thehefner: (Hugo Strange)
[personal profile] thehefner posting in [community profile] scans_daily
At some unspecified point in the 80's, the great J.M. DeMatteis pitched a Hugo Strange story to DC, where Hugo "apparently kills Batman and, in his arrogance and ego, decides to become Batman, putting on the costume, taking over the role, in order to prove his superiority."

Of course, this is the story which became Spider-Man: Kraven's Last Hunt (and also informed JMD's own Batman: Going Sane, with the Joker). Can you imagine what that would have been like? The different characters right away demand fundamental changes to the story, but that had potential to be the character-defining storyline for Hugo, just as it was for Kraven.

Perhaps Denny O'Neill rejected JMD's pitch because Gerry Conway already started exploring that idea, once he revealed that Hugo was alive and well at the finale of the Rupert Thorne saga. I've decided to give Hugo's full return its own post, as it now represents a distinct shift in focus for the character.

So now that he's taken his revenge on Thorne, what's Hugo's next move? Head back to Europe and resume his lucrative life as a master criminal? Retire off to some remote island? Dedicate his life to using science to advance mankind? Ha, you're funny.

Oh wait. Hugo still knows that Batman is Bruce Wayne, doesn't he? Well, now. Something has to be done about that...

Note: These scans are from Batman #356.

You'd think Bruce would have enough on his plate between getting turned into a vampire and having Rupert Thorne hire Deadshot to kill him, but he's also had troubles with the women in his life. But at least with Thorne heading to Blackgate, things finally seem to be settling down for Batman's alter ego.

And when he wakes up, Bruce climbs out of the car, stunned by what he sees:

He enters to find Alfred waiting for him with tea, as usual. Everything seems kosher, but being the detective that he is, Bruce grows suspicious and declines.

Rule number one of Wayne Manor: Never Turn Down Alfred's Tea.

And there's Alfred, standing at attention with a full tray, as if nothing had happened. Bruce turns back around, and the Alfred who attacked him is... gone? Completely thrown off, Bruce thinks he must have been imagining things, as if he were having a bad dream, and he decides to relax with a nice hot shower.

I could have posted more pages that could actually tell this story better, but instead, I chose this panel. You're welcome, folks.

Hell, if I were really smart, I would have made that panel the preview image for the post. Probably would have gotten more attention. Meh.

Bruce strikes back against Robin, seemingly killing him in the process.

He turns to find Robin's body has vanished, while Dick looks perplexed as to why Bruce seems to be having a nervous breakdown.

Meanwhile, "Alfred" is seen heading down into the Batcave, carrying the body of "Robin" with him:

I like to imagine that Bruce actually has a dumpster in the Batcave where he throws away his used and broken butlers and sidekicks. He just has it there as a warning to the rest. "Watch out, or you'll end up just like Aunt Harriet and Fat Alfred!"

Just as Bruce is trying to pull himself together, "Dick" tries to kill him, and Bruce instinctively fights back, being pushed to the edge.

Realzing that he's not going crazy after all, Bruce heads downstairs to the Batcave. There, he finds his opponent waiting for him, dressed in a familiar costume and handing Bruce a spare.

Yoga does not work that way! ... Does it?

By the way, notice how this story is directly influenced by Alan Brennert's "Interlude on Earth-Two!" (published less than a year before this issue!) which culminated with the heroes battling Hugo--and his android replicas--in the Batcave. Conway clearly decided to take those elements and bring them into his grand return of Earth-One Hugo.

One thing I've noticed about Hugo Strange stories is that every one seems directly influenced by every one that came before. By and large, he's the only Batman villain to have a single continuous arc of development. And it carries through even in the post-Crisis, post-Miller reboot era, as you'll be seeing later.

By the way, while Bruce has been going through this whole ordeal, the real Alfred and Robin have been wondering where the hell's Batman. Using a homing beacon on the utility belt, Robin is coming to the rescue:

"... but by heaven," he declares, pulling the ominous red lever, "if Hugo Strange cannot be the Batman, then no one can!" And in a magnificent display which took up an entire page, the fake Wayne Manor goes kablooey! Oh noes!

Meanwhile, at real Wayne Manor, Alfred answers a knock at the door, finding Bruce Wayne pointing a gun at him, ready to fire. That is, until "Bruce" is knocked out by Batman.

And there you have it: Hugo Strange, criminal mastermind and brilliant manipulator, felled by poor eyesight. Man, between this and the "Zoinks!" and "Jinkies!" moments of the previous issues, it feels like Conway really was using Scooby-Doo as inspiration.

Seriously though, after all that build-up throughout the Rupert Thorne story, and all from Strange discovering Wayne's secret back in Strange Apparitions almost a decade earlier, this is kind of an ignominious death for such a major threat. Especially one as brilliant and methodical as Strange.

Clearly, Conway's successor, Doug Moench, thought so too. I was going to include that issue with this as a double-feature, but it deserves its own post, more so than even this story.

Date: 2010-12-08 09:19 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Robin Don Newton)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
GREAT story (You did trim one of my favourite scans where Alfred is walking down to the Batcave with the "corpse" of the Robin from the shower scene (and how that shower lingered in my barely adolescent memory) slung over his shoulder and noting "That WAS a messy one sir"

Date: 2010-12-08 09:34 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
If I could get a similarly non-murderous DickBot this community would probably never hear from me again. Nor would anyone else, to be fair.

Date: 2010-12-08 09:53 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk
Oh be quiet and pass the WD40! :)

Date: 2010-12-09 12:34 pm (UTC)
misterbug: (Default)
From: [personal profile] misterbug
Eh, you know robot butlers - it'd inevitably get fed up and morph into an Outsiderbot.

Date: 2010-12-08 09:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Getting killed by forgetting that he wore glasses?

Poor Hugo. He mighta been a contender if it weren't for that...

Date: 2010-12-09 02:19 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Building a robot double that doesn't have 20/20 vision doesn't exactly help his credability as a villain ;)

Date: 2010-12-08 10:54 pm (UTC)
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
I hope they play backgammon now!

Seriously, these kinds of stories were why I always wanted to live in this universe. This is what they're fighting for: tea and backgammon at the Manor!

Also props to how well the Dick!Bot dies. I can't think of another male superhero who would sprawl that provocatively.

Didn't realize that about Hugo Strange. It really does make him stand out.

Date: 2010-12-08 11:09 pm (UTC)
icon_uk: (Default)
From: [personal profile] icon_uk

Also props to how well the Dick!Bot dies. I can't think of another male superhero who would sprawl that provocatively.

It's how he'd have wanted to go; in his Robin costume, sprawled on the bathroom floor with Bruce standing over him, naked...

Date: 2010-12-08 11:17 pm (UTC)
jlroberson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jlroberson
Hugo Strange. Batman's Rupert Pupkin.

"I'm your biggest fan."

Date: 2010-12-09 12:25 am (UTC)
althechi: (batman)
From: [personal profile] althechi
Unless Hugo put refractive lenses in the cowl, much of the story makes no sense.

Also, all he learned about fictional yoga Death-man taught him. >=P

Date: 2010-12-09 06:24 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Wow, Hugo Strange, really is pretty ripped, isn't he? If he can successfully pass himself off as Batman, he's quite the physical specimen. It's an interesting twist, having a spectacled behind-the-scenes master schemer like Strange be someone who can go toe-to-toe with Bats.
Also, that scene where the 'Robin-bot' gets killed is fairly harrowing. It's pretty obvious at that point that it's not the REAL Robin who just got killed, but the narration is vivid enough to make you shudder at the possibility that it IS somehow.

Date: 2010-12-09 08:02 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Perhaps - he'd have to get some contact lenses first, though. (Or just replace the lenses already in the cowl with magnifying ones.)
The thing is, though, I don't think he has any particular admiration for what Batman DOES, he just admires what Batman IS. He's impressed by the psychological power that Batman wields, and the whole 'dark creature of the night' thing - he doesn't have any actual interest in fighting crime; he's a criminal, for cryin' out loud. My guess is that if he ever DID replace Batman, he'd just do so as a crimelord version - he'd try to convince everybody that he was the real Batman gone rogue. (Which, to be fair, would be a legitimate psychological weapon, considering how scared your average crook is of Batman - rival crimelords would drop like flies because their hirelings would be too scared to go up against the Bat.)

Date: 2010-12-09 08:12 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Exactly - he wouldn't have to rest on his laurels using the costume to do all the work, he'd be coming up with genuinely brilliant schemes to unseat his rivals, while all the time the costume would be giving his actions extra oomph. 'Oh $#@!, it's the Bat! And... and he's playin' for keeps now, with guns and stuff! He ain't keepin' us in line no more - he's takin' us over! HELP!'

Date: 2010-12-09 08:47 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Well, it's certainly not inconceivable that someone WILL at some point - after all, they just had the 'Batman gang' story with all the gang members dressing up like Batman. The only thing is, when and if they DO do it, they probably won't cast Hugo Strange in the part - it'll probably be a higher-profile villain, like the Joker.

Date: 2010-12-09 09:05 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Oh, I agree - Hugo's a natural for the part, but DC tends to get hung up on the 'Joker is the ULTIMATE BAT-VILLAIN!' thing. This has led to him being used in places where he really shouldn't be. He's far too egotistical to be Bats, I agree, but he's also very high-profile, which would allow the hype-machine to squeal at the top of its lungs. Hugo, unfortunately, is more of a niche villain - he's been on TV shows and all, Bat-fans know who he is, but your average schmoe on the street does not. If they don't use the Joker, it'll probably be either one of the ones you mentioned, or someone else high-profile, like the Riddler. The only way Strange will probably be used is if his profile is raised a great deal in the months beforehand.

Date: 2010-12-09 12:16 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
That would be interesting, all right. The question is whether it would actually improve the character or not - in a weird way, his low profile has arguably made him more memorable. It ensures that the few stories he gets are generally written by the hardcore types you mentioned, which means that they usually play to his strengths by giving him epic schemes to carry out, or at least interesting ones. Villains like the Joker, on the other hand, get plenty of good stories and some great ones, but plenty of bad ones, too. Strange gaining exposure might dilute his character somewhat by exposing him to the mercies of less dedicated writers who don't have the benefit of decades of stories to fall back on when delineating his character for a modern audience, like they do with the Joker and company.
This is not saying that I wouldn't like Hugo to get broader exposure - certainly I would; he's a cool character. It's just somewhat ironic that, by being presented as an 'ultimate Bat-villain', he may actually have some of the qualities that already define him as such watered down.

Date: 2010-12-09 11:28 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Definitely. We need a really good writer to tackle the job and preserve his awesomeness. I guess Grant Morrison's busy with other stuff... Hmm... Shame Alan Moore doesn't work for DC anymore...

Date: 2010-12-10 10:57 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Why do you say 'himself'? Does he have some sort of intrinsic connection with Hugo Strange that I don't know about/have forgotten?

Date: 2010-12-11 01:00 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
*slaps forehead* Oh, riiiiiiight... Sorry, it's been kind of a long thread, and I lost track of things.
One of these days, I have REALLY got to get things together and read 'Kraven's Last Hunt'.

Date: 2010-12-11 01:51 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Yeah, no, I definitely wouldn't read it on here. It's one of those things that demands a full read-through. Oh well, one of these days...

Date: 2010-12-14 12:07 am (UTC)
alexanderlucard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] alexanderlucard
Already posted during the "great death theme week." It took me a while to piece it together in a way it would make sense, but here it is:


scans_daily: (Default)
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