The newest issue of Back Issue magazine not only features an interview with Legion creators Paul Levitz and Keith Giffen (which is why I bought it--although, I have been buying the magazine regularly for a while, so I probably would have picked it up anyway), but this issue also has a nice interview with Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle. I don't necessarily have fond memories of their Detective Comics run, but this interview was full of interesting tidbits. I already knew about John Wagner leaving the book early in his collaboration with Alan Grant (even though Grant kept Wagner's name as co-writer for the rest of that first year), but I didn't know that Scarface and The Ventriloquist had originally been created as a Judge Dredd villain, but Wagner and Grant decided he'd fit better in a Batman story, because, as Grant says, "Judge Dredd would have shot [The Ventriloquist/Scarface] dead and it'd be over."
Grant also reveals that he created Anarky as a replacement for Jason Todd's Robin, once he knew that Robin was scheduled to die. "I had hoped, without mentioning it to anyone at all (even Norman), that [Anarky] would become the next Robin. I didn't know that at that time, Denny [O'Neil] and Marv Wolfman had been in secret talks about the development of a new Robin." That new Robin, of course, would be the Tim Drake incarnation, which Alan Grant wasn't involved with.
The interview made me pull out my old copies of Detective. I realized, looking through the long box, that I really didn't start collecting the series until the Grant/Breyfogle era. I had probably ten or twenty issues from years before, but nothing in sequence. I would have been 15 years old when the Grant/Breyfogle issues premiered, and I was just starting to go to the comic book store on a weekly basis, and I pretty much bought all the DC titles, while my brother bought all the Marvels, and then I'd read all of his comics (and he'd ignore mine--he wasn't ready for DC apparently, since he was only 10 at the time. I don't know if he even really read the Marvel comics, to be honest. Ryan, post a reply and let the readers know.) But I basically own the entire Grant/Breyfogle run (minus two random issues), and I stopped buying Detective about two years after they left. So, why don't I have fond memories of their stories? I really don't know.
I looked at their first two issues again, and they hold up pretty well. It's a bit strange to see Batman actually talking to civilians and police officers, since we're so used to seeing him "in character" all the time nowadays, and Grant's narrative captions seem a bit excessive, but Breyfogle's art (which I remember NOT being impressed with in 1988) is fluid and dynamic. His characters can seem a bit weightless at times, but his pages are exciting to look at. I like his acrobatic Batman, in particular, especially compared to the overly muscled incarnation we see so frequently today. And the Ventriloquist and Scarface are well-presented, if a bit underpowered for a Batman villain. Their threat comes from the harm they cause others, though, so in that regard they are not without potency. They not only distribute drugs which kill children, but they gun down their own men who don't do their jobs well enough.
So, yeah, I liked the first two issues after reading them again. Perhaps, like most comics, they read better in sequence, and my heavy reading load combined with the month-long wait didn't allow me to give these Grant/Breyfogle stories the attention they deserved nearly 20 years ago. I'm going to make time to read the rest of their Detective run, even though I'm extraordinarily busy (and my reading load these days is MUCH heavier than it was when I was 15), and I'll keep you posted on my thoughts. Perhaps I'll enjoy the series more this time around.
UPDATE: I still haven't read more than the first two issues of this run, but in retrospect, 1987-1988 were the two years in which I was really exposed to a lot of brilliant comic books. I came to Watchmen during the middle of its run and probably wasn't able to complete my set and read the whole thing until 1988. I read Dark Knight the week it was launched as a trade paperback, which was probably 1987 or 1988 (right?). I was really enjoying the Giffen/Maguire Justice League, and the Levitz Legion, and had caught up with all of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing issues and was heavily into Rick Veitch's version. So, considering the competition at the time, at least within my brain, I guess it's not suprising that the Grant/Breyfogle Detective run wasn't my favorite thing in the world. But now that the dust has settled, we'll see if these Detective issues have merit. They may not be the height of the genre, but maybe they're pretty good. We'll see.