Monday, April 8, 2013


Thrillkiller by Howard Chaykin and Dan Brereton was one of the first graphic novels, along with The Killing Joke, that I'd bought since The Dark Night Returns way back in the 1980s. I'd gone on an unintended hiatus from reading comics and graphic novels and was totally oblivious to all the really good stuff I was missing out on.

Art by Dan Brereton
I picked up Thrillkiller purely for the terrific cover, shown above. That fantastic red hair really called out to me from the shelf. A couple of glances through the pages and I knew I had to buy it. It wasn't like any other comic or graphic novel I owned. Then one of the guys at the store explained to me all about the whole Elseworlds concept, about taking taking the DC characters and backgrounds we all know and turning them inside-out, placing them in different times, settings, places. Probably a good thing he gave me the rundown as I would have been a bit confused otherwise.

Briefly, Bruce Wayne isn't quite Batman, yet. At least not as Thrillkiller begins. Instead he's a detective on the Gotham City Police Department and reports directly to Commissioner Gordon. Wayne is one of the only cops left on the force that Gordon can trust, as the GCPD is deeply corrupt. The year is 1961 and society is awakening from the 1950s and entering the 60s with a "giddy optimism" that belies the corruption and rot threatening to overwhelm the city. Wild heiress (as opposed to "playboy") Barbara Gordon and her boyfriend Richard Graustark spend their nights donning costumes as Batgirl and Robin and make it their mission to harass and persecute the corrupt officials of Gotham. Barbara Gordon lives in what's left of Wayne Manor, after Bruce Wayne's family lost their fortunes after the murder of Bruce Wayne's parents.

The villains, in addition to the corrupt police force, include Bianca Steeplechase, a green-haired poison-nailed vixen who likes to call herself The Joker. There is also Detective Duell, who we recognized instantly as  Two-Face. Dr. Edward Nygma makes a cameo as a sleazy psychiatrist. Otto Saunders as a former Nazi who likes to experiment on live victims by freezing them among other deeds. Selena Kyle makes an appearance as an exotic dancer at The Scratching Post who also plays informant to Detective Bruce Wayne.

Howard Chaykin takes the Batman myth and creates an alternative world that is just as fascinating and open to all kinds of possibilities considering the story here ends(?) in 1962 opening a new chapter in Bruce Wayne and Barbara Gordon's fates. But the real star of the book is the fantastic artwork by Dan Brereton as the panel below shows. There is a wonderful, seedy, noir aspect that really punches you in the eye. Nice!

Art by Dan Brereton

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