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We were talking about the upcoming episode of Batman: The Brave and the Bold titled "The Super-Batman of Planet X!" on podcast #23, when Gary highlighted the issue that this particular episode was based on Batman #113.
I decided to go back and read this issue and do a little essay based on some of the exposure Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has had over recent years, especially the main appearance in Batman #678-680, by Grant Morrison and Tony Daniel.
Now you need to take a step back when reading anything Golden Age because of the sensibility these issues were written with. Batman #113 was originally published in August 1958 and written by Ed Herron (or France Herron as he was also known as), and drawn by the legendary Dick Sprang. This was the third story to feature in this issue (straight after the hilarious story of Batman Meets Fatman), and continued a long stint in the Batman comics of placing Batman in outer-worldly adventures fighting aliens instead of criminal scum.
The issue actually starts of with Batman sneaking around in the dead of night, which made me laugh because for a modern audience this is what Batman actually does but we have to bear in mind Batman and Robin of the 40s and 50s were normally running around as the policeman's friend during the day! He checks in on a sleeping Robin and heads to skies in the Bat-plane.
We learn that Batman is running around in a slight daze not knowing where he is going. He is transported into to an unknown location but is welcomed to the Planet of Zur-En-Arrh by another Batman, stating it is a star system far from his own existence. Batman is confused by the appearance of this other worldly Batman who continues to explain that he has observed him by telescope over many years and was inspired by the Batman's actions on Earth (that's a bloody good telescope I have to say).
The Zur-En-Arrh Batman is a scientist called Tlano and has brought Earth Batman to his world to help with an impending invasion of an alien force.
How is this comparing the episode so far? Perfectly... The reason for Batman getting to Zur-En-Arrh is obviously different but getting transported in the dead of night just wouldn't have worked and the meeting between the pair is just superb, hearing Kevin Conroy explain about Gothtropolis, but the main feature of the episode was the mention of the Bat-Radia and then moving onto Batman's superpowers. This episode also keeps the original names but Tlano is the news reporter Clark Kent role instead.
The artwork is legendary by Dick Sprang and this is the first Ed Herron story I've read (I'd never heard of him until now). For me the main thing that's impressed me the most is how Warner Bros. have translated the idea of this issue into a full length episode. Now the story is very different because the villain of the episode is Rohtul, which is the Lex Luthor style super scientist. The robots are the main antagonistic which are beautifully copied as well but the supporting Tlanos cast just moves this episode into the Plato of greatness.
Now I can't finish this review off without talking about Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, who made his historic appearance in Batman: R.I.P. by Grant Morrison. I wasn't aware of this character until I saw some the reference Mr. Morrison used. The main thing that makes this design work so well was the reason Batman became Zur-En-Arrh, which revealed over the course of the story to be a back-up personality created after a hallucination Batman suffered when exposed to Professor Milo's gas, intended to take over for Bruce Wayne if he was ever psychologically attacked in such a manner as to render Batman out of action.
Zur-En-Arrh describing himself on one occasion as Batman without Bruce Wayne, the colourful costume expressing a greater confidence and demonstrating a greater willingness to torture and possibly kill his opponents.
I wasn't the biggest fan of this colorful Batman when he appeared in R.I.P. but I'm going to take a step back and look at the reasons why Grant Morrison chose to pick this moment from Batman's history. After seeing the recent episode of The Super-Batman of Planet X and reading the issue, I've got to say this has become one of my favorite moments in the Batman mythos. I highly recommend reading the Batman #113 and going back to Batman #678-680. Its a brilliant Batman universe merge of Golden and modern comics and the guys at Warner Bros. have done a all Batman fans proud with the newest rendition.
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