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When Did Batman First Take on the Identity of Matches Malone?

In "When We First Met", we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Today, based on a suggestion by reader David B., we look at the first time that Batman took on the identity of Matches Malone.

Everything started with the middle of Denny O'Neil's elaborate Ra's Al Ghul storyline that introduced the Demon's Head into the DC Universe. Before Denny O'Neil, DC Comics tended to avoid doing sprawling multi-issue story arcs, but during O'Neil's first few years at DC, he did a number of them at Green Lantern/Green Arrow, Superman and Batman. The interesting thing, though, is that these were rarely all that cleanly done. Deadlines were often pushed to the brink and pretty much all of these arcs ended up with fill-in issues in the middle of the story arc or fill-in artists stepping in. The Ra's Al Ghul storyline was a particularly odd one, as it took place over issues of both Batman and Detective Comics and had a few different artists work on it.

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In any event, Batman #242 (by O'Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano - Novick was filling in for Adams on the story) opened with Batman deciding that he has to, in effect, go to war with Ra's Al Ghul. The first thing he does, since he knows that Ra's knows his secret identity, is to kill off Bruce Wayne.

He then puts together a team. One of the first people he approaches is a criminal named Matches Malone...

In the end, of course, as you would likely not be surprised, Batman has taken over Matches Malone's identity for the rest of this mission...

The fake Batman was, of course, a mannequin with a radio receiver that Batman (dressed as Matches) controlled to make it seem like Batman was in the room. You would think that Alfred would fill in or something like that.

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Five issues later, Batman first started using Matches' identity as a general thing (as opposed to just the one-off Ra's case)...

He kept up the Matches Malone secret identity off and on for the next twenty years or until he basically retired the identity following Knightfall (it has still made reappearances since then, including an interesting story by Brian K. Vaughan around 2000).

Thanks for the suggestion, David!

If anyone else has a suggestion for a notable comic book first, drop me a line at brianc@cbr.com!

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