By Alan Brennert & Norm Breyfogle
Front Cover –
Batman’s pose and lighting are reminiscent of his slightly different costume in this alternate world. Likewise, the American flag is different – instead of showing the 50 stars, it shows a modified and warlike Christian cross.
Page Four –
Gotham City in Holy Terror is stilled called Gotham Towne. In the mainstream DC Universe, it became Gotham City at some point during the 19th century. Other differences include the much greater use of gargoyles, religious statuary and stained-glass windows.
The text makes it quite clear why this is so – the America of Holy Terror is a virtual Theocracy, run by the Church, and all of this is due to the survival of Oliver Cromwell in September 1658 – in the real world (and in the DC Universe) he succumbed to his illness on September 3rd of that year. In Holy Terror, it seems that he survived, and more, that the state he set up survived into the 20th century. Despite all this there seems to have been little change to the world geo-political picture. The only real exceptions are that England still has its Empire – and that America is still a part of it, there never having been a revloutionary war.
Page Five –
Panel One – note the multitude of statues of angels.
Panel Two – the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, as it occurred in this world
Panels Three to Five – Introducing Jim Gordon, Inquisitor. It seems clear that the Inquisitors are the police force of this world – note the wigs they wear, very similar to those still worn by barristers and judges in the English legal system even today. The name Inquisitor also calls the mind the Holy Inquisition, a sad chapter in European history in which thousands of innocents were tortured and even executed by the Church for supposed heresies. (This is not to say that there were not real heretics at the time – but their numbers were greatly exaggerated by the Inquisition.) In this world, rather than being contemporaries, there is a generation dividing James Gordon and Brcue Wayne.
Page Six –
Although Bruce’s parents were still murdered by Joseph Chill, in Holy Terror, the killing was a state-sponsored execution rather than a random street crime. Ugly. But just like in the DC Universe, Jim Gordon struggles against the corruption of his superiors, although with less success. His wife is still named Barbara, also.
Coventry is the name of the prison Chill was being held in – no doubt this derives from the original Coventry, a town in England. (This is also the origin of the phrase “sent to Coventry” meaning “to ostracize”, and dates from Cromwell’s uprising – the inhabitants of Coventry refused to have anything to do with the rebellion.)
Page Seven –
Introducing Victoria (Vickie) Vale – in the DC Universe, a photojournalist and sometime romantic interest of Bruce Wayne. Once again, she has gravitated towards a career in News – although television rather than newspapers. Note also her manner of dress – this is a vastly more conservative America than we are used to.
Panel One – General North is presumably the analogue of Colonel Oliver North – the man at the centre of the Irangate scandal some years ago. The fact that he is a hero to the State of this world is another indication of the corruption of the State. He seems to be involved in an imperialist attempt to subjugate all of America under the Covenant Nations.
Panel Two – more details on the “Manifest Destiny” of America as seen in this world. The picture is a visual reference to the famous picture taken by Joe Rosenthal showing a group of US troops raising the standard on the island of Iwo Jima during World War Two.
Panel Three – Oliver Queen, the man who was the original Green Arrow in the DC Universe, is clearly just as heroic in this reality. Here, he pays the ultimate price for his battle against censorship. (His supposed recanting of his heresies is almost certainly false, and merely state propaganda. Oliver Queen in the DC Universe was incapable of backing down from his ideals, and it seems unlikely this version of him would be any different.) Isaac Singer – better known as Isaac Bashevis Singer, is the author of several novels, notably The Golem, The Slave; and Enemies: A Love Story. His works were often considered to be pornographic at the time they were written, and were once on the banned books index in the United States – although clearly there is a racist element to this as well.
Panel Four – It seems likely that Plymouth is the analogue of Washington DC – note the similar but different architecture of the Congress building. The rights of women and non-white races are clearly lagging way behind the real world under the Church.
Panel Five – Lord Protector Maleville is the head of state. The first Lord Protector was Oliver Cromwell himself – it seems that his successors have retained the title, just as they did in the real world. (In the real world, the only other Lord Protector was Oliver’s son, Richard, who proved to be no good at the task, and was soon replaced by Charles II, the very king his father had deposed) It is interesting that ‘Maleville’ is somewhat bastardized Latin for ‘evil town’ or ‘evil city’ – a fair description of this Gotham or the mainline universe one.
Page Eight –
Even Wayne Manor is different – like the rest of Gotham, its architecture is like that of a gothic cathedral. Note in particular the Christian iconography in Panel Two.
Panel Three – Alfred Pennyworth, the long-suffering butler of Bruce Wayne, does something here that it took him nearly sixty years to do in the mainstream universe. He leaves his post, although not without good reason.
Page Nine –
Panel One: The line in my father’s house are many mansions is a biblical reference, as befits a man of the cloth. The reference is to John 14:2.
Panel Five: This room has very different architecture from the rest of the house – there are batlike demons on the crossbeams, and a collection of suits of armour reminiscent of that seen in the 1989 Batman movie. From right to left they are: A Medieval Knight, A Samurai, an unidentified figure holding a sword, Bruce himself (silhouetted by the doorway), another unidentified figure (or possibly two figures), what appears to be the Riot Armour of a modern cop, and a Roman Centurion.
Page Ten –
Panel One: once again, Christian imagery adorns the walls of Bruce’s gymnasium. As he notes, it is a dead end that he has abandoned – which presumably is why the swimming pool is empty of water.
Page Eleven –
Panel One – this is a nice turnabout. More often, in the mainstream Bat comics, it’s Jim who doesn’t hear Bruce entering (or leaving).
Panel Six – Jim’s posture is not unlike that of any man confessing his sins to a priest. Interestingly, the two pictures on the wall behind him are far more clearly defined in this panel, and are recognizably (on the left) Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, and (on the right) the Crucifixion of Christ. These neatly sum up Jim’s moods on this page – in Gethsemane, Christ prayed that he would not have to suffer as God required of him, but was refused, and emerged set in his purpose and determined to see it to its end. That end was his arrest and Crucifixion, where he sacrificed himself for the good of others. Here we see Jim sacrifice the love of Bruce in order that Bruce know the truth.
Page Twelve –
Panels Two and Three – the ‘counter-repoductive activities’ that the Waynes were convicted of, and the manner of their trial and punishment are remiscent of (if much more severe than) the Communist witch-hunt led by HUAC in the US during the 1950’s.
Panel Six – the revelation that Gordon has collaborated with this brutal regime (and acts now only to salve his conscience) is a shocking one. Clearly, the James Gordon of this world is not as unbendingly idealistic as the one we know.
Page Thirteen –
This whole page is flashbacks, with the text coming from the diaries of Thomas Wayne.
Panel One – McNider, as we are about to see, is Dr. Charles McNider, better known as Doctor Mid-Nite.
Panel Two – another example of the Covenant’s perversion of Christian ideals. While Christianity has usually derided homosexuals as sinners, Nazi-style concentration camps are another thing altogether.
Page Fourteen –
Panel Two – Charles McNider in the DC Universe was the Golden Age Doctor Mid-Nite. In the world we know, he was blinded by criminals in retribution for his attempts to expose them. Here, the State was responsible. It is unclear whether he developed the same power of darkness vision in this world.
Panel Six – This McNider also has the burn scars around his eyes from his blinding.
Page Fifteen –
Panel Two – Alan Scott was also the Golden Age Green Lantern. In the DC Universe, he ran the Gotham Broadcasting Company, a radio (and later television) network based in Gotham City. Carter and Shiera are Carter Hall and Shiera Sanders, the Golden Age Hawkman and Hawkwoman, and were indeed archaeologists. Rex Tyler was the Golden Age Hourman, and a chemist of some note.
Panel Four – it seems that this world also had a Second World War, although one assumes that it went very differently, considering that America would have been involved a lot earlier in the war.
Panel Six – the first mention of the mysterious Green Man. The obvious suspects are the Martian Manhunter or Swamp Thing, both of whom are green, and man-like.
Panel Eight – Myra McNider was Charles’ wife in the DC Universe as well, although it seems that she came to a sadder end here. The implication is that she was killed by agents of the State also.
Page Sixteen –
As unlikely as it may seem, the Bruce Wayne of this world is not merely righteous, but also religious. Although implied in many places before this, it is only here that we discover that Bruce’s quest for inner peace led him into the holy orders.
Page Seventeen –
Panel One: A classic Batman pose, and shadow.
Panel Two: Bishop Judson Caspian is clearly a mentor figure to Bruce. Ironically, in the DC Universe, Judson Caspian was a vigilante named The Reaper, who tangled with Green Lantern during the fifties, then returned to plague Batman in his second year of crimefighting. At that point, Bruce was dating Judson’s daughter Rachel. After Judson’s unmasking and apparent death, Rachel became a nun to atone for her father’s crimes. (For more details, see Batman: Year Two; Batman: Full Circle and Secret Origins #50)
Panel Four – The Batcave, of course.
Panel Five – In the DC Universe, some accounts state that Thomas Wayne wore the Bat costume to a fancy dress party years befor his death. His wearing in the role of demon for a church passion play is deliciously ironic. (A passion play is a stylized theatrical event held by a church to illustrate some biblical truth or virtue. They have largely fallen out of favour today, but were very popular during Cromwell’s, when they were the only legal form of theatre.)
Page Eighteen –
Panel One – The name Lemuel Brown has no particular significance that I am aware of.
Panel Six – As Brown points out, this is Scripture – Galatians 6:7 to be precise. This same quote was also the inspiration for the modus operandi and costumed identity of the Reaper.
Page Nineteen –
Panels One and Two – a continuation of the quote from the previous page.
Panel Four – A Star Chamber is a secret court, much as described above. They are generally illegal – and very effective.
Page Twenty-Three –
Panel One – introducing Barry Allen, better known as the Silver Age Flash. He has the same powers as his counterpart in the DC Universe – and the same dress sense (the Flash’s costume is also red with gold highlights).
Panel Five – The first mention of Erdel. Dr Saul Erdel, in the DC Universe, was responsible for experiments in matter transmission that resulted in the accidental teleportaton of J’Onn J’Onzz, the Manhunter from Mars, to Earth.
Page Twenty-Four –
Panel Three – Barry’s origin is largely the same in this world.
Page Twenty-Seven –
The horrific truth about Saul Erdel’s experiments is revealed. Panel Six – Yet another biblical quote – this one’s from Matthew 25:36. And Arthur is…
Page Twenty-Eight –
Panel One – Arthur Curry, better known in the DC Universe as Aquaman. Here, as in the regular comics, the Flash was the first other superhero he met.
Page Twenty-Nine –
Panel One – Presumably, this Lori is Lori Lemaris, a distant relative of Aquaman, and a mer-woman. She was also the love interest of Superman, who is becoming more conspicuous by his absence with each passing page.
Page Thirty –
Panel One – Zatanna Zatara, sorceress and ally of both Batman and the Flash in the DC Universe, has a different and altogether nastier aspect in this universe. Her costume resembles a modified version of her lesser-known costume in the main universe. And she still speaks backwards to cast spells.
Panel Two – Looks like Barry managed to get a fair bit of practice at using his speed before they busted him.
Panel Four – The Salem Witch Trials were an infamous incident in early American colonial history, in which several women were burnt at the stake after being convicted of witchcraft.
Page Thirty-One –
Panel Four – Get the impression that Old Testament style justice is a big thing in this world? Barry did kill once in the DC Universe (to prevent the murder of his second wife by the guy who murdered the first one), but as a last resort, and without threats.
Page Thirty-Four –
Panel One – Dr Saul Erdel, and like Zatanna, not at all improved by the differences in this world’s history.
Panel Four – Barry (and other super-speedsters) project a small aura that protects them from the effects of the friction they generate by moving at the speeds they do. Remove that aura, and they burn. Iris is the wife Barry mentioned earlier, and is presumably the same Iris as in the DC Universe.
Page Thirty-Five –
Panel Two – Batman’s pain and tears seem quite intense. It seems that the Batman of this world is not as cold and withdrawn as his grim and gritty counterpart.
Panel Three – That’s what I said.
Panel Four – One of Batman’s greatest abilities is the way he makes everyone else assume that he’s superhuman. Somehow, being over-estimated always seems to work to his advantage.
Panel Five and Six – Matt Hagen, known to the regular DC Universe as Clayface (the second of five villains to bear that name, and the first one to die).
Page Thirty-Six –
Panel Three – This does appear to be Metamorpho in the holding cell. Funny – I was expecting him to be one of the radioactive subjects…
Panel Five – Erdel abandoned his experiments in matter transmission? But in that case, who is the Green Man?
Page Thirty-Seven –
Panel One – The Green Man – dead, and in a pose that suspiciously resembles that of the crucified Christ.
Panel Two – ‘A God-fearing couple in Kansas’ would no doubt be John and Martha Kent, doing (as always) what they believe to be the right thing. Unfortunately, in this world, the authorities are not worthy of their trust.
Panel Three – The Green Man, clearly, is Superman.
Panel Four – The Kryptonite poisoning no doubt accounts for Kal-El’s green hue. (This whole page is highly reminiscent of the scene in The Dark Knight Returns where Batman compares the ‘lesson’ his parents; death taught to the one Superman’s parents taught him.)
Page Thirty-Eight –
Panel One – Somehow, Batman has an inkling of how easily Superman could have saved the world – and what a fine world it would have been.
Panel Two – As in our world, it is senseless death that is the catalyst for the origin of Batman. Raging and struggling against injustice has always been part of Batman’s character.
Page Forty –
Panel Two – Although Erdel didn’t list them all, bullet-proof skin is one of Superman’s powers.
Panel Three – Kal-El avenges his own death via a lucky ricochet.
Panel Five – Again, Bruce sheds a tear…
Panel Six – And then smiles, as he sees God’s Hand in all of this.
Page Forty-Four –
Panel One – One more biblical quote, but fair enough – Bruce is holding services here. The quotation is: John 11:25
Panel Two – And he’s smiling. His mission may lay mostly ahead of him, but he is at peace with himself.
Panel Five – The religious iconography throughout this book now takes on a new sense, as Bruce himself gets a halo. Hmmm, Saint Batman?
Pages Forty-Five and Six –
Nice to see the Batmobile, after everything else. A jihad is a ‘holy war’ – which is a most appropriate description of the task Bruce has set himself.
Page Forty-Seven –
Fortunately, this particular Elseworlds tradition, that of harking back to the main universe explicitly, was soon discontinued.