Posts tagged ‘Barbara Gordon’

Detective 533 – Barbara saves her father

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In Detective 533 (Dec. 83), Doug Moench and Gene Colan give Barbara Gordon her best, non-costumed, role to date.

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Commissioner Gordon is in the hospital after suffering a heart attack a couple issues earlier, in the pages of Batman.  It was brought on largely by thirty years of smoking cigars, but happened while he was arguing with Harvey Bullock, so Bullock blames himself.

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Four ex-cons decide to invade the hospital and murder Gordon.  Barbara contacts the police, who alert Batman, but spends much of the story hiding her father, and doing her best to keep him safe and alive.

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Yes, Batman beats them up, and Bullock helps as well, but Barbara is the unsung heroine of the story.  It’s kind of sad that she is given far more emotional and impressive action in this story than she had in her own back-up series.

 

Detective 526 – Jason Todd dons the costume

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Celebrating Batman’s 500th appearance, Detective 526 (May 1983) is a forgotten, but worthy, anniversary issue.  Crisis on Infinite Earths would remove this story from continuity, and the origin of Jason Todd radically changed, but this work by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala stands on its own merit.

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The Joker calls together a mass assembly of Batman’s enemies.  Croc is out to kill Batman, but he’s a newbie, and not worthy of the honour, the Joker insists.  So he lays out a plan that will give them all chances of killing Batman that night.

The line-up includes the regulars: Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and Scarecrow.  Cat-Man, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, and Matt Hagen as Clayface had all appeared within the last few years.  The Cavalier had not been seen since an issue of Batman Family in the late 70s.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee had not been seen since the 1940s!  Technically, this is the first appearance of the Earth-1 versions of the characters, but with Crisis looming that scarcely matters.

Some of the newer villains are included as well: Black Spider, Captain Stingaree and the Spook.  Talia is there, without her father being involved in the story, which is rare.

The Gentleman Ghost is a Hawkman villain, but had fought Batman twice in his own book.  This is the only time he appears in a line-up of Batman villains.

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Catwoman watches, but takes no part in the meeting.  Talia also has no interest in killing Batman, but has to fight her way out.

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Both Catwoman and Talia head to the Batcave to warn Batman of the plans against him, but get involved in a cat fight of their own.

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Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for Dick Grayson.  His great plan to use the Todds against Croc simply put them into his hands, and he has Jason driven to Wayne Manor to keep him safe.

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Barbara accompanies her father as Commissioner Gordon checks out the abandoned theatre where the villains met, and finds evidence pointing to a gathering of their enemies.

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Barbara goes to find Dick, and they suit up as Batgirl and Robin and head out to fight the villains, as Batman does the same, with Talia and Catwoman as back-up.  No one is at home, so Jason is left to explore Wayne Manor, and guess where he winds up?

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The Spook manages to get the drop on Talia, if only for a moment.  But with so many fighting against them, the two women and Batman get taken.

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Robin is the one to find the remains of the Todds, fed to his namesakes by Croc.

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Jason, unawares, has found an alternate Robin costume in the cave, and suited up.  He heads out to join the rest of the heroes.

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Batgirl and Robin fight well together. There is no hint of romance, as there had been in their Batman Family team-ups.  Robin is in a budding romance with Starfire in the pages of New Teen Titans, but their ease with each other reminds one of the bond between them, the best duo of Batman’s supporting cast.

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Jason happens upon  a group of the villains, which gives him the information he needs to find out where everyone else is.

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Finally the big climax, as the Joker gloats over his captured foes.

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Croc had been working behind the scenes with the Joker, using all the other villains to wear Batman down.  He makes his move, but Batman manages to duck at the right time, and Croc takes down the Joker.

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Jason Todd arrives just as Batman has beaten Croc into submission, and delivers the final blow.  Only afterwards does he discover his parents bodies.

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The epilogue sees Bruce sending Catwoman and Talia off together in a car.  Where is he sending them?  Why did he stick these two women in the same car together?  How far did they get before their fight forced the car off the road and into a ditch?

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The issue ends with Bruce and Jason Todd, who is looking relatively ok for a boy whose parents were horribly murdered the night before.  But he is to be the new Robin, and there is a sense of hope.

Which is all kind of weird now, because Jason Todd was given such a different origin, and made such a different character, in the post-Crisis reality.

But for a couple of years, this was the origin of Jason Todd, Robin.

Detective 524 – Batman vs the Squid, and Green Arrow vs Machiavelli

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Croc’s rise continues with Detective 524 (March 1983)  by Gerry Conway, with art by Newton and Giordano.

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Croc is still working for the Squid when this story begins.  And at the opening of the story, the Squid looks to be in a good position, having thrown Batman into a tank of his namesakes.

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But Croc and the Squid do not see eye to eye.  Croc’s hat comes off, and this is the first time we see his face.  Croc walks out, and the Squid vows vengeance on him.

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Meanwhile, back at Wayne Manor, a party is in progress, although the guests (expecially Vicki Vale) are still waiting for Bruce.  Dick Grayson brings along the Todd family, circus performers he met recently in the pages of Batman.  Joseph and Trina Todd are the parents of young Jason, and the whole family are aerialists, so it’s easy to see why Dick has bonded with them.  Barbara Gordon is there as well, along with her father, recently re-instated, so he’s back to being Commissioner Gordon.

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Batman escapes from the squid tank, and makes it back to the mansion.  Alfred is tending his wounds, but no one thinks to close the door or separate themselves from the rest of the party, so Trina Todd just comes walking right into the room, seeing the Batman costume and everything.

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Fixed up, Batman resumes his attack on the Squid.

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But it’s Croc who wins, shooting the Squid with a sniper rifle, just as the Squid was about to shoot Batman.

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Green Arrow squares off against the Executrix in this story by Cavalieri, Novick and Randall.

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Machiavelli continues to promote his unusual brand of libertarianism, but finds people willing to listen, and begins to make a splash in Star City politics.

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He is on the verge of being swept into office as mayor by the time Green Arrow defeats Executrix and makes it back to him.

 

Detective 519 – blimps blow up, and Batgirl ends

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Gerry Conway, Paul Kupperberg, Don Newton and John Calnan are the creative team on the concluding half of this story, loosely based on the Dirigible of Death from early issues, in Detective 519 (Oct. 82).

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The villain in this story is Colonel Blimp, but we see much more of his airships than of him in this story.

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But then, the airships do far more dramatic things – like explode in pure Hindenburg glory.

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Batman and Robin chase Col. Blimp to his base in the arctic.  Robin gets a pretty decent snow outfit. Keeps his colours, but looks practical.

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It’s not bad – but really, the best thing about this tale, and about the last year or so in general, is simply that Conway is re-telling some of the oldest, classic Batman stories.  It could, and would, be done better; but it’s an effort worth commending.

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Batgirl’s second run in Detective comes to a close with this issue, as Barbara Randall and Trevor Von Eeden conclude her story with the Velvet Tiger.

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Randall gives a fair amount of backstory to the rival siblings and the manipulations of their corporation.  Enough that it feels like she was intending this series to continue, and the Velvet Tiger to return.

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As it turned out, she would bring Velvet Tiger back, almost ten years down the road, in the pages of Hawk and Dove.

Batgirl gets demoted to being a supporting character, and more often appears as Barbara Gordon than as Batgirl.  Her next solo is the Batgirl special in the late 80s, which immediately precedes The Killing Joke.

 

Detective 513 – A Two-Faced Batman

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Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte conclude a Two-Face story begun in Batman in Detective 513 (April 1982).

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Batman, captured by Two-Face, has been missing for days. Vicki Vale goes to Wayne Manor, revealing her belief that Batman is Bruce Wayne to Alfred and Dick, who just sort of look embarrassed for her, and she leaves.

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Batman’s absence has the city in a panic.  Hamilton Hill goes to consult with Boss Thorne, but he is not at all upset or concerned, happy to have him out of the way.

On the other hand, he is not happy to start seeing Hugo Strange’s ghost again.

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Everyone is wondering where Batman is. Even Jim Gordon, who has taken to hanging out on park benches now that he has resigned as commissioner.  Barbara tries to convince him to do something other than feed birds.

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And where is Batman, anyway?  Being held in a cage by Two-Face.  He is content to keep him there, no torture or anything, and his people provide food.

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Robin gets the action in this one, tracking Two-Face down.  But bythe time he arrives Batman is already free, thanks to Two-Face himself. Batman has used the food he has been given to make a mask for himself, expecting it to freak out Harvey.  Two-Face breaks the glass to free his double, and Batman takes him down.

Detective 501 – the shared secrets of Alfred and Lucius Fox, and Dr. Voodoo returns

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When I first saw the cover for Detective 501 (April 1981), I thought it was silly.  Alfred had been around forever, Lucius Fox had only been introduced a year earlier.  But Gerry Conway and Don Newton took the story somewhere I never expected.

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Both men receive letters that leave them shocked – and both when Bruce Wayne is there to see it. Making lame excuses, both men leave and fly off to France, with Batman following.

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We discover that both Alfred and Lucius were involved with the French underground, Alfred through British intelligence, and Lucius as an American soldier.  They both worked with Mademoiselle Marie.

A French resistance fighter, Mademoiselle Marie had  had a short-lived series in Star-Spangled War Stories in the late 50s, and from then on was a regular guest star in the various DC war books.

Marie had died towards the end of the war, betrayed to the Germans.

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Julia Remarque leads the group of aging fighters and their children, who accuse Alfred of being the traitor.

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Dr. Voodoo returns in this Cary Burkett/Jose Delbo/Joe Giella tale, and it’s much better than his first outing against Batgirl.

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Dr. Voodoo is out for revenge against Batgirl, and uses magic, as well as physical violence, to mess with those close to her.  He blows up (but does not kill) poor Jeff from the garage where she stores her bike.

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He also uses his magic to make Jim be difficult and insulting to Barbara on the phone.  Finally, after stressing her to the max, Voodoo attacks Batgirl.

Detective 500 – 4 Batman stories, two of them team-ups, scads of detectives, and Elongated Man and Hawkman end

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Many anniversary issue build themselves up as being something really special, but few live up to their promise.  Detective 500 (March 1981) is one of the rare ones.  It’s not all gold, but enough of it is.

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The first story, by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, bring us to a parallel world, where a new Batman is about to be born.

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The Phantom Stranger brings Batman and Robin to this world, seemingly so that Bruce will have the opportunity to prevent his parents’ deaths.

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They find this world similar, but different.  James Gordon is still just a lieutenant, and Barbara , though a librabrian, is his fiancee, not his daughter.  Bruce is hunting for information on Joe Chill, while Dick discovers that this is a world with no heroic legends, no caped heroes, nothing to inspire heroism.

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Observing the Waynes, we see that Bruce is hardly a baby hero, more like a rich spoiled brat, but Batman is blind to this.

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Batman’s pursuit of Joe Chill, who on this world is not even from Gotham, and just arriving in the city, brings him into conflict with Gordon, but Batman manages to convince him that they are friends on another world.

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His search for Chill has raised such flags that the man is murdered by the Gotham mobs.  Batman learns that the planned murder of the Waynes is happening sooner than he expected – he had not counted the extra days from leap years.

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Robin, who has been watching the Waynes, sees the murder about to occur, and struggles within himself, thinking that is might be meant to be; but Batman swoops in saves the day, his parents, and himself.

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The Phantom Stranger takes the heroes back to their own world, and they are left to wonder what will become of Bruce, but the reader gets to see the impact the attempted murder had, and that even with his parents alive, young Bruce is on the road to becoming Batman.

Sadly, this is not a parallel world we ever visit again.

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Slam Bradley gets the billing, but this story, a re-write of a Batman tale from the 40s, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, is pretty much a free for all with a vast line-up of detectives.

They are all at a celebration for an older detective, who gets murdered in front of them.

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The original version of this story has Batman working with a number of detective based on famous fictional ones from the era.  This story brings Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target and Roy Raymond together on the case.

For Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith and Slam Bradley, this the first time the character appeared since the end of their own series.

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There are leads in a number of directions, which allow the detectives to split up and pursue them in smaller groups.  The story gives everyone at least one moment to shine, and they wind up stopping a number of bad guys.

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Slam suspects there is more to the case, and it’s Roy Raymond who provides the real solution, that this was an elaborate suicide, designed to prompt the men to tidy up some hanging cases of his.

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Jason Bard and the Human Target both return in the pages of Detective within the next couple of years, while Roy Raymond pops up in DC Comics Presents.  Many of the rest have their next, and final, appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Slam Bradley returns a little after Crisis, returning to the pages of Detective for one story.

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The next story in the issue is a wonderful 2-pager, by Len Wein and Walt Simonson, that uses Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” as it’s text.  Clever, and visually gorgeous.

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The Elongated Man gets his final solo story in this book, by Mike W Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  As well as being a decent mystery story on its own, it delves into the facts around the death of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Chiefly, the identity of the mysterious “Reynolds” that Poe called out for shortly before dying.  The story has to do with a letter explaining who Reynolds was, and leading to an unpublished magazine by Poe.

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Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, and Ralph and Sue are always fun to read about.

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One of his best mysteries, this is also the Elongated Man’s last solo story until his miniseries in the 90s.

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On the downside of the issue, there is this text story by Walter Gibson, with some scattered art by Tom Yeates.  I recall reading this as a kid, but not finding it particularly memorable.  And I dislike text stories like this in comics.  If I’m going to read a book, I’ll read a book.  I read comics for the visuals.

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Hawkman also has his last solo story in Detective in this issue.  Well, kind of a solo, really he and Hawkgirl get equal roles.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert helm this tale, that sees Katar and Shayera trying to solve the mystery of the death of a scientist many years earlier.

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There’s some great Kubert art, and the story itself is not bad, but it’s a bit of a tease.

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At the end, Hawkman reveals that the scientist whose death they were investigating was Dr. Erdel, who had died after bringing the Martian Manhunter to Earth.  J’onn had blamed himself, and Hawkman wanted proof that it was not J’onn’s fault.

Hawkman’s next solo outing is the Shadow War of Hawkman miniseries.

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The final story in this issue was also a let-down to me.  Even moreso, as it’s a Batman/Deadman team-up, and those had been above average stories, on the whole.  But Carmine Infantino’s art is not what it was, and Cary Bates’ story doesn’t help much either.

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Pursuing some criminals, Batman gets killed.  Sort of.  Almost dead.  Robin is really stressed, but Deadman shows up and decides to inhabit Batman’s body to bring his killers to justice.

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Oops, someone spilled a plate of scrambled eggs on the comic.  Oh, wait, that’s Infantino’s art for showing Batman and Deadman conversing on the astral plane.

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Deadman moves Batman around and catches the bad guys, and doing so ignites the spark that brings him back to life.  A shame this story closed the issue.  It would have done less damage buried in the middle.

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