Tag Archives: Gerry Conway

Batman 359 – the origin of Croc


Sure looks like there will be a lot of well known villains in Batman 359 (May 1983), doesn’t it?  Well, there aren’t.  This cover would have been far more appropriate for the issue of Detective Comics that immediately follows this story.  Gerry Conway is joined by Dan Jurgens and Dick Giordano.


Croc begins this issue thinking that he had killed Batman in their battle in the last issue of Detective, so he is quite surprised when Batman shows up alive and well, and they have to fight again.  And it’s a draw, as Croc manages to get away.


Batman is none to happy about this, but he takes out hi frustrations on Dick, who is worried about the danger the Todds have placed themselves in.  Bruce goes into a very uncharacteristic rage, complaining about how normal people demand so much of him, but refuse to do anything themselves.  Even Alfred is shocked.


Commissioner Gordon fills Batman in on the life of Waylon Jones, who has come to be known as Killer Croc.  Born with a severe skin problem, he was picked on and abused, and then, when he tried to fight back, beaten by the police and tossed into a reform school.  His life has consisted of incarceration and attacks, and as he grew stronger, he also grew angrier and more bitter.


The issue ends as Robin heads to the circus, finding Jason Todd and Waldo Flynn, but not Jason’s parents.  They saw Croc’s men, and tailed them, but wind up Croc’s prey.

The story concludes in the next issue of Detective.


Batman 358 – Killer Croc makes his play


A great cover for Batman 358 (April 1983), but Conway’s story has art by Curt Swan and Rodin Rodriguez, and Swan’s work just seems odd on this tale.


That’s doubly unfortunate, a this is the first issue to show Croc clearly.  He had killed the Squid in the previous issue of Detective, and now makes his play to be the major gang boss in Gotham.


Dick Grayson tells Bruce and Alfred about Trina Todd, Jason’s mother, seeing him without his Robin mask on, and deducing that Bruce Wayne is Batman.  Bruce is not happy about this at all, and blames Dick for the entire thing.  On the other hand, Dick informs him that the Todds are keeping an eye out for Croc, who has been running a protection scam with the circus.


Croc gets some action, but I cannot say I like the way Swan renders his skin, not at all.


Batman find Croc’s home, and waits for him there.  Croc is furious to find Batman in his house, and the two fight.  Croc destroys his own home, and takes off into the river, plotting his revenge on Batman.

The story continues in the next issue of Detective.

Batman 357 – Jason Todd debuts


The saga of Croc and the Squid, which will see Jason Todd become the new Robin, began in the previous issue of Detective Comics, and continues in Batman 357 (March 1983), as Conway, Newton and Alcala debut Jason Todd and his family.


In the vacuum created by Boss Thorne’s incarceration, the Squid makes his moves to become the new big crime boss of Gotham.


In what feels like a completely unrelated plot line, Waldo Flynn brings Dick Grayson to the new circus he is performing at.  But we see that Croc, still largely concealed in a trenchcoat and hat, also has an interest in the place.


Jason Todd only has a very small role in this tale, a Dick watches the boy perform with his parents, and feels an ominous sense of foreboding.


Batman has been busy tracking the Squid, but falls into the villain’s hands. The Squid tosses Batman into a squid tank, how appropriate, as the issue ends.

The story continues in the next issue of Detective.

Batman 356 – Batman vs Hugo Strange


Conway, Newton and Alcala bring back Hugo Strange to face Batman directly for the first time in eight years in Batman 356 (Feb. 83).


The last time he had dealt with Batman he had learned that the hero was Bruce Wayne, and had also taken to wearing the Batman costume himself.  Both of those facts are central to this story.


Despite his feelings of responsibility for Catwoman, Bruce Wayne is also carrying on with his romance with Vicki Vale, the cad.


When Vicki gets a call from the paper, she has to take off, but arranges to meet Bruce later at the Manor.  Bruce drives home, and think he must have daydreamed, as he gets there much sooner than expected.  But once in the house, Alfred promptly tries to kill him.  He fights the deranged butler off, killing him, only to have the body vanish, and Alfred show up all normal.


The reader quickly gets cued in that Bruce is not really at home, as we see Vicki arrive, running into Alfred and Dick, all of whom are puzzled that Bruce has not come home.


Meanwhile, Bruce gets attacked by Robin, and the scene plays out much the same way, as he kills the boy, who disappears and then returns as if nothing had happened.


Heading down into the Batcave, Bruce finds Hugo Strange, having shaved off his beard and adopted the Batman costume.  The people Bruce had been fighting were all robots, as Strange was toying with the hero.  But now it’s time for them to go at it one on one, to determine which of them will get to be the Batman.


Strange also fills Batman in on how he survived his apparent death at the hands of Boss Thorne, and how he then spent all those many months taunting and tormenting the mob boss.  Strange is clearly a much better fighter than he would appear, as he and Batman fight almost to a standstill.


But Robin shows up, having gone looking for Bruce, and together they defeat Hugo Strange.  But not one to be taken in, Strange then blows up his fake Wayne Manor, once again apparently dying in the blast.

But Hugo Strange is never really dead, and will return three years down the road, just before the end of the pre-Crisis Batman adventures.

Batman 355 – Catwoman’s jealous rage


Perhaps the weirdest Batman/Catwoman romance story, Batman 355 (Jan. 83) is by Conway, Newton and Alcala.


Following on her phone call to Vicki Vale in the previous issue, Catwoman, now with a big panther as a pet, has fallen into a psychotically jealous rage about Bruce Wayne dating the photographer.


So she does the only natural thing, tries to kill Bruce and Vicki, sending their car into a river, and even dives down to try to ensure that they are dead.  Bruce fights her off and saves Vicki’s life.


Dick offers to help out on this, as Batman is still recovering from being shot last issue, but Bruce will not listen to the boy or to Alfred, insisting that Selina is his responsibility. He does find her lair, and the panther, who is in a really nasty mood, as he has been left without food for days.


The most uplifting moment in the book sees Barbara Gordon and Jason Bard accompany Jim Gordon to the mayor’s office, where Hamilton Hill fulfills his promise to Batman, making Gordon the police commissioner again.


Catwoman has been sitting for days, waiting to attack Batman (the reason she neglected her panther).  When he finally shows up, she does all she can to kill him, but then backs down.  After two murder attempts, and starving her pet, Batman interprets this as an indication of how much she really loves him (?!)  And so he decides that he has a responsibility for her now.

Like, WHAT?  Their relationship has its kinky moments, but this story makes them both totally insane.

Batman 354 – Boss Thorne loses it


Boss Thorne takes centre stage in the Conway, Newton and Alcala story in Batman 354 (Dec. 82).


As the situation in Gotham spirals out of the control of Mayor Hamilton Hill and the new police commissioner, Paulins, the deputy status of Batman is revoked, and replaced with a shoot to kill order.  Not long after, Batman does get shot by an officer, and returns to the cave, bleeding profusely, to be tended by Alfred.


Dr. Thirteen is out of the hospital, but with no memory of entering the Batcave.  He has been hired by Boss Thorne to seek out the ghost of Hugo Strange.  What he finds are holographic projectors, which have been relaying the image of Strange’s ghost.


In the previous issue of Detective, Batman broke Deadshot out of prison (the reason for the shoot to kill order), and we see that he is being held in the Batcave, as Batman tries to elicit a confession that he was hired by Thorne to kill Bruce Wayne.


In a set-up for the next issue, Vicki Vale receives an angry and threatening phone call from Catwoman, warning her away from Bruce Wayne.


Batman mutely starts shadowing Thorne, pushing the already distraught mob boss over the edge.  Thorne is convinced that Hill and Paulins are the ones behind faking the ghost of Hugo Strange, and he confronts them in Hill’s office, killing Paulins.


With Thorne now raving mad, and having killed the police commissioner in front of witnesses, he gets carted off to Arkham, while Batman forces Hill to promise to re-instate Gordon, not being able to pin anything criminal on the mayor.  We discover that Batman is really still in the Batcave recovering from bring shot, and that it was Dick Grayson in the costume who was tailing Thorne.


Really excellent art and a fun resolution to this long running storyline, that ends with a great kicker, as we see that Hugo Strange is really still alive, and that it was he who had been tormenting Boss Thorne all along.

Both Thorne and Strange are seen again shortly, but Deadshot takes a little over a year to return.  This is the last pre-Crisis appearance of Dr. Thirteen, and I think we do not see him again until the Books of Magic miniseries in the 90s.

Batman 353 – carving Mount Joker


A month after a less than impressive team-up with Batman in the Brave the Bold, the Joker is back for a far more entertaining little tale by Conway, Garcia-Lopez and Dan Adkins in Batman 353 (Nov. 82).


The art is great, and the Joker is at his manic best, killing off his own gang members for laughs.


The Boss Thorne subplot gets advanced as well, as Batman tricks Arthur Reeves into confessing that he got the faked photos from Thorne, with both Robin and Commissioner Gordon as witnesses.


Then it’s on to the main story, as the Joker captures Batman, making him watch as he has a rocky island off the coast of Gotham carved with his face, a la Mount Rushmore.


The Joker pretty much counted on being caught, but figured his creation would remain to mock Batman – except that Batman has it shattered to bits.

The Joker returns in a few months in the Detective Comics story that introduces Jason Todd as Robin.