Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Guy Davis
Colorist: Jeromy Cox
Publisher: DC Comics
Published: August 2003
This is an Elseworlds tale where Batman is alive during Edgar Allan Poe's life time. Set in Baltimore, Poe is a reporter who is investigating the strange murders of members of The Gotham Club. During his investigation he repeatedly encounters Baltimore's most mysterious element: The Bat-Man! Poe is not sure what to think of Batman, but after being saved by him, he quickly counts him as an ally.
The third comic in the series has the mystery deepen. Poes mental and physical health is stretched to the limits. He is buried alive, knocked out and caged, and has a vivid nightmare. I'm no authority on Poe, having only gotten as far as The Raven, but Wein has crafted this tale to include many situations taken straight from Poe's writings. Issue 3 ends with Poe caged, forced to watch as Batman is splayed on a table as a razor edged pendulum swings slowly above.
Since my knowledge of Poe is based on pop culture references, I think I missed many of the more subtle nuances to this series, but overall I was fairly impressed. The artwork is dark, dreary, and foreboding. The Batman of the 1800's is believable, and Poe as a character works perfectly alongside the Dark Knight.
While I was reading the section where Poe was buried alive, my mind absently turned to the actual fear of entrapment. I've never liked enclosed spaces, having once as a kid been zipped up in a suitcase (my doing...I thought I could take it...but I couldn't). Luckily, I was able to be released, but to imagine a situation of being buried alive with no escape...well that's just horrifying.
I found a very interesting article on In Repose Blog discussing the fear of being buried alive. The section of the article that stood out most though was the methods doctors and physicians from the 17th and 18th centuries would take to ensure someone was dead. These included tobacco smoke enemas, hot pokers prodded in various orifices, nipple squeezes with pliers, and tongue yanking. Makes sense to me, if it's sensitive - poke it or squeeze it. It's that kind of logic that has consistently earned doctors the big bucks.
If a person was fearing being buried alive they could purchase a coffin with a bell system built into the grave. This would enable the wrongly dead to ring the bell if they were still alive. This same idea is the source behind building intercoms into coffins.
Now, if I was alive during this period, and I had to choose ahead of time whether I wanted to be confirmed dead, or assumed dead and buried alive, I think I would go with assumed dead. I'd rather rely on a bell to save me, than to be alive and risk the chance that I get the doctor with a penchant for poking orifices with hot metal rods. There's only so many orifices, and it would be just my luck....