Detective Comics 421 (March 1972)
"Blind Justice . . . Blind Fear!"
It's the Seventh. Everyone knows that's the day "he" gets out. Everyone in Gotham is afraid of "him." Who's the mystery man? Why, it's former assistant D.A. Carlton Quayle, who kept quiet about city officials taking bribes and paid a high price: prison. Now that he's getting out, Batman and Commissioner Gordon are worried that "he" will use his information to bribe the corrupt. Usually "they" that are corrupt in high places don't cotton to bribes and "he" may end up in a landfill. The night before "his" release, a black militant group takes over "his" cell block. Bats and Gordon are convinced this is a facade for an assassination. Batman goes into the cell block to try to rescue "him" but The Caped Crusader is captured and used as a hostage for the militants' demands.
Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck
Things get personal in Mexico for Batgirl when banditos kidnap her pop, The Commish, and Police Chief Da Vega's son, Carlos. Babs quickly figures out that there's more to this than first meets the eye thanks to Carlos's gambling debts.
Jack: If there's one thing that makes circa 1972 Don Heck art look good, it's following a story illustrated by Frank Robbins!
PE: Robbins proves he can write for Latinos as well as any other nationality. Our Mexicans in this story speak fluent English unless they're using easily identifiable words such as Americanos and porcos (I'm pretty sure I can figure out the former but thank goodness Robbins provides a translation for the latter).
|Neal Adams, it ain't!|
Story by Don Cameron and Joe Samachson
Art by Jerry Robinson
From Batman 24 (August-September 1944)
Jack: Not a very good Alfred story, and the bar is already set pretty low.
PE: Daryl Barker, in the Batman's Hot-Line letters page, touches on something I brought up in a previous post: the lack of appearances by the classic rogues' gallery. Evidently, before our tenure on the 1970s' Batman, fans were asked what kind of villain they'd like to see the most in their Batman comic books. The majority of readers picked gangsters. Daryl says that initially he went along with the idea and didn't think he'd miss the old villains. Now, though, he's calling for the updating of "foes such as The Joker, Scarecrow, especially The Catwoman and Poison Ivy." It'll be another year and a half before Daryl and I get our wish. Oh, and the Alfred story, where Batman's butler decides he needs to investigate crime just like his Master, is just as awful as the previous installment. The writers seem to have wanted to establish Alfred as a buffoon who gets crimes solved by mistake. At least we can say it's mercifully short.
Story by Bill Woolfolk
Art by Leonard Starr
From Detective Comics 205 (March 1954)
Jack: These Mysto the Magician stories are not bad!
PE: Thoroughly enjoyable. Mysto has to find the party responsible for offing his fellow magicians while they perform on national TV (including a fabulous dynamiting that harms none but the wizard). The Mysto strip must be the only comic in history whose hero dresses in the same clothing as his alter ego. In one panel, Rick Carter has on a brown suit. In the next, he shows up at a TV studio where a murder has been committed "in his role of--Mysto, the Magician Detective!" in the same brown suit! Talk about schizoid--do you think he's ever entered a room and had another character address him as Rick Carter only to rebut "I'm not Rick Carter, I'm Mysto -The Master Detective!"?
"Vengeance For a Dead Man!"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano
|Novick goes overboard|
with the cape again.
|Am I crazy, or did Frank Robbins|
redraw this panel?
PE: Ra's's "secret underwater cavern" is marked with his demon's head signature. That's the definition of keeping a secret. A weird story, this one. The climax seems rushed as if O'Neil couldn't figure out until the last couple panels whether to make this a two-parter or not. It's not clear whether Batman is trapped behind a glass partition or free to go. The "living brain" sub-plot lasts all of two pages. The announcement to "watch for further developments in a forthcoming issue" is pretty vague.
"Theater of the Mind!"
Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Rich Buckler
Robin tracks down Gordon Asher and convinces him to come to visit his son Rick and reconcile. Somehow, Terri Bergstrom gets psychically involved and summons Robin to her.
Jack: This is sure a weird mix of the relevant Robin stories and the supernatural events going on with Terri. Robin's disguise as a Black man is a riot. Hopefully, the Terri story thread will lead somewhere interesting and get this series off the track of contemporary events.
PE: I must have missed something since Robin is introduced as "the youthful, former partner of a certain crime-avenging Darknight (sic) Detective." I know they haven't had too many team-ups of late but is Robin really considered the "former" partner of Batman? As to that black mask, it's lucky The Boy Wonder had such a disguise in his little bag of tricks, but what was the point? It was discarded within seconds of the charade. What was the point? I'll tell you what the point was. A writer (and comic book company) showing where they stood on racism and equal rights. They was hip, whitey. Friedrich's writing is gobbed up with obtuse imagery ("The teen wonder flies solo--but the vengeance-scream echoes just as deeply within him!"), confusing sub-plots (so . . . is Terri some kind of witch or something?), and goofy morals (Robin refers to his inane mask as his "black like me" disguise while decrying the Ashers as " . . . just a mite racist--a huge mite!") but that doesn't detract from Rich Buckler's gorgeous art. From here on out, I might just look at the pretty pitchers.
"Batman's Great Face-Saving Feat!"
Story by France E. Herron
Art by Bob Kane and Joe Giella
From Batman 164 (June 1964)
Jack: Peter, I don't know about you, but for me these 1964-era "new look" Batman stories are almost unreadable. This one doesn't even have the saving grace of art by Carmine Infantino. They lack the nostalgic charm of the stories from the 40s and are just plain dull, at least the ones we've seen in the reprints to date. No wonder they had to relaunch the series again at the end of '69!
Detective Comics 422 (April 1972)
"Highway to Nowhere!"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano
Bruce Wayne's blissful evening reading ghost stories is interrupted by the panicked claims of Buzz Riley, a truck driver who works for a company that Bruce is a major share holder in (of course, what company in Gotham is not partly owned by Master Wayne?). Riley claims that a series of truck jackings is more than what the authorities are reporting. The roadways catch fire and glow rainbow colors before the trucks are sucked off into space. At least that's what Buzz says he witnessed. Immediately believing the man, Bruce has Alfred gas up his private jet and he flies out to investigate. What Batman finds is an intricate plot by the truck manufacturer. A defect in the brake-hoses has been discovered and, instead of issuing new hoses, the owner of the company has hired out henchmen to use a huge helicopter to fly the trucks out over the ocean and dump them so no one will discover the flaw.
Jack: The 1970s trucking craze hits Batman, as the Caped Crusader gets behind the wheel of a big rig to figure out why trucks are being hijacked. Too bad he did not get to spout any CB radio lingo! Bob Brown's pencils are not very impressive, even with Giordano's strong hand as an inker. This is an unusually pedestrian script for Denny O'Neil, too.
|The master of disguise?|
"The Unmasking of Batgirl!"
Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck
Librarian Babs Gordon gets a visit from a con-man from her past, Gregg Wilson, now supposedly gone straight since doing time. Gregg's looking for work and the library seems to be the natural place to inquire. Meanwhile, The Commish has been nominated for Congress by the "Fusion Faction." It doesn't take long for Wilson to show his hand when he and some of his goon buddies break in to Gotham Library to steal a rare manuscript of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Gold Bug." Batgirl puts the kibbosh on the robbery but is so disgusted by Wilson's betrayal she has no choice but to unmask herself in front of her father and state her intention to run for Congress. Huh?
Jack: The original manuscript of Poe's "The Gold Bug" is in Gotham Library? What else do they have in that vault? At 42nd Street and 5th Avenue, Gotham's Library happens to have the same address as the New York Public Library's main branch. Wait--could Gotham City be a thinly-veiled New York City?
PE: Don't be silly, Jack. It's Gotham. Unlike most of these solo stories, this one didn't bother me much. The art's not bad, the story ends with a punch, albeit one that makes very little sense, and the main plot is all inclusive. Gregg Wilson's non-story doesn't drag out the usual two or three issues. And I say punch but, truthfully, it wasn't much of a shock after the cover illo and story title! Speaking of the cover, someone obviously thought this was an imposrtant story since it nabbed BabsBats her first solo cover in our tenure.
"The Bush Trackers!"
Story by ?
Art by Chad Grothkopf
From World's Finest Comics 59 (July-August 1952)
Jack: Intrigue down under, and a very long eight pages!
PE: You're not kidding, Jack. This felt more like eighty pages. Unremarkable story told in a very dry manner. "The Bush Trackers" was an installment of the "Manhunters Around the World" series that ran in Star-Spangled Comics. I find it odd that the readers of the "main event" of Star-Spangled, Robin solo stories, would clamor for a back-up such as this, but the strip was popular enough to run on and off from 1949 (when it debuted in Star-Spangled #94) to 1956 (in Showcase #5). Again, a lot of these stories don't seem geared toward a pre-teen mentality.
Story by ?
Art by Howard Purcell
From Gang Busters 54 (October-November 1956)
Jack: The oldest trick in the book--walking in your own tracks!
PE: I enjoyed this short-short. It's tantamount to a 1950s version of Columbo. Let's see how the villain screwed up.