Posts tagged ‘Cliff Crosby’

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.

Detective 39 – Robin in Chinatown, Red Logan and the snake, Speed Saunders gets a sidekick, Cliff Crosby in Florida, and Slam Bradley in Paris

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Robin joins Batman in action on the cover of Detective 39 (May 1940), although the image does not reflect the story inside.

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The logo is an awkward combination of the one recently being used for Batman, and the Robin logo from the previous issue, with it’s hint of Robin Hood.  The story, by Bill Finer, with art by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, begins with kidnapped millionaires, and leads to a jade idol in Chinatown.

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Although Bruce didn’t hesitate to bring the boy along to fight armed hoods on a building under construction, in this story he tells Dick to stay behind, that it’s too dangerous.

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Not that it does any good.  Dick gets into the Robin costume and heads down to Chinatown himself.

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Robin gets his fair share of the action, even getting involved in a sword fight with the bad guy’s muscle.  Batman gets to be the one to unmask the killer, who turns out to be a white man in disguise.

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I should also point out the giant jade idol. Huge props would become a staple of the Batman series decades down the road, but they go all the way back to this story!

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Red Logan’s story in this issue is blatantly derived from the Sherlock Holmes tale, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”

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A series of locked room murders, with a cobra as the culprit.

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The story in this issue sets up Speed to get a sidekick.  He recruits Danny, a street kid, to help him keep an eye on a nest of Siva worshippers, and the boy gets commended by the police chief

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We are told in the last panel that Danny will be Speed’s new assistant, but then never see him again.  And I breathed a sigh of relief over that.

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This story sees Cliff Crosby on vacation in Florida.  So he is taking a vacation from being an explorer?  What exactly is the difference?  Does he travel but not look at or do anything?

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If that’s the case, that’s not the story, as Cliff gets wound up with Seminoles and alligators and thieves and all manner of trouble.

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The primary reason this Slam Bradley story by Jerry Siegel made it into my blog was one terrible panel.

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Slam bouncing off an awning.  Terrible.

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The rest of the story, and the art, isn’t so bad.  Though it’s far from thrilling.  Slam and Shorty are assigned to guard a gem, which is a fake.  They wind up flying over to Paris during the story, but no mention is made of the War.

Detective 38 – Robin debuts, Spy contends with a lightning gun, Red Logan begins, Steve Malone exposes the Commissioner, and Cliff Crosby finds Arctic Africans

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In Detective 38 (April 1940) Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduced one of the most influential characters of the Golden Age, Robin, the Boy Wonder.  Within a year every super-hero had to have a sidekick, and most were cut from largely the same cloth as Robin.

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The story begins with young Dick Grayson at the circus, performing as an aerilalist with his parents, John and Mary Grayson.  Dick overhears some gangsters threaten the circus owner, and then watches in horror as his parents fall to their deaths.

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Batman then swoops in and takes Dick away with him, informing him that Boss Zucco was the force behind his parents deaths.  We can assume he came to the circus as Bruce Wayne, and saw the accident, because the car he is driving is red.  This is his earlier car, which he likely kept to drive as Bruce, reserving the costume matching car for Batman.  He trains the boy, and there is a scene by candlelight in which he makes the boy swear a vow, similar to the one young Bruce swore.

The similarity in their origins helps make this sequence plausible, without the need for explanations.  It is easy for the reader to see how Bruce viewed the boy, and their connection.

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Dick is frequently smiling as Robin in tales from this era, it is clear the boy is having the time of his life, and he functions to a degree on his own in this story, with Batman watching off to the side.

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Unlike Bruce, Dick gets to bring his parents’ killer to justice at the end of the story.  Bruce gives him the option of returning to the circus, but it must have been a formality.  It was clear Dick had found a new home, Batman had found a sidekick, and a trend had been born.

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With Jerry Siegel still writing the series, Spy stayed largely within the realm of the possible.  The story in this issue pushes it about as far as it will go at this time, with a lightning gun, developed by a mad scientist.

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He is another one-shot character, though, and once Bart disposes of him, the lightning gun is never seen again.

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Red Logan begins in this issue of in Detective Comics, nearly a year after his series ended in More Fun.  Red is in England, working out of an office in the Daily Mail in London as a foreign correspondent for the Times Courier, still with Ivan as his massive sidekick.

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His case involves what appear to be vampire murders, but are actually deaths caused by a mad scientist stealing people’s blood.

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Steve gets one of his edgier cases in this issue, as he goes after the man behind the gambling rackets, and discovers that it’s the Police Commissioner.

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The art on the series has improved dramatically since it began, but the stories remain short and simple.

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Cliff Crosby, now with his friend Dr. Broussard, are abruptly “famous explorers” in this tale, set above the Arctic Circle.  They discover an African tribe there, with a “formula” that allows them to survive the cold.

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Cliff makes a deal with Aga, to restore him to what he claims is his “rightful throne,” in exchange for the formula.  Or, to put it another way, an American installs a puppet monarch in exchange for trade goods.

 

Detective 37 – almost the Batmobile, Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise ends, the Crimson Avenger returns, Cliff Crosby debuts, and Slam Bradley inherits a racehorse

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Detective 37 (March 1940) contains the final Batman story before Robin shows up.  Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s story loosely resembles the movie The Old Dark House, and overall the feel is of a horror movie.

The Batmobile is almost in existence at the start of this tale.  While there is still no emblem (or name), The way the car is drawn and coloured emphasizes it as an attribute of the man.

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Batman shows off another bit of gear, infra-red lenses to allow him to see in the dark, which come in useful in a fight scene.

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Batman never cares much if the villain dies in these early stories.  While the man impales himself, Batman still shows no remorse.  The end of the story promotes the next Hugo Strange tale, but it appears instead in Batman 1 – a solo tale, pre-dating Robin.

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In his final story Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise goes undercover as a sailor on the Sea Swan, investigating a series of ships that have gone  missing while crossing the Atlantic.  It turns out the vice-president of the line is selling these ships and their cargo to the Nazis.  Some of the crew are in on the scam, and lead a mutiny, then turn the ship over to the Germans, who arrive in a u-boat.  Cosmo infiltrates the mutineers and ruins their plans, and when the u-boat surfaces, Cosmo and Captain Barker have it shot at, blowing it up.

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They stand on deck rejoicing over their victory, but I think this is short-lived.  The sub would certainly have been in contact with the rest of the fleet – more than one sub would be needed to deal with the ship and its crew and prisoners.  I fear that though they blew up one sub, there were more around, and the Sea Swan was torpedoed and sunk, killing Cosmo and all the others aboard.

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The Crimson Avenger returns, with no significant change to the series.  Lee Travis still runs the Globe-Leader, Wing is still speaking decent English and driving the car.

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The story sees him pursue and capture some kidnappers.

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Cliff Crosby’s series languished amid the back pages of Detective Comics for the entirety of its run.  The art managed to reach a passable level, but the stories, often only 5 or 6 pages long, never achieve anything memorable.

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The series begins without making it clear what Cliff does for a living.  He helps a reporter friend, Terry Jensen, find a kidnapped judge in his first tale, but there is no indication of anything really definable about the character.  Little by little, over the few years the series ran, the picture would get drawn.

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Slam inherits a racehorse in this Jerry Siegel tale.  There are drugged animals, fixed races, and blackmail at the root of the tale.

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The story climaxes with Shorty filling in for a murdered jockey, and winning the Kentucky Derby.

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