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Tuesday, May 2, 2023

DC In The 80's Looks At Detective Comics #569–575

DC in the 80's loved that hot Mike W. Barr and Alan Davis run on Detective Comics in 1986. Our friend Michael Campochiaro joins our editor Mark Belkin to read and discuss this all too short run. Comics Talk with Mark and Michael, some 70's babies discussing 80's bangers. Check it. 


Michael: Mark, before we launch into examining writer Mike W. Barr’s and artist Alan Davis’s short but spectacular ‘80s run on Detective Comics, let’s talk a little about our personal histories with these issues, and this era of Batman comics. 

Batman was the first comics character I ever loved, so I’d been into his comics since around 1979 or 1980, when I was just 4 or  5. By the time Barr and Davis teamed up for this run I’d been buying Batman and Detective nearly every month for a while. If I recall, wasn’t Year One on the stands at the same time as these issues of Detective? It was definitely around the same time, and while Year One was huge, and felt so “adult” to me then, the Barr-Davis run really landed squarely in my wheelhouse. It had, and to this day still has, basically everything I want out of a Batman and Robin comic book. 

Mark: When it comes to Batman, the very first issue I bought was Batman 400. Honestly, Batman was Superfriends/60s TV show guy to me when I first started collecting, and I just bought whatever. I can't remember when the Barr-Davis run came out in relation to Batman, but I was collecting Batman when Year One happened. I loved it because I loved the Born Again run on Daredevil by the Miller-Mazzucelli team. But man oh man, the day Detective with Barr-Davis came out, it blew my mind. This was around the same time Alan Davis had done some New Mutants work, and I was a fan, but his Detective run right away became my favorite Batman story ever. Let's jump in.

What's that Robin is covered in?


Michael: From the cinematic opening panels, leading up to the glorious splash page introducing Batman and Robin, I was hooked. 

Mark: It definitely had a vibe that they were going for that more innocent time. TV show and Dick Sprang feel. Denny O'Neil, God rest his soul, had just come back as an editor on the bat titles, and I wonder if he wanted something more light hearted. He was the one who reinvented Batman for the 70s (with Neal Adams), and sent him on the Dark Knight path. I would love to ask Mike Barr or Alan Davis it this was the case. Barr's writing on Outsiders was far more inline with New Teen Titans and X-Men. 

That splash page though. That could be a poster. Alan Davis really put it out there for this issue.

Michael: I love how Barr opens it with the fight between Batman and Robin and Catwoman’s old crew. Their matching yellow cat suits felt like such a throwback, even in 1986. Catwoman’s introduction in this scene is memorable, thanks to Davis’s art. I remember being super excited reading these first few pages when I got home from the comic book shop. In some ways, I think I realized at that moment this was going to be special and it was everything that excited me about Batman comics. At the time I loved him teamed up with Robin, and this version of Jason Todd was fantastic. He was clearly still a headstrong kid, but he was also completely likable. And having Catwoman join in the fun put it over the top for me. Always loved the character, and at this point in time this rendition of Selina Kyle from Barr and Davis was the best I’d ever seen in a comic book.

Mark: The run does start taking a darker tone, which is weird, because I remember it being mostly bright. Maybe being a parent makes me think everything is dark now. How Batman was treating Robin, no wonder Robin became such an ass. I'm sure it was an exploration on losing Grayson for Jason Todd, but Bruce was just mean to him. And then the beatdown on Joker, over Catwoman turning on him. After electroshock therapy no less. But I love the interplay between Bruce and Selina before the heel turn.

Wholesome moment.

Also, how amazing is Alan Davis’ Joker? He’s beautiful. Just so kinetic, so dynamic. When Alfred tells them the Batlight is up and Jason is running happy to jump into action. Or when Batman is falling , having to flex to break his fall. Does anyone draw a better flexing human being than Alan Davis? Dont think so. 

(Michael and Mark had lunch at a coffee place.  Talked about this in real life. Then went back to doing it via a google doc.)

Michael: It definitely feels darker to me since I reread it as a dad now. And yeah, Davis makes everything look absolutely gorgeous. The man draws beautiful people doing amazing things so well. I love the stop at the bar as well, where Robin has a glass of milk with Rhonda as Batman interrogates the bar manager for a lead. I just love that entire scene and especially how Davis draws it.  Such a great two-part story. One of my favorite Joker and Catwoman stories, really, and it seems like no one ever mentions it when discussing those characters. I guess it was the age I read it at, but it was a formative read for me, as was this entire run. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t add that Detective 570 is my favorite Batman cover of all time, and possibly my favorite cover, period. It’s just so gorgeous. And next is..

Scarecrow with his new power to grow.


Michael: The cover is so cool with the oversized, looming Scarecrow (reminds me of the famous 1970s Neal Adams cover with the giant Joker), and the splash page is equally great. I’ve always liked the Scarecrow and Barr delivers one of my favorite stories featuring the character. With more death traps this issue, Barr harkens back to old school Batman stories. Davis draws the hell out of it all—his facial expressions are outstanding, his pacing of the story exquisite, and he draws a wonderfully creepy stick-figure Scarecrow. 

Mark: The cover is such a silver age vibe. So, of course Bruce is being mean to Jason. Kid just wants to enjoy the racetrack, but Bruce is all “this is business.” Who decided this was going to be a thing? Then he’s got Robin spraying water on him as he runs into the fire? WTF? THE KIDS LIKE 13!??!?!?! Then Robin is kidnapped, and Batman is drugged up. Yeah, this seemed alot more normal when I was 11 reading it, but now its seems twisted. And it ends with a gravestone for Jason Todd. Yikes. Scarecrow does look amazing though. Always twisted up. Is Alan Davis a top 10 artist? The artwork is stunning. 

Stupid sexy Batman.

Michael: Heck yeah, Davis is top ten for me. And you’re right, these issues are so much darker than I remembered! Especially the Robin stuff.  There are a lot of people who think Batman should never have a teen sidecick, and I bet they hold up these issues and go, “I rest my case.”

Editor's Note: Edited for length, I'm cutting us discussing 572 because it's too long and I just don't feel it's part of the run.


Michael : We are back in the Gotham groove with this issue! Wow, just a stunner of an issue for me. From the department of redundancy department: yet another killer cover and killer splash page combo. The sense of movement Alan Davis brings, with Batman and Robin always running, jumping or swinging through the city, is just marvelous. Adrienne Roy’s coloring is stellar the entire run, and her work on this issue is especially vibrant. It’s cool how Davis draws Jervis Tetch (what a name!), AKA the Mad Hatter, to look like the character did on the Batman ‘66 TV series. By the way, according to sources online, this is an imposter Mad Hatter, who had made a series of appearances in the Silver and Bronze Ages already. I love how comics are randomly weird like that. 

Mark: So the villains leaves Arkham and Batman kidnaps him to, I'm guessing, menace him? Isn't that going to just piss of the Hatter and make him want to get back his power. Now days it isn't a thing, but this 80s Batman is a dick. I don't remember this level of douche in the Outsiders. 

Batman getting a zero on Uber.

Michael : The opening is great—how nice of Batman and Robin to give the Hatter a lift home from jail, huh? Once again, Barr and Davis make great use of props during fight scenes (giant-sized sports equipment, flying buzzsaw straw hats) to remind us of Batman’s Silver Age adventures. Robin even tells puns again! We also get a glimpse of Bruce Wayne playing the role of the carefree playboy billionaire like he did in the Bronze Age, which I’m pretty sure DC moved away from after this, thanks to all the grim and gritty influence of Frank Miller on the character. This run clearly has a foot in the immediate pre-Crisis years, for sure, and I love that about it. Today I reread this and feel like it’s a successful effort to meld the pre- and post-Crisis sensibilities at a time when DC was undergoing massive change. In case I haven’t been effusive enough, I LOVE this run so much!

Mark : This is definitely a silver age homage. The gimmick villain, the clues, detective work, punching out goons, oversized props. My favorite moment is Bruce snapping at Gordon about his Dad. Nice touch by Alan Davis showing Jason Todd looking happy, then worried when Gordon pulls a douche move. 

I'm gonna say Jason Todd Robin is super sympathetic in this run, and I'm not sure why things had to change. When he's laid our at the end, I'm worried. 


Mark: So my 4 year old daughter wanted me to read her this issue, and after a few pages I had to stop. This is kind of a heavy and dark read. People like to complain about comics being for adults today, but this issue was aimed at kids and it's kinda not. 

Michael: I'm amazed at the stuff I was reading then, age 10, 11, 12. I always think I’ll read these with my kids too and then I reazlie, whoa, this shit is dark. As an adult though, I’m completely fascinated by the tension between the art and the subject matter. Not that Davis doesn’t capture the darkness—he really does, especially the way he draws Batman when he’s angry or anguished. I’m trying to remember my first exposure to Leslie Thompkins. I think it was Batman Special #1 in 1984, also written by Barr and with AMAZING art by Michael Golden. Dude, we should reread and discuss that special someday. So good. 

I see how this issue is setting up the transition to Year Two by recapping Batman’s origin (which was already repeated way too often  in the ‘80s). As a kid I liked this issue but also felt a little disappointed after the previous ones featuring colorful rogues gallery members like Joker, Scarecrow and Mad Hatter. I wanted Barr and Davis to tackle even more of them—Riddler, Poison Ivy, hell even Catman would’ve been awesome. I was way into colorful rogues at that point (and still am, honestly). Solid issue though, but also kind of sad in retrospect because I know Davis only has one more to go before he splits after the first part of Year Two. 

I'm calling Gotham Children's Services, like now.

Mark: Batman was super mean to Jason this whole time, and now he almost got him killed. Great super hero, shitty guardian. Even Leslie knows that and bitches him out, and Jason ended up dead. I guess after Dark Knight Returns, dead Robin became a part of the Batman myth. But Leslie was already getting on Batman about the kind of things "smart" people think they're bring clever writing about today. As if even writers I'm the 80s didn't realize Batman having kids run with him and beating up poor people wasn't problematic. 

The part with Bruce as a kid saying "no wait" as his parents were taken away really got me. I know that pain now. In Batman lore, I've seen Alfred, Gordon and Leslie be the person who consoles Bruce after the murders. I think Alfred works best. Leslie became his foster Mom? I forgot this was a thing. 

I do like the exploration in this issue of Batman as a concept, and there is a part when Batman is talking about Bruce Wayne as if he's the concept, how teachers wanted expell Wayne, who is a construct of Batman. Good stuff. 

Michael: Wow. What a run. The Caped Crusader at his finest in my estimation. Barr and Davis achieved a stunningly high quality of work here. Imagine if they’d been able to continue on for another dozen or more issues together, at least! Then again, one of the things that makes the run so special is its brevity. Blink and you miss it in DC history. Out of these six issues, four or five of them are damn near perfect. This run really deserves to be celebrated as one of the best Batman runs of all time. 

Mark: Agreed. This remains my favorite Batman run by any writer/artist team. I wish we could have gotten a full year. Excalibur was dope though.

Michael: Revisiting these issues with you has been awesome, Mark. Thanks for having me as a guest here at DC in the ‘80s. Let’s do coffee again soon and pick our next comic to discuss. 

Mark: Thanks for coming on the Comic Book Club. 100% we are doing this again. I know we have to do one with DC in the 80s Editor in Chief Justin and our mutual friend Andrew. Talk soon!


  1. This is my favorite Batman run as well. I thought I was the only one. Other than the Alan Davis hardcover collection from about 10 years ago, I've rarely seen these stories get much coverage. They feel like they tend to get lost between the Miller comics (TDKR and Year One) and the Breyfogle run that immediately followed it.

    1. M + M Inc. Totally agree with you. It's lost between runs, but deserves all the flowers.