Monday, October 25, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 39: March 1983

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

Hannigan & Giordano
Batman #357

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Alfredo Alcala

Batman busts up a drug ring and learns that the Squid sold them the franchise (see Detective 497 for the Squid's last appearance). Batman bursts into the office of Commissioner Gordon at City Hall while, in an alley, the Squid is busy asserting his new role as protector of certain criminals.

Over in Jersey, a circus is menaced by a protection racket and the villainous Croc is involved--will the flying Todd family be safe? At the site of the old Gotham Aquarium, the Squid gathers various crooks to demonstrate what a hungry squid can do to a gangster who is bound to a chair and thrown into a tank of water.

On a lonely Gotham bridge, Batman tells crusading reporter Olivia Ortega that she is going to help him save the life of crime boss Tony Falco; the next day, after Falco is sentenced to a long stretch in prison, the Squid helps him escape and brings him to the old aquarium. However, Falco is not Falco, but rather Batman in disguise, and the Squid knows it. Batman tries to fight off a passel of crooks but is knocked out, tied up, and thrown into a giant tank with a very hungry squid named Gertrude!

Peter: There's oodles of atmosphere this issue thanks to the stellar, noir-ish art (reminiscent in spots of Colan), but the plot isn't that great. Just another Gotham mob story, spotlighting a goofball who talks like a certain hunter of one Wascally Wabbit! Why the speech impediment, Gerry? Just something to give the Squid that extra oomph? I found it distracting, to say the least. The moniker ("I am the Squid because my tentacles weech everywhere... and I also happen to keep a pet squid!") is uber-dopey.

More important is the (sorta) introduction of someday-super-important Jason Todd. I never read this era of the Bats-titles, so this is all new to me. I was not aware that Todd's origin (at least so far) was so close to that of Dick. Rather than give you a blow-by-blow history of the character, I'll let the surprises unfold as we get to them. 

Jack: I don't know the first thing about Jason Todd, other than that he ends up as Robin, so I'm looking forward to learning his story. The cover by Hannigan and Giordano is excellent and the interior art is very good in spots and less so in others. I don't know why the Squid talks like Elmer Fudd but you're right, it is annoying. I like seeing Croc skulking around and this issue feels like Conway is starting a few new plot threads that I assume he'll spin out for several issues.

Hannigan & Giordano
Detective Comics #524

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Dick Giordano

While the Squid and Croc watch with big smiles on their faces, Batman battles with a giant squid in an aquarium and appears to be on the losing end. Just when all hope seems lost, Bats puts the kibosh on the monster and escapes the tank to the astonishment of his audience.

Disgusted at what he sees, Croc leaves the building but pauses in the courtyard to look up to a nearby rooftop, just to let the Dark Knight know he's aware of his presence. Batman manages to make it back to Wayne Manor, where Dick is throwing a gala for the Todds. Introducing the acrobatic family to all his friends and acquaintances (and to us as well), Dick almost misses Bruce sneak in the patio door and make his way into the parlor. 

Dick summons Alfred, who brings the first aid kit, and the two minister to Bruce's wounds. Suddenly, the door pops open and lovely Trina Todd sticks her head in, witnessing Bruce Wayne being bandaged, his Batman shirt in his hands. Dick is sure the girl has put two and two together and Bruce insists that he and Dick discuss the situation (to be continued... I assume) later.

Meanwhile, back at the Squid's warehouse, Elmer Fudd is ordering his men to "kill the Batman tomowwow!" But tomowwow may be too wate for the Squid as a bullet flies through the window towards him and he hits the deck. The shooter: none other than Croc, who's looking to eliminate his former partner after the earlier snafu. 

The Squid rises from the floor just as the Batman smashes through the window and hurls himself at his enemy. But the Squid is too fast for our hero and he shoots the Dark Knight in the chest. As Batman is dying, his blood soaking the floor, the Squid suddenly realizes it's all a dream; he's the one whose grip on life is at an end. Croc's aim was true!

Peter: Thanks to the addition of this interesting new villain (whom I have not one memory of from my early funny book days), we've got a fast-moving and exciting adventure with some fabulous graphics. Even the new subplot (will Trina spill the beans or will fate step in to quiet her?) is intriguing. Unfortunately, what looks like the final chapter for the 12th-tier villain, the Squid, is only a respite for Batman readers. He'll be back. They all come back, eventually. What I've been wishing for for a long time finally arrives: a multi-part crossover, this one lasting six issues. Great start!

Jack: The Hannigan/Giordano cover is bound to be one of the best of '83 and the interior art is just as good. Giordano is a superb inker who elevates Newton's work quite a bit. It's a real contrast with the Alcala inks in Batman. This must be an important issue in the Batman canon, since we see Croc's face and are introduced to Jason Todd. As seems to be the norm nowadays, there is a passing mention of the Teen Titans, whose book was selling so well at the time. The end, where the Squid unexpectedly dies and Croc becomes the new focus, is intriguing.

"Mob Rule II: Heat of the Moment!"
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Irv Novick & Ron Randall

Nah, never happen in real life!

Green Arrow continues his battle with the Executrix, the lovely but lethal bodyguard of political hopeful, Machiavelli, but the fight is short and the lady ends up pinned to the wall with some fancy arrow moves. She quickly gives up the 411 on her boss (a former mob counselor who's using his speaking prowess to attract important influences to his cause) and Arrow exits stage left. With a little intel from one of Arrow's mouthpieces in the park, our hero deduces that Machiavelli is about to make a big entrance in front of a packed crowd at City Hall. Sure enough, the Shakespearean goofball interrupts the mayor's speech to incite the crowd to violence. The Arrow is all set to let one loose when a gat is shoved into his ear.

Peter: This is really dismal stuff. Am I starting to sound like a broken record (cd? mp3? digital download?). Having said that, it's eerily prescient and, to some people in the audience at least, brings back some very bad recent memories. The Electrocutionatrix chick lasts but five panels before she gives up with a hilarious "You wouldn't hit a woman, would you?" Ah, here's to the naive early 1980s, before women's lib.

Jack: A dreadful story with inane pop culture references at every turn, "Heat of the Moment!" is titled after the 1982 Asia hit single and even includes an embarrassing sequence where the writer tries to be "relevant" as Green Arrow meets a bitter young black man who plays chess in the park. Throw in a corny villain and Irv Novick art and you have bottom of the barrel 1980s' DC work.

The Brave and the Bold #196

"The Two Faces of Midnight!"
Story by Robert Kanigher
Art by Jim Aparo

Hanging around a dark alley in Gotham City one midnight, Ragman happens to be in the right place at the right time, able to catch Batman as he falls, unconscious, from a high window. Crooks fire shots from a speeding car to try to finish off the Dark Knight, but Ragman manages to blow up the car and cart Batman away to safety.

Ragman's friend Opal pulls up in her convertible and drives him and Batman to the safety of the junkyard, where Ragman recalls his origin story. A Vietnam vet whose father was killed by mobsters, Ragman wears the costume of a Tattered Tatterdemalion and helps the unfortunate, both in his guise as a hero and in real life, as a generous pawnbroker.

Batman explains that he was on the trail of a terrorist group when he was thrown out of a window by an explosion. He is injured and can't go after them, so he switches costumes with Ragman, who finds the terrorists but is injured by a grenade. He staggers back to Batman, who takes up the fight dressed as Ragman! He overhears the terrorists' plan to rob a bank and, after Ragman and Batman switch back into their usual costumes, they foil the bank robbery and manage to save hostage Nina Norwood, who is shot in the melee.

Peter: There are so many obstacles here to stumble over. We get oblique captions (The city has a dark side where it is always midnight. It is a wasteland of lost souls and burned-out hulks of deserted tenements, inhabited by arrogant rats and derelicts dreaming hopeless dreams fueled by cheap wine--are these actual rodents that are drinking cheap wine and dreaming hopeless dreams?), confusing flashbacks (Why does Rory survive the deadly electrocution and does it leave him with super powers?), dopey dialogue ("The only way to lure spiders out of their nest is with bait!"), head-scratching asterisks (Big Bob Kanigher feels the need to explain what an M.O. is to his pre-teen audience but then uses the obscure big fancy word tatterdemalion constantly without an asterisk anywhere in sight) and a maudlin finale (Hallmark Movie of the Week Presents: Batman Never Prays But He Does Mouth-to-Mouth). With all that going against it, you'd think I'd hate "The Two Faces of Midnight," but I don't. The plot is negligible and a decade outdated (Nina Norwood is Patty Hearst--wait, Patty who?), but the interplay between the two leads is entertaining and very humorous at times. Big Bob even tosses a "TNT trap" our way to remind us he's the guy who wrote 12,000 DC war scripts. I'd be looking forward to this team-up thing every issue if we got edgy characters like Ragman and I, Vampire rather than safe white-bread nonsense like Superboy and Aqualad.

Jack: Despite the silly and unnecessary switching of costumes, I enjoyed this story as well. I vaguely recall Ragman from the '70s when I bought every issue of the short-lived series, but I could not have told you he was a Vietnam vet, etc. Aparo's art is the key to these stories in The Brave and the Bold--when he's on, as he is this time, his panels are sharp and he handles action sequences well. Ragman has a really cool costume, too, and I like that he helps the less fortunate.

Next Week...
Richard Corben's "The Believer"
is only one of the many presents
we'll unwrap for you!

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Hitchcock Project-Joel Murcott Part Five: Man with a Problem [4.7]

by Jack Seabrook

Standing on a narrow ledge 26 stories above a city street, a man who says his name is Carl Adams fields questions from hotel staff members who pop their heads out of the nearest window. He yells an elevator operator to go away and an assistant manager to leave him alone. He dismisses a clergyman. Finally, a policeman asks if he has a family and he denies it, recalling that he had refused to accede the day before to his wife's request for a divorce. Karen later committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills and she left her husband a note telling him that her lover, Steve, had deceived her and could not run away with her.

"Man with a Problem"
was first published here

This morning, Carl checked into a hotel, asked for a room near the top, and climbed out onto the ledge. He dismisses a doctor and again tells the clergyman that he is wasting his time. The policeman reappears and tells Adams that the people below want him to jump. Adams seems to agree to come in, then gets dizzy and asks the policeman for help. The policeman climbs out onto the ledge and edges toward Adams. Once he has taken the man's hand, Carl reveals that his real name is not Adams, calls the policeman Steve, and breaks the news that Karen was his wife and Steve's spurned lover. The policeman feels himself falling, his hand tightly gripped in Adams's hand.

"Man with a Problem," by Donald Honig, was first published in the July 1958 issue of Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, where it is credited to Donald Martin because Honig also had another story earlier in the same issue. A very short tale with a clever setup and a devastating ending, the story was collected in the 1959 volume, Alfred Hitchcock: My Favorites in Suspense, this time under the Donald Honig byline.

Donald Honig (1931- ) wrote about 200 stories and articles for various magazines, though most of his crime stories were published in Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine. He also wrote novels and in the mid-1970s he changed the focus of his writing and began to write extensively about the game of baseball. IMDb lists five TV episodes based on his stories, two of which were filmed for the original run of Alfred Hitchcock Presents (the other was the delightful "Mrs. Herman and Mrs. Fenimore"). He has a website here with more information.

Gary Merrill as Carl Adams
Joel Murcott adapted "Man with a Problem" for Alfred Hitchcock Presents and it was broadcast on CBS on Sunday, November 16, 1958. A classic half hour, this episode features a strong script, superb acting, and effective direction, making it one of the most memorable half-hours of the series.

The show opens with a brief scene at street level, as a woman exits the front door of the hotel and a doorman blows his whistle to summon a taxi cab. Suddenly, a pair of eyeglasses fall from above and hit the woman before landing on the pavement and breaking. She looks up and screams. This simple scene sets the stage for the drama that follows.

There is a cut to Carl standing on the ledge high overhead and the first dialogue is his voice, heard in voiceover. Meanwhile, inside, the hotel manager gets a bellboy to open the door to Carl's room and they enter, along with the doorman who was seen in the first scene. The bellboy tells the manager that he only brought Carl up ten minutes ago; the manager barks orders and then speaks to Carl, first ordering him to come in, just as he orders the bellhop around, then appealing to him by asking about his wife. Carl replies that he has no wife and threatens to jump.

Mark Richman as Steve Barrett
There is more voiceover as Carl recalls last night and we see in flashback a scene where his beautiful wife tells him that she is in love with a man named Steve and wants a divorce. Carl refuses, calling it a "'crazy infatuation,'" but she insists, though she admits that her lover is married. Back in the present, a police car arrives and a policeman pushes his way through the crowd gathered at street level before appearing in the hotel room, where the manager identifies the man on the ledge as C.J. Adams from Trenton, New Jersey. The manager whines about Adams choosing his hotel and the suitcase is opened to reveal only a Manhattan telephone book.

Carl's clothes and suitcase are wholly devoid of identification, so the policeman suspects that he is using an assumed name. He speaks to Adams calmly and climbs halfway out onto the ledge right by the window, offering Carl a cigarette. There is a bit of foreshadowing here as Adams refuses to take the cigarette for fear that the policeman will grab him; the policeman says that he does not want to go down with Carl, adding that "'I never learned to fly.'" A fire truck and an ambulance arrive with sirens blaring; Adams grows agitated and insists that the policeman tell the trucks to leave. Teenage boys in the crowd that has gathered at street level begin to chant, "'jump, jump, jump.'" Director Robert Stevens deftly switches between shots out on the ledge, shots inside the hotel room, and shots at street level to maintain the tension and to give the viewer a great sense of place. Surprisingly, the rear projection shots of buildings in the distance behind Carl clearly depict North Michigan Avenue in Chicago, rather than New York; the Allerton Hotel sign is clearly visible.

Elizabeth Montgomery as Karen

The policeman tells the hotel manager to call Bellevue (a New York hospital known for its treatment of the mentally ill) for a psychiatrist and the police lieutenant who has arrived on the scene calls the policeman "'Barrett'"; the script carefully avoids disclosure of his first name until the shattering final scene. The manager tells the policemen that the Trenton police cannot find any record of a Carl Adams, further underlining the suspicion that the man on the ledge is using a fake name. While the police lieutenant tries an aggressive approach to get Carl off of the ledge, taxi drivers below discuss the man who may or may not jump.

More voiceover by Adams leads to another flashback to the night before, when he arrived home to find his wife departing, her suitcase packed. He slaps her face but she leaves to meet Steve, whose wife has also refused to grant him a divorce. Back in the present, the police discuss ways to rescue Carl. The third and final flashback follows, showing Carl arriving home late the night before to find his wife dead, having overdosed on pills. She left a note telling him that Steve told her their relationship was hopeless.

Ken Lynch as the lieutenant

Throughout "Man with a Problem," director Robert Stevens does a great job of convincing the viewer that Adams really is standing on a ledge seventeen stories above the street, the wind blowing his hair, hearing muffled sounds from the street far below. The taxi drivers argue again and end up making a wager on what Carl will do, but they have no way of knowing what is about to happen. A psychiatrist arrives and speaks to the police lieutenant in the hotel room; we learn that Carl has been out on the ledge for an astonishing four hours! Policeman Barrett climbs out of the window and makes another appeal to Carl, who holds his head to show that he feels dizzy. In a significant change from the short story, a noose is lowered in front of Carl; he grabs at it and nearly falls to his death but he can't reach it. Barrett heroically climbs out onto the ledge, grabs the rope, and secures it around Carl, who suddenly becomes alert. Carl explains why he chose this particular hotel on this particular policeman's beat, revealing his identity as Karen's husband and telling Steve that Karen killed herself when he refused to go away with her. Unlike the story, where both men fall, holding hands, in the TV version, Carl pushes Steve to his death and the camera fades out on Carl, safe on the ledge.

Will anyone know that Carl lured Steve out onto the ledge and pushed him to his death as revenge for causing Karen's death, or will Carl be saved and the policeman's death thought an accident? Of course, Hitchcock says the right thing in his closing comments to placate the censors and the sponsors, but the viewer is left wondering whether Carl will get away with it.

Bartlett Robinson as the hotel manager

Robert Stevens (1920-1989) directed 49 episodes of the Hitchcock series, winning an Emmy for "The Glass Eye."

The man who calls himself Carl Adams is played by Gary Merrill (1915-1990), who was on film from 1943 to 1977 and on TV from 1953 to 1980, appearing in Otto Preminger's Where the Sidewalk Ends and the classic, All About Eve, both in 1950. He was on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and "Flight to the East" is one of seven episodes of the Hitchcock TV show in which he is featured.

Mark Richman (1927-2021) plays Steve Barrett. Born Peter Mark Richman, he appeared on countless television shows and in movies from 1953 to 2016. He starred in the series Cain’s Hundred (1961-1962), was on The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits, and had starring roles on Dynasty and Santa Barbara. There is a website devoted to him here.

Karen is played by Elizabeth Montgomery (1933-1995), the daughter of actor Robert Montgomery and a star in her own right. She was on TV from 1951 until her death and in a few films between 1955 and 1965. She was on this single episode of the Hitchcock series and she also appeared on The Twilight Zone and Thriller, but her most famous role was as the star of Bewitched (1964-1972). She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Looking at the ages of the three leads suggests another way of explaining the tragic love triangle at the center of the story: Gary Merrill (Carl) was 18 years older than Elizabeth Montgomery (Karen), while Mark Richman (Steve) was only six years older than the actress. The age difference is not present in the short story but is clear to any viewer of the TV show.

In smaller roles:

  • Ken Lynch (1910-1990) as the police lieutenant; he played many police officers on film from 1947 to 1974 and on TV from 1949 to 1983. In addition to a long career on Old Time Radio from 1940 well into the 1950s, he starred on TV in The Lieutenant (1950-1954) and had a small part in North by Northwest (1959). He was also on The Twilight Zone, three episodes of Thriller, and The Night Stalker.
  • Bartlett Robinson (1912-1986) as the hotel manager; he was on screen from 1949 to 1982 and was in no less than 11 episodes of the Hitchcock show, including "The Hero."
  • Sid Melton (1917-2011) as a taxi driver; born Sidney Meltzer, he had a long career in film and on TV from 1941 to 1999, playing numerous small parts. He was a semi-regular on the TV shows Make Room for Daddy (1959-1964) and Green Acres (1965-1969).
Sid Melton
  • Guy Rennie (1910-1979) as the other taxi driver; a nightclub singer and comedian, he was on screen from 1935 to 1974 and had a small role in Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
Guy Rennie
  • Victor Tayback (1930-1990) as the photographer; trained at the Actors Studio, he was on screen from 1958 to 1990 and is best-known for his role on the TV show Alice (1976-1985). He was also on Star Trek.
Victor Tayback

Read the GenreSnaps review of this episode here. Buy the DVD here or watch the episode online here.

Mark Hamill
"Man with a Problem" was adapted for the remake of Alfred Hitchcock Presents as "Man on the Edge," airing on February 7, 1987. A version of this episode that has been re-edited by Mark Hamill may be viewed here. This version suffers from many of the same flaws that can be seen in other 1980s' remakes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents episodes: the characters are more obnoxious, the direction is mediocre, and the acting is poor. The onscreen story credit goes to Donald Honig but Joel Murcott's teleplay for the 1958 TV version should also be credited, since much of the remake is based on the TV version rather than the print version. The scenes out on the ledge remain effective and the rear projection technology is more convincing, but the flashbacks to the main character's marital problems are painful to watch.

"Donald Honig." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Contemporary Authors Online. Web. 11 June 2016.


Grams, Martin, and Patrik Wikstrom. The Alfred HITCHCOCK Presents Companion. OTR Pub., 2001.
Honig, Donald. "Man with a Problem." Alfred Hitchcock Presents My Favorites in Suspense. New York: Random House, 1959. 27-32.
"Man with a Problem." Alfred Hitchcock Presents, season 4, episode 7, CBS, 16 Nov. 1958. 
Stephensen-Payne, Phil. "Galactic Central." Galactic Central, 
Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation,

In two weeks: "A Personal Matter," starring Wayne Morris and Joe Maross!

Listen to Al Sjoerdsma discuss "Decoy" here!

Listen to Annie and Kathryn discuss "Sybilla" here!

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Warren Report Issue 70: January 1976




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

Creepy #76

"Goodbye, Mr. Lincoln" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Jose Ortiz

Story by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Alex Toth

"A Flash of Lightning" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by John Severin

"My Monster... My Dad" 
Story by Jan Strnad
Art by Martin Salvador

"In Darkness It Shall End!" ★1/2
Story by Doug Moench
Art by Vicente Alcazar

"The Imp of the Perverse!" 
Story by Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by Rich Margopoulos
Art by Luis Bermejo

A distraught woman arrives at a police precinct to tell her story. Her son was the latest in a line of reincarnations that included Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, but he was tossed out of a tall building by Satan to keep the kid from growing up to be a savior. At first unbelieving, the detective she speaks to (the same detective assigned to the dead boy's case) comes around and promises the woman he'll get to the bottom of it. He leaves the room and his partner transforms into Satan, killing her.

The plot sounds ridiculous (and believe me, it is) but it's also uber-clever and engaging. That cleverness devolves into cliche with the "holy cow, what a shock" twist ending but there's enough good here to keep the pages turning. Further adding to his cleverness quotient, Dube continues the "Satan works in a high-rise" storyline in this month's Vampirella (see below).

Arnold Waldon awakens to find himself "Ensnared" in a small cubicle with no windows or visible exit. As he begins to panic, his mind goes over all the various scenarios: rehab clinic, Masters and Johnson research, etc. In the end, he's not far from wrong; Arnold has been abducted by aliens who are running tests on humans to determine their "curiosity levels." That's about it. I think my synopsis might actually be wordier than Rich Margopoulos's script. That's a good thing, since it's fairly predictable where this thing is going. At least we get some more Toth visuals.

A vampire rides through the Nevada desert in the 1890s, looking for a place to lay his head and seek shelter from the rain. He comes across the ranch of Jeb Keller and his family, who oblige the stranger with a place to sleep for a few days. At night, the vampire feeds on "sodbusters" and then returns to the cabin he's been loaned. When he dines on one of Keller's hands, the ranch owner asks the stranger if he'd like to fill the position and stay on a permanent basis. The visitor agrees but only if he can work evenings and sleep during the day. 

Night after night, the bloody murders continue and, after a few weeks, it occurs to the rancher that the killings began with the coming of his new employee. He rides out to discuss this with the man, only to find him in the arms of Keller's teenage daughter, Jaime. Keller goes nuts and wallops the stranger, who falls back into a sharpened fence post and is impaled. The grieving Jaime can only go back to the ranch house and await the birth of her vampire baby.

I'll not get into the mechanics of why a vampire really shouldn't be able to father a child; suffice it to say, it's a slippery slope. But as I've no doubt mentioned a time or two, I'm a sucker for a horror western and "A Flash of Lightning" is blessed with visuals from the only artist (aside from Kubert and Heath, maybe) who should be tackling the genre. Love the accurate Mexican accents delivered by Boudreau's immigrant ranch workers: "Eet's Pancho! We better tell Meester Keller!"

Young Robert hates his new step-dad, William, and considers him to be a monster because of the color of his skin. This, naturally, leads to complications in the life of Robert's mom and her new mate. Robert finds that, as he begins to dream of African savages torturing him, his fear and hatred of William begins to engulf him. He finds peace only when he sneaks into his stepfather's room and buries a knife in the man as he sleeps.

I can see what writer Jan Strnad was aiming for in "My Monster... My Dad," but I'm not sure he reaches that goal. Racism is evil, those of us who know better already know, and the new generations should be saved from the stupidity and indifference of the older generations (Robert's grandmother considers her daughter's new marriage an abomination). At least I think that's what he's going for. But is it purely Robert's grandma who is responsible for the boy's intolerance? That part of the kid's psyche isn't really fleshed out that well. Martin Salvador is easily Warren's weakest link by this point and I've no doubt the editor knew this, since Salvador's appearances have dried up of late.

Beautiful Rowena was loved by both Peter and Ruger but, alas, they both couldn't have her and Rowena has said "yes" to Peter. So Ruger, who happens to be a vampire, puts the bite on the pretty lass and negates the girl's choice. Peter suspects that his Rowena was murdered by a vampire and he's pretty sure he knows who the culprit is, so he visits Ruger, armed with stake and crucifix. When Peter makes his intentions known, Ruger drops the facade and escapes into the night. 

But Peter is a heartbroken man, so nothing will keep him from killing the monster. He catches up to Ruger just as the vampire is trapped in the shadow of a church's cross. While Ruger is helpless, Peter drives a wooden cross into the vampire's heart. In 1975, the police arrest a man for nearly tearing the throat out of a church worker and are baffled that the man's fingerprints match those of Ruger von Daemon, dead for nearly a century. Too late, they head for the man's cell to interrogate him and discover the guard murdered, his throat torn out. Ruger von Daemon has returned!

"The Perverted Imp"
Lord knows I've had my problems with Doug Moench in the past, but "In Darkness It Shall End!" is a fabulous thrill-ride which recalls one of the 1960s Lee-Cushing Hammer films (and I assume that was Doug's intention). There's not much of a plot but Doug does a swell job of keeping our minds off that fact. It's a propulsive, exciting horror story with some great graphics by Alcazar. The only nit I'd pick would be Ruger's killing of Rowena, which seems to be a false step. The vampire loved her and wanted her to choose him over Peter. The right kind of bite ensures she's his bride forever, right? Maybe Ruger had monogamy issues. Great downer of a climax as well.

In the latest Poe adaptation, "The Imp of the Perverse," a man poisons his uncle in order to gain a vast estate but then guilt causes his downfall. A lot of these lesser Poe stories just blend together and seem to take bits from the best of his work and integrate them with disparate characters and settings, but they all seem the same to me. We've got at least one more adaptation coming down the pike. Not a fan.-Peter

Jack-The story I enjoyed most in this issue was "A Flash of Lightning," with its vampire in the Old West setting. Severin is the perfect choice for artist and Boudreau's storytelling is satisfying. "Goodbye, Mr. Lincoln" features the old Lincoln/Kennedy silliness mixed with some Warren black magic and fine art by Ortiz. I liked the rare cameo by Satan and thought the demon on the last page was very well rendered. "Ensnared!" frustrated me because Toth's page layouts are so inventive but they're at the service of an extremely poor story with cringeworthy mid '70s dialogue.

The letterer misspells Poe's middle name on page one of "The Imp of the Perverse!" (I know because I did it once and got called out for it). Bermejo's art fits the story, which stars another of Poe's tortured souls. I had the opposite reaction to Peter in regard to "In Darkness it Shall End," which has to be a file story left over from the bad old Moench days. I didn't think the story was any better than the art. Worst of all was "My Monster... My Dad," which wants to be progressive but falls flat and ends up being borderline offensive with disappointing visuals.

Eerie #71

Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Jose Ortiz

"Time in Expansion"
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Paul Neary

"Irving and the Devilpie"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Leopold Sanchez

"Pooter and the Magic Man"★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"The Demon's Treasure"★1/2
Story by Budd Lewis
Art by Gonzalo Mayo

"Mordecai Moondog"
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Esteban Maroto

A pretty woman is fixing her hair in the mirror when she notices that her grandfather clock has stopped ticking. She investigates, and out of the clock's face pops a "Goblin," who asks her to stop screaming and then wipes away her mouth to quiet her. Her husband rushes in, justifiably upset, and shoots the Goblin, who tumbles out a window. The Goblin is rescued by another pretty young woman who takes him to her home to tend to his wound. He explains that his name is Salem and that he is lost. He also heals his own wound.

The young woman takes Salem to see a priest, but the priest mistakes him for a demon and ends up with his own cross stuck in his chest. Police intervene and shoot the young woman in the face, disfiguring her; Salem commands them to shoot each other and they do. The young woman asks Salem to take her to a house on a hill, where a kind man helps the young woman and shows Goblin a doorway to his magic world. Goblin disappears through the door and screams are heard from the other side; the young woman's face is healed and she lives a long and happy life.

For a story in which several people are disfigured or killed, "Goblin" is unusually charming, mainly because Salem is such an engaging character. The art by Ortiz is very nice, as usual. I wasn't clear on what happened in Salem's world at the end but it didn't bother me.

Hunter, Exterminator, and Hunter's new gal pal find a fortress where dead humans are scattered outside. They break in and find people who are lost without their king, who has recently abandoned them. Goblins attack and the trio fight them off until the king suddenly returns and leads a massacre of the Goblins. The fortress again secure, Hunter and his friends resume their journey.

"Time in Expansion" seems to be yet another chapter where Hunter finds some people, fights goblins for awhile, and moves on. Neary is clever with his art, since it seems he knew his own weaknesses (human faces) and avoided drawing them as much as possible. The goblins in this story are much nastier than the one in the story that precedes it!

Invincible Irving McCoy is a legend in the Old West whose exploits are featured in pulp magazines. When he is shot and killed, Irving finds himself in an afterworld where he meets Devilpie, a demon who grants Irving's wish to return to Earth and live a life of leisure. Irving finds himself in the town of Horseglue and pursues Peaches LePrude, who turns out to be far less attractive than her depiction in Irving's magazine adventures. He marries her but tires of her and considers murder; Devilpie appears and Irving makes a run for it, living the rest of his life in obscurity.

The art by Sanchez is excellent but has to fight for space with the overwhelming number of captions and word balloons that DuBay uses to tell his tale. "Irving and the Devilpie" seems like an illustrated short story due to its verbosity, but Sanchez does his best and makes it better than it should be. The narrative ends suddenly and the conclusion (as is often the case here at Warren) doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Warren's writers often are better at setup than payoff.

Bertrand Smithpooter is an alcoholic failure, a magician relegated to playing the most down and out music halls in London in 1878. One night, he sits drunkenly in a graveyard, feeling sorry for himself, when the spirit of the late illusionist Sigmund Pavolv-Freud appears and grants Smithpooter the gift of becoming the greatest magician of all time. Smithpooter's fortunes immediately improve: he is irresistible to women, he inherits a fortune, and his magic act is a smashing success. The magician forgets the catch in Pavlov-Freud's gift, though, and fails to be kind to the less fortunate, so his powers are suddenly stripped away from him in the middle of a performance and, when he saws one lovely assistant in half and impales the other with sword thrusts, the results are a bloody mess.

In spite of being another example of torturing the poor letterer with innumerable captions and word balloons, "Pooter and the Magic Man" is enjoyable, mainly due to the stellar artwork by Bermejo. DuBay doesn't miss an opportunity to use corny names in his story--Smithpooter's assistants are the Tighthigh sisters, he performs at a sleazy music call called the Red Cock Grill--but the overall story is fun.

A thief named Aledo seeks "The Demon's Treasure," but in the treasure chest he finds not riches but a murderous demon. Aledo's day job was as a valuable spy for King Alphonso, so El Cid sets out to find and bring him back. On his way, the Cid slays monsters, chats with a wizard disguised as a beggar, and beds a bikini-clad beauty. El Cid reaches the castle of the wizard who owns the treasure and learns of Aledo's death, but the wizard's attempt to poison El Cid backfires when the hero switches goblets with the man.

As in prior stories featuring El Cid, Gonzalo Mayo's art would be gorgeous if only we could make it out more clearly. I don't know what technique the artist used, or if he worked in pencil and didn't like clear, solid inks, but (as Peter has pointed out) it always seems a little bit oozy and murky. He sure can draw a beautiful babe, though I wonder if she was swiped from some other story (possibly by Maroto?). This is the third story in this issue to include mention of goblins and at least the second to use some form of "vomit sucking thief." Budd Lewis had a thing about vomit, apparently.

The ever-popular pendelum.

An exorcist named "Mordecai Moondog" reports to a house that is said to be haunted by seven demonic spirits. Von Daemon, the haunted homeowner, marches Mordecai around the house while telling him the sordid tale of his ancestors and their dastardly deeds. Demonstrating his professionalism by not falling asleep during von Daemon's endless blathering, Mordecai eventually reveals that von Daemon is an evil spirit and Moondog is actually the immortal bishop who slew him long ago.

That's a short summary of the seemingly endless nine pages of DuBay cramming as many words as possible into one word balloon after another. The story goes nowhere and Maroto is wasted as an artist, since every panel is so chock full of words that the pictures have little room to shine. I don't know why DuBay felt the need to overwrite his stories in this issue, but they sure make for tedious reading.-Jack

Peter-I found "Goblin" to be a likable, if confusing, little fantasy. The story is a small milestone in Warren Publishing history. Originally set to be a new, continuing series, the second chapter would not see the light of day until The Rook #12 (December 1981), and the character was granted his own magazine the following year. The title lasted three issues. Thank God there's no test to take after I read a new Hunter installment. I have no idea what's going on and, at this point, I have no desire to put the puzzle together. Kill the Goblins... something something something... here's to a better future... something something something... the king returns!

Both "Irving and the DevilPie" and "Tweeter and the Monkey Man" (sorry, that was a Traveling Wilburys song, wasn't it?) come across as what Dube thought might be clever ideas, but he couldn't come up with anything to flesh either out. Both scripts remind me of the stuff we used to write in 8th grade English to try to impress Mrs. Saenz. More dopey names, more unmemorable and hazy plots. I do like the Sanchez art in "DevilPie," though; reminds me of Wrightson in spots. 

"Demon's Treasure" would seem to be the perfect melding of a script filled with dopey gobbledygook ("vomit sucking thief" and "maggot licker" have now been put to good use on my answering machine) and Mayo art that must have been left out in the rain. Seriously, I can't figure out what's going on there on page 39. I'm tempted to write off "Mordecai Moondog" as some sort of a joke with its bloated text balloons and its hidden Maroto art. Who thought that was a good idea? Probably the editor. The word "Jigaboo" on the first page brings to mind all the discussion of DuBay's ignorance or naivete. It only adds fuel to the argument that he knew what was what the whole time, regardless how he wants to paint it these days.

Vampirella #48

"The Wonder World of 
Ambergris, Kato and Tonto, Too!" ★1/2
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Zesar

"The Satan Complex" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Ramon Torrents

"Of Death and Distinction" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Joaquim Blasquez

"The Miracle Hands of Simon Silvershoe" 
Story by Bill DuBay
Art by Luis Bermejo

"Star-Bright Lantern 909" ★1/2
Story by Gerry Boudreau
Art by Jose Ortiz

While Vampirella ponders the problem of finding blood, she watches a strange situation unfold before her Drakulonian eyes. Siamese twin dwarves kidnap a man and force him to enter a manhole with them. Astonished (and forgetting she's very hungry), Vampirella gives chase down the rabbit hole and discovers that, beneath the city, lies a "Nineteenth-Century storybook" world, one with cable cars, zeppelins, and antiquated buildings.

Vampirella follows the men to a house and eavesdrops on the conversation within. The house belongs to the ailing Ambergris Muskman and his three sons, Kato, Tonto, and the Siamese twins, Poncho (sic) and Cisco. The abducted gentleman is a doctor who tells the dwarves that the bedridden old-timer has very little time left. Ambergris explains that the world they live in was an abandoned city that was built over and forgotten nearly a century before; he adopted the city and created a fantasy land for misfit kids (like the dwarves) abandoned on the surface world. All he asks of the doctor is to grant him enough life to "play with his toys one more time."

Touched by the man's kindness, Vampi enters and tells the man that a bit of her blood transfused into his veins can add the few hours to his life he desires. The doctor performs the blood-mingling and Ambergris rises from his bed, seemingly younger and stronger. He dons his best suit and takes his entire audience on a tour of the underground city. As Vampi warned, Ambergris's spark only lasts a couple hours and, sensing the end is nigh, he boards his zeppelin and crashes it into... something. The dwarves sigh and note that Ambergris's love and spirit will live on after his suicide.

A typically slipshod script by Dube that somehow works... kinda. It's hilarious that Vampi is pert near dying of hunger at the onset of "The Wonder World of Ambergris, Kato and Tonto, Too!" but puts that to the side to begin a new adventure. The underground city seems a tad too large to be forgotten by the surface world; the fact that a zeppelin can comfortably navigate is an eye-roller. But, I'll be honest, this WTF? installment sure beats the hell out of yet another "Vampi, Pen, and Adam happen upon a town held in the grip of a Satanic cult." Ambergris has more than a touch of Willy Wonka in him. I like Zesar's art; he includes the requisite amount of "ass in the air" and spread-legged cheesecake but his fantasy world is nicely detailed and magical. 

The police arrive at the base of a New York skyscraper to investigate the death of a young man who took a header off what witnesses swear was the 13th floor. But there's no 13th floor in this building! Shortly thereafter, Mr. Tibbs arrives at the same building and takes the elevator to the 13th floor. There he meets "Warlock Winkle," a man who has promised to aid Tibbs in his dream of flight.

Tibbs doesn't want to go the expected routes, though; this guy wants to soar without the aid of aircraft of any sort. Winkle promises that, once Tibbs signs the contract, he'll meet the boss and Tibbs will be granted his wish. Contract signed, Tibbs meets Satan, who explains that his human disguise is good for business and assures the man that he is going to fly. Sure enough, Tibbs jumps out the 13th floor window and glides over the alleys of the city... until Satan snaps his fingers and Tibbs falls to his death. Smirking, Satan explains to Winkle that Tibbs never specified the length of his flight.

Dube manages to inject a little life into the "devil's bargain" cliche but not enough for a thumbs-up. The idea that Satan would approach his pacts just like a 20th-Century businessman is intriguing and would be a solid foundation for a horror story in the hands of a really good writer. But Dube can't help but surround the core with silly stuff. I let out a series of loud chuckles between the detective assigned to the case of the splattered kid and the beat cop, who explained that the witnesses insisted that the boy jumped from the 13th floor. Not the 12th or 14th, but the 13th. "Yes, officer, I know there's no evidence of this and the building has no official 13th floor, but I insist..." As mentioned already, the foundation of DuBay's 20th-Century Devil began in "Goodbye, Mr. Lincoln," and it's the unseen climax of that story that begins this one. Oddly, the detective who was one of the two main characters in "Goodbye..." is introduced here and then discarded quickly.

Charlie Mann tires of being a nobody, waiting in the unemployment line every day while a maniacal killer terrorizing the city grabs headlines. One day, after an exhausting day waiting in line, Charlie hits on the perfect solution: he'll knife his girlfriend to death, wait for the cops to arrive, and claim responsibility for the slasher murders. The plan goes perfectly until the police arrive and, standing over the bloody corpse of his girlfriend, Charlie confesses. It's then that the detectives notify Charlie that the real slasher was just caught uptown. Charlie is a nobody again.

"Of Death and Distinction" is a dreary think-piece, with writer Boudreau continuously reminding us how futile life is and assaulting us with clever-writer sentences like "Garish neon signs peddling skin cinemas and topless bars blared their messages to near-empty streets." Boudreau's structure is odd in that (much like "The Satan Complex") characters are introduced and then shunted to the side as if they were red herrings. The climax is inevitable, isn't it? The protagonist repeatedly hammers home the message that he is a nothing in this world and the only way to achieve greatness is to become a monster. Blasquez's art is competent but inconsistent; Charlie's face seems to change from panel to panel.

Simon Silvershoe has always had a unique gift; with his hands he can mold the faces and bodies of those he touches. He can cure the malformed and grant beauty to the ugly (and vice versa) but he's never really questioned why. Then, a Ms. Lungset visits Simon at his workplace and explains that Simon was actually born on a distant planet called Crucis, where every thousand years, a "healer" is born. Simon's real name is Chris Tyian (insert eye-rolling emoji here) and Chris is in grave danger, as a group calling themselves "the Disbelievers" are searching Earth for him. Killing "healers" is their favorite pastime. Indeed, they catch up to Simon/Chris and gun down the pretty Ms. Lungset. Simon escapes but his past, and a really bad choice of disguises, catches up to him before long.

I really hated "The Miracle Hands of Simon Silvershoe." It's meandering, disjointed, and supremely silly. I've been unable to find data to support my theory, but I believe Bill DuBay was supplying Bruce Springsteen with lyrics and song titles at about this time (Well now Hazy Davy got really hurt, he ran into the lake in just his socks and a shirt/Me and Crazy Janey was makin' love in the dirt singin' our birthday songs sounds like natural Dube dialogue). Correct me if I'm wrong, but don't "Pooter and the Magic Man" and "Irving and the Devilpie" sound like characters you'd find in "Blinded by the Light?" 

"Star-Bright Lantern 909" is a lighthouse located in the middle of the galaxy and its keeper is Budd Bramlett. For Budd, the lighthouse is everything and its care is his only purpose in life. The Liberation Resistance Coalition (the Rebels) want to capture 909 to use against the Allied Government, but the only way to do that is to capture Budd. To that end, they enlist a gorgeous operative named Lena, who intercepts the supply ship heading for 909 and steps out of her spacecraft to the astonishment of Budd, who hasn't seen a woman in forty years. But, as always happens, forty years of abstaining leads to explosive violence and Budd strangles Lena! 

The Rebels, not having heard from Lena in some time, send Captain Welles to investigate. When he enters the lighthouse he finds Budd raping the corpse of Lena and, in yet another fit of explosive violence, stabs the lighthouse keeper to death. Realizing now that he's got 909 to himself, he goes about readying the lighthouse for his fellow Rebels. Alas, he trips a self-destruct device and the lighthouse goes nova, lighting up the galaxy. 

I'm not sure what good a lighthouse in the middle of the galaxy would be. You fly past the light and then it's just as dark as it was the million miles before, right? As with so many Warren SF tales, the pitch is a decent one but the execution is lacking. Secret agent Lena is a brilliant solution to the Rebels' problem but Budd's crazed bloodletting seems random. Still, "Star Bright Lantern 909" is more imaginative than the usual Warren science fiction claptrap.-Peter

Jack-What a disappointing issue of Vampirella! I don't usually like Warren SF stories, but I thought "Star-Bright Lantern 909" was the best story in the bunch, mainly due to the art by Ortiz. I think this would've been a great story for Wally Wood to draw. "The Satan Complex" was poorly written and much too long, at 16 pages, but Torrents did a good job with the art and the first big panel with Satan is impressive. The Vampi story is terrible and I don't think Zesar is right for the strip; his art is an odd mix of finished and unfinished panels. Blasquez has some nice stylistic touches in "Of Death and Distinction" but the overall art is not great, and Boudreau's decision to name the main character Charlie Mann is in poor taste. Like Peter, I very much disliked "Simon Silvershoe"; I've had more than enough DuBay goofiness and wordiness.

Next Week...
After a while, Croc...

Monday, October 11, 2021

Batman in the 1980s Issue 38: February 1983


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

Hannigan & Giordano
Batman #356

"The Double Life of Hugo Strange"
Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Don Newton & Dick Giordano

Bruce Wayne and Vicki Vale's make-out session by moonlight is interrupted when she remembers that she has a budget meeting. Bruce heads home in his car but is suddenly gassed. The next thing he knows, he's already arrived at Wayne Manor, where Alfred serves him tea and attacks him with a knife! Bruce knocks Alfred out with a right to the jaw. Or does he? Alfred reappears with a cup of tea and there's no sign of the butler Bruce just walloped.

Bruce doesn't realize that his every move is being watched on closed-circuit TV by Hugo Strange, who is dressed in a Batman suit of his own. At the real Wayne Manor, Alfred, Dick, and Vicki wonder where Bruce can be. Meanwhile, Bruce takes a shower and is attacked by the Boy Wonder. Bruce fights back and kills his sidekick! Or does he? Once again, Dick appears and there's no trace of the dead body.

Where's the beard, Hugo?
It turns out that Hugo Strange built a replica of Wayne Manor and is using his Mandroids to impersonate Bruce's loved ones, attack him, and get the stuffing kicked out of them. After another attack by a fake Dick Grayson, Bruce sees that he's really a Mandroid and ventures down into the replica Batcave, where Hugo Strange explains how he managed to escape certain death and why he thinks he should replace Bruce as the Dark Knight. Robin the Boy Wonder rides his motorcycle to the rescue and enters only to find two Batmen duking it out! He has no trouble deciding who's who and punches Hugo, who then pulls a handy destructo-switch and blows the place sky-high! Luckily, Hugo was blind as a bat without his glasses and did not see that Batman and Robin had run out the door moments before everything went ka-boom.

Batman and Robin return to Wayne Manor just in time to save Alfred from another Mandroid with a gun and they explain to the faithful servant just what happened with Hugo Strange.

Peter: The real Batman nails it on the head when he asks the most important question of faux Batman: "Why go to all this insane trouble?" Indeed. Building an exact replica of Wayne Manor (that you just know we'll never see again) and deploying super-life-like androids just to create a facade that won't be necessary an hour after its fabrication. Why doesn't Strange just blow up the real Wayne Manor with Bats and Robin inside? Because Gerry has to fill pages. If you remember that little bit, you can sit back in your easy chair and be entertained. The art is great and Hugo Strange sure beats the hell out of abominable snowmen.

Jack: Agreed. Giordano is such a great inker that he makes Newton's pencils look better than they've looked in some time. I enjoy these "book-length" tales, since they give Gerry enough room to get all of his subplots out of the way without sacrificing the space he needs to tell the main story. One question I have has to do with Hugo's beard, which seems to disappear as of page 17. On earlier pages, he has his glasses and beard, but from page 17 on, not only does he lose his glasses but he's also clean-shaven. Was it a fake beard connected to his glasses? And if he's so blind without his specs, how did he manage to greet Bruce, fight with him for a few pages, and rush over to the destructo-switch?

Hannigan & Giordano
Detective Comics #523

Story by Gerry Conway
Art by Gene Colan & Tony deZuniga

The "Doc" Heller gang has a new secret weapon and his name is Solomon Grundy, a Frankenstein-like monster with superhuman strength and a very short fuse. Heller keeps Grundy calm by giving him toys but when the toys run out, Grundy gets grumpy. 

Working off a mold sample found at one of the robberies, Batman discovers the identity of the thief just as the Bat-alarm goes off, warning the Dark Knight that another 211 is in progress. Our hero arrives at the scene to find Solomon picking out new toys from a vast array of vintage toys in an antique store. Nearby are the bodies of Heller and his gang. Grundy proves to be more than a match for Batman and, after the creature flings him against a wall, the Dark Knight has no choice but to play dead.

Grundy continues to tear apart the building, looking for just that right toy, when Batman has a brilliant idea and lures Grundy into the furnace. The monster goes up in flames and is reduced to ashes. As Batman drives away, he can still see the smoke and ash billowing from the chimney.

Peter: A whole lot of fun even if it doesn't make much sense. The most confusing bit is while Bats is admiring the residue of his handiwork coming from the chimney and the captions read: "And just for a moment, he wonders. He wonders." Wonders what? Did I miss something? And even if Solomon Grundy is a monster, that's a pretty cold-blooded way for the Caped Crusader to vanquish his opponent. I'm not familiar with the character, but the thumbnail flashback (see Superman #319 for more details) makes the monster's origin sound an awful lot like that of Swamp Thing (or, considering that Grundy was created in 1944, vice versa). Even though we see Grundy reduced to ashes, he ain't dead by a long shot. Great work from Colan and deZuniga here.

I'm also not sure what Heller was hoping to gain using an obviously psychotic creature to help him with his heists. All it got him was some mannequins and... death! The cameo for the coming of Batman's first new memorable arch-enemy in ages is very cool. We'll get more panels out of that guy next issue. There's also a three-panel teaser for the events of Batman #357 which stops the action dead in its tracks and builds absolutely no excitement for what may come.

Jack: I always liked Solomon Grundy since I was a kid and I associate him with the Justice League. I was not happy with the way he was used in this story. I don't remember any Swamp Thing-like origin, but maybe that came later. The art seemed pretty rough in spots to me, like Colan's pencils were very sketchy and deZuniga was trying to make something of them. At least Commissioner Gordon is back on the force. We can take comfort in that.

"Mob Rule!
Story by Joey Cavalieri
Art by Irv Novick & Ron Randall

The Green Arrow breaks up a confrontation between picketers and their management. But once the riot is quashed, Oliver Queen smells something really bad, like that tuna fish can you forgot to toss in the trash can last week. Yep, just as he thought, the chief picketer is in cahoots with the management. Arrow follows the man back to his headquarters and busts into a meeting between all the top white-collar criminals in Star City and a snazzily-dressed newbie named Machiavelli. The evil (but dapper) hooligan espouses racism and hatred in an effort to establish a new government they can control in Star City. Green Arrow thinks Little Lord Fauntleroy will be a pushover until he's introduced to the real muscle... an Amazonian beauty nicknamed the Executrix!

Peter: The Executrix! Yeah, right. How long it must have taken Joey to dream that up and then convey his ideas for the babe's costume to Irv and Ron. Lotta time spent on this one, believe you me. This series takes such a nosedive between the last issue and this one that it's almost as though Joey heard they were taking von Eeden away from him and he figured, screw it, I'll just go with another mob story. Good God, do we have to do this again when we just wiped the palate clean of mafia shenanigans in the Batman strips? I'm not looking forward to this three-part snoozefest.

Jack: Me neither. When I saw that Novick had replaced von Eeden, I was braced for the worst. Novick actually draws a pretty good Green Arrow, which makes me wonder if the character is artist-proof, but the story is strictly for the dogs. Machiavelli? Seriously?

The Brave and the Bold #195

"Night of Blood!"
Story by Mike W. Barr
Art by Jim Aparo

A rash of what appear to be vampire killings in Gotham City has attracted Andrew Bennett, a 400-year old vampire, to investigate. Disguised as a wolf, he hides in the park to wait for the next attack, which comes quickly. A young male vampire and his female vampire companion attack an old man, but Bennett intervenes and soon the two bad vampires are reduced to dust. Bennett finds a matchbook from Club Dracula in the young male vampire's pocket. A clue!

Meanwhile, a wealthy crook named Hodges is desperate to save his daughter, who appears to have been bitten by a vampire and who is certainly dying. Batman arrives, responding to a plea for help from Hodges, and agrees to try to help his daughter in exchange for a file Hodges keeps on a criminal associate named Johnny "the Gun" Gunnarson. Batman investigates other victims of the supposed vampire at the Gotham City Morgue and has an idea.

Bennett visits Club Dracula, where he finds real vampires quietly mixing with party-goers disguised as vampires. Batman has the same idea and arrives at the club, disguised as a gangster. Both Batman and Bennett come under attack and end up fighting in the same place; after they defeat the baddies, Bennett explains that he believes his former lover/sworn enemy, Mary, and her vampiric conspiracy, the Blood-Red Moon, are causing the vampire killings in Gotham. Batman and Bennett team up and Batman quickly deduces that Johnny the Gun is in league with Mary.

The two heroes race to Johnny's house and Batman stakes Johnny, who has been turned into a vampire. Mary manages to escape and Johnny, who is taking his time dying, manages to shoot Bennett with silver bullets before turning to dust. Fortunately, removing the bullets saves Bennett, and Batman provides a blood transfusion for the vampire. Hodges's daughter is cured and Bennett sets off for parts unknown, continuing to track the Blood-Red Moon and Mary.

Peter: I read several installments of "I, Vampire" in House of Mystery (and posted my thoughts here), so I have some knowledge of what's going on with the Andrew Bennett character and his eternal struggle/romance with Mary Seward, but I have to believe 90% of the B&B audience was lost. Barr doesn't even include the obligatory "As seen in House of Mystery #312!" notes when something major is alluded to. I'm not complaining that Andrew avoids slowing down the action to let Batman know all the stuff he's been up to in the last couple years. 

The team-up was probably an attempt to draw new readers to House of Mystery; the comic's circulation was down to 87,000 at this time. It didn't help, though, as "I, Vampire" saw its final chapter appear in HOM #319 that August and the House locked its doors for good a mere two months later. The story itself is not that bad; it just feels rushed and inconsequential (a complaint I file on way too many of these Bat-titles).

Jack: Batman is so easy. He'll team up with anyone! This story was a bit confusing and I'm still not clear on what gangster Batman was impersonating or why Gunnarson's goons came after him so quickly. Aparo's art is average (for Aparo) and the business about whether the people who were killed in Gotham by vampires were really killed by vampires or not remains fuzzy in my mind. If Mary turned Johnny into a vampire, why are people using fake fangs and a virus to kill people? Why not just put the real bite on them? Maybe we're supposed to take that Mary was accidentally infected by a fake vampire with a virus, while all of the dead people were killed by real vampires. The good thing about The Brave and the Bold is that ending a story confused doesn't matter, since we'll be on to a new team-up next month.

Next Week...
Oh no!
Not mo' Poe!