Posts tagged ‘Carmine Infantino’

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.

Detective 371 – Batgirl’s wardrobe malfunctions

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Gardner Fox, Gil Kane and Sid Greene conspired to create the absolutely most appallingly sexist Batgirl tale ever, in Detective 371 (Jan. 68).

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Right at the outset, Batgirl catches her mask and needs to straighten it out, and then lambastes herself for being “female.”  She later gives away Batman and Robin’s location by screaming out in terror, and stops a pursuit when splattered with mud.

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What’s even worse are her thoughts, and the way she uses “female” and “feminine” as disparaging and negative terms.  I mean, obviously it’s Gardner Fox using those terms, but the effect of reading Batgirl thinking them is to make her character wallow in self-loathing.

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Bruce and Dick almost steal the show in a scene where they are dressed as hippies to blend in in the ghetto.  They are dealing with the bad guys, who really are tangential to the Batgirl’s-clothes-getting-torn plot.

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The big climax of the story has Batgirl heroically showing off a run in her stocking, which causes all the (apparently sex-starved) men to stop fighting so that they can stare at her leg.

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The pride Barbara Gordon feels in concealing the fact that she tore her stocking herself just adds another layer of twisted gender games to this horrible little tale.

Detective 369 – Robin leaves Batman for Batgirl, and Elongated Man and the lover’s lantern

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Gardner Fox’s story in Detective 369 (Nov. 67) is basically a re-write of “The New Team of Superman and Robin” from a late 50s issue of World’s Finest Comics.  The art is by Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene.

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Both stories begin with the three heroes in action.  Batman falls into a swamp in this story, and Batgirl notices something is wrong with him.

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The earlier story had homoerotic elements in the relationship of the three men; this story brings it out even more, with Batman’s jealousy over Robin spending time with Batgirl.

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In the end it’s all a plan to save Batman, who had contracted swamp fever.  Batgirl and Robin knew he would not agree to rest, so tries to keep ahead of him and protect him until he collapsed.

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The story concludes with a cameo by Catwoman, setting up her appearance in Batman, her first time in either of these books since the mid 50s.

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Neal Adams does the art on Gardner Fox’s Elongated Man story in this issue.

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Sue Dibny buys a “lover’s lantern, ” said to be able to reunite lovers when its lit.  It gets stolen, and Ralph winds up pursuing two different sets of thieves.

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It does eventually lead two lovers together (aside from Ralph and Sue), but despite Adams art, this story is kind of weak.

 

Detective 363 – Batman exposes himself to Batgirl

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Batgirl makes her third appearance, after a story in the pages of Batman, in Detective 363 (May 1967), in a story by Gardner Fox, with art by Infantino and Greene.

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The story begins with Batgirl fighting some crooks in the Gotham Library, and Batman and Robin showing up to help.  One of the crooks manages to escape.

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Batman brings Batgirl to the Batcave, and does an elaborate charade with her, unmasking, but with make-up on to make it look like he is trying to look like Bruce Wayne.  Batgirl doesn’t completely follow all the levels to this, but picks up on enough to realize the bad guy planted a bug on her, and Batman is setting a trap.

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The library is being used to send messages between the thieves and the planners, and Barbara had picked up on this in her profession.  Although it’s only Batman and Robin who nab the bad guys at the end, Barbara’s smiling presence, and the fact that they do not know her identity, still makes this a triumph for her.

Detective 359 – Batgirl debuts

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Created in conjunction with the tv series, Barbara Gordon, Batgirl, debuted in Detective 359 (Jan. 67), in a story by Gardner Fox, with art by Carmine Infantino and Sid Greene.

The story loosely matches an unaired pilot for the Batgirl character, which also has Killer Moth as the villain, kidnapping millionaires.

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Barbara Gordon is introduced as a librarian, and daughter of Commissioner Gordon.  The Batgirl outfit she creates is intended simply for a costume party.

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On her way there, she witnesses an attempt by Killer Moth`s men to kidnap Bruce Wayne, and dives into action, saving the man who needed no saving.

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Killer Moth had not been seen since the 50s, and looks to have done well for himself in these intervening years, as he how has a stylish candle-throne, and men who dress is outfits that match his.

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In this story, and continuing in a few more of her earliest tales, there is a montage panel showing Batgirl getting into her costume by slipping around her hat and skirt.  This sequence can also be seen in the unaired pilot, but was dropped from the show.  The hat-to-mask transition, which looks great on paper, did not come off very well on camera.

Also, Batgirl`s costume, far darker than that of Batman in this story, was also black in the pilot, and changed to sparkly deep purple for the series.

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Batgirl keeps an eye out for Killer Moth, and attempts to rescue Bruce Wayne a second time, but stumbles into a set-up by Batman and Robin, who are hoping to take him down.  Robin`s uplifting words to Batgirl in this scene are clearly Dick trying to flirt with Barbara, as later continuity would make clear.

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The three heroes work together to capture Killer Moth, with Batgirl being the one to find him in his lair, searching for the scent of the perfume she had sprayed him with.

A definite step up from the earlier female sidekicks, Batgirl would return a few months down the road.  Killer Moth would next appear, battling Batgirl again, in the pages of Batman Family in the 70s.

Detective 357 – Batman meets William B. Williams

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In Detective 357 (Nov. 66) Batman meets that famous celebrity, William B. Williams.

Ummm, who?

Thanks to wikipedia –

William B. Williams (August 6, 1923 – August 3, 1986), was an American disc jockey on New York City radio station WNEW for over four decades. He hosted the popular program Make Believe Ballroom. Williams is particularly noted for coining the title “Chairman of the Board” for Frank Sinatra.

So John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella were clearly really into this guy.

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He hosts a tv show, with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson as guests, and also Batman and Robin.  Crooks burst in, gas everyone, and kidnap the supposed heroes.

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Williams reveals that he had some college kids dress up as the heroes for the show.  Maybe he did this regularly on his broadcasts?

Whatever the case, that’s it for Williams involvement in the plot, he makes just another cameo in the last panel.

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The rest of the story simply details Batman and Robin hunting down the crooks and freeing the boys.

Detective 355 – Batman vs the Hooded Hangman, and Elongated Man meets Zatanna

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Such a powerful cover for Detective 355 (Sept. 66). The actual story, by John Broome, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella, is acceptable, but the Hooded Hangman is clearly a one-shot villain.

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The Hooded Hangman is a successful pro wrestler, whose identity is unknown.

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One night, responding to an alarm, Batman sees the Hangman running from the scene, and they fight.  Batman realizes the Hangman was innocent, but there in order to fight.  He knocks Batman out, and almost succeeds in removing his mask before others show up and he flees.

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After some more fighting, Batman recognizes the bruises on the newscaster’s face as ones he would have left on the Hangman. I always laugh envisioning a newscaster on the air with massive bruises, as if nothing was wrong.

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So Batman gets into the public fight Hangman wants, and allows himself to be defeated and unmasked, because he has made himself up as the newscaster.  Tables turned, and the newscaster is exposed as the Hangman.  End of story.

As I said, definitely a one-shot villain, but such a compelling cover.  I believe it to be the inspiration behind the creation of Bane.

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Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino share this story, the penultimate chapter in Zatanna’s quest for her missing father, which had run through a number of DC comics.

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Ralph gets involved when he sees stolen jewels flying through the air, and is unable to stop the thieves flying with them.

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It turns out Zatanna was responsible, trying to find the last artifacts she was looking for.  Zatanna pretends not to know the thieves are thieves, but she was working with them, and desperate, so I’m pretty sure she is lying about that.  At any rate, she helps Ralph round them up.

Zatanna then prepares to cast a spell that will take her to another dimension in search of Zatara.  Ralph offers to help, but she insists she will do it alone.

As it turns out, in her next appearance, in Justice League of America a few months down the road, she does call on Ralph, as well as the other heroes she encountered on her quest, for help.

 

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