Pick a favorite Batman story? The Killing Joke? The Dark Knight Returns? Oh, it’s hard to do with a character that was my intro to comics.
But The Batman’s appeal never involved the outlandish crooks or his stupendous acrobatics, legendary fighting prowess and superior detective skills. It was always the simple fact that Bruce Wayne/Batman was the most human of all the costumed superheroes. So I’ve always preferred the smaller stories, and that’s why I’ve accumulated a bunch of the late 60’s and early 70’s comics with their stand-alone tales, most originally purchased at used bookstores in shrink-wrapped bundles that no one was interested in any longer, apparently. Comics and even the character had moved on to glitzier multi-issue story-lines, spin-off’s and special editions. Though dated when I bought them, those old comics remain my favorites to this day.
Though I’d be quick to name Neal Adams as my favorite Batman artist, this one’s drawn by Dick Giordano, the script by Denny O’Neil: There Is No Hope In Crime Alley, from Detective comics No. 457, March, 1976.
No costumed villains here, and the world isn’t about to end. Batman’s on night patrol in Gotham City’s notorious Crime Alley, stopping a car theft and some muggings, flashing back to his parents’ brutal murder and nearly losing control as he pummels one thug. He’s stopped by an old lady, Leslie Thompkins, who fights an endless and seemingly pointless battle to help the poor and underprivileged residents of Crime Alley. The Batman asks why she stays, and she explains that she witnessed a horrible tragedy when she was younger — a small boy who watched while his parents were gunned down right before his eyes, and she vowed to never let another child experience that horror. The Dark Knight understands, better than anyone, of course, and the huge and frightening caped figure bends to kiss her on the forehead, then vanishes into the night. The following morning, Bruce Wayne’s butler, Alfred, finds his master asleep in a chair, with a hint of a smile on his face. Because of course there’s hope.