The real origin of Matches MalonePosted: 10/30/2014
Last time we covered the dramatic Brian K. Vaughan re-telling of Matches Malone’s origin story. It’s delightful. But Batman’s undercover alter-ego actually premiered back in 1972 as a response to Ra’s al Ghul, who himself premiered ten issues before Matches Malone. It’s complicated and weird, but if we jump right into it, I think it’ll sort itself out.
Let’s start with some background, mainly Ra’s al Ghul’s first issue back in Batman #232, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano. Remember how Bane one-upped Batman by figuring out his secret identity and then using it to destroy his life? Bane’s a copycat. Ra’s al Ghul had the supervillain-figuring-out-Batman-is-Bruce-Wayne gimmick twenty years before our beefy luchador.
So in order to defeat his opponent ten issues later (and in a crossover event), Bruce Wayne has to die. Unfortunately, despite this being Batman’s dream of getting to be Batman 24/7, no longer having to deal with the awful life of a super rich, attractive, playboy billionaire CEO, he still needs another identity that doesn’t growl and wear a cowl. In Batman #242 and 243, written by Denny O’Neil and drawn by Irv Novick, Neal Adams, & Dick Giorando, we get our answer: Matches Malone.
I know they called Bruce Wayne a millionaire, but this was back in the 1970s when bread was five cents a loaf and new cars could be afforded by whatever clump of bills you found in your pocket. Nowadays, Bruce Wayne has to cross that billion mark just to afford replacing his $20 million Batplane ever three or four issues it explodes. Now, it’s never fully discussed why he needs Matches Malone (the real one) on his side, but this happens anyway:
For some reason, and not explained very well, Matches Malone’s gun ricochets off the wall and kills him. So Matches Malone dies more than once in the Batman universe. Fortunately, his death allows Batman to take over his identity. And more complicated plans to allow Matches Malone and Batman to appear at the same time.
Of all the people Batman could have picked to help him go after Ra’s al Ghul (Superman, Wonder Woman, other people with superpowers), he chooses a gangster, a doctor, and a martial artist. Look, we’re not crazy detective geniuses — we normal folk can’t comprehend how Batman’s mind works. Also, spoiler alert: Batman wins in the end anyway. But at least Batman shares. Everyone gets to be Matches Malone!
On Monday, we jump back to the mid-2000s for a Matches Malone and Catwoman team-up!