"Castle of the Bat": In Southern Germany, 1819, a masked highwayman with a pistol attempts to rob a carriage on the road to Ingolstadt. The passenger Dr. Grüber asks if the highwayman has heard tales of the demon who protects the thoroughfare, and the highwayman scoffs at this "superstitious
- I pray my work here is benefiting mankind. It's the only way I can "practice in uprightness and honor..." as my sworn oath dictates... But what of my first oath? I swore I'd kill a man -- my parent's killer. How can I be true to both vows?
Batman: Castle of the Bat is a one-shot with a cover date of December, 1994.
Synopsis for "Castle of the Bat"
In Southern Germany, 1819, a masked highwayman with a pistol attempts to rob a carriage on the road to Ingolstadt. The passenger Dr. Grüber asks if the highwayman has heard tales of the demon who protects the thoroughfare, and the highwayman scoffs at this "superstitious nonsense." Suddenly a towering figure with bat-like ears appears behind the robber and rips his head off. Dr. Grüber and his driver Fritz flee to a nearby inn. He tells his story to the locals and is met with skepticism and accusations of alcoholism from a Dr. Strauss. This story is heard by the brilliant but troubled young Dr. Bruce Wayne, who makes an excuse and leaves. Bruce Wayne arrives home at his castle and tells his hunchback manservant Alfredo that the monster has struck again. Alfredo comforts him but Bruce blames himself for the monster's actions.
Bruce Wayne recalls his youth, the night his parents died. They had been celebrating his father Dr. Thomas Wayne's promotion at the local university and were returning from a play. A masked highwayman wearing a corpse-like mask attempted to rob their carriage, killing Bruce's father and mother in the struggle. Bruce swore to kill the man who killed his parents, and decided to become a doctor following his father's wishes, recognizing the contradiction with the hippocratic oath.
At the local university Bruce Wayne becomes known for his cold demeanor and expensive research. His one social relationship is his beloved Julia Lavenza, who lives in Naples with her maidservant Señora Martilina. Receiving a surprise letter one day and realizing Julia is on her way, Wayne rushes out to save her from the dangers on the road to Ingolstadt. He finds a robbery in progress and nearly beats the highwayman to death before Julia stops him. They report this incident to the local Burgermeister Gordon, who suspects there might be a larger conspiracy at work. Julia stays in the town to be near Bruce.
Dr. Seltsam brings up concerns about the university budget and Bruce announces that he will begin conducting all research in his private castle. He can fund his own experiments without worrying about university rules. Bruce invites Dr. Seltsam over to reveal his secret work. Arriving at the bat-infested castle, Seltsam is greeted by a half-bat half-dog creature. Bruce explains that while studying biological energy and electricity, for their possible use in resurrection, he discovered how to isolate the energy for individual species traits. Transferring these energies allowed him to create an ideal hunting animal, which he calls his pet Bat-Hound. Bruce believes this technology could help many people, but Seltsam condemns it as immoral and blasphemous. Bruce has a crisis of conscience, wondering if his work is truly evil, while Seltsam swears to report him to the university.
Alfredo accidentally breaks through a crack in the floor, and they discover an underground passageway below the castle. It leads them to the anatomical vaults under the university, where Bruce is surprised to discover samples going back 15 years. He finds his father's preserved brain and they steal it back to the castle. Bruce explains to Alfredo that he will use his discoveries to build a perfect body and then transplant his father's brain into it. He lies to Seltsam that he will dismantle his private lab, and unsuccessfully tries to make Julia return home since all his time will be spent conducting experiments.
Bruce Wayne and Alfredo assemble a new body for Thomas Wayne out of stolen parts from the university's vaults. During a storm they raise the body containing his brain to the rooftop where it is struck by lightning. Julia tries to get in to see Bruce but he sends her away. The resurrected creature seems mindless and is afraid of light. Bruce worries his father's brain might have degraded while being preserved for 15 years. Deciding his experiment was a failure, he gives up and apologizes to Julia for how he treated her.
The next day, Dr. Seltsam confides to Bruce that he developed a solution allowing body parts to be preserved for much longer than usual, and that Thomas Wayne's brain has been stolen. During the conversation Bruce realizes that he failed to compensate for brain injury during the murder, and decides to work on his father again. Reasoning that his father is harmed by light and afraid of the dark, he creates a bat costume and injects his father with bat energy to help him overcome this fear. This has the side effect of transforming his father's human head into that of a bat. Thomas Wayne suddenly revives from his stupor and screams, puts on the bat mask after seeing his hideous face in the mirror, and runs away into the night.
Now weeks later, Thomas Wayne has been striking fear into the hearts of evil-doers while Bruce and Alfredo search for him desperately. Bruce believes his father is regaining sentience because he's been murdering highwaymen, clearly acting on a memory of his murder. They use the Bat-Hound to track Thomas down and find him attacking a highwayman, who Bruce recognizes as the man who killed his parents. Bruce shouts at his father not to kill the man, who escapes after hinting that he might be working for someone. Alfredo and Bruce take Thomas back to the castle.
Bruce laments on the horror he introduced to the world, but comforts himself that at least Julia is safe. Thomas, who Bruce now refers to as the Bat-Man, breaks out of the castle again and immediately abducts Julia. Alfredo and the Bat-Hound are also captured by an unseen party in the woods. Bruce weighs his responsibility to stop the monster over his desire to seek vengeance against his parents' killer and decides he must act to save lives. Martilina arrives to explain the monster has taken Julia, and Bruce rides out to save her. He is stopped in the road by a mob carrying torches and weapons, lead by his colleagues Dr. Grüber and Dr. Strauss. They accuse him of creating the monster and blame him for the violence, chasing after him. Bruce ditches his horse to confuse the mob and traces the monster to Dr. Seltsam's lab.
Dr. Seltsam is preparing to forcibly experiment on a captured Alfredo and his lackey Mr. Van Klooster, the man that killed Bruce's parents. Bruce breaks through the window and grabs Dr. Seltsam, but Seltsam says it is too late to stop the experiment. Seltsam explains that his preservation solution is extracted from living brains, and he has been masterminding the local highwaymen to provide him an ongoing supply. He also gives them corpse masks as a byproduct of his work. Thomas Wayne opposed the pursuit of medical knowledge at the expense of morality, and Seltsam reveals this is why he had the Waynes murdered.
Outside, the approaching mob is confronted by Burgermeister Gordon. He convinces them that Bruce is innocent by providing evidence that Seltsam is the real culprit, a note found on one of the highwaymen in Seltsam's handwriting. The mob decides to go after Seltsam instead.
Dr. Seltsam's lab begins to collapse around them, which he explains is a purposeful design to hide his crimes. Bruce is able to carry Alfredo and the Bat-Hound to safety. Before they can leave the door is destroyed and Thomas Wayne appears carrying Julia, his head now fully transformed into that of a bat. The Bat-Man attacks Dr. Seltsam, who uses electrical cables as a defensive weapon. Bruce throws the preservation solution at Dr. Seltsam, causing the cables to electrify him. The building crumbles and the Bat-Man holds it up while the others escape. Alfredo theorizes that Thomas Wayne really had been regaining his humanity, and he was purposely leading Bruce to Seltsam. Nearly crushed under the rubble, Thomas reaches out a hand and calls Bruce "son." The building falls into flames, destroying Thomas and Seltsam still inside. The mob arrives too late, and Gordon asks Bruce if Dr. Seltsam's unholy experiments were what destroyed him. Bruce replies that they were the reason for Seltsam's destruction, but what destroyed him was the Bat-Man.
Appearing in "Castle of the Bat"
- Dr. Grüber (university staff)
- Dr. Strauss (university staff)
- Fritz (carriage driver)
- H. Reichman (left hand in jar)
- Highwaymen (several unnamed)
- Señora Martilina (Julia's maidservant)
- Watson (dissected body part; mentioned only)
- Watts (dissected body part; mentioned only)
- Waugh (dissected body part; mentioned only)
- 19th Century (1819)
- Seltsam's Solution
- Thomas Wayne's Preserved Brain
- Horse and Carriage
- This Elseworlds tale is loosely based on the 1818 novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and its 1931 film adaptation Frankenstein starring Boris Karloff which changed many details.
- This is not the only Frankenstein-inspired Elseworlds, The Superman Monster by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning would later adapt the story using Superman instead.
- There are some inconsistencies in the names. The dog is interchangeably referred to as both "Bathound" and "Bat-Hound." Gordon is referred to as both Burgermeister and Burgermaster. Perhaps he is both the constable and a great fry cook. Bruce and the townspeople seem to both call Thomas "the Bat-Man" although he is also called "the Batman." "Ingolstadt," the correct spelling of the city in real life, is sometimes misspelled "Ingoldstadt."
- This story makes repeated references to the Hippocratic Oath using quotes as book-ends.
- This issue is reprinted in Elseworlds: Batman Vol. 1.
- Based on the lines quoted by young Bruce Wayne the play he saw with his parents on the night they were murdered was A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare.
- Bruce Wayne's residence is referred to by multiple people as "Mad Ludwig's Castle" and it's unclear if they're referencing any specific figure. There was a German monarch sometimes referred to as "Mad King Ludwig," Ludwig II of Bavaria known for his elaborate castles, but he was born after the story takes place.
- Batman Recommended Reading
- Batman (Volume 1)
- Batman (Volume 2)
- Batman (Volume 3)
- Batman and Robin (Volume 1)
- Batman and Robin (Volume 2)
- Batman Confidential (Volume 1)
- Batman: Gotham Knights (Volume 1)
- Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight (Volume 1)
- Batman: Shadow of the Bat (Volume 1)
- Batman: Streets of Gotham (Volume 1)
- Batman Incorporated (Volume 1)
- Batman Incorporated (Volume 2)
- Batman/Superman (Volume 1)
- Batman/Superman (Volume 2)
- Batman/Superman: World's Finest (Volume 1)
- Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 1)
- Batman: The Dark Knight (Volume 2)
- The Brave and the Bold (Volume 1)
- Detective Comics (Volume 1)
- Detective Comics (Volume 2)
- Superman/Batman (Volume 1)
- World's Finest (Volume 1)