Whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger. In June, Detective Comics is reopening the Black Casebook, a collection of Batman’s weirdest cases — the supernatural, the macabre, the psychedelic, and the unsolved. These are cases so baffling that even the World’s Greatest Detective couldn’t come up with an answer.
First introduced by Grant Morrison in the late 2000s as a framing device for his entire Batman run, the Black Casebook refers to stories published in the ’50s and ’60s at the height of the Comics Code. In order to keep the Caped Crusader’s adventures “age appropriate” during the Silver Age, the character stopped fighting (and killing) gun-wielding thugs and instead faced off against aliens, adventured with a rainbow-colored Batman from another planet, entered an isolation chamber that led to strange visions of Robin’s death, first encountered the otherworldy Bat-Mite, and much more.
This era of Batman was trippy and, in retrospect, delightful. It also heavily inspired Morrison’s run, which sparked a new golden age for the character that’s continued under the pen of Scott Snyder and Tom King. Now it’s Peter J. Tomasi’s turn to crack open the Black Casebook.
Detective Comics Annual #2 will see the Dark Knight revisit a case involving the Reaper, the vigilante and villain first introduced in Mike W. Barr’s insane Batman: Year Two, a story that saw Batman team up with Joe Chill (yeah, the dude who killed the Waynes!) to take down the baddie. It’s certainly one of the Caped Crusader’s more unbelievable cases (it was unsurprisingly wiped from continuity). Whether Tomasi’s story will reintroduce Year Two to canon remains to be seen.
While the Reaper is mostly a forgotten c-lister from the ’80s, he was a major inspiration for the Phantasm, the masked vigilante from the classic Batman: Mask of the Phantasm animated movie. The character was last seen in a brief cameo during DC’s New 52 era.
Hopefully, this will be only the first of many Black Casebook stories from Tomasi, who’s already dished a great first arc that saw Batman face off against a child version of himself. Tomasi will lead the all-star lineup celebrating the character in Detective Comics #1000 later this month and follow that up with a story that will officially introduce the Arkham Knight to DC continuity. Things are only getting weirder from there.
Read the solicitation for this year’s Detective Comics Annual below:
DETECTIVE COMICS ANNUAL #2
written by PETER J. TOMASIart by TRAVIS MOOREcover by GUILLEM MARCH
After years on the shelf, Batman returns to the Black Casebook! Throughout his career, Batman has compiled his most disturbing cases into one volume, its every page filled with bizarre horror and crimes he never quite managed to solve. Now a case from the past has re-opened itself in the here and now…and Batman will find himself face-to-face again with one of the deadliest villains he fought in his early years: the Reaper!