Detective Comics 433 (March 1973)
“Killer in the Smog!”
Story: Frank Robbins
Art: Dick Dillin & Dick Giordano
Socialite Patti Dalton is murdered, strangled with an ascot, and Batman and Commissioner Gordon assume it's a one-off until they read the inscription on the murder weapon: "This is the second." They don't have long to wait before two other victims turn up in the Gotham "smog." This corpse, a man named Ben Milgrim, comes with an ascot reading "This is the third." The only clue they have is that the murderer has a hacking cough. After a bit of detection, however, The Dark Knight surfaces with the usual amount of suspects: Dalton's jilted lover, Rick Manton; Clyde Wilson, major league umpire; and James Corwin, addicted gambler. In the end, Batman discovers all three men are involved as each had motives for the crimes.
Art: Don Heck & Murphy Anderson
Commissioner Gordon accuses Jason Bard of planning the assassination of a senator.
Jack: Once again, Anderson makes Heck’s pencils a little more bearable, but another Jason Bard story by that Dean of detection himself, Frank Robbins? Enough already! And if that’s not enough, the editor promises that the next Bard story will also be illustrated by Mr. R. I may have to consult the thesaurus for some vituperative adjectives.
PE: Where's the obligatory "conversation with Babs' photo" at the climax of this exciting story? Should we take it that there might be rainclouds on the horizon of Jason and Barbara, or is just me looking for something to write about this dreary series? Since there's nothing either new or interesting to say about this latest installment, I'll focus our attention on the letters page. You don't have to be eagle-eyed to notice that the letters page of the Batman titles are dominated by the same half-dozen or so letter hacks. You'll see the names of Mike W. Barr, Bob Rozakis, Gerard Triano, and Jim Balko constantly. Was there a little treehouse group that Julius Schwartz initiated or were there really only a handful of readers who could put sentences together in a semi-intelligent manner among the 180,000+ readers?
|Jason should also wonder why the girl to his|
front/left went from blond to redhead!
Story: Denny O’Neil
Art: Bob Brown & Dick Giordano
Lt. Friss is released from prison after serving 30 years for treason during WWII. He is immediately captured and taken away despite Batman’s best efforts to protect him. The Caped Crusader quickly figures out that Colonel Sulphur (last seen in Batman 241) is after the valuable diamond Friss received for betraying his ship’s position to the Japanese. At the Gotham Navy Yard, Batman dispatches Col. Sulphur, but Friss has a flashback to the war and dives overboard to his death.
Jack: It’s been 11 months and 7 issues since Batman last knocked out Col. Sulfur, who is not much of a foe this time around. The story is not very interesting, with the overused WWII flashbacks not adding much. Bob Brown is my least favorite of the artists who rotated on Batman stories in this period, except for Frank Robbins, of course.
PE: Silly question, I know, but why would Batman keep in his files the mystery of a diamond that had gone missing in World War II? I'd like to see the "Unsolved Purse Snatching" file cabinet. Another of those O'Neil stories that introduces a supernatural element at the last moment but doesn't necessarily validate that element. This angle worked a couple times but it's getting really old really fast. Both the art and story are uninspired this time out. With so many pedestrian scripts thus far, I'm wondering if the stories that made Denny O'Neil the "greatest comics writer of the 1970s" are still to come or if his name is built on just a couple of issues punched up by Neal Adams graphics.
Story: Elliot Maggin
Art: Irv Novick and Frank McLaughlin
Robin takes some kids from the housing project on a tour of Usen Castle, only to find that there are some surprising scares in store.
Jack: Do you think any hardened criminal ever really called Robin the “Devil-Child with the Laughing Eyes?” That seems awfully eloquent for a Gotham hood. And as for the kids in the housing project near Hudson U, they look pretty healthy to me. It seems DC’s brief experiment with black people appearing in comics was not in effect for this issue. The ending is bizarre—the castle’s caretaker tries to scare people away because he has his 200+ year old ancestors locked in a cell in the dungeon because they are . . . senile! Call the ombudsman! This is elder abuse!
PE: The intro had me believing this might be one of those two-page social commentary ads that comics used to run about the bad things in the world that can happen to youngsters who stray down the wrong path: V.D., juvenile delinquency, and voting for democrats. From there it quickly devolves into an adventure fit for Shaggy and Scoob and ultimately wraps up with one of the most abrupt and out of left field climaxes I've ever witnessed. "The Immortals of Usen Castle" is the four-colored equivalent of a joke told with the wrong punchline.
“The Spook That Stalked Batman”
Story: Frank Robbins
Art: Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
PE: The biggest surprise to me this issue was not that it ended on a cliffhanger but that this was actually a decent story. My interest was grabbed and held right up to the final panel. I was waiting for Shaggy and Scooby to show up and offer our hero some assistance since this is more like the kind of adventure they'd solve. Even though this is the first appearance of The Spook, Frank Robbins' dialogue had me convinced this was a foe that Bats had encountered pre-1970. A quick check through various sources proved my theory wrong.
|You said it, Dark Knight!|
”Riddle of the Red-Handed Robber!”
Story: E. Nelson Bridwell
Art: Rich Buckler & Dick Giordano
Magician Sandor Peale enjoys stealing priceless gems and mocking the police by making the evidence disappear into thin air. Despite disapproval from the cops, Hawkman feels the need to get involved.
PE: "Wheet!" Hawkman's bird friends sure talk like squares. If it was Robin who had the power to converse with the winged world, they'd be like "Yo, Robin daddy-o! Why the need for speed?" I love how Hawk flies his suspect right into the office of the sergeant. Did he hover outside while opening the precinct door? Carter Hall (Hawkman's aka) wears the worst suit jacket in comics.
Jack: His art on this short story may not be quite as unusual as it was when he inked his own pencils last year on a few Robin back up stories, but it sure is great to see Rich Buckler again! He draws Hawkman very well and his panels and page layouts are creative and energetic. The story is fine, without much new going on, but the art makes it worth reading. Here’s hoping Buckler turns up again in Detective!
PE: Buckler won't be back for another installment of Hawkman until Detective #448. In the meantime, he'll jump ship and spend a very productive several years over at Marvel, relieving John Buscema on Fantastic Four and creating Deathlok the Demolisher for Astonishing Tales. In 1983, Buckler sued The Comics Journal (who didn't in those days?) for claiming that the artist had been "swiping" from Jack Kirby. The lawsuit was dropped the following year.
|Did we really dress like this in '73?|