Posts tagged ‘Clayface’

Detective 566 – Know Your Foes, and a mystery villain in Green Arrow

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Doug Moench and Gene Colan provide a review of Batman’s major villains in this story, a lead-in to the big Batman 400.  The bulk of it reads much like a Who’s Who, but that series, and its variants, were in the future, and there really had not been anything like this.  It was much more appreciated at the time than such an issue would be now.

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After receiving a mysterious letter saying “Know your foes,” Batman and Robin review them.  All the big names are covered: Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia.  Killer Moth makes the cut into the big names, as does Black Mask, the newest addition to the line-up.

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Curiously, this is the first time Poison Ivy makes it into a listing of Batman villains.  She’d been a foe of his since the 60s, but rarely in his own books.  Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Nocturna and the Night Slayer round out the ones who get full entries.

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There is a curious mix on the “B-list” page.  Cavalier and Tweedledee and Tweedledum are golden age holdovers, but Black Spider and Clayface III are supposedly dead.  Mr. Freeze, Cat-Man and Croc could easily have made the cut to major villains at this time.  And they included Crazy Quilt.  Really?

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Green Arrow and Black Canary’s series builds to its finale in this story by Joey Cavalieri and Jerome K Moore.

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Onyx is giving a long, roundabout explanation to her wanna-be boyfriend about why she has come back to Star City, but it gets interrupted by a bad guy smashing right through the wall.

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Who is the mystery attacker?  That gets saved for the finale.

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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 496 – the original Clayface returns, and Dr. Voodoo debuts

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Mike Fleisher and Don Newton bring back a villain not seen in over thirty years as Basil Karlo makes a comeback in Detective 496 (Nov. 80).

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The story deals with a horror exposition about a yacht, hosted by John Carlinger, clearly intended to be John Carpenter.

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Basil Karlo reads of the exposition in his hospital room, and, furious at not being included, kills his nurse and breaks out.

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Some of Karlo’s scenes certainly do feel like a Carpenter horror film.

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Karlo makes it aboard the yacht.  Carlinger has a duplicate of his dressing room as one of the exhibits, and they confront each other there.

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Clayface begins a reign of terror on the boat, killing some of the actors, as Batman fights to save them.

But Batman figures out that Clayface is not Karlo, and reveals him to be Car;inger.  He had murdered Karlo, then adopted the Clayface guise to kill the actors who wanted his finances audited.

The death of Basil Karlo was undone by Crisis on Infinite Earths, and the character returns in the Mudpack storyline.  Perhaps because of this,  no one ever seems to recall this story, or number Carlinger among the Clayfaces.

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Batgirl gets an original costumed villain of her very own in this Burkett and Delbo story.  Dr. Voodoo.  And he looks about as corny as his name.

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Barbara is getting hot and heavy with the dad of the hostage girl.  I really ought to start using their names.  Henceforth, hostage girl is Tracy, and her dad is Jim.

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Dr. Voodoo and his men confront Batgirl as they try to rob a diamond exchange.  He appears to be able to put people into a zombie like trance, but Batgirl figures out it’s sonics.

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She gets garage guy Jeff to blast some Beethoven, which messes up Voodoo’s sonics, and she rounds up the Loa wannabes.

Detective 479 – Batman vs Clayface, and Hawkman vs Fadeaway Man

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Detective 479 (July/Aug. 1978) features the conclusion to the 2-part Clayface story, as well the conclusion to Steve Englehart’s run, and the collaboration with Rogers and Austin.  Up to this point, no creative team had told such an interconnected story, or given Batman such a strong romantic plotline.

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Batman manages to escape from Clayface, whose exoskeleton makes him much stronger, by electrocuting his suit.

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Though she is not identified, the cat hints that the mysterious woman who comes to visit Bruce Wayne is Catwoman.  This is the first appearance she makes following a story in Batman Family in which she battled the Huntress, and begins her path to redemption.  Current continuity would make this her first appearance after Zatanna’s mind wipe of her, as related in Identity Crisis.

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Batman manages to track Payne to his wax museum, and sees just how very disturbed the man is.  One of the things I really like about this third Clayface is that, as much of a killer as he is, he remains tragic and sympathetic.

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Though Batman does beat him, the wax museum catches fire.  Clayface, terrified for the “life” of the dummy he loves, bursts his bonds and runs back into the building burning as it collapses.

This Clayface returns in a few years, in a Batman Annual, with an amazing story by Alan Moore.

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Hawkman returns to the pages of Detective following his run in Showcase, which saw Hyathis conquer Thanagar, and Hawkman and Hawkgirl exiled again.  Len Wein and Rich Buckler contribute this story, which introduces a new villain and brings back an old supporting character.

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Returning to the Midway City Museum, Carter  and Shiera Hall are surprised to discover someone else in Carter’s office.  Mavis Trent, not seen since Hawkman 2, explains that Carter was fired after not showing up to work for months on end.  And can you blame them?

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Well, maybe you can, since the guy they hired has no trouble announcing that he is a villain, the Fadeaway Man, and uses his magic cloak to send Carter away.

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The writer clearly has backstory for this character, with his references to “who he truly is,” and I expect, had this back-up series not been abruptly cut short, he would have returned a few issues down the road.

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He vanishes, unwittingly, at the end of the story.  The Hawks assume him to be dead, but Fadeaway Man retutns a few years down the road in Brave and the Bold, taking on Hawkman and Batman.

Detective 478 – a new and deadly Clayface

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Englehart, Rogers and Austin reach the end of their run on Detective with this 2-part story that introduces Preston Payne, the third Clayface.

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Batman is not coping well with Silver’s departure, and is taking it out on Gotham’s criminals.

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Meanwhile, Gotham is being plagues by a series of robberies and unusual murders, which leave the bodies a pile of goo.  We see the new Clayface long before Batman does, and it’s not a pretty sight.

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The depths of Batman’s emotional state are made very clear in this powerful scene, in which he curses the portrait of his parents, and then realizes what he is doing.

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Jumping back to Clayface, we get the sad origin of Preston Payne.  Born with a deformed head, and ostracized both as a child and an adult, he became fascinated with Clayface’s body altering abilities.

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Payne visited Matt Hagen in prison, and though Hagen refused to divulge the secret of his powers, he did allow Payne to draw a simple of his blood.  Payne isolated the agent in Hagen’s blood that allowed the transformations, and injects himself. At first it works perfectly, and he creates his idealized body.

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But the process was unstable, and as his form began to melt, he discovered the other ability he now possessed – to spread this melting to others through touch.

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Driven completely insane, Payne now lives encased in an exoskeleton, in a wax museum with a dummy he treats as a girlfriend.

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The hero and villain, both in a state of heartbreak, face each other as the issue ends.

The story concludes next issue.

Detective 477 – mostly a reprint

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This issue is almost entirely a reprint of Detective 408, but issue 477 (May/June 1978) does have a few new pages at the beginning and ending.  There may not be much material by Englehart, Rogers and Austin, but what there is is important.

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Batman and Gordon go to see Boss Thorne, now in an asylum.  He tells them of Hugo Strange’s murder, and being haunted by his ghost.  Batman puzzles, if Strange is truly dead, who left him the gas meter?

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The final page has a wonderfully creepy murder, an introduction to the new Clayface, whose story will be told over the next two issues.

 

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.

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