This is “From a Different Point of View,” a feature where I discuss a comic book series with other people. This time around, due to everyone having to self-isolate, I figured I’d do a special edition where I discuss some crossovers with whichever readers that wanted to chat about them! We started off with Marvel’s original Secret Wars and now we’re doing Knightfall!
We continue with Batman #493, Knightfall Part 3, “Redslash,” by Doug Moench, Norm Breyfogle, Adrienne Roy and Tim Harkins
Brian Cronin : The farewell of Norm Breyfogle on the Batman books.
Flavio Sette : Oh wow, really?
Brian Cronin : This is really a fascinating set-up, where they used his last few issues to launch the crossover.
Sean Whitmore : That’s a sad day. Not that Graham Nolan wasn’t great, but Breyfogle was the king
Flavio Sette : Is it his last ongoing Batman issue ever, or just for the next few years?
Sean Whitmore : He came back briefly for No Man’s Land, I believe
Brian Cronin : His last ongoing issue.
Brian Cronin : Basically, at this point, he was the only “hot” Batman artist.
Brian Cronin : As the other monthly Batman artist in the early 1990s (before they expanded to three monthly titles) was Jim Aparo.
Flavio Sette : I feel like, whenever someone posts pages he drew online as a sample of his work, there’s usually a few pages from this era (like the one from this issue with Batman crashing through the window).
Brian Cronin : When Ultraverse launched, they decided to mostly spend their money on writers instead of artists.
Flavio Sette : Definitely can’t accuse the guy of coasting. This issue, for example, has fantastic artwork.
Tom A. : When did they stop drawing Zsasz without those weird eyelashes or whatever they’re supposed to be?
Brian Cronin : But the one artist they spent money on was Breyfogle.
Brian Cronin : They made him an offer that he basically couldn’t refuse.
Flavio Sette : Perez too, although he wrote for Malibu, too, right?
Brian Cronin : Perez was later on.
Flavio Sette : Oh, okay.
Brian Cronin : The launch was just Breyfogle.
Brian Cronin : The numbers being thrown around were ridiculous at this point in time.
Brian Cronin : The sad thing (well, “sad” is probably a stretch)
Brian Cronin : Is that Breyfogle took most of the money that they gave him and used it to finance his own creator-owned series
Brian Cronin : That Malibu also published.
Brian Cronin : Called Metaphysique and it…did not do so well.
Brian Cronin : He actually advertised Metaphysique in the previous Knightfall issue (Detective Comics #559).
Sean Whitmore : Wow, zero memory of that.
Brian Cronin : But yeah, at this point, he was one of the hotter artists in the industry and this was his send-off.
Flavio Sette : It’s a shame he had to do that.
Brian Cronin : And they nicely used one of his most famous creations in this last issue.
Tom A. : This cover depicts Zsasz with less scars than usual. Not that the number of scars he has is ever consistent.
Flavio Sette : About the cover, Batman almost looks like a vampire, which I imagine is a nod to Batman: Red Rain, seeing as Jones drew both?
Brian Cronin : Yeah, that definitely was Jones’ vibe at the time.
Brian Cronin : That is some Gothic Batman,
Tom A. : And like I said earlier, Zsasz is a bit off model with his scars.
Sean Whitmore : Zsasz has gotta hold some kind of record for a character who’s been adapted into other media and changed completely every time.
Brian Cronin : DC was wary of his scars, Tom.
Brian Cronin : They were a bit too graphic for the covers.
Brian Cronin : Note that Zsasz rarely made cover appearances back then.
Tom A. : I can see why, I remember being really creeped out by Zsasz as a kid, but only because I knew what the scars represented.
Flavio Sette : Interesting.
Brian Cronin : The brow thing was a Breyfogle flourish that I think they dropped once he was off the book.
Tom A. : Yeah, nowadays Zsasz look is being bald, sometimes with some scars on his forehead and sometimes not.
Brian Cronin : One of the other interesting things about seeing these stories back to back is that Moench and DIxon have SUCH DIFFERENT writing styles.
Brian Cronin : Dixon is so straightforward, while Moench is much more likely to give you some purple prose.
Sean Whitmore : I was thinking that I don’t remember Moench’s prose being SO purple this early on.
Brian Cronin : “Racing for my grave, already dead.”
Brian Cronin : Dang, Moench!
Sean Whitmore : I thought that came with Kelly Jones
Flavio Sette : True, though I think Moench sets the mood quite nicely here.
Brian Cronin : It’s like Batman is opening the issue with some beat poetry.
Flavio Sette : He could go overboard from time to time. But mostly Moench knew how to reign it in.
Tom A. : Batman isn’t gonna let being tired prevent him from monologuing to himself.
Flavio Sette : This issue feels very Moench-ian, though I can’t quite put my finger on why. The scene where the one student tries to convince the others to rush Zsasz and the one where Batman and Robin almost choke each other in particular feel like they’re kinda trademark Doug Moench scenes, but again, I can’t articulate why they seem so.
Flavio Sette : Batman doesn’t listen to Fleetwood Mac in this comic, though.
Brian Cronin : Batman is basically like Matthew McConaughey’s True Detective character.
Brian Cronin : “Time is a flat circle!”
Brian Cronin : One thing I forgot about these stories is how many PUNS there are.
Brian Cronin : Bates School for Women
Brian Cronin : And all of the books on the bookshelf are references to the creative team.
Tom A. : Yeah, lots of references snuck in background text in these issues.
Flavio Sette : That super impressionistic shot of Batman’s eyes? Like the cherry on top of all this amazing art Breyfogle drew these last few issues.
Sean Whitmore : Nobody did Batman emoting through the mask better than Breyfogle.
Sean Whitmore : A lotta times he’d be like, “I don’t even need to show his unmasked jaw, suckers!” And cover all that in shadow too.
Brian Cronin : He conveyed emotion so well through movement.
Brian Cronin : Look at the girls cowering from Zsasz.
Brian Cronin : That’s striking work,
Tom A. : I kind of wish Kitch had stuck around instead of fading into obscurity.
Flavio Sette : Yeah, and the shot of Robin’s hand popping out of the room and choking Batman.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, I like Kitch.
Sean Whitmore : I really liked Kitch, Hardback, Essen, that whole little crew of 90s cops.
Flavio Sette : Kitch is the all-purpose cop here: working a homicide one minute, a hostage situation the next.
Brian Cronin : But it’s funny how Moench used him almost always just to yell at other cops for not being respectful enough.
Flavio Sette : Kinda makes you wonder if Kitch just showed up and started barking orders. Might be why he made the bonehead move of sending a cop into the school, he’s a homicide detective, he’s a fish out of water here.
Brian Cronin : While in the debut storyline in Shadow of the Bat, Batman is sent to Arkham because he “kills” Kitch…for not being respectful enough at a crime scene.
Flavio Sette : Ha!
Sean Whitmore : After another Zsasz murder, even.
Brian Cronin : Breyfogle’s Gotham cop outfit basically looks like a GI Joe character.
Sean Whitmore : ”Wonder what was on?”
Sean Whitmore : Isn’t that the same design they used for the SWAT team in the animated series?
Flavio Sette : Breyfogle does a really good job selling the SWAT guy’s horror at finding the body.
Brian Cronin : He does a really job selling every emotion ever!
Brian Cronin : I don’t think the Animated Series SWAT guys had those visors.
Brian Cronin : Wait, it’s the Bate’s School for Women?
Brian Cronin : And not the Bates’ School?
Tom A. : Speaking of the animated series, no wonder Zsasz never showed up there.
Flavio Sette : Most pages this issue have about 5-6 panels, but the one that intercuts between the women planning their next move and the SWAT guy sneaking around has like 8 or 9, and it’s phenomenally-paced.
Tom A. : Is the Bates school a high school or a college?
Brian Cronin : They DO look a bit older.
Sean Whitmore : Zsasz will show up in the next cartoon as, like, a smooth-talking mob informant or something.
Brian Cronin : I’m still guessing high school.
Brian Cronin : I love Bird trash-talking Batman to Bane.
Brian Cronin : “Any guy who relies on a kid must be overrated.”
Brian Cronin : Meanwhile, look at Bane’s crew!
Tom A. : Although I don’t think they teach criminal psychology in high school.
Flavio Sette : I was thinking it was like an adult learning center type place. Like they were high school dropouts who went back to school.
Brian Cronin : Anyone who relies on a Falconer MUST be overrated.
Sean Whitmore : Bird’s amount of smack-talk was nowhere near commensurate to anything he ever accomplished.
Tom A. : He accomplished more than the other two.
Sean Whitmore : Yeah, but they appropriately humble by comparison.
Flavio Sette : Bullock and Montoya are sent in as Gordon’s representatives. Why Gordon would’ve needed to be at the scene of a brutal hostage situation/double homicide, I don’t know. Maybe he’s just super into micromanagement.
Flavio Sette : Gordon’s always showing up at crime scenes like he’s a detective and not the freaking police commissioner. So weird.
Tom A. : Gordon is really hands-on.
Sean Whitmore : Gordon spends a lot of time this crossover getting chewed out by the mayor, like in a Beverly Hills Cop movie.
Brian Cronin : Moench has always been way into the politics of Gotham City.
Brian Cronin : Perhaps too much so.
Tom A. : You’re a loose cannon, Gordon, turn in your badge!
Brian Cronin : His original run had a whole long arc about Gordon being pushed out.
Brian Cronin : Then his later run ALSO had Gordon pushed out in favor of his own wife.
Brian Cronin : Then this all led to Rucka pushing Gordon out specifically because he DIDN’T like how unrealistically hands on Gordon was.
Sean Whitmore : I dug some of that story, like when Gordon goes and brings in some huge thug by kicking his ass off-panel and then quitting.
Brian Cronin : But obviously, people don’t want to be without Gordon.
Tom A. : Yeah, he came back in Morrison’s run.
Brian Cronin : Those little subplots from the books with tight continuity are always fun to look back on when you re-read part of the stories.
Tom A. : Nobody really remembers Crispus Allen.
Brian Cronin : Because it’s like, “Oh yeah, that was a whole thing back then, wasn’t it?”
Flavio Sette : I love what Rucka did with the GCPD.
Brian Cronin : Rucka did an amazing job with the GCPD.
Brian Cronin : But he was probably too concerned about whether Commissioner Gordon was realistic.
Flavio Sette : Also, that whole sub-plot about Krol firing Gordon doesn’t pay off until about two years later, after Knightsquest, Knightsend, Prodigal and even Troika, I think, right? Makes me wonder why they had to take nearly half a page to check in on it here.
Sean Whitmore : There’s a lot of Krol stuff that seems like it’s gonna come into play by the end of Knightfall and it just doesn’t, really.
Brian Cronin : That sort of ties in with what we discussed in the earlier installments.
Sean Whitmore : Maybe it’s played up more in Quest, I don’t recall.
Brian Cronin : About how this really was just like being thrown in the middle of the regular Batman story arcs.
Brian Cronin : Only with numbers on the covers now.
Flavio Sette : That panel of Batman firing off his grapnel is so good. The way Breyfogle uses shadows throughout this issue…
Brian Cronin : Yeah, the shadows are ridiculously cool in this issue.
Sean Whitmore : Yeah, definitely. In a way, you could say all this started about 10 issues earlier than “Part 1”
Brian Cronin : Good job by the GCPD to not be able to hit Zsasz when he pops fully out of the window.
Brian Cronin : How would Bullock possibly tell that Batman was hurting?
Flavio Sette : GCPD hires former Imperial Stormtroopers exclusively.
Brian Cronin : Very impressive bit where Batman notices the new scars on Zsasz right away.
Flavio Sette : I was actually surprised to see the built-into-the-cowl night vision making an appearance here. Usually when it popped up there’d be some line about placing lenses below the mask, but here it’s just a part of his mask and he turns it on with the touch of a button. I thought that wasn’t created until the late 90s/early 2000s.
Sean Whitmore : I assumed the “two more scars” was just an assumption based on the dead cops.
Brian Cronin : You’re probably correct.
Flavio Sette : Heh, check out that blackboard. It wouldn’t be a Doug Moench story without some reference to conspiracy theories and JFK!
Tom A. : Cops lose all aim when confronting villains.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, I honestly don’t even know the Bohemian Grove conspiracy theory.
Brian Cronin : I know it’s a secretive group.
Flavio Sette : It’s a real world thing that’s been tied to conspiracy theories.
Brian Cronin : So I guess someone believes that the Kennedy assassination was planned there?
Sean Whitmore : Is that a Moench-ism? I never noticed.
Flavio Sette : Yeah, there’s a host of theories about what those guys get up to when they go to that retreat.
ExcitedCharacter. : I didn’t know anything about Grove, until I goodle it.
Tom A. : Info wars is pretty into it.
Flavio Sette : It is, Sean. He even wrote a Legends of the Dark Knight arc that had allusions to JFK and RFK assassination theories.
Tom A. : And the Iran Contra scandal was an influence on Death in the Family And Suicide Squad.
Brian Cronin : He really leaned into it during his run with Kelley Jones.
Brian Cronin : Every other issue was a conspiracy theory.
Sean Whitmore : Huh. They oughta bring him back to do a Court of Owls story.
Brian Cronin : The Batman/Robin interactions are really sort of dragging.
Brian Cronin : As they just repeat the same themes over and over.
Sean Whitmore : Far too antagonistic
Brian Cronin : And Robin just looks like a moron chasing after the falcon an issue after almost being killed by Bird.
Flavio Sette : Really dig the way Moench and Breyfogle set up the globe, which eventually plays a role during Batman’s fight with Zsasz. An unexpected Chekhov’s Gun.
Brian Cronin : “Batman tells me to stay away. When I got involved, the guy almost killed me. Oh look, there’s a bird! I should chase it again.”
Sean Whitmore : ”Oh, it’s you again. This D-lister is too much for you, Robin, so piss off.”
ExcitedCharacter. : Hmm. We are at part 3, and Bats already apeshit on Villains. It’s Zsasz but again, good that Montoya comed in.
Flavio Sette : Moench does a good job with Zsasz, using his habit of calling his victims “zombies”, something that most writers dropped or just plain forgot (which is fine, it’s just that, this early in the character’s history, it’s nice to see Moench try to keep his take on Zsasz very similar to Alan Grant’s)…
Tom A. : To be fair, despite being D-list at the time, Zsasz is very dangerous.
Brian Cronin : Montoya is certainly noble here, but she also seems oddly naive.
Brian Cronin : But boy, Batman’s entrance is amazing.
Brian Cronin : What a send-off for Breyfogle.
Flavio Sette : Yeah, it is. But did Batman exit the building just so he could swing through the window and make a dramatic entrance?
Tom A. : A shame the whole thing about the girls standing up to Zsasz didn’t pay off.
Sean Whitmore : What was woth Zsasz’s glowing eye? He didn’t have any mental powers, that was Stirk, right?
Brian Cronin : It was just an artistic flourish.
Brian Cronin : You know Batman is off his game when Zsasz is totally throwing him.
Brian Cronin : “What do you mean?”
Brian Cronin : Like he’s his freakin’ therapist.
Brian Cronin : “Tell me more, Zsasz. I’d like to hear your Bane theories.”
Tom A. : Zsasz always oddly holds his own against Batman despite not having any real training.
Brian Cronin : With Batman looking PATHETIC when he asks Zsasz what Bane’s plan is.
Flavio Sette : Yeah. Batman, the World’s Greatest Detective, decides, based on zero evidence that Zsasz was working with Bane.
Sean Whitmore : I like how adamant Batman is that Zsasz knows about Bane; makes him sound as mentally weary as he looks physically tired.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, once it gets to a hand-to-hand fight, Zsasz really should be easy work for Batman.
Brian Cronin : Zsasz’s whole deal is that he holds hostages, so you CAN’T just attack him.
Sean Whitmore : Even is “as if you don’t know” sounds a little off-voice for Batman.
Tom A. : TELL ME ABOUT BANE, WHY DOES HE WEAR THE MASK?
Brian Cronin : Once you get him free from hostages, it should be over.
Brian Cronin : Zsasz is a big guy.
Flavio Sette : Kinda depends. Sometimes Batman dispatches Zsasz with ease, sometimes he’s portrayed as being so strong and tough he can take almost anything Batman can dish out.
Brian Cronin : The important thing to remember, also, is that Zsasz is doing all of this in boxer shorts.
Sean Whitmore : Batman launching himself at Zsasz after knocking him to the floor is intense.
Brian Cronin : The whole thing is super intense.
Brian Cronin : Batman is seriously losing his shit.
Flavio Sette : This fight scene is one of Breyfogle’s best, at least that we’ve looked at so far. The way he leads your eye from panel to panel, the “fight choreography” itself…
Sean Whitmore : By the end he looks like he’s trying to crack Zsasz’s head like an eggshell.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, it’s outstanding. It helps that Zsasz is such a fluid character, action-wise.
Brian Cronin : So the fight scenes can be more dynamic that way.
Brian Cronin : But yeah, it’s part THREE and Batman is just LOSING IT
Sean Whitmore : Breyfogle’s panel-to-panel is a joy to witness, in action scenes and also comedy.
Brian Cronin : Dude’s trying to crack guys’ skulls.
Brian Cronin : Then he’s going to the roof to, like, shake himself to steadiness.
Flavio Sette : And next issue he’s basically out of commission.
Sean Whitmore : That he doesn’t notice Bird watching him says volumes.
Brian Cronin : “Missed it…by inches. But wherever my grave is…someone’s standing on it…waiting on it…stomping the hell out of it. Someone named Bane.”
Brian Cronin : Bane is seriously building long term housing in Batman’s brain.
Sean Whitmore : Wait, so where’s Robin? He left to follow Bird, and Bird hasn’t left yet.
Tom A. : Joker is gonna get jealous.
Flavio Sette : Yeah, impressive, considering they’ve met once.
ExcitedCharacter. : If this would be published today, I think that it would a meme, that Batman connects everything to Bane.
Sean Whitmore : Batman slapping Robin in the face meme: “Where’s Baaaaaaane?”
Flavio Sette : The whole Robin sub-plot gets followed up on next issue.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, I think this series would be a WHOLE lot different if done today.
Flavio Sette : Which is drawn by Jim Balent, interestingly enough.
Brian Cronin : For instance, the demarcation points would be much clearer.
Brian Cronin : Yeah, Jim Balent’s longtime association with the Bat-books begins in the next chapter!
Flavio Sette : His style looks noticeably different, but we’ll see it soon.
Sean Whitmore : While it’s never a huge issue that other superheroes don’t get involved when Batman’s in trouble in his own book…Knightfall happened at a super convenient time to explain why he didn’t get any help.
Sean Whitmore : Superman’s dead, the League is in disarray…
Sean Whitmore : Titans are all messed up. Aquaman is brooding in a cave or something.
ExcitedCharacter. : Destruction of Coast City… or will it happen?
Tom A. : And Nightwing is with said messed up Titans.
Sean Whitmore : I think Coast City is still a ways off at this point
Brian Cronin : Yeah, Coast City is not for another five months.
ExcitedCharacter. : Oh Okay. I don’t remember the dates.
Sean Whitmore : AzBats was in full armor mode when he declines Superman’s invitation to attend the wake, I believe
Flavio Sette : Nightwing’s going through his own shit, what with trying to marry Starfire to keep her from breaking up with him, and then Kory got possessed or something…
Flavio Sette : So yeah, most of Batman’s closest allies have enough on their plates as is.
Sean Whitmore : Yeah, that Titans wedding issue came out right around the end of Knightfall/beginning of Robin’s solo book
Brian Cronin : One of the things we’ll see from the loss of Breyfogle in this next chapter is that it seems like we lose a bit of a forward momentum.
Brian Cronin : As there’s a lot of wheel spinning in these first three chapters
Brian Cronin : But with them all being drawn by Breyfogle, there’s still that sense of connectiviity.
Brian Cronin : And we lose that soon.
Tom A. : Gotta stretch things out for 19 issues.
Flavio Sette : Helps that these first three issues take place over the course of one night.
Sean Whitmore : Yeah, the Moench/Aparo and Dixon/Nolan differences do become a bit jarring at times
Sean Whitmore : (But none moreso than that weird Showcase tie-in they retroactively stuck in there)
Tom A. : Like Moench and Dixon’s different takes on psychologists and the mentally ill.
Brian Cronin : Oh man, that Showcase story is going to be a TRIP when we get there.
Brian Cronin : NO REASON for that to be in this crossover.
Brian Cronin : NONE.
Brian Cronin : “Hey, we’re a 17 part crossover. Should we just throw in two issues of nonsense? YES!”
Flavio Sette : Other than “crap, we forgot about Two-Face!”
Sean Whitmore : Same for that 3-part Scarecrow arc in SOTB…though those may not have been numbered parts of the arc.
Brian Cronin : They’re not, so luckily, we will avoid those issues.
Sean Whitmore : Probably for the best
Brian Cronin : Those seemed like them throwing Grant a bone for leaving him out of this crossover for no reason.
Brian Cronin : Okay, folks, we shall get our Balent on this Thursday at 4:30!
Brian Cronin : Thanks for coming out, everyone!
In a special discussion with readers, CSBG continues its look at Knightfall with Batman battling Zsasz in Norm Breyfogle's sendoff from the Bat-books.