Neuverse Creative, an independent fan-run audio drama podcast, has produced my adaptation of Batman: The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, the very first Batman story written by his co-creator Bill Finger, with art by co-creator Bob Kane. The podcast is geared towards Batman fans and the episodes are meant to be for all ages, including children.
So how did this come about?
When people saw the shot of the multiple Keaton suits in The Flash trailers, they speculated a lot on the early suits, including the one on the far left that looks like a mix of the 1939 suit with the Adam West logo. This would eventually be dubbed the “Caped Crusader” Suit.
We would end up covering these suits in two episodes of our show:
Shoutouts to artists Chris Weston and Joe Quinones who were behind the Caped Crusader suit.
It inspired an idea of adapting stories to show when he donned those suits, starting with The Case of the Chemical Syndicate, the very first Batman story.
This is written to be a Batman 89 prequel where he wears that early suit, though if you’re a subscriber to the idea that the Batman in The Flash is a different version of the one in Batman 1989, then you can imagine that it’s Keaton in the 1989 suit. The magic of audio allows you to imagine whatever you want and I deliberately left the description of him vague so you could imagine your own take.
The narration and dialogue is mostly true to the original comic by Bill Finger. A few liberties were taken.
You will notice that Lambert is given the full name of Theodore Victor Lambert. In the original story, Lambert’s first name wasn’t revealed. The story, however, was retold several times. In Detective Comics #627, the retelling by Marv Wolfman gave him the name of Theodore Lambert while the New 52’s Detective Comics #27 retelling by Brad Meltzer gave him the name of Victor Lambert.
Batman’s No-Kill Rule
Fans of the original comic may notice that I have removed a major component to Detective Comics No. 27: Batman killing the criminals. In the original comic, Batman kills one of the killers on Crane’s rooftop by throwing him off the cliff. He later is responsible for knocking Stryker into the acid vat. While Keaton’s Batman did kill in the movies, I always liked the idea that he didn’t start killing until he found out that Jack Napier was the man who murdered his parents. He noticeably doesn’t kill anyone up until that point. While the opening does hint towards him killing the unseen Johnny Gobs while the muggers are sharing stories, it’s left ambiguous whether or not he was actually responsible for that death. It also seemed to fit better with Neuverse Creative’s own kid-friendly brand, if I removed the murders.
One major surprise during the development of this was when Tim Maxwell, who runs Neuverse Creative, asked me to do the voice of Jennings, Stryker’s malevolent assistant. I had done several voices in skits for my podcast Superhero Stuff You Should Know and had recently voiced Bruce Wayne/Batman for the show Table Read Tuesdays two days before he asked me.
I was honored to be asked and Tim was gracious enough to be patient as I wasn’t able to record until I was home several days later. Since The Case of the Chemical Syndicate had never been adapted into any movie or TV show, it gave me freedom, as technically the first voice of Jennings, to do whatever I wanted. I opted for something that came off, in my opinion, similar to Cameron Monaghan’s Jeremiah Valeska in the show Gotham. The hardest honestly was the laugh.
The Apex Chemical-Axis Chemicals Connection
Listeners will note that instead of killing Stryker like in the comic, I leave him alive. Part of this was that it seems a little repetitive to have Stryker die from falling into acid when we know that Jack Napier will do something similar in Batman 1989.
Another reason to keep him alive was that I wanted to reveal that Stryker was connected to the 1989 mob boss, Carl Grissom. The idea I had was that Stryker was trying to get ownership of the business so that Grissom could have another shell corporation to launder money and hide everything while Dent and Gordon were investigating.
Remember, in Batman 1989, Knox mentions that the arrest of Nick and Eddie in the beginning is just the eighth sighting in under a month. So I picture that these suits, from The Flash, were early prototypes worn within the first couple weeks before Batman settled on the suit we see in the opening of the film. That makes the timeline pretty quick in terms of what Batman’s appearances were in the week leading up to the events of the film.
This was also inspired by the fact that Apex Chemicals is not only the name in Detective Comics No. 27, but was almost the name of the chemical plant in the film. During the writing, Sam Hamm said that they discovered that Ace Chemicals, from the comics, was the name of a real company and they had to change the name. The concept art even refers to it as Apex Chemicals.
Eventually, they settled on Axis Chemicals, but I liked the idea of connecting Apex and Axis in some way. It didn’t really make sense in this story for Apex to just get renamed Axis, since Paul Rogers owns it at the end, but I liked the idea of the mob preparing themselves for Dent and Gordon and attempting to use another chemical business to cover their tracks.
This also speaks to the regular theme of Batman inadvertently creating his own villains. Had Batman not been around to solve this case and stop Stryker, Stryker could have owned Apex for Grissom’s use and Axis Chemicals could have been abandoned, meaning that Grissom couldn’t use it in setting up Jack Napier and there could never have been a Joker!
Lastly, a quick shoutout to composer Francesco D’Andrea who scored a different Batman 1989 prequel- the fan film The Oath, written and directed by Johnny K.
I listened to the soundtrack during the writing of this. You can check it out too at this Spotify playlist link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/4CcMwhJ9lcaaNhuvjaduH1?si=1W0r88OKSEm9UijKad-TBQ