I was absolutely stoked to get the opportunity to meet Chuck Dixon at WizardWorld ’98. At the time Chuck was 80 issues into his Detective Comics run (#644-738), 20 issues into his Nightwing run (#1-70, 101-105), 52 into his Robin run (#1-100) and just months away from starting his Birds of Prey Run (#1-46). Chuck Dixon WAS the Bat-Universe for those of us that read Bat-Books in the mid to late 90’s. This man bleeds comic scripts. A couple years later at WizardWorld 2000, Chuck hosted his own comic writing panel and I can remember someone asking him, “Typically how far in advance do you write your stories?” Chuck responded that he was ” at least 6 months ahead on all his titles” and that he was “17 issues ahead on Nightwing” and that he could be further ahead, if it weren’t for the pesky cross-overs.
Chuck has written some of my favorite Batman stories of all time. His Nightwing was my favorite character for nearly a decade. I can’t think of any other writer that might have written more issues in my comic collection than Chuck Dixon. What should I have him sign? An issue of Airboy? Detective? Nightwing? Robin? Punisher War Journal? I’m not sure what the hell was going through my young head, but I chose Seven Block. An obscure-ass 25 cent bin drop-out that I had picked up while rummaging in some dealer’s trash bins. Seven Block is a graphic novel, published by Epic comics, about some inmates that volunteer to take part in biological experiments in the prison infirmary, so that they can get away from the other not-so-friendly inmates. Not Chuck’s best work. I could have picked 4 dozen other issues that would have meant more to me. Chuck was amused though. He never thought in a million years he would be signing of copy of that.
In honor of my Chuck Dixon Autographed copy of Seven Block, I’d like to share some of my favorite Batman stories penned by Chuck.
Detective Comics Vol 1 #726 (1998)
The story starts out fast and frantic. Batman is looking for a girl and the perp is found dead. The only lead Batman has is that the perp held a cell next to the Joker in Arkham. Batman shows up at the Joker’s cell. What follows is some of the BEST Batman/Joker back-n-forth dialogue ever! They know each other to the T. Batman knows that Joker knows where the girl is. Joker knows Batman doesn’t have the time to play the game. The Joker rubs it in. Batman threatens to beat it out of him. The Joker responds, “You know that never works.” Eventually Joker gives in because Batman isn’t fun anymore and he tells Batman the location of the little girl. What Batman finds surprises him.
This issue of Detective is easily my favorite single Batman issue of all time.
Detective Comics Vol 1 #725 (1998)
At The End Of The Day
This issue of Detective takes place just after the big Batman event called Cataclysm, where a giant earthquake rocks Gotham to the ground. Batman and Nightwing are out patrolling and reminissing about the old days. This issue is fantastic, in that we have Dick and Bruce talking about a wide variety of topics that tend to never really get addressed in comics. They talk about Dick wanting to join the Bludhaven Police Force. They talk about the eb and flow of society and how the citizens of Gotham have gone form living to surviving. They talk about Batman’s mistakes with Jason Todd and Jean-Paul, which leads to Dick ask why he wasn’t chosen to take on the mantle of the Bat. (Knightfall) “Didn’t you think I was good enough to be you?” Batman repsonds, “You’re better than me.”
Before the conversation can get too uncomfortable, a riot in the street breaks out and the two go to work just like old times. What I really love about this issue, is that we get to see Bruce being candid about being Batman.
Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Vol 1 #142-145 (2001)
The Demon Laughs
The Demon Laughs is one of those Batman stories that could only happen in the LOTDK series. It falls outside the realm of the typical Bat story. We start with the Joker having a surprise relocation from Arkham to an offsite facility. The pick up is anything but orthodox. Never the less, the the paperwork checks out and the doc is more than happy to release the Joker onto some other poor hapless doctor, but this is no poor hapless doctor, it’s none other than the Demon himself, Ra’s al Ghul!
The Demon (Ra’s) has yet another plan to help usher in a new era for mankind and in an attempt to throw off the ‘Bat’, he is sending in the ‘Clown’. Together they work to develop a nasty fungus that they plan on using to wipe out 90% of the population by releasing the fungus in the air stream. But, lIke all good team-ups with the Joker, this one goes south. Joker turns on Ra’s an releases the fungus on Ra’s people and even on Ra’s himself, only to find out Ra’s already had been vaccinated. Joker, serverely outwitted, gets even more punishment as Ra’s daughter, Talia, pumps him full of lead. Keeping the fungus for themselves, they leave the Joker to die.
Batman arrives as Joker is on his death bed. Batman knows that Joker is the key to Ra’s whereabouts and he needs him alive. Batman does the unthinkable. Against Alfred’s best wishes, he preps the Lazarus pit and tosses the Joker in! The pit has a peculiar effect on the Joker, an effect that lasts long enough for him to tell Batman where Ra’s is located. Batman intercepts Ra’s and foils his plans yet again. Joker gets his butt put back in Arkham.
This is arc has classic Joker written all over it, from the signature smile-after-death effect of his killer fungas to the peculiar effect the lazarus pit has on him, this is a must read for all Joker fans.
Until Next Time… If you are a con goer, you can won’t expect to pay more than $5 total for all six of these issues. (heck they’d throw in Seven Block for free) The Detective issues are a dollar at best and the LOTDK issues are 50 or 25 cent bin fodder. I always of course encourage you to go to your local Comic Shops and pick em up in the secondary market. It helps everyone out. If your shop doesn’t have dollar or 50 cent bins, just offer them a buck a piece. Heck, whats the worst that can happen?