Welcome to the four hundred and forty-ninth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous four hundred and forty-eight. This week is a special theme week! All legends related to the classic Batman storyline Knightfall! Was Knightfall really a response to the Death of Superman? Was the intent behind Knightfall always that Bruce Wayne would return as Batman? And finally, how did a health scare for Azrael’s creator keep Azrael from being killed outright?
NOTE: The column is on three pages, a page for each legend. There’s a little “next” button on the top of the page and the bottom of the page to take you to the next page (and you can navigate between each page by just clicking on the little 1, 2 and 3 on the top and the bottom, as well).
COMIC LEGEND: Knightfall was inspired by the success of The Death of Superman
A common fallacy that we often see (and which comes up in Comic Book Legends Revealed quite frequently) is the notion that just because something came after something else, then it was influenced by the first thing.
This is particularly clear when it comes to Knightfall and the Death of Superman.
The Death of Superman made major waves in November of 1992….
Well, four months later, Batman had his back broken by Bane in Batman #497…
before Azrael took over as Batman in Batman #500…
Now, naturally, looking back at the situation, it seems like DC decided to follow up their success with killing Superman by “breaking” Batman and replacing him with another character.
However, that was not the case.
The whole Knightfall storyline was obviously in play in the Bat-books long before the actual crossover began.
It “officially” began with Sword of Azrael #1, which came out BEFORE we first saw Doomsday’s fists hitting a door as he tried to escape.
What happened was a simple matter of the Superman books having their own little group and the Batman books having their own little group and the two groups both independently came up with plans that sort of mirrored each other.
Had they known about each other’s plan, I would bet that one of the two groups would have delayed their storyline, but alas, it was not until it was too late that they learned of each other’s plans.
Denny O’Neil explained as much to Jek Tezak, in a great interview that I will be citing two more times today!
Mike Carlin did not copy me, nor I him. I didn’t know about the Superman storyline until we were some months into Knightfall, and Mike was equally ignorant of my stuff.
Thanks to Denny and Jek for the information!
Check out the latest edition of my weekly Movie/TV Legends Revealed Column at Spinoff Online: Did 20th Century Fox hide the fact that Miracle on 34th Street was a Christmas movie when they released it in 1947…in May?!
COMIC LEGEND: The point of Knightfall was to point out why Azrael should NOT be Batman.
Anonymous wrote in the other week to say the following:
Hey, Brian. Here’s an ooooooold rumor that I (and a lot of other people) have been wondering about for years: The official story (if I’m not mistaken) is that Azrael Batman was supposed to be permanent and that they only went back because of fan backlash.
But since practically forever there’s been a rumor that Azrael Batman was INTENDED to be rejected by fans, ala New Coke (i.e. they set it up to fail to build hype for the original coming back).
Yes? No? A combination of the two maybe?
I am pretty sure that I had always heard the second story, but if it is in fact a rumor, then it is a true one.
Denny O’Neil explained the situation to Tezak…
JT: In the Knightfall saga, Azrael was Batman for about a year. I know some fans were very upset sending death threats to DC comics stating that if Bruce Wayne wasn’t put back in the Batsuit, that you would lose loyal readers. How long was Azrael supposed to be Batman? Did those letters from the fans influence your decision on how long Azrael was going to be Batman?
DO: No, We had most of the series, and particularly its length, planned from the git-go. Actually, I would have been more bothered if the readers liked Az–that would mean they favored a nastier Batman and I would have had problems with that.
The whole point of the storyline was to show that Bruce Wayne “had” to be Batman and that someone like Azrael just wouldn’t work in the cowl.
Thanks to Anoymous for the suggestion! And thanks again to Denny and Jek for the information!
Check out some Entertainment Urban Legends Revealed!
What Interesting Response Did Gwyneth Paltrow Have to a Radio Contest Involving Her?
COMIC LEGEND: A health scare by Denny O’Neil led to a change in how Azrael was written off.
In the final issue of Azrael, in early 2003, Azrael confronts his arch-rival, Nicholas Scratch, who had co-opted the Azrael name to form a racist cult.
As you can see, it sure seems like Azrael died, but at the same time, it is left vague.
Originally, though, Azrael was going to PLAINLY die in the final issue of Azrael. But then a weird thing happened. In September of 2002, Denny O’Neil suffered a major heart attack. His heart stopped beating. Thankfully, he was in a restaurant and he was able to get his heart revived (the same thing actually happened to my own father in 2003. He had a heart attack in a restaurant and was luckily shocked back).
Well, while they were originally planning on killing Azrael, with Denny almost dying it seemed kind of perverse, so as O’Neil notes:
[T]he original idea was to kill him off, but I was myself briefly dead (and revived by defibrillation and a stalwart fireman) and while I was recovering, Mike [Carlin, editor on the series] called Marifran [O’Neil’s wife] and told her that maybe having a character I created die might be letting fiction get a little too close to fact, and maybe we shouldn’t do it. So we didn’t.
Very cool gesture by Mike Carlin.
One last thanks to Denny and Jek for the information!
Check out some classic Comic Book Legends Revealed involving Denny O’Neil!
Did Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams sneak Richard Nixon into an issue of Green Lantern…as a little girl?!!?
Okay, that’s it for this week!
Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!
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See you all next week!