Every week, I will spotlight strange but ultimately endearing comic stories (basically, we’re talking lots and lots of Silver Age comic books). Here is the archive of all the installments of this feature. Feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a suggestion for a future installment!
Today, based on a suggestion from reader BeccaBlast, we get to see the Batman story where Batman allowed some guy to be Batman for a night for some reason. I like to call it “Paper Batman.”
Obviously, “Paper Batman” is a reference to the late, great George Plimpton’s classic book, Paper Lion, where Plimpton went to training camp with the Detroit Lions as part of a series of books he did where he would do the whole “regular guy competing with world class athletes” thing.
The film adaptation (starring Alan Alda as Plimpton) came out in 1968. In 1971, Frank Robbins did a riff on the idea in Detective Comics #417, with art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.
We open with Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon watching a writer battle the heavyweight champ in boxing. They’re sitting with the writer’s sister, Trina (and I agree with Becca, it most likely is not a coincidence that Frank Robbins named a character Trina, after the un-related Trina Robbins, who was getting her start as a writer back then).
For some reason, Batman is amused enough by the writer that he allows him to become Batman for a night.
First, they train…
I love that Paxton fails Batman’s test totally, but Batman still lets him be Batman for a night. “You blew your cool! The Batman wouldn’t live though a single night if he did! But eh, what the hell, you can still be Batman for said single night. I am sure things will go well anyways.”
So Paxton goes on patrol and when he encounters some bad guys, he shockingly loses his cool…
That is definitely a great Bob Brown shot of Batman berating Paxton.
So Paxton failed the initial test by losing his cool. He then fails his first night by losing his cool, so Batman, of course, gives him ANOTHER chance. But before he gets the opportunity, Trina is murdered!
Batman and Paxton track the killer down (Batman is insisting the whole time that Paxton better not try to kill the bad guy) but Paxton takes control…
So…yeah…that is a depressing story.
It actually sort of reminds me of Grant Morrison’s take on Batman how what makes Batman special is that he can deal with pain (all sorts of pain, including psychological and emotional) better than anyone.
Thanks for the suggestion, Becca! If you readers want to make a suggestion, sent it to me at email@example.com. Don’t make suggestions in the comments section.