Posts tagged ‘Cliff Crosby’

Detective 63 – Batman vs Mr. Baffle, Cliff Crosby and Larry Steele end

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Another generic Batman and Robin cover for Detective 63 (May 1942).  Mr. Baffle was good enough to mention, but not to show.

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Mr. Baffle is blatantly patterned after the character Raffles, the gentleman thief.  But it has been stated by one of the Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson team that the Penguin was based on Raffles as well.  This leads me to wonder if the one time appearance of Mr. Baffle was really a rough draft of the Penguin, printed later.  Either that, or they wanted a version of Raffles that retained the qualities the Penguin lacked.

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Mr. Baffle arrives from Europe, and is already notorious.  Batman almost nabs him the moment he arrives.  But he eludes capture, trims his facial hair, and begins moving in high society, while scoping out the sites for his thefts.

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Linda Page gets to have significance in the story.  She spots the rough fingertips on Baffle, and doubts he is really part of the upper crust.  Snobbery as a super-power!

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When Baffle later tries to wiggle out of things by claiming to be secretly Batman, Linda exposes his lies.

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Baffle and Batman have a swordfight battle, and Baffle dives off a tower.  He claims he will return, but as he never did, he must have just gone splat on the ground.

Much of this character, including the swordfighting, would be reworked into the Cavalier.

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In his final tale, Cliff Crosby solves the murder of a circus lion tamer, which was done by coating the lion’s mane with nicotine.  Often the crimes were needlessly elaborate that way.

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With Cliff’s series ending so soon after the attack on Pearl Harbour, I suspect he joined the army, perhaps as a journalist, but did not survive the war.

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The Seal returns for Larry Steele’s final case.  His scheme has some creativity to it, as he uses blinding light to disorient the tellers when his men rob their banks.

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As with Cliff Crosby, one cannot help but suspect that Larry’s series ended because he enlisted immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

 

Detective 58 – the Penguin debuts, Cliff Crosby comes to Canada, and Speed Saunders ends

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The cover of Detective 58 (Dec.41) is an entertaining composition, but has no connection to the important Batman story the issue contains.

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The Penguin gets introduced, created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.  Inspired by Raffles, the gentleman thief, this character would quickly become a staple in Batman stories.

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Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson first encounter the villain at an art gallery, and Dick gives him the Penguin nickname before they have any reason to suspect him of anything.  He uses his umbrella to conceal the stolen art, as well as other items he snags during the story.

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He also uses the umbrella as a gas gun.  It’s a good prop, many uses, and adds to his ensemble.

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The one moment I do not care for in the story occurs when Batman has been captured by the Penguin.  There is a cool cutaway of a communication device in Batman’s heel, but his excuse for using it, “tap-dancing sitting down.” is painful.

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Robin frees Batman, and they take down the Penguin’s gang and recover the loot, but the Penguin himself escapes, hopping a passing freight. The story concludes telling us he will return, and he does, in the following issue.

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Cliff Crosby heads to Canada in this story, taking Kay with him on a skiing vacation, and stumbling into a bizarre set-up.

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A father refuses to let his daughter marry unless someone can beat him in a ski race.  Cliff wins the race, by rigging the father’s skis.

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Speed Saunders has his final adventure in this story.  It’s called “The Cigarette Murder,” and Speed solves it by noticing the ashes left in an ashtray even though the butts were removed.

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It’s late 1941, and it’s safe to say that at this point, Speed goes into the O.S.S.  He does not return again until the late 90s, but is given that bit of backstory to his World War 2 days.

Detective 54 – Batman sails the Batplane, Larry Steele goes on a date, Speed Saunders solves an in-flight murder, and Cliff Crosby heads to Europe

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No pirates on the cover of Detective 54 (Aug. 41), but lots in the interior as Batman faces off against Hook Morgan in this Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson tale.

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Linda Page, who has been introduced a few issues earlier in Batman, makes her first appearance in Detective in this story.  A society girl, she is Bruce Wayne’s romantic interest for much of the 1940s.

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Hook Morgan just doesn’t come off as scary as he might, and I blame the hook for that.  It just doesn’t work for me.

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The Batplane demonstrates its ability to become a watercraft in this story.

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Larry Steele goes on a date in this story!  I realize that doesn’t sound exciting, but Delia is the only woman Larry has had in the series since Jeanne left after Big Jim’s death.

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She joins him for a rousing night of violence and mystery solving, but never appears again.  Guess it wasn’t her cup of tea.

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This is one of my favourite Speed Sounders stories, just for the vital clue. After an apparent suicide, Speed deduces it was murder and that the suicide note was a fake by the fact that it was written clearly.  If it had been written during the flight, the words would be jagged and bumpy.

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Cliff has a story where he sort of acts like the newspaper owner he is.  He heads to Europe to report on the bombing there, and remains there for the following issue, solving the theft of a painting.  The war encroaches.

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Detective 52 – Batman and the Jade Box, Cliff Crosby and Kay share a hotel, and Steve Malone solves a phony suicide

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The cover of Detective 52 (June 1941) does reflect the story inside, a “yellow peril”tale about a jade box.

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The centre of the tale is a ring that supposedly belonged to Genghis Khan.  Possession of the ring entitles one to control all the gangs.

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As with the earlier Chinatown tale, Batman orders Robin to stay behind, that it is too dangerous, but he tags along anyway and saves Batman’s life.

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Kay has been around a while, a sort of platonic girlfriend.  In this issue, we learn her last name, Nevers.  She and Cliff must be having some degree of serious relationship, because they stay at a hotel together.

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The only Steve Malone story towards the end of the run that really sticks out for me is this one, in which a yacht crashes onto Long Island Sound with a man hanging from the rafters inside.  The man is never shown, but his shadow is seen, cast on the wall, and we see the facial reactions of the people looking at him.

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Aside from that, it’s a pretty standard tale, ending with an entire page of explanations, so I’m not even going to try to summarize.  The explanation takes up 1/6 of the story’s length

Detective 48 – Batman in a cave of bats, the origin of Cliff Crosby, Speed Saunders figures out whodunnit, and the Crimson Avenger pulls off an amazing costume change

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The corner inset picture of Batman changes from dark and scowly to happy and smiley with Detective 48 (Feb. 41).  This means the only people on the cover not smiling are the bad guys.

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The story in this issue has nothing to do with the Batcave at all.  Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson’s tale has to do with a cave located under a gold depository, and the plan to use it in a robbery.

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As with the previous issue, Bruce and Dick merely pass through a tunnel while heading from the Manor to the barn, which is now shown to also house the car.  It’s still not the Batmobile.  This one is back to the awful red colour!

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The climax of the action takes place in the cave, and with all the bats shown, the stalagmites and stalactites, and all the shadows, it’s difficult to imagine this story had no influence on the development of the Batcave.

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This issue serves as sort of an origin story for Cliff Crosby.  We discover that his father was killed by gangsters for exposing them in his paper.

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Cliff and Kay manage to find proof of the killer’s identity, and bring him to justice.  Took the writer an awful long time to figure out who the hero of the series was.

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This issue sees the Speed Saunders stories change their format a bit, becoming more of a whodunnit series..  From here on, each story has Speed come across a murder, often in an unusual location – a train, and airplane, a baseball diamond during a game.

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Speed investigates for a couple of pages, and in many issues (though not this one) there is box informing the reader that the clues are all there, and challenging them to determine the identity of the killer, which Speed reveals and explains on the final page.

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The costume changes in the Crimson Avenger series are not always well-handled.  In a number of the stories we see that he wears his costume under his normal clothing, but in this story Lee Travis is captured by hoods, tied up and thrown into the river.

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He emerges from the river in full costume (which still included the cape at this point), miraculously having changed underwater.

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And still, despite the costume, there is nothing of note to distinguish this from any non-costumed hero.

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Detective 46 – Hugo Strange’s Fear Gas, Spy fights Goldfish-Man, and Cliff Crosby gets an occupation

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Detective 46 (Dec. 40) closes out the year, and despite having another appearance by Hugo Strange, the cover remains a generic Batman and Robin image.

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Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson bring back Hugo Strange, last seen in Batman 1.  This is the first story with Hugo Strange that includes Robin.  In it, Strange develops a fear gas, which causes paralyzing terror in those who inhale it.

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It’s a bit odd to see this gas being invented by someone other than the Scarecrow.  This story predates the first appearance of that villain by a year, and the gas would not become a part of his arsenal until the 1960s. The story culminates in a battle on a cliff between Batman and Strange, somewhat reminiscent of the fight between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in “The Final Problem, ” although in this story it is only the villain who falls to their death. Hugo Strange’s death takes a very long time to be reversed.  His character does not appear again until the late 70s.

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Spy was still being scripted by Jerry Siegel, but the stories in it were all fairly prosaic at this point. Bart does get one interesting villain.  He wears a mask but claims he was born deformed, with a goldfish-coloured head.

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The story gets followed up in issue 48 (more illegal immigrant smuggling), but Goldfish Man does not return.

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With this issue, Cliff Crosby’s profession gets clearly stated, and stabilized. He is the owner and publisher of the New York Record, and his ace reporter is Kay Nevers.  We can assume that exploring is just a hobby for him, and that publishing a newspaper is exactly the kind of experience that overseeing airplane construction requires.

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For a newspaper publisher, his work days remain pretty dramatic.  A shipwrecked man turns out to be a killer in hiding, and Cliff nearly dies a couple of times trying to sort out the story.

Detective 44 – Robin dreams, the Crimson Avenger changes clothes, and Cliff Crosby on a island of vampires

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Another generic Batman and Robin cover for Detective 44 (Oct. 40)

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The story inside is fairly generic as well, certainly not one of the better efforts by Finger, Kane and Robinson.  Dick Grayson is reading a book about fairy tales, and falls asleep.

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The art is pleasantly extreme, and as it is pretty obviously a dream, going along for the ride is not too difficult.

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The Crimson Avenger gets a new costume in this story, as Lee Travis dons a tight red outift, complete with finned headpiece, and cape.  The unusual symbol on his chest is often interpreted as a sunburst, but one story argued that it was really a bullet hole.

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The costume change is the one and only change, as we follow a pretty simple kidnapping story, and even throwing the hero and his new suit in among lions doesn’t really spark this up.  Wing stands mutely to the side.

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Cliff Crosby’s stories continue their path into the bizarre in this tale, as he winds up shipwrecked.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the island is being used by an Asian caricature as he turns people into vampires.

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The series may be crazy, but at least it’s fun.  Cliff is aided by a friendly monkey he calls “Doc,” whom he takes with him when he leaves the island.

Detective 42 – the Prophetic Pictures, and Cliff Crosby gets an ear

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I don’t care for the unfinished quality to the cover for Detective 42 (Aug 40), but it does stand in huge contrast to the earlier cover in which he loomed over the castle like a demonic entity.

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The story in this issue, “The Prophetic Pictures,” is a classic.  Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson create a decent mystery, a creepy looking villain, and again capture close to the mood of the darker mystery movies of the day.

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The artist Pierre Antal seems to be producing fatally prophetic pieces of art.  The portraits he paints get defaced, in ways that match the deaths of the sitters.

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Bruce hangs out again in Commissioner Gordon’s office to pick up any information.  Gordon must be very lonely and wanting company.

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Bruce poses for a portrait to lure the killer, then has Dick sit in a costume of Bruce.  The murderer actually fires bullets through the head of this, but Dick doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest.  The killer is unmasked as a broke socialite, Wylie, who had tried to raise the value of his Antal paintings through this murderous plot.

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Cliff Crosby begins this adventure when a person sends him an ear!  Holy crap!  Now that’s an opening to a story.

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It’s a far darker tale than anything we have seen this character in previously.  That means Chinatown, opium, human smuggling, and a mysterious criminal mastermind, the Skull, who appearance next episode is teased at story’s end.

Detective 41 – Robin undercover, Red Logan comes home, the Crimson Avenger in Chinatown, and Cliff Crosby fights an invisible man

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Batman still has his big ears in the image in the upper corner, long past the changes to hood in the actual comic, on the cover of Detective 41 (July 1940).

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A series of unusual events at a military boarding school prompt Batman to send Robin off on a solo mission in this story by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.

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Bruce appears at the beginning of the story, enrolling Dick in the school, but after that it’s all Robin until the conclusion.  There is a decent cast of characters filling out the suspects and victims.

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Robin uses a device in his belt buckle to communicate with Batman.  It looks better in close-up than it does in use.

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Batman shows up for the conclusion, but it’s Robin who gets to take the counterfeiter down.

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Red Logan is back in the US in this issue.  It’s an interesting story. Red testifies at the trial of gangster Bugsie Gordon, who is found guilty and executed, but who seemingly returns from the grave to kill those who caught him.  Red figures out that the murderer is really Bugsie’s twin brother.

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One very odd thing about the Crimson Avenger stories at this point.  Wing seems to lose the power of speech.  He rarely talks.  And when he does, it takes on more of the stereotypical Asian accent.

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This issue deals with human smuggling, and takes Lee Travis and Wing to Chinatown, but even here Wing stays in the background.

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Cliff is “returning from his latest expedition,” which I assume does not refer to overseeing airplane construction, so this must take place a while after the last story.  He runs into an old friend, Inspector Doyle, and hears about murders committed by an invisible man.  He asks to join the case, which implies that he has some standing with the force already.

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It’s a really manic tale, with a stolen submarine, but I find it enjoyable.

 

Detective 40 – Clayface debuts, Red Logan helps a blind detective, and Cliff Crosby goes flying

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The cover for Detective 40 (June 1940) actually reflects the final story from Batman 1, in which it’s the Joker who is chopping the flagpole.

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Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson craft a classic tale in this issue, introducing the first of many foes to use the name Clayface.  The story also gives Bruce Wayne’s fiancee Julie Madison her largest role yet.  We discover that she is an aspiring actress, and has just landed a starring role in a horror film, Dread Castle.

The logo also changes this issue, bringing back that great Batman logo, and merging the Robin logo with it, in a far more harmonious blend.

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Clayface haunts the studio, much like the Phantom of the Opera, killing off the actors as their characters die.  There are many suspects, with motives varying from jealousy to insurance to gangster threats, but it isn’t too difficult to spot the aging horror actor, Basil Karlo, as the most likely.

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The horror movie set helps fill the scenes with dungeons and shadows, and this is a perfect gem of a tale.

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Basil Karlo is unmasked, literally, at the end of the tale.  He returns a few months down the road, as do Julie, and the head of Argus Studios.

Julie Madison’s absence from the next few months of stories is dealt with in that tale as well.

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Red Logan teams up with a blind detective in this issue.  A woman killed by a speeding car is discovered to have stolen war plans in her possession, which leads them to a boarding house that is a nest of spies.

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This is Red’s final story in England.  With no explanation, he is back in the US in the next issue.  But in 1940, the War would have been the obvious reason.

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In this story, Cliff Crosby is hired by an old friend to supervise construction of a new aircraft.  Because that’s what explorers do, right?

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Exploring, vacationing or supervising aircraft construction, it all comes to the same thing for Cliff: spies and fights.  In this case, and air battle.  At some point in his varied career, he has clearly becomes a pilot.

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