Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Waynes and the Black Glove

A defining story in the Batman mythos was Detective #235, printed in September 1956. In this story, the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne was revealed to be not an accident caused by a random mugging but a deliberate "hit" by a mobster who had a grudge against Thomas. The origins of this grudge went back to a party in which Thomas Wayne was abducted to provide medical care for the mobster, Lew Moxon. Thomas was wearing a batman costume that inspired Bruce's choice of the bat-identity years later. Notice, moreover, that Martha Wayne's butterfly costume is dominated by red. If we hadn't been told that the Joker's color clues was a red herring in RIP, this might have been a credible origin for the Red and Black theme.

As the Silver Age gave way to the post-Crisis DC Universe, and other retcons over the years, this story was retold more than once. When Infinite Crisis had past, it was not clear if this party was still (or again) part of continuity. But the Thomas Wayne batsuit did appear in Grant Morrison's run as early as Batman #657, locked in a glass display case just as it appeared in Detective #235. This suit also appeared in an issue of Brave and Bold, and ultimately was worn by Doctor Hurt for the last three issues of Batman, R.I.P.

Because some details from the past have been rendered invalid and others have not, one cannot rely upon stories from the Fifties as being the authoritative truth -- most often, they are not. But Morrison's run on Batman dangled enough clues to make us suppose that the costume party did take place, and that, moreover, it may well have been a Black Glove party.

First of all, the Black Glove holds annual parties, with only very wealthy people in attendance. (Doctor Hurt makes all of this clear in #680-681; it is also stated in the Club of Heroes storyline in #667-669.) We know that the party in Detective #235 was also "annual". By dint of the Waynes' attendance, we know that at least some of the attendees were very wealthy. Similar language is used to describe each: The invitation that Jezebel reads in Batman #676 says, "The theme this season: Danse Macabre" while the 1956 story says, "The theme of this year's masquerade ball is 'Flying Creatures'."

While no direct statements are made to this effect, the suggestion is strong that the Black Glove party idea was adapted from the older story. They are further linked in that Doctor Hurt wears the batsuit to the latest Black Glove party. Additionally, it is suggested that the Waynes are linked socially to Black Glove members -- they are seen (albeit in the bogus "dossier" photos) with John Mayhew, and Bruce's own detective work suggests that the Black Glove involves "people my parents knew."

If the Waynes were involved with the Black Glove, it might also make them a match for the characters in the Black Glove movie: "Two innocent lovers corrupted and destroyed by a group of super-rich gamblers." And indeed, on the final page of Batman #681, we see several shadowy figures watching the Waynes just before the encounter that leads to their death -- just the sort of thing the Black Glove might have sanctioned... for revenge, or as the basis of a wager.

Finally, we have Doctor Hurt's claims of being or having been Thomas Wayne. When Alfred states that he is not Thomas Wayne, Hurt replies, "No, I'm Doctor Hurt now." This implies that whoever Doctor Hurt is, he used to be someone else (Thomas Wayne) in the past. Given Hurt's diabolical nature, we might suppose that the Black Glove is an entity that can inhabit different human hosts. Perhaps Thomas Wayne once hosted the same spirit that Doctor Hurt hosted in Batman, R.I.P. just as the two men, we know, wore the same garment. At present, we have a lot of suggestions and hints and no solid information -- but we may find out more when Grant Morrison resumes his writing this summer.


  1. Some of the most intriguing questions still left over from RIP deal specifically with the Wayne's possible involvement in The Black Glove in some capacity. As you stated is possbile that both The Waynes were a part of The Black Glove and that they had the Waynes murdered.

    A nice theory I hoped for (still do?) was that the Waynes had hosted a Black Glove party, not knowing their sinester motives (they were perhaps hoping to initiate them). Thomas wor the "Bat-Man" costume. But the Waynes were incorruptable.

    A later Black Glove wager would involve Black Glove producing a movie dealing with a group of high-stakes gamblers that corrupt a young couple and murder them. The wager would then require that the same (or similar) scenario occurs in real life.

    One interesting thing....if the Black Glove was involved in the Waynes murder, then much like the Joker, they can't kill Bruce. They would have tired 3 times without success (Waynes murder, Club of Heroes, RIP).

  2. FYI, in Detective #235, Batman deduces that the mobsters would have instructed the hitman not to kill the child, because they would want a witness to it being a mugging, not a hit. In the modern telling in Batman #673, however, he says that there were three bullets in the gun, implying that one had been set aside for each victim -- that it was a hit, and that Bruce was a target as well. Given the Black Glove's M.O., they might kill the Waynes as enemies, but they might also wager on whether or not Chill would shoot a child. Or possibly on how Bruce's life would be shaped. Moreover, it's possible that the batsuit was not Thomas's invention, but a standard at Black Glove parties that he wore for the occasion. There is, then, the potential here for the Black Glove to have created Batman in more ways than one: Setting his career into motion and even inspiring his costume.

    The older story also shows Bruce as old enough to talk when the masquerade party takes place but says that the Waynes were killed ten years after that, indicating that Bruce was a teen, not a tot, when the murders happened.

  3. Good vs Evil! Place your bets. Can a known criminal gun down an innocent couple in front of their child? Can that criminal gun down a child too?

    I always hoped that Grant Morrison was trying to tie the Black Glove into the Waynes murder. I like the "random criminal" angle for their demise, but having Bruce discover that it was part of some elaborate scheme by bored rich people would be awesome....

    ...add to that the possibility that "good" one when Joe Chill didn't kill Bruce too, and it makes for a very interesting twist. It would make Joe Chill responsible for creating Batman on two fronts: The murder of Bruce's parents and the fact that he let Bruce live.

    THese are some interesting things I would like to see picked up by Grant again. It would be even more interesting if it was Dick as Batman who began to unravel it.