Monday, November 19, 2007

Marge's Little Lulu's John Stanley's Bob Kane's Batman


True* fact: In 1978, veteran cartoonist John Stanley was asked to take over the writing chores for "Detective Comics!" Stanley was a master of pacing, and had written some classic stories for the horror genre, so he should have been a perfect fit for the "weird crime" milieu of "Detective Comics." And yet, something, somehow, went horribly wrong.

Stanley pitched an idea for a story about a mute juggernaut who would mercilessly pummel Batman in a reservoir until the wily detective discovered a way to defeat him. Editor Julius Schwartz loved it, and asked Stanley to submit a full script. Stanley complied, and even included penciled layouts, just as he had done on the "Marge's Little Lulu" books. However, his confidence in his own ability to write a straightforward super-hero story had evidently faltered in the interim. The script's tone was wildly divergent from the one set by the book's previous writers. Stanley had even gone so far as to change Bruce Wayne's surname to "Van Snobbe," and to depict most of the protagonists as children -- or, at least, midgets.

In brief, the story focuses on "Tubby Banekins", who is kicked out of a "Tuff Fellers Club" for being the best pal of orphaned "rich kid" and "world champion softie" Bruce Van Snobbe. Incensed, Banekins boasts to the club that he's "the perfect fighting machine." He extracts a promise from the organization that he will be readmitted to their society in exchange for winning a fight with whomever they deem to be "the toughest feller around." The club agrees ("Just to show 'im up!") and demand that he fight Batman. Banekins is internally rattled, but makes a go of it, even donning his mother's sleeveless pajamas and swim goggles in an attempt at a costume. Batman -- who is, in reality, Van Snobbe -- sees through Banekins' disguise immediately. ("Tubby's gone bonkers! I'd better humor him 'til he comes to his senses!") Unwilling to do serious harm to his friend, Batman throws the fight. The success goes to Banekins' head, and he decides he is now the Number One Crime Fighter in Gotham City. Batman finds himself trailing behind Banekins as a sidekick, in order to secretly rescue him from a number of mishaps. Banekins' growing ego and his barrage of flippant remarks wear on Batman. In front of the "Tuff Fellers Club", the seasoned detective finally gives Banekins "a poke in the nose", flattening him with one punch. The "Tuff Fellers" readmit Banekins out of sympathy, and even offer to give a trial membership to Van Snobbe (into whom Batman had changed while off-panel). Van Snobbe declines, saying it would take valuable time away from his hobby of collecting butterflies. Everybody groans. The End.

Upon reading the script, Schwartz fired Stanley on the spot, and handed the assignment over to the more malleable Denny O'Neil and Don Newton.

Below: a penciled panel from Stanley's version.


*And by "true", I mean "grotesquely false."


Anonymous said...


Well, that makes much more sense. In fact, I'd rather read your version. The Luluish Batman is genius.

Nate said...

Dagnab it! Now I want to read that story!

LurkerWithout said...

Lil' Batman has both a literal and metaphorical big mouth. Way to reveal Tubby's secret id jerkface!

Jeremy Rizza said...

Anonymous and Gyuss: Thanks! If only I had the time to write it, huh?

Lurkerwithout: Heh! I think Li'l Batman is just a tad bitter. And reading some Little Lulu stories for this post, I was struck by how many times the characters are drawn with ginormous, hollering pie-holes. They hold their mouths in big, round, "O" shapes even more often than Storm Boy!