So I picked up the last trade paperback reissue of Neal Adams' Batman work from the '70s, and came across this rarity among the classic Man-Bat and Ra's al-Ghul stories: "Stacked Cards," a non-canonical Batman and Robin story from 1975 drawn by Adams (who also apparently wrote and lettered as well) for PowerRecords, a children's record company specializing in the LP/book combo sets that were very popular in the pre-home video era. Kids would read the book or comic as they listened to the dialogue and sound effects on the accompanying record, the idea being that this would teach them the magic of reading or some such crap. But there must not have been a lot of quality control on these things, because Adams' story is seriously fucked up.
For one thing, the tone is all over the place: The story starts out feeling very close to the 1960s Adam West show, with Commissioner Gordon contacting the Dynamic Duo on a red telephone. (There's also a character named "Inspector Mulligan" who's clearly supposed to be Chief O'Hara, but maybe someone reminded Adams that he wasn't a character in the comics.) This actually makes a lot of sense, since the '60s show was widely syndicated in the '70s, and was most kids' introduction to Batman at the time. But then things get seriously weird and dark: The Joker unambiguously murders innocent people, leaving grotesque grinning corpses in his wake. And then there's this line from Batman at the end:
"Robin... Knowing the cleverness of the artful dodger, who can say for sure... Perhaps a frontal lobotomy would be the answer.
"If science could operate on this distorted brain and put it to good use... society would reap a great benefit!"
Yep, Batman, defender of free will, justice, and due process, pretty much advocates lobotomizing the Joker for his own good and society's benefit. (Shades of the old Doc Savage stories' Crime College.) Not in a Frank Miller miniseries from the 2000s, but in a book and record set aimed at small children in the late '70s. I fully expect this story to be reintegrated into New 52 continuity any damn day now.
Read the whole thing here.
Thrill to the audio accompaniment (complete with awesome soul-funk variant of the Neal Hefti theme) here:
And some enterprising soul has merged the two through arcane, possibly occult science into a newfangled "Motion-Comic":