There’s something to be said for line-wide continuity reboots. They allow really horrible ideas that should never have been published to be quietly removed from whatever passes for “canon” in super-hero comics. One of the stories we can thank the original Crisis for getting rid of is this little gem from World’s Finest # 223, by Bob Haney, Dick Dillin and Vince Coletta.
It seems that Gotham has been plagued by a serial killer using razor-sharp boomerangs to kill people at random. And neither the police nor Batman has any clue as to who could be responsible. Because this is World’s Finest and not The Brave and the Bold, where the killer would be Captain Boomerang and Batman would have to team up with the Flash.
Naturally, a boomerang using serial killer is big news, so Clark Kent is called in to investigate:
Now, I may be misremembering, but at this point in Superman continuity, Clark Kent was an anchorman. Which meant he didn’t really have the time to go out traveling and cover stories. Certainly not stories a hundred miles away, driving the news van himself. Why wouldn’t WGBS just pick up the story from the Gotham affiliate?
In the meantime, while attending the funeral of one of the victims, Batman happens to notice Deadman’s grave. So he starts talking out loud in the hopes that Deadman just happens to be around. He is, because otherwise we wouldn’t have as much of a story, and Batman and Deadman decide to team up to solve the murders, just as Superman arrives in town, and the three of them start pursuing parallel leads.
By a lucky coincidence, Deadman happens to catch a glimpse of the killer and leads Batman to his hideout:
“Brilliant, wild things…that make no sense.” Granted, Batman may not be the best judge of another man’s sanity…
Batman and Deadman trace “Thomas Willowwood” to the Willowwood mental hospital, where Batman is too impatient to wait for a warrant to find out more about who this Thomas is and simply has Deadman possess the presiding doctor and get the files for him that way. Apparently, it’s pretty good stuff:
Superman has been spending his time flying back and forth over the city at super speed waiting for another attack. When it comes he thwarts it, only to be stopped from catching the killer by a coincidental subway disaster, managing to retrieve only a boomerang and the killer’s coat.
You can just hear the sarcasm dripping off of Superman’s words there, can’t you?
Batman announces that there are no clues to be found, which leads Superman to the conclusion that Bruce has tampered with the evidence. While trying to catch Batman in the act, Batman and Deadman begin shadowing a judge who has been acting suspiciously, thinking it may be connected to the case. Of course it is, but why they would think that based on nothing more than a bailiff saying that the judge is acting oddly…In any case, Superman finally confronts Batman with his suspicions, only to discover the shocking secret of the boomerang killer!
Yes! The killer is Batman’s brother, Thomas Wayne! What, you don’t remember Thomas Wayne Jr? Well, neither did anyone else. Witness the startling secret origin of Thomas Wayne!
I think this panel is meant to show a car hitting a baby carriage. And not an underpaid nanny shoving an infant in front of a speeding car.
Okay, we need to talk about that last panel a bit. First of all, how do you do a psychiatric diagnosis on a pre-verbal infant? I’ve studied a bit of psychology, and I just can’t see it happening. And that’s putting aside the notion that you can’t really diagnose a minor with, I’m guessing here, schizophrenia. It’s just simply not done.
But the important bit: the Waynes committed their infant son to an insane asylum. Forget Jor-El putting his son’s pet dog in a rocket, forget David Cain teaching Batgirl to kill but not talk…Thomas and Martha Wayne are the worst parents in the DC universe. FACT my friends. Fact.
Back to the story…Superman insists that Thomas be brought to justice, Batman’s brother or not, but Batman cleverly betrays him:
With Superman possessed by Deadman, Batman attempts to talk some sense into his long-lost brother, only to discover that, yep, he’s nuts. Maybe spending thirty-odd years in an insane asylum will do that to you…
And then Batman pulls a Hal Jordan:
To wrap up: guy with wrecking ball tries to kill Batman and Thomas, Deadman lets Superman go take care of him, Batman comes to and announces that the guy with the wrecking ball was black-mailing the judge by killing people until the judge overturned a conviction, and tricked Thomas into killing all those people by telling them they were “enemies.” So Thomas is still a multiple murderer, but he wasn’t culpable because his belfry was full of bats.
And what did happen to Thomas, anyway?
Oh, it gets better…but that’s a post for another day.