BATMAN'S OUT ON A MOND'Y
TO LEVEL WITH SOLOMON GRUNDY

DETECTIVE COMICS #523
(FEBRUARY 1983)

"Inferno"
(Part 1 of 1)
(16 pages)

Cover pencils - Ed Hannigan
Cover inks -
Dick Giordano

Story - Gerry Conway
Art -
Gene Colan
Inks - Tony de Zunigas
Colours -
Adrienne Roy
Lettering - Ben Oda
Editor -
Len Wein

Second feature - Green Arrow, "Mob Rule!" (7 pages)
Letters page - The Batcave (2 pages)
Preview Coming Comics for titles on sale December 9
th 1982 (1 page)

 

SYNOPSIS

Gotham is plagued by a series of robberies which are all characterized by rather curious circumstances and an excessive amount of damage at the crime scenes.

 
Batman's investigations lead him to discover that a gang is using the newly resurfaced Solomon Grundy to smash their way into shops and buildings.

Cornering both the gang and Grundy at their hideout, an abandoned factory building, Batman uses a trick to lure Solomon Grundy to hurtling himself into a furnace where, assumedly, he meets his end.

In a sub-plot thread, the gang has a disagreement with someone they call "Croc", and the mystery person (whose face always remains in the darkness of the shadows inside the factory) tells them that he quits and that they are on their own.

 
 

REVIEW & ANALYSIS

A stand-alone and done-in-one story which is set up to feature Batman's skills as an exceptional detective. Unfortunately, it falls somewhat short of the expectations such a premise for a Batman storyline raises as the detection element is executed without any finesse or subtlety.

 
All the discoveries and deductions Batman makes in the process of uncovering the gang of robbers (and their "living vice" in the shape and form of Solomon Grundy) mostly surface "just like that" and therefore with little logic and essentially provide neither mystery nor suspense.

As a result, the story is told in a rather haphazard fashion and never really grabs the reader's attention to the point of him or her really wanting to find out and know what it's all about.

 
 
The artwork by Gene Colan (who returns to Detective Comics after a hiatus since Detective Comics #517), however, is dynamic and displays his typically cinematographic approach and style, especially when Batman battles it out with Solomon Grundy.
 
  Tony de Zuniga's inks sit well on Colan's pencilwork, although DC's house rules did not allow for as much shadows as Colan would have no doubt added had this been a Marvel comic book.

Overall, the artwork somewhat lifts up the plot and prevents the story from getting totally stuck.

Solomon Grundy, whose origin Conway recaps in two panels, is better known as an antagonist of Green Lantern or Superman and only rarely crosses the path of the Darknight Detective.

 
In this case, it really does at times feel like a character in the wrong setting, as Grundy's appearance not only feels somewhat construed but also highly rushed, which hurts a story already short on plot interest.
 
Solomon Grundy first appeared in All-American Comics #61 (October 1944), as the reanimated corpse of a rich merchant who was murdered and whose body was disposed in a swamp near Gotham City (by the late 1970s this had turned into the sewers of Metropolis).

Now a huge, lumbering and monstrous heap, he has almost no memory of his past life but remembers having been born on a Monday. Hence his name, which of course goes back to the famous nursery rhyme:

Solomon Grundy - Born on a Monday,
Christened on Tuesday, Married on Wednesday,
Took ill on Thursday, Grew worse on Friday,
Died on Saturday, Buried on Sunday,
That was the end,
Of Solomon Grundy

 
 
Although predominantly depicted as a villain and even, initially, a vicious killer, the circumstances and events which created Solomon Grundy could just as well provoke the same questions of moral philosophy which are tied, for example, to the grandaddy of all monsters, the creation of Viktor Frankenstein - the source of the monster’s perceived evil nature is indeed one of the central themes of the original Frankenstein novel by Mary Shelley.

However, Gerry Conway had no intention whatsoever to apply this complex perspective to Batman's encounter with Solomon Grundy. On the contrary: the Darknight Detective actually lures the swamp creature into a furnace which he then turns into a fiery death trap. Some readers may have wondered how this rather gruesome modus operandi befitted the Batman's code of ethics, even if Grundy were nothing but the monster which Gotham's Caped Crusader sees in him, and one reader even put pen to paper and deplored it as being unworthy of heroic defenders of society such as Batman.

But then Conway had penned a similar behaviour of the Batman as shortly ago as in the preceding issue of Detective Comics, where the calm with which Batman witnesses the death of the Snowman was striking to say the least, given that the demise was essentially triggered and caused by the Darknight Detective himself. Conway, it seems, was of the opinion that neither a mutant (the Snowman) nor a monster from the sewers (or "pseudo life-form" as Conway has Batman describe Grundy to Alfred) should be included in the Batman's vow to never cross that line which ultimately separates him from the evil he fights. A Batman who kills his foes rather than handing them over to Gotham City's finest or the powers in charge of Arkham? Unthinkable, and yet there you have it, twice in a row, in Detective Comics #522 and #523.

The sole reason and focus for Conway to plot this run of the mill Batman story, it would seem, is to plant a sub-plot thread which sets up a new villain - only seen in shadows so far and referred to as "Croc" but soon to be disclosed as being "Killer Croc"...

 
CASUAL READING - An interesting setup requiring Batman's detective work is somewhat let down by a slow story and superficial characterization, producing a sense of non-interest saved primarily by dynamic and engaging artwork.
 
 
 
 

FACTS & FIGURES

Detective Comics #523 went on sale 24 November 1982 and was published in 1983 by German publisher Egmont Ehapa as "Inferno" in Batman Sonderausgabe #3 (shortened by one page) and as "Inferno" in Superserien #3/1984 by Semic Publisher in March 1984 for the Norwegian market. The Batman feature has been reprinted in Gene Colan - Tales of the Batman Vol 1 (2011).

On the "Meanwhile..." page (which served as a DC in-house platform to inform readers of what was happening and to plug various DC titles, much like Marvel's Bullpen Bulletins) Dick Giordano reflected on his promotion within the editorial ranks and how this had forced him to hand over the reigns of the Batman titles to Len Wein, plus mentioning a few anniversary titles which had happened in 1982.

 
Detective Comics #523 also contained, of course, a couple of advertising pages from third parties (although the famous flea market ads were gone by this time). It is interesting to see the dominance of the emerging video games.
 

 
Clearly the classic construction toys were beginning to have a not so cool appeal in comparison to these nifty new video games anymore - so much so that one kit company even enticed potential buyers to purchase a kit because they might win a video game. And yet none of the consoles and brands featured in these 1982 advertisements are still around 35 years later - quite unlike Lego and, indeed, comic books in general and Detective Comics in specific.
 

COMMENTS FROM THE BATCAVE

 
 

"A definition of humanity that denies the humanness of Grundy (and certainly one that so easily consigns him to horrible death) (...) is very near to racism (...) and an attitude unworthy of heroic defenders of society such as Batman" (T. M. Maple, Toronto Ontario)

(from the letters page of Detective Comics #528)

     
 

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uploaded to the web 13 May 2017