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.

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