500th Anniversary Issue. Starring Batman and Robin. Guest-starring the Phantom Stranger, the Elongated Man, Hawkman and Hawkgirl.
- Contents page inside front cover penciled and inked by Jim Aparo.
- "To Kill a Legend" (Batman) written by Alan Brennert, penciled and inked by Dick Giordano, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Adrienne Roy.
- "The "Too Many Cooks..." Caper!" (Slam Bradley) written by Len Wien, penciled and inked by Jim Aparo, lettered by Unknown and colored by Tatjana Woods.
- "Once Upon a Time..." (Batman) written by Len Wein, penciled and inked by Walter Simonson, lettered by Unknown and colored by Unknown.
- "The Final Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe!" (Elongated Man) written by Mike W. Barr, penciled and inked by J. L. Garcia Lopez, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Tatjana Woods.
- "The Batman Encounters Gray Face" (Batman) written by Walter Gibson, penciled and inked by Tom Yeates, lettered by Typeset and colored by Unknown.
- "The Strange Death of Doctor Erdel" (Hawkman) written by Paul Levitz, penciled and inked by Joe Kubert, lettered by Adam Kubert, colored by Tatjana Woods and edited by Len Wein.
- "What Happens When a Batman Dies?" (Batman and Deadman) written by Cary Bates, penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Bob Smith, lettered by John Costanza and colored by Adrienne Roy.
- "The Guest List" inside back cover text piece by Paul Levitz.
To Kill a Legend
Our story opens on a familiar scene in Batman lore. Young Bruce Wayne is walking home from the movies with his parents, Dr. Thomas and Martha Wayne. Suddenly a robber comes out of the shadows. Brandishing a gun, he demands Martha’s purse. When he grabs her arm and Thomas makes a move to stop him, the robber turns around and guns him down while his wife begins screaming. Panicking, he turns on her and guns her down, too, fleeing the scene of the crime while young Bruce Wayne crumbles to the ground and realizes his beloved parents are dead and will never hold him or love him again! He begins wailing…and an adult Bruce Wayne wakes up screaming from a nightmare 20 years later!
Bruce is surprised that he’s had such a nightmare…he hasn’t thought about his parents’ murder since he put Joe Chill away years ago. Restless after the unsettling ordeal, He decides to change into Batman, and swings out into the Gotham night, patrolling the city for its nocturnal predators. He spies a couple of would-be muggers hijacking an old woman, and intervenes. As he chases the thieves down an alley, he is surprised to find himself at Crime Alley, the scene where his parents were killed 20 years ago. Suddenly Robin shows up to help Batman, and then both of them realize Robin is supposed to be at college, in another state! How did he come to be here?
“You are here…Because you MUST be here,” explains a ghostly voice. They turn, and come face to face with the Phantom Stranger, the mysterious mystical being who wanders between worlds.
When Batman asks the Phantom what’s wrong, the Stranger replies ‘The wrong has yet to be done, and given your help, may NEVER be done! He explains.
There are worlds beyond worlds. Forty years ago on one such planet (Earth-Two), another Bruce Wayne saw his parents murdered, and became Batman. Then twenty years ago, on this planet (Earth-One), Bruce watched his parents die, and, like his predecessor, became Batman as well. Now on still another planet (Earth-Five), the cycle is about to repeat itself. Thomas and Martha Wayne will die unless he intervenes!
The Batman is confused, wondering why the Phantom Stranger would offer such an unusual opportunity. The Stranger replies that for all the good Batman has done, he’s always felt like he failed the ones he loved most. “This is your second chance, Bruce Wayne, and I offer it as a friend and as a comrade.”
Both Robin and Batman take him up on the offer. The fog swirls in around them, and when the fog clears, they find themselves in a slightly distorted vision- it is Gotham City twenty years ago! They have come right upon a gang of boat smugglers, and quickly jump in and subdue the crooks. When the police arrive, who should show up, but a young Lieutenant Gordon! Not familiar with the Dark Knight, he wants them arrested for vigilantism, but the duo speed away!
They go to the hall of records to pick up the trail of Lew Moxon, the man who will hire Joe Chill to murder the Waynes so the Doctor cannot testify against him. While Batman goes through the files, Robin reads up on the happenings of this planet. He is shocked to find that on THIS planet there are no costumed heroes. In this planet, there will not even be a Superman! He reasons that if they intervene, they might well be cheating this world of its only hero, but Batman doesn’t want to hear about it.
Later, under the cover of trees, Batman and Robin watch over the Wayne family. Young Bruce is having a temper tantrum and throwing his toys around, but his parents try to be patient with him. Batman is solemn, watching his beloved parents, but Robin notes, “THIS Bruce Wayne is a spoiled Brat!” He wonders, “If we stop the murder, will Bruce grow up to become the bored playboy Bruce only pretends to be?”
Later, the Dynamic Duo catch up to Lew Moxon and demand to know where his killer Joe Chill is. They rough up Moxon and warn his that he’ll be in trouble if any harm comes to the Waynes. As they leave however, their threat has the opposite effect, as Moxon decides he’d better hire a killer right away, since so many seem to suspect his plans!
With only five days to go before the night of the murder, Batman goes on a hunt to find Joe Chill’s whereabouts himself, sneaking into the Interstate Records at Police Headquarters. Using the Police computers, Batman finds where Joe Chill is residing, and is about to rush out, when he is stopped at gunpoint by Lieutenant Gordon! “Don’t move, please… I assure you, I’m a good shot.”
Meanwhile, Robin has been staying at the Wayne House to keep an eye on the family. He is horrified to see Bruce and his parents getting ready to go out to see a movie, for he knows they were murdered coming out of a movie theater, asking himself: “Where are you, Batman?”
Batman is desperate to get out and nab Joe Chill and doesn’t have the time to explain the situation to Gordon, even if he could! “Lieutenant,” Batman begins, “In another time, another place…we’re friends. If you can feel even a hint of that, please, trust me…let me go!” Gordon watches the face of the brooding vigilante, and then, without knowing why, lowers the gun and decides to take the chance that the man is telling the truth.
Batman rushes out, and in a few minutes, is shocked to find the slumped figure of Joe Chill. He’s been murdered, and as Batman realizes they’ve sent someone else to kill the Waynes, he remembers that there have been five leap years in the last 20 years, five days that the calendar doesn’t record. For all intents and purposes, this day is the night of the 26th, the night his parents are destined to be murdered!
As Robin anxiously follows the Waynes as the leave the Movie Theater, a hoodlum comes out of the shadows! It is the hold-up man, and the murders of the Waynes is about to take place! Robin is about to step in, when suddenly, Batman comes swooping down on the gunman, diverting the killing shot and yelling ‘NO! Not this Time!” He chases the frightened criminal down the alley, and as he knocks the man unconscious, adds, “This time, I didn’t fail them.”
At that instant, the mysterious fog rolls in again. It is the Phantom Stranger, come to take Batman and Robin home again. “You are now as much a stranger here as I.” Robin wonders if they will ever know the fate of young Bruce Wayne. “Perhaps.” says the Phantom Stranger. “But for now, all you need to know is that you saved two lives, and altered forever a third.” “Amen to that” says Batman, then the fog dissipates, and they are gone!
Thomas and Martha has seen a change in young Bruce Wayne since the night of the robbery. He has become more studious and thoughtful. “Maybe we should get mugged more often,” they joke. But Bruce Wayne will never forget that night when he and his parents were accosted and the giant batlike creature saved their lives. He realized then that death is something that can, at least temporarily, be avoided. We see the young boy studying Detective work, and doing exercises to build up his muscles.
"There will come a day when Bruce Wayne will make a decision, a direction for his life. And when he does. it will not be a decision born of grief, guilt or vengeance, but one of awe…and gratitude.”
And as we see young Bruce walking back to the house, the shadow he is casting is none other than the foretelling image of ... The Batman!
The "Too Many Cooks ... " Caper!
This story starts with Slam Bradley participating in a retirement-party for his friend Archie Evergreen, who had been a cop and a detective. The party is interrupted when Archie gets shot through a window that overlooks a river, with no high building for miles around. With his last breath, he tells Slam, that it had to be Victor Dominion, who is behind his assassination. Since Archie had been on the force for a long time, many great detectives were present, all . Among them were TV-detective Roy Raymond, Jason Bard, Captain Mark Compass, magician-detective Mysto, Indian Pow-Wow Smith and the Human Target, all willing to find out what happened. They all start on their own, but partner up during their investigations, while they come closer to finding Victor Dominion. In the end, it was Slam chasing Victor, who finally died in a helicopter crash.
But the real detective work was made by Roy Raymond. He deducted that the terminally ill Archie had shot himself, so that his detective friends would close the only case, Archie couldn´t solve in his lifetime.
Once Upon a Time...
A short, 2-page story about Batman preventing a robbery at a upper-class party. It is written like a fairy-tale.
The Final Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe!
The prologue is a short summary of the life of Edgar Allan Poe and the mystery of him disappearing. The actual story shows Ralph (Elongated Man) and Sue Dibny driving through town, suddenly disturbed by a raven, shouting "Nevermore" through an open window. Upon stretching through the window, Ralph stumbles upon the body of Edwin Allman Pohe, lying on the floor and uttering the word "Reynolds ... Reynolds".
Notes: "The Final Mystery of Edgar Allen Poe!""with thanks to Karen Berger."