Monday, March 1, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 22: October 1981


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

Andru & Giordano
The Brave and the Bold #179

"Time-Bomb with the Thousand-Year Fuse!"
Story by Martin Pasko
Art by Ernie Colon & Mike DeCarlo

On patrol one night in Gotham, Batman foils an attempt by two goons to steal an egg-shaped time capsule set to be buried the next day. A thousand years in the future, the Legion of Super-Heroes fail to stop the theft of the Nandorian Relic, which looks exactly like the time capsule from Gotham but which contains dangerous anti-matter. It is scheduled to hatch in 1000 years and will cause a huge explosion.

Anton Halkor, the super-villain who stole the Relic, goes back to 1981 and replaces the time capsule with the anti-matter egg. Batman tries to stop him, having no idea what he's up to, and gets pulled 1000 years in the future when Halkor returns to his own time. Halkor has joined forces with Argus Oranx, a baddie also known as Universo, whose son Rond is working with the Legion. Apparently, Halkor wants to blow up the Gotham District of Metropolis and Universo wants to destroy the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Grandpa tells the kids a story.
Batman figures out that the Relic will now blow up very soon, having been sent 1000 years in the past as the "Time-Bomb with the Thousand-Year Fuse!" The Legion and Batman quickly locate the bad guys and defeat them before Batman manages to detach the bomb from its moorings so it blows up harmlessly above the Earth. Batman heads back to 1981 in a time bubble and all is well.

Jack: Comics like this are why I gave up reading comics 40 years ago. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the cover, with Batman looking awkward and out of place in his own comic. The ENDLESS 27-page story is amateurishly written and drawn, which makes me think that new inker Mike DeCarlo had a heavy hand over Ernie Colon's pencils. Maybe Martin Pasko wrote some good comics at some point, but this isn't one of them. I recall not liking his work on the second E-Man series around 1983-84, either.

Peter: I've never been a fan of cosmic space operas and "Time-Bomb with a Whatever!" provided me with no evidence that my prejudice is unwarranted. Pasko's script is way too talky and complicated but, never mind that, how am I supposed to take seriously an action epic starring Cosmic Boy and Element Lad? Let's get back down to Earth.

Batman #340

"A Man Called Mole!"
Story by Gerry Conway & Roy Thomas
Art by Gene Colan & Adrian Gonzales

One evening in Gotham, a stockbroker named William Elder is pulled underground by a creature that can dig beneath concrete! When his body is found on the outskirts of town, Batman is called in to investigate. The next victim is a psychiatrist named Kurtzmann, who is grabbed from his office by the digger right in the middle of seeing a patient. Batman climbs down the hole in the floor and comes face to face with the Mole, a creature who blames Elder and Kurtzmann for his condition. A fight ensues and Batman barely escapes a tunnel collapse.

A quick bit of research in the Batcave reminds the Caped Crusader that he's confronted a Mole before, but that one was a human digger--and he has recently escaped from prison! Elder and Kurtzmann were two of the board members who denied him parole; the third is Sandra Clark, who Bruce Wayne invites to Stately Wayne Manor for protection. The Mole digs under the Manor and emerges in the original Batcave beneath it before bursting through the kitchen floor to grab Sandra. He takes her down to the Batcave and tells her how he was transformed into a creature when he was exposed to chemical sewage during his escape from the clink. Batman appears in the nick of time to flood the tunnel, fights off the Mole, and rescues the damsel. Is the Mole gone for good? Who knows? What we do know is that Batman needs a shower.

One of several examples in this issue
of classic Colan page design!

Peter: The Poison Ivy storyline seems to have been jettisoned along with the old art team (well, for this issue at least... they'll be back for the next two and then Gene will return for a longer run). Good on both counts. Gene Colan automatically adds a whole lotta pizzazz to the package, even if his brilliance is somewhat muted here and there by Adrian Gonzales's inks. Roy's still having a big influence on Gerry, but this time out it's for the good. The adventure featuring the Mole is a well-crafted one, but what's with the EC Comics name-dropping (Kurtzman, Elder and even "Gaines preferred...")? Is it just an homage to the kind of creepy stuff Gaines and Co. used to serve up or am I missing something? Say this though... if you have to have a 27-page Batman story, make it as entertaining as "A Man Called Mole!"

Jack: Oh, Peter! We read all those EC comics and you forgot "Mole!" from Mad #2 (Dec. 1953)? (I'm having a hard time remembering what the last Batman was about and you're asking me about something we read years ago?!-Peter) The classic story is by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder. I enjoyed this story, especially after reading this month's The Brave and the Bold, and I think "A Man Called Mole!" demonstrates how Gerry Conway and Roy Thomas could maintain interest over the course of 27 pages in a way that Martin Pasko could not. A banner at the top of page one says that this is "Beginning a New Era in the Darknight Legend of the Batman," and I'm thrilled with the arrival of Gene Colan. I agree that the inks aren't the best, but Colan's page layouts, storytelling ability, and general moodiness are perfect for Batman. I also like the return of the Mole from World's Finest #80, a 1956 comic that surely only Roy Thomas remembered!

Denys Cowan and Dick Giordano

Detective Comics #507

"Dressed to Die!"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Dan Adkins

As the Manikin reaches for fashion designer Hoston through the smoke of his fire-engulfed showroom, Batman finally comes to and bursts into action, but the Manikin proves too powerful for our hero. Just as he is about to be strangled to death, the golden woman eases up and then flees through the blaze. Bewildered, the Dark Knight hoists Hoston upon his muscular shoulders and carries him to safety. While drifting in and out of consciousness, Hoston babbles something about "Miranda." 

Meanwhile, we finally discover just who the Manikin is: Miranda, one of the hottest models in the world until a bomb tore her car apart and ripped the skin off her pretty face. She and her brother/ chauffeur Victor have sworn vengeance on the men they believe planted the bomb: Hoston and his fellow designers, Glass and Kline (the latter two being the Manikin's first victims). Evidently, Victor moonlights as a genius inventor who has whipped up Miranda's exo-skeleton, a costume that increases the woman's power and speed ten-fold.

Bruce Wayne knows he needs a bit of help pre-Google, so he visits the Gotham Gazette and gets the lowdown on Miranda and her past from intrepid Gazette reporter Bud Raleigh. Finally putting two and two together, Bruce realizes this is the woman he pulled from the bombed-out wreckage (last issue!). He races back to the Batcave and concocts a foam that will seal off Miranda's outfit and prevent her from breathing. Batman heads to the hospital where Hoston is being cared for just in time to see Miranda, dressed as a doctor, walk into the designer's room. A scuffle ensues and Bats is able to use his nifty new sealant gun to suffocate Miranda; Victor enters just as Hoston cops to planting the bomb.

Peter: The conclusion to the Manikin saga, "Dressed to Die!," is every bit as good as the opening chapter. We never really get to know the woman under the exo-skeleton aside from a few glances here and there but that, to me, is a plus. I really don't want a Doug Moench-ian sermon on the evils of objectifying women. Miranda is one fierce, near-insane dame a la a female Terminator; I almost wanted the bomb to be something inside her maddened brain, rather than an actual plot to kill her. Instead, we get a weak "I was jealous of her success!" excuse from Hoston. I love when Bruce pops on his Bat uni, as the Manikin tugs off her "pretty doctor" mask, and tells Miranda, "Let's rid ourselves of our disguises, Manikin. The time for masks is at an end." Freudian slip? Two more really gargantuan thumbs up for the art of Newton/Adkins, obviously students of Gene Colan.

A hint of Giordano?

Jack: I really noticed the Colan influence in the scene in Hoston's hospital room. I thought this story was even better than part one! We see new editor Dick Giordano's influence already, as a mysterious someone leaves Arkham Asylum and an editor's note reveals that we'll learn more next month in Batman. I also think I see a sign of Giordano's inks at the top of page three, where Batman's face looks more like the work of Adams than Newton. I'm excited to see where these books go under the new editor.

"The Pursuit of Joy"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Dan Spiegle

Leslie can't get a ticket to Rudolf Yanov's concert at Gotham Hall on Friday night, but that's okay cuz her BFF Keith happens to work at the Hall and sneaks her in the back door. Leslie swoons over the dreamy violinist Yanov despite the fact that he's eighty years older than she. The maestro notices the girl's excitement and invites her to play a gig with him on a street corner outside the Hall. 

Peter: Not one iota of detective work done in "The Pursuit of Joy," but it's hard to say anything negative about the short strip. It's a feel-good bit of fluff, like a Monkees song that can't help but make you smile. Even Spiegle manages to come off looking more like Alex Toth here and there.

Jack: Agreed: it's a genial story, but why is it in Detective Comics? It reminds me of the sort of filler we'd see in a Golden Age book, with art to match. You're awfully generous comparing Spiegle to Toth.

"Diamonds Aren't Forever!"
Story by Bob Rozakis
Art by Trevor Von Eeden & Steve Mitchell

Batman attempts to catch the thief of the priceless Sherwood diamond, but the crook might be a little too clever for her own good.

Peter: At only four pages, "Diamonds Aren't Forever!" has barely enough time to let us in on the mystery, never mind fill in details on whodunit. The reveal is clever and Von Eeden's graphics are pleasant enough. I'd like to see the artist have a bigger crack at the Dark Knight than just a few head shots.

Jack: I like von Eeden from Black Lightning but I wonder if we're seeing more Steve Mitchell's inks than von Eeden's pencils here. After all, Mitchell has been drawing the Dark Knight for a while. 

Next Week...
Some would say
"Warren's Peak"
but what do Jack and Peter say?


turafish said...

By the covers alone, this looks like it was a particularly bizarre Batman month.... Good thing you boys made it more enjoyable!

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Joe!

andydecker said...

I can remember how glad I was when I read back then that Colan would be doing work for DC. He must have been the last of my favorite writers/artists who fled from Marvel during the Shooter reign. Thomas, Wolfman, Moench and now Colan. I was a rabid fan of this 'Tomb of Dracula' and 'Dr. Strange', less of his superhero work.

When I read 'The Mole' in Batman #340, I was disappointed. This wasn't the art I loved any longer. Without Tom Palmer as inker there was missing something. And it didn't become better. Colan should have been a great Batman artist, but for me it was just better than average at times. Was it the murky coluring or the too loose inking? I can't say. This also was true for his other DC work. 'Night Force' was particulary a misfire, Bob Smith as the inker is much worse as Gonzales.

The most amusing thing about Batman 340 is how the text smoothes over some of the dodgy story-telling. From the Batcave into the kitchen, how gets the Mole to the high ceiling? Also the vague cave into tunnel running around – one would think that Batman would have closed so many entrances to his headquarters – and of course, best of all, the water pipes some city worker must have build in the ultra-secret cave.

Edited because of some embarrassing typos.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Andy. Maybe Bruce Wayne hired contractors to outfit the Batcave. Back in 1939, it was probably affordable.