Thursday, October 08, 2009

In Memory of Arthur Reeves

As the Silver Age came to a close, a dramatic shift happened in the Batman stories. Gone were the aliens and the weird transformations that had marked the Schiff era, and the camp style of the Batman show. Gone too were Sheldon Moldoff and Bill Finger, Robin and the Batcave.

But with every subtraction comes an addition, and one of the major additions at the end of this era was Denny O'Neill, whose scripts would revitalize the character for the 1970s. O'Neill sensed that Batman needed an official antagonist outside of the criminal underworld, and so he came up with Arthur Reeves, the Public Works Commissioner of Gotham City.

Reeves fits in with several characters from fiction. He's something of a bumbler a la Inspector Lestrade of the Sherlock Holmes movies (Lestrade was less of a buffoon in the Conan Doyle stories). You could also compare him to McGonigle, a Gotham City cop who plagued Batman for a few stories in the 1940s, or to J. Jonah Jameson, Spiderman's longtime nemesis.

Reeves first popped up in Detective #399. In the story, Batman is demonstrating his fighting prowess to the Gotham City Police Academy, against a martial arts instructor. The martial artist loses his cool when Batman defeats him easily and they have a serious fight until Batman ends it with the haymaker. Reeves sputters angrily that he's never seen such a disgraceful exhibition, and asks why Batman has to wear a mask:

And that's not even Reeve's most famous humiliation; that comes in Batman #234's classic story, Half An Evil:

Reeves appeared in a fair number of Batman stories in the 1970s. In Batman #229, Julius Schwartz revealed the inspiration for the name, if not the character:

From the Wikipedia entry on Craig Kennedy:

Kennedy is a scientific detective at Columbia University similar to Sherlock Holmes and Dr Thorndyke. He uses his knowledge of chemistry and psychoanalysis to solve cases, and uses exotic (at the time) devices in his work such as lie detectors, gyroscopes, and portable seismographs. Craig Kennedy became the prototype for American scientific detectives and their adventures, influencing the creation of later characters such as Doc Savage and Batman.

Here's a link to a bunch of Craig Kennedy stories.

Public Works Commissioner Reeves popped up on at least several more occasions; according to the Batman Wikia, he eventually ran for mayor, got caught up with Boss Ruppert Thorne's web, and retired in disgrace. As a public works commissioner it had never made much sense that Reeves would be so involved with Police Department business, unless he had political ambitions.

Hat Tip to Fr. Dan, who mentioned Reeves in the comments section of the last post, giving me the idea to do this post.