A Tribute to the of

As I sit here in the nerve center of the Silver Age Sage, aka my own personal man cave, or as I often lovingly refer to it, the Batcave, I cannot help but notice that somehow over time Batman has certainly come to dominate things. Granted, I don’t have all my stuff up on the walls yet since the move, but let me try to describe a few highlights for you. I recently mentioned my ‘40s vintage model/toy of the Batmobile by my monitor. I’m not really much on the toys or action figures, but I’ve somehow managed to acquire a figure of Batman from the animated Justice League series and a figure of him from “The Batman” animated series, not to be confused with “Batman: The Animated Series.” I have a Batman alarm clock a Batman wrist watch, my first commission by Lew Sayre Schwartz of Batman and Robin, a stunning commission of Batman by Ernie Chan courtesy of my lifelong best friend and your humble webmaster, a small plush Bat-Mite along with Mxyzptlk and of course the splendid commission by Al Plastino with yours truly in the Batcave being greeted by Superman and Batman. Yep. The Caped Crusader is very evident here and so it’s a pleasure to recognize him on his 75th birthday.

You want to talk about some self-imposed pressure? What story from Batman’s long, successful career do I select? I was driving myself half-crazy trying to decide when I remembered my trusty volume of “The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.” Surely there would be a worthy candidate in there. I’d gone to that well before to review such classics as “Half an Evil”[Sage #270] and “Ghost of the Killer Skies!” [Sage #175] I pondered a handful of good stories from the tome and finally settled on one that seemed logical. In the spirit of this website, I was leaning toward a Silver Age tale, but ultimately chose a well-known classic originally published in Batman’s original stomping grounds, Detective Comics, issue #457 from March of 1976. Denny O’Neil is the writer for “There is No Hope in Crime Alley!Dick Giordano did the superior cover and interior art with editing by Julie Schwartz ably assisted by Bob Rozakis and E. Nelson Bridwell.

The story begins at the penthouse apartment where Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth reside. Alfred points out the dilemma of the jewel smugglers who have all law enforcement agencies stymied, but as Bruce suits up he is dismissive, stating that he’ll be back at dawn.

Very soon, Batman is on the job, stopping thieves on the street from stripping a car and also demanding to know where he can find Leslie Thompkins. A bit later, in crime alley, the Batman stops a mugging, again asking the victim if he knows the whereabouts of Leslie Thompkins. Following this latest lead, our hero proceeds through the dark and dangerous Gotham City night.

Elsewhere, the rampant criminal element is at it again, as two toughs are about to rob an elderly woman. When confronted, she gently but firmly informs her assailants that she’s holding the receipts from the street fair, which are earmarked to help the neighborhood children. She offers to write a check and they are about to forcefully refuse when a familiar figure swings down to intervene and intervene he does in a most dramatic fashion after one of the thugs makes the colossal error of pulling a pistol on the Dark Knight. “You dare—pull a gun on me here—do you? DO YOU?

As our hero begins to mercilessly pound the stuffing out of this hoodlum, his mind takes him back 21 years this very night, at this very spot where he and his parents endured a mugging that went very, very badly for the Wayne family. He also recalls a kindly woman who chanced upon the scene after the police had arrived, who introduced herself to a traumatized young Bruce Wayne. “I’m Leslie Thompkins. Come with me. I’ll do what I can.” The woman reaching out to the devastated boy made all the difference.

Back in the present, however, an aged Leslie Thompkins is exhorting the Batman to cease with his trip hammer blows. The Batman then escorts Ms. Thompkins who comments that she’d been expecting him and that he always shows up on this particular day, though she doesn’t know why. The Batman replies, “Call it a memorial…a reminder of who I am! Of my beginning…and probable end!” He then makes a similar query as to why she continues to live in crime alley.

She states simply that she saw something horrible, a murder of parents in front of their child’s very eyes and that she’d never forgotten the young man. Her desire is to do whatever she can to keep such a tragedy from recurring. Our hero responds that he’s heard there is no hope in crime alley, but that it isn’t true. “You…and those like you…you’re the hope of crime alley—maybe the only hope our tormented civilization has left!

A kiss on the forehead is the Batman’s farewell to Leslie Thompkins and the dawn finds the Batman at home, seated in a chair. Alfred enters with a favorite breakfast when he realizes the master is asleep…and oddly smiling.

It was over in a mere 12 pages, but consider that the Bat-Man’s debut in Detective Comics #27, courtesy of co-creators Bob Kane and Bill Finger was a scant 6 pages, but they altered the landscape of comics for good.

The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told was published to recognize Batman’s 50th anniversary and 25 years later, the stories within are still among the very best. I hope you readers enjoyed the selection I came up with to mark the Dark Knight’s latest milestone.

Having had the privilege to speak to so many who had a hand in Batman’s evolution has truly been an honor. From Golden Age greats like Jerry Robinson, Lew Sayre Schwartz and Shelly Moldoff to later masters of storytelling who left their indelible mark such as Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, Joe Giella, Carmine Infantino, Dick Giordano and Al Plastino, it’s been a wonderful education and I’ve only grown to appreciate this timeless character more and more through the experience.

Lest I forget, in a wonderful bit of true serendipity, this is also the 14th anniversary of the Silver Age Sage and I continue to be grateful for this forum and to the webmaster for giving it to me in the first place. Neither of us had any idea how many wonderful things would come of it and we see no reason to rest on our laurels now. The goal has always been to bring the world our appreciation of the great Silver Age of DC Comics with comprehensive historical data, examples of original art, interviews with the creators with their first hand accounts and reviews and we hope that we continue to fulfill that little niche. So far it’s been a great ride. Thanks for coming along.

We love to get your feedback here at the Silver Lantern and the standing invitation is always out there. Drop an e-mail with your impression to professor_the@hotmail.com. A response is guaranteed and maybe your suggestion will be included here in the future.

Join us again on the 15th of May for the latest review and remember…

Long live the Silver Age!

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