With Detective 395 (Jan. 70) Batman took another step towards the dark knight, thanks to Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano. While the stories by Frank Robbins had enmeshed Batman in a world of real street crime, this story moved the character to the verge of the supernatural, taking advantage of the gothic craze from the early 70s, and adding a new darkness to the character.
The story takes Bruce Wayne to Mexico, where he meets the reclusive Juan and Dolores Muerto. Although the couple seems open and friendly, Batman has already spotted the violence occurring on their estate.
One of the other party guests turns out to be a government agent. The Muertos own a ruined monastery, in which grow hundreds of “sibyl” plants, which give immortality, but at the cost of madness. The plants are illegal, and the agent is out to get the Muertos, but they get him first.
Batman doesn’t fare too much better than the Mexican cop, getting caught and thrown into the monastery, where he is subject to the effects of the flowers, and of Neal Adams love for psychedelic panels.
Batman sets fire to the monastery and the flowers, and the story comes to a pure horror comic conclusion, with the Muertos rapidly aging and falling into their pre-dug graves.
While Detective Comics would stay largely within the realm of realistic crimes for the next few years, the supernatural element from this story would play big time in early 70s Batman.
Robin’s story, by Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, concludes in this issue. Robin confronts Fire-Brand Fran and Jonah about being in league with the phony cops.
It then turns out that the student radicals are really foreign agents trying to destroy the US. That’s a kind of shocking dismissal of the issues that were being protested on US college campuses at the time, and later Robin stories would deal with those issues in a much more intelligent way.