13 December 2011

Legends of the Dark Knight: "Legend of the Dark Mite"

Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight #38
"Legend of the Dark Mite"
Script: Alan Grant
Art: Kevin O'Neill
Colors: Olyoptics
Letters: John Workman
Assistant Editor: Bill Kaplan
Editor: Archie Goodwin
Batman Creator: Bob Kane
$1.75/32 pages
October, 1992

Being a 19 year old comic, I doubt anyone reading this is going to be terribly bothered by the fact I skipped over this issue in my recent sub-series of LOTDK reviews. This was always a favorite issue of mine, and if I was compiling a list of favorite standalone stories, "Legend of the Dark Mite" would always be among my go-to selections. It was a pleasure to re-read it for the umpteenth time.

Bob is a hapless street criminal who has a Fear and Loathing in Gotham City kind of night that leads him to meet Bat-Mite. Writer Alan Grant tells us on the front page: "Get this straight right from the start--THIS IS NOT AN IMAGINARY STORY!" We're given to understand that Bob is hallucinating Bat-Mite...and yet, there are some moments that seem to suggest that perhaps instead, it's a Great Gazoo kind of thing, where the imp has only revealed himself to Bob. It's one of the charms of the story, but ultimately immaterial. Kevin O'Neill's art perfectly reflects the tone of Grant's script, with the fuddy-duddy Batman skulking throughout the issue, tormenting freaked-out Bob...and whimsical Bat-Mite looming throughout, determined to make Bob fight his inner demons.

"Legend of the Dark Mite" was always an oddity in the series, which prided itself on offering more erudite, intelligent stories rather than the action-oriented mainstream fare of Batman and Detective Comics. This story should have been entirely out of place in this series. Yet, because of the way Grant deftly wove this yarn, it instead became an instant favorite for a lot of fans and when the time came to vote on story arcs to include in The Collected Legends of the Dark Knight trade paperback, this was one of the selections requested by fans. I still think of it as an important part of the LOTDK storytelling continuum, establishing the kinds of rules that could be broken in the course of telling an interesting and entertaining Batman story. It holds up quite nicely after all these years!