Women in Dumpsters (Batman #414)

What I Remember:

This book was disappointing to me as a kid. There was no villain. It was Batman vs a generic bad guy. As a kid,the last thing you want is a Batman comic that doesn’t utilize Batman’s extensive rogue’s gallery. It was like watching the WWF  and instead of getting Hulk Hogan vs. The Undertaker, you get the Undertaker vs. some guy in a satin baseball jacket, with a mustache and a mullet. It didn’t seem like a challenge to the hero.

Vital Stats:

Batman #414 “Victims”

Writer: Jim Starlin

Penciler: Jim Aparo

Inkers: Mike DeCarlo

Colorist: Adrienne Roy

Letterer: John Costanza

Editor: Denny O’Neil

Publisher: DC Comics

Publication Date: December 1987

Cover Price: 75¢

Re-Collection Price: $2.85

What Happens?

That cop needs gloves on! It's a crime scene for christsakes!

That cop needs gloves on! It's a crime scene for christsakes!

The issue starts with a body in a dumpster. Batman and Jim Gordon are investigating. Gordon is visibly shaken while Batman is confident that the killer, whom has struck before will slip up eventually.

Batman is distracted by the smell of smoke and swings into action. He rescues a woman, Kate Babcock, a social worker who works in the neighborhood and went into help residents.

"Strangers are always the easiest to deal with"

"Strangers are always the easiest to deal with"

After Batman gets Kate and the girl she tried to rescue to safety, they are formally introduced. Batman admires Kate’s spunk and bravery but still tries and fails to get get her to agree to a police escort home, given the recent dumpster killings.

Batman's mind immediately jumps to working girl.

Batman's mind immediately jumps to working girl.

Batman makes note of a known criminal in the crowd “Cutter” Thompson, but decides against persuing at the time.

Shoulda rousted him Batman.

Shoulda rousted him Batman.

Rather conveniently to the plot, Batman meets Kate at a party and the two develop a friendship and they begin spending time together.

Cue the cheesy montage music!

Cue the cheesy montage music!

One night, an elderly lady witnesses a man dragging a woman into a blue van. She calls the police but soon another body is found in a dumpster, it’s Kate.

This time it’s Batman overwhelmed, brooding over his inability to protect her He decides its time to investigate cutter because he drives a blue van. As he pounds the pavement he crosses paths with a red van repeatedly, makes note of it, but he’s distracted by gunshots

Red Van, Blue van, what's the difference?

Red Van, Blue van, what's the difference?

The investigation leads to Cutter meeting with his drug suppliers and attempting to rip them off. He beats Cutter mercilessly until Gordon arrives.

Later, Batman learns that "Cutter" was in jail at the time of Kate’s murder and his van was impounded. Gordon also informs Batman that there’s another body in a dumpster and a red van was seen leaving the scene.

And now we've seen the Batman fail.

And now we've seen the Batman fail.

Continued After Ad:

Worth Re-collecting?

Yes, because this is an old school Batman detective story, which doesn’t happen much anymore. Another interesting addition to the story is Batman makes mistakes and a killer escapes, which never happens these days. I liked the theme that the closer you are to a case, the more likely to make mistakes.

What needs to be addressed is the “fridging” of Kate Babcock. For those not familiar, Gail Simone’s created a website listing atrocities committed against female characters in comics in order to provide motivation for the male hero, including the Green Lantern’s girlfriend being killed and stuffed a fridge by Major Force. The original site can be found here.

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Kate was literally created with the purpose of being killed in order to motivate Batman. She is definitely “fridged.” But this story differs from the typical “Women In Refrigerators” in that the character was introduced in the same issue she was killed, it wasn’t done in a shocking fashion to create a moment but to advance the story and connect Batman to the crimes in a personal way. I doubt editorial would allow a more major character to be offed for this story. It also differs in that Batman doesn’t avenge her death. Personalizing the crime actually made him a worse detective.

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So, despite this issue needing a good finger-wagging at the creation of a character to “fridge” her, it’s also a really well done story, with quality art and shows Batman fail, which I can’t imagine happening in today's comics. Pick it up if you get the chance.

Next week:

We stay in Gotham as Batman is stuck in a gothic nightmare in Legends of The Dark Knight #54 by Dan Raspler and Hellboy’s Mike Mignola!

Back Cover: