When I was a child my father's rule re: the purchase and consumption of comic books was pretty straight-forward: so long as my age was still in the single digits, I was restricted to Uncle Scrooge and Archie. He was also fine with Christian comics (*shudder* — another post, perhaps) and had an abiding fondness for MAD magazine, which I devoured from cover to Jaffee-fold-in cover. So far as censorious edicts go, my father's ploy was subversively clever. By the time I was 10, I so well-versed in "the usual gang of idiots'" shtick that I had no desire to spend my hard-earned nickel on men in capes and tights (that all changed 10 years later when Frank Miller came on the scene).
However, when I was seven the siren-song of Neal Adams' Batman was still very compelling. I was particularly drawn to this issue:
Bear in mind that I was completely ignorant of the Batman's origins and non-existent super-powers. I glanced at the cover and let my imagination run wild in an attempt to fill the gaps of my knowledge. "The Demon Lives Again"? Was Batman the demon? He certainly looked dead on the cover. Of course, even a seven-year-old could see the sword was lodged in the sand, and not between Batman's ribs. I also knew Batman had to "live again" just to make it to the cover of next month's issue, so I figured that had to be it: Batman was a type of demigod, who through some horrid process had been reduced to the fate seen on the cover by the scary-looking old dude holding Bats' costume. And how exactly did that costume work, anyway? The cowl was still present, as were the shorts and long-johns, but he was shirtless. And here, too, Batman was a peculiarity: superheroes were always a muscular hairless bunch, but this guy didn't just have chest-hair — he had nipples, too.
And he was dead. Or beaten up badly enough to have his costume removed. The answers lay beneath this cover. Dad was still talking to the pharmacist. Maybe if I just quickly leafed to the pages in question ... there's a fight in the desert ... scorpion stings Batman on the ankle ... he's down ....
"Um ... son?"
The rest of the story is in the pages of this book. And while I do love the artwork, I've gotta say: the story that swirled in my seven-year-old noggin was a lot better than the one I eventually read to its conclusion.