Posts tagged ‘Bill Finger’

Detective 328 – Alfred dies, and Ralph investigates a barn door theft

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A bit of old, a bit of new in Detective 328 (June 1964), as the New Look Batman continues, but in a story by the old guard, Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.  Joe Giella continued on the inks.

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While Batman and Robin are out of town, Alfred hears about the Tri-State Gang’s latest crime, and sets out to find them on his own.  He succeeds, but falls into their hands.  Meanwhile, Batman and Robin discover him missing, and go after the Tri-State Gang themselves.  They also get captured, but Alfred gets free.

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It’s not the greatest story, and it’s all just a set-up for the big finale, as Alfred gets crushed by a boulder while saving Batman.

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Bruce creates a philanthropical organization, the Alfred Foundation, in his memory.  This would eventually change names and become the Wayne Foundation.

As well, Dick’s never-previously-mentioned Aunt Harriet makes her debut just before the story closes, moving in with the two men.  Killing off Alfred and replacing him with Aunt Harriet was an attempt to make the Batman series seem less gay, although it really didn’t succeed.

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Ralph comes across a farmer pursuing a man who stole his barn door, and the oddness of that crime ensures that the Elongated Man gets on the case, in this story by Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino.

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This is also the first story to really start playing the relationship between Ralph and Sue.  Ralph forgoes anything in his quest to solve mysteries, while Sue longs for lavish resorts and classy restaurants.

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The story is simple but diverting, the only really disturbing element is when Ralph grabs a gun from a hoodlum with his nose.  Yeah, I would drop a gun if someone’s nose came flying across the room at me trying to grab it.

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Detective 312 – The Clayface Batman, and the Martian Manhunter gets a sidekick

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Clayface is back again for his third round with Batman and Robin in Detective 312 (Feb. 63).  Matt Hagen once again escapes from prison and recharges his powers from his secret pool in this Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff story.

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At first, Hagen uses his powers to impersonate Batman, entering banks and warning people to leave immediately, and then looting.  But Batman catches him at this, and Hagen flees.

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Batman stops another scheme, in which he makes himself appear to be a work of art to gain access to a vault, but manages to follow him back to his pool when he goes to recharge.

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In their fight, Batman falls in, and becomes a Clayface creature himself, leading to the big climactic, shape-changing battle.

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Which ends when Batman, as a tree, punches Clayface in the head.  A bit of a let down.

Clayface returns in a few months in the pages of Batman.

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Zook is much more in focus in this Martian Manhunter story.  J’onn keeps the creature in a cave, from which he keeps escaping, wanting to get in on the action.

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Zook, who can turn red and radiate heat when stressed, messes up one of J’onn’s plans, barging in when he mistakenly thinks J’onn is in danger.

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When he escapes a second time, he runs into Diane Meade, who brings him to the station, where he encounters J’onn in his John Jones identity.

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But in the end, Zook winds up using his heat powers to melt a cube J’onn is trapped in by some bad guys, which convinces him the creature could be his sidekick, and doesn’t need to spend the rest of it’s life alone in a cave.

Detective 311 – Cat-Man debuts, and the Martian Manhunter fights off an alien invasion

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Cat-Man makes his debut in Detective 311 (Jan. 63), in a story by Bill Finger and Jim Mooney.

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Thomas Blake is introduced as a member of the same social club as Bruce Wayne, having just returned from a sojourn in Africa.  Parallels are drawn between the lives of Wayne and Blake, just as in the introductory story of the Cavalier.

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Bored, Blake decides to turn to a life of crime, and names himself Cat-Man, after his hunting interests, as well as in honour of Catwoman, referred to in this story as “reformed.”

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When he comes into confrontation with Batwoman, Blake immediately starts trying to romance her, but she rebuffs him.

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A few rounds with Batman, a giant, robotic cat, and Cat-Man appears to die by drowning, but the story as much as tells us he will be back.

In hindsight, this story introduces three of the concepts that later Cat-Man stories will build on – his parallels with Batman, his romance with Batwoman, and the nine lives idea, casually floated in conversation in this issue.

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Two alien criminals come through a really funky space warp to Earth, pursued by an alien bounty hunter, and little alien creature called Zook.  J’onn gets caught in the middle of the whole thing.

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Zook, although he will stick around, is really a peripheral character for much of this story, which centres on the lawmen and the chase.

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The trip they take back to their planet is certainly the most vibrant scene this series has had.

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As I mentioned, Zook stays behind, sort of adopted by the Martian Manhunter.  Diane Meade also gets to know the creature, which becomes important in the following issue.

Detective 310 – Bat-Mite creates super-powered villains

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Bat-Mite gets as close to being an actual villain in Detective 310 (Dec. 62), as he would ever get, thanks to Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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Figuring that watching Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson lying around tanning was not exciting enough, Bat-Mite sets the stage for action, and endows three crooks with super-powers.

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Bat-Mite hits himself on the head, and loses his ability to control his magic, so he cannot remove the powers from the bad guys, leaving Batman and Robin to have to deal with them for the rest of the story.

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By far the most intriguing thing about this story is India Rubber Man, who looks almost exactly like the Elongated Man, and has pretty much identical powers.

The Elongated Man had already been introduced in the Flash, so this was certainly not a try-out for the character.  But India Rubber Man is displayed prominently on the cover, and Elongated Man would soon gain the back-up spot, so I think it may have been a try-out to see if his image on the cover of Detective would boost the sales of this book.

Detective 306 – Batman vs Arnold Hugo

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Professor Arnold Hugo debuts in Detective 306 (Aug. 62).  He is unique among Batman villains, in that he only faced him once, but returned as a recurring foe of the Martian Manhunter.  He was created by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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Gotham is holding a series of historical pageants, which are being sabotaged.  Bruce Wayne gets to act as a historical forerunner of Batman, an ancestor who flew from the bridge.

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Professor Arnold Hugo is behind the problems with the pageant.  A brilliant scientist, he developed a machine that increased his brain, and head, size, but also clearly drove him crazy.

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This is evident from his evil plan – to create a second moon.  he has invisible robots and a goofy death-trap for Batman and Robin, but was not worthy of a return encounter with these two.

 

Detective 304 – Clayface returns

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Matt Hagen escapes from prison, returning to his secret pool and re-powering himself for another go as Clayface, in Detective 304 (June 1962), in a story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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His first encounter with Batman on this new crime spree ends well, as he steals millions and turn himself into a giant muddy top, flinging Batman away.

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Clayface then tries a new tack, kidnapping and impersonating people.  He has the bad luck to choose men known to Bruce Wayne, and messes up on little details, like claiming a toothache while impersonating a man with dentures.

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Once again it comes down to a matter of outlasting Clayface.  Hagen attempts to flee as a giant bat when his time limit approaches, but Batman freezes him, and he is stuck there until he turns back to Hagen.

But you can’t keep this guy down, and he returns for his third try in a few months.

Detective 298 – Batman vs Clayface

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Matt Hagen, the second Batman villain to use the name Clayface, debuts in Detective 298 (Dec. 61), in a story by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff.

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Aside from his name, Hagen has nothing in common with the earlier Clayface.  Hagen looks like a man made of mud, but is able to change his shape at will.

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In flashback, we learn how he stumbled across the vials containing the potion that transforms him, while deep sea diving for treasure.

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This Clayface was far more powerful than any villain Batman had faced to date, and would quickly become one of his major foes in the early 60s.  He was able to change his form into anything he could think of, and often that included the attributes of what he changed into (e.g. – if he changed into a bird, he could fly).

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He recruits a gang, who have no idea what he truly looks like, as Hagen keeps replenishing the fluid that gives him his powers.

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Ultimately, Batman and Robin are only able to defeat him because they delay him long enough in battle that he cannot restore his powers.

Matt Hagen returns as Clayface a few months down the road in this book.  He was also the fourth, and last, of the villains to be re-created as part of Strikeforce Kobra.

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