Batman — Second Chances

June 23rd, 2015 by Max Allan Collins
Batman: Second Chances

Nobody at DC Comics informed me of this, but a collection of all of my BATMAN comic book stories has been published. A small box of comp copies arrived the other day, my first contact with DC on the book. Its pub date is July 21, but comic book shops may have it sooner.

It’s a handsome volume, but I haven’t sat down to read it yet. That experience will no doubt be bittersweet, because my BATMAN comics were not well-received by a significant number of fans. Even today, I’m one of the least popular BATMAN writers on many comics chat sites.

My position has always been that I did a good job, but was undone by poor editing. The latter is hard to prove, because I no longer have my scripts and my memory is fuzzy – I just know that certain explanatory captions were dropped and several sequences that were cross-cut got reassembled in a more linear, boring fashion. Back in those pre-Internet days, contact with an editor (in this case, the legendary Denny O’Neil) was strictly through the mail and the occasional long-distance call. I’ve come to think that Denny and I were not a good fit because, ironically, we both respected each other’s work so much that we didn’t want to step on the other guy’s toes.

What really turned me into an also-ran on BATMAN was the inability of O’Neil to pair me with an artist for longer than two issues. Sometimes the second part of a story would be drawn in an entirely different manner from the first, and apparently minus any reference material having been provided to the second artist to keep character visuals consistent with the first. There are eight comic-book stories by me in this volume (a handful by other writers are included) and for those eight issues, I had six artists.

Among the ironies of my brief tenure on BATMAN is my Toys ‘r’ Us success. That company went to DC, wanting to put together bags of BATMAN comics; the Toys ‘r’ Us people looked at about three or four years of BATMAN…and picked out my issues. I made a lot of dough from those reprints.

I’ve also been told that my material has been a source for animated BATMAN adventures.

The most famous thing about my version of Jason Todd is that fans voted to kill him off, like Andy Kaufman getting voted off SNL by phone. I should say that the writers who followed me (notably Jim Starlin) did not take Jason Todd’s story in the direction I intended and had set up.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES is complete as to my comic-book stories. But it does not include the first continuity of the BATMAN strip that I did before the Tribune forced me to step down at the threat of a lawsuit (the great Marshal Rogers was the artist). I did a final comic-book script about my Mime character that was never produced, but I turned it into a BATMAN short story. My two BATMAN graphic-novel projects – SCAR OF THE BAT, Eliot Ness Meets Batman; and BATMAN – CHILD OF DREAMS based on the Kia Asamiya manga – constitute the rest of my body of work on the Dark Knight, and represent my best work there. And it speaks well of Denny O’Neil that he recruited me for SCAR OF THE BAT after all we’d been through.

For the record, I was not fired – I quit. Now, I probably quit about fifteen seconds before I would have been fired…but I beat ‘em to the punch.

BATMAN – SECOND CHANCES represents a second chance for my comics stories on that character to be reappraised, and I’m pleased to have these stories gathered in one place.


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8 Responses to “Batman — Second Chances”

  1. Joe Menta says:

    Thanks for the write-up, Max. I discovered you through your comics work way back when, so this little glimpse into the background of that world was very interesting to read. Though my memory of that time is vague, I remember that my young self liked those Batman stories just fine, though of course the comics work of yours that I REALLY enjoyed was “Ms. Tree”. Anyway, I’ll keep an eye out for this new collection, as it’s been years since I read/owned those Batman issues. Though it sounds like you’re not getting any royalties on this, alas. Still, it’s all good publicity for you, right?

  2. John Platt says:

    I thought they were good stories, but yes, they were hobbled by an inconsistent approach on the art. I don’t recall the editing being as obvious as a reader, so hopefully they’ll stand up to a re-read.

  3. Max Allan Collins says:

    The editing problems are hard to explain. Denny and I just weren’t on the same page. I remember at one point I had Batman getting a baseball bat broken over his upper torso, which sent him down and out. Denny said that wouldn’t hurt him. That kind of thing just has me shaking my head.

    The art problem is the main thing. I think it was Cockrum who completely ruined the best gag I came up with, which was a police line-up of mimes. My script made it clear that the joke was that they were identical, just a line-up of Marcel Marseau’s. He made each mime distinctive, short, fat, tall, etc.

    That was, in fact, the day I quit…when I saw how that script had been drawn. By the way, Harley Quinn, very popular, is clearly a revamping of my Mime. You’re welcome, DC.

  4. Robert says:

    Excited to check out your Batman issues!

    Here is a comics related question: when will ROAD TO PERDITION be available at

  5. Jeff Clem says:

    I really liked the two-parter by Starlin and Cowan. Once I learned about the editorial and artist difficulties on the rest of your run from you years ago, it helped me appreciate them in that there really ARE good stories in there trying to get out from under all those problems.

  6. Glen Davis says:

    I hope they collect your Wild Dog stuff.

  7. Eric Harper says:

    I’m with Glen. Bring back Wild Dog, DC.

  8. Max Allan Collins says:

    There is a Wild Dog collection in the works, but again DC has not been in touch, and I have no idea what it’s contents are. They just about have to include everything to get to a decent length, though.