Detective Comics #469: "...By Death's Eerie Light!"

Detective Comics #469
"... By Death's Eerie Light!"
May, 1977

Presenting The Batman You've Been Waiting For By:
Steve Englehart: Author
Walt Simonson: Artist
Al Milgrom: Inker
Jerry Serpe: Colorist

The Masked Manhunter's nightly patrol had ended.  Gotham City would soon
see another dawn because of his actions.  This is what the Batman
believed until he returned to the Wayne Foundation Building. 

He is tired -- looking forward for some sleep before resuming the day as
a millionaire philanthropist.  The underworld knows of him as a
mysterious vigilante -- while in his own home, he cradles the comatose
body of Alfred Pennyworth.  As the Darknight Detective makes a lifesaving
phone call, he remembers hearing sirens outside... and the gentleman's
gentleman preparation of a late snack.  Both butler and food tray fell to
the ground at the same moment.  Learning that all available ambulances
are busy handling a new epidemic, it's up to Batman to take care of his
friend.  Together, they ride the secret elevator to the garage --

The Batmobile soon roars out from its concealed exit, and the driver has
time to think about the ambulance sirens he's been hearing all night.
Alfred is carried to the Gotham General Hospital by Bruce Wayne himself.
Three minutes pass -- the Masked Manhunter is greeted by members of the
hospital staff.  He soon learns that fifty people have been affected by
the same malady.  There haven't been any deaths, but the doctors need to
know what they're dealing with.  Commissioner Gordon arrives, with
Councilman Bell at his heels.

Bell is also the hospital's chief of staff, and continues to demand the
Commissioner's complete attention.  Gordon meets with his friend, and
tells him how lately city hall wants him to run his police officers their
way.  The Darknight Detective wonders why Bell would be complaining, and
the Commissioner shows him the note they've transcribed from the one
responsible for the epidemic.  "Phosphorus Burns When Exposed To The Air!
The Good Citizens Of Gotham City Have Earned My Righteous Wrath, And
They Will Burn For It -- For I Am-- Dr. Phosphorus"  There are no further
need for further replies.

The detective has begun his work.  He returns to the Wayne Foundation
Building, and begins his hunt.  Alfred's dry raincoat tells him that the
faithful butler did not go outside in the rain.  Since the mysterious
malady struck immediately, it must have occurred last night in the
apartment.  It wasn't the Gotham Gazette, because they both had handled
it.  The Masked Manhunter continues his way through the various rooms --
in search of something out of place --  He frowns as he steps towards the
fireplace -- opens it -- and enters the hidden elevator.  Now within the
subbasement, he steps into other rooms -- ones which reflect their
owner's mood.  Alfred Pennyworth has not been back to Wayne Manor, but
Bruce Wayne loves the place, and knows that its location is far from the

Having lived a private life, he decides to have a drink -- but since he
is on the Batman's time -- it will have to be a drink of water.  He knows
that the disease was not carried on a foreign object -- nor was it on the
air, or more people would have succumbed to it --  It is then that Bruce
realizes he is holding a glass full of death.  Those citizens who work at
night must have drunk the water, but seven million more people will soon
be waking up in a couple of hours.  RRRINNGG  The hot-line, with
Commissioner Gordon at the other end.  As he tells Gordon about his
discovery, his friend now knows why he's been feeling so ill...

The following half hour finds the Masked Manhunter at the Gotham City
Reservoir.  The assistant commissioner has been contacted -- the city's
water supply has been shut down -- and the doctors are working swiftly in
search of the cure.  The Batman has managed to outrace the sun -- to seek
out the cause at the source.  Things seem quiet at first, but a light
flashing between the trees catches his eyes.  The glowing figure before
him introduces himself as Dr. Phosphorus.

It was inevitable that they should meet -- the Caped Crusader of Gotham
City -- and he, its destroyer.  He has vowed to destroy Gotham as it has
destroyed him.  This is the latest menace to claim to be his destroyer,
but there have been others in the past.  The doctor possesses a body of
living Phosphorus, which burns upon exposure to the air.  The Masked
Manhunter cannot even touch his adversary, who has managed to poison many
citizens by soaking his own body in their water.

Unfortunately for Phosphorus, his foe need not touch him to hit him.
Mere hits mean nothing to one who possesses a body not of mere flesh and
blood.  The Batman now feels the burn, and lacks the time to come up with
a solution for his current situation.  As the Doctor gets closer, the
Darknight Detective wraps his fists in the pieces of his cape --

KA-LAM!  The impromptu boxing gloves have the desired effect.  The
glowing ghoul falls backwards, then realizes for the first time how much
his triumph will cost him.  Knowing that he is facing a truly worthy
opponent, Doctor Phosphorus leaps at the Batman, his fearsome fingers
digging for the Caped Crusader's own throat.  The fierce lunge sends them
both into the cool waters below.

The doctor's body has ceased to burn underwater, and has only his grip to
rely on.  SPLOK!  It is one which the Masked Manhunter can break.  Back
on dry land, Phosphorus strikes him down, and chooses not to kill him on
their first meeting.  The thrill and Doctor Phosphorus are soon gone,
leaving the Batman to slowly rise to his feet, and be ready for their
next meeting.

On the cover of Detective Comics #469 by Jim Aparo, it looks like they'll
be changing the title to Dr. Phosphorus' Detective Comics if the
Darknight Detective doesn't get him to go up the river.

A mysterious villain with glowing see-through skin certainly catches the
reader's attention.

The art team of Walt Simonson and Al Milgrom mesh so much that I have
trouble identifying the pencils by Simonson.

Steve Englehart refers to Batman as the Caped Crusader on page 2, a term
of endearment for many readers who have grown up with the character's

Councilman Bell looks like he went to the same barbershop as Norman
Osborn and Flint Marko.

The Dark Knight is good, but the Darknight Detective is better when it
comes to solving mysteries.

One might ask how come Dr. Phosphorus' pants haven't burnt off, but I
wouldn't want to be the one to ask him.

The sound effects were a bit unusual during the fight scenes, with
"TUNK", "SLAM!", "POM!", "KA-LAM!", "SPLOK!", and "BLAM!"

This was the first round between Batman and Dr. Phosphorus, as well as
the first issue of Steve Englehart's run on Detective Comics.

Steve Chung
"...By Death's Eerie Review!"