by Peter Enfantino &
"Moon of the Wolf"
Story by Len Wein
Art by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano
Former Olympic star Tony Lupus has been turned into a werewolf by Professor Milo, whose thirst for revenge against the Batman leads him to insist that Lupus kill the Caped Crusader if he wants the antidote that will return him to human form permanently.
PE: Poor Tony Lupus should have known he was fated to be a werewolf with a last name like that. Comic characters always seem to have that coincidental scientific mishap based on their last names (Otto Octavius comes quickly to mind). Take my advice and steer clear of Johnny Skeleton, Steve Bloodsucker, or Jasmine Harpy.
PE: And since we now know that Bob Kane seemingly never drew anything but a paycheck (but he drew those excellently!) we should do the right thing and give credit where due. "The First Batman" was actually drawn by Sheldon Moldoff. According to Moldoff, in an interview published in Roy Thomas' Alter Ego #59, the artist ghosted for Kane from 1953-1967. He passed away this February. For those who want to see what Bob Kane's art actually looked like, "The Duped Domestics!", according to The Grand Comics Database, was a Kane creation. One look will tell you why he put his pen away and relied on ghost artists for the remainder of his "career." Well, he did take out the pen to sign the strips every month (and, of course, to sign those checks). I didn't read "The Duped Domestics" because I made a deal with my patience that I'd steer clear of "Alfred the Detective" stories after the last one I trudged through. As an interesting side note to the issue, though Julius Schwartz is listed as editor, former Marvel letterhack Marty Pasko is now answering the questions of fellow fans in the Letters to Batman column, including a bizarre missive from then-Batman scribe Elliott S. Maggin (yeah, I know the guy used to use an exclamation point instead of a period after his middle initial but I don't have to) about meeting Danny Kaye.
Jack: This $1.00 tabloid-sized collection of reprints came out the week after Batman 255, at the beginning of January 1974. It was the first all-Batman treasury in the series of large dollar comics that DC had begun experimenting with in 1973. It featured six reprint stories, from "The Case of the Joker's Crime Circus!" (Batman 4, winter 1940) all the way up to "Ghost of the Killer Skies" (Detective 404, October 1970). I remember being very excited by these treasury editions, though adding $1.00 to the already-steep 50 cent comics DC was putting out sure put a dent in my funds at age 10.
PE: I vividly remember picking this one up at a local supermarket, Alpha Beta in California, which didn't have a rack of comics but would carry these over-sized things and the Marvel b&w magazines. The "Limited Collectors' Series" was published from 1972-1978, top-heavy with Shazam! and Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas Specials, so I tended to avoid them. I did pick up the House of Mystery and a couple more but I always thought Marvel's version, the Treasury Editions, were cooler. Four more Batman collections would follow C-25, including a special all Ra's al Ghul issue. Comic historians still argue whether the nadir of the series was when Rudolph fell through a sky-hole and found himself in Topsy-Turvy land (#C-50) or the four-color exploits of Vinnie Barbarino and Arnold Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter! (#C-57). I'll leave it you to decide.
Jack: I thought this was a new cover by Neal Adams until I compared it to a panel from Batman 251. It looks like the editors at DC recycled one of the great panels for this cover!
PE: I wonder if Archie Goodwin had a copy of The Hillbilly Guide to Phonetics, since he nails those Southern accents to the wall! "You shore are a big gah, Bayt-Mayn. Hit'll take me quat a whall to whoop yoo!" But he obviously doesn't know you can't shoot a phone out of a man's hand with a shotgun without taking the vic's hand and part of his face as well. While I'm usually one of Archie Goodwin's staunchest supporters, I'll not stand up for him on this one. "Ghost Mountain Midnight" is a badly-written sketch filled with cliched characters (the DC redneck is an easy stereotype to bring up in a pinch) and a reveal lifted verbatim from a classic episode of TV's Cheyenne called "Big Ghost Basin" (based on a short story by my favorite western writer, Steve Frazee). The art is horrendous but, I suspect, based on Almendola's job in the last issue, it's due to Dick Giordano's inks. If I've learned anything after reading over 80 Batman comic books so far in our run, it's tough for an artist (save Frank Robbins) to screw up the look of the Batman character. Here, save a couple Adams-ish panels, he appears beefy and lacking in detail. The supporting cast makes out even worse (see aforementioned comments on DC rednecks). A big disappointment to me, based on the talent involved.
When they are attacked by Interpol agent/Council member Damon Nostrand, Paul Kirk (aka Manhunter) and Christine St. Clair are forced to kill the rogue agent. Manhunter then relates to Christine how he turned against The Council. When they examine the wreckage of Nostrand's vehicle, they find his hotel key. Visiting his room, they find international Wanted posters for the two of them.
PE: You're exactly right, Jack. The series reminds me of Steve Ditko's The Question, first published by Charlton and later DC. The art is still crude Simonson (he'd perfect his trade within the next decade and then blow everyone away with his version of Thor in 1983) but it's very effective and perfectly suits Simonson's wild science fiction/espionage tale. Where the heck are we going in this series? Part of me can't wait to find out but that other part of me knows it doesn't have many more installments before it's shut down when Goodwin jumps ship again. Can all these intricate threads actually be tied together in a satisfactory way before the plug gets pulled? Love St. Clair's get-up by the way, very Emma Peel by way of The Black Widow.
|Notice the bored cop on the bottom left of this panel.|
Classic Alex Toth!
PE: Don't forget our first look at the original Manhunter series by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, which shows us that Nazis could be cute but bumbling oafs long before Raiders of the Lost Ark. Their "accents" drift in and out from panel to panel. One sequence has two of the Nazi henchmen waiting to ambush Manhunter, one in full Nazi character, the other a bit more modern American:
Nazi #1: Doctor Heinnig is smart at dot! Ve von't take a chance on joost vounding him mit a bullet... instead ve shoot at der target...
Nazi #2: Yeah! And when we hit it, the dynamite down under explodes!
Manhunter escapes the dynamited tower and is thrown clear. Luckily the dust surrounding the tower hides M.H. from the bad guys and he's able to leap up from under the detritus and capture the two swine. Later, he finds their underwater diving gear (those old Captain Nemo things with the huge head and weighted boots) and attempts to (get this!) retrace their steps on the ocean floor to find out where they came from. He manages to find the U-Boat but his presence is discovered by the Nazi manning the periscope and he's brought on board. Big mistake for the Ratzis as M.H. uses a little ingenuity and several sacks of flour to put an end to this little piece of the Nazi menace. It's a charming little story, filled with several unintentional (I assume) laughs and silly characters. I'm not an expert on artists and I thank the Comic Gods daily that the editors decided at some point to begin giving credit to the creators of each strip. I'd never, in a million years, assign the name Jack Kirby to this story. I know it's twenty years until the Marvel Age begins, but his style is so different from what we'll be seeing some day, it's startling. In "Batman's Hot Line" Steve Beery contributes an excellent essay on why he shouldn't have to pay half a Washington for a magazine filled with bad reprints and only twenty pages of new material. His points are well-taken, Archie admits, but economics force DC into this situation for the foreseeable future.
"Catwoman's Circus Caper!"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano
Robin joins the circus to solve the murder of acrobat Billy Byrd, but when Catwoman appears on the scene, the Teen Wonder is left unconscious and locked in a cage with man-eating tigers! It’s up to Batman to rescue his pal and solve the mystery.
PE: Ugh! Where to start? This story reminds me that not all members of Batman's Rogues Gallery are ripe for resurrection, at least not in the hands of the 1974 Batman/Detective staff. Taking equal parts Batman: The ABC-TV series and the detective elements that make Frank Robbins unreadable, Denny O'Neil again makes me wonder if I'm not overpraising his oeuvre based on one spectacular story. One would be forgiven for mistaking the lead-off for one of the subsequent reprints in this issue. I'd love for Denny to explain how Catwoman hid her high pointy mask and multi-angled bodysuit under her Nelias disguise but I have to believe he's pulling our collective tail and tipping his hat to the camp of 1960s Batman. Perhaps O'Neil saw no other way to present a story starring Catwoman. If so, that does not bode well for his upcoming Penguin and Two-Face visits. The real test, for me, will be the return of The Joker in #260. If The Clown Prince of Crime is reduced to a buffoon rather than the homicidal maniac of "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge," we're in for real trouble. While he's explaining all that to me, he can offer his argument for a Batcave with framed photos of Catwoman and Talia on the wall (ostensibly with "All my Love" signatures on each). Who snapped the pics?
Jack: I didn't mind this story as much as you did. It's nice to see Catwoman return; after all, she has been missing throughout the '70s up to this point. I like her costume and I like the way she (once again) is not guilty of any serious crime. Novick's art is not as impressive as that of Adams or Amendola, but it's always solid.
|No framed photos of Mr. Freeze?|
"If Bruce Wayne Had Not Become the Batman"
PE: The reprints this issue focus on Batman's trophy room. I'd always wondered where that giant penny came from. Wisely, the majority of the stories were taken from the 1940s, an era a little easier to digest than the 50s and 60s. The best of the bunch, "Dinosaur Island" (from 1946), gives conclusive proof that Michael Crichton was a Batman fan when he was a kid and also shows that Bob Kane might have drawn some good stuff at one time (at least until some other artist comes out of the woodwork and lays claim to this story). Batman and Robin accept a $5,000 challenge (with the spoils to go to charity): they must play tag with an island full of mechanical dinosaurs but, unknown to the daring duo, an erstwhile crime kingpin lays some deadly traps in an effort to rid Gotham of its Number One crime-fighter. On the letters page, we're introduced to the sad story of James T. McCoy, a young man afflicted with Muscular Dystrophy who has been a constant on the letters pages of both Bats titles. Here James is represented by a letter of praise for The Shadow story back in #253. Immediately following is a letter from his sister, Kathleen, informing Marty Pasko of the passing of James. Pasko's heartfelt response is to say that DC has lost a member of their "special family."
Jack: "The Penny Plunderers" is another good one, a Golden Age yarn about a crook obsessed with pennies. In "The Thousand and One Trophies of Batman!" we see Batman and Robin up on ladders polishing the giant penny. What was Alfred doing? Chasing after another super villain in a skirt? This story also features the original Dr. Doom, before he became a Marvel super villain.
PE: We're given a "Bat-Puzzle" this issue. We've reprinted it below for your browsing pleasure but for safety's sake we've included the answers so you don't accidentally write on your computer screen. That's us, always thinking of our readers.
|The original Dr. Doom|