Monday, July 19, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 32: August 1982

The Dark Knight in the 1980s
by Jack Seabrook &
Peter Enfantino

Colan & McLaughlin
Batman #350

"Nightmare in Crimson"
Story by Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga

Waking up from a nightmare and finding himself in the hospital, Robin gets dressed and races to the Batcave. Batman has just arrived back from his trip to California and notices that Robin is acting a bit odd, though the Dark Knight fails to notice Robin's red eyes. Meanwhile, Vicki Vale's publisher, Morton Monroe, pilfers her Batman file from her office desk just before she makes a date with Bruce Wayne for that evening.

Night falls and Bruce, Vicki, and Dick all attend a party at Dala's house. Bruce again notices Dick's weird behavior, so he snoops around, sees Dala leading a somnolent Dick outside, and changes into his Batman outfit. He ventures outside and is attacked by the vampire monk who manages to put the bite on him before Dick conks him on the head.

Peter: With that intriguing final panel (of Bats, with blood trickling from two wounds on his neck), it'll be hard for Gerry to write this off as a Scooby-Doo fake vampire saga. And hopefully he won't try. I like the DeZuniga inking as much as I liked Alcala's last issue; so nice to see my favorite DC hero given a solid sheen. There are a few pages devoted to the Vicki Vale subplot but, thankfully, the main story keeps Gerry from touching on the Gordon nonsense. Hopefully, we won't have to deal with that (and the Vale) too much into the future. 

Jack: I liked the art much better this issue than last issue. DeZuniga seems a better choice to ink Colan's pencils than Alcala (sorry, Peter!). The story is also more interesting and seems to flow more smoothly than last time. The subplots and distractions are kept to a minimum and Batman is more of the focus of his own book than Robin. I'm looking forward to reading the next installment in Detective!

"Those Lips, Those Eyes"
Story by Brice Jones
Art by Tony DeZuniga

Selina Kyle wakes up in a room she doesn't recognize and has blood on her clothes! In an adjoining room she finds a dead blonde in fishnets; a matchbook provides a clue. Realizing she resembles the dead woman, Selina switches to her Catwoman outfit and investigates, fighting dizziness and recalling fleeting images of herself being knocked out. She dresses up to resemble the dead girl and takes her place as a stripper in a go-go bar; she chases a cat burglar she saw outside the apartment but ends up at his mercy, clinging to a rooftop by her fingers!

Peter suddenly realizes why we love DC comics.

Peter: Tony DeZuniga's debut on the Catwoman back-up is not bad, though he lacks the style and pizazz of Von Eeden (the splash makes Selina look like Margot Kidder and the final page looks rushed). The story is confusing but hopefully will unfurl in the next chapter. Some nice PG-rated cheesecake but blame the cat burglar's entrance for avoiding the PG-13!

Jack: I thought DeZuniga's art on this strip was fantastic! Of course, that has nothing to do with all of the compromising positions he puts Selina in. Whew! Having Selina Kyle in a blonde wig and fishnets working at a strip club is a dream come true for any fan of pulps and old paperbacks. Not that I would like those things, you understand. I'm just trying to put myself in their shoes.

Colan & Giacoia
Detective Comics #517

"The Monster in the Mirror"
Story by Gerry Conway & Paul Levitz
Art by Gene Colan & Tony DeZuniga

Bitten by a vampire, Batman somehow becomes a blood-sucker himself without the effort of dying. He makes his way back to Wayne Manor and Alfred, startled by his employer's condition, hides the Dark Knight away while he can figure things out.

Just then, there's a knock on the door and Alfred finds a priest, Father Green from St. Jude's Hospital, waiting on the doorstep. The holy man explains that he knows there's a "troubled soul" inside the mansion now that Batman has been infected with vampirism. Alfred feigns ignorance but the priest relates the tale of plantation owner Louis Dubois and his sister. Shortly after the Civil War, DuBois was cursed by a witch after he mistreated his workers and he became a vampire. He bit his sister, infecting her as well. Meanwhile, ex-cop Jim Gordon and PI Jason Bard continue to investigate the crooked politics of Hamilton Hill and Batman claims his first victim as a full-fledged vampire. Dick Grayson picks up Vicki Vale at a party while Dala and her fanged brother watch from the shadows.

A very disappointing second chapter in this Dark Knight: Vampire saga. The DuBois origin is nothing new, borrowed piecemeal from so many other vampire/zombie/werewolf tales. The Bats-as-bloodsucker sequence at the end of the story left me giggling rather than what Gerry (ostensibly) had hoped my reaction might be. That is, unless Conway has his tongue planted firmly in cheek and this whole thing is a goof. If Father Green knew DuBois and sis were vampires, why wait so long to do anything about it? The Gordon/Vale stuff continues to be a waste of paper and I can't wait to be done with it. Ironically, the only subplot that I had cottoned to was the Dick/Dala affair, and that has already played itself out. Or has it?

The Gene/Tony work is still strong although Chance, Dick, and Bruce all seem to be the same person at times. Thank goodness Vicki calls Dick by name at the climax or I'd have thought Bruce was in two places at once. That finale is going to reveal something interesting at the onset of Batman #351 next month.

Jack: Are we reading the same comic? This was a blast! The multi-page flashback to the Civil War features the best Colan art we've seen in some time, though I was confused when Dubois was bitten by a snake and became a vampire. Huh? I liked seeing Batman put the bite on a crook but I don't see how Jason Bard is helping Commissioner Gordon, unless he's just there for moral support. And what's up with Christopher Chance? He's the Human Target, right? Is he going to sub in for Bruce or Bats to trick Vicki? Imagine so. The whole Bat Vampire story isn't totally cogent but it's a lot of fun.

"A Tale of Two Serpents!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

Transformed into a giant snake woman, Batgirl must use all her cognitive abilities at once to control her serpentine alter-ego. When she sees a local toxicologist, the man informs her that if he can lay his hands on a sample of Lady Viper's venom, then he can work up an antidote. Batgirl tracks the Queen of Serpents to her boxcar lair, where she surprises her new foe with her changing abilities. Lady Viper is knocked unconscious and Babs attains the venom she requires. Cured, Batgirl heads back to the boxcar to see to the snake woman but arrives just in time to see the giant revert to pure snake form. Lady Viper is no more!

Peter: This is the final chapter in what, with minor changes, could very easily have been filmed as a Bela Lugosi vehicle, directed by Ed Wood. A lot of these back-ups are dumb as dirt but the "Lady Viper" four-parter was also an enjoyable trip to Loonytown. I love how, once she's made the transformation from Snakegirl back to Batgirl, her leotards are ripped just enough not to show whether Babs is a natural redhead. The bare legs look is a good one. The art is just as awful as always, but it's appropriate, given the low-budget horror shenanigans going on. Jose Delbo seems incapable of anything resembling an interesting angle in his panels. Most everything is "shot" from straight ahead. His most intriguing take appears below, when Jose decides, craftily, that the reader doesn't need to see the characters' mouths when they talk. Sly that one!

Jack: This story arc ended too soon. Is it a coincidence that we have both Batman and Batgirl sporting fangs in the same issue and both were bitten by snakes? It was a cheat when all Batgirl had to do was concentrate in order to lose her serpent tail. The antidote worked awfully fast and the end was a letdown. I hope Lady Viper returns!

The Brave and the Bold #189

"A Grave as Wide as the World!
Part Two: Dead Men Tell No Tales!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jim Aparo

Searching for a clue as to who poisoned Loon Lake, Batman finds that David Phillips appears to have been killed in a car crash that landed him at the bottom of a bay. Batman dives under the water and finds a photo, sealed in plastic, of a young boy and his father saluting Der Fuhrer. Scuba divers attack the Dark Knight and Thorn swims to the rescue. In spite of that, the Bat-misogynist leaves Thorn behind and visits "famed Nazi hunter Leon Weiner," who identifies the Nazi in the photo as Martin Bormann, who is hiding out in South America.

It's off to Brazil for Bruce Wayne, on a plane also carrying Rose Forrest. Batman arrives in Rio de Janeiro and thwarts a plot to kill the president, carried out by crooks dressed as Batman and riding a float in the big Carnival. As a reward, Batman is loaned a plane to search the jungles for Bormann's hideout, which turns out not to be terribly hard to find, seeing that he erected an airfield with a replica of the Brandenburg Gate. Batman's plane is shot down and he has to make an emergency landing. David Phillips arrives on another plane (along with Rose) to deliver the canister of Inferno A to Bormann, his father. Thorn again pops out of nowhere to save Batman and the Nazi compound blows up. Batman drops the canister at the bottom of a river filled with piranhas.

Safe in the jungle, Batman hypnotizes Thorn to try to discover her secret identity, but she isn't giving it up.

Some detective! Try yanking off her wig.
Peter: First things first--I had to read the very first caption on the splash three times before I could make heads or tails of it: A moon as mad as the vandals who smashed tombstones and uprooted the dead at Gotham Cemetery glows at two who never should have met--but did! I'm not sure I was ever the same after that opening. Luckily, Big Bob serves up an entertaining reboot of The Boys from Brazil, stocked with evil Ratzis and their equally rotten offspring. I love that dopey climax. Hilariously, Batman thinks to himself at the beginning of the story that Thorn is entitled to her secrecy, then tries to take advantage of the girl by hypnotizing her and asking her who she really is! Blonde girl goes into the jungle, Thorn comes out. World's greatest detective, my Aunt Frannie. Worst Cover of the Year, hands down.

Jack: I love Jim Aparo, but I kept thinking that this story would've looked great if it had been drawn by Joe Kubert, Big Bob Kanigher throws in all of our favorite tropes from DC War Comics, including Nazis, scuba divers, and airplane battles. Kubert would've knocked this story out of the park. As it is, Bob has trouble finding logical reasons to fit in Rose and Thorn, and even I couldn't really understand what she was doing in the Brazilian jungle or how she got there. Still, the story moves fast and is fun if you park your brain at the door. I suspect we won't see any more of Thorn next issue.

Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

Sheffield decides to hold off on shooting Kingston and Nemesis escapes an explosion. Nemesis locates the room with all of the TV monitors and knocks out the people in it before destroying all of the equipment. Sheffield gets Kingston alone and kills him. Nemesis rescues Marjorie and takes her outside, where Valerie is still circling in a chopper. Brewster threatens Nemesis with a machine gun but is attacked by a lion, allowing the trio to escape by helicopter.

Jack: Less boring than usual but just as silly, this installment (seems like #1000) of the Nemesis saga gets the dubious distinction of being better than usual. Dan Spiegle's art is still not something I ever want to experience again, but at least there's plenty of action.

Peter: By emphasizing the action and ignoring the boring stuff like characterization and plot, Cary Burkett finally (after 24 long and deadly dull months) crafts an installment of Nemesis that I thoroughly enjoyed. Yep, I will echo Jack's sentiments that the art is just as hideous as ever but the Executioner/ Destroyer/men's adventure hero aspects of "Betrayal" are on the money.

Next Week...
Jack and Peter will discuss whether
a whole issue of Gonzalo Mayo
melty-things is a great idea or not!


John said...

I think this vampire-Batman saga was just the first attempt of Doug Moench in mixing supernatural stuff( Dracula, vampires, etc.) with Batman stories.
If you are interested in stories with this element I can recommend the much better-written Batman & Dracula trilogy he wrote in the 90's. It consists of 3 graphic novels: Batman & Dracula: Red Rain (1991), Bloodstorm (1994) and Crimson Mist (1998)
I think Moench had definitely been improved over the years and during the 90's was a much better writer.
Also, Dala Dubois and her brother are the villains in the Batman and the Mad Monk limited series, where we get their complete back-story by Matt Wagner.

andydecker said...

Sorry guys, I find the art in Batman mostly poor. Bruce and Dick look like brothers half the time. Bruce looks either overweigt or arthritic, the panel where he rattles the doorknob with both hands is laugh out loud and absurd.

Detective I liked better artwise, the best part is the origin flashback. Even if it has the same faults as Batman, why do Bruce and Dick look so alike? Shouldn't an editor have this redrawn? And Vicki Vale looks like a reject from a Doris Day movie. Horrible. The vampire story is rather generic, the usual Southern Gothic light, but okay.

The best are the covers. Yes, Batman has a generic vampire picture, but it has atmosphere, and Detective is funny.

Jones' Catwoman story is fun. I mean, it is truly dumb with a lot of hilarious WTF moments. Catwoman only realising this is a strip club on the stage is laughable, and where the hell does she hide her costume? Not only on the stage, but in the apartment too. She is abducted but not searched? Amateurs. The changing into the costume on the stage would have merited a whole page, though; a fun idea which should have needed more space.

I always have a hard time with stories relying too much on coincidences, and the Bat books seem to have become dependent on them. Catewoman getting abducted - again - is a groaner, but the vampire's priest running Robin down with his car and then knocking at Wayne Manor is as unbelievable as Alfred screaming like a banshee.

The Moench Dracula was an Elseworld product. Those always had more free room to explore ideas than the regular books.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, John! I haven't read the '90s Batman but look forward to it.

And thanks, Andy! I agree that this is not Colan at his best but I'm still enjoying the books. Except for Nemesis, of course.