Turn Back the Clock
Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed?
Batman Issues 291-294
Distributed By: DC Comics
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
In September of 1977, I spotted an interesting issue of Batman. The cover showed what appeared to be Batman’s tombstone. It was surrounded by arch enemies The Riddler, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, Lex Luthor, Catwoman, and The Joker. Four of the criminals were claiming responsibility for the death of the Caped Crusader. I immediately ran to get my mother and ask her for 35 cents – yeah, that’s right, comic books back then were a mere 35 cents – and marched proudly out of the store with Issue # 291 of Batman. The series, entitled Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed?, ran for four issues in 1977. Each issue featured a different enemy laying claim to being the individual responsible for the death of Batman, hoping to reap the benefits that the criminal world would offer that criminal for vanquishing the most challenging adversary the criminal underground had ever gone up against.
Unfortunately, the store where I bought the original issue of the series, featuring Catwoman’s version of Batman’s death, did not carry every issue of the series. I was unable to read the series as a whole, but the story was one that stood out for me all these years. It was a tale that made me a Batman comic book fan and one that I would talk about to any Batman fan who would listen. In fact, I still talk about it, which is why I decided to take a look on eBay to see if I couldn’t find the rest of the series. Sure enough, I was able to find each of the missing issues for very reasonable prices. Having now completed the four-issue story arc, I would like to share it with you.
No one knows how it started, but once the word was out, it spread like wildfire – the dreaded Batman was dead! The question was who managed to outsmart and outfight the caped crusader who had been the nemesis of every criminal mind in the United States? Hundreds of criminals lay claim to the murder, hoping to reap the spoils promised the victor. The murderer of Batman would be the envy of the criminal world. Highly revered, he/she would have first pick of the most brilliant and loyal criminal associates they could ask for. In an effort to discover the truth behind the Caped Crusader’s demise, a trial was organized at the secluded estate of Jake “The Claw” Van Cleeve. After ruling out hundreds of claims, the trial was set to discover the truth behind the most credible ones. Judging the trial was Ras Al Ghul. The jurors consisted of The Mad Hatter, The Spook, Poison Ivy, The Scarecrow, Signal Man and Mr. Freeze. The prosecutor was none other than former District Attorney Harvey Dent, otherwise known as Two Face.
The first claimant to be interrogated: Selina Kyle, AKA: Catwoman. As we hear the tale of Catwoman’s alleged part in Batman’s death, we realize that something is wrong. First and foremost, Selina Kyle has never killed before. Secondly, the infamous Catwoman is in love with Batman. Harvey Dent very quickly pokes holes in Catwoman’s story and the jury votes not guilty.
The second criminal alleging responsibility for Batman’s death is none other than The Riddler. His tale of trickery involving clue-containing riddles is a treacherous one indeed, but Harvey Dent sees right through the façade. He even manages to scare the living daylights out of The Riddler with a presentation as to why The Riddler’s story couldn’t work. The next criminal to hit the stand is the scientific mastermind Lex Luthor. With his usual pompous flare, Luthor relates his complicated scheme to destroy his arch-nemesis, Superman, by using the body of Batman. Lex Luthor is found “Not Guilty” after a surprise witness is called to the stand by Two Face. The final criminal to claim responsibility for Batman’s death is the one with the most motive – The Joker. The four-comic story arc ends in a most surprising twist. If you think you know the ending…well, of course you’re going to say that Batman can’t be dead because there are so many comic books attesting to the fact that he is still alive. But there is no way you can figure out all of the surprising twists that make this story arc a very special one indeed!
Reading this tale again, nearly twenty years later, it is still an extremely enjoyable story arc. The art is definitely not up to today’s standards, but for the times, it was considered to be cutting edge. The idea of a trial being called by the members of the criminal underworld to discover the identity of Batman’s killer is hysterical. But the real fun is in trying to unravel the clues that will tell you who is outright lying and who has something to hide. For me, the Where Were You On The Night Batman Was Killed? story arc is one of the most memorable tales of the seventies and the one tale that made me a comic book fan for life.