Max Allan Collins is one of the most controversial Batman authors. Think on that… in 75 years of Batman, all the writers, all the stories, Max Allan Collins is one of the most hated. In a recent interview, Collins recalls a dysfunctional DC and talks about his run on the title. His 1980s run on Batman has recently been collected in Batman: Second Chances. This collection gathers Batman #402, 403, 408-416, and ANNUAL #11.
Collins’ run on Batman included a reboot of the origin of Jason Todd, Batman’s notorious second Robin. Collins’ vision portrayed Jason Todd as a juvenile delinquent, who has the gall to steal rims off the Batmobile. Batman has pity on the gritty youngster and proceeds to train the boy as his sidekick.
Collins, recalling a lack of communication and editorial conflicts with Denny O’Neill, said, “Reading between the lines, I think Denny [O’Neill] expected my Batman to be as gritty as my Ms. Tree work. But my vision of Batman was more traditional — not campy or kid stuff, but not so dark. Remember, I came on right after [Frank] Miller’s Year One run, so I looked pretty soft to a lot of readers.”
His run on Batman was littered with a revolving door of artists – in eight issues, Collins worked with five artists. Continuity in design and developing working relationships was nearly impossible. The most continuity Collins had was with Dave Cockrum, with whom had creative issues.
“[Cockrum] didn’t understand my approach at all. In fact, it was something Cockum did that made me call Denny and quit. I created a character called the Mime, who was something of a dry run for Harley Quinn, and there was a bit about a police line-up where a bunch of mimes were called in so the guilty mime could be picked out. The gag was that all the mimes looked identical — my script spelled it out. Cockrum drew a bunch of different-looking mimes — fat, tall, short, skinny. I called Denny and quit.”
While his work on Batman may not have been well received, Collins is not holding grudges:
Two interesting things about my work on Batman, particularly since I’ve been the subject of so much criticism. Toys “R” Us went to DC, wanting to package some Batman comics for their chain, to take advantage of the new burst of interest in the character. They read three or four years of Batman, looking for material. What they chose was mine — just mine. And I made a whole lot of money off those reprinted issues. Royalties are the best revenge. Critics can dismiss that by saying that my stuff was chosen because it was the most juvenile. That’s fine — the money spent well, and I like the idea that younger readers came aboard.
Collins’ work holds a special place for me, as I am one of those ‘young readers’ he refers to. I remember purchasing the collection of individual issues at my local Toys “R” Us. Collins’ run on Batman was my initiation into comics. With the release of Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989, television stations re-ran the Adam West/Burt Ward series of the 60s. My brother and I watched and re-watched (thanks to the magic of VHS dubbing!) each and every episode. The timing coincided with the release of Collins’ work appearing on Toys “R” Us shelves – and I couldn’t get enough. I still own those individual issues, which are tucked away in my long box dedicated to my favorite back issues.
Picking up Batman: Second Chances definitely tugged on my heart strings and reconnected me to simpler days. Collins’ stories have stuck with me over time – and that nostalgia was well worth the purchase price…again!