Monday, March 26, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 11: May and June 1971

by Peter Enfantino
& Jack Seabrook

Detective Comics #411 (May 1971)

"Into the Den of the Death-Dealers"

Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Bob Brown & Dick Giordano

Batman meets with a shady character atop the Statue of Freedom one night only to be ambushed once again by The League of Assassins. Batman's informant is murdered but not before telling the Caped Crusader the whereabouts of Dr. Darrk. The good doctor will be traveling on the famous Soom Express train the next day. Disguising himself, Bats gains passage and tails Darrk and his mysterious but lovely companion. The duo hop off the train as it slows to ascend a mountain and Batman follows. Darrk has been expecting him though and has some of his henchmen waiting. Batman is clobbered and awakes to find himself unmasked, being looked after by the beautiful young lady from the train. She introduces herself as Talia, daughter of Ra's Al Ghul, a captive of Darrk. The dastardly villain cuts a page out of the 1966 TV series by strapping Talia to a pole and setting a bull loose. He gives Batman the choice of freedom or fighting the bull and saving the girl's life. The Dark Knight gets the upper hand, first on the bull and then on the villainous doctor. While transporting his prisoner to the train, Batman is once again tripped up by Dr. Darrk. Talia proves to be a good shot, though, and Darrk is killed. Batman holds the frightened girl in his arms for the first, but certainly not the last, time.

PE: Obviously a landmark issue in that it introduces a key character in the Batman mythos. As vital as Talia is, her father Ra's will prove to be just as important. The new villain can't come at a better time as this League of Assassins storyline was going nowhere. Each "League" installment had basically the same framework. Batman is attacked by assassins and conquers them. Next. I do like the Soom Express backdrop, even as quick as it passes. "Batman on the Orient Express" is a scenario I'd like to see explored again. The master detective investigating a death on a train: seems a natural. Someone out there should be able to tell me if we're going to run into such a story in the future. The art's not bad but the Brown/Giordano Talia obviously can't hold a candle to Neal Adams' version. Her breasts seem to fluctuate in size from panel to panel. All in all, a decent read more important for what it's set up for the upcoming Batman #232.

Jack: Peter, her eyes are up here . . . this story continues to show the growing popularity of martial arts in the early 1970s--at one point, Batman is attacked by assassins wielding Bo sticks. Dr. Darrk dies a violent death at story's end, as do so many villains in these Batman tales. Finally, I have to comment on Batman's nickname for the raging bull: Ferdinand! Peaceful, flower-sniffing hero of one of my favorite childhood volumes.

"Cut . . . and Run!"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck & Dick Giordano

Batgirl manages to save herself from the material cutter she was trapped in (from last issue) by the skin of her teeth... literally. Once free, she heads for the Riviera to save Mamie Acheson from the clutches of the Maxi/Mini/Midi Mob. Mamie shows her gratitude in the end by ripping off Batgirl's costume for a new fashion show. Never trust the rich.

PE: Another seven pages wasted. Either run these stories over the course of three or four issues and flesh out the plot and characters or add a few more pages to the main feature. I'd vote for the latter if I had my way. As they are, these stories have no consequence or soul to them. They're filler and the writers approach them as such. I'll give Frank Robbins the benefit of the doubt that Batgirl can pretty much leap tall buildings in a single bound or drop three stories and land on her feet but you're asking a lot of me to believe that Batgirl could move that heavy bit of material with nothing but her pearly whites. Nope!

Jack: Actually, it wasn't a heavy bit of material, but rather a brass template. How did those Bat-choppers bite down on metal? For me, one of the saving graces of these Batgirl stories is that Batgirl is just so darn good-looking. While the Don Heck Batgirl is not as cute as Gil Kane's version, she's still easy on the eyes.

Batman #231 (May 1971)

"Blind Rage of the Ten-Eyed Man!"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by: Irv Novick & Dick Giordano

"Ten-Eye" Reardon still blames Batman for his condition; he suffers from Vietnam combat flashbacks and confuses the Batman with the Viet Cong. He takes a job as a civilian sky marshal and hijacks a plane, telling the pilot to alter course and head for Vietnam. He sends a message to Washington, demanding that Batman be exchanged for the planeload of hostages, and the Caped Crusader heads for the Far East. Reardon lures Batman into the jungle, where he believes he'll have the advantage. He springs various traps, trying to blind Batman in retaliation, but our hero outwits him and heads home with Ten-Eyes in the Batplane.

PE: "Blind Rage" has the same problem that I find with a lot of the Marvel comics we're reading: the trap of the coincidence. Batman has probably gone months without thinking about that nutty guy with eyeballs in his fingers and vice versa. Then Batman happens to be talking to Reardon's old boss and, quick as that, ol' Ten-Eyes is launching a plan. I'll give the same advice to The Dark Knight that I gave to Reed Richards: once you defeat a villain, don't ever think about him, talk about him, or watch old fight footage of him. You're only asking for trouble! You gotta hand it to Frank Robbins though, he knows how to stretch out a one-trick pony. That's the last we'll see of The Man with Ten Eyes in this blog. He'll be resurrected a couple more times though, in Man-Bat #2 (Feb-Mar 1976) and Crisis on Infinite Earths #12 (March 1986). Just dreadful stuff all around.

Jack: I am getting more and more fond of Irv Novick's artwork, and I think Giordano's inks improve the quality of whatever they are on top of. I continue to find the early 70s plotlines interesting--this time, Reardon is a shell-shocked Vietnam vet who drags Batman back into the jungle even though he's having flashbacks. I agree that the whole ten-eye thing is weird and crazy, but something about this story worked for me.

PE: On the letters page, Cerebus creator Dave Sim writes in to praise Neal Adams's homage to Detective Comics #31 (on the cover of Batman #227).

"Wiped Out!"

Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Irv Novick & Dick Giordano

Recent events make Robin feel like he still doesn't fit in at college. He is cheered up when cute Terri Bergstrom shows up as his computer date, but the date is over before it begins when both discover that their rooms have been ransacked and robbed. Robin quickly traces the crime to members of the Kappa Zeta fraternity. He finds the three villains at the gym, dispatches them quickly, and meets up with Terri to resume his date.

PE: Our splash page confuses me. We've got the obvious title - "Wiped Out!" spread across the top but then at the bottom we've got the word "Grounded" in a large font as well. It's almost as though Friedrich couldn't figure out what to title this thing. Sweet little Terri Bergstrom (why do I think she's going to break Dick Grayson's heart--or vice versa?) must have a photographic memory. She opens her  apartment door and, with one look, immediately surmises that "everything of value" in her place has been stolen. Of course, Dick Grayson does the same thing, but he's the Boy Wonder. These two really are compatible.

Novick tries his hand at a very Gil Kane style panel.
Jack: After his broken date, Dick thinks that there is something mysterious and weird about Terri, yet after he mops up the bad guys he resumes their date quick as can be. Either we'll hear more about the mysterious side of Terri in future tales, or else his suspicions were just another of his "notorious bad conclusions."

PE: As with the Batgirl back-up over at Detective, this strip simultaneously feels like way too much packed into seven pages and not enough for a story spread across several installments. There's a very crucial scene where Robin spies Computer Club president Phil Real's house being robbed and notes that he had seen a panel truck parked nearby with his own stolen stuff inside. Wouldn't that be a panel of art we should see rather than offhandedly noted in a thought balloon? Then Robin's big confrontation with the goons who walloped him (back in #229) is played out over three panels and we're handed a very quick expository finale. This seems rushed.

Jack: Definitely rushed, but would you want longer Robin stories? I prefer Batgirl, unless Don Heck is doing the art on his own.

Detective Comics #412 (June 1971)

"Legacy of Hate!"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Bob Brown & Dick Giordano

Bruce Wayne is summoned to the mansion of a distant relative, Lord Elwood Wayne, who lives in Waynemoor Castle in the North of England. When he gets to Waynemoor Station, Bruce meets up with three of his kinfolk: the beautiful Wilhemina, missionary Reverend Emelyn, and Aussie farm hand Jeremy, all three of whom were also summoned to the estate. To lend gloom to the already damp and creepy atmosphere, the quartet are picked up at the station by a hearse driver, who tells them the legend of Lord Harold, whose ghost still haunts Waynemoor Castle. When Bruce and his three companions finally meet face to face with Lord Elwood, they find a dying old man who bequeaths, on his death, one-fourth of his estate to each of his heirs. Unless, that is, they should die, and then the spoils go to the survivors (or survivor). Should all four meet an untimely demise, Elwood's physician, Dr. Merrin, will suddenly be in a higher tax bracket. That night, after all have turned in and Bruce and Wilhemina are sharing a nightcap, the duo see a figure in ancient armor outside their window. Wayne decides Batman should investigate and, as he's tracking the knight, Wilhemina is almost done in with a battle-axe. The Caped Crusader tracks the knight to the weapons room where he unmasks him as Asquith, Lord Wayne's butler. Asquith tells Batman that he is compelled by the spirit of Lord Harold and then the man drops dead, leaving Batman to ponder the possibility of a supernatural presence in Waynemoor Castle.

PE: Hmmm. To enjoy a really good whodunit, there has to be mystery and suspense. There's neither on display in this creaky old filler. The minute Lord Elwood tells his four relatives that if none of them should survive, his vast estate will go to his old friend and family doctor (who just happens to be there to overhear this proclamation), you just know who the ghostly knight on the cover really is. It's Asquith, the butler! This is one of those quasi-supernatural adventures where Batman never really finds out if the spirit world was acting up or if Asquith was insane and acting on his own. It's not a very good story either way.

Jack: I liked it better than you did. Sure, it's an old story, but the setting and the mist on the moors always get me. Did you notice that this was the second issue in a row where a woman from a foreign country had never heard of Batman? Last issue, she even removed his mask, but did not know who he was. It all reminds me of the time Keith Partridge met a new girl at school who did not know he was a rock star.

"The Head-Splitters!"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck

Barbara Gordon falls into the hands of two wig-makers who are trying to extort money out of rich women by squeezing their heads to a pulp with a specially-made wig. Babs inadvertently gets handed one of these killer wigs and must deal with the villains as Batgirl.

PE: This has to be one of the silliest and most sexist comic stories I've yet read. What's next? Fingernail files that become switchblades? Pantyhose that double as TNT? The final panel, depicting Batgirl in the throes of agony after the deadly duo have thrown a wig in her face, defies description, so I've reprinted it below. As with the Robin back-ups, most of these Batgirl stories are, unfortunately, a waste of paper and time. Bring on the reprints! Don Heck flies solo on art chores this issue. I find Don's work here is much better than either his Iron Man or Avengers work (at least for those issues up into 1966). It's not so cartoony and sketchy.

Jack: I have to disagree on the art here, Prof! This is the only story in the four comics we review this time that is not inked by Dick Giordano--and it suffers for the omission. I think Heck on his own draws a terrible Batgirl, and one of the villains looks like a man in drag. Now, next issue may reveal that it is a man in drag, but if not, it's just shoddy artwork in my opinion!

Never send a Batgirl to do a Batman's job.

Batman #232 (June 1971)

"Daughter of the Demon"

Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano

Robin is kidnapped and Batman receives a ransom note. He heads from his Gotham City penthouse to Stately Wayne Manor and the Batcave, where he finds Ra's Al Ghul and his oversized bodyguard Ubu waiting for him. Ra's has deduced Batman's secret identity and seeks Batman's aid to recover his daughter Talia, who has been kidnapped by the same villain who abducted the Boy Wonder. Clues in the note lead Batman and his new companions to Calcutta, where Batman finds a map that points toward the Himalayas. Batman scales a snowy cliff while Ra's Al Ghul is apparently hurt by gunfire. The caped Crusader finds the hidden mountain lair of the Brotherhood of the Demon and he and Robin fight their way through the bad guys, only to discover that the whole episode was fabricated by Ra's Al Ghul. It turns out that Talia is in love with Batman and her father was testing him for the role of son-in-law and successor!

PE: Here's a legendary story, one that is constantly picked for "Best of" lists and one that mostly lives up to the hype. Having never read this era of Batman and Detective (my first Batman comic book was purchased in 1974 if I recall correctly), my only exposure to Ra's Al Ghul is from Liam Neeson's excellent portrayal in Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins. I've no idea at this point who or what this villain is. I loved the punchline delivered in the final panel. That wasn't one I saw coming. O'Neil also had me fooled as to the identity of the man behind the kidnappings. When Ra's tells Batman that Talia is his daughter, Batman is surprised even though Talia herself told him this information (back in Detective #411). No back-up feature this issue. Just 22 pages of solid storytelling and the usual awe-inspiring Neal Adams art. This is more like it.

Jack: This is some of the best Adams/Giordano art yet in this series, right up there with the work Adams did in Brave and the Bold 93. The story is exciting and very adult in nature--no one would mistake this for a kiddie comic. I remember Ra's Al Ghul from the first time I read these back in the early 70s, but other than recalling some very cool covers I don't know the details of what's yet to come.

PE: Michael Eury, in his indispensable volume The Batcave Companion (which I'm sure I'll continue to rave about from time to time) says that "Daughter of the Demon" is "surely the seminal Batman story of the 1970s." While I agree with his comment that it "stands as one of O'Neil, Adams, and Giordano's best efforts," I can't go along with it being the Batman story of the 1970s. Of course, Michael Eury is one of the preeminent Batman-ologists in the world and I'm not one to argue with an expert but I'd say the seminal Batman story of the 1970s would have to be "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (Batman #251, September 1973), a story so obviously influential to the generation of comic writers and artists that followed.

Jack: I have to admit I don't remember the Joker story from almost 40 years ago, so now you really have me looking forward to it!

PE: Also in The Batcave Companion, it's revealed that the two-page origins of Batman and Robin that appear in this issue were done at the request of Neal Adams because he'd never drawn The Dark Knight's origin before. It does seem strange that half-way through the adventure, Batman pauses to contemplate his origin and that of Dick's but because it's Adams's art, we all just smile.

Jack: Especially nice is the panel at left, which sure looks like a swipe from an early Batman tale, though I can't figure out which one!

Now THAT'S no Don Heck heroine!

This ad may look corny, but take a closer look. It's
early 1971 and here's a comic book ad addressed
to military men. I can imagine these comics were
shipped in bulk to military bases here and overseas,
and young G.I.s read them and would happen upon
this page and think about a girl for whom they'd
like to buy a diamond. Kind of sad!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Robert Bloch on TV Part Eleven-The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "Annabel"

by Jack Seabrook

Alfred Hitchcock Presents expanded to an hour in the fall of 1962, after seven seasons as a half-hour program. Rechristened The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, it relied more on novels than on short stories as the source for its programs. For his first hour-length effort for the Hitchcock series, Robert Bloch adopted Patricia Highsmith’s 1960 novel, This Sweet Sickness, as the episode titled “Annabel.” The teleplay streamlines the story and makes significant changes, including an ending that was much more Bloch than Highsmith.

The book is a story of psychological suspense that concerns David Kelsey, a young man with an obsessive love for Annabelle, a beautiful woman with whom he had been in love prior to her marriage to Gerald Delaney. Highsmith writes that “David Kelsey had an invincible conviction that life was going to work out all right for him.” He lives at Mrs. McCartney’s boarding house in Froudsburg, New York, and works at a chemical company, but he spends his weekends at a house he has purchased near Ballard, New York. This  is where he lives out a fantasy life as William Neumeister, pretending to share the house with Annabelle. 

David‘s closest friend is Wes Carmichael, and they both befriend Effie, a young woman who is attracted to David. David repeatedly writes to Annabelle, who rarely responds. He is shocked to get a letter from her with news that she has had a baby. He goes to her house and confronts her husband. As time goes by, David continues to pester Annabelle with letters and telephone calls, refusing to accept that she is now married and has a child. One day, Gerald shows up at David’s weekend home. They have an altercation and David punches Gerald; Gerald falls and hits his head on the front step. David puts him in his car before realizing he is dead.

David, as William Neumeister, tells the police that Gerald was a stranger who threatened him and died accidentally. David learns that Gerald had first sought him out at the boarding house and that Effie had directed him to David’s weekend house. David continues to lie to his friends about his second identity. He packs up his weekend house belongings in order to sell the place. The police seek William Neumeister because Annabelle wants to speak to him about the accident. David visits Annabelle at her home in Hartford, Connecticut, but she will not go away with him.

Dean Stockwell as David
David’s alter ego begins to unravel as Effie figures out the truth. Annabelle has lunch with David and encourages him to date Effie; he instead proposes marriage to Annabelle. Effie begins to lie to the police to help David maintain his cover story regarding Gerald’s accident and the Neumeister identity. David is determined to keep the truth from Annabelle, thinking that she would blame him for Gerald’s death if she knew what really happened.

Annabelle soon takes up with a new man named Grant Barber. David still refuses to admit the truth and continues to pursue her. When she tells him that they cannot even be friends and should stop seeing each other he vomits, but eventually he rationalizes the situation to himself. He again goes to Annabelle’s home but this time is thrown out by Grant. His job performance begins to suffer and he soon discovers that Annabelle has married Grant. Wes and Effie visit David in a new house he has bought for himself and Annabelle. The dinner party devolves into disaster—Wes leaves and David begins to hallucinate, mistaking Effie for Annabelle and throwing her to the floor.

David goes on the run and learns from a newspaper that Effie is dead and that he is wanted for her murder. Believing that he is a failure and Neumeister a success, he disappears further into his alter ego, imagining that Annabelle is with him. He goes to Manhattan with his imaginary companion and orders dinner for two in an expensive restaurant. Unable to pay for it, he visits an old friend from college, Ed Greenhouse, whose wife summons the police. David climbs out of the window of Ed’s apartment onto a ledge, nine stories above the street. Police and firemen try to save him but, thinking Annabelle is beckoning to him from the crowd below, David steps off the ledge and falls to his death.

Patricia Highsmith, the author of This Sweet Sickness, lived from 1921 to 1995 and has been the subject of at least three biographies and a fair amount of literary criticism. In the 1940s she wrote for comic books, and her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950. The film adaptation of that book is considered to be one of Alfred Hitchcock’s finest works. Her 1955 novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, has also been adapted for film twice.
Susan Oliver as Annabel
This Sweet Sickness was published in 1960 and quickly adapted for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour in 1962. A summary of the episode is necessary to form the basis for a discussion of the changes made to the novel. In the televised version of the story, David drives to the house he keeps as William Newmaster (note the spelling change from the book) and telephones Annabel (another spelling change), who tells him not to call her anymore. Gerald tells Annabel that David will have to accept the fact that Annabel is a married woman.

Linda (not Effie) visits the apartment that David shares with Wes. She is smitten with David, and Wes tells her that his roommate spends weekends visiting his father in the country. David visits Annabel at home and Gerald confronts him; David leaves but does not accept the reality of the situation.

At the office, Linda learns from David’s personnel file that his parents are dead. She waits in her car outside his apartment, follows him to his house in Ballad, peeks in the window and sees Annabel’s clothing laid out on the bed.

David calls Annabel again, frustrating Gerald, who goes to David’s apartment looking for him. Linda provides him with David’s address in Ballard, claiming that it’s his father’s home (though she knows his father is dead). David is at the house, imagining he is dining with Annabel, when Gerald arrives. Gerald barges in, telling David to stay away from Annabel. Gerald pulls a gun. When he tries to take Annabel’s picture from the mantle, David grabs him from behind and throws him to the floor, where he hits his head on the fireplace stones. While Gerald is groggy from the fall, David grabs him and bashes his head into the stones repeatedly.
Kathleen Nolan as Linda

David reports the accident to the police, pretending to be Newmaster, then sends a telegram to Annabel, telling her to come to the address in Ballard for some important information about her husband’s accident. She arrives that evening only to encounter David, who takes her inside. She quickly determines that the house belongs to David and that he and Newmaster are the same person. She tells him that she never loved him and he snaps, accusing her of being an impostor and strangling her in the bedroom.

Linda hears of Gerald’s death on the radio and rushes to David’s house. He lets her in and she questions him about Gerald. When he lies to her she confronts him and he admits that he is Newmaster. He tells Linda that he wants her to meet Annabel and takes her into the bedroom, where he has laid Annabel on the bed, her neck obviously broken. David’s calm demeanor and the sight of the corpse horrify Linda, who tries to run. David stops her and starts to strangle her, but he is distracted when he seems to hear Annabel calling him from the next room. He forgets about Linda and joins Annabel in the bedroom, holding her hand and talking to her about their future as police sirens approach.

While Bloch retained many of the details of the novel when he adapted it for television, the change in focus could not be more significant. Highsmith’s novel is a harrowing tale of psychological suspense told in a subtle manner, while Bloch’s teleplay is a simple, linear horror story that ends in a nightmare. Gone is the dichotomy between the warm, supportive family of the boarding house where David lives during the week and the cold, empty house he inhabits on weekends; in its place is a barely sketched out relationship with Wes in an apartment. Instead of the irony of the weekend visits to mother, a clear reference to one of Annabel’s functions in David’s life, he is said to visit his father.
David murders Annabel

The character of Effie, so tragic and vulnerable in the novel, is replaced by that of Linda, who quickly shifts from adoring potential girlfriend to betrayer when she gives Gerald the location of David’s house in the country. In the novel, Effie goes out of her way to protect David, even when she suspects he is a liar. In the teleplay, Linda snoops on him and eventually turns him in to the police after seeing Annabel’s dead body.

And what of Annabel herself? The David of the novel would never intentionally harm Annabelle, the love of his life. In fact, the novel ends with David stepping off of a high ledge, nine stories above the street, because he thinks he sees Annabelle in the crowd below, looking up at him. It is truly shocking when David murders Annabel in the teleplay, since this is so utterly in contrast with the thrust of the novel. Bloch took Highsmith’s story and removed the subtlety, replacing it with shock.

The conclusion of the teleplay is very disturbing, as the lyrical theme music plays while Linda accompanies David into his bedroom, where he introduces her to Annabel. While David is living in a fantasy realm at this point, speaking as if Annabel were alive, Linda sees the true crime set out before her, in a horrible medium long shot of Annabel’s disfigured body lying on the bed. Up to this point, the program had been vaguely uncomfortable, mostly due to the odd behavior of David and his violent murder of Gerald. It is the shots of Annabel as a corpse that really jar the viewer and make this a classic of TV horror.
Henry Brandt as Gerald

The murder of Gerald is also anything but subtle. In the novel, Gerald’s death is an accident, since he falls and hits his head on a step after David punches him. In the teleplay, a similar accident occurs, but the fall and blow to the head do not kill Gerald—it is David’s act of grabbing his head and bashing it into the stones that finishes off his rival.

Why did Robert Bloch make such significant changes to This Sweet Sickness? Perhaps he was under time pressure to provide a script and had to simplify the complex story for what was essentially a 45 minute TV play. It is surprising that the censors in 1962 allowed the shots of the dead Annabel on the bed, since they are brightly lighted and gruesome. It seems fair to say that “Annabel” is more Robert Bloch than Patricia Highsmith, with the violent deaths of two major characters and, especially, the concluding scenes where a corpse is treated as if it were a living, breathing woman capable of returning love.

“Annabel” was directed by Paul Henried, the actor turned director who directed 28 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and only one episode (this one) of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. His work on “Annabel” is outstanding, drawing a haunting performance from Dean Stockwell (whom he had also directed in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “The Landlady”) and using fluid camerawork and occasional odd angles and high contrast lighting to suggest David’s inner turmoil. Another highlight of this episode is the lyrical score by Lyn Murray, which makes great use of woodwinds, strings and what sounds like a harpsichord to highlight the strange moods of David Kelsey and the weird and troubling events that follow him. The final scene in David’s house features strangely calm music that fits perfectly with David’s inappropriate affect. Murray lived from 1909 to 1989 and scored Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief (1955) as well as 35 episodes of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.
Lighting and camera angle express David's inner turmoil

David is played by Dean Stockwell, who also starred in “The Landlady.” His long career in movies and television has been well documented. Playing Annabel is Susan Oliver, who was arguably one of the most radiant actresses in 1960s television. Oliver was born Charlotte Gercke in 1932, and appeared on episodes of numerous TV shows and in movies from 1956 to 1988. Her appearances on The Twilight Zone (“People Are Alike All Over”), Thriller (“Choose a Victim”), and Star Trek (“The Menagerie”) cemented her place as one of the most beautiful actresses of her day on television.

In The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion, Henry Brandt, who played Gerald in the TV program, recalls that this episode was originally filmed with leads other than Stockwell and Oliver and then re-filmed with the actor and actress seen in the televised version. No explanation is given other than that the original stars’ performances were not successful.

Rounding out the cast were Gary Cockrell as Wes and Kathleen Nolan as Linda. Nolan was born in 1933 and has been acting on TV and in movies since the early 1950s.

“Annabel” was broadcast on CBS, where The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was shown at 10 p.m. on Thursdays. The series had returned to CBS after the half-hour Alfred Hitchcock Presents had moved to NBC for the last two seasons of its seven-year run.

This Sweet Sickness was adapted a second time in 1977 as the French film Dites-lui qui je l’aime (literally translated as "Tell Him Who I Love"), starring Gerard Depardieu. The novel is easy to find online in paperback and is well worth reading. “Annabel” can be seen on YouTube in an excellent print that is much clearer (and five minutes longer) than the version available on DVD online, which has been recorded from a badly edited presentation on the Hallmark Channel.


"Annabel." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. CBS. 1 Nov. 1962. Television.
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. Churchville, MD: OTR Pub., 2001. Print.
Highsmith, Patricia. This Sweet Sickness. 1960. London: Bloomsbury, 2005. Print.
IMDb. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <>.
Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 19 Mar. 2012. <>.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 10: March and April 1971

by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

Batman #230 (March 1971)                                                      

"Take-Over of Paradise!"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano

Batman breaks up a fight in the slums among juvenile delinquents and talks them into forming the Brave Barons, a gang dedicated to positive change. Soon after, the Barons occupy a new high-rise and threaten to blow it up if the city doesn't provide low-cost housing. There is a standoff with the fuzz until the Barons announce that they will only speak to Batman. Two of the Barons, Rap and Shades, get into a fight, leaving Rap dead. Shades tells the rest of the gang to evacuate the building before he blows it up. Batman finds Shades and saves the day, revealing that the real killer of Rap was Kitten, a female gang member who wanted to be the new leader.

Jack: What a strange time 1971 was! At eight, I was too young to grasp what was going on. It must have been difficult for comic book creators to try to keep up. Witness this mess of a story about the Brave Barons, with members named Rap, Shades, Mouse and Kitten. The slang flies freely and even Batman gets into the act, wondering why his "awesome rep" did not intimidate gang members.

PE: Ye-ah, Jack! I'm looking at my notes right now and the word MESS is underlined and in caps! I've never seen so much seesawing between good and bad in characters. Why would Batman work with such losers in the first place? Worse, The Caped Crusader is hit with a case of "whiney baby" and has to have Alfred snap him out of it. The climax and unmasking of the real killer is confused and a cheat. I certainly hope Robbins's writing gets better as we're stuck with him into 1974. We all know what an awful artist he was and we're going to get a heaping helping of that later this year. "Take-Over of Paradise" is bottom of the barrel schlock.

Jack: I remember many (if not most) of the covers of these comics, but I don't recall this one. What a striking cover by Neal Adams, with the giant Batman figure towering over the motorcycle gang of black militants. It's too bad the story did not have anything to do with the cover. The Brave Barons are all white, with the possible exception of Rap, who looks like a white character that someone colored a strange, bronze hue.

"Danger Comes A-Looking!"

Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano

After Robin is ambushed and beaten by campus jocks, he works to track down the identity of a campus bomber. He breaks up a fight between jocks and militants but is unable to prevent Hank Osher, one of the radicals, from being blown to bits in his VW bug. 

Jack: This story follows one in World's Finest #200, where Robin teamed up with Superman. Having not read that story, I have to pick it up in the middle. As in this issue's lead feature, there is a lot of tension in the air and a lot of slang being tossed around. This is another Robin story that is too short to be effective, and the Novick art looks rushed.

PE: Does every Robin solo story begin with the Boy Wonder being beaten up or am I just imagining it? As I've noted so many times before in other strips, the supporting characters must be the stupidest people on earth. Robin gets ambushed. Next day, Dick Grayson shows up to class with a face like a road map. And then there are those two panels where Dick resembles an anorexic playboy with purple scarf (does he want to be Bruce by day a la Robin's hero worship of Batman by night?). I read both stories this issue while flying over the Atlantic. I'm not sure if it was the bad food or the two rotten comic stories I read that made me ill. Who can I sue?

Detective #409 (March 1971)

"Man in the Eternal Mask!"

Story by Frank Robbins

Art by Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia

Someone is knifing the paintings of the great Rene le Clerq. When the latest casualty is the portrait le Clerq has painted of Batman, the Caped Crusader takes time out from real crime fighting to track down a portrait killer. In the end, it's a crazed football player, Tracy Calhoun, who's responsible for the thumbs-down critical commentary. Disfigured in a car accident after leaving a sitting for the painter, Calhoun is supposedly saved and given plastic surgery to restore his shattered face. For some reason, his facial surgery doesn't take and he's forced to wear a very lifelike mask for the rest of his days. Calhoun tricks le Clerq into visting the athlete at his estate and is about to slash the artist when Batman arrives in time to save le Clerq's life and lower the boom (actually Tracy's portrait) on the madman.

PE: How does The Dark Knight make his cape stand on end while he poses for painter Le Clerq? Great trick! And does Batman call on the painter in between crime fighting? Where would he find the time to sit for an elaborate painting? Another disaster from panel one. Bad art. We're back to interchangeable Bob Brown supporting characters. Everyone looks alike save a blonde wig or black mustache. Dreadful dialogue. Le Clerq's wife tells Batman that her husband ran off in the night when he heard "his client's bombshell announcement that another of Rene's portraits was vandalized tonight..." Does anyone really use the phrase "bombshell announcement," let alone an old woman in curlers? Mothball plotline. It's the football player in the study with an icepick. This is the kind of 1970s story that 1960s Batman fans would bring up in a debate of merits.

Jack: Gotham City has a Hall of Fame where portraits of past and present celebrities are displayed? Weird! This is a dopey revenge story with mediocre art. Of course, the big reveal of the bad guy looks pathetic next to the Adams cover scene. Note that in early 1971 it was not a good idea to stand anywhere near a portrait in a heavy frame hanging on a wall--the bad guy is done in by one here, just as another bad guy was done in in The Brave and the Bold 93 (January 1971). There, it was supernatural; here, it's because the baddie mistakenly slashed the rope holding up the portrait.

"Night of the Sharp Horns"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck and Dick Giordano

Batgirl is still investigating the slaughter of one of the bulls especially picked by matador El Granados for his upcoming fight. 

Jack: Smooth art and a coherent story make this better than part one. Heck is no Gil Kane, but Giordano's inks make his Batgirl bearable, and certainly better than the Brown/Giacoia art in the Batman story this issue.

PE: Hard to believe this is the same Don Heck who was barely staying above the average mark on The Avengers and Iron Man (Tales of Suspense). It's got to be Giordano's influence that escalates Don here. This strip (as opposed to the dreadful Robin back-up in Batman) reaches the level it's supposed to achieve: a decent space-waster, no less and no more. But I don't buy that very little girl-ish "Eeeeek" that Batgirl squeaks when confronted by the mysterious matador and his big pet. And can we all agree that the nickname "Babs" should be relegated to the Comic Dustbin?

Detective #410 (April 1971)

"A Vow From the Grave"
Story by Denny O'Neil
Art by Neal Adams and Dick Giordano

While tracking Kano Wiggins, an escaped Death Row inmate, Batman must investigate a murder among a group of carnival "freaks." Was the murder committed by Wiggins or one of the freaks? Batman must put on his detective cap to find out.

Jack: I remember this cover and story very well, since the boy with the flippers was such a shock. On rereading it, I found this story to be very moving, and I think the "freak" aspect was handled with sensitivity. The art by Adams is very strong and, for once, the cover accurately portrays a scene from the story inside. For me, this is easily the best story of these two months.

PE: The panel of Batman looking up at the giant is priceless. Adams perfectly conveys the dwarfing of Batman with almost a subtle humor. Speaking of humor, how about the three panel siege on Wiggins's van? We've only got so much room for representative art on this blog and I could argue any panel in this issue warrants a look.  I've a feeling we're going to run out of adjectives for Neal Adams. But let's not forget the writer, Denny O'Neil, when we're handing out compliments. In an interview with the writer in the indispensable The Batcave Companion by Michael Eury and Michael Kronenberg (Twomorrows),  O'Neil offers this story up as a great example of how he and Neal Adams worked so well together. I think "A Vow From the Grave" influenced Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson when it came time to send Swamp Thing on a road tour through the back alleys and bayous of hell. Can't you see Swampy stumbling across Flippy and Goliath between hunchbacks and werewolves? A fabulous story!

"Battle of the Three M's"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck and Dick Giordano

When a fashion diva breaks her leg on the ski slopes, the accident puts into motion a domino effect in the dress industry. The underworld becomes involved in the big business of Maxi-, Mini-, and Midi-skirts. On a hunch based on checked-in library books, Batgirl discovers that one of the industry's top designers is in danger. While investigating, she's captured and sized up not for a suit but as a suit. To be continued.

Jack: Not being a dedicated follower of fashion, I really don't care about the mini/midi/maxi debate. However, the last panel did bring back fond memories of the Batman TV show!

PE: A fourth "M" would stand for "mediocrity." I would've loved to see what readers of 1971 thought of this dopey nonsense, but unfortunately the letters page (in #414) was filled with praise (and one nay vote) for the lead-in. I'm not sure what's more amazing: that writer Frank Robbins thought a mystery involving the mob's involvement in fashion would be just the ticket for comic fans or that the women of 1971 would stand in line at their local department store for a "Medieval Maxi-skirt." Well, hey, we got that incredible opening act. We couldn't exactly expect a dazzling double bill, could we?

A nice house ad by Sergio Aragones.

PE: On a personal note, that DC Special, "The Monsters are Coming Here" was the first DC "mystery" book I ever got. It was in a stack of comics (Marvel and DC) that a friend gave me when I was eleven years old. That DC Special ("64 pages of Creeping Creatures"), comprised of six House of Mystery reprints scared the crap out of me (in particular Bob Haney & Jack Sparling's "The House of Gargoyles"). It was one of DC's early experiments with a larger size. We'll see more experimenting with size very soon.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 9: January and February 1971

by Peter Enfantino
& Jack Seabrook

The Brave and the Bold #93 (January 1971)

"Red Water Crimson Death"

Story by Denny O'Neil

Art by Neal Adams

Worn out from crimefighting, Batman boards an ocean liner bound for Ireland to take a rest. During the crossing, he saves a young boy named Sean when he is swept overboard in a storm. Bruce Wayne is welcomed by Sean's uncle on the Aran Islands, but late at night the boy walks out and Batman follows. He learns of strange goings-on at the Castle of King Hugh, dead three centuries. Batman follows Sean into the castle and breaks up a gang of crooks who have been scaring the locals in order to gain fishing rights. He is nearly poisoned and shot by the boss, but a heavy, framed portrait of King Hugh falls off the wall at just the right moment, killing the boss and allowing Batman and Sean to escape with their lives.

Jack: I wanted to start this month's post with this Batman story from The Brave and the Bold because it is the first solo Batman story of the 1970s not to appear in Batman or Detective, and because it is the first Batman story drawn by Neal Adams outside of those titles. In addition, it is the first full-length Batman story by Adams, who appears to have done the pencilling and inking himself. The artwork is gorgeous, and it is probably the best Batman story I've read in this series to date.

PE: Good catch on this one, Jack. It's a very odd story in several ways. "Red Water Crimson Death" is a solo story in an otherwise team-up book. I have to believe this was a standard Batman story to run at some time in either Batman or Detective and, for whatever reason, was rewritten with several appearances of Cain, the House of Mystery mascot, overseeing and commenting on the proceedings. Bats never even sets foot in The House of Mystery. The supernatural element was not a taboo in the regular Batman titles (witness "The Secret of the Waiting Graves," the very first story we covered in this column, among others) so maybe a gap needed to be filled in the Brave and the Bold title. This was Neal Adams's final Batman story to appear in BatB (with the exception of 8 penciled pages in #102, July 1972). "The Angel, The Rock and The Cowl," co-starring Sgt. Rock (in issue #84, June 1969) is my personal favorite of the 9 stories he did for BatB. "Red Water" has some jaw-dropping art and some nice twists. You're not really sure until the climax if Bats is teaming with an otherworldly force or Scooby-Doo.

Jack: I am also fond of this story because it takes place on one of the Aran Islands, which I have visited twice. If there was ever a more haunting place to set a Batman tale, I'd like to know about t! The story is narrated by Cain, the narrator of stories in DC's The House of Mystery title. Although the House of Mystery is usually said to be located in Kentucky, Cain explains that a castle is a a house, and this is a mystery, so it's the house of mystery! The story can be read online here.

Detective Comics #407 (January 1971)

"Marriage: Impossible"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano

Reading the paper one evening, Batman is surprised to see a wedding announcement for Kurt Langstrom (aka Man-Bat) and his long-time fiance, Francine. Quickly, The Dark Knight races to the church to be the lone dissenter. Once he's broken up the vows and chased Langstrom away, Batman is astonished to find that Francine is a willing participant in this marriage from Hell. She loves Kurt and will do anything to be with him. Batman soon finds out exactly how far the woman will go when she unmasks and reveals that she's taken the same formula as Dr. Langstrom and become Woman-Bat! Knowing he can't leave the two alone in their present condition, Batman forces the antidote on Kurt and Francine and they once again become human. The Caped Crusader can now leave the honeymooners to their future plans.

Adams? or Robbins?
PE: The way this one opened, I was sure it was a "dream" story but, nope, Frank Robbins is serious. The story's not told in a linear fashion (and it features a three page flashback sequence!) and is seriously confusing. I found it hard to keep track of. When, for instance, did Kurt administer the formula to Francine? Before or after the wedding? Tough to tell. The entire story seems to be told as a flashback at times. The unmasking of Francine is a nice shocker, right out of the blue. I'm at odds about Batman forcing the antidote on the newlyweds. If this is the way they want to live, shouldn't he respect that and leave them be? How is it Batman's place to decide whether the couple is truly happy? Yeah, they're uglier than hell but why should he be the moral compass here? "Marriage: Impossible," by the way, is a silly title but it's much better than the cover-advertised "Bride of the Man-Bat." As with most "permanent cures" in comics, this serum doesn't last and we'll encounter Man-Bat again before the end of 1971.

Jack: Robbins must have known he was onto something with Man-Bat, since this is the third story to feature him in less than a year. The constant "skreek!"ing is annoying! Adams's art looks hurried throughout most of the story, and there is one big shot of Man-Bat that almost looks like the work of (Gulp!) Frank Robbins!

"One of Our Landmarks is Missing!"

written by Frank Robbins
art by Gil Kane & Vince Colletta

Batgirl manages to get herself out of the booby-trapped room she was enclosed in last issue. Once free, she stops hippie bomber Mal's plan to blow up a Gotham landmark. Helping her in her cause is dopey hippie-chick Shelley, who comes out of her 1960s-induced coma just in time to join the human race.

PE: Man, will I be glad when writer Frank Robbins (who was 53 years old by 1971) realizes that the Summer of Love was now four years in the past. Blame Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, I guess. I'd never read any of the back-ups in Batman or Detective before so have no idea if this whole "Campus Aflame with Rebelling Hippie Teens" cycle of stories ends soon. Cross your fingers. A synopsis and critical commentary on "One of Our Landmarks is Missing!" would run longer than the story itself. It reads like a thumbnail sketch for a longer story. Back-ups aren't known for their characterizations or advancement of mythology, but these Batgirl stories are not worth reading but for their gorgeous Kane/Colletta art. I'm not one given to fanboy droolings such as "Ooh, that Jean Grey is such a babe!" but Kane sure could draw a woman's behind so's you'd notice!

Jack: Oddly enough, I selected the panel reproduced here before I read your comment, Peter, so we're clearly on the same wavelength.

PE: I love that Julius Schwartz has the balls (or good sense) to print letters that don't always tow the party line. Yeah, I know Stan would do it from time to time but most of the letters columns we've been through over at Marvel University have been taken up with "Gee willickers, I love The Human Torch, can ya give him and Medusa their own title?" rather than something along the lines of the letter from Clem Robins of Sheffield, Mass., who, to be fair, raves and raves about some really bad Batman stories we've discussed in the last few weeks but also writes the following damning praise:
Witness Detective #403's "You Die By Mourning." Its plot synopsis could've been developed into a mutilated mess by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown, and Frank Giacoia. All three do, or have done, work for other magazines, and all have given me reasons to despise them. But, to me, it's obvious that Detective is their vacation... where Brown puts away his Eisner swipes, Frank Giacoia takes his time, and Frank Robbins throws away his Lorenzo Semple book of cliches.
Brilliant, Clem! We also get missives from future book designer and comic historian Arlen Schumer.

Batman #228 (January-February 1971)

"Outlaw Town, USA!" (originally from Batman #75, Feb-March 1953)
Story by David V. Reed. Art by Dick Sprang.

"The Living Bat-Plane!" (originally from Batman #91, April 1955)
Story by Edmond Hamilton. Art by Dick Sprang.

"The Duplicate Batman!" (originally from Batman #83, April 1954)
Story by David V. Reed. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.

"The Gotham City Safari" (originally from Batman #111, October 1957)
Story by Bill Finger. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.

"Prisoners of the Bat-Cave" (originally from Batman #108, June 1957)
Story by unknown. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.

"The Doors That Hid Disaster" (originally from Detective Comics #238, December 1956)
Story by Dave Wood. Art by Sheldon Moldoff.

PE: The fact that there are two Batman comics cover-dated February must have played hell with collectors in the early 1970s. Why wouldn't DC print January on the cover (it's listed as Jan-Feb on the contents page)?  Thanks to the DC Comics Database for credits on these old-timers. I'd forgotten that science fiction writer Edmond Hamilton had written Superman and Batman comics for twenty years. These 64-page monsters must have been like a Christmas present under the tree for Batman fans in the early days of 1971. Imagine a world with no comic stores, no eBay, no Mile High, only those back issue dealers that advertised in the back pages of your favorite titles. And how could you be sure you'd get those ten issues of JLA for your three bucks plus forty cents postage? These reprint volumes were pert near the only way to enjoy the past decades of Batman unless you were around to buy the originals.

Jack: I especially love the covers of these Giant Batman all-reprint issues. This time, Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson pick highlight scenes from several of the stories and arrange them in a way that made this 25-cent treasure trove irresistible on the newsstand. I thought the last story was the best, as Batman and Robin are plunged into traps from prior stories but must find new ways to escape. Sadly, unlike the two Giant Batman issues from 1970, this collection does not feature a series of Sunday page reprints.

Detective Comics #408 (February 1971)

"The House That Haunted Batman"

Story by Len Wein & Marv Wolfman
Art by Neal Adams & Dick Giordano

Batman attempts to find the missing Robin while seemingly trapped in an unending series of hallucinations. The startling dreams turn out to be the work of the evil Dr. Tzin-Tzin (last seen in Detective Comics #354, thankfully outside our purview), now working for the League of Assassins. Tzin(x2) has crafted an elaborate doom for Batman and Robin but The Dark Knight proves too crafty for the maniacal genius and soon converts his new play toy into rubble. Tzin has another ace up his sleeve as he introduces Batman to his own league of assassins, "The Deadly Dozen," only to watch our hero bowl the lot over in a couple minutes' time. Batman and Robin handcuff the villain and set off to surrender him to the authorities but Tzin-Tzin mysteriously disappears, detonating The House That Haunted Batman behind them.

PE: Tzin-Tzin subscribes to the 1966 TV series motto of "Why kill them outright when you can make it last?" The evil villain's gizmo, The Human Accelerator, is charmingly ludicrous and, ostensibly, good for a one-time use only. Batman and Robin are trapped within giant test tubes and are bounced up and down. When the count reaches 100 (as indicated by the giant digital number displays at the feet of the tubes), the bomb within the tube will be detonated and - *boom* - no more Caped Crusaders. But Batman, no mental slouch, gets to 99, jams himself up at the top of the tube and drops his utility belt, thus igniting what must have been a couple of firecrackers rather than a legitimate bomb, and he is released with nary a scratch. Never mind the expense and time it costs to build an elaborate weapon such as The Human Accelerator, shouldn't you at least make sure it will blow up its captives rather than singe their eyebrows? The League of Assassins (who are sizing up to be The League of Dimwits) will want their down payment back. Then, once his gizmo has been destroyed, Tzin-Tzin corners Bats with a pistol! Holy Last Measures! I'd like to be an evil genius with Batman helpless before me. The job would get done! This is the first story featuring The Dark Knight written by Marv Wolfman, who would become the regular on Batman in the late eighties (#436-451) but, more importantly, became one of the most widely-regarded and, for me, one of the most entertaining comic writers on the planet. His resume became my shopping list: Tomb of Dracula, Night Force, Werewolf By Night, Vigilante, The Avengers, Daredevil, need I go on?

Jack: Don't forget that this was co-written by Len Wein! It almost seemed like two stories glued together. The first part, where Batman wanders in the dark and suffers from hallucinations that include a psychotic Robin and his own funeral, is very entertaining and weird. Then, suddenly, the story turns into another lame League of Assassins entry. Not fair! The Adams art is better than that of last issue, especially in the opening sequences, but it is not at the level we saw in some of the 1970 books.

"The Phantom Bullfighter"

Story by Frank Robbins
Art by Don Heck & Dick Giordano

Barbara Gordon heads to Spain to acquire a rare manuscript donated to her library by Don Alvarado. While enjoying a spot of bull-fighting with Alvarado at the Plaza del Toros, she witnesses a near fatal mistake by a master matador. A young man jumps into the ring, seeking a moment of glory, but is rebuffed by the matador. The next night, one of the bulls picked by the matador for his next match is found dead. Barbara Gordon enlists the help of Batgirl to get to the bottom of the mystery.

PE: Quite a jolt to discover Gil Kane has left the strip after a twenty-issue run (to begin his landmark run on The Amazing Spider-Man), leaving the art reins to an unusual choice, Don Heck. Those wondering if we have the same views on Heck as Harlan Ellison need only jump over to our sister blog, Marvel University, to know we feel the same about Heck as we do about any other comic artist: he had his good days and he had his bad. Here, Don is at his best, thanks to a big assist from Dick Giordano. Several spots here look almost as good as Adams. Of course, Don's Barbara Gordon very much resembles Don's Black Widow. It's a decent story but it's got one of the most abrupt finales to a comic story I've yet seen. I realize that the back-ups in Detective and Batman are really longer stories chopped in 7-page chunks, but the final panel of "The Phantom Bullfighter" ends, not with a cliffhanger but more of a pause.

Jack: I was not as impressed with Heck's art as you were. In fact, I was crushed that Gil Kane left the strip. It was also more than a bit dull to spend most of the story following Barbara Gordon as she attends a bullfight. Once again, I am confused by the difference in hair style and length between Babs and Batgirl. On TV, she obviously put on a wig, but in prior stories her hair went from long and straight to mid-length and wavy. Yet, in Heck's debut, it is long and straight in both guises. What gives?

Batman #229 (February 1971)

"Asylum of the Futurians!"

Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick & Frank Giacoia

Midnight, on a country road outside Gotham City. Batman happens upon Laura, wife of Stephen Grey, "famed photographer of psychic phenomena." She leads Batman to a strange house in the woods, where five men and a woman sup from empty plates and clap noiselessly to unheard music. When Stephen tells them that they are crazy, the female leader orders him killed. The group are the Futurians, who see what others cannot. Batman rushes to Grey's aid, fighting off gun-toting members of the group but failing to resist capture by their leader. He is sealed in a coffin  and thrown into a lake; he escapes, finally defeating the Futurians but unable to explain Stephen's telepathic call that had summoned him from his night patrol.

Once again, Batman finds himself
easily distracted.
PE: From its pseudo-science fiction trappings to its ambiguous, unsatisfying climax, this is the sort of story I would avoid like the plague in titles like Justice League of America and World's Finest. I like my Dark Knight served dark with mystery and the occasional horrific element rather than in rainbow swirls of fantasy and sf. The big surprise to me here is that this mess was written by one of the greatest of the  DC mainstays, Robert Kanigher, he of a multitude of Sgt. Rock and other great DC war stories (and don't forget his co-creation of The Metal Men, one of my childhood faves). This reads more like a fleshed-out fragment than a legitimate Batman story. I'll read a couple of installments of Kanigher's delightfully goofy "War That Time Forgot" series (published in DC's Star-Spangled War Stories) and the bad taste of "Asylum of the Futurians!" will be washed away in minutes.

Jack: I agree with you, Peter. I wrote the summary of this tale and I still don't know what the heck was going on! Once again, the cover has nothing to do with the story. In fact, it could be from a different story entirely!

"Temperature Boiling... And Rising!"

Story by Mike Friedrich
Art by Irv Novick & Frank Giacoia

With the election in jeopardy now that Prof. Stuart has been exposed as corrupt, Robin investigates and discovers that the incriminating photo was a fake, planted by the roommate of campus photographer Phil Real. The Boy Wonder confronts the culprit and the truth is exposed, allowing "Buck" Stuart to win the election to Congress and start cleaning up what's wrong with America.

PE: Another weak attempt at duplicating the success Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams were having over at Green Lantern/Green Arrow with injecting liberal doses of real-life social problems into the lives of their long underwear-clad characters. Here, each chapter comes off as the same thing: introduce an establishment-hating long hair (or, as here, a politician you can trust) and then frame him. Robin swoops in to save the day and make the world groovy again. It doesn't help that Robin is a weak character in the first place. The high point this issue is the obvious nod to The Amazing Spider-Man. Tribune editor Albertson is a J. Jonah Jameson ringer and Robin's parting comment that, if Albertson wants a free-lance photographer he should "look up a guy named Peter Parker," is a cute wink and nod to comic fans. Must be one of the earliest examples of cross-over between the two comic universes.

Jack: At least part two of this story made sense! I am glad Prof. Stuart went to Congress and fixed the problems in Washington. Imagine the mess we'd be in today if he hadn't!

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