In the latest Comic Book Legends Revealed, find out why Bruce Wayne’s parents decided to take their son on a shortcut through ‘Crime Alley’
Welcome to Comic Book Legends Revealed! This is the eight hundred and thirtieth episode where we examine three comic book legends and determine if they are true or false. As usual, there will be three posts, one for each of the three captions.
The Waynes walked through an alley called Crime Alley with their young son before they were murdered.
False Enough for a fake (although it later became true)
Recently, there was a viral tweet that went viral (we even shared it ourselves on the CBR Facebook page) that questioned why, exactly, the Waynes were taking their young son on a shortcut through an alley called “Crime Alley” while wearing fur coats and a pearl necklace…
For one thing, it’s important to note that you’re allowed to make a light joke that doesn’t have to be exact. I saw some angry reactions to the tweet above because it’s not entirely accurate, but come on folks, it’s just a dumb joke, it’s okay to laugh about it and know the truth behind. Anyway, this sounded interesting to me because I had just done a Comic Book Legends Revealed on the classic Super Powers episode, “The Fear”, which was the first time the origin of Batman was actually depicted outside of the comics, and my friend Christopher Bennett pointed out another fascinating “first” about this episode that’s at the heart of this legend.
But first, let’s get to the other aspects of this story.
HOW WAS THE DEATH OF BRUCE WAYNE’S PARENTS FIRST PICTURED?
While the origin of Batman (by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Sheldon Moldoff) was first revealed in Detective comics #33, I will always share Batman Version #1, because they’re changing the first panel so it’s not a teaser for the main story of Detective comics #33. It still kinda weirds me out that Batman’s first origin has a big panel for an unrelated story at the top of the page…
Anyway, mainly due to Bob Kane’s limitations as an artist (most of this short story is made up of older comic book stories, and since this story came out in 1939, it’s pretty hilarious to think about the fact that Kane was still swiping past comic book artists so we’re talking, like, 1933 artists and such) you can barely tell where the Waynes are murdered but it clearly wasn’t alley …
Surprisingly, nearly a decade later, Kane has done a MUCH better job of the origin in Batman #47 (by Finger, Kane and Paris). I guess Paris was probably doing some extra finishing work, but it’s still important to give credit to Kane for the quality of work he did on this story, it’s so good that people regularly assumed that an artist ghost had, but apparently it’s legit is real Kane pencils (some of the last full comic book work he ever did)…
So yes, not an alley and not CALLED Crime Alley either.
WHEN DID IT BECOME CRIME ALLEY?
It wasn’t until Denny O’Neil’s classic “There’s No Hope in Crime Alley” from Detective comics #457, with art by Dick Giordano, that the area where the Waynes were murdered was called “Crime Alley”.
This comic was theoretically an anniversary issue, but I believe it was, like, the 37th anniversary or something incredibly unmemorable like that. One of the cool things about Batman’s origin is that back in the day, his origin wasn’t revisited very often at all. This shocks us now, of course, because it seems Batman’s origin gets revisited every other day, but that wasn’t the case back then.
O’Neil changed that by revisiting Batman’s origin and adding a few new elements to the story. First of all, while the area where the Waynes were murdered was ORIGINALLY a nice area (so the Waynes could just walk around there in their finery with their young son), it has SINCE become run down and was NOW called Crime Alley. But O’Neil also introduced the concept of Batman revisiting Crime Alley every year to commemorate the loss of his parents, and we also see Batman searching for an old woman in the area named Leslie Thompkins. Thompkins was not an established character. We see that she too is visiting the area and since the whole place is called Crime Alley, Batman has to save her from some thugs. The story is a classic because Thompkins explains that the tragedy of the Waynes caused her to do a lot of humanitarian work and it’s clear that too drove Batman to do so much good, so Batman says there’s no has no hope on Crime Alley, but he learns he was wrong.
WHEN DID CRIME ALLEY BECOME A REAL ALLEY?
The Waynes weren’t killed in an alley until September 28, 1985 Super Powers: Galactic Guardians episode, “The Fear”, written by Alan Burnett, where Batman reveals to Robin and Wonder Woman his origin for the first time and it now involves an alley…
This episode proved to be very influential, and the back alley part of the origin is now such an accepted part of pop culture that we get joke tweets like the one I shared at the start.
My friend, Christopher Bennett, has a long, in-depth blog post on the history of the Batman origin driveway. here. Go check it out!
SOME MORE LEGENDS OF ENTERTAINMENT!
Check out some Batman entertainment legends from Legends Revealed:
PART TWO COMING SOON!
Check back soon for part 2 of the legends of this episode!
KEEP READING: The Surprising Truth Behind The Variant Covers For Legends of the Dark Knight #1
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