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Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 240: Batman #458

Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month I will be looking at four writer/artist duos, as voted on by you, the readers! This week features Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle! Today’s page is from Batman #458, which was published by DC and is cover dated January 1991. Enjoy!

I doubt if that kid will love it

After a nice run on Detective, DC shifted Grant and Breyfogle to Batman for some reason, and they continued on their merry way, working on the book for almost 20 more issues. During that time, they re-introduced Harold Allnut, Batman’s handyman, and in this issue, they brought him back and put him to work for our hero (the fact that Jeph Loeb killed him off is one of the many, many reasons to avoid reading Jeph Loeb’s comics). Harold’s not on this first page, though, so let’s move on!

This is a great splash page, I must say. Grant begins with a caption box that implies more than one thing – if we think the narrator is Batman (as we might suspect), is he saying that he could have been the kid getting attacked by the punks, or maybe a punk himself? If the narrator is someone different, are they thinking they could have been Batman? In fact, the narrator is James Gordon, and that’s exactly what he’s thinking – he could have been Batman. Grant’s only other writing on the page is the punk trying to inject the kid with some kind of drug. So we’re wondering what the caption box means and we’re getting a bit of a plot – Batman has to save the poor dude from the punks. Notice that Todd Klein does lower-case letters in the caption box – this a nice example of Klein trying to distinguish thoughts from dialogue and continue the idea of “Year One,” when the characters thought or wrote in journals and the letters were often lower-case. Klein is a great letterer, so the letters look very nice.

Breyfogle does a wonderful job with the splash page. Batman’s flowing cape forms the panel border and enfolds the bad guys as well, implying Batman’s omniscience in Gotham City. The punks are typical late ’80s/early ’90s street toughs, with the ripped shirt sleeves and the skinny ties – wait, are they punks or down-on-their-luck stockbrokers? – and Breyfogle does a nice job showing the two punks in the middle ground, watching the action while the punk in the back sees Batman and freaks out. Breyfogle also gives us a clue about what’s going on – note the claws on Batman and the almost supernatural way he looms in the background. We learn soon that this is Gordon daydreaming about being Batman, so of course he looks a bit less “real” than he usually does. Breyfogle makes him a horrifying force of nature, with the claws, the eye slits and the enfolding cape making the criminals fear him even more than they do in “real” life. Breyfogle makes sure to put the full moon between his “wings,” making him even more baleful and eerie. Outside the panel border, the moon is the only thing that’s colored, and Roy even uses a pale yellow that contrasts with the electric light, making Batman’s blackness even deeper. She also makes his blues a bit deeper and more purple – it’s a bit more blue when the actual Batman shows up. It makes Batman even more a figure of terror.

This is a fine example of a beautiful and slightly experimental splash page acting as a good introduction to the story. Grant and Breyfogle knew how to get us right into the issue, and I very much doubt that you would be able to resist turning the page after reading this!

Next: Grant and Breyfogle get their own Bat-comic! Unfortunately, they didn’t last too long on it, but we can see a page from their brief run! In case you haven’t had enough Batman, there’s more in the archives!

13 Comments

I had forgotten about Jeph Loeb killing Harold. That was in Hush, right?

This is a great splash page, but the punks didn’t really age well. They seem like they belong in West Side Story.

Pedro: Indeed it was. Ah, “Hush” – your primer on how not to write a good comic. If you do everything exactly the opposite of what Loeb did in “Hush,” you’d have a brilliant piece of work!

I don’t know, though – that punk with the skinny tie looks pretty tough! :)

It’s not just that he killed Harold. Loeb turned him into a traitor too

Ugh, I’ve avoided reading “Hush” since first came out, so I’d managed to forget about that.
What a great splash page, one of my favorites! This is making me want to dig out the entire Grant/Breyfogle run and give it another re-read. It’s been too damn long since I went through them.

In the late 80’s/ early 90’s, skinny ties were synonymous with being tough.

Reintroduced Harold? Who originally introduced him?

I believe this first page also could have operated, sans Batman, as part of the Kid Miracleman story, right?

I’m going to hell.

Travis: That would be Denny O’Neil in The Question #33. The issue’s story is actually named “Harold.”

Ohh, yeah, I remember reading that he debuted in the Question. I would guess Denny was an editor on the Bat Books when Grant and Breyfogle were there and “suggested” they add Harold in.

Thank you, kind sir!

“After a nice run on Detective, DC shifted Grant and Breyfogle to Batman for some reason, and they continued on their merry way, working on the book for almost 20 more issues.”

I thought I had heard that it was because ‘Detective Comics’ was out-selling ‘Batman’, but now I’m looking on-line and can’t even find any references to Grant & Breyfogle working on the main Bat title at all! [In fact, I’ve seen a few references saying that never happened.]

sean: While I was putting these posts together, I found an interview the two did about five years ago. They did say that Detective was outselling Batman, but they never got that as an “official” reason for switching books. I imagine that was the reason, but nobody knows for sure, I guess. Those references who said it never happened obviously don’t know what they’re talking about! :)

I’ve really been enjoying these posts on Grant/Breyfogle, Greg. I loved their work on Detective and for years had no idea that they were so well thought of (by people of “taste and discernment”). It’s great to see such enthusiasm for them. I can’t remember but didn’t they have more freedom in Detective Comics? I seem to remember reading their earlier work in a British reprint magazine but I may be mistaken there, too! I have a real soft spot for Harold, especially as I *think* the first original U.S issue featuring G & B’s work also introduced Mr Allnutt tothe Bat-World, although there are those who disagree (they are *monsters*!) I thought Harold was an interesting additiiion however as is often the case with “nice” or vulnerable characters he was eventually dumped (I might make some comparison to the uh “reap” ” world but I won’t). Imagine my “surprise” and horror when – after years of not reading comic books I picked up Hush from the library only to discover that they (Loeb and Lee) brought back Harold only to kill him off in service to a supremely contrived and shitty story, ughkhkn! That I later read Identity Crisis (because I saw some good reviews, go figure) and Countdown to Infinite Crisis seemed to suggest there was something rotten at the heart of DC, and a lot of what I’ve read since hasn’t truly proved me wrong (not that I’m letting Marvel off the hook, ohhh Noooo!). There are some pretty odd ideas drifting around concerning what’s a good idea and what isn’t, as well as what counts as “mature. Um, Rants Ends Hete. Yes, I liked Grant and Breyfogle’s work, and Norm’s Batman is one of the best and most imposing ever (Jim Lee? I shit him says Harold Shand!).
I enjoyed your comments on cursive writing and velcro (!) elsewhere. Too true. Don’t be in a haste to dump things just because some new technology is dominating (remember the Cylons!). As an aside, it*s weird how “nerdy” characters (as opposed to “geeks” – not the chicken-head chewin’ kind) are treated in comics and elsewhere, Ultimate Reed Richards is a mass-murderer? Others are creepy misogynists or worse? I wonder why that is? Do people always need someone to demonize or bully? Look at the way the disabled or depressed are treated, gah. Sorry for the depressive tangent. I *do* enjoy your stuff cimpadre!

“Those references who said it never happened obviously don’t know what they’re talking about! ”

Oh, yeah, just in case there was any doubt, I didn’t say that as any sort of counter-point to you. I just thought it was funny that I was looking for something [probably that interview you mentioned, since my roommate at that time was a huge Grant/Breyfogle fan, so I almost certainly saw that] and came upon a reference that said “It’s too bad they never did this…” Also, really odd, the Wikipedia entry for Grant doesn’t have any mention of this part of the run [I’d add it, but I don’t know the numbers myself].

Anyway, thanks!

sean: Yeah, I knew you weren’t trying to deny it. I just find it humorous that anyone would think so! They started a few issues earlier than this (I don’t have the number in front of me, but it was around #455) and went to, I think, #476. There was a three-part story in the middle by Dixon and Lyle, but otherwise it was Grant and Breyfogle, so maybe 18 issues or so?

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