It’s not like those monthly publications from DC Comics were the only place one could get introduced, or get a regular fix, of the Caped Crusader. I was indoctrinated into the Bat-family in the late nineteen seventies via the Saturday morning Super Friends cartoon, after school reruns of the Adam West television series, and the Hot Wheels Batmobile dinky car.
Of course, I had an awesome Batman Halloween costume, the basic pattern of which, I remember, was purchased from Lizanne’s Fabrics at suburban Toronto’s Sherway Gardens Mall – and slightly tailored for an excitable seven year-old, by Mommy.
Batman was everywhere and I loved his look, his antics and his adventures. But my first Batman comic, the original pop-culture home of the character, wouldn’t come until three years later, in 1983.
Batman was always meant for an older audience. Well, older than a seven year-old boy, anyway. Bruce Wayne experienced a terrible tragedy in his childhood. As a repercussion, he dresses as a creature of the night, instilling fear in criminals. And what a lot of criminals he had to deal with: the disfigured, the insane, the absolutely evil.
Yes, Batman stories are much better suited to an older audience. One should be at least ten years of age before becoming familiar with the character in his original form of consumption!
I bought Batman #360 at a local department store called Towers. No longer around, it was similar to Zellers, a sort of precursor to the Wal-Mart and Target we see today. I remember the comic staring out at me from a magazine rack full of comics: there was Batman’s enormous cape, billowing freely as the hero stood, seemingly afraid, while being attacked by a crew of skeletal figures. “Somewhere in the shadows stalked the Savage Skull,” warned the cover. Juicy imagery for my burgeoning imagination and interest in art and, it must be told, darker literature.
I bought the comic and rushed it home to read it. Here was a story by acclaimed and long-standing Batman writer, Doug Moench and legendary realist artist, Don Newton, who would, unfortunately, pass away a year later at the age of only forty-nine.
The Savage Skull, I discovered, was not some mystically horrific entity that I had originally presumed at the department store. No, he was even more harrowing. The Skull was simply a man, a dirty ex-police officer killing other officers and do-gooders because of some long-standing grudge. In some twisted and entirely misconceived way, he was similar to Batman, searching for his own brand of justice.
Beyond the psychological fear of a once trusted member of society now committing horrible crimes, the Skull lived up to his namesake physically, burnt in an explosive altercation, he was now hooded to conceal his deformed face.
That revelation was an image that would stay with me forever. Batman was real, he existed within a real world and his rogues gallery were at their best when they were – or could be – real, too. And I wanted to read more.
My copy of Batman #360 is now a well-read, well-folded, well-used comic book. Given the shape it’s in, it’s not one for a serious comic book collector, but I wouldn’t give it away for anything. I loved that cover and story so much, I remember carefully using scissors to cut out the Batman image to glue it on a school binder.
Batman was with me wherever I went now: at home and at school. He was in the pages of the various Batman and Detective Comics and Batman and the Outsiders and Justice League of America issues I read (and still read) on a regular basis. Batman has been on the printed page and in my imagination ever since I first reached for that introductory issue.
Although I wasn’t introduced to Batman though comic books, it was Batman #360 that started a lifelong love affair with one of the greatest pop-culture creations of the twentieth century.