[World of Bats} Batman Book Club: Legends of the Dark Knight-Issues 6-10 Gothic

Howdy y’all and welcome to the second installment of the Batman Book Club. This week we jump into a storyline by Grant Morrison with art by Klaus Janson. “Gothic” A serial killer from Gotham City’s past Mr. Whispers returns to terrorize its citizens! Explore the history of Batman’s hometown in this 5-part story.

As there are quite a few book clubs going on and I don’t want to make anyone feel rushed so lets give this a 10 day run.
Starting today, Aug. 11th till the 21th.
As before, no set of questions just talk about what you liked from the story or perhaps what you didn’t like. Just share your thoughts and as always happy reading :).
Link for fist issue in run below for convenience:



Cool – I read this one some years back, definitely feels about time to read it again.

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I’m probably better off avoiding the headache of summarizing a Grant Morrison comic, so instead, I’ll identify the literary quotes from the first issue:

  1. The title page contains a quote from Hamlet, Act I, Scene V, by William Shakespeare. Prince Hamlet has just run into the ghost of his father, who informs him that he has been cursed to roam the night in a state of purgatory until his sins are burnt away. In the quote, he is telling his son that he further discuss the horrors of his afterlife experiences because they’d be too unpleasant for the young prince to hear.

  2. The record is playing a rather mean-spirited traditional British nursery rhyme, “Oranges and Lemons.” The bells of London’s churches are carrying on the conversation before the decapitation occurs.

  3. “Bat-Man” O’Rourke then finds a card with a quote from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” It’s from Part VI, when the mariner is looking out at the ocean after a session of looking into the eyes of his undead crew (who are nice enough to keep the ship going despite him getting them into this mess by killing that poor albatross).

  4. The card in the hotel room quotes John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” It’s a quote from near the end of Book VI, describing the fall of Satan and his angels from heaven.

  5. We get some opera courtesy of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte, namely Act II of “Don Giovanni.” The title character and his servant, Leporello, had donned each other’s clothing as a disguise, and Leporello found himself in a bit of danger for doing so. Now, Giovanni is telling him that a woman on the street mistook Giovanni for Leporello, and he took advantage of her error. She soon figured it out, and he had to dive behind a wall when she screamed for help. A statue of a commendatore (who was killed Giovanni at the start of the opera) butts into the conversation and tells Giovanni that he won’t be laughing for long. Giovanni assumes it’s someone hiding and pretending to be the commendatore. Leporello reads the inscription on the statue, which says that the commendatore is waiting for vengeance to come upon the impious man who killed him. Leporello finds this inscription quite frightening.

  6. More from “Don Giovanni,” Act II. The statue has shown up for dinner (as Giovanni had jokingly requested earlier), and Leporello doesn’t want to open the door. Giovanni insists, and the statue greets him. Appropriately, the card that came with the chocolates is quoting the same scene they’re watching. Apparently, the statue is too good for human food now after enjoying some heavenly grub. (Soon afterward, Giovanni is consumed by fire and dragged to hell by demons.)


I should have noted that the first volume was entitled “Man Without a Shadow,” which is probably an allusion to the Adelbert von Chamisso story “Peter Schlemihl,” a tale about a man who sells his shadow to the devil. Now to the second volume, “The Death Ship.” https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/batman-legends-of-the-dark-knight-1989-7/f404801a-01bd-40ea-8f76-f6baf5040a37

  1. The epigraph is taken from Part III of Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” (The title of the issue is likely an allusion to this same passage.) The mariner and his (still alive at this point) crew are approached by a ship carrying DEATH and his mate, Night-Mare LIFE-IN-DEATH. The duo cast dice, and the woman cries that she won the match. The mariner’s men start dying around him, but he survives.

  2. The security guard makes a pretty obvious reference to the Robert Wise film adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music.”

  3. We get another rather morbid nursery rhyme, “Ring Around the Rosie.” Morrison is probably playing upon the (unlikely) association of the song with the Great Plague.

  4. Ottavio reads a note that quotes the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, which are spoken by Duke Orsino, a man obsessed with a woman named Olivia who is mourning the passing of her brother.

  5. Speaking of Ottavio, he shares a name with a character from “Don Giovanni.” The opera’s Ottavio is engaged to the commendatore’s daughter, who makes him vow revenge when they discover the man’s body. As previously noted, the spirit of the commendatore manages to get revenge without Ottavio’s help.


After we get through 20, we should do a once a month (or every 5 rounds) look at a supporting character. Starting with Dick Grayson. Maybe Nightwing New 52?


Here’s what Morrison quotes in Volume 3, “The Burning Nun.” https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/batman-legends-of-the-dark-knight-1989-8/d12ca2c4-ee51-412a-ae03-cef5a65f7af8

  1. The epigraph this time is from a poem called “The Bad Monk” by Charles Baudelaire. Morrison has provided the third stanza, where the speaker (a bad cenobite) says that his soul is a tomb and an unadorned cloister (contrasted with an ornate cloister described in the first stanza) where he eternally travels and inhabits.

  2. The audio tape contains a recording of “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats. At this point in the poem, the speaker is reflecting upon his own poetic musings on death while listening to the nightingale sing.

  3. The nun gets to hear a snippet of the Christopher Marlowe play “Doctor Faustus,” which is one of the most famous stories of a man who sold his soul to the devil. At this point in the play, Faustus is hoping that time will stand still so that he will not have to give up his soul at midnight (which is an hour away).

  4. This one’s probably pretty obvious, but the “deluge of Genesis” is the flood from the Noah story in Genesis chapters 6-8 of the Torah. More subtle is the monk’s line once he closes the book: “The kingdom of hell is within us.” That’s an ironic spin on a statement by Jesus in Luke 17.21 from the New Testament, which states, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”

  5. We get another recitation of “Ring Around the Rosie,” and then Batman solves a clue that feels inspired by a scene from Dario Argento’s film Suspiria (though it was an iris in that film, not a rose).


@AlexanderKnox: props for posting some context to the literary elements of this story! And funny you should say that it’s folly to summarize a Grant Morrison comic, because I remember this being one of his more straightforward works.


As for supporting characters, I had the idea that with the finale for Pennyworth to do something with Alfred, probably the last arc of Scott Snyder’s run on All-Star Batman, “The First Ally.”

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I’ve been really busy the last couple days, but I think I’ll be able to read through this tonight. Not a Morrison fan (like, at all), but we’ll see if he can win me over.

For the next phase of the book club, I was thinking some Golden Age stuff (at least the first appearances of Batman, Robin, and the Joker) and then maybe picking a one- or two-shot from each decade to work through (if I spring for the two-shots, this would take two weeks, but it could probably be wrapped up in one with only one issue per decade).

Jay_Kay’s idea is more timely, though, so I’m down for that. Should we say the committee can rotate Aquamon-Jay-Bats with four club meetings each? Or Nathan can be the fourth committee member as our resident New 52/Rebirth expert if he wants to do his idea. I mean, I’d be down for supporting character spotlights, but I’d probably pick more late-'90s/early-'00s kind of stuff than '10s, because there were more and better specifically Bat-Family-related titles (other than those focusing on Batman himself) during that stretch.

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Jay_Kay get out of my head! yes I was thinking of doing that comic on here.

@Nathan.Payson Vroom already does that with the Superman Book Club and was planing on doing something similar. He just had Steel and before that Supergirl.

Why would I leave? I’ve set up a nice cosy little place to read and everything. It even has an ottoman! :smiley:

Seriously, I wouldn’t mind doing that rotation, though I did have an idea for a theme month in October, or at least one week out of it.

Anyway, finished the first issue, really good set up – you know things are messed when the crooks are coming to Batman for help.

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Wait, let me guess: The Long Halloween for Halloween Week? Because that’s definitely got to happen.

As for the story at hand, I just finished it. And I definitely enjoyed it more than some of Morrison’s other work. The horror angle was cool, interesting, and creepy. But it relied on inexplicable prophetic dreams, random coincidences (like the killer actually being the headmaster of a school Bruce attended right before his parents died), and plot threads that were dropped without much fanfare (like the gangsters turning out to not actually matter in the slightest). Plus, Mr. Whisper’s attempt to kill Batman with an unnecessarily elaborate death trap feels completely out of place with the rest of the story’s tone. Even knowing that Morrison is a Silver Age buff doesn’t really make it any better because this is a very not-Silver-Agey story. Morrison is a very style-over-substance kind of writer and I’m a very substance-over-style kind of reader.


Actually, now that I think about it, here’s how the World’s Greatest Detective cracks this case:
1: Has a bad dream.
2: Is reminded that he coincidentally met the main villain when he was a kid.
3: Decides to go get recordings of the villain reciting poetry for some reason.
4: Compares those recordings to some other recording, which is actually (accidentally?) a recording of his father saying some irrelevant phrase.
5: Follows up on that irrelevant phrase and it’s the right thing for some reason.
6: Gets a truckload of exposition dumped on him by some random abbot.

And I know this is happening because magic, but I can swallow magic a lot more easily with internally consistent rules and reasons it works the way it does.


Actually, because of the release of Joker, I was thinking of doing a Joker themed week, specifically stories that focus on his early history and/or where Batman isn’t as big a part of the story.


More allusions await us in Volume 4, “The Hangman’s Tale.” https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/batman-legends-of-the-dark-knight-1989-9/2694d3dc-ad96-4180-aa9a-d20e406bc350

  1. The title of the issue is inspired by the stories that make up Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (e.g. “The Miller’s Tale” and “The Monk’s Tale”).

  2. The epigraph is from British essayist Thomas De Quincey’s 1854 postscript to his two satirical addresses lauding the artistic merit of murder.

  3. Batman makes a callback to the previously-noted Twelfth Night reference, connecting the quote to the (intended) murder method.

  4. Morgenstern’s card is a quote from Act II, Scene VII of the play Love for Love by William Congreve. The line is delivered by Sir Sampson Legend in regard to his son, Valentine. It’s an appeal to physiognomy, the “science” of determining what kind of person someone is based on their face. Valentine was asking for his father to reduce the extremity of their previous agreement (Sir Sampson would pay off his son’s debts if Valentine would sign off his entire inheritance to his younger brother), and his father replies by calling him a rogue and trying to justify it by appealing to Valentine’s visage.

  5. Batman’s speculative etymology on the word “Gothic” is almost certainly wrong. The word is rooted in Germanic, not Greek, language.

  6. Someone more musically-inclined than I will have to determine if Whisper’s musical notes amount to much of anything.

  7. “Ring Around the Rosie” again. But you knew that.

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@Jay_Kay: A Joker week would be interesting. I was thinking about covering The Laughing Fish. I’ll see if I can work the logistics out on that. Or I can go next and let you have October. I didn’t want to stick myself ahead of you, but if you have plans, I’m not set on my ordering.

On the subject of Gothic, I still have mixed feelings. I think I enjoyed it a lot more when I was reading it than after I thought about it a little. Am I overthinking?

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@AlexanderKnox While Gothic refers to Germanic or ‘Gothic’ peoples, the word itself comes from Latin by way of Greek. I don’t believe the Germans used it to describe themselves, but rather how other peoples described the Germans. Sorry is this post comes off ticky-tacky. Hard to correct while not coming off a dick, but had to defend my boy Morrison. Haven’t read these issues in a while myself, but have them hard copy. Try to bust them out before the deadline. Happy reading everyone!


It came into Greek from proto-Germanic sources. It is completely unrelated to the Greek word goeteia.

Here is the etymology of Goth from the OED: “Etymology: Old English Gotan, plural (Gota singular), < late Latin Gothī, Gotthī, Greek Γόθοι, Γότθοι plural, < Gothic *Gutôs or *Gutans plural” (Oxford English Dictionary).


Last volume: “Walpurgisnacht.” https://www.dcuniverse.com/comics/book/batman-legends-of-the-dark-knight-1989-10/de50b378-bf0c-4534-8711-04e3013135e1

  1. The title is the German form of Walpurgis Night, a celebration of a Christian missionary to Germany. St. Walpurgia’s efforts to discourage pagan beliefs has led to the common association of her feast day’s eve with a gathering of witches (and efforts to drive them away). The holiday’s name also appears as the name of a scene in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play Faust.

  2. Speaking of Faust, we get another quote from the same Act V, Scene IV passage in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus that we saw in Morrison’s third volume.

  3. You guessed it: “Ring Around the Rosie.” Seriously, Morrison: it isn’t about the Plague.

  4. Batman’s card for Mr. Whisper provides another quote by the ghost of Hamlet’s father from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, Scene V.

  5. As he holds the plague vial in hand, Mr. Whisper quotes Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Masque of the Red Death.” That story is ACTUALLY about a plague (specifically a plague that personifies itself as a guest at an aristocratic party), so points awarded to Grant Morrison on that one.

  6. After getting hit by the subway train, Mr. Whisper gives another callback to the poem “Ode to a Nightingale” by John Keats.

  7. The inscription on the bell is taken from similar old church bells.

  8. The clock striking twelve is another allusion to the Faust story, namely the deadline for Mephistopheles to collect Faust’s soul.

  9. Alfred makes a quip about the Tin-Man from The Wizard of Oz (presumably the 1939 movie, not the original L. Frank Baum book) upon seeing the heart. You’d think he’d go for Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart” instead, but who am I to judge Mr. Pennyworth?


As for my actual feelings on this story…I like it, with some reservations. After all of Bruce’s skepticism about the supernatural in the previous LOTDK story, it’s a little jarring to find him so open to things like Goetia during his second year of caped crusading. The villain feels like a rough draft for Doctor Hurt from Morrison’s later run on Batman. It’s pretty entertaining, but nowhere near as good as his previous Batman story, Arkham Asylum. At least it has a fun death trap (as a good Batman story should) and some interesting little dream sequences peppered throughout it. I think I prefer it to Shaman, but I generally favor Morrison over O’Neil anyway.