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CSBG Archive

A Year of Cool Comics – Day 69

Here is the latest in our year-long look at one cool comic (whether it be a self-contained work, an ongoing comic or a run on a long-running title that featured multiple creative teams on it over the years) a day (in no particular order whatsoever)! Here‘s the archive of the moments posted so far!

Today we take a look at the first major Ra’s Al Ghul storyline that ran from Detective Comics #411 to Batman #232, 235, 240 and 242-244, written by Denny O’Neil and penciled by a trio of artists, most famously, Neal Adams


An interesting aspect of the first stories involving Ra’s Al Ghul by Denny O’Neil and friends is the fact that the Batman within these stories is barely recognizable when compared to the super-competent Batman of today. The Batman of the first Ra’s story really needs the help of other practically ordinary people to help bring down Ra’s.

This epic storyline begins with Batman faking Bruce Wayne’s death so he can free his time entirely to taking on Ra’s Al Ghul, the international criminal mastermind who had been introduced just recently (along with Ra’s daughter, Talia).

This is the first time Batman takes on the identity of Matches Malone (Malone is introduced and is killed in these issues, leaving the identity available for Batman to use). Batman teams up with a scientist who had worked with Ra’s (not of his own volition) and they race to stop Ra’s and Talia from unleashing a deadly plague. Through the story, Batman gets aid from some unlikely sources, like a famous alpine skier!!

Ultimately, Batman tracks them down only to discover Ra’s dead in Batman #244. He takes Talia into custody but is then confronted by Ra’s – this is the first time we see the use of the Lazarus Pit.

Surrounded by Ra’s men, Batman could be in major trouble as they could just burst in and have him shot.

Ra’s, however, is impressed with Batman and instead allows Batman to duel with him.

So yeah, shirtless Batman and Ra’s fighting a duel to the death in the desert (with Talia torn between her father and the man she might very well love).

And when a scorpion stings Batman and he appears to die, Talia gives him an antidote, and Batman proceeds to confront Ra’a yet again – and Ra’s is pretty clearly not expecting to see Batman…

As you can see, this is a different era of Batman comics, one that Grant Morrison recently evoked – when Batman would spar with bad guys bare chested and then, of course, make out with their hot daughters…

This was a very cool storyline, and what’s especially neat is that even when Adams is not drawing the book, the comic STILL looked fantastic, as Irv Novick was a brilliant, brilliant artist in his own right. And Bob Brown, whose issue kicks off the arc, was certainly no slouch, either – if you ever wanted to see a storyline featuring Neal Adams that couldn’t have all issues drawn by Adams, Novick and Brown would definitely be your men.


” And that’s where babies come from! “

Did they ever really explain in the comics what Batman’s plan with Matches Malone was if Matches hadn’t died? I just randomly happened to re-read the first issue of this story last week, and we reminded of this. Batman approaches him, seemingly to get him to join his team, but Matches gets killed and Batman takes his place. But from the way Matches acts, it seems pretty clear he would never have helped Batman. And from what I remember of Batman impersonating him, there really was no reason for him in the first place. I like the fact that Batman has this alter-ego to use, but his introduction into the comic seemed forced and rather non-sensical to me.

It is striking how different Talia looks in that panel with her crying? Did they change her ethnicity along the way?

Dick Giordano is a really great inker, and certainly can add a “Neal Adams feeling” to any guy…
And all in six issues long…today it would take two or three years!!!

i remember tracking down that story and seeing Rhas’s shocked when batman survived from the scorpion sting. not to mention the kiss with Talie was the start of batman thinking he could have love with some one and always wondered how batman got the matches Malone i.d

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

March 10, 2010 at 9:05 pm

One thing you realize on rereading this story is that O’Neil’s take on Talia was rather unambiguously villainous; she loves Batman and can be swayed by him, yes, but in her early appearances she does things like murder her father’s* renegade henchman Darrk and wipe people’s minds to protect his schemes.

Was it Gerry Conway or Len Wein who oftened Tali’s portrayal? By the 1980s, anyway, she was basically heroic and actually opposed her father’s* plans for their moral demerits.

* I refuse to try and write the possessive form of “Ra’s.”


March 10, 2010 at 10:03 pm

By the 1980s, anyway, she was basically heroic and actually opposed her father’s* plans for their moral demerits.

That’s how good Batman is in bed.

Ty Templeton did an updated version of the origin of Matches Malone in his awesome Gotham Adventures run. This was possibly the best “all ages” comic of the last 20 years — it told Batman stories that you could read with your eight year old, but that were nevertheless good-to-excellent Batman stories /by any standard/. Batman’s duel with Black Mask and his False Face Society? The little three-pager with Bruce Wayne on the psychiatrist’s couch? Just solid, solid stuff.

Anyway — the Templeton version had Malone as a hood who is killed by rivals; Batman arrives in time to hear his dying words, avenges him, and then takes over his identity. (“They shot me, but I got better.”)

There’s a lovely bit about why Batman doesn’t like to look in a mirror when he’s being Matches. Really, it’s just great stuff.

Doug M.

Brendan Hayward

March 11, 2010 at 1:43 pm

The archive you’ve been linking to in all of these articles only go up to #58, the “Deadpool” entry, if you want to fix that. Otherwise, I very much enjoy this and all of your other features.

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