The cover of Batman 304 (Oct. 78) accurately displays the lead story, as surprising as that may seem, and a second rotating back-up series, the Public Life of Bruce Wayne, appears in this issue as well.
I remember really enjoying this tale, by Reed, Calnan and Giordano, which open as Batman apparently gets killed, and becomes a ghost.
Batman moves through a somewhat hallucinatory world, one in which people and cars pass right through him, and he is unable to interact with the world he sees around him. But after a few pages of this, we discover that Batman is being manipulated, and that the Spook is the one behind it all.
Through a combination of drugs, actors and rear projection movies, the Spook is working to convince Batman that he is already a ghost, so that Batman will stop trying to affect the world he sees, and basically allow himself to be shot and killed by the gangster who hired the Spook. Why they didn’t jut kill Batman when he was unconscious is not really clear, aside from that fact that, had they done that, there really wouldn’t be a story to tell.
But of course, Batman does figure out that he is not really dead, survives the actual attempt to kill him, and even deduces where the Spook’s hideout is, tracking him down and capturing both him and the gangster who hired him.
The Spook returns in Detective Comics in a couple of years.
The one and only installment of the Public Life of Bruce Wayne appears in this issue, a story by Reed, Win Mortimer and Frank Chiaramonte, which centres on Dr. Dundee, Bruce Wayne’s (and Batman’s) physician.
Dr. Dundee has been a rarely appearing, but occasionally mentioned, character in the Batman series for many years, although this is the only story that puts him into focus. We learn how he was young Bruce’s doctor, and so became aware that Bruce was Batman pretty much from the start.
Hoods force Dundee to give them medical treatment, while Bruce is there. Batman then disguises himself as Dundee, tracks the bad guys and beats them up, leaving them to think the doctor is a really tough guy. It’s not bad, but also doesn’t quite fulfill the concept of the title, being really another Batman story.
Although this back-up series gets cut short by the DC Implosion, there is another story, printed the following year in Detective Comics, the Great Kangaroo Race, which was intended as a Public Life of Bruce Wayne tale, and is far more enjoyable than this outing.