The World’s Greatest Detective’s Greatest Mystery: Batman The Long Halloween

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An incredible piece of literature, Batman The Long Halloween, published from 1996-1997 in a limited series stands true to being known as one of the greatest Batman stories of all time.  Giving us one of the most distinct whodunnit stories in the franchise, The Long Halloween created by Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb, is a journey through the rogues’ gallery of the Batman and the origin of the parasitic Two-Face, a very honest and just lawyer turned corrupt villain with a crooked view of justice.  It is one of my personal favorites as it gives most fans starting out a good perspective on all the characters as it explores Catwoman, Jim Gordon, Harvey Dent, Joker, Poison Ivy, Scarecrow, and Solomon Grundy.  However, it sometimes loses its quality with its filler type content in most of the stories trying to match every single holiday.  It dives deep into Batman and his progression as Gotham’s SIlent Protector and his relationship with Jim Gordon.  Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb did a spectacular job bringing these characters to life with their distinct art tone and an ambitious storyline that proves to stand the test of time. 

Thankfully we are getting an animated motion picture based on this story somewhere in 2021 based on many sources including the DC Fandom event.  This novel also spawned in a sequel Dark Victory that proves to be an epic surrounding the origin of Dick Grayson as Robin.   This novel is also unique for its distinct sections of the book, each one surrounding a different holiday spanning a year from one Halloween to the next.  Who is the Holiday Killer?  Is a question that pops up through this book as each holiday a person is killed with a light 22 caliber gun with a baby bottle nipple silencer that proves to be effective, somehow.  The Long Halloween gives us many questions as we progress through the book, Is the justice system fair?  Are our characters truly fighting for the greater good?  Well, these authors gave us a truly great classic to remember.

BEHIND THE AUTHORS

Tim Sale’s, the artist for the Long Halloween, career began at the University of Washington for two years before moving out to New York and graduating from the School Of Visual Arts.  He began his career with Myth Adventures (1993) and Thieves World (1979-1989) with Robert Asprin.  He then worked with DC on Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specials (1993) and Batman The Long Halloween (1996-1997) the book we are covering today.  Post Long Halloween he did Batman Haunted Knight (1996), Superman For All Seasons (1998), and Batman Dark Victory (1999-2000).  At Marvel, he worked on Daredevil: Yellow (2002), Spider-man: Blue (2003), Hulk: Gray (2004).  And he finished it off with Cat-woman: When In Rome (2004) and The Superman Confidential Series (2006-2008).  He won the American Eisner Award for Batman the Long Halloween, Batman Dark Victory, and Superman For All Seasons.  He also did work on the television series Smallville (2001-2011) and Heroes (2006-2010).  Tim Sale is most well known for his exaggerated art as most of his characters have a distinct trait in their appearances.

Jeph Loeb is one of the most influential people in comic culture as he has done many things in media like writing many popular films, Award-Winning Graphic Novels, and is now currently Head of Television at Marvel.  He graduated from Columbia University with a bachelor’s degree in Arts and a master’s degree in filmmaking.  Jeph Loeb started his comic career with Challengers of the Unknown (1991), Age of the Apocalypse (1995-1996), Batman Haunted Knight (1996), and Batman the Long Halloween (1996).  Post Long Halloween he did Batman Dark Victory (1999-2000), Our Worlds at War (2001), Batman Hush (2002), Daredevil: Yellow (2002), Spiderman: Blue (2003), Hulk: Gray (2004), Fallen Son: Death of Captain America (2007), Superman Emperor Joker (2007), Superman/Batman (2014), and Supergirl (2016).  Jeph Loeb was also an admired filmmaker writing the Teen Wolf series starring Michael J. Fox and Commando starring Arnold Swartzinegger while also writing some of Smallville.  Jeph Loeb currently works in many forms of media from film and the peculiar comic book industry.  Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb are one of the most well-known duos in comic book media as they have partnered up for many popularized series like Batman: The Haunted Knight (1996)  and Challengers of the Unknown (1991).  They also did the memorable The Long Halloween, a tragic and treacherous Crime Thriller of the ’90s.

SYNOPSIS

If you want the full experience of this book I suggest you buy the graphic novel and read it, If however, you don’t have the time for that this is an alternate option

The notorious Carmine “The Roman” Falcone has Gotham in control with his mafia family.  His biggest problem however comes from a financial status as he starts looking at the Gotham City Bank for support in his nefarious plots.  Carmine has already influenced the board of directors to support him but he still wants Bruce Wayne’s financial support due to his family’s empire, so he takes his nephew’s wedding as an opportunity to persuade him, but he refuses.  As Bruce leaves to go back to his nightly events Selina Kyle convinces him to stay at the wedding.  During this, Harvey Dent is in the parking lot noting the license plate numbers from several cars of the nefarious mafia members as he soon gets beat up by the Roman’s goons as a warning not to get deeper into the case.  Luckily, Selina and Bruce find him and quickly get him back onto his feet, Harvey then curtly walks away in disgust as he believes Bruce and Selina don’t know how much trouble he’s gone too to take down the Roman.  Selena then asks Bruce if he as any plans for the evening, Bruce apologizes and says that it’s late and he should probably head home for the night.

 Harvey later that night goes to the GCPD to discuss with Jim Gordon, the commissioner of the Gotham City Police Department, to discuss ways on how to take down the Roman and if Batman should be involved in their efforts.  Batman goes into Roman’s penthouse where he encounters Selina Kyle in her Cat Burglar identity, Catwoman. Batman tries to reason with her when suddenly Roman’s thugs confront them and open fire on the two vigilantes.  They safely get away in the nick of time when Carmine puts a bounty of the price of one million dollars for the bat or the cat.  Batman goes on a chase trying to detect why she was in the penthouse in the first place when suddenly she vanishes out of thin air.  Batman, confused, sees the Bat-Signal activated by Harvey Dent and Jim Gordon. 

The three of them enter a pact to bend the rules of Justice to take down the Roman but to never break them as it will prove that they are just like the scum on the street.  As Batman does his usual trick of vanishing he leaves the Roman’s Ledger which is a key piece of information for Harvey’s case from the penthouse.  Bruce soon goes to the bank’s board of directors to protest against their involvement with the Roman but he is unable to influence them.  Batman then goes to Richard Daniel to threaten him to keep Falcone’s finance out of the bank.  Daniel resigns from the bank and Bruce steps in to take his place and push the money away.  In August, Falcone orders his nephew Johnny during his honeymoon to take care of Richard.  On the next month, Johnny assassinates Richard while he steps out of his local theater. 

On Halloween, Johnny Viti is shot two times in the bath from an unknown assailant.  The murderer leaves the murder weapon, a light .22 caliber pistol with a baby bottle nipple used as a silencer, with a jack o lantern symbolizing the holiday taking place during his death.  Dent, Batman, and Gordon later that night discuss the murder as Dent makes it blatantly obvious that he doesn’t care about a mobster’s death.  Batman discusses the details of the murder from the victim to the murder weapon while he notices someone eavesdropping on their conversation.  Batman interrupts Catwoman from her eavesdropping as they discuss Catwoman’s involvement with Carmine, she confesses that she might be able to help hit the Roman where it hurts; his money.  Catwoman leads to Dent and Batman to a warehouse filled to the brim with over 20 million dollars.  Dent and Batman burn the warehouse down hitting a big blow to the Romans’ financial status as that’s the money he was trying to get into the bank.  Harvey goes back home happy as he knows how far they’ve progressed on the case. He helps his wife Gilda Dent on kids going trick or treating, As he rummages through the mail a bomb goes off hidden in a package and blows up the house.  Luckily Harvey and Gilda make it out alive but noticing that this was a warning from Falcone. As the months roll by the killings increased. 

During thanksgiving, the trio still investigates the case even after the near-death situation Harvey had experienced.  Holiday’s killings however were all linked to both of the Mafia families, Falcone and Maroni.  Batman while chasing an informative encounters Solomon Grundy in the sewers and gets in a bloody fistfight before finally taking down the zombie born on a Monday.  During Thanksgiving, Holiday strikes again on the Irish, a small-time operation run by Mickey who blew up the Dents’ House, killing them during dinner as they gave thanks to the Roman.  During Christmas Eve, The Joker hijacks a plane in hopes to poison Gotham Square at midnight with his Joker Gas, killing hundreds of civilians but as he states he hopefully wishes one of them is Holiday as he believes only one maniac is allowed in Gotham.  Batman arrives just in the nick of time as Joker is about to take off and hitches onto the plane.  Meanwhile, Harvey is working late at night on the Falcone case when his assistant Vernon finds some crucial information linking Carmine “The Roman” Falcone to Millionaire Bruce Wayne. 

On Falcone’s Yacht in Gotham Harbour, Falcone and Maroni discuss putting an end to the Holiday killer as he is bad for business but Falcone considers that maybe Maroni is behind the killings as it’s only affected the Falcone family.  During this conversation, Alberto, The Roman’s Son, is shot in the head and thrown overboard by Holiday.  Harvey arrives home late apologizing to Gilda as she notices that his hair is wet, Harvey pushes it aside saying that it was snowing outside.  Harvey enters the living room surprised to see the Gordons’ spending the New Years with them.  Harvey rushes to the kitchen in anger as Gordon follows to see what’s wrong. During this, Gilda and Barbara discuss the possibility of Harvey and Gilda having children.  In the kitchen, Harvey recounts to Gordon his discovery of the relation between Bruce Wayne and the Roman.  As the clock strikes midnight, Batman and the Joker fight on the plane above Gotham. Thankfully Batman defeated him and landed the plane into the water keeping Gotham protected. 

The murders continue on Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, April Fools day, Mother’s day, and Father’s Day.   Maroni reveals that he wants to testify against Falcone on August 2nd, The Roman’s birthday.  On April Fools, however, Riddler was left alive by Holiday which Batman sees at the most suspicious.  He interrogates Riddler who says that he was hired by the Roman to figure out who the Holiday Killer was but was fired for his unsatisfactory claims.  Batman comes to the conclusion that Holiday wants Batman to know that he’s after the Roman.  Meanwhile, we see Gilda interrupt Dent with a light .22 caliber gun that is most famous for being the murder weapon of Holiday.  Dent tells her it’s just evidence in the case and doesn’t mean anything.  Before the Court Hearing, Maroni is given a suspicious bottle of what appears to be some sort of medicine.  As Moroni is being questioned by Harvey he acts out a coughing fit as he reaches for a bottle which turns out to be a form of acid and throws it at Harvey, disfiguring half of his face.

 After this Harvey is rushed to the hospital but sadly in a raging fit, he kills a doctor and escapes.  Meanwhile, Holiday kills Carla as she investigates further into who he/she is.  Labor Day, Harvey Dent goes to meet Solomon Grundy in the sewers where he gets beat by Grundy until he sings a song based on Grundy’s tale that calms him down as Dent asks if a man can live two lives.  During this interaction, we learn more and more about Harvey’s obsession with the number two, first with the coin, then his idea on the justice system, his black and white perspective of good and evil, and finally his idea of living two lives.  Batman and Gordon discuss on top of the GCPD building on Harvey Dent as one of the possible suspects as Holiday, Jim Gordon asks Batman how long he has known about this but he doesn’t answer knowing that the man that they made the pact with wasn’t the same man now.  Batman leaves Gordon to go see the Roman if he knows where Harvey Dent is.  Carmine goes into a rage yelling at Batman that he could have stopped all this death, that all of the Falcone’s family killed by Holiday were on his hands, and that he is the reason everyone Carmine ever loved is dead.  Batman leaves as Carmine stumbles on the ground alerting Sophia to check on him with a pistol in her hand but Carmine said it was merely nothing.  While this was happening, Catwoman was eavesdropping, as always, on their one-sided conversation.  Batman startles her telling her what she wants with all this as she replies that “Maybe the Roman treats the world like a ball of yarn and you know how much cats like to unravel a ball of yarn.”  Catwoman dashes away and vanishes into the city. 

Gilda Dent hears something in her basement, hoping it’s Harvey she races down asking if he’s there.  She becomes startled when she sees Batman lurking in the shadows, telling her if she knows where he is.  She starts crying and whimpering to him to find her husband. He leaves to head over to Arkham Asylum to meet with the Calendar Man one more time to see if he knows anything about his whereabouts.  Calendar Man tells him that they have something that the Holiday killer wants, Maroni.  They move Maroni in hopes to attract Holiday to try to eliminate him during the convoy. Suddenly Maroni gets shot in the head by one of the guards, Batman tries to apprehend him but gets shot in the chest four times. Jim, in hopes of trying to identify the killer, pans his flashlight at the shooter identifying him as Alberto Falcone, Carmine’s dead son.

 Alberto confesses to being Holiday before quickly being tackled down by Batman who is minorly injured.  The Holiday killer has been caught.  Alberto gets a visit from Carmine asking him why he did it in which he replied at the fact he was never able to participate in the family, that he felt like he never he had a chance to prove to his father he could be someone in the business, but Carmine never saw it and it tilted Alberto over the edge.  The Gordons go to Gilda’s house to keep her company after her husband’s disappearance where she tries to hope that he can still be saved.  A mysterious figure pays a visit to the Calendar Man as he flips a coin, acknowledging that it’s Harvey.  The coin lands on the light side where he gives his apologies and leaves, terrifying the Calendar Man.  Carmine in defiance of his son betraying him has a breakdown breaking tables and chairs until he hears a faint noise, laughter.  He orders Sofia he wants everyone downstairs as soon as possible as he checks the building.

 He sees smiling corpses everywhere when suddenly in one room he saw it.  All the villains in this book with Harvey in the back. This is one of the most famous panels in history as it showcases Batman’s first Rogues gallery in his story.  Harvey has a monologue discussing the evil that plagues the city.  He now believes that the rules can not be bent but broken to truly achieve justice, he is now Two-Face.  Batman drops a smoke grenade on Solomon flooding the room with smoke.  Batman takes down most of the villains with ease but is too late when Two-Face pulls the trigger killing the Roman.  Sofia, shocked by this discovery, throws herself aimlessly at Two-Face yelling that she’ll kill him but trips and falls off the building, The Roman and his daughter are now dead.  Two-Face, later on, goes to see Vincent, his assistant who Two-Face learns was the one that gave Maroni the acid.  Vincent was shot in the head and killed as revenge from Dent, proving to be very unlucky. 

The next panel then shows Harvey near the bat-signal telling Batman and Gordon that he did what needed to be done and he had no regrets, He turns himself in as we learn that Two-Face maybe isn’t all that one-sided.  Batman and Jim later reflect on their pact at the beginning of the story as Batman simply tells him, “was it worth it?” We get two different parallels, in the end, one of Jim taking care of his child stating that he “believes in Gotham” and Gilda throwing a bountiful amount of stuff in a fire, as she’s saying that Harvey was possibly the real Holiday Killer and that Alberto simply confessed it to gain recognition from his father.  She believes that Harvey will soon be cured and that she can hope they can restart the life they once had, she believes in Harvey Dent.

MY THOUGHTS AND CONCLUSION

The Long Halloween is a dark and grounded story focusing on Batman’s early years and his relations with many of the characters.  It also proves to be a very tragic love story surrounding the Dents’ as they fall victim to the cold and corrupt city known as Gotham.  The setting of Gotham works really well in this detective novel as it has a very distinct tone as a cold and dark city, I always relate it to Chicago in the ’30s for this book as it has the dark tone to it almost like a Scorsese film. The Long Halloween is the most acclaimed novels in comic book entertainment for its character progression and the overall impact it has on the reader although it does drag the plot at certain points, mostly with filler on many chapters of the book, It’s overall story deserves recognition for its timeless narrative. The Long Halloween I believe deserves a 9/10. 

WORKS CITED

PeoplePill. “People Pill.” PeoplePill, PeoplePill, 2010, peoplepill.com/people/jeph-loeb/. Accessed 6 Sept. 2020.

PeoplePill. “People Pill.” PeoplePill, PeoplePill, 2015, peoplepill.com/people/tim-sale-1/. Accessed 6 Sept. 2020.

“Tim Sale.” DC, 4 Mar. 2012, http://www.dccomics.com/talent/tim-sale. Accessed 6 Sept. 2020.

“Jeph Loeb (Person) – Comic Vine.” Comic Vine, Comic Vine, 2010, comicvine.gamespot.com/jeph-loeb/4040-40472/. Accessed 6 Sept. 2020.

“Batman: The Long Halloween.” DC Database, 2020, dc.fandom.com/wiki/Batman:_The_Long_Halloween. Accessed 11 Sept. 2020.

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