamp Thing #1 with another plug for the movie ("NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE FROM AVCO-EMBASSY!"). Hindsight of course tells us that the 1980's were not the right time for comic book movies - Swamp Thing failed miserably at the box office and got a beating from critics, just as Marvel's Howard the Duck would in 1986.

 

COMMENTS FROM THE BATCAVE
from the letters page of Detective Comics #519

 
 

"'Haven' has the atmosphere, the poignance, and the charm that make me wish every comic was like this. Why doesn't Len Wein write more often?" (Mark Lagasse, Hoosick Falls NY)

"It is these occasional meetings with people like Haven (...) that make The Batman realize (as if he ever held any doubts) why he exists." (Aaron Mathisen, Chico CA)

"This was a fine story, Len (...) please come back real soon!" (Kent A. Phenis, Indianapolis IN)

BATMAN and all related elements are the property of DC Comics, Inc. TM and DC Comics, Inc.,
a subsidiary of Time Warner Inc.
The illustrations presented here are copyright material. Their reproduction for the review and research purposes of this website is considered fair use as set out by the Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. par. 107.

 


(c) MMXII-MMXV

first posted 1 May 2012
revised, expanded and reposted 15 March 2015