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.

Peter:
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!


Aparo
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.

"Betrayal!"
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!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-William Link and Richard Levinson Part Three: Captive Audience [8.5]

by Jack Seabrook

William Link and Richard Levinson adapted two of their own short stories during the final season of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and the TV shows that resulted were not very different from the stories on which they were based. For their first teleplay for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, however, they were assigned the task of adapting a novel by another author, and their teleplay is so different from its source that the onscreen credit might better have read "inspired by the novel" rather than "based on the novel." "Captive Audience" was the fifth hour-long episode to air, on October 18, 1962, and the novel that inspired it was called Murder off the Record in the U.S., where it was published in 1957, though its original U.K. title had been Marion; it was published in England in either 1957 or 1958.

The novel's author was John Bingham (1908-1988), who led a fascinating life. He became a baron by succession in 1960, but prior to that he fought in the Second World War and was a spy in MI5 for decades. He was admired by his younger colleague John LeCarre, who admitted that Bingham was one of two men on whom he based his character, George Smiley. Bingham encouraged LeCarre to begin writing and Bingham himself wrote 17 novels and one non-fiction book between 1952 and 1982. Murder off the Record was his fifth novel and the version done for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour was one of seven times his books were adapted for the screen: five times on television (including two for The Alfred Hitchcock Hour) and twice on film. His biography is titled, The Man Who Was George Smiley (2013).

First U.S. edition

Murder off the Record is narrated by David Shepton, a reporter, who begins by explaining that his own life intersected with that of a man named Ronald Parker, a/k/a Leslie Braithwaite, who strangled a woman named Edith Grant. The story is set in London, England, and begins on a September evening, when Braithwaite kills Grant around the same time that Shepton visits a colleague named Ann Picton. The narrator relates that he met his wife, Marion, at Ann's after the end of the Second World War. Ann had remained single after receiving a letter telling her that Braithwaite, her lover, had died after the war. She shows David a snapshot of Leslie.

Just as David returns home to Marion, he is called out to cover the story of Edith Grant, who was strangled at her home in Ann's building. She is the second strangulation victim in the district in two weeks. David meets Detective Inspector Fosser of Scotland Yard. At Ann's apartment, he pockets the photo of Braithwaite that she had torn in half. Back home with Marion, David recalls his boyhood friends, including Basil Roper, a grocer's son, and suspects that Braithwaite had a connection with Barkston Bay, where David spent school holidays. He also recalls the night Marion had accepted his marriage proposal after they visited a ruined garden that he had loved as a child. Later that evening, David and Marion encountered Basil Roper and his date, Sheila Todd; the foursome had drinks and went for a moonlight drive that ended with a terrible accident and the death of a policeman. David claimed to have been driving and Marion said she did not recall the accident.

David was put on trial and recalls that the courtroom was where he had seen Braithwaite before, watching the testimony. Braithwaite had entered the bar earlier that evening with Roper and thus was not dead, despite what Ann had been told. David wonders why Braithwaite had seen to it that Ann was told he was dead. David spent six months in prison and wed Marion after his release; he eventually learned that she was serially unfaithful. Like Braithwaite, Marion was a liar, and the two had a connection: David recognizes Marion's handwriting in the letter to Ann reporting Braithwaite's alleged death.

1960 Dell paperback edition;
cover by Robert Maguire

He confronts Marion with the truth of her infidelity and visits Roper, accusing him of being Marion's lover. David finds the engagement ring he gave Marion sitting on Roper's table; the resentful grocer's son mocks David's ignorance of his wife's infidelity and reveals that she only pretended to have lost her memory after the car accident. Basil reveals that he once gave a job to Ronald Parker, another of Marion's ex-lovers; David does not yet realize that Parker and Braithwaite are the same man. When David goes home, he finds that Marion has gone and left only a note. That night, David is attacked in his home by an intruder. They fight and the man escapes; David later realized that the intruder was Braithwaite.

The next morning, two policemen question David, who lies about the time he got home in order to avoid embarrassment over Marion's departure. A day later, D.I. Fosser and Sgt. Briggs arrive and pick apart David's story, revealing that Roper was found strangled at his flat. Suddenly, David is a suspect in the murders of Basil Roper and Edith Grant. Eventually, he finds a letter from Ann, who has been summoned to Cowton by Braithwaite's parents, who claim they want to clear the air about their son. David realizes that the letter was written by Braithwaite, who is luring Ann to her death. After some more questioning at Scotland Yard, David pieces together the relationships between Ann, Marion, Basil, and Braithwaite and suspects that Braithwaite is a serial strangler whose mania is getting worse.

David steals a car and drives to Cowton, where he finds Ann and convinces her to stay in her hotel room with the door locked. Later that night, David discovers Braithwaite lurking outside the hotel. Another fight ensues and, though Braithwaite escapes, the police catch him the next day. David's name is cleared and Braithwaite is tried and hanged for murder. David divorces Marion and marries Ann, finally letting go of his anger toward his unfaithful wife when he takes Ann to the walled garden, which has been restored to its former beauty.

Murder off the Record is an outstanding short novel, filled with suspense and a complicated plot told in one long flashback that includes a series of additional flashbacks. One wonders if the narrator is reliable, since he reveals the guilty party in chapter one, but eventually the truth emerges and the narrator survives, the killer is punished, and the faithless wife is left to continue living on her own terms. There are several murders but none is witnessed or described in detail. The police are misguided at first, but the narrator, a newspaper reporter, succeeds in putting them on the right track. The serial strangler, a key character, barely speaks, though he is central to the action. The setting is mostly in mid-century London, with a frantic drive to the country near the end of the novel, and the locations help set the mood of the story. Marion's mania for men is compared with Braithwaite's mania for killing; neither is explained and both are accepted as fact.

James Mason as Warren Barrow

Link and Levinson were faced with challenges in adapting this novel to fill a one-hour television time slot. Should they update it from the late 1940s and mid-1950s to the early 1960s? Should they move the setting from England to the U.S.? How should they handle the narrative structure and the use of flashbacks, not to mention the first person narration? Should they present events in chronological order? Most important, what characters and events can be cut while still preserving the central themes?

The teleplay for "Captive Audience" is a surprise to anyone who has read Murder off the Record. The writers invent a new framing device and change virtually everything about the novel, while preserving certain events and making significant changes to the main characters. The show begins with an establishing shot of the Golden Gate Bridge, which shows that the story's setting has been moved from London to San Francisco. The camera then moves inside a high rise building to the offices of Medallion Press, a publishing company. In the office, publisher Victor Hartman listens to a reel to reel tape that contains a story narrated by mystery writer Warren Barrow.

Angie Dickinson as Janet West

Link and Levinson choose to use the reel to reel tape to mirror the novel's first person narration, allowing Barrow to relate the story to his publisher and, by extension, to the viewer. Victor has been publishing Barrow's mystery novels for three years and works closely with him; perhaps Link and Levinson were giving a sly nod to the book's author, John Bingham, whose British publisher was Victor Gollancz. On the tape, Barrow says that he is planning to kill someone, and it becomes evident that Link and Levinson have merged aspects of the novel's characters of David Shepton and Leslie Braithwaite into a single person. A writer named Tom Keller arrives, having been summoned by Hartman, and he listens to the tape with the publisher. Barrow calls Victor a "'captive audience'" (hence the show's title) and admits that Warren Barrow is not his real name. He says that Victor will never know if the story he tells is true or not and begins to narrate a compressed version of the flashback from the book where David proposed to Marion.

Arnold Moss as Victor Hartman

There is a dissolve and the events being narrated are shown on screen, no longer told as a story but instead depicted as they occurred. Barrow married a woman named Helen and honeymooned in the south of France, where they met a couple named Ivar and Janet West. Barrow and Janet go to a casino to gamble while Ivar and Helen have drinks; Janet makes a risky bet and loses all her money; this is a quick way to telegraph the careless side of her personality. Barrow takes her for a drive and is attracted to her but resists temptation. He returns to his hotel room and, when his wife returns, he is jealous and insists they leave right away. While driving at night, they reconcile and kiss, which causes a horrible accident in which Helen is killed. The first act of the TV show ends here, with the car accident in the book transformed into one where the narrator's wife is killed.

Back in the publisher's office, Victor and Tom listen to the tape as Barrow explains that he woke up in a hospital and refused recommended brain surgery. This will later serve to explain his bizarre behavior. Victor then plays a second tape from Barrow, who explains that, after the accident, he took a new name and began leading a new life as a writer of mystery novels. At a club, he met Janet once again. She accompanied him back to his house and an affair began. Eventually, she started to complain about her husband and asked Warren how he would kill Ivar if he were planning a mystery novel. Barrow played along and they planned Ivar's murder and how to dispose of his body. Soon it becomes clear that Barrow's harmless fantasy was Janet's dangerous reality; she took the first steps to carry out the plan and played on Warren's guilt over Helen's death to overcome his resistance to killing Ivar.

Ed Nelson as Tom Keller

At this point in the TV show, the teleplay has diverged completely from Bingham's novel. Barrow has echoes of both David and Leslie, mixed with the author, John Bingham, while Janet has aspects of Marion and Leslie as well. The third act begins back in Victor's office, where he and Tom discuss the story they've heard on the tapes and Tom suggests that Barrow is unbalanced because the auto accident damaged his brain. Victor comments that Tom (like Bingham) writes psychological thrillers and that is why the publisher asked him to listen to the tapes. They argue about whether the story Barrow tells is fact or fiction and realize that Barrow has told them that the names he is using are not real.

Just then, a third tape arrives by messenger and the two men anxiously listen to it. Barrow explains that Janet left his home in order to establish an alibi for herself. Ivar arrived and confronted Barrow, just as in the novel David went to visit Basil and confronted him about Marion. In the TV version, Barrow pulls a gun and tries to shoot Ivar, but the safety catch jams and he cuts his hand. Ivar (like Basil) tells Barrow that he is not Janet's first lover and Barrow loses his temper, yet he finds himself unable to go through with killing Ivar. Barrow goes for a long drive and returns home to find two detectives waiting for him; the scene is similar to the one in the novel where the detectives question David after he returns from seeing Basil. Barrow realizes that Janet wanted the police to find him there with Ivar's body and arrest him.

Roland Winters as Ivar West

Back at Victor's office, he and Tom hear Barrow on the tape say that he will kill Janet. Tom says that they must find Janet and warn her; this parallels David's efforts in the book to find Ann and warn her about Braithwaite's intention to kill her. Unexpectedly, Barrow arrives at the office, finally bringing the two strands of the story together. In the final act, Barrow insists that the story on the tapes is a work of fiction, but Tom goads him and Warren slips and refers to Janet by her real surname of Waverly. Tom notices a cut on Barrow's finger and is sure that the story about trying to shoot Ivar was true. By extension, Barrow's claim on the tapes that he plans to kill Janet must also be true. After Barrow leaves, Victor and Tom find Janet's telephone number in the phone book and try to call her but get no answer. Tom heads for her house while Victor takes the tapes to the police.

Janet arrives home and is surprised to find Barrow inside, waiting for her. The phone rings and she speaks to Victor, who is calling from the police station. This scene recalls the one in the novel when David first tries to call Ann and then rushes to her side. Victor has a policeman speak to Janet and tell her to lock her door, but Barrow hangs up the phone. From this point on, the TV show takes its most unexpected turn away from the novel. Barrow starts a game of chess with Janet and comes up behind her with a gun. Tom pulls up outside and rushes in, but Barrow shoots and kills Janet before Tom arrives. Tom finds Janet dead and speaks to Barrow, who seems to have lost touch with reality. Tom flatters his fellow author and praises his book, taking the gun from his hand. In the show's final scene, Barrow sits at the police station, narrating the last part of his story into a tape recorder and concluding by repeating the sentence: "'That's always the problem, finding the right ending,'" three times.

Sarah Shane as Helen Barrow

In adapting Murder off the Record into "Captive Audience," Link and Levinson took characters from the novel and mixed up their actions and motivations. They identified key scenes from the book and used variations on them to build their own story. They used the device of the author narrating his story into a tape recorder to present the story in a series of flashbacks and changed the happy ending to a more downbeat one. Most surprisingly, they took the serial killer from the novel and eliminated him entirely! The result is not so much an adaptation as a reimagining.

The show is directed by Alf Kjellin (1920-1988), who uses various dissolves to move from scene to scene and to flash backward and forward in time. I counted at least eight dissolves, along with two left to right wipes, a bottom to top dissolve, a wipe where the picture flips from top to bottom, and what I can only describe as a spiral dissolve. The overall feeling of all of the dissolves and wipes recalls a film from the classic Hollywood period. Kjellin was born in Sweden and started out in the movies in 1937 as an actor. He began acting on TV in 1952 and continued until 1979. He started directing films in 1955 and worked as a director on American television from 1961 to 1985, concurrent with his work as an actor. As an actor, he appeared in the 1966 film adaptation of Jack Finney's Assault on a Queen and in one episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. As a director, he was at the helm for one episode of the half-hour Hitchcock series ("Coming Home") and eleven episodes of the hour series.

Bart Burns as Lt. Summersby
Starring in "Captive Audience" as Warren Barrow is James Mason (1909-1984), one of the greatest twentieth-century film actors. Born in England, he made his stage debut in 1931 and was on screen from 1935 to 1984. He became a star in the 1940s and moved to Hollywood in 1949; he was featured in films such as 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), A Star is Born (1954), North by Northwest (1959), Lolita (1962), and Heaven Can Wait (1978). He wrote an autobiography called Before I Forget (1981). This was his only appearance on the Hitchcock TV show.

Co-starring as Janet West is Angie Dickinson (1931- ). Born Angeline Brown, she acted in film and on TV from 1954 to 2009 and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. This is one of two Alfred Hitchcock Hours in which she appeared. She was featured in Howard Hawks's Rio Bravo (1959) and starred in the TV series Police Woman from 1974 to 1978.

Geraldine Wall
as Mrs. Hurley

Playing Victor Hartman is Arnold Moss (1910-1989). Moss was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was mostly a stage actor, specializing in Shakespeare. His well-trained voice made him a good fit for radio shows; he appeared in movies and on TV as well, including twice on the Hitchcock series and once on Star Trek.

Ed Nelson (1928-2014) plays Tom Keller; on screen from 1952 to 2003, he started out as a stuntman in various Roger Corman films in the late 1950s and is best known for his role on Peyton Place from 1964 to 1969. He was on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour twice and also appeared in episodes of Thriller, The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Night Gallery.

Born Roland Winternitz, Roland Winters (1904-1989) plays Ivar West. He starred as Charlie Chan in six films (1947-1949) and was on screen from 1941 to 1982. This was his only role on the Hitchcock TV series.

In smaller roles:
  • Sarah Shane (1928- ) as Helen Barrow, who is killed in the car accident; born Elaine Hollingsworth, she was on screen from 1948 to 1964 and appeared in one other episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
  • Bart Burns (1918-2007) as Lt. Summersby, whom Victor puts on the phone to warn Janet near the end; born George Joseph Burns, his father was a New York City police inspector. Burns served in WWII as a Marine and fought at Iwo Jima; he was on screen from 1953 to 1988 and also appeared in "The Night the World Ended" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He played Pat Chambers on TV's Mike Hammer (1958-1959).
  • Geraldine Wall (1907-1970) plays Mrs. Hurley, who is sitting at the table at the club with Janet. She was on Broadway from age 15 and on screen from 1943 to 1970.
  • Renee Godfrey (1919-1964) as Miss Sherman, Victor's secretary; born Renee Vera Haal, she was on screen from 1940 to 1964.
Renee Godfrey
  • Don Matheson as Pierson, the police detective who questions Barrow after he spares Ivar West. Matheson fought in Korea and served in the Detroit Police Department before becoming an actor; this episode is his first credit in a career that lasted until 1999. His biggest role was as co-star of the series, Land of the Giants (1968-1970).
Don Matheson
  • Cosmo Sardo (1909-1989) as the croupier at the casino in the south of France; he had bit parts in countless films and TV shows from 1939 to 1982, usually uncredited. He also owned a barber shop in Los Angeles. He was seen briefly in "Dip in the Pool" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Cosmo Sardo
  • Barbara Dane (1927- ) as the folk singer who performs in the club when Barrow reunites with Janet; born Barbara Jean Spillman, she appeared in two TV shows in 1962 but is mainly known as a folk, blues, and jazz singer.
Barbara Dane

For fans of obscure props, the book Night of Horror that appears every so often on the Hitchcock TV show, either under that title or another one (but with the same cover picture), may be glimpsed briefly among the books in Barrow's office.

Night of Horror

"Captive Audience" is not available on U.S. DVD but may be viewed here on Peacock.

Sources:

Bingham, John. Murder off the Record. Roslyn, NY: The Detective Book Club, 1958 [?].

"Captive Audience." The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, season 8, episode 5, CBS, 18 October 1962.

Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred Hitchcock Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.

IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com.

Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, www.wikipedia.org/.


In two weeks: Our coverage of Richard Levinson and William Link continues with "Day of Reckoning," starring Barry Sullivan and Claude Akins!


Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "The Hidden Thing" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "What Frightened You, Fred?" here!

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 63: May 1975

 


 

The Critical Guide to
the Warren Illustrated Magazines
1964-1983
by Uncle Jack
& Cousin Peter



Kelly
Creepy #71

"Room For One More" 
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Luis Bermejo

"But When She Was Bad" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Luis Bermejo

"His Name Is John!" ★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Song of Alanbane" 
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Minotaur" ★1/2
Story by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Luis Bermejo

Okay, so pay attention cuz I'm only going to try to explain this once (how I wish I didn't have to 'splain it at all!): Mrs. Lomax has murdered Mr. Lomax and is intent on running away with his best friend, Augie. Well, that's what she thinks! Mr. Lomax caught on to the Mrs.'s scheme months before she planned on poisoning him cuz Augie is still Mr. Lomax's buddy, not Mrs. Lomax's bed buddy! But anyway, Mrs. Lomax goes to the Farrow Funeral Parlor and orders up a coffin for Mr. Lomax, flirting with the handsome Mr. Farrow (whose wife died months before... kinda... sorta) in the process. 

While Mr. Farrow is readying Mr. Lomax for embalming, Lomax sits up in his coffin and explains what's going on. The "poison" his wife has been giving him is actually a super-secret formula that gives the user symptoms of death. He holds a gun on Farrow and tells him to give him some more of the potion and bury him; Augie will dig him up later. But Mr. Farrow actually has something else going on in the back room; he's keeping Mrs. Farrow's body company with the corpses of several other unwary visitors, all propped up in a dining area. In a very short amount of time, he adds Lomax, Augie, and Mrs. Lomax to the guest list.

Farrow wears a "death mask" to make his wife's corpse more comfortable with her present state. After dispatching Mrs. Lomax and Augie, Farrow is called to the showroom by a customer. Unfortunately, the dimwit forgets to take off his scary mask and the customer screams in fear. This brings the local police, who break in just in time to see Farrow berating and emptying a pistol into his wife's moldering corpse.

"But When She Was Bad"
I've never been near a rotting corpse, so I have no idea if it smells as bad as Doug Moench's script for "Room For One More" but, I gotta tell you... this is some gawdawful crap. There seem to be two or three contrived and confusing parallel story lines and no resolution to any of those threads. Farrow's obsession is inane, as is his random selection of victims. How the hell could the smell not warrant a visit from the cops? If you're going to try to convince a mortician to go along with your scheme, do you threaten him with death? If it was me, I'd be very nice to the guy who's going to be putting you into the ground for later exhuming. And what's the story with Augie and Mr. Lomax? Are they really really close friends? I'd add that the final panel makes no sense, but then I've just wasted hundreds of words describing an entire story that makes no sense. 

"His Name Is John"
After surviving a terrible car crash in which her parents are both killed, Julie begins hearing voices in her head. Those voices tell her to do terrible things like bash her puppy's head in. Who are these voices? Is it mental erosion due to Julie's concussion? Is there a sinister force at work? Good luck if you think you'll find out anything about what's going on. If I was Luis Bermejo, I'da been on the phone to Jim Warren. "If you're going to dedicate an entire issue to my art, could you at least give me something literate to illustrate?" Neither "Room for One More" nor "But When She Was Bad" makes a lick of sense. To add inanity to inanity, "But When She Was Bad" either ends on a cliffhanger or the last page wasn't printed. It literally ends mid-scene. The big secret the voices keep prodding Julie about throughout the second half of the tale really isn't that much of a secret, is it?

In "His Name Is John," a priest is beamed up into a spaceship by an alien who claims he is God. The creature is about to destroy Earth because it hasn't become the paradise it envisioned. Can the father talk this God into giving us another chance? Some will cry "pretension," some "heresy," but I just found "His Name Is John!" to be a wall-to-wall bore. So many other writers have tried to put a spin on "the creator." If you want to present your "vision" to the world, I'd advise you not to be so talky about it. That seems to be the main problem with Warren science fiction.

There seems to be no defense for the demon Alanbane, a huge "dark knight" equipped with a sword that can seemingly cut a swath through any army. In the end, only love and a fetching naked lass can defeat this hellspawn. In direct contrast to "His Name Is John!" is "The Song of Alanbane," light on text and a feast for the eyes. Boudreau manages to pull off a feat not usually successful in funny books: story as poem. Bermejo's Alanbane is an imposing figure, no doubt, but if Gerry's rhymes come off as pretension, the entire presentation is dust. Thankfully, Boudreau hits the bullseye; RE Howard would be proud. Easily the best thing in this issue.

Every year, fourteen young Grecians are sent to Crete to be sacrifices for King Minos's Minotaur. Prince Theseus vows to put an end to this bloodshed, so he volunteers to be one of the fourteen in the latest export. With the help of Minos's daughter (who believes her father to be kind but a bit loony in the head), Theseus confronts and slays "The Minotaur"! Not a bad adaptation at all, "The Minotaur" is an exciting bit of mythological adventure, tantamount to a newly discovered Harryhausen film. The art is a bit sparse but it'll do. Overall, I'm not sure the artistic talents of Luis Bermejo merit a full issue of his work.-Peter

Jack-I had the same thought when I finished reading this issue. He seems to be a mid-level Warren artist--not as good as Wrightson or Sutton but not as bad as Fraccio/Tallarico, either. I like "The Minotaur" best of the stories this time out, though the story (based on Hawthorne, based on Greek mythology) is better than the art, which is a bit bland.

Next came "The Story of Alanbane," where the art is decent and the story good enough. I was not as impressed by the rhymes as you were and I thought it unusual that the naked girl is as un-sexy as she is, which is not what we're used to from Warren. "Room for One More" has its enjoyable sections, but the whole thing ends up a complete mess. "But When She was Bad" is junky pop-psychology and "His Name Is John!" is twelve endless pages of religious babble and ancient astronauts. If Warren is going to spend an entire issue on one mediocre artist, they'll need to improve the writing.


Torres
Vampirella #42

"The Mountain of Skulls"★1/2
Story by Flaxman Loew & Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jose Gonzalez

"Around the Corner...Just Beyond Eternity!"
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Luis Garcia Mozos

"Laugh, Clown, Laugh!"★1/2
Story by Shelly Leferman
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Straw on the Wind"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Rafael Auraleon

"The Whitfield Contract"★1/2
Story & Art by Fernando Fernandez

After the airplane Vampi and Pendy are on is drawn down to a crash landing by a mysterious force, she turns into a bat to survey the desert island on which they've landed. Pendragon and the rest of the survivors are captured by beautiful women, who lead them to their village and put them in a cage. The women behead obese, loudmouthed Clarence Swinger, while Vampi flags down a paddleboat whose two owners are looking for El Dorado.

Vampi leads the men to the crash site, but they are more interested in scavenging the wreckage for valuables until the native women happen by and kill their guide. One of the fortune-hunters machine-guns the native women after his partner knocks out Vampi; the nasty duo march through the jungle until they find the womens' village, which features "The Mountain of Skulls," which happen to be plated in gold. Waking up to the realization that she hasn't had her blood substitute in a while, Vampi gets hungry and feasts on one of the men from the paddleboat. His partners make a run for it. Vampi and Pendy restack the golden skulls and, after a sisterly (?) kiss between Vampirella and the leader of the native women, our heroes are free to leave. The remaining fortune-hunter is killed by a giant snake.

I am so happy to see Jose Gonzalez back as the artist for this strip that I can excuse some of the problems with the script. Why are Vampi and Pendy on a plane? Where are they going? Where are they coming from? How did everyone survive the plane crash? Who are the random extra people that come and go from the group of plane survivors and the group on the paddleboat? Why is Vampi always running out of blood substitute? Has she ever heard of foam packaging? Where did the giant snake come from?

Is there life after death? "Around the Corner...Just Beyond Eternity!" Doing research for an article on immortality, a man revisits a decaying house that he had first visited when he was an RAF flyer in the First World War. He was shot down over Germany and taken to the house, where an old woman took him in but then revealed his presence to angry villagers, though she insisted on keeping him there until the army came. The young man was aided by a beautiful young woman, who helped him to escape but who also offered him a place next to her in the small lake outside. Returning years later, he saw the young woman in a portrait and learned that she had died before he was brought there. Did his resemblance to her late brother call her back from beyond the grave to help him?

In spite of Luis Garcia Mozos's very scratchy art, which looks unfinished but which I suspect is supposed to look atmospheric, I enjoyed this story. The ghostly turn it took at the end made up for the unfocused storytelling at the beginning, and it all made a kind of sense by the last page. I guess I was in a mood for a Gothic romance.

Droopy, the sad-faced clown, is the hit of the circus! He never socializes or removes his makeup, so reporters begin to clamor for a picture of him as he really looks. One reporter succeeds in snapping a photo and it show that Droopy is really a fanged ogre. No one believes it until a Senator investigates and Droopy is forced to reveal himself. Now everyone hates Droopy! To save the circus, he must allow himself to be displayed among the freaks, where patrons can mock him.

"Laugh, Clown, Laugh" is written by Shelly Leferman who, as far as I can tell, had a career as a letterer for comics. Was he (she?) the one who made all of the spelling errors in the Warren mags? In any case, this eight-pager is not at all original or well-written, but I like the crisp, clean artwork by Ramon Torrents, though the comic credits it to Esteban Maroto. Too bad such nice art is wasted on a depressing tale like this.

Pantha returns to the strip club (where she was not a stripper) but is fired for taking two days off. Another strip club owner invites her to work at his joint but, when she arrives, she meets the head stripper, a woman who goes by the name of Cleopatra and who has a pet leopard named Antony. Cleo kisses Pantha and Pantha reacts badly, so when Cleo tries to sic Antony on Pantha, our "heroine" turns into a panther and rips Cleo to shreds. Pantha flees to an opium den but, when one of the druggies tries to have sex with her, a man named Jack Kimble, who is searching for his daughter, rescues her and takes her home with him.

Kimble is kind to Pantha, so she insists that he sleep with her, which he does. He then counsels her to leave the nasty city and she tells him that one more "Straw on the Wind" will break her spirit. He walks off and is robbed and killed by a man who has his eye on Pantha through her apartment window.

Budd Lewis's script is, in a word, dreadful. I knew we were in trouble when Pantha angrily calls Cleo a "female fag," but it gets worse--in the opium den, Pantha gets high and has a memory of her father getting a little too friendly. That memory then is confused with a druggie trying to rape her as she wakes up. One would think she might have had enough of men for awhile, but the first guy who is kind to her finds Pantha insisting that he hop in bed with her. I like Auraleon's art (except for the guys with the giant, bald foreheads), but this story is the dregs and surely in the running for worst of '75. And from the winner of Best Warren Writer for the year, Budd Lewis!

John Gamble, paid assassin, has killed Peter Whitfield, and the Syndicate asks him to attend the funeral. He feels some guilt over murdering his friend and decides to retire, but when he goes to the funeral, the Syndicate men say that's not allowed. Whitfield's wife Jill, with whom Gamble once had an affair, knows her husband was murdered and is working on identifying his killer.

Two days later, Gamble is assigned a new victim: Dr. Hackett, who was paid by the Syndicate to certify that Whitfield died a natural death. The doctor has figured out that Whitfield was killed by someone with a tremendous mental power and Gamble decides not to kill him. Gamble calls Jill Whitfield to apologize and she reveals that she knows he killed her on orders from Modesto of the Syndicate. The next day, Gamble visits the Syndicate and explains that he comes from another planet and has special mind powers that he uses to kill cleanly. He plans to return to his home planet but promises to come back some day and kill Modesto.

Fernandez's stories don't look like those of anyone else, and this one has a lot of plot and is interesting until he flubs the ending. There was no need to have Gamble be an alien from another planet. Perhaps the writer/artist felt that he had to add a supernatural element to make it fit in a Warren horror mag. Who knows? But for most of its 12 pages, it's probably the most cogent story in this underwhelming issue.-Jack

Peter-Even more slapdash than usual, Flaxman Butterworth's script is a sinkhole of stupidity and lukewarm Moench-esque prose (The last screams of the moribund intermingled with the dolorous wails of the living creating a nightmare of cacophony). What is it that brings the plane down in the first place? Am I supposed to be so intoxicated by the half-nekkid jungle girls that I'll completely forget the pilot's exclamation of  "Something's drawing us down!?" And what's with the fact that every Amazonian looks exactly alike? I thought, at first, we'd get some power-mad scientist who's created a race of sexy androids to guard his Fort Knox of skulls but, alas, that old trope was not trotted out. Why is it that sometimes Vampi is a helpless femme and other times a savage beast? And where is she getting that endless supply of fake blood (that, inevitably, is destroyed every issue)?  Only the vicious beheading and some sexy lesbian titillation save "The Mountain of Skulls" from being unsalvageable dreck. Lots of fat-hating as well!

There's a line in "Around the Corner..." that perfectly sums up my feelings about the tale: My mind swirled in confusion. A thought that has nagged at me while reading some of these Warren stories popped up yet again here: do these writers begin with an outline or are they just winging it through the entire process? Nothing about "Around the Corner..." cries out "natural progression." I've always thought Luis Garcia's art well-done but a bit "fuzzy." The fuzz is starting to grow to epic proportions. 

Inside cover

"Laugh, Clown, Laugh!" is equally perplexing. Yeah, I know that the Senate once blamed funny books for rape, sadism, juvenile delinquency, and high gas prices, but the Droopy witch hunt is ludicrous beyond belief. And how was it that Droopy was hiding those fangs? Though Esteban Maroto was credited on the splash, this is actually a Ramon Torrents production. The chore continues with "Straw on the Wind," the rebooted Pantha, which replaces the execrable "Dracula" series. Based on this first new chapter, the act might be tantamount to replacing old kitty litter with... old kitty litter. Awful dialogue ("Get away from me, you female fag!") and a ponderous storyline that seems to go absolutely nowhere. The highlight here would have to be Pantha's story about fishing a beloved cap out of a toilet with a comb. I hated hated hated this junk.

"The Whitfield Contract" starts promisingly enough. I'm a men's adventure paperback fanatic, so a hit man story falls well within my enjoyment parameters. Then, of course, the damn thing descends into mediocrity and lunacy. I literally laughed out loud when the coroner told Gamble that he'd guessed the real cause of death for Whitfield was "a certain form of electrical energy transferred from a powerful outside source... a superior brain!" I know we've been forced to wade through some bad issues but Vampirella #42 might be the worst collection of pretentious and half-baked crap yet. To add insult to injury, the 1974 Warren Awards are announced and, as usual, the grand prize goes to more pretentious prattle, Budd Lewis's "Excerpts From Year Five." Laughably, the story is so important that Warren doesn't even list the title correctly!


Next Week...
More vampiric hijinx!

Monday, July 5, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 31: July 1982


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



Andru & Giordano
Batman #349

"Blood Sport"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan & Alfredo Alcala

Killing time in L.A. waiting for his application to the Academy of Crime to be approved, Batman calls Stately Wayne Manor after 10 p.m. and is surprised when no one answers. Little does he know that Robin is tied to a chair in Dala's spooky mansion. Meanwhile, Alfred is in Boston, hiring Christopher Cross (a/k/a the Human Target) to impersonate Bruce Wayne. Alfred claims Bruce's life is in danger, but he really wants to trick Vicki Vale into thinking Bruce and Bats are different people.

In Gotham City, Commissioner Gordon sits at home in his bathrobe until Babs shows up with Jason Bard in tow. On the 11 o'clock news, they see an announcement that the new commissioner plans to institute mandatory retirement after 20 years on the force. Gordon gets fired up and agrees to work with Bard to investigate the recent mayoral election. Back in Dala's mansion, Robin knocks over a lamp and sets fire to a rug, bringing Dala and a spooky monk on the double--and they both have fangs! Dala puts the bite on Robin before he knocks her out and he finds two corpses in another room, tied upside down to beams and with bite marks on their throats.

Robin fights off the monk, escapes from the mansion, and collapses in the middle of the road, where a priest happens to drive by and pick him up. The priest takes the Boy Wonder to the hospital and thinks that he recognizes the mark of the Vampiri!

Peter: First things first: Gene Colan and Alfredo Alcala working together on a Batman strip? Be still my beating heart. Colan was untouched when it came to noir art and Alcala (for my money) was one of the three best horror artists of the 1970s (along with Wrightson and Sutton), and their excellence shines through in just about every panel here. Ironically, the only scene I didn't care for was the lone appearance of Batman himself, which looked a little clunky. As for the story, which is a spotlight on the supporting cast despite the misleading cover illo, I love when the writers introduce supernatural possibilities to the Bat-stories, since the Dark Knight's gloomy atmosphere meshes with those scary elements so well. Of course, this all could be explained away as "blood disease" next issue but, as it stands, the Best Story of the Year award is "Blood Sport"'s to lose. The Monk and Dala are rebooted characters who appeared in slightly different form in Detective #31; Gerry was obviously going the Roy Thomas route of sifting through old issues for inspiration. That always seems to bring about good stuff.

Jack: I don't like Alcala's inks on Colan's pencils at all. The panels look muddy. Here and there I can see a glimpse of the old Colan but, overall, the art in this story is a mess. Not as big a mess as the story, though! Conway uses his Marvel training to make us read one issue after another by keeping multiple story threads going, but none of them is particularly interesting. Batman and the Academy of Crime are given short shrift, the subplot with Alfred hiring the Human Target is just stupid, and Commissioner Gordon being revived to fight early retirement seems silly. That leaves the main story thread, with Robin in the spooky mansion. Maybe Dick Giordano brought in Alcala to amp up the story's horror elements, but Colan was the best vampire artist of the '70s and didn't need the help.

"The Man, The Bullet, The Cat,
Part Two"
Story by Bruce Jones
Art by Trevor Von Eeden & Larry Mahlstedt

Candidate Dan Brown is shot but he's not dead, so when he is taken to the hospital, his wife blames Catwoman for failing to protect him. Brown wins the election and insists on making an acceptance speech, so Catwoman develops a protective bubble for him to stand under. On the night of the speech, the bubble fills with poison gas and Catwoman tricks Simmons into admitting he's to blame. He then throws Mrs. Brown under the bus but, when she makes a run for it, she suffers a bad fall and is left paralyzed.

Peter: The reveal, that Simmons and Mrs. Brown were the hidden villains, was too obvious, and I would question whether an emergency trapdoor that can leave someone with a broken spine is a really good idea, but the Von Eeden art is so stylish and sets itself apart from the usual meh art of the backups that I can still enjoy the series. Still, this is not Bruce Jones's finest work.

Jack: Once again, the backup story outshines the lead story, something that I can be sure will not happen in Detective Comics or The Brave and the Bold. I agree that von Eeden's art is the highlight; some of the panels and layouts recall those of Walt Simonson from the mid-'70s Batman.



Andru & Giordano
Detective Comics #516

"Academy of Crime, Part Two:
Final Exams!"
Story by Gerry Conway & Paul Kupperberg
Art by Don Newton & Frank Chiaramonte

Matches Malone, a/k/a Bruce Wayne, a/k/a The Dark Knight, has infiltrated Hollywood's "Academy of Crime," an elite school for criminals. There, hoods are taught how to ventilate, stab, and immolate their foes. But somehow, the Headmaster is onto the Dark Knight's presence and sends his goons after our hero. Obviously, these toughs get an "F," since they are all dispatched without much of a fight. That leaves the Headmaster himself, who discovers that not even a flamethrower is effective against Gotham's most famous vigilante.

In our "meanwhiles" this issue, Vicki Vale has pressure applied to her by her editor (who is under Boss Thorne's thumb) to give up her candid shots revealing the true identity of Batman, and Commissioner Gordon becomes one-half of a PI team (the other half being Jason Bard), hell-bent on uncovering dirt on mayor Hamilton Hall, the man who took Gordon's job. And Boss Thorne might be going slightly mad, since he's seeing Hugo Strange everywhere he looks.

Peter:
Once you get past the ludicrous plot device of a school for wayward murderers, you're left with little but mediocre fight scenes and humdrum sub-plot interludes. The Gordon angle is an interesting one, but then we all know how that has to end since he becomes commissioner again one day. The Vicki soap opera is going on too long and we know that nothing will come of that, either. As I recall, the "Is Boss Thorne just overworked or is he really seeing Hugo?" storyline will actually pay off in a few months' time.  Oddly, Gerry never lets on how the Headmaster gets wise to Bats being one of his pupils. The only bright side to this disposable adventure is, as usual, the art, which continues to dazzle.

Jack: I'm not loving the Ross Andru pencils on the covers this month, though Dick Giordano manages to tone down his excessive tendencies. I do love the art, though, and much prefer it to that in Batman. All of these continuing stories and subplots require a lot of recaps, which tend to eat up pages. After all of the subplots were dutifully advanced, the wrap-up was pretty good. But what was that panel where Matches went to a music club? Was that supposed to be DC's idea of 1982 punk rock or new wave?


"Sleep While the Serpent Smiles!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Jose Delbo & Joe Giella

Still reeling from the bite delivered last issue by Lady Viper, Batgirl passes out in a seedy alley and is discovered by a group of homeless people who live in the "undercity" below Gotham. With their help, the Dark Knight-ette overcomes the poison in her system and makes a speedy recovery, only to discover that she's become half-snake! Meanwhile, Lady Viper is slithering through the city, pulling off antiquity heists. The Queen of the Serpents is heading for an inevitable battle with Bat-SnakeGirl!

Peter: This has to be one of the most unashamedly stupid arcs I've ever read and yet the damn thing is like Cheetos. I can't stop ingesting it, possibly because Burkett dispenses with anything related to reality and just throws in the kitchen sink. This is perfectly demonstrated by the batshit-crazy final panel for "Sleep While the Serpent Smiles," where Babs discovers that fabulous behind of hers has been replaced by ugly green scales! Keep this going for another ten issues, Cary. Please don't get back to Babs's love life or Jerry the mechanic and his underground Batgirlcycle ramp. I'm begging you.

Jack: The art is better than usual, which makes me wonder if Giella and Delbo had help here and there from an uncredited third artist. Burkett is taking the snake lady a bit further than I expected and that last panel is just nuts. With Robin battling vampires and Batgirl turning into a giant snake, things are pretty kooky this month at DC!


Aparo
The Brave and the Bold #188

"A Grave as Wide as the World!
Part One: A Moon for Madmen!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jim Aparo

As Batman stands in a grave in Gotham Cemetery, about to be crushed by a big rock thrown by Nazis, along comes Thorn, whose flying barbs distract the baddies. Flash back to several nights before, when a man dressed as Adolf Hitler visited a dying Nazi to learn a long-held secret that will threaten all democratic countries! The next day, Bruce Wayne got nowhere trying to make friends with a group of poor kids, but when Batman showed up in his cool car they were off for a ride that ended with them cleaning up a polluted lake.

On the way back to Gotham, Batman hears a radio news bulletin about the death of the Nazi and recalls that the man stole a canister of deadly poison gas that was never found. Batman promises the kids to protect the world from this very dangerous form of pollution. After deducing that David Phillips, a hospital orderly, must have disguised himself as Hitler in order to learn the dying Nazi's secret, Batman saves Rose Forrest from a flock of insane birds but, after she goes to sleep, she awakens and transforms into the crimefighter known as Thorn! The Caped Crusader learns that the birds were infected with the deadly poison gas and that Rose's father's body was one of many stolen from their graves the night before. Batman visits the grave, looking for clues, and is attacked by Nazis. After he and Thorn defeat them, Batman heads off alone on the trail of David Phillips. To be continued!

Peter: Bob Kanigher's six-page prologue about ecology and rehabilitating wasted youth is hilarious, but what's even more funny is the fact that Batman doesn't even require his Batmobile-riding moppets to wear seat belts! These borderline-gang kids go from uttering idiocies like "Who's the dude?" and "Take your scrubbin' brush somewhere else, turkey!" to cleaning up lakes and commenting on the adults they have to deal with in this big, troubled world:

Kid #1: "You promised us the world--not a bad dream!"
Kid #2: "You adults are big--with promises!"
Kid #3: "Batman will find it!"
Kid #4: "He'd better--before the clock runs down!"

Written as if by someone who never actually heard a kid on the streets of 1983 talk, it's tantamount to the cliche of a millionaire being asked how much a jug of milk costs. Sounds phony. The lengthy lecture and Thorn's origin recap leave precious little space to devote to a story. But that may be a good thing, based on what we got. Full of coincidences (Bats just happens to pick up Rosie, who happens to be the Thorn) and silliness (if you're a part-time Hitler youth and you want to keep things on the q.t., would you take a pic wearing your death's-head ring?), the first part of "A Grave as Wide as the World!" is one great big yawn. As with most of these B&B guest stars, I had no idea who Rose and Thorn were and Bog Bob gives me no reason to seek out any other adventures by the "duo."

Jack: I vaguely remember them from early 1970s issues of Lois Lane that my father would buy for my sister to read. I didn't read those "girly" comics, so I don't know much about this heroine. What troubled me about this issue, beyond the cliches and convoluted plot, was the unusually mediocre art by Aparo. In places, it reminded me of the work of Irv Novick. Now, Novick is fine, but he's no Aparo. Maybe Jim wasn't inspired by Kanigher's story and phoned these pages in.

"Gladiator's Gauntlet!"
Story by Cary Burkett
Art by Dan Spiegle

Nemesis is trapped in Kingston's mansion and must run the "Gladiator's Gauntlet!" He knocks out a couple of guards and is watched the whole time by the other members of the Council on closed-circuit TV. Avoiding falling to his death through a hole in the floor and being impaled on spikes, Nemesis comes face to face with a quartet of gladiators, who attack with knife, hook, bullwhip, and martial arts. Council member Leonard Maddok intervenes when he fears Nemesis will be defeated and Kingston will become head of the Council. But does Nemesis need his help? After beating the fearsome foursome, he feels around for an opening in a wall, unaware that it's rigged to blow up.

Peter: Despite the fact that this chapter is wall-to-wall action, it feels so tame. The fight scenes are so badly choreographed, you can't really tell what is going on. And do we really have to be reminded, every time Nemesis fires his rifle, that the bullets are harmless "Stunno-pellets?" You would never hear the Punisher brag about that.

Jack: After a not-awful story last issue, we're back to the dregs this time out. These stories are so boring and badly drawn that I find myself checking the little numbers on the bottom right of each page to see how much more I have to endure. Hang in there. It's nearly over.


Aparo
The Best of DC #26

"You Can't Hide from a Deadman!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Neal Adams
(Reprinted from The Brave and the Bold #86, November 1969)

"Three Arrows Against Doom!"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Russ Heath
(Reprinted from The Brave and the Bold #9, January 1957))

"Menace of the Mirage People!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Ross Andru & Mike Esposito
(Reprinted from The Brave and the Bold #38, November 1961)

"Threat of the Ice King"
Story by Bob Haney
Art by Joe Kubert
(Reprinted from The Brave and the Bold #18, July 1958)

"The Sword in the Lake!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Irv Novick
(Reprinted from The Brave and the Bold #31, January 1959)

"The Secret Beneath the Earth"
Story by Ed Herron
Art by Bruno Premiani
(Reprinted from Brave and the Bold #31, September 1960)

Jack: After a sharp cover by Aparo and a three-page "fact file" that introduces the main characters in this all-reprint issue, we're treated to 23 pages of gorgeous Neal Adams art from 1969! This was Deadman's second appearance in The Brave and the Bold and his first since his original run ended in Strange Adventures. Batman announces at one point that he has based his career on "surprise and fear," pre-dating the 1970 arrival of the Spanish Inquisition on Monty Python and suggesting an influence I had never before suspected. Also, the whole business with the Sensei and the snowy mountains made me think the creator of Marvel's Iron Fist may have read Deadman at some point before coming up with his kung fu hero.

The back cover!
Russ Heath's work on "Three Arrows Against Doom!" is pleasant and Haney's story is fun. "Menace of the Mirage People," from 1961, is not very interesting, though it's from the period where Andru and Esposito's art was easier to take than it would become later. "Threat of the Ice King" features 13 pages of classic Kubert art which, paired with the Adams story, makes this digest worth every penny of the dollar cover price. "The Sword in the Lake!" is fourteen pages of above-average Novick art and a story that demonstrates why the Silent Knight did not become a big hit. Finally, 25 pages of Cave Carson in "The Secret Beneath the Earth" just feels like filler to me, despite a giant lava monster and a giant magnetic monster, both of which made me think of Kirby.

Peter: It's great to have Neal Adams back with us but I couldn't make heads or tails of Bob Haney's script for "You Can't Hide..." (the mid-story expository from the Sensei was like nails on a chalkboard), and after a bit I gave up and just stared in awe at new (to me) Neal. "You Can't Hide..." is the only Bats-starring vehicle this issue and the most recent of the reprints. One of my all-time favorite DC war and Atlas horror artists, Russ Heath, adds an almost Joe Maneely-esque sheen to the historical setting of "Three Arrows Against Doom!" Until I did some research, I had no idea that Robin Hood was one of DC's first regular characters, introduced way back in New Adventure Comics #23 (January 1938). Also unknown by this non-DC fan was that The Brave and the Bold did not slip into its "team-up" theme until B&B #50 (November 1963). Until then, it was a haven for lesser hero solo stories and launching new characters. "Three Arrows" is a lot of fun, thanks mostly to that Heath glow. Of the remaining golden oldies, I liked the imaginative scripts for "Menace of the Mirage People" and "The Secret Beneath the Earth" (the latter of which I fondly remember reading in the early '70s) and the glorious art of Joe Kubert in "Threat of the Ice King."


Next Week...
Is an entire issue given over to
Luis Bermejo a good thing?