THE ISSUE: Mad Anthony Wayne and Batman

According to some notes in a hand-bound volume of miscellaneous Frank Tousey issues of Pluck and Luck written by Ralph Morton, this Mad Anthony Wayne story originally appeared in another publication in some form in 1881. If you happen to be a Batman fan, you might know why Pluck & Luck #256 interests me. General Anthony Wayne is part of the inspiration for Bruce Wayne. As we shall see, those inspirations go far deeper than people believe. This is a little warm-up for something I've got planned for the 4th of July.  While the cover artist of Pluck & Luck #256 from April 29, 1903, is unknown, the writer of this Anthony Wayne tale is a fascinatingly familiar name: Jim Gordon. "General James Gordon" was a pseudonym for regular Frank Tousey, Publisher author Ralph Morton.  It should be noted that this tale is a reissue of an 1881 version and that it continued to be kept in print via various means until around the World War I era and perhaps a bit beyond.

The Issue is a regular column about vintage comics and other vintage periodicals from throughout world history.  The idea behind The Issue is simple:  for each post, I'll choose something from my collection and talk about what's going on in it, and discuss the publishers and creators behind it.  And essentially, I'm just going to end up stepping through comics history one issue at a time. There is only one rule in The Issue: No recent stuff. Everything will be from before 1940, and most of it will be from before 1920.

Pluck and Luck #256, April 29, 1903 featuring Mad Anthony Wayne.
Pluck and Luck #256, April 29, 1903, featuring Mad Anthony Wayne.

The Ghost of Anthony Wayne

Isaac Wayne took something from under his arm.
"I found your school books 'tother side of the road near your Uncle Gilbert's house; I did not know whether you had dropped them."
"I left them there," said the boy frankly. "I was going to return and get them, sir."
"Too heavy to carry home, Anthony?"
"No father, but old Jess started a rabbit by the side of the road and we chased it down by the edge of the clearing. I dropped the books there."
Mr. Wayne opened a copy book, very ragged and dog-eared. "Will you tell me, son, what is the meaning of all this?"
He pointed to a page covered with lines and strange markings.
"Just a plan, sir."
"A plan of what?"
"Of battle, father."
— The Hero of Stony Point; School Days at Chester, by James Barnes, 1916

The above passage was the one I decided to include in this chapter of the root inspirations of the Batman Mythos after I'd reluctantly discarded three other perfectly amazing choices from what I'll call Anthony Wayne's origin moment.

Reading each of them brings a corresponding moment from the Batman Mythos readily to mind: his determination to study science as well as train his body, Gilbert Wayne's Alfred-like barbs meant to push Young Master Wayne towards his potential. I hadn't intended to dwell much on "Mad" Anthony Wayne in this research, because I'd initially made the error of thinking that this historical figure was likely little more than just a name that evoked certain qualities that Bill Finger wanted the character to embody.

But Wayne is much more than just a name — both in the context of American history and to the members of the Finger family who observed that history directly. It's a breadcrumb that leads us to other breadcrumbs, that lead us to the true inspirations of the character of Bruce Wayne.

The Mad Anthony Wayne anecdote which connects that figure from American history to the Batman Mythos does not come directly from Finger. In the book Batman & Me from 1989, Bob Kane quotes Finger as saying, "I searched for a name that would suggest colonialism. I tried Adams, Hancock … then I thought of Mad Anthony Wayne." That immediately suggests that there's probably more to it than that. This aspect of the history of Batman is beyond the scope of this piece, but it has been well chronicled. To make a long story short: Finger's work on Batman was uncredited by DC Comics from 1939 to 2015. Finger was largely unknown to comics fandom at large, until 1964 when the truth of his role started to emerge via DC Comics editor Julius Schwartz and fanzine editor Jerry Bails.  But as we'll see in future posts, Bill Finger immortalized his family history in the Batman mythos to an extent previously unknown.

Pluck and Luck #256, April 29, 1903 featuring Mad Anthony Wayne.
Pluck and Luck #256, April 29, 1903, featuring Mad Anthony Wayne.

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About Mark Seifert

Co-founder and Creative director of Bleeding Cool parent company Avatar Press. Bleeding Cool Managing Editor, tech and data wrangler. Machine Learning hobbyist. Vintage paper addict.
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