Bizarro Back Issues: Crisis Of The Calendar Man! (1985)
I'm not sure that there's as much of an era for a popular character that's been quite as overlooked as that hazy stretch of Batman comics that comes right before Crisis on Infinite Earths. In everyone's memory, Batman just sort of goes from the goofy gimmick crimes of the '60s to the world-traveling costumed James Bond stories of the '70s where Batman was fighting Ra's al-Ghul and the Joker was getting his Five-Way Revenge, and then boom, Batman: Year One hits in 1987 and suddenly it's the Modern Age.
In reality, it was a little different. The Batman of the '80s was certainly skewing darker than the previous eras, but that was also a time where all the leftovers from the Silver Age were still more or less directing the story. That's how you get lengthy sagas like Batman having a custody battle over Jason Todd against a straight up vampire, and it's also how you get a story where the Monitor hires Calendar Man to murder Batman.
This particular yarn came right around the second issue of Crisis, when it was still a story about giant tuning forks that were going to save the multiverse, and when the Monitor was still using that original characterization that Marv Wolfman came up with long before he showed up in Teen Titans, where he was a supervillain called the Librarian who kept a card catalog full of information on superheros' weaknesses that could be matched up with their most effective foes.
Crisis is weird as heck, y'all.
Anyway, this story ran through Batman #383-384 and Detective Comics #551, with a script by Doug Moench, with Rick Holberg, Rudy Nebres, Chuck Patton, Pat Broderick, Bob Smith, and Adrienne Roy on art, and it is a weird one. So weird, in fact, that it starts with the Calendar Man lounging around in his calendar-themed hideout wearing his calendar-themed bathrobe.
As I mentioned before, the Monitor --- who I remind you is a cosmic being charged with protecting the entirety of the DC Multiverse, who is currently witnessing the unstoppable destruction of infinite Earths at the hands of his antimatter counterpart --- got a phone call from a couple of regular-ass non-powered gangsters in Gotham City asking for some help finally killing Batman. And the Monitor, of course, tells them to hire Calendar Man.
Look, I love Calendar Man --- and he's particularly great in this story, showing up in a different costume for every appearance and kind of grappling with the problem of not actually wanting to kill Batman because he just loves doing theme crimes and Batman makes it more fun --- but if you're looking around for the person who can finally put Batman in the grave, then he's not really on the short list. He's not really on the long list. He's not even in the appendix to the alternate version of the long list. He's hecking Calendar Man, dudes. Like maybe see if Deadshot's got anything going on before you place that long-distance call to outer cussing space.
The only thing I can think of here is that this is how the Monitor blows off steam during a Crisis. Like, maybe if Pariah could just tell some dudes very sincerely that the way to kill Batman was with a President's Day-themed robbery, he wouldn't be crying all the time.
"No dudes, trust me," says the Monitor, trying to shush Harbinger as she falls out of her chair stifling laughter. "The thing with the naked security guard is only the first step in the murder of the Batman!"
Considering that his previous crime sprees were themed around the days of the week and the seasons, Robin initially suspects that his New Year's Baby Bank Robbery is indicating a series of robberies based on the months of the year, but Batman quickly corrects him by saying that it's about holidays, and he's right: He's planned a series of six crimes, starting with New Year's Day and moving over the next six nights to the first day of Spring, when he'll kill Batman and Robin.
If that sounds a bit arbitrary, that's because it is. I mean, there's some stuff about the first day of Spring being about death and rebirth, and the story takes place in Mid-March, but it is tenuous at best. I mean, if you're going to pick a three-month stretch of Holidays and build deathtraps around them and you don't go with the October-November-December corridor, then what are you even doing.
On the bright side, though, Calendar Man's costumes in this story rule.
One of the weirder plot points in play here is that the Calendar man is slowly driving himself mad trying to reconcile the lunar calendar with the solar calendar, and most of his costumes in this story are based around the sun and moon.
Well. And then there's the weird ones where he dresses like Uncle Sam to celebrate Washington's birthday and a truly amazing interpretation of Cupid. He even makes his getaways on a pair of bikes called the "Lunar Cycle" and the "Metonic Cycle," and while it's definitely a prime example of Moench getting a little cute with the bit, it's also pretty fun.
Oh, and here's that Cupid I was talking about:
What's crazy here is that it looks exactly like Cupid. You've got the wings, the arrows, the swaddling diaper thing. Toe to tip, that's a Cupid!
As all of these holiday crimes are happening, Bruce Wayne's personal life is in the kind of turmoil that you can only get from forgotten early '80s Batman comics. Jason Todd's mad because Bruce is being overprotective, even though his own parents, noted circus acrobats The Flying Todds, always encouraged him to take risks. Meanwhile, there's a love triangle that Bruce is largely absent from involving Vicki Vale and Julia Pennyworth that finds Vicki being so angry with Bruce for constantly standing her up that she takes up a hardcore exercise plan that may actually be a cult...
...and Julia being weirdly encouraged by the dad who didn't raise her to hook up with the ersatz son that he did:
Eventually, it all comes to a head in Calendar Man's hideout, where good ol' Julian Day tries to take Batman out with a laser that can cut through steel, only to get Stonehenge'd in the face.
And really: This era might have its problems, but aren't lasers and lunar cycles way more interesting than just being a dude with months tattooed on his forehead who talks about how many days September has, or whatever it is he's been doing for the past 20 years?