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In honor of Batman and Football month, may I present to you the first Batman comic book that I remember reading: The Brave and the Bold #182.
Now, by 1982 I thought that I was already well familiar with Batman, both from Adam West's portrayal on the 1966 live-action show (which I knew from reruns, though I admit that I didn't catch onto the adult undertones for years to come) as well as Batman's adventures with the Superfriends. So when I was given this comic book, I was woefully unprepared for what it contained.
This story takes place on Earth-2, where the golden-age Batman had lived and died. Yes, Batman is dead in this story. And he is also alive, as the Earth-1 Batman was paying a visit to the Earth-2 Robin and Earth-2 Batman's daughter, Helena. Even more confusing is the presence of Earth-2's Batwoman, whose Earth-1 counterpart has apparently been long deceased. Confused yet? I was. Now, as much as some say that the multiple earths made for great stories, they also made it darn difficult for newcomers to grasp the complicated histories of duplicated characters. As the cover blurb says, "What's going on here?" indeed.
Anyway, I loved and hated this story at the same time. While the comic had action and adventure galore, I just plain didn't understand what the hell was going on. In addition to there being two nearly identical universes and multiple versions of each character, the primary antagonist was the ghost of Hugo Strange (represented by his giant floating head) who was using, among other things, the retired classic Batmobile to attack Batman and friends. Um, okay. Sure, why not? Yes, this comic had it all! Alternate universes, skin-tight costumes, supernatural powers, impossible machines, ghosts, evil geniuses, giant heads... it's everything that you think of when you think "comic book."
In hindsight, this book clearly prepared me for decades of alternate Batman mythologies to come. It also established my affinity for the classic 40s Batmobile and giant-headed, misanthropic geniuses. I could have done a lot worse for a first-timer.