about_faces (about_faces) wrote,

The long prelude to THE LONG HALLOWEEN: Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Early Collaborations (Part 2 of 2)

In the last post, I examined the pre-Long Halloween comics of Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, glancing at their little-appreciated oddball gem Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! followed by Fears (aka Choices) and Madness, their first two Halloween specials for Legends of the Dark Knight. With this second part and conclusion of my overlong prelude to TLH, I'll not only look at the final part of their Haunted Knight trilogy, but also their first--though most assuredly not their final--foray into Marvel Comics, and while it's technically not a Batman story, it's still TOTALLY a Batman story in all the ways that count when it comes to Loeb and Sale's Bat-tales. I would go so far as to call it the "lost chapter" in Loeb and Sale's Batman saga, just in terms of themes and character if not actual plot details.

As you saw in the last post, I discovered that Loeb and Sale's first two LotDK Halloween stories are kinda the same story beat for beat. With all that said, I should give Madness credit in one area: unlike Fears/Choices, it doesn't feature a recurring motif of having characters mention the goddamn title over and over again. In Fears/Choices, the words "choice" and "chosen" are uttered eleven times, whereas the word "madness" is rarely mentioned in Madness (although we do get three variations of "I'd like to help... if you'd let me," but eh, three is the magic number for repeated phrases, so it's okay). I mention this because there will be an awful lot of echoed lines throughout The Long Halloween, mainly along the lines of "I believe in ______" and "what has to be done," so this is hardly a one-off occurrence for Loeb. Notably, however, neither the use of echoed lines nor the mirrored were present in Loeb and Sale's third and final standalone Halloween special in 1995.

With Ghosts, Loeb didn't need to repeat the formula of Fears/Choices and Madness, because this story was instead based on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, right down to characters paraphrasing or outright quoting lines directly from the classic story. At least it's not just the villains, who are more or less in character even as they're used as stand-ins for the Ghosts of Christmas Halloween Past and Present. Instead of one character quoting literature, now we have Batman and company reenacting literature wholesale like a gimmicky sitcom episode played straight, and I honestly can't tell if that makes it better or worse.

</small>An ad for Ghosts which ran in Wizard Magazine. Notice how the final versions of the Penguin and Ivy will subtly differ from how they appear here.</small>

This time around, Loeb and Sale brought in three classic rogues for them to reinterpret, though technically, only one of them actually appears in this story as the other two are the "sprits" who have taken the form of rogues for no reason. As such, the only villain in Ghosts is the Penguin, who appears in the opening scene to literally crash a banquet of wealthy citizens, including Bruce Wayne and Lucius Fox. This appearance marks the only time that Loeb would ever write the Penguin as a character in any substantial way. While Ozzie would later brief cameos throughout Loeb's trilogy of Batman mysteries--The Long Halloween, Dark Victory, and Hush--those appearances are very short and entirely wordless, save for an "awk" or two. This is a shame because, believe it or not, I actually *like* the way that Loeb wrote the Penguin in Ghosts, wherein he ramped up Ozzie's "gentleman thief" persona by having him speak like a pretentious poet who always has a thesaurus handy, all while still depicting him as a ruthless threat.

But while I actually unabashedly enjoy something that Loeb has written for a change, it's hard to enjoy given Tim Sale's utterly bizarre design of the character. Seriously, what the hell is that?! Not only does Sale decide to occasionally buck Ozzie's most iconic feature by giving him a small nose which fluctuates to smaller sizes throughout this scene, he also lines his massive gullet with itty bitty teeth. Why? I would assume to make him look more like an actual, real-life penguin, except the inside of their beaks don't even look remotely like that. This Oswald looks more like a dwarfish shark-man mutant thing than a penguin, save for the fact that his hands are flippers just like the Danny DeVito version from Batman Returns. In fact, I think that this is the first time that the character in comics has ever been drawn with the flippers, so I guess that this was just Sale's twist on Batman Forever's shockingly freakish take on a character who was and is too often seen as silly-looking and ridiculous. In any case, I feel about Sale's Penguin the way Professor Farnsworth feels about the Grunka Lunkas.

The Penguin's appearance here only serves as a prologue to the actual story, which kicks in about the same time as the food poisoning that Bruce got from the banquet. Just like with Fears/Choices and Madness, Ghosts features Batman undergoing some manner of hallucinations which eventually yield to introspection and personal epiphany. In Fears/Choices, the cause was fear toxin. In Madness, the cause was a bullet to the head and a bad fall. In Ghosts, the cause... wait for it... is bad shrimp. No, really. Bruce contracts food poisoning from eating shrimp out of season, and thus the hallucinations in this story happen in his resulting fever dream.

While Loeb plays coy with the possibility maybe the ghosts are real, no, it's pretty clear that "bad shrimp" is the only explanation we get for the Dickensian reenactment that ensues, starting with Jacob Marley being embodied by Thomas Wayne, warning his son to make the same mistakes he did. What mistakes, you ask? You'll find out what Loeb is going for soon enough, as after this, Bruce is visited by the Ghost of Halloween Past, who takes the form of Poison Ivy for no reason. Seriously, why her? What does she have to do with Bruce's past or Halloween or anything else? Hell if I know. There's no logical reason in-story why they should play those roles other than an excuse to bust out Sale's wildly unique take on Ivy as a deathly-pale vampire type with actual ivy for hair.

One thing I've always wondered about Sale's take on Ivy is why he drew her with deep ridges on her forehead, as if she were an albino Klingon or something. Actually, go back and you'll notice that Sale did the same thing with the Penguin, as if brows somehow were able to furrow like that (which, um, they can't). At least with Ivy, I could accept that the ridges are meant to be the roots of her ivy hair or something. I guess it works if we accept that this is a nightmarish dream version of Ivy rather than the real Pamela Isley, except that the *real* Ivy shows up in The Long Halloween looking exactly the same as the dream version. Eh, I guess it just falls under artistic license or something, and as with the Scarecrow, this works as long as you accept that it's all "not true continuity," set strictly within the confines of Loeb and Sale's own mini Batman sub-universe.

In case you're wondering what "she... doesn't know..." it turns out that li'l Bruce had no friends as a child. I guess this was written in Loeb's idyllic, pre-Tommy-Elliot days.

With not-Ivy as his guide, Bruce goes back to the time when because his father was too busy one night to take him trick-or-treating, because we're doing the "workaholic dad with no time for his family" trope that Hollywood family comedies have been milking for about thirty years now. More to the point, it's meant to illustrate how Thomas Wayne--at least from li'l Bruce's perspective--obsessed over his job while neglecting the more important things in his life, much as Bruce himself is doing as Batman. Or at least, that's what the narrative strongly implies without showing us. After that, the flashback flashes forward to Bruce--still in his "traveling the world" phase--in Paris, where he saved a stranger named Lucius Fox from a mugging. This is meant to be a younger, more "ruthless" pre-Batman Bruce Wayne, which probably explains why he closely resembles Bruce's "old vet" disguise from the first issue of Batman Year One.

After Lucius learned in the next page that his rescuer was the Bruce Wayne, he proposed to combine his financial expertise with Bruce's considerable finances to "do something extraordinary." Bruce rejected Lucius's vague non-offer, unable to explain that he was devoting everything--money, included--to his angst-fueled mission to become Batman. Putting aside what this says about Bruce and how it serves Ghosts, I think this scene is also notable for how it tells something that hadn't been shown in Batman comics before: namely, the meeting of Bruce and Lucius, who had always just kinda been "there" as a supporting character. In a small way, this is the first instance of Loeb and Sale making their mark on Batman's history, even if it's--again--not true continuity.

After Bruce dismisses Spirit!Ivy's visions by the sheer power of his teen-worthy sulking ("You wouldn't understand. No one could," he says not once, but twice), he finds himself back in bed and out of costume, still sweating feverishly and cursing the shrimp for giving him such a nightmare. Which is is the story's cue to introduce us to the Ghost of Halloween Present (although he's not called as such, but c'mon, that's what we're doing here), who turns out to be the Joker for no reason.

Again, why this character for this role? No idea! I can only assume that Loeb and Sale just wanted to finally bring the Joker into one of these, complete with the image of Alfred trussed up with an apple in his mouth. Then again, I suppose I can't blame them on that count, although I do find it strange that Batman doesn't even acknowledge the peril his closest friend is in right there, choosing instead to try straight-up murdering the Joker with a poker.

I don't care if this is a fever dream (and Ghosts plays coy throughout about whether or not it is), I'm not sure what's more out of character for Bruce here: the fact that he doesn't acknowledge Alfred, his attempted murder of the Joker, or his thick-headedness in this entire situation. So what, oh, what does Joker-Ghost of Halloween Present have to show Batman? Remember, in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge was shown the direct effect of how his cruelty and miserly ways was affecting actual people, including a sickly child. This was enough to shake Scrooge to the core and prepare him to the final shock of his future vision. What could the Joker possibly show the Batman that would affect our hero the same way?

Okay, seriously, what is up with the Joker's teeth? Artistic license is one thing, but at this point, the Joker's features are exaggerated to the point that there's no way that he can be human.

Yes, apparently, the entirety of Bruce's "present" vision is to see a trio of kids act skittish around "old man Wayne's house," just because he happens to live in a gigantic scary mansion. Really, it looks like the kids are are more scared of the house than of Bruce, and yet we're supposed to accept that the lesson Bruce is supposed to gain from this is that he's no different than the Joker. Yes. Sure. That makes about as much sense as what comes immediately after, when we get to see Bruce reenact the graveyard future sequence, in which Loeb has smooshed both Scrooge's own grave and Tiny's Tim's into one single sequence... which doesn't work. At all.

Bruce asks the spirit, "How? How could I be so easily forgotten?" having apparently missed the fact that Alfred was RIGHT THERE, so obviously he wasn't "forgotten" at all, not in the same way that Scrooge was. In response to Bruce's silly question, the cloaked figure takes off its hood to reveal a skeleton wearing Batman's cowl, to which Bruce asks, "Is this what my father wanted to tell me? For all the good that Batman does, have I left nothing for myself?" And then, he actually paraphrases actual lines from A Christmas Carol by asking, "Spirit, are these visions of things to come, or is it too late to change? Is it?"

Okay, I just don't buy why Bruce is freaking out this much, especially not after what he'd been shown up to this point. Like, "Oh no, I scare children, therefore my life is a waste and I'm going to die! Eventually!" Loeb seemed to intent on rushing straight to the big Bat-Death reveal that he apparently to forgot to give actual evidence to back up Marley!Thomas' warnings about how Bruce is somehow making the same mistakes that he did. It especially makes no sense when you discover that it leads to Bruce--upon waking--to call up Lucius, whereupon we also get another bit of world-building: the origin of the Wayne Foundation.

While, hey, it's nice to see the origin of Bruce actually thinking about helping others with his money rather than just his fists, hhhhhow did he come to that conclusion exactly? Is he just operating out of some core fear of winding up alone and mostly-forgotten? If so, then what a selfish motivation! At least Scrooge's fears for himself were combined with the horror and guilt of learning that his ways would lead to a child's death, whereas Bruce fundamentally doesn't have anything to really feel guilty about. I mean, yeah, it's easy to imagine that poor kids all across Gotham might be dying without Bruce putting in money to help them, but this idea doesn't even occur to Bruce! This story could have worked, but Loeb seemed too intent on rushing through to the Christmas Carol beats to try coming up with strong story on its own merits.

To be fair to Loeb, though, I at least applaud what he tried to do with Ghosts, as well as the rest of the Haunted Knight trilogy as a whole. If these three stories have a common thread, it's not Halloween itself, but rather it's the internal struggle of Bruce trying to be both Bruce Wayne and Batman without losing himself entirely to either side. In Fears/Choices, Bruce was tempted to embrace a normal life and give up being Batman, and while it almost led to him making a dire mistake due to a convenient plot twist, it showed how he was still Bruce Wayne--a flawed human being with hopes and desires--rather than just Batman pretending to be Bruce. Madness ended with Bruce getting up the courage to revisit Alice in Wonderland--a book he closely associated with his mother--for the first time since she was murdered, and in doing so, was able to look back on those memories with love rather than Bat-angst. Finally, in Ghosts, he learned to embrace being Bruce Wayne rather than devoting himself entirely to Batman, finding ways to honor his parents memory and to help people in ways that don't involve beating up the mentally ill.

"Eh, I don't know what happened and I'm cool with not trying to figure it out." World's Greatest Detective, everybody.

Even if the circumstances around that lesson didn't actually hold water from a narrative standpoint, I can appreciate that Loeb at least tried to give Batman an arc for these stories that would lead to him being a better human being rather than the cold, callous Bat-jerk that he's too often written as being. With Ghosts completed, Loeb and Sale had their third hit Batman collaboration in a row, and as such, you might suspect that this fed seamlessly into the creation of The Long Halloween, yes? Not so! As it turns out, Loeb and Sale had originally planned to move onto bigger and better things, to leave both Batman and DC behind for--where else?--Marvel Comics. The one story they did there would end up being a mere diversion from the path to their most famous collaboration, but it's worth examining nonetheless, as it is a crucial link between the Haunted Knight trilogy and The Long Halloween.

When it comes to Loeb and Sale's many collaborations, this is the one that nobody ever talks about, and I can't understand why. Sure, it's not especially great, but it's no worse than any of their other stories, it has some of Sale's most striking layouts since Challengers of the Unknown, and it features one of the most insanely popular superheroes of all time teaming up with one of the most insanely popular superheroes of... well, of the 1990's. Maybe the main reason why it's not more popular is because it reads like Batman story with X-Men characters, a combination which may have proved too jarring for some DC and Marvel fans. Still, I would have thought that it'd appeal to fans of Loeb and Sale, particularly as it includes a number of firsts for the pair. For a start, as it's the first instance of Jeph Loeb writing about a thief with a heart of gold, I would argue that Gambit served as a dry run for Jeph Loeb's take on Catwoman, with a sorta-cameo by Rogue serving as a precursor to Tim Sale's big-haired and bustily muscular depiction of Selina Kyle.

As we learn two pages later, this scene is all set in the Danger Room. As such, thus everything around Gambit here is a hologram, including Rogue, who was at this point apparently off on her own somewhere for her own mysterious, personal reasons (I didn't read X-Men in the 90's, so if it wasn't part of the animated series, I don't know about it). Gambit, being the mature adult that he is, decides to pal around with a computer-generated imitation of the woman he loves before shutting off the program and essentially going, "Fine, Rogue, you have your secrets, and so do I! While I wait for my girlfriend to come back, I'm gonna go to London and track down a secret ex-girlfriend or two and get laid! Oh, wait, one of them is dead? Then I'll avenge her death!" That honestly is pretty much what happens, only it's said with awful Cajun accented dialogue.

So yeah, just like with Loeb and Sale's Catwoman: When in Rome almost a decade later, Victims featured a charming and sexy thief clashing their star-crossed superhero lover in a scene which turns out to be a fantasy, which then leads to the thief deciding to go questing abroad in Europe to uncover the truth about someone close to them. That search quickly turns the story into another first for Loeb, one that would prove so successful that he'd go on to write three more: a murder mystery. With quotes by Jack the Ripper (or someone claiming to be him), no less!

Who could this killer be? Maybe it's D-Man with several knives in each hand? Also, I just read that bio of D-Man, and now I'm sad. Why does everyone at Marvel hate the poor guy?

Victims centers around a series of Ripper-esque murders in London, and when one of the victims turns out to be an old flame of Gambit's, he takes it upon himself to apprehend the murderer. And right from the first issue, Loeb's bad habits come back in full force as he steals an entire scene from a movie. I'm not talking about a famous scene from a popular movie that everyone would recognize, but rather a short scene from a film that can be considered a cult classic at best, even if it does happen to be the first film adaptation of a Hannibal Lecter novel.

Oh yeah, soak in the 80's-ness of it all.

Manhunter, Michael Mann's 1985 adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel Red Dragon, was a flop that since became more famous after Silence of the Lambs made Hannibal Lecter iconic, and I'm one of those weird people who likes it better than any of the other Lecter movies with Anthony Hopkins. It's one of my all-time favorite movies, and I'm guessing that Jeph Loeb was also a fan, considering that he lifted from it--specifically the movie Manhunter, not the source novel Red Dragon--on three separate occasions.

The first was in Challengers of the Unknown, where he created an original character whose physical appearance was based on actor Stephen Lang. I know this because Loeb himself said so in the postscript of CotU #1, in which he mentions that Lang was the star of Crime Story without any mention of Lang's role in Manhutner. Still, I think they're connected, considering that in Manhunter, Lang played a sleazy reporter for a tabloid called the Tattler. In Challengers of the Unknown, the Lang-based character is a somewhat-less-sleazy reporter for a tabloid called the Tattletale. So yeah, you see what Loeb did there.

The second instance was in Madness, which was very similar to the climax of Manhunter. In Manhunter, there's a stand-off at the home of the killer who has a hostage inside, while the police hold their positions in a wooded area. The hero, Will Graham (played by CSI's William Petersen), fearing that he'll be too late to save the hostage, disregards the orders of the officers and charges ahead, flinging himself into the house through a large pane of glass. This scenario was recreated in Madness with Jim Gordon and his cops outside of the Mad Hatter's hideout, and Jim himself played the defenestrating part of Will Graham, only without the badass benefit of Iron Butterly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" playing on the soundtrack.

Which brings us back to Wolverine/Gambit: Victims, as the full story would eventually be dubbed in collected form. There's a scene in Manhunter (which wasn't in Red Dragon) wherein the Will Graham falls asleep on an airplane while looking over gruesome crime scene photos, which creates an awkward moment for Graham when the child sitting next to him sees the photos and freaks out. It's a nice little scene, one made especially effective by Mann's masterful use of music and mood, and it's a moment that Loeb completely rips off with Gambit.

Incidentally, Catwoman: When in Rome also opens with Selina waking up on an airplane after a daydream. Coincidence? I'm starting to guess not.

Aside from the fact that Manhunter is too obscure for your average person to recognize this scene, thus making this theft on Loeb's part rather than homage, what really bugs me about this steal is is the fact that this scene serves no purpose in Loeb's story. This may seem like a minor flaw, but considering that Loeb will repeat it right on the very first page of The Long Halloween, it's worth examining this scene and the original version from Manhunter before we move onto Wolverine/Gambit: Victims as a whole.

Here's the thing about the original scene in Manhunter: in the context of the film, it's a small moment that's rich with thematic and character elements, all conveyed largely through soundtrack and editing. It starts with Will Graham looking at photos of the murdered families, and it leads to him daydreaming about his own wife and son who he left behind to go chase after monsters once again, putting his own happiness and health--not just physical, but also emotional and mental--at risk. Even when he closes his eyes to daydream about being back with his wife, spending an idyllic afternoon together like any other normal, happy family, he's abruptly ripped out of the fantasy and back into harsh reality, all because an innocent child witnessed the horror in which Graham surrounds himself.

Maybe I'm just wanking here, but that's what I get out of this scene, and that's why Loeb's version feels--to me--empty by comparison, as it has no bearing on who Gambit is or why he's investigating these murders. The Gambit version is the bones of the same scene without the substance and soul of Manhunter's, and whatever Loeb hoped to convey by stealing this scene, all it resulted in was a rich moment reduced to a bit of awkwardness for Gambit.

As the story goes on, Gambit comes to suspect Wolverine, who has lately been struggling with his berserker rage and who has also arrived in London with no idea of how he got there and with blood all over him that he can't explain. Awkwardness: not just for Gambit anymore! Obviously, Wolverine didn't commit these ripper murders, but Loeb nonetheless has Gambit act like a complete idiot and accuse Wolverine constantly throughout, all while threatening to avenge his old flame, who was a cop.

We learn about their history through a flashback which also features a cameo by Yukio, a ninja supporting character of Wolverine's who was co-created by--you guessed it--Frank Miller. Everything always comes back to either Frank Miller or movies, doesn't it? Oh, and if that weren't enough of Jeph Loeb being Jeph Loeb, the entire flashback sequence turns out to be--yep, you guessed it again--an extended hallucination wherein our heroes have to confront their hopes and fears, just like what happens in every goddamn story from Haunted Knight.

Wolverine, meanwhile, has to overcome first his own hallucination wherein he's still with his lost love Mariko, followed by a trio of Wolverine robots who were controlled by the real killer. and in doing so, he is symbolically attacking the worst, most vicious parts of himself. Yes, just like the Haunted Knight trilogy, Victims also features a grim and brooding hero who has to face the past in order to hold onto his humanity rather than give into his darker persona. What I'm basically saying here is that Loeb's Wolverine and Gambit are effectively the same as his Batman and Catwoman, only without the overt sexual tension. Hell, the way that Wolverine tears them apart is almost a carbon copy of how Batman beat the shit out of the Scarecrow in Fears/Choices, so it looks like even Sale wasn't immune to repeating himself!

"Gambit watches with awe...?" Okay, maybe there's a little sexual tension.

Finally, the two confront the true killer, who turns out to be the classic-ish X-Men B-list villain Arcade, a human (non-mutant) assassin who likes to kill his prey in a delightfully impractical way: trapping them in an amusement part of death called Murderworld, filled with killer robots. I've noticed that many Marvel fans tend to hate Arcade, but I unabashedly love the sadistic li'l twerp. He's always seemed like a Batman villain who was awkwardly pitted against the X-Men, and under Loeb, the comparison seems even more apt.

Notice how similarly Loeb's narration described the Mad Hatter and Arcade, for one thing.

Loeb and I aren't the only ones who have apparently noticed the Batman-ness of the character, as both Wizard Magazine and the DC vs. Marvel trading card set pitted Arcade against the Riddler, as both are flamboyant, theatrical gamesters who don't get much respect from anyone. Under Loeb and Sale, Arcade still resembles the Riddler, especially their take on Eddie in The Long Halloween, right down to them both having snubby, pointed Tin-Woodsman-of-Oz noses. But that's not the only Batman villain to whom shares certain similarities, you can see from the final page of the first issue:

If you know your Ripper history, you might recognize that the actual quote isn't "I'm not a KID." At that point, Loeb, why use the quote at all? Why not write something original?

You'll notice that he laughs the same way as the Joker did in Ghosts, right down to the "heh" at the end. What's more, you might be able to tell that there's something rather amiss going on with one side of Arcade's face, right down to that shot of the eyes. When we finally see him clearly at the end of part two, it turns out that half his face is now deformed in an eerily Two-Face-ish fashion!

Yes, Loeb and Sale also created a new Mastermind, one who strikes me as looking very similar to Talia al Ghul

Here's the thing: no one mentions the scars anywhere at any point in the story until right around the very end, as if Arcade always looked this way and just didn't notice. It would have been kinda important for Loeb to have pointed this out earlier, especially since the scars and Arcade's motivation are huge plot points for the entire story which just show up out of nowhere at the end.

As it turns out, his face was scarred by his henchgirl, Miss Locke, a character who regularly appeared with Arcade in previous appearances but who was never mentioned once in this story until near the end, thus making this twist confusing for anyone who didn't know about or remember every aspect of this B-list minor villain's supporting cast. In the climax, we learn that Arcade attacked his trusty Henchgirl (for no reason given by Loeb), who then in turn scarred his face with a knife as he strangled her. Yep, Loeb fridged a recurring female X-Men character off-panel just to give the villain a flimsy motivation, because Arcade snapped and deluded himself that Wolverine killed Miss Locke and scarred his face, and the resulting ripper murders were committed by Arcade via Wolverine-bots to both feed his delusion and frame the real Wolverine.

Even though I can see the ways that Loeb was trying to foreshadow this whole reveal, he failed to weave this plot thread throughout the story in a way that made the ending feel organic rather than just something Loeb pulled out of his ass at the last minute. Which, again, will be a problem with the big reveal of The Long Halloween, not to mention Hush. As if to further foreshadow those stories, Victims even ends in a very Batmanian fashion, with Arcade--having truly become a weird combination of the Joker, Riddler, and Two-Face--locked in a padded cell, trapped within a loop of his own insanity. Also, I have to wonder if the sign on the door is purposely written as "Danger! Room," just to give the story a sense of going full circle.

Okay, I give up. Is there some reference with elevators and "fourth floor" that I'm not getting here? It seems too specific not to be a reference to SOMEthing.

Again, Victims, along Challengers of the Unknown Must Die! (wow, way to bring it back full circle, Hef!) both remain ignored when it comes to Loeb and Sale's collaborations, and I can't say that I understand why. Challengers was weird and rough compared to Sale's later work, but Victims has all the hallmarks of their more famous stories, right down to Loeb's plotholes and Sale's artwork and striking use of layouts, a talent which he--just like Matt Wagner--seemed to lose over the course of their future collaborations as his art became more conventional. For better or for worse, Victims should certainly be required reading for anyone interested in Loeb and Sale's Batman stories, as it truly does read like a lost Batman tale, just one that happens to feature X-Men in the same roles.

Furthermore, Victims is also notable for the addition of new letterer Richard Starkings, who replaced Haunted Knight letterer Todd Klein, and with Starkings' computerized lettering company, Comicraft, would work with Loeb and Sale on most projects from here on out.. I know that most people don't really think about lettering, but man, I love Todd Klein, as the guy turns lettering into an art form, so I was sad to see him go.

Nonetheless, Starkings was a major addition to the burgeoning superstar team of Loeb, Sale, and colorist Gregory Wright, who had been with them since Fears/Choices and whose work undoubtedly added just as much atmosphere as Sale's line work. Together, the team might have directly gone onto another project at Marvel, with Loeb embracing his future destiny as TV bigwig at the House of Ideas a decade earlier! All this might have happened if if weren't for Archie Goodwin, who met up with the two over breakfast in San Diego in the summer of 1996, whereupon he off-handedly asked them, "I always liked what you two did with gangsters. Ever thought about doing a kind of a film noir tale?"

And with that question, the first seeds of Batman: The Long Halloween were planted.

Whew, that was one long-ass introduction, wasn't it? It's crazy to imagine that my actual review of TLH will end up being much, much longer, so I'm not even more excited to have the help of everyone who will be joining me for guest reviews! It took me over a month to write this and it'll take me even longer to crank out those TLH reviews, so in the meantime, I wholeheartedly suggest that everyone follow-up this prologue with a movie marathon of all the films that Loeb will use as the basis for his next work and beyond!

Before we examine Batman: The Long Halloween, everyone here should see (or have already seen) the following films:

1.) The Godfather trilogy. I just rewatched the first one recently and took many screencaps, because oh my god, Loeb lifted SO much. I will soon be rewatching Part II and will then subject myself to the infamous Part III for the first time.

2.) Silence of the Lambs, mainly for all of the Calendar Man stuff. Also worth watching: Manhunter, for all the reasons listed above, and also because--again--it's one of my very favorite movies.

3.) The Long Good Friday, a classic 1980 British gangster film starring Bob Hoskins (in his breakout role) and Helen Mirren. From what I’ve found, no place online has caught on to the idea that Loeb got the title of TLH from TLGF, but considering that they’re both centered on mob bosses who lose everything over the course of a holiday to a new wave of criminals they don’t understand, I suspect that a connection between the two is pretty fucking likely. Warning: this film is filled with incredibly thick London accents, so watching with subtitles is recommended, plus it's worth refreshing your memory on certain phrases from British slang.

4.) Presumed Innocent, the legal thriller starring Harrison Ford and Raul Julia. The twist ending of TLH is entirely ripped off from this movie, right down to the setting. If you don’t know the (stupid, senseless) twist from TLH and don’t want to be spoiled, then DON'T watch Presumed Innocent. As with Red Dragon vs. Manhunter, this is another case where Loeb drew "inspiration" from the movie and not its original book, so as such, I think it's simply an interesting coincidence that Loeb based a crucial aspect on Harvey Dent's storyline on a movie that came from a book that had this cover on the first edition:

So that's it for the movie recommendations. Also, if you haven’t read them yet, check out Batman: Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, as well as “Eye of the Beholder” from Batman Annual #14 by Andrew Helfer and Chris Sprouce. Loeb lifts stuff from both of these comics constantly, using them as the foundation for his work both here and in his Batman stories before and after TLH.

But of course, I would expect that most everyone here has read both of those comics already, as they are must-reads 'round these parts. When I get a chance, I'm going to give a full overhaul to my review of EotB with better scans, better commentary, and even a few great new finds I've discovered recently! I think I will need to reexamine my favorite comic of all time before revisiting how Loeb built upon its foundation in several respects.

If anyone else knows of films or books that TLH references, lifted from, and/or outright ripped-off, let me know! In the meantime, happy watching, and hopefully I'll see you with a review of TLH #1 sometime before next Halloween!
Tags: jeph loeb, joker, marvel comics, penguin, poison ivy, tim sale

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