Admittedly, Batman is not any stranger to Nazi preventing. However this event is particular for a number of causes.
For starters, Batman #237 was not revealed throughout World Warfare II. It was launched in 1971 when the second occasion of observe was occurring: creators at each Marvel and DC received collectively to create a years-long pseudo-crossover occasion on the sly, all centered across the real-life annual Halloween parade in Rutland, Vermont, then run by a comic book e-book nerd by the title of Tom Fagan. Round Halloween, heroes from one firm would find yourself in Rutland for some contrived cause or one other and meet characters who kinda-sorta resembled these from the opposite firm.
The comics creators themselves would additionally present up as a result of why not? As an illustration, Thor and Loki paid a go to in 1972 and rubbed elbows with the title’s author and colorist, amongst others.
The principle story from Batman #237, “Night time of the Reaper!” continues this custom with folks dressed as Captain America, Thor, Sue Storm, Havok, and
Spider-Man, “Webslinger Lad.” We additionally get unnamed cameos from real-life writers Bernie Wrightson, Gerry Conway, and Alan Weiss, right here recast as Dick Grayson’s school pals simply right here to see the parade. And, in Alan’s case, to recuperate from three days of doing medicine chugging espresso to get by an artwork examination.
I apologize for the coloring in these scans. These are taken from a digital version the place the coloring was clearly redone utilizing fashionable strategies, and it’s fairly off-putting. If you wish to see the entire story with the unique coloring and a few nice behind-the-scenes information on how the story got here to be, go right here.
As you possibly can see, issues rapidly take a flip for the intense as some child pretending to be Robin will get beat up by some very actual thugs. Dick adjustments into Robin to research and finds a lifeless man in an inexpensive Batman costume. He additionally meets the presumed killer: the Grim Reaper himself, wielding a scythe that knocks Robin into a close-by stream.
Fortuitously for the Boy Surprise (or Teen Surprise, as he was by this level), the true Batman reveals as much as get him medical assist from Physician Gruener. Gruener, a Holocaust survivor, explains that he just lately noticed a very odious outdated Nazi wandering round city.
“The Butcher” appears to have been a preferred nickname amongst fictional Nazis: not solely is Schloss recognized by that title, it was later utilized in a questionable Captain America comedian.
This man, Schloss, is tremendous into costume events, so Batman stakes out Tom Fagan’s Halloween get together. He does discover him, however not earlier than Schloss’s disgruntled ex-colleagues plant a bomb in his automobile in retaliation for spending a bunch of Nazi loot on himself. Batman tries to save lots of him, however he isn’t too sorry to see a Nazi get what he had coming.
What does upset Batman — to the purpose of calling Robin “silly” as he tries to console him, which — impolite — is figuring out that not one of the Nazis had a cause to beat up the faux Robin or homicide the faux Batman. So, who did?
Yep, it was Physician Gruener pulling everybody’s strings the entire time in a completely comprehensible however wildly unethical try and get revenge for the household he misplaced due to the Butcher many years in the past. Batman is sympathetic and even contemplates letting him go, however then the “cool motive nonetheless homicide” GIF performs in his head, and he rejects that concept.
Whereas attempting to flee Batman, Gruener runs into Alan, now sober sufficient to comprehend that being chased by a man dressed because the Grim Reaper is just not regular. Whereas Alan begs for mercy, Gruener notices the Star of David necklace he’d stored wrapped across the scythe for some cause. (Presumably, as a logo of why he was doing all this.) In an emotional last web page, Gruener immediately realizes the total horror of what he has achieved and falls to his dying.
So, yeah. Not precisely your conventional Halloween narrative.
I ponder, if DC have been to inform or retell this story right this moment, would there be any variations within the dynamics between Batman and Gruener? In 2020, DC formally acknowledged that Bruce Wayne is Jewish after by accident making him that approach with the introduction of his Jewish maternal cousin, Kate Kane.
Had this comedian’s creators one way or the other been aware about this info, would it not have made a distinction in how they executed it, particularly when it comes to Batman’s response to Gruener’s crimes? Would there have been an additional second of hesitation earlier than deciding to take him in? Would he have tried to sympathize on the premise of their shared heritage? Does Bruce know of any of his personal kin who died within the Holocaust?
In any case, this story is notable for being by far essentially the most severe — and possibly the most effective remembered, and virtually definitely the most effective — of the Rutland tales. Whereas many of the different points have been content material to only be foolish and wallow within the goofier elements of Halloween, “Night time of the Reaper!” provides an actual plot with an appropriately menacing and eerie environment. It’s additionally a very unhappy story: the Nazis ruined Gruener’s life, and Gruener allowed his ache and bitterness to break (and finish) the lifetime of one other.
And hey, Halloween is the proper time to look at the skinny line between monster and man.