Out of the Vault – Anarchy in Gotham

Remember, remember the Fifth of November and all that rot…

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”alignright” width=”300″ height=”457″ alt=”Detective Comics #608″ url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective608Cover.jpg” ]It’s Guy Fawkes Day, which is a holiday with absolutely no meaning here in America, except that Alan Moore did this bitchin’ comic in the 80’s called V For Vendetta.

Illustrated by David Lloyd, the comic was an anti-Thatcher diatribe dressed up in a stylish story, which was later made into a so-so movie produced by the Wachowski Brothers. But the point is, the anti-hero star of the piece, V himself, disguises himself with a Guy Fawkes mask and actually enacts the plot which Fawkes failed to, blowing up the houses of Parliament.

I liked V For Vendetta (its masks being appropriated by the Occupy douchebags notwithstanding), but the issues are still buried in the Vault somewhere, so we’ll have to save it for another year when the Fifth falls on a Saturday. Instead, I bring you this second-order V imitator from the pages of Detective Comics issues 608-609, a two part story by writer Alan grant and artists Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell titled “Anarky in Gotham City,” published in 1989.

In “Part One: Letters to the Editor,” Batman is after some big drug deal going down at a rock concert at a local club. Having arrived a little early,  he takes the opportunity to beat up some juvenile offenders, just in case you don’t know that the Batman is supposed to he tough. The sequence showcases Norm Breyfogle’s strengths–strong layout and kinetic action–as well as his weaknesses–loose, cartoony style and iffy anatomy.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”891″ alt=”Batman, scourge of evil!” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective608BatvsDrugs.jpg” ]

Meanwhile, another figure is wandering the night, musing to himself Rorschach-style about the evils imperiling society and how the will of the people should be the supreme authority. When punk singer Johnny Vomit flees the scene after Batman crashes his drug deal and takes on some adult goons, he runs into the mysterious Anarky.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”683″ alt=”Zap!” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective608Anarky.jpg” ]

Anarky is clearly influenced by V–the cloak, hat and mask, plus the symbol he spraypaints at his crime scenes (Anarky uses the original anarchy symbol, while V does an inverted version minus the crossbar to transform the ‘A’ into a ‘V’). The police find Vomit unconscious with a Letter to the Editor from the local paper taped to the wall. The letter, written by Dave Stang, complains about the noise levels at the club and warns that if the city doesn’t take action, some upstanding citizen will.

The Batman goes off to investigate Stang to see if he might be Vomit’s attacker. But Stang turns out to be a little old lady who lives in the neighborhood and just can’t stand the noise. She wrote under a tough-sounding male pseudonym to be taken seriously by those punk kids. Meanwhile, Anarky is breaking into a chemical company to confront the owner about the pollution from his plant.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”530″ alt=”Bet that burns.” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective608SludgeDunk.jpg” ]

And yes, by coincidence, the same issue of the paper that featured the letter from Mister Stang also featured a letter complaining about pollution from the plant. Anarky is simply hearing the Voice of the People and acting on it, you see.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”alignleft” width=”300″ height=”460″ alt=”Detective Comics #609″ url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detectvie609Cover.jpg” ]And now we finally meet the Man Who Might Be Anarky, Mike Machin, a normal suburban guy with a pretty wife and a hard-working teenage son with a paper route. As he’s having breakfast with his family, Bruce Wayne is also having breakfast and figuring out the Letters to the Editor connection, vowing to be ready and waiting for Anarky’s next appearance.

Which comes in Detective Comics #609, in “Part Two: Facts About Bats,” Batman has three letters to choose from in picking Anarky’s next appearance. One is a complaint about a slum being torn down to build a new bank, leaving dozens of vagrants homeless (or more homeless, since they were living in cardboard boxes). And though there is a demonstration at the groundbreaking, it comes from the offended homeless themselves, not a master villain.

So as the sun goes down, Batman has two choices: a reception for a foreign dictator being held at the Halton Hotel, or a banking summit. In fact, Anarky appears at… the former slum, rousing the homeless mob into doing a little vandalism. And there’s something weird about Anarky’s neck.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”745″ alt=”Looks like a member of that tribe with the stretched-out necks” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective609OddNeck.jpg” ]

So Batman appears and tackles Anarky, revealing….

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”695″ alt=”He’s a robot! Or something!” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective609Faceless.jpg” ]

Whoah. A man without a face. The homeless folks rally to Anarky’s defense, giving him time to slip away, but Batman breaks free and pursues. And finally, Anarky’s true identity is revealed.

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”874″ alt=”Lonnie! (nice read, Velma…)” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective609TheBigReveal.jpg” ]

Not that much of a shock, actually, but quite nice in story terms. It explains why Anarky was so naive as to select his victims from cranks in the lettercols, and also explains the anatomical oddities that Breyfogle depicted so nicely in his artwork.

So that’s our salute to Guy Fawkes, via V For Vendetta, as imitated in Detective Comics. But we’re not done yet!

Be here tomorrow for Super Movies as we revisit the film adaptation of V For Vendetta!

[imageeffect type=”lightbox” align=”aligncenter” width=”600″ height=”388″ alt=”Heh…” url=”http://www.herogohome.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/Detective609Anarcape.jpg” ]

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