Posts tagged ‘Batgirl’

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 518 – Deadshot aims for Bruce Wayne, and the Velvet Tiger debuts

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Detective 518 (Sept. 82) pulls off a difficult task.  Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz and Don Newton tell a tale that works well as a single issue Deadshot story, but which also advances the Boss Thorne plot, and concludes the Vicki Vale one.

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The story begins as Batman gets a blood transfusion to return him to human, while the vampires roil in agony at their capture.  Robin, who got him into this whole thing by falling for Dala, keeps watch over Batman, but gets a big surprise when he heads back up into Wayne Manor.

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Dick is stunned to encounter Bruce upstairs, spending time with Vicki Vale.  He keeps his mouth shut, and Alfred explains to him about hiring the Human Target to impersonate Bruce and deceive Vicki.

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Believing Vicki’s evidence, Boss Thorne hires Deadshot to kill Bruce Wayne, and thus, Batman.

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Perhaps because the job seemed too easy, rather than simply shooting Bruce, Deadshot tries to kill him by shooting the chandelier above him, intending it to crush Bruce.

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And though no one planned exactly this outcome, Batman shows up to rescue Bruce, leaving Vicki Vale convinced her “evidence” was wrong.  And Christopher Chance, oblivious to everything, makes Bruce act strong and heroic, which Vicki is impressed with as well.

Deadshot goes to jail, Vicki goes on happily, and Boss Thorne goes on to another plan.

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Barbara Randall and Trevor Von Eeden take the Batgirl series in a darker direction for it’s final two chapters, beginning with this story.

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The supporting cast is ditched, as Batgirl gets involved with a brother and sister who run a computer company.  The sister has a criminal identity, the Velvet Tiger, but the brother is no innocent himself, although Batgirl believes him unquestioningly.

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Von Eeden’s art, while not as polished as it would become, certainly takes exciting risks, even if they do not all pay off.

Detective 517 – Batman as vampire, and Lady Viper suffers a set back

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The story in Detective 517 (Aug. 82) is the middle part of a tale, which began in the previous issue of Batman, and ends in the succeeding one.  As such, Gerry Conway, Paul Levitz, Gene Colan and Tony de Zuniga have a bit of filler time.

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Batman spends the duration of this issue fighting crime as best as he can.  His vampiric powers are a help, but he has to fight within himself to suppress the blood lust.

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Boss Thorne ordered Vicki Vale’s editor to steal her photographic proof of Batman’s identity, and in this issue he peruses her shots and calculations, and decides that she is right, and Batman is Bruce Wayne.

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The issue also finds time to give backstory on the vampire that turned Batman, which makes the best use of Colan, whose long history of horror comics shows in the flashback.

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The Burkett/Delbp/Giella creative team that has helmed much of Batgirl’s latest run has their last story in this issue, concluding the Lady Viper storyline.

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Batgirl heads to a hospital, and it proves surprisingly quick and easy to cure her of Lady Viper’s body-changing attack.  Back on her own two feet, she goes after the murderer again.

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The fates are on Batgirl’s side, as Lady Viper discovers that her own transformation was not yet complete, and she changes fully into the body of a snake.

Batgirl’s series runs for one more 2-parter, with a different creative team, but both Jeff and Jim are nowhere to be seen.  Jeff has not appeared since flirting with Supergirl.  Did Batgirl never forgive him for that?  And Jim’s interest seemed to wane following the trial.

Detective 516 – Batman closes the Crime Academy, and Batgirl goes all serpentine

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Detective 516 (July 1982) has the second half of the Crime Academy story.  Paul Kupperberg joins Gerry Conway in scripting, while Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte handle the art.

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As Batman penetrates the Crime Academy, the story checks up on some of the continuing plots.  Boss Thorne can’t even get through a game of billiards without Hugo Strange’s ghost showing up to taunt him.

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Jim Gordon joins Jason Bard’s detective agency, declaring his intent to bring down mayor Hamilton Hill.

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So Batman brings down the Crime Academy on his own.  I didn’t take any shots of this, but I should mention that Dick has continued to fall for the exotic Dala, but she turns out to be linked with evil people, and he is in peril (oh, no!)

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The third part of Burkett, Delbo and Giella’s Lady Viper story sees Batgirl wake up, feeling the worse for wear.  She cannot even make it back home before passing out.

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She believes she is having disturbing dreams about being turned into a snake lady like Lady Viper, but when she wakes, amidst a group of homeless people. she discovers the dream is reality.

The story continues next issue.

Detective 515 – the college for killers, and the origin of Lady Viper

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The cover for Detective 515 (June 1982) was a real torment for me.  At 16, I thought it looked too childish to want to buy it, but it also really intrigued me.

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The story, by Conway, Newton and Chiaramonte, is also based on an early Batman story, with the Crime Academy.  To be fair, this story has been retold at least five times by now.

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Vicki comes to Wayne Manor with her photographic evidence that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but almost begs Alfred to prove her wrong. With Batman busy dealing with the graduates of the academy, he decides handle this himself.

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Batman adopts his Matches Malone disguise and joins the academy.

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Alfred contacts master of disguise, Christopher Chance, the Human Target.  A surprise to see him, but you can see the wheels working in Alfred’s brain.

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Batgirl and Lady Viper spend the whole of this chapter locked in combat, but Burkett, Delbo and Giella also work in an important flashback.

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Lady Viper relates her story to Batgirl as she chokes her.  How she found snakes preferable to men, and found a snake god statue that she felt a special connection to.  A moonlight ritual altered her form to the one she has now.

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Lady Viper blows a noxious powder at Batgirl, and flees.

The story continues next issue.

 

Detective 514 – Maxie Zeus on the run, and Batgirl goes to the circus

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Len Wein, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte provide a solid, one issue story in Detective 514 (May 1982).

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Maxie Zeus has escaped from Arkham, and is being driven north through a dangerously snowy, mountainous region.

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Batman is in pursuit, but spins out on the ice and goes off the road.  He is rescued by a nature and peace loving recluse who calls himself Haven.  Batman attempts to get back to the Batmobile, but aside from being attacked by a bear, cannot find his way.

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Maxie Zeus and his men also wind up stuck in the snow, and everyone winds up at a restaurant, with Zeus’ men holding guns.  Zeus commands Haven to fight for his amusement, but Haven will not.  Maxie shows his extreme arrogance, explaining how he is a god, capturing and crushing a bird to show his might.

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Bad move.  The dead bird sets off the massive Haven, who trounces Maxie’s men, with some assist from Batman.  Haven is killed, though.

It had been a couple of years since Maxie Zeus had appeared, and it would be a couple more before he returns, in the pages of Batman and Outsiders.

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Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Joe Giella give Batgirl a scary new enemy in this story.

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Lady Viper, Queen of the Serpents is a heck of a name, but do you really want to argue with her?  And whatever you do, don’t call her Charlene.  After being transformed into a snake-woman, she returns to the circus and kills the barker who had been cheating her.

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After his body is found, with what appear to be vampiric bite marks, Batgirl investigates, heading to the circus he worked at, where Lady Viper is none too pleased to see her.

The story continues next issue.

Detective 512 – Batman vs a new Dr. Death

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There really isn’t anything that makes Detective 512 (March 1982) a “special” as such.  There is a decent Batman tale, by Conway, Colan and Janson, and a lame Batgirl story that I am not going to write up.  Instead of the normal letter column, there is a text history of Detective Comics, but nothing to put this on the same level as issue 500.

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The story is continued from this month’s issue of Batman, and for the next couple of years, this would become the standard pattern, with storylines running back and forth between the two books.

Vicki notices that Dala did not show up in the photos she took of her and Dick (in the previous Batman – last time I will say that).

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Batman is busy rescuing Robin from his deadly dangle from a bridge, left there by Dr.Death to delay Batman while the evil doctor prepares his super allergy to infect all of Gotham with.

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Rescue completed, Batman catches up with Dr. Hellfern.  He tries to get the antidote from him, but Hellfern is being a jerk, so Batman douses him with his own allergen, forcing him to reveal it’s cure.

Not a bad re-working of Dr. Death, but it wouldn’t grab much interest, and the character would go back into dormancy for another couple decades.

 

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