Monday, September 28, 2020

The Warren Report Issue 43: June/July 1973

The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter

Eerie #48 (June 1973)

"The Son of Dracula"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Rich Buckler

"...And an End!"★1/2
Story by Steve Skeates
Art by Jaime Brocal

"Think of Me and I'll Be There!"★1/2
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Martin Salvador

"On a Stalking Moonlit Night!"
Story by Al Milgrom
Art by Rich Buckler & Bill DuBay

"The Resurrection Man"
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Paul Neary

"The Sacrifice"
Story by Esteban Maroto & Len Wein
Art by Esteban Maroto

Why did the old man put a hole through Dracula's chest with a shotgun? It all began years before, when another man had hunted Dracula and wounded him, causing the vampire to end up at the home of a gorgeous, blonde, often-naked, deaf-mute woman who ignored all the warning signs and took him in. She helped him heal and they fell in love; he was so smitten with her that he resisted the urge to bite her and found sustenance elsewhere. Things got so hot and heavy that they even made whoopee one night! The Count lived up to his rep as a love 'em and leave 'em kind of guy and spared her the terrible fate of his unholy thirst, instead returning to his castle. But she tracked him down and walked in on him munching on the neck of another young babe. Shocked, she fell from a parapet and, just before she died, local OB/GYN Dr. Acula delivered her baby: "The Son of Dracula." Guess who is responsible for that seemingly-fatal shotgun blast to Dracula's middle in the present?

This gal spends more time in the buff
than one of Esteban Maroto's models.
Hoo-boy, that was a lot to take in. First of all, is this going to be one of those cheats, where it wasn't wood or silver in the shotgun, so Drac's not really dead? Then, why is the beautiful deaf-mute widow always lounging around naked by an open window? Doesn't she know that's bound to attract the wrong sort of man like, well, Dracula? It's ridiculous that he falls in love with her, even more ridiculous that they have sex, and beyond ridiculous that a vampire can inseminate a live woman. Dracula's mental struggle with leaving her to protect her is at soap-opera level, but his sudden ability to deliver a healthy baby from a dying woman is simply beyond belief. Throw in ten pages of very shaky Buckler art and you have the makings of a mediocre story. If anything, it reminded me of a Marvel comic, which is not what we read Warren comics to see.

Perhaps the best sequences in a Steve Skeates
story are those with no words.

On an expedition to Ancient Egypt, Michael Harding discovers an amulet that will allow him to transfer his consciousness into the body of a mummy. He uses this power to have the mummy murder his wife and her lover but, when he goes to transfer his mind back into his own body, he discovers too late that a young local girl has stolen the amulet. Michael's mind remains trapped in the mummy's body, which is incinerated by angry onlookers with torches.

God save us if "...And an End!" is representative of what this new series will be like. The last few panels promise a continuing story, as a Dick Dastardly lookalike discovers the amulet, but I can only hope that Steve Skeates either drops off the series or else tries to learn something about how to plot an interesting story. This is now two ten-page stories in a row to start off this issue where the first couple of pages start in the middle of the action and then there is a flashback to explain how we got there. It's a tired technique. At least Jaime Brocal draws a good mummy.

"Think of Me and
I'll Be There!"

Pretty Lena demonstrates her telekinetic powers to two scientists by making her first love--her teddy bear--come to her. One of the scientists, a hunk named Harry, drives her home, but she tells him not to drive by the cemetery where her old boyfriend is buried. At home, she tells Harry about how George died and, as she thinks about him, he rises from his grave and returns to her. George's corpse kills Harry but, before you know it, Lena's telekinetic powers have the corpse of George, the corpse of Harry, and even the teddy bear all advancing on her. What's a lonely girl to do?

"Think of Me and I'll Be There" was off to a decent start and really got going in the middle, only to fizzle out on the last page. Salvador's clean panels are a relief after the mess Buckler made of Dracula, but Jack Butterworth (I think I know his mother) can't figure out a good way to end the story. Too bad!

"On a Stalking Moonlit Night!" there's a werewolf on the loose! It looks to be Victorian times, and the hairy guy attacks and kills a woman on the street. The next morning, Arthur Lemming's wife Angela thinks the blood on his clothes is from a fight and his little daughter, Miriam, wants to visit her friend Debbie and asks Daddy to make sure the monster doesn't get her. Arthur and Angela argue, and that night he follows her, only to discover that she's visiting the home of her lover. Arthur turns into a werewolf and throws a cop right through the window of Angela's lover's home before he runs off. He goes on a killing spree that night and returns home to find his daughter waiting for him. Despite his attempts to resist his animal nature, Arthur kills his own daughter and changes back to his human form in the morning, distraught at what he's done.

Now that's just wrong!
("On a Stalking Moonlit Night!")
Al Milgrom writes a pretty good story here, though he makes the unforgivable mistake of having a child killed. I must admit I'm intrigued by this first entry in the new werewolf series. It doesn't hurt that Rich Buckler's art, inked by Bill DuBay (does that really help?), is a few notches better than his work on the Dracula strip. This ten-pager really looks like a Marvel comic, with those sequential, small, rectangular panels that take me right back to Buckler's time on the Fantastic Four. I guess he's copying an Eisner trick, but it still looks cool. The art in this story is pretty nice to look at and it complements the story.

A reporter named Bascombe visits a widow named Mrs. Samson at her old castle, where she leads him to her late husband's laboratory. Her husband Gregor was a frustrated doctor who tried to bring the dead to life but had trouble finding willing subjects until he was called to the bedside of a dying teenage girl. She passes on but he takes her corpse to his lab and revives her. Unfortunately, because she died of brain fever, she goes on a rampage and, after the villagers set her on fire, they hang Gregor. Mrs. Samson tells the reporter to keep this all a secret but, when he refuses, she reveals that she was also revived by "The Resurrection Man" and kills the reporter to prevent anyone else from messing with science.

Gregor looks suspiciously like Peter Cushing here.
("The Resurrection Man")
Butterworth's second, non-series tale this issue isn't quite as good as his first one, mainly due to the slightly wacky art of Paul Neary. Neary seems to be swiping from stills here and there, since in one panel the late Gregor resembles Peter Cushing, and in others, his lab looks straight out of Bride of Frankenstein. As in "Think of Me...," Butterworth doesn't really know how to end the story and so resorts to a "surprise" twist that doesn't work very well.

Dax is out riding around, being Dax, when he stumbles across a cave in which there are a lot of bones and one very sexy corpse. An old crone tells him that he is at the Temple of the Winged One, a being that the locals worship as a god and offer "The Sacrifice" to when the moon is full. Along comes the flying beastie and Dax slays him, but the crone tells him that the locals still have to carry out their sacrifice, which they do. And off rides Dax, to seek another depressing adventure.

One wonders if Maroto's original story
had this gal as "recently deceased"...

An uncredited Len Wein manages to make sense of Maroto's confusing mess, and the end result is a darn good story that features the usual sumptuous visuals. Dax is, presumably, back on Planet Earth, where mindless folk must kill someone to sacrifice to a "god" that they don't even know is dead. It's all rather downbeat, as Dax often is, but Maroto sure can draw.-Jack

Yet another annoying typo!
That should be "chauffeur!"
Peter-Strap yourselves in. We're about to start this roller-coaster ride. Keep all hands and feet inside your vehicle and watch for low-hanging metaphors. Though Eerie won't go strictly series for another few issues, this could be the proverbial fork in the road. You're either gonna love the variety and clever nuances of the characters or you're going to hate the loopy and loony scripts they're forced to star in. Looking back at a summer in 2007 when I somehow managed to read every single Eerie series in a thirty-day span, I do not have fond memories of most of the fare. There are two series that stand out, to me, above all else in sheer dopiness, and they are "The Mummy" and "The Werewolf," the latter created and initially written by Al Milgrom, but later taken to heights (depths?) of depravity and insanity by Steve Skeates. Never before had I read anything so devoid of logic and free from mundanities such as plot and progression as these two monuments to funny book lunacy. It's a brief moment to be savored.

Having said all that blather, the first episode of "The Mummy Walks!" (the proper title of this 9-part mini-series... well, nine+ but it's kinda complicated... more on that later) is actually a very clever spin on the same-ol'-same ol' Karloff rip-off, despite a very vague climax. Is Harding still alive in his coffin? Is the Mummy truly a handful of ashes? And Marie has to be the sexiest and nastiest female protagonist we've encountered in quite a while!

While the first chapter of "The Werewolf" is obviously a blood-soaked variation of Gone With the Wind, there are several highlights, including Lemming's murder of his own daughter. It's a savage, memorable moment and gets this train chugging down the track. The Buckler/DuBay art is great, with a nod to Oliver Reed's classic lycanthrope and some dynamite, caption-free panels. As with "The Mummy Walks," I envy those who have never read "The Werewolf." You have no idea how batshit this is going to get.

"The Son of Dracula" is the finale in the three-chapter series, even though a 4th is teased at the climax ("Blood Princess of Bathory Castle"), and it leaves us at a very intriguing spot. As I recall, Tomb of Dracula explored the same path at some point (and, of course, Marvel's Dracula had a daughter as well); this installment is so-so. There are some bits to like (Dracula's stab at midwifing), but some head-scratchers as well (the nugget dropped, that Drac's squeeze got his address from a "kindly fortune teller," sounds like something got cut). How can you not like a strip that features a deaf nudist? The shift-change, from DuBay/Sutton to Dubay/Buckler, is jolting but not unattractive. I'm not sure why I still bother reading the words that go with the pretty Maroto pictures in "Dax," but I do. I couldn't tell you the difference between Maroto's prose and Len Wein's. Either way, nothing makes sense.

Jack Butterworth handles the only non-series tales this time out. I hope Butterworth was going for laughs with "Think of Me...," cuz that's what he got. I spit my Jack and Coke on that final panel, with Lena's "first love," her teddy bear, stalking menacingly towards her! I wasn't impressed at all with "The Resurrection Man," with its meandering script and Forry Ackerman stills-inspired art ("For the first time ever, Vincent Price Meets Peter Cushing in Barbara Steele's laboratory!"). Perhaps the series format was just the ticket for this title? Well...

Enrich Torres
Vampirella #25 (June 1973)

"What Price Love"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"The Haunted Child"
Story by Nicola Cuti
Art by Auraleon

Story by Jack L. Bannow & Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Cold Calculation"★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Ramon Torrents

"The Dead Howl at Midnight!"★1/2
Story by W. Eaton
Art by Jose Bea

"What Price Love"

A heavy dose of cocaine is injected into Vampirella, who takes a nap and then awakens in full vampire mode. She attacks Pendragon and begins to drink his blood, but her snack is interrupted when the armed guard at the door to their room bursts in and she switches to drinking his vital fluid instead. Pendragon's son-in-law (and the homeowner) is mobster Richard Granville, and he orders that the house and grounds be searched for the murderer. Pendragon's desperate search for the woman from Drakulon fails to prevent her from killing Granville, nor is he able to stop her before she kills Patrick, the grandson he never knew he had.

Another child killed in a Warren mag this month? I guess someone decided that taboo was no longer in effect. "What Price Love" is a simple and straightforward tale in which we learn one thing: cocaine takes away Vampirella's inhibitions. As a result, she runs around killing just about everyone in sight except for regular and/or sympathetic characters, with the exception of the child. It should be interesting to see where DuBay takes this plotline and how Vampi handles the guilt she will likely feel when the drug wears off. As always, Gonzalez's art is impeccable.

Bill Bryan is a professor of psychic research whose attempt to test the nature of ectoplasm goes awry when he enlists the aid of his telekinetic wife, Carol. She cannot control her powers and hydrochloric acid splashes in Bill's face, partially blinding him. At some later date, Carol takes Bill to a decrepit house, supposedly for a vacation. The house is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a little girl, so Bill and Carol hold a seance and "The Haunted Child" appears. Bill follows her and is knocked out; he awakens to find himself and his wife in strait-jackets. The head of the nearby loony bin apologizes and lets Bill take the all too real child home to try to cure her of autism.

"The Haunted Child"
Back to the haunted house they go, and Bill talks Carol into using her powers to reunite the child's ghost with her body. The kid acts a little weird and, before you know it, an unseen killer uses a butcher knife on an unfortunate passing motorist who picked the wrong time to get a flat tire. Carol wonders where her butcher knife got to and the little girl causes her to fall down the basement stairs and break her ankle. The girl murders Carol by stabbing her in the forehead. Bill comes home and finds his wife dead. The little girl explains that she is possessed by the spirit of the cleaver killer and she advances on Bill with the knife.

Before we started reading these Warren comics, I only know Nicola Cuti from his work on E-Man, one of my all-time favorite comics. I thought he was great! But after reading umpteen Cuti stories in Eerie, Creepy, and Vampirella, I have to revise my assessment somewhat to say that Cuti was great on E-Man and terrible at Warren. This story is such a hodgepodge of ideas that don't fit well together that it's tough to stomach. Why do the people at the institute take Bill and Carol and put them in strait-jackets, only to apologize and let them take the child back to the haunted house to cure her? And what's with this Warren thing of stabbing people in the head? My skull is pretty hard and I'm not sure a knife would do much beyond cutting the skin, but what do I know? Broken record time--at least Auraleon's art is solid.

Running from the law on the African veldt, a couple of poachers are sheltered by a giant named "Nimrod," who takes them to a cavern where he presides over various deformed creatures. After Nimrod tells the men his own history, they start to head back to the real world, but they greedily try to steal some skins from the creatures in the cave and end up trapped there forever.

I've reached the point with Esteban Maroto's stories that I wonder about their genesis, since each and every one of them is so doggone confusing. Were they originally written in Spanish and do they make sense in that language? They certainly fail to make much sense in English. This one is fairly straightforward, as Maroto's works go, but the new experiment in color is not a success and doesn't do anything good to Maroto's work.

A man journeys to a remote Alaskan research station to work as chief cook and bottle washer. He is surprised to hear strange howling sounds out in the snowy wasteland. Janet, one of the scientists and the only woman there, thinks it's a Yeti, but her colleagues scoff at the suggestion. Poor Janet went off the deep end when her husband Jack disappeared six months before. The creature tries to enter the base but is chased off, so a trap is set and Janet shoots and kills the monster, unaware that it is her husband, who somehow managed to survive all that time in the snow.

"Cold Calculation"
I like the snowy setting of "Cold Calculation" as well as the atmospheric art by Ramon Torrents. This is one of the better stories in a weak issue.

It's Paris in 1910, and Professor Domergue of the Sorbonne is creating new people from bits and pieces of corpses. He builds a handsome young man named Nicholas and sends him to an orphanage, where he is adopted by Yvonne and Pierre Marot. They take him back to their farm and proceed to treat him with cruelty. Eventually, Nicholas escapes and makes his way back to the orphanage. The Marots come after him, only to discover that all of the orphans are made from parts of bodies sewn together, and they don't appreciate the treatment Nicholas has had to endure.

Jose Bea tones down his usual weirdness and draws "The Dead Howl at Midnight!" a bit less creepily than some of his other stories. W. Eaton's narrative is reasonably interesting, though I don't know why Prof. Domergue would go to such lengths to create his "pet creation" and refer to Nicholas as the "start of a super race," then dump him off at the orphanage with all of his other creations and allow him to be assigned to cruel parents. In fact, after Nicholas is created, the Prof. seems to lose interest and does not reappear until the last panel, when he seems to be planning to use some portions of the Marots' bodies in his experiments.-Jack

"The Dead Howl at Midnight!"
Peter-"What Price Love" got to be so doggone confusing that I gave up caring after a while. "What Price Sanity" is more like it. It's perplexing why Vampi flew out of a room containing Pen and the old lady in a chair (whatshername) to find more prey. I know we had to have a big, dramatic finale and introduce even more drama into the lives of Vampi's supporting cast (speaking of which, did the van Helsings just give up looking for their friends?), but it did seem silly. Maybe not as silly as DuBay's hyperbolic and head-scratching captions ("Drugs, as women, are unpredictable.." "Two more guards dead at her feet... not cardboard cutouts... not celluloid heroes... but men!!"). Dubay further makes a claim that I find hard to believe; was this really the first time Vampirella has killed someone since landing on Earth? Can't be! Perhaps DuBay should jettison the supporting cast and send V on some solo adventures. Gotta be better than this drek.

"The Haunted Child" is confusing nonsense, like an Italian horror flick bought by K. Gordon Murray and given to a ten-year-old to write dialogue. Tons of red herrings (so why does Carol have telekinesis?) and odd detours (how about the two professors who cold-cock Bryan and then disappear?) sink this faster than a Harvey Weinstein dating app. "Nimrod" is certainly better than the first two stories but, like "Descent Into Hell" (in Creepy #54), this doesn't look like it was designed to be published in color; there's a slapdash, colored marker look to it as if the extra sheen was an afterthought.

I didn't hate "Cold Calculations," but I'm not sure why Doug Moench thought The Thing From Another World would be even better with a Scooby-Doo reveal. Much better was the sheer WTF-ness that bookended the cliched "monstrous adoptive parents" middle act of "The Dead Howl at Midnight!" For a couple of pages here and there, W. Eaton has concocted the goofiest and most original horror fiction found in any of the three zines discussed this week.

various artists
Creepy #54 (July 1973)

"The Slipped Mickey Click Flip" ★
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Richard Corben

"This Graveyard is Not Deserted" ★1/2
Story by Don McGregor
Art by Reed Crandall

"Descent Into Hell" ★1/2
Story by Kevin Pagan
Art by Esteban Maroto

"Dead Man's Race" ★1/2
Story by Jack Butterworth
Art by Martin Salvador

"Little Nippers!" ★1/2
Story by R. Michael Rosen
Art by Tom Sutton

What the hell does this pretentious
cat-box goodie even mean?
I can't come up with much of a synopsis for the septic tank innards known as "The Slipped Mickey Click Flip," since I'm sure anything I say will run counter to what the "artist" intended. There's a TV that eats a woman, a train with a face that runs over a guy's head, and a dog that buries a human forearm bone, only to be dragged into the grave when the bone sprouts a full-size corpse, all of which I'm sure is Doug Moench's metaphor for the human condition and the effects of television on its slaves. What "Mickey" indicates to me is a writer who was too self-important and who was obviously reading the fan mail from the bozos who were telling Uncle Creepy that anything he ran (especially the stories by that Munch guy) were the bee's knees and "thank you sir, may I have another?" Some of these funny book writers envisioned themselves as the next Harlan Ellison, alerting the world to the dangers of government and Hollywood brass but, whereas Harlan could educate and entertain, Doug achieves neither here. "Mickey" is like one of those free-flowing Robin Williams improvs, but at least Williams was funny one out of ten times. Rich Corben is wasted here in black and white, by the way. Warren figured that out really fast. I would rather listen to Two Virgins than read this crap ever again.

In the Old West, a bounty hunter named Sidewinder tracks the sadistic gunfighter known as Crill; the killer's trail leads Sidewinder into an ancient Indian burial ground, where both men are attacked by long-dead corpses that have risen from their grave. Unlike "Mickey," the script for "This Graveyard Is Deserted," by our other whipping boy, Don McGregor, is fairly easy to sum up. It only gets preachy and ponderous toward the climax (where Sidewinder comforts a wounded Indian woman: Sidewinder turns to question the girl and to seek her aid... but the scene that greets his eyes kills the questions on his lips... and she has already given him an insight that will take him a long time to completely comprehend.); problem is, the rest is a deadly bore, populated by western tropes and villainously bad dialogue. One other problem we have here is the obvious decline in Reed Crandall's work, a subject we've discussed several times over the last several months, so I won't beat that dead Palomino. Sidewinder's outfit is pure black and I get the feeling the reason for that is so Reed didn't have to fill the lines in with detail.

When a Titan falls in love with a mortal named Rosanna, Zeus sends him on an agonizing tour to hell, via the River Styx, in order to earn the woman. When the Titan gets there, he must battle Cerberus and a giant spider, only to discover after winning his battles that he's been on his mission for one hundred years and Rosanna is now dead. Miserable, the Titan begs Zeus to return him to his former labor and we discover the Titan is Atlas, holding the world up on his shoulders. "Descent into Hell" is mostly free of the sword-and-sorcery nonsense we've become accustomed to (but then, the story is not rooted in S&S, it just looks that way) and has a very clever twist. What it does not have is the vibrant Warren color we'll be soaking up within a few months. I think, after having a look at this and "Nimrod," that Esteban was best served in black-and-white and certainly not in this headache-inducing patina of yellow and red. Pagan does a good job of getting us from Point A to Point B but can't help throwing in lines that would be better fit for a Ronnie James Dio ballad: Weaker howl the death-cold winds as I advance! By the Styx, the jagged stone cuts my skin like butter! I am immune to nothing here. Those strange beings hovering about... ghostly remains of mortals, whom I wonder were good or evil?

Jasper MacFarlane believes in the ghostly spirit known as the Ankon, a specter that looks out over the dead in each cemetery. Legend has it that each corpse buried becomes the guardian of the dead and now the graveyard has only two spaces left. When Jasper's brother, Jeremy, dies the same day as Effie, the "village tramp," it becomes a "Dead Man's Race" to the graveyard to see who will be buried last and cursed to be the Ankon forever! When Jasper and his carriage driver lose the race to Effie's family, Jasper murders his driver and dumps the body in his brother grave, thus insuring his worker will become the ultimate Ankon. But dopey Jasper encounters the brand-new Ankon on his way out of the graveyard, freaks out, and dies atop a snow-covered grave. Thinking it would be what Jasper would want, the diggers dump him into his brother's grave (effectively setting off a ghoulish menage a trois), cursing him to be the Ankon Forever!

"Dead Man's Race" presents an interesting (if way too complicated) creature, the Ankon, who is portrayed as Death driving a horse and buggy. Jasper comes across as one of those insanely-sadistic elites who run over helpless little girls (and their dogs) on their way to a function; you can't help but hate a cliched character like that. Salvador's art is getting better with each new outing, his shades come across very evocatively (like Maroto, I think Salvador is an artist whose work would not be as effective in color).

Two shipwrecked sailors, Vernon and Bennett, wash up on an island they soon discover is the legendary Lilliput, the teensy-tiny world of Gulliver's Travels. One of the men runs across a tiny diary that details a terrible plague that struck the people of Lilliput, a plague that transformed the entire population of the island into vampires. That night, Vernon and Bennett are attacked by the tiny vampires and forced to flee into the water. The next day, they find the creatures' hiding spot and burn every one of them, then take to the sea to find another island, hoping the plague hasn't reached other shores. Unfortunately, the island they land on happens to be Brobdingnag, home to giant... vampires.

"Little Nippers!" is good fun, if a bit head-scratching, with lots of great Sutton art. That last panel, of the huge bloodsucker reaching for our hapless heroes on the beach, is a hoot. It's hilarious that the men discover little castles and little cows (are the vampires stopping their nightly raids to bale hay at night?) and then proclaim "Hey, this is Lilliput!" as if they'd been reading the book on board their boat. Also, what are these little vampires feeding on, since they've drained all the Lilliputians? Crabs? Tunafish?-Peter

Jack-It's too bad that editor DuBay is reaching back into the dark times of the Warren mags for some of the writers whose stories populate this below-average issue of Creepy. Of course, we can blame Doug Moench for the worst story of all (and surely one of the worst of 1973), "The Slipped Mickey Chick Flip," in which yet another character is stabbed in the head. Doug reaches for absurdity but only grabs stupidity, and the ten pages are an utter waste of Richard Corben's talents. Remember two decades before, when Harvey Kurtzman could succeed at writing an absurd comic horror story? Doug Moench is no Kurtzman.

Don McGregor supplies the deadly-dull "This Graveyard is Not Deserted," which features Crandall art that is a bit better than some of his recent efforts but still not great. This is not the first time Reed has drawn a story that seems to build a plot around a particularly gruesome sequence, as if that sequence is the reason for the whole exercise. I agree with you, Peter, about the color in "Descent into Hell;" it doesn't serve Maroto's art well and it's painful to look at. It's odd that a story with so much action could be so boring. Kevin Pagan is one of the writers whom DuBay arguably should have left behind.

New arrival Jack Butterworth contributes a pretty good tale in "Dead Man's Race," and I also enjoyed Salvador's art. There's good Gothic atmosphere throughout and a surprisingly strong last page. Once again, the Sutton story is saved for the back of the mag, after all of the ads. I thought it was weird that they found Lilliput but the sudden left turn revealing that they're vampires was unwelcome. The story, by R. Michael Rosen, another writer with a checkered past at Warren, is a complete mess, but Sutton does his best with it.

Next Week...
1980 is in the bag.
The Best of Batman!

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Hitchcock Project-Harold Swanton Part Eight: The Twelve Hour Caper [7.34]

by Jack Seabrook

Mike Marmer's short story, "The Twelve-Hour Caper," was first published in the May 1961 issue of Cosmopolitan. It was adapted by Harold Swanton for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and broadcast on NBC on Tuesday, May 29, 1962. The story begins as Herbert Wiggam leaves for work one morning, promising his mother that he'll see her that evening at seven o'clock. The dull details of his trip to work at a Wall Street brokerage are brightened by the knowledge that he plans to steal half a million dollars that day.

A bond transfer is scheduled for that afternoon and Herbert begins to set his plan in motion, forging receipts and meeting two crooks named Louie and Muggsy at lunchtime to explain his plan. The twosome will enter the office right before closing time and take the bonds by force, then drop them in the wastebasket next to Herbert's desk, where Herbert will be able to remove them without being suspected. Everything goes smoothly until a police lieutenant nearly kicks over Herbert's wastebasket, exposing the bonds to view. Herbert manages to cover them up but, unexpectedly, the office cleaning woman empties the garbage while Herbert is examining the scene of the crime with the policeman.

"The Twelve-Hour Caper"
was first published here
Once the lieutenant leaves, Herbert takes a taxi to the airport, where he meets his mother at the gate. Both wait to board a plane to Rio de Janeiro, and she seems happy to have finished her last day of work as the cleaning lady at Herbert's office.

"The Twelve-Hour Caper" is a delightful short story, tightly plotted, where the author succeeds in misdirecting the reader right up to the last page. Comedy and suspense mix, with the reader identifying with Herbert and rooting for him to succeed in his crime. When the cleaning woman empties his garbage can, we are disappointed, but the final revelation of her identity is a welcome surprise that makes the reader look back over the story to confirm that it was fairly clued. The title refers to the time between Herbert's goodbye to his mother in the morning and their reunion at the airport that evening.

In the TV version of "The Twelve Hour Caper," Harold Swanton removes the entire first part of the short story, in which Herbert is introduced as a 40-year-old man who still lives with his mother. Gone is the exchange where he says he will see her at seven o'clock, which seems like one thing and later turns out to be another. Gone, too are Herbert's thoughts about his plan to steal the money and his knowledge that he won't be returning home. By removing all of this, Swanton removes much of what makes the surprise ending so effective.

Dick York as Herbert Wiggam
Instead of being senior man at the office, as he is in the story, Herbert is an assistant cashier, as is shown by a sign on his desk. As the show opens, he sits at his desk in the office, perusing travel brochures about Rio de Janeiro. When Herbert's older co-worker, Frisbee, arrives, he asks Herbert about his mother, something he will do again later in the episode. Swanton uses these exchanges to replace the first scene and keep the idea of Herbert's mother alive in the viewer's mind, but the repeated mentions of an absent character seem out of place. There is a bit of comedy as a co-worker named Lowe flirts with Miss Pomfritt, the secretary, who rebuffs his advances.

Herbert's boss, Mr. Tupper, arrives and expresses concern to Herbert about the danger of taking delivery of such a large sum in bonds late on a Friday afternoon. There is then a scene between Frisbee and Wiggam in which Frisbee tells Wiggam that Tupper will tell him today that Herbert will not get Frisbee's job when he retires. There is no comparable incident in the short story, and this was likely added by Swanton to give Herbert a motive for theft. Another co-worker named Westbrook arrives at the office late and immediately starts teasing Herbert, who is reading another travel brochure about Rio. Westbrook asks mockingly if Herbert plans to travel there with his mother, inadvertently foreshadowing what will be revealed at the close of the episode.

Sarah Marshall as Miss Pomfritt
As Frisbee predicted, Tupper calls Herbert into his office and informs him that Westbrook, his wife's favorite nephew, has been selected to replace Frisbee. As Herbert leaves the office, masking his disappointment, Tupper asks him if he's "'ready for those bonds,'" to which Herbert replies, with a small smile, "'I certainly am, Sir.'" Throughout the episode, the dialogue has one meaning on the surface but another hidden underneath; here, Tupper asks if Wiggam is ready to handle the transaction, while Wiggam's reply really means that he is prepared to commit theft. Herbert then tells Frisbee that Tupper said: "'He had his eye on me, that I'm going places;'" once again, Herbert's words mean something different to himself than they do to his listener.

Wendell Holmes as Tupper
Herbert immediately picks up his phone and calls to set up his lunch meeting with the two crooks, In the TV show, it is implied that being passed over for promotion is the final straw that leads Herbert to decide to go through with the robbery. There is a dissolve to a scene in a city park, where Herbert sits at a picnic table with a chessboard and is quickly joined by the two criminals. In the short story, Herbert explains the plan to the men verbally. In the TV show, it is laid out in a clever visual way by use of the chessboard, on which Herbert has drawn a diagram of the office. He uses chess pieces to represent the people involved: Tupper is the king, Miss Pomfritt is the queen, and Herbert is a knight. All the others in the office are represented by pawns. Herbert finishes explaining his plan and the next scene occurs back in the office, late that afternoon.

Frisbee leaves for the day, again asking Herbert about his mother, making sure the viewer has not forgotten about her. Lowe makes another failed play for Miss Pomfritt. Herbert pops pill after pill as the bonds are late in arriving and Tupper nearly cancels the whole thing. The bonds finally arrive and Herbert takes delivery. From then on, everything goes according to plan. Miss Pomfritt disappears to do her makeup, the crooks knock out Tupper and lightly tap Herbert, and the bonds are deposited in the wastebasket. The scene is played comedically, with music to match, but it succeeds in advancing the plot and follows the short story closely.

Gage Clarke as Frisbee
Suspense builds as the lieutenant's foot nearly causes the wastebasket to topple over; again, as with the earlier dialogue, what appears to be going on to the other characters and what the viewer knows is going on in Herbert's head are two very different things. As is so often the case on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, the viewer is rooting for Herbert to get away with his crime and fears that something will go wrong. In the TV show, the wastebasket actually does topple over, leading Herbert to set it right and then blow his nose a couple of times to give himself an excuse to deposit quite a few tissues on top of the bonds.

Unfortunately, this is where the TV adaptation goes wrong and fails to match the conclusion of the short story. In the story, Wiggam is pulled into Tupper's office to reenact the crime and he hears the cleaning woman outside, emptying wastebaskets. He can't see what's happening and we suspect the worst. Only when he emerges from Tupper's office does he discover that the wastebasket is empty and the cleaning woman is leaving. In the TV show, the cleaning woman does not enter until Herbert has emerged from Tupper's office. He sees her come in and watches as she empties the wastebaskets. The bonds are clearly visible as she dumps the contents of the wastebasket, the music is humorous, and the expression on Herbert's face is one of distress, but having him watch the process is less satisfying than having him hear it and wonder what is going on.

Charles Carlson as Westbrook
The cleaning woman leaves the office and there is a dissolve to the airport departure gate, where Herbert stands in line. In the short story, he is stuck at the office for another half hour and is said to feel "mild shock" when he leaves. He catches a taxi and rushes to the airport, where it's the last call for the flight to Rio. It begins to dawn on the reader that Herbert's concern about being stuck in the office had more to do with potentially missing his flight than with losing the bonds. In the TV show, his ticket is stamped and he walks around the corner to encounter his mother, whose back is to the camera. "'Ready, mother?'" he says, and she replies, "'Yes, dear,'" as she turns and reveals herself to be the cleaning woman. There is a sting of music and the episode ends as they walk, arm in arm, down the corridor to board the plane.

Ned Wever as Lt. Hargis
The twist ending of the short story works brilliantly; the ending of the TV show is less surprising and thus less effective. Harold Swanton's adaptation plays up the comedy in the situation but fails to maintain the suspense and, by removing the initial scenes with Herbert saying goodbye to his mother and going to work, the story's careful structure is damaged irreparably. The TV show remains entertaining, but the end fails and it is not as strong as Marmer's short story. The adaptation clocks in at just under twenty minutes, requiring an extended credit sequence to make up the show's running time. There are also careless errors in the show, such as Tupper calling Wiggins "'William'" at one point and Herbert referring to the events displayed on the chessboard as showing the office layout at "'ten minutes to four on almost any Friday morning.'" The show has the feeling of one that was put together quickly near the end of the last season of the half-hour series' seven-year run.

Kreg Martin and Tom Bellin
as Webster and Brand, the crooks
Mike Marmer (1925-2002), who wrote the story, was born Merrill Marmer and had a three-decade career as a TV writer, working with such comedy legends as Milton Berle, Ernie Kovacs, Steve Allen, and the Smothers Brothers. He also wrote for sitcoms, including Get Smart. He won an Emmy Award in 1972 for being one of the writers on the famous Gone with the Wind parody on The Carol Burnett Show. The FictionMags Index lists four short stories published under his name, between 1954 and 1962, and this was the only episode of the Hitchcock show to which he contributed.

Dick York (1928-1992) stars as Herbert. York was born in Indiana and his screen career lasted from 1953 to 1984. Plagued by terrible back pain caused by an injury sustained on the set of a film, he nevertheless appeared in seven episodes of the Hitchcock show, as well as being on The Twilight Zone and Thriller. York's most famous role, however, was as Darrin Stevens on Bewitched, the popular situation comedy where he co-starred with Elizabeth Montgomery from 1964 to 1969, when he quit the show due to his back problems. The character of Herbert is similar to that of Darrin Stevens.

Andy Romano
Oddly enough, Sarah Marshall (1933-2014) receives co-star billing on the title card with Dick York, even though her role as Miss Pomfritt is relatively minor. The daughter of the great British actor Herbert Marshall, who himself appeared on the Hitchcock show, she was born in London, England, and appeared on Broadway in the 1950s. Her screen career ran from 1954 to 1995 and included appearances on The Twilight Zone, Thriller, and Star Trek. She was on the Hitchcock show three times.

Playing the officious boss, Mr. Tupper, is Wendell Holmes (1914-1962), who started out in radio in the 1930s and had a screen career that was mostly on television from 1955 to 1962. He appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Not the Running Type." His last role to air was in "The Twelve Hour Caper," which premiered 11 days after his death on May 18, 1962.

Gage Clarke (1900-1964) plays Frisbee, the head cashier who is a month away from retirement. He was on Broadway from the late 1920s and his screen career lasted from 1949 to 1964. He was on The Twilight Zone and Thriller and he appeared in four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Right Kind of Medicine."

In smaller roles:
  • Charles Carlson (1930-2013) as Westbrook, Tupper's wife's nephew who is promoted over Herbert; he was on TV from 1960-1967 and appeared in five episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "Where Beauty Lies."
  • Ned Wever (1899-1984) as Lt. Hargis; he was on Broadway in the '20s and '30s, on the radio, and then on screen from 1955 to 1968. He was on three episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, including "The Night the World Ended."
  • Kreg Martin as Webster, one of the crooks; in a short TV career from 1962-1963 he was seen on The Twilight Zone and in seven episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Maria."
  • Tom Bellin (1934-2011) as Brand, the other crook; he was on TV from 1962 to 2010 and appeared in three episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Big Kick." The opposite of Wendell Holmes, "The Twelve Hour Caper" was Bellin's first role to air.
  • Andy Romano (1941- ) as the second cop; he was on screen from 1961 to 2003, including an appearance on Batman and parts in eight episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Black Curtain."
  • Bob Reiner (1933-2013) as the airport clerk; he was on TV from 1962-1965 and appeared in nine episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Thanatos Palace Hotel."
Bob Reiner
  • Lillian O'Malley (1892-1976) as Herbert's mother; she had a long career playing bit parts from 1936 to 1964; she was on The Twilight Zone, five episodes of Thriller, and ten episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "Revenge," the premiere.
Lillian O'Malley
  • Ernest Losso (1934- ) as the messenger who brings the bonds; this is one of his three credits as a TV actor; he went on to be a TV director and producer from 1970-86.
Ernest Losso
  • Don Durant (1932-2005) as Lowe, who keeps hitting on Miss Pomfritt; he was on TV from 1955 to 1963 and starred in a series called Johnny Ringo (1959-60).
Don Durant

John Newland (1917-2000) directed "The Twelve Hour Caper," which was one of four episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents that he directed, all in 1962. He had a long and interesting career, starting out in vaudeville as a teen, then acting from 1947 to 1964 and directing for television from 1954 to 1983. He is best remembered as the director and host of One Step Beyond (1959-61), but he also directed the famous episode of Bus Stop called "I Kiss Your Shadow," as well as four episodes of Thriller, and episodes of Star Trek and Night Gallery. Toward the end of his career, he hosted Next Step Beyond (1978-79) and directed 18 of its 25 episodes.

"The Twelve Hour Caper" is not currently available on US DVD or online.

The FictionMags Index, 
Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001. 
Marmer, Mike. "The Twelve-Hour Caper." Alfred Hitchcock Presents: A Month of Mystery, Random House, 1969, pp. 116–125. 
"The Twelve Hour Caper." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 7, episode 34, NBC, 29 May 1962. 
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 

In two weeks: Our series on Harold Swanton concludes with "Body in the Barn," starring Lillian Gish!

Monday, September 21, 2020

Batman in the 1980s Issue 11: November 1980

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

Batman #329

"Twice Dies the Batman"
Story by Marv Wolfman
Art by Irv Novick

Batman's review of Dr. Eckhart's patient files is interrupted when a crook throws a grenade and blows up the doctor's office. Batman's visit to the morgue is likewise ended when the place bursts into flame! After telling Alfred what he suspects, Batman sets out to prove his suspicions correct. Elsewhere, Carl Ternion's visit to Gilda Stevens ends suddenly when he feels his surgically-repaired face collapsing; he rushes out and is revealed to be none other than Two-Face!

Batman searches the mansion of the late Anton Karoselle and then visits Gilda, requesting that she aid him in getting help for her former husband, Harvey Dent, a/k/a Two-Face. Karoselle killed Dave Stevens, who was married to Gilda. This made Gilda unhappy, so Two-Face had Eckhart remake his own face so he could get back with Gilda in the guise of Ternion and cheer her up.

Suddenly, Two-Face sees Gilda abducted by Boss Maroni, the crook who turned Harvey Dent into Two-Face in the first place. Two-Face recalls discovering that Anton Karoselle and Boss Maroni were the same person, so he realizes that this new Maroni is really Batman in disguise. Two-Face has Batman dead to rights but Gilda shows up and implores him to be merciful. Two-Face relents and is taken back to Arkham Asylum for more rehab.

Novick's moon reflects Dent's inner turmoil
Jack: Well that was sure confusing! It took me two reads to figure out who killed who and why and I'm still not certain I have it all straight. Still, I like Novick's art more than usual in "Twice Dies the Batman!" and I love to see Two-Face pop up again. Batman is awfully lenient with Two-Face, who murdered a couple of people last issue--the Dark Knight basically says that Dent is just a troubled, misunderstood fella who needs some more time with the kindly docs at the asylum. I predict that will be about as effective as it is with every other Bat-villain. The Aparo cover is a stunner!

Peter: There's such a monumental difference in quality, in both art and script, between this month's Detective and Batman. "Twice Dies the Batman" is neither entertaining nor engaging and the art is awful. Harvey has to be the dumbest guy on the planet, falling for the Faux Maroni trick. Even the average-aged reader of Batman, an eight-year-old, figured out the ruse the second it was hatched. I love the Rogue's Gallery, but this story perfectly demonstrates what's wrong with the current roster of writers and how they use that gallery. I'd rather see a 17-page story dedicated to Bats explaining how he hides his ears under those realistic masks he uses.

"The Case of the Hijacked Heart!"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Rich Buckler & Frank McLaughlin

Things are heating up at Gotham General Hospital ever since a crook named Razor Reynolds was admitted for a heart transplant. Batman and Robin fight off a pair of hit men disguised as orderlies, while Reynolds entertains two visitors: a nattily-dressed crook named Cardona and Pamela Reynolds, Razor's daughter. The Dynamic Duo must race to the airport when the new heart arrives, since a trio of crooks tries to steal it or to destroy it. The heart is delivered safely and Pamela is unmasked as the person who tried to stop the transplant. Apparently, Razor wasn't very nice to her mother.

That's gotta hurt!
Jack: The most interesting thing about "The Case of the Hijacked Heart!" is the continuity that exists between it and the main story in this issue and the previous issue. Mary Ann, the bag lady whom Batman had taken to the hospital in last issue's lead story, was revisited in this issue's lead story, and she becomes a major supporting character in the backup, since a doctor complains to Robin that Batman never visited her. Of course, the Caped Crusader swoops in with flowers at the last minute, but I was pleased to see that the stories had some relationship to each other and this was not just another lousy story about Robin solving a meaningless crime while away at college. The main plot line, involving Razor, is uninspired, though, and Buckler's art is not as good as I remember from his time at Marvel.

Peter: Rich Buckler must have gotten one look at what Frank McLaughlin did to his work and headed to the nearest bar to drown his sorrows. Some of Buckler's talent shows through (although that splash of Batman's impossibly high kick is not one of Rich's highlights), but it's mostly bland and lifeless. Dr.  Phillips's tirade about Batman's negligence in visiting Mary Ann seems a bit random and obviously meant only to provide a payoff panel. More interesting is fan Mark Young's list of the best Batman stories of the 1970s in the "Bat Signals" column.

Detective Comics #496

"Murder on the Mystery Ship!"
Story by Michael Fleisher
Art by Don Newton & Dan Adkins

Hollywood bigwig John Carlinger is holding an "Exposition of Horror" aboard the luxury liner, the Varania III. One of the main exhibits is an exact replica of the dressing room once used by famed horror actor Basil Karlo, who eventually became rogue's gallery villain Clayface. Karlo, relaxing in his room at Arkham, gets wind of the expo and has quite a violent reaction to the fact that he was not invited.

Two murders later, Karlo is boarding a speedboat and heading for the Varania III. Also aboard, unbeknownst to Karlo, is Bruce Wayne, who has already had to dump his duds in a hallway and swoop in as Batman (not sure where that bat rope is attached in the splash, but I'll forgive poetic license) to save a gorgeous starlet from a falling statue of Godzilla. Karlo enters Carlinger's suite and the two have a tussle. Thirty minutes later, Clayface is taking shots at the guests with his shotgun. Bruce, sweet-talking yet another starlet, must don his duds and return as the Dark Knight (wouldn't an intrepid detective be able to look at the guest list and put two and two together at some point?). Batman tries to apprehend Clayface before he lets go another load of buckshot but, instead, the fiend tosses a canister of napalm into the pool. Batman must dive in to rescue the pretty redhead who's about to be toasted.

We love the cheesecake!

The rescue provides Bats with a vital clue in the "case" (would you really call this a "case"?) and he heads down to Auditorium C, where actor Stacy Darnell is presenting a slideshow for the brand-new horror hit, Fog From Beyond. Sure enough, Clayface has targeted Darnell for death and Batman arrives just in time to save him. But this latest attack provides all the clues our hero needs to catch the villain. He rushes to John Carlinger's suite and arrests him for the murder of... Basil Karlo! Yep, Carlinger has been masquerading as Clayface and committing murder to prevent an audit of his finances (don't ask). Once again, the Dark Knight has saved lives and also lost one of his most dreaded enemies. I'd call that a good day.

Peter: As with most of Michael Fleisher's work, this is a fabulously fun adventure, one more violent than we're used to, with a few question marks thrown in for good measure. One: why would Bruce Wayne be wasting his time at an "Exposition of Horror" instead of hanging around Gotham waiting for the return of Catwoman or the Penguin's latest caper? And, as noted, wouldn't the presence of Batman aboard a yacht of, at most, a couple of hundred people, be a field day for the Joker's scouts? "Hey, boss, Batman was spotted on a boat last night. Should I get you the manifest?" But, most of all, the great Clayface is dispatched in such an offhand way. Are we to believe this Hollywood guy is a match for a shotgun-toting psychopath who's just busted out of Arkham? And how about that "cell" in Arkham? No restraints while Nurse Betty is feeding Basil and handing him his morning paper? The whole history of Karlo and the various incarnations of Clayface is a nightmare of distortion and just plain ignoring the stories that came before. Karlo will return and I can't wait to see how he rises from the dead.

Never mind and forget I ever said anything. "Murder on the Mystery Ship!" is the most fun I've had reading a Batman story since... well, I don't have time to go back through the Batman in the 1970s posts, so let's just say "a long time!" The Newton/Adkins art just keeps getting better; the Hollywood starlets are pure cheesecake. Who do I write to to get Mike Fleisher assigned to this title? And I'll also thank the powers-that-be for returning this title to regular size. No more crappy back-ups. Well, we'll see...

Jack: I knew I would like this story when I saw the mention of Alfred Hitchcock among the masters of horror. I would sign up for this Exposition! I agree with you that security at Arkham Asylum seems to be lacking. First Two-Face escapes, now Clayface. Are there any other Faces locked up in there? Rod Stewart or Ron Wood, perhaps? I love that Karlo loses his temper because he wasn't invited to a horror film convention. This story could be redone today with so many people. Jamie Lee Curtis goes nuts at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Con?

"Stealer of Souls!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Bob Smith

A new jive-ass villain in town, Dr. Voodoo, has a mofo power that no other houngan possesses: this cat can turn the living into zombies with just a voodoo chant. No messy corpses rising from the grave, this dude can make Aunt Irma ransack the local diamond exchange. And that's exactly what he does, zombifying hundreds and transforming them into his band of zombie-thieves. Luckily, as the building is being robbed, Babs Gordon is out for one of her lunchtime walks and answers the call from an elderly gentleman who failed to heed the call of Dr. Voodoo, thanks to a broken hearing aid. The Dark Knight Damsel is doing fine until Dr. Voodoo cleans her clock with a filing cabinet.

Working a clue, Batgirl tracks Dr. Voodoo to his warehouse hideout, where she nips his Soul-Stealing powers in the bud by hiring Jeff the gas station guy to sit outside the warehouse and play Black Sabbath's "War Pigs" at 100 decibels. The racket causes Voodoo's hold on his own men to evaporate but, just as Bat-Female is about to put the cuffs on, Voodoo escapes, vowing vengeance at a later date. In a sub-plot, DA Charles Turner is trying to prove that Barbara Gordon is a murderess and Babs may have found herself a new late-night companion in Jim, father of psychosomatically-paralyzed little Tracy.

Peter: Again, we've got one of these evil geniuses thinking low. Dr. Voodoo has an incredible power he could rule the world with and what does he do? Rob diamond exchanges. With his incantations, he could take over the mind of the weak and stupid and become president of the United States and commit much bigger crimes. Wait... you don't think? As dumb as "Stealer of Souls!" may be, at least it's entertaining. Dr. Voodoo is obviously a (very late) riff on Marvel's Brother Voodoo, and that sure beats the usual kidnappers, pyromaniacs, and child-hobblers we've been party to in this strip in the recent past. As for the sub-plots, I assume that Babs's newfound love has something to do with her new status of murderess. Only time will tell, but most of these sub-plots end up plowing the same old fields and never grow anything worth picking.

Jack: Peter, you know it's not Ozzy but rather Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" that is broadcast from Jeff's van. Shame on you for trying to mislead your reader. I'm bummed that Black Lightning is gone as a Detective backup strip (he won't reappear at DC till 1983), but at least we get some jive-talkin' characters in his place. The art by Delbo and Smith is inconsistent, but I also enjoyed this story and thought it was better than recent Batgirl efforts.

The Brave and the Bold #168

"Shackles of the Mind!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jim Aparo

Batman has to make short work of some crooks in an alley when he sees the Bat Signal. He reports to Commissioner Gordon, who tells him that a master thief has stolen the Regency Diamond, which was protected by serious levels of security. Back at Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce sees a TV news report saying that Batman will appear at a charity event. Green Arrow pops by to tell Bruce that he's the one who set it up in order to support escape artist Samson Citadel, a young black man whom Arrow rescued from a life of crime on the streets.

Bruce agrees but tells Arrow that the archer will have to patrol Gotham City while Batman is at the event. They head out to make the rounds in the Batmobile and stop some crooks, but Arrow is surprised when one of the baddies escapes from his special handcuff arrow. Realizing that it looks bad for his buddy Samson, Oliver Queen tells Batman that he wants to investigate and bring the young man in if he is guilty.

Batman follows a clue to the Magician's Club, where he discovers that the man behind all of the crime is the Great Rhinehart, a famous hypnotist, who has been mesmerizing people to do his bidding, including Samson. He locks Batman in a box and drops him in a tank filled with piranhas. Across town, Green Arrow's chat with Samson is interrupted when the young man gets a phone call that triggers hypnosis and causes him to brain Arrow. Queen gives chase and Samson reaches Rhinehart, who tells him to shoot the archer. The young man's decency wins out, and as Rhinehart makes a run for it he is captured by the Caped Crusader, who explains how he cleverly escaped being a fish dinner.

Jack: Other than making Green Arrow a bit too flip and corny, the way we often see Robin behave, Cary Burkett supplies a terrific script that is filled with excitement. Jim Aparo's art is flawless; he drew all three covers this month plus this interior story and all are outstanding. I'm somewhat surprised at all of the Black characters in the Batman comics lately, since I associate that more with DC in the early 1970s than the early 1980s. Still, I like it, and I think Burkett does a fine job of merging the two super heroes here without resorting to the usual parallel plot lines that eventually converge.

Peter: Fairly routine adventure this time out, compared to the first-rate thrillers we've been getting in this title lately, but then I don't remember the Green Arrow of this era being very readable. The Batman's great escape from the piranha tank stretches credibility, but why argue? Jim Aparo's stuff remains dazzling.

"Swift Wing of Recompense"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

Nemesis is in disguise as he corners a crook in an alley and learns that Jack Vanders has hooked up with the Kingston Mob and is engaged in some sort of nefarious activity in Houston, Texas. Concerned that the same mob was somehow responsible for his brother becoming a killer, Nemesis journeys to the Lone Star State, where he learns that the mob is running drugs across the Mexican border. During his investigation, Nemesis also learns that his brother was brainwashed by the mob. He gets himself a ride on a drug-smuggling plane, but when his disguise goes bad he has to bail out before the plane crashes.

Jack: It's funny that such a dreadful story bears such a serious title as "Swift Wings of Recompense." One might think Doug Moench was visiting from Warren and graced DC with this absurd title. Spiegle's art is at least as bad as ever, if not worse, and the gadgets Nemesis invents for his own use are outlandish, including his special makeup thingy that melts off of his face when he releases a gas. It's especially ludicrous when he's in the plane and turbulence accidentally jostles his gizmo, releasing the gas and revealing his identity at a most inopportune time. With the disappearance of the backup strips from Detective, Nemesis officially grabs the title of worst monthly series.

Peter: Nemesis meets up with what could be the dumbest gang of hoods in DC history. Our hero is fighting in a black turtleneck with a yellow logo (of the scales of justice) emblazoned on his breast (in a Halloween mask resembling a Neanderthal Man, no less!), but these guys have no idea who he is until he exits stage left and one of the dopes finds a "little model of the scales of justice" lying on the ground. "Hey!" says the dope, "I've heard of a guy who uses this as a symbol!" Sheesh! Any interesting developments in the case of Craig Tresser are almost muted by the truly wretched art of Dan Spiegle.

Next Week...
The Moenchest of the Moench