Bat to the Past: Review of Batman #296


Hello, fellow Caped Crusaders! This is the first of a new series of Batman retro-reviews. I’ll be taking a look at old Batman comics and giving quick reviews of how things were back in “the old days” of comics.

Today’s comic is Batman #296, from February of 1978. It was written by David V. Reed, featuring art by Sal Amendola, colors by Jerry Serpe, and letters by Milt Snapinn, with a cover by Sal Amendola and Al Milgrom. The story is called, The Sinister Straws of the Scarecrow and features, naturally, Jonathan Crane a.k.a. the Scarecrow.

Scarecrow has created a toxin that will reveal a person’s deepest fear on inhaling, making them live through whatever they fear most as though it was actually happening. He uses fear straws to convince the perpetrators of some of Gotham’s most expensive unsolved robberies to follow his commands in order to steal what they have. Batman, of course, figures out who Scarecrow is targeting and intercepts him. Batman finds himself exposed to Scarecrow’s latest fear toxin, but pushes through it to defeat him, reminding himself that he is the Batman “and that takes precedence over everything!”

I had only skimmed this comic when I first bought it a few years ago. Reading it over now, I’m so mad I didn’t read it thoroughly the first time. It’s so great to see the World’s Greatest Detective actually being a detective. He works with Commissioner Gordon to figure out where Scarecrow will strike next, he “studies and scrutinizes…weighs and judges” the files of old unsolved robberies for hours. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Batman doing any sort of detective work that didn’t amount to just showing up in time to punch out the bad guy (but there’s plenty of that in here, too).

Along with just reading how Batman was written in the seventies, one of my favorite things about reading old comics is seeing the cultural differences between then and now. Bruce makes a comment in here about “the noon editions” of the newspaper running the story along with using “the evening papers” for his gambit. Granted, I am only 22, but I’ve never seen anything other than a single daily newspaper in my whole lifetime. It’s so fascinating to see how different things are today, even small things like that.

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And the slang! I’m a sucker for all types of slang, even if (and sometimes especially if) it was outdated already by the time the comic was published. There’s one character who speaks in nothing but a weird approximation of 1940s Raymond Chandler-esque slang. He even gets his own special translation caption box. That’s the kind of fun thing I wish happened more in today’s comics.

All in all, I recommend this comic to anyone who happens to find it. Check your local comic shop or con. It’s a tight one-and-done and a fun look at a bygone era of Batman stories.

We want to hear from you! Leave a comment and let us know if you’ve read this comic and your thoughts.  Or if there’s a comic you’ve been dying for someone to review, feel free to let us know. Want more Batman?  Download the Fansided app for more Batman news! Don’t forget to like Caped Crusades on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!