Posts tagged ‘Bob Oskner’

Detective 492 – Batman and Batgirl team-up, a bridge story, Man-Bat ends, and Robin vs the Penguin

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Cary Burkett and Don Newton lead off Detective 492 (July 1980) with a Batman/Batgirl team up, divided into two chapters.  Often the structure of something like this gets in the way of the storytelling, but in this case, it works to an advantage.

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Batman sees the news reports about Batgirl being killed, and heads to see Commissioner Gordon, discovering that Batgirl is at home, alive.  She explains how she used the dummy as a decoy for Cormorant.

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She tells the men she has decided to give up being Batgirl.  Batman argues with her, not to give up the good fight.  He looks to Gordon to back him up, but he is more than happy to not have his daughter out risking her life.

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Batman goes in pursuit of General Scarr, working his way up through the man’s ranks of hoods.  These fight scenes are really nicely intercut with a long conversation between Gordon and Barbara about being a hero, what things are worth the risk, and how Batman can be the way he is.

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Batman reaches Scarr, only to discover that he has fought his way into a trap.  He was the intended target all along.

So then, he was lying to his men in the previous issue when he talked about Batgirl being a threat?  Why?  He had to have informed them about the trap, so they had to know they were luring Batman.

It’s a minor point, but it bugged me as a kid.

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The story moves to the Batgirl half, as she discovers Batman has gone missing, and goes in search of him. She faces Cormorant, and finds that he is far more frightened of her than she of him, because he thinks she has come back from the dead.

Cormorant returns in a Batgirl Special in the late 80s, but no long thinks she is a ghost.

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She finds Batman, and though he has already broken his bonds and is taking out Scarr;s men, she still manages to rescue him.

The story ends as if her trauma is cured, but in reality, this event would leave deep scars.

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Bob Haney and Bob Oskner craft this installment of Tales of Gotham City.  There is some excellently vertiginous art as we read about a bridge, and the people on it one afternoon.

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The story is told from the point of view of a man who works on the bridge every day.  There is a little old man he sees walking the bridge daily.  Today is special, though, as there is a really dramatic guy threatening to jump because a girl doesn’t like him, and felons speeding towards the bridge, with police in pursuit.

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The storyline all come together, and the boy does little to save the girl he claims to love, when she gets grabbed by the felons.  It’s the old man who sacrifices his life for her.

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He gets the girl anyway, as she realizes suicidal cowards are hot.  The old man turns out to be the one who built the bridge many years earlier.  Corny, but I enjoyed it, and the art really carries it.

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Man-Bat has his final story, by Bob Rozakis, Romeo Tanghal and Vince Colletta.

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Kirk returns home to find Francine and the baby gone, long overdue from a shopping trip.  He discovers that they are on a subway car, mysteriously trapped in its tunnel.

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He finds the car, and the giant rat that has caused it to stop. My only complaint with this tale is that there is not enough Man-Bat vs giant rat action, as he drives it away with a torch.

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His series ends on an appopriately “can’t win for losing” note, as Kirk’s help in the situation is dismissed by the authorities, who refuse to take him seriously.

Man-Bat next appears, along with Francine, the baby, and Jason Bard, in Barve and the Bold the following month, in a coda to his series.

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Robin’s story,by Jack C Harris, Charles Nicholas and Vince Colletta, involves a pterodactyl egg on display at the university.

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The Penguin has come to town to steal it, and wants Robin aware of his presence.

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Dick winds up having the same romantic problems with Jennifer Anne that he was having with Lori Elton, as he keeps having to disappear and make excuses for breaking dates.  Oh, and there’s that man in black again.

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The Penguin has a fairly silly death-trap prepared for Robin, shutting him in a cage and firing it into the air.  He escapes, and nabs the villain.

 

Detective 484 – Batman vs Maxie Zeus, the Human Target has a mystery client, Batgirl tries to save her father, Robin returns to the circus, the Demon vs Baron Tyme, and an unsolved case of Batman

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Batgirl’s story gets the cover spot for Detective 484 (June/July 1979), though it’s deceptive in implying that Batman and Robin are also part of that story.

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Batman’s main story, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, is a follow up to last issue, as Batman penetrates Olympus, the penthouse retreat of Maxie Zeus.

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We get a bit of background on the villain.  He comes from wealth and education, and is credited as being an organizational genius.  His pretense of being a Greek god is looked on with amusement by his gang, who stay with him despite this.

Although he knows Batman is coming for him, and in spite of the pleas of his men, throughout the tale, that he flee, Maxie Zeus remains secure that he will triumph.

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Batman makes it past Zeus’ bodyguard, Odysseus, and winds up in his “Scylla or Charybdis” trap – between attack dogs and whirling blades.  The scene in which he survives by sending the dogs into the blades is pretty awful, but the only way out.

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Even when he is captured, Maxie does not seem in any way put out. Instead, he is delighted when Batman tells him his pride was his undoing.  And Maxie is not out of the picture, returning in a couple of months.

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The Human Target gets an unusual case in this issue, courtesy of Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  He is called on the phone and warned off of helping Floyd Fenderman, but no such person has contacted Christopher.

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So rather than disguise himself as the potential victim, Chris has to try to find out who the victim is.  He does adopt a disguise for part of the tale.

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But for the climax of the action it is simply Chris being himself.

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The story ends on a cute note, as Christopher discovers that Fenderman has been trying to get into contact with him for days.

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Jack C Harris, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta are the creative team on this Batgirl story, in which she hunts down the men who tried to kill her father.

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She meets with a fair bit of resistance when she insists that the case is hers.  The Gotham police feel it’s their duty to avenge their boss, and want to call Batman in as well.  Fortunately for Barbara, he is busy with Maxie Zeus.

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Despite that conflict, and the cover, this is a fairly simple story.  When she goes to check on her father, she spots the bejewelled nurse, and her suspicions are aroused.  She prevents a second attempt on her father’s life, and rounds up the bad guys.

Not bad, but it could have been much better.

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Robin returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.  There are a number of stories in which Dick returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths, but I believe this one genuinely is the first.

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He is surprised to see posters for the Flying Graysons, but discovers that it’s merely a stage name for performers playing off the notoriety of the dead performers.  Oddly, Dick is neither repulsed nor offended by this.

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The story recaps his origin – the candlelit vow is there.  It is always featured in his origin to this point.  It gets dropped eventually, and I’m going to keep an eye out for when that happens.

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The rest of the story has him stopping some crimes at the circus.  Adequate, but not exceptional.

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Baron Tyme and Jason Blood continue their confrontation before Merlin’s tomb in this story by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.

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The Inspector leads the townsfolk into the remains of Castle Branek, but Tyme is powerful enough to hold them all off as he opens Merlin’s tomb. The distraction does allow Jason the opportunity to turn back into Etrigan.

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Tyme discovers the tomb is empty, and Etrigan beings down the castle around him.  The Demon passes on the Eternity Book to the Inspector, and feels that all is done, but we see that Tyme survived the collapse.

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The final story in the issue is one of the Unsolved Cases of the Batman.  As with the Public Life of Bruce Wayne, this was intended as a back-up story in Batman, but moved here as a result of the DC Implosion.

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The story, by Denny O’Neil, John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin, has a scientist decipher notes by Galileo for the creation of a universal solvent, and a way to contain it.

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He creates the solvent, but cannot contain it, and it dissolves everything, including the notes.  Batman manages to turn it into a non-destructive gas, but the secret is lost.

So the case is only “unsolved” in that Batman did not find out the secret of creating the destructive solvent.  That’s not really unsolved.  That basic problem was likely a factor in ending these “unsolved” tales.

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The issue’s back cover features a pin-up of Batman’s major villains.  The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face are joined by the Scarecrow, who hasn’t usually made the cut for such spreads before, as well as Ra’s Al Ghul, the new kid on the block.  Catwoman’s appearance is a bit out of date, as she had already started on her road to reform, but I’m not complaining.

 

 

Detective 483 – Maxie Zeus debuts, Human Target begins, Batgirl goes on a date, the Demon returns to Castle Branek, Robin wipes up MAZE and a kangaroo race

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton bring back Leslie Thompkins in this follow-up Crime Alley story, which also serves to introduce the new villain Maxie Zeus.

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It’s once again the anniversary of the deaths of his parents, and Batman heads to Crime Alley, where he once again comes to the aid of Leslie Thompkins.  This story is the first to raise the notion that the deaths of the Waynes affected the entire city, sent it into a decline.

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Batman gets word that crime boss Maxie Zeus is having men spread poison gas through an entire apartment building in Crime Alley, just to kill one man, and Batman sets out to stop them.

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He does so, saving the innocents, as well as the man Zeus intended to kill.  Leslie still hasn’t pieced together that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but her dialogue hints that she isn’t too far from the secret.

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The ending warns Maxie Zeus that Batman is coming for him, which happens next issue.  Although not much is done with Maxie Zeus in this first story, it helps build him as a powerful threat to be faced.

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Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has his back-up series move from the Brave and the Bold to this book,a result of the DC Implosion.  Christopher Chance works as a bodyguard/impersonator.  If someone has threatened your life,he will take on your identity and flush out the wannabe killer.

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In this story, by Len Wein, Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, he takes on the identity of a Hollywood actor, after a number of incidents on a film set lead him to believe someone is trying to kill him.

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It’s not hard to solve this one, there is really only one viable suspect, but the story is fun is the art is great.

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Batgirl faces off against some homegrown terrorists in this story by Bob Rozakis, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

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After rounding up part of the gang, she gets asked out on a date by a soldier, who had first met her when she battled Madame Zodiac in the Pentagon, in a late issue of Batman Family.  Barbara agrees, but the date quickly turns into a farce.

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The evening lurches from disaster to disaster, and though it is terrible for the two on the date, it’s certainly entertaining for the reader.

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Just as the silliness threatens to outlast its welcome, Batgirl is reminded of something the terrorists said, and realizes they are going to attack Washington Monument that night.  She and her soldier boy wind up working together to round up the remainder of the gang, so the date is a success after all.

What I really appreciate in this story is that, with the date plot, it’s basically a romantic story, but it does not weaken Barbara, or put her in a subservient position to the soldier in any way.

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Steve Ditko takes over the art for the rest of Len Wein’s Demon story, as Etrigan faces off against Baron Tyme.

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Baron Tyme fills in his story between the events of Man-Bat and now.  When he vanished in that book, he was drawn into a nether realm, which allows him great knowledge, but is a torture to his body, which is trapped between dimensions.  With the Eternity Book, he intends to open Merlin’s tomb in Castle Branek, and use him to return completely to this world.

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The story brings back the town’s inspector, who looks straight out of a Frankenstein movie.  The Demon attempts to reach Merlin’s tomb before Tyme does, but does not succeed.

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Tyme uses the Eternity Book to force Etrigan to transform back into Jason Blood, and then traps him, as he prepares to open the tomb.

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Robin’s long battle with MAZE comes to an end in this story by Bob Rozakis and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The leader of MAZE has brought all his members together, which turns out to be a good thing for Robin and the police, as they bust in.  Raven flees, and Card Queen shows her true colours, betraying MAZE and helping to bring them down.

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Card Queen is revealed to be Duela Dent, in yet another identity.  This (and last issue) are her first appearances since the break-up of the Teen Titans.  She would not appear again until the wedding of Donna Troy in New Teen Titans.

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But the story is not yet over. Dick confronts Lori Elton and her new boyfriend, who Dick reveals to be the Raven. As the guy tries to fight back, and loses, Dick goes on to explain a number of dangling plot threads, bringing this long tale to a satisfactory, if sad, conclusion.

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The final, silent, page is quite powerful.  Lori attempts to return to Dick, but he rebuffs her.  As he walks away from the rest of the students, he looks stronger, and more like a man, than at any time before.

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The final story in this issue, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, was intended to be one of the “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” stories that ran in the back pages of Batman, until the DC Implosion ended that.

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It’s silly, but entertaining, and sort of clever.  Knowing that an Australian hit man has come to Gotham, Bruce Wayne finances a kangaroo race in the city, in order to draw him out.

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Once he has spotted the man, he follows him as Batman, finds the men who hired them, and rounds them all up.

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There is also a nice pin-up on the back page of the current Batman family, with Batgirl, Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.

 

 

Adventure 424 – Supergirl ends

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Supergirl’s run in Adventure Comics comes to a close with issue 424 (Oct 72), in a story that actually winds things up and sets the stage for her own comic.  Steve Skeates handles the writing, while Tony de Zuniga and Bob Oskner take the art.

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Linda has been successful at getting information from a mob informant, and looks to be in line for a promotion, which irritates Nasty.  Linda finds herself falling for the guy, but is less than happy when he does not act to try to protect her when the mob tries to kill him.

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When he flees after a grenade is thrown at him, Linda covers it with her body, and fakes her own death to teach him a lesson.  This is really less than admirable behaviour on Supergirl’s part, as she shows no sympathy for a person who simply doesn’t want to die, and resents the fact that he does not sacrifice himself to save her, even though she is in no danger.

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Figuring she will teach him a lesson, she pretends to be her own ghost to haunt him, but merely winds up a witness to his murder.

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Her guilt over the situation changes to rage when Linda discovers Nasty gave the mob the information on who the informer was.

The ending involves a teleportation machine, which gave the assassin the illusion of being a ghost, and a mob graveyard in space, just to work in the cover image.  After rounding up the gangsters, Linda returns to her news office.

 

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A strong conclusion to her run, as she quits her job and leaves San Francisco.  Hew own comic starts the following month.

Nasty does not appear again for a very long time.  Later writers do not even acknowledge her existence, when writing about Lex Luthor and his family.  It was Grant Morrison who finally brought her back, in All-Star Superman.

Adventure 423 – Supergirl saves the Justice League

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Aliens plot to conquer the world using mind-controlling sunglasses in Adventure 423 (Sept 72), a story by E Nelson Bridwell and Steve Skeates, with art by Mike Sekowsky and Bob Oskner.

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Linda is out shopping when a pushy saleswoman shoves a pair of sunglasses on her, and she discovers she cannot remove them.  The glasses also force her, or anyone wearing them, to follow the commands of the aliens who created them.

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She is ordered to Metropolis, where she switches the glasses with Clark Kent’s usual ones, rendering him under the aliens control as well.

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The two aliens brothers behind this are not working together well, and one decides to betray the other, and has Supergirl use her heat vision, which results in the destruction of the glasses, freeing her mind.

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Superman brings the glasses to the Justice League, but Supergirl intervenes, much like the scene on the cover, and gets Green Lantern to destroy the glasses Superman is wearing.

A fairly silly story.  She still has her problems with her powers vanishing at times in this tale, although that has been used less frequently in recent months, and this would be the last story to reference that.

Adventure 419 – Supergirl’s bad boyfriend returns, Black Canary ends, and Zatanna faces Gorgonus

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Mike Merrick returns in Adventure 419 (May 1972), with a new girlfriend in an unusual, and surprisingly sad, story by John Albano, with art by Tony de Zuniga and Bob Oskner.

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Supergirl battles magical threats, and the reader discovers that these have been created by Lorelei, Mike Merrick’s new girlfriend, to divert Supergirl and keep her from tracking him down.

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It’s a bit of overkill, really, as Supergirl has shown no inclination to find Mike over the last 6 months since he appeared, but he calls her and informs her of what has been going on.  This phone call is the only contact Supergirl and Merrick have in the entire story, never even sharing a scene together, but the story works extremely well despite this.

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Remorseful and self-loathing, Mike kills himself and Lorelei in a car accident.  Supergirl is informed of his death, and comments that he “escaped from a world in which he never quite belonged.”  There is an absence of sappiness in this tale that makes it genuinely touching.

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Black Canary’s 2-parter by Denny O”Neil and Alex Toth concludes in this issue, as she wakes to find herself bound and at the mercy of the gang she helped train.

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While I kind of hate the fact that she only finds the strength to fight back from this situation by remembering advice from Green Arrow, I can’t fault the beauty of Toth’s art on the flashback.

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And fight back she does, defeating the gang, and at the end discovering that it was all a plot to free Catwoman, in a surprising cameo.  It’s a nice touch, but does make one wish that there had been some bigger scene between the Cat and the Canary.

Black Canary’s next solo series is in World’s Finest Comics in the late 70s.

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Zatanna returns in this issue, in a story that is sort of an epilogue to her earlier adventure, written by Len Wein with great art by Dick Giordano.

While rehearsing for a new act, Gorgonus suddenly appears, having been expelled from his dimension as an unwitting side effect of the spell Zatanna used to help her and Jeff escape.

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She defeats the monster  by subterfuge rather than magic, tricking him into staring into a mirror, which turns him into stone.

Adventure 418 – Supergirl meets Johnny Double,Black Canary begins, and an unpublished Dr Mid-Nite story

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Supergirl plunges into Chinatown intrigue in Adventure 418 (April 1972).  The story, by Len Wein, with art by Jose Delbo and Bob Oskner, also introduces her to Johnny Double, DC’s underdog private detective, who was currently also appearing in Wonder Woman’s comic.

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Nasty hires Johnny Double, claiming that Linda is trying to kill her, but hoping that Johnny will instead find some evidence to prove Linda is Supergirl.

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Instead, Johnny and Supergirl get enmeshed in a plot by Batman villain Dr Tzin-Tzin to take over the gangs in Chinatown.  Supergirl briefly falls for Tzin-Tzin’s illusion casting powers, but remembers hearing of them from Batman.

Johnny calls Nasty out on her lies about Linda trying to kill her.  There is some flirtation between Johnny and Linda, but he is busy with Wonder Woman, and nothing more comes of it.

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Black Canary gets her first solo story since the golden age in this two-parter, written by Denny O’Neil, with superb art by Alex Toth.

The story is fairly simple.  Black Canary applies for a job as a judo instructor for an organization called the Women’s Protective League.  She is surprised to discover that the women she is training are already fairly skilled, and even more surprised when she discovers gunmen in the centre.  It turns out the gunmen are in league with the feminists (isn’t that always the case?), and Canary gets captured.

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This issue also includes an unpublished Dr Mid-Nite story, which I believe was not published because it’s incredibly stupid and awful.  So much so that I am going to cover it in detail.

The story begins by introducing an echo-flashlight, a kind of sonar gun for blind people to navigate with, which Dr McNider (Dr Mid-Nite in his secret identity) has invented.  Money is being raised to help mass produce this device, and criminals plan to rob the event.

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Dr McNider is on his way there, but hoods are waiting to ambush him.  By sitting on a telephone pole.  Because that’s a place no one will ever notice, or find suspicious.

McNider dives into a bush, and emerges in his Dr Mid-Nite costume in the next panel.  Now let’s consider this.  Take a look at how much clothing he needs to remove and get into, all the while in the bush.  He must be in there at least 5 minutes, possibly more.  And all this time the criminals just wait patiently, one must assume.

But wait, there’s more!  As he jumps out of the bush, the bad guy says “Dr. Mid-Nite!  Wh-where’s Dr McNider?”

OK, so for at least 5 minutes McNider has been in that bush, changing clothes.  That would cause the bush to move and rustle.  Jump in a bush yourself and change clothes, I’ll bet it attracts attention.

But the bad guys, who have waited and waited, ignoring the sound and movement from the bush, cannot figure out where Dr McNider went, or how Dr Mid-Nite got into the bush in the first place.  Even in a universe where Lois Lane cannot recognize Superman when he puts glasses on, this strains all credulity.

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Dr Mid-Nite then trounces these incompetents, until a man riding a pennyfarthing bike rides up and bumps into him with it.  There may be some other, American, term for this kind of bicycle, I only know the term “pennyfarthing” for it from the 60s tv show “The Prisoner.”

But anyway, let’s examine this scene.  Those bikes did not go particularly quickly, and being hit by one is far more likely to cause the driver of the bike to fall to the ground, rather than render the person being hit unconscious, but that’s what happens in this scene.  Nice top hat, by the way, Mr bad guy.

The criminals then decide to kill Dr Mid-Nite.  So they shoot him.  No, that would be silly.  They choose a much more certain mode of murder.

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They tie him to the bike and let it drift away.  By some as yet unknown force of nature, the bike continues moving, rather than simply falling over on it’s side.  I realize most of you reading this have never driven this type of bicycle, but take my word for it, it was no more capable of self-balance and propulsion than any other non-motorized bicycle.

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Of course Dr Mid-Nite escapes from this “death trap.”  A five year old could probably escape from it.

He defeats the amazingly inept bad guys, and then the story ends with a plea to the reader to help contribute to the funding for the echo-flashlight.  So really, this entire story is an ad for the flashlight.

I can fully understand why this story was never published in the golden age.  I have a harder time understanding why it was published in 1972.

 

 

 

 

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