Posts tagged ‘Don Heck’

Detective 489 – Batman fights a vampire, Commissioner Gordon in a prison riot, Robin and Batgirl team-up, the Atom meets the Dharlu, Alfred and the evil butlers, and Batman finds Bronze Tiger

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Batman has two stories, book-ending Detective 489 (April 1980).  The first, by Jean-Marc deMatteis, Irv Novick and Vince Colletta has a rash of murders, seemingly committed by a vampire.

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A vampire hunter has also come to town, informing Batman that he and his assistant have been chasing this creature from city to city.  Batman insists there must be some other explanation for the deaths.

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The story looks like it is going the obvious direction, that the vampire hunter is really the vampire, but it doesn’t quite go that way.

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In fact, the vampire hunter is the killer, but with a split personality that thinks he is a vampire.  His assistant explains it all – then turns into a bat and flies away.

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Commissioner Gordon stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, by Paul Kupperberg, Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell.

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A riot breaks out at Gotham penitentiary, and they prisoners demand Gordon be the negotiator, but when he arrives, he discovers they simply intend to kill him.

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This is possibly the most bad-ass story Gordon gets, as he takes down the men about to kill him, fakes a deal with others to get the prisoners back in their cells, and then takes down the other leaders of the riot, all by himself.

This could be a kick-ass action movie.

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Robin and Batgirl, whose team-ups made Batman Family a success, have the last one for many years, and it’s awful.  In so very many ways.  Jack C Harris, Don Heck and Vince Colletta are all to blame.

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I never like Don Heck’s art, but in this issue it descends to new lows.

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Barbara Gordon goes missing, and then show uup with no memory. Commissioner Gordon calls on Robin, informing him that his daughter is Batgirl.  Robin already knows this, he and Batgirl discovered each others identities back in Batman Family, but Gordon doesn’t know this.

One has to wonder why he goes to Robin, though, instead of Batman.

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Anyway, Robin tracks her down, and convinces her to get into her Batgirl costume, although she still remembers nothing.  Conveniently, they promptly run into the guy who stole all her memories.

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So they beat him up, and discover the stolen memories are all on cassette tapes.  Robin plays them and restores Barbara’s memories, but then leaves the last tape, which apparently contains nothing but the secret identities of Batman and Robin, and gives her a bit of a guilt trip, asking her not to listen to it.

And she burns the tape!

The whole reason for this story was to make it so that she no longer knew their identities.  Why not?  Just stupid.  Poorly drawn, poorly written, and a bad idea for a story in the first place.

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Bob Rozakis, Alex Saviuk and Vince Colletta give the Atom an adventure on the JLA satellite.  The Atom’s last solo story was in Five Star Spectacular, but he was soon to get a rotating series in Action Comics.

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The story deals with the Dharlu, a comatose alien that resides in the JLA satellite computer, and has to be there in order for the computer to work.  I never understood that story.  Anyway, investigating some computer problems, the Atom discovers a while bunch of tiny Dharlu’s loose in the computer.  Her kids, one would guess.

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The Atom sends the little Dharlu’s shooting out into the vacuum of space, so they can “find their destinies,” unless they all just die out there.  And he doesn’t even try to take the original one out of the computer prison they keep it in.

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Ok, here’s a story I won’t attack.  Alfred sees a picture of himself in the paper, part of a phony Butler ring being broken up by Batman in this story by Bob Rozakis and Jose Delbo.

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Curious, he goes to investigate, and finds the bad butlers, who mistake him for part of their crew.  Alfred clues in that he was being impersonated to infiltrate the group.

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It’s all a bit convoluted, and Alfred only pretends to have figured it all out beforehand.  Robin cameos, having been the one who had impersonated him before.

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The second Batman story in the issue, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, picks up the League of Assassins storyline.  Both the League and Batman have tracked Bronze Tiger to the hospital where he is recovering.  How they did this is not explained, but its been a few months since the last part of this story, so they had time.

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Bronze Tiger defends himself from the League killers, although Batman was there to step in if needed.  Tiger does not recall his time with the League completely, but does remember enough to send Batman to an amusement park they were using.

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There he fights a bunch of the League, but does not find any of the big players – but does find a seismologist being held captive.

And with that unusual detail, the story is set up for its big finale next issue.

 

 

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Detective 486 – Maxie Zeus causes deaths from a distance, the Human Target joins the Sea Devils, Batgirl chases Killer Moth, Alfred protects the penthouse, and Robin unmasks the Scarecrow

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Maxie Zeus returns, though he spends the entire duration of the story from Detective 486 (Oct./Nov. 79) in Arkham Asylum.  But that is sort of the point, as he announces which rival gang members he wishes to die, and how they will do so.  And when the first dies while skydiving, of the “thunderbolt” that Zeus ordered, Batman gets on the case.

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton relate this story.  It’s really not hard to figure out that Maxie Zeus’ lawyer is carrying out his commands, although how he is doing it is a bit of a mystery.

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Batman figures out how the parachute death was pulled off, and tries to warn of Zeus next target, who was warned he would die in brimstone.

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And though Batman exposes the lawyer’s guilt, and stops his plot, a chain reaction does cause the man to die in sulfur – as brimstone is now called.

Maxie Zeus returns a few months down the road.

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The Human Target is called in to sub for an actual hero in this story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  The story never states it, but the man he is impersonating, Dane Dorrance, and his girlfriend Judy, are both members of the Sea Devils, having last appeared a couple of years earlier in Showcase 100.

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Dane has been hospitalized after an attempt on his life, and Judy calls in Christopher Chance to root out the killer.

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Once again, the story isn’t about figuring out who is trying to kill him, it’s about the action and fun, and Dick Giordano’s beautiful art.  I have no complaints.

Dane Dorrance and Judy next appear, along with the other Sea Devils, in Action Comics in the early 80s, the lead-in to the Forgotten Heroes.

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To a degree, this story, by Jack C Harris, Don Heck and Joe Giella, follows up on events from an issue of Batman the previous month, which had both Batgirl and Killer Moth in it.

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Killer Moth is back to his original scheme, providing insurance and escapes for criminals who pay his premium.  When Batgirl gets involved, Killer Moth thinks that she has pursued him all the way from Gotham to Washington DC, unaware that she has made that her base for a while now.

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When the son of one of his victims mentions that Killer Moth hired his father to make shoes, Batgirl realizes that is where he has his homing device on the villains, and takes their shoes, messing up his plan.  Kind of a lame plan that can be messed up by taking someone’s shoes.  His old Mothmobile is back though, at least in two panels of this story.

It’s four more years before the character returns.  Because she debuted against him, Killer Moth pretty much became a Batgirl villain.

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Alfred gets a solo story, by Bob Rozakis and George Tuska.  He had last solo’d in the pages of Batman Family.

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In this story he gets grabbed by hoods while entering the Wayne Foundation Building, and taken as a hostage to the penthouse.  He does his best to get rid of the thieves before Batman shows up, possibly exposing his identity.

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Alfred remains his unflappable self throughout the tale.  He gives the men drinks, in order to get their fingerprints, and tries to fob them off with worthless stamps.

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In the end, it’s his mention of Commissioner Gordon that drives them away (though it’s surprising they don’t think he’s lying).  Alfred traps them in the elevator, and then prepares the house for Bruce’s arrival.

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Robin squares off against the Scarecrow in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The Scarecrow comes to Hudson University, where he holds four professors in his thrall, tormenting them with their personal fears unless they pay him off.

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Dick becomes suspicious of one of the new professors after he duplicates Jonathan Crane’s fear demonstration in class, firing a pistol.

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But having the professor duplicate his research was just part of the Scarecrow’s cover. Robin exposes Crane, tearing off his disguise, when the Scarecrow mentions that he had been in the school alone, but while impersonating a man terrified of being by himself.

 

Detective 482 – Batman fights an ape, Batgirl in China, The Demon begins, Bat-Mite invades DC, and Robin meets Card Queen

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The second half of the Batman story by Jim Starlin and P Craig Russell opens Detective 482 (Feb./March 1979).

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The villain has captured Batman, and intends to use his mind-transfer machine to take over the hero’s body.  Batman breaks free, and destroys the machine, which traps the bad guy in the ape body.

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While the chapter in the last issue was a lot of detecting and back story, this second half is largely an extended fight between Batman and the ape.

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In an unusual ending, the ape is about to kill Batman when a policeman shoots it, sending it falling to its death.  Not a bad story, but maybe not worth being spread over two issues.

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Batgirl’s story, by Rozakis and Heck, has Barbara Gordon and her friend in the hands of the Chinese.  Her brother Tony Gordon, who had been brought into her series in Batman Family, plays a small but important role in this tale.

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While the Chinese try to force Barbara’s confused friend into admitting she is Batgirl, Barbara escapes and gets into costume, and fights the Sino-Superman to free her friend.

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The story ends with Tony sacrificing himself to blow up the laboratory and end the threat of these “heroes” for good.  Although it kills off the character, it remains a really unsatisfactory ending for his plot line.  Especially as the character never returns, and is never spoken of.

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The Demon, who had appeared with Man-Bat in the final issue of Batman Family, gets his own series for a few issues, while Man-Bat takes a break.  Len Wein, Michael Golden and Dick Giordano re-introduce Jason Blood and his demonic other half, Etrigan, in the character’s first solo storyline since the end of his own book a few years earlier.

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The Eternity Book, which has power over the Demon, is the crux of this tale.  It had appeared in his own book as well.  It’s theft in this story awakens the Demon, who sets out to retrieve it.

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The supporting cast are all brought back.  Glenda had last appeared alongside Jason in a Brave and the Bold team-up with Batman.  Harry Matthews makes his first appearance since the Demon’s book ended.  Randu had last appeared in the short-lived Kobra series, in which he was blinded.  To Wein’s credit, Randu is still blind in this story.

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Glenda’s lack of knowledge about the Eternity Book allows Randu to exposit about Morgaine le Fay and the fall of Camelot, Merlin bonding Etrigan to Jason Blood, and his immortal life since then.

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At the end of the story, Etrigan discovers the book is now in the possession of Baron Tyme, making his second appearance.  He had debuted in the first issue of Man-Bat’s brief series.

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Bat-Mite makes his only appearance in the 70s in this wonderful little story, barging in to the DC offices to demand he get a story.

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As confused editor Al Milgrom tries to explain that he cannot produce a story on his own, Bat-Mite causes writer Bob Rozakis, penciller Michael Golden, inker Robert Smith and more to appear.  Essentially, the entire story consists of the people who produced the story.

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It’s very silly, very Bat-Mite, and was much beloved when it came out.  Bat-Mite next appears in the Ambush Bug History of the DC Universe.

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Robin’s story, by Rozakis and Juan Ortiz, closes out this issue.  It is told as one of the top men from MAZE looks over footage of their local operatives battles with Robin.   We see another aerial battle between Robin and Raven, with Robin stopping the crime, but not the villain.

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Then we are introduced to a new MAZE operative, Card Queen.

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As with the Raven, he stops her crime, but she manages to escape.

This long running storyline culminates next issue.

Detective 481 – 2 Batman tales, and Robin, Batgirl, and Man-Bat all begin, again

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One of the results of the DC Implosion was the merging of Detective Comics and Batman Family.  Detective had not been selling very well (astounding to think the Englehart/Rogers run was not a hit when released), but rather than cancel it, Batman Family was sent to the chopping block, and it’s contents moved to this book.

In truth, as a kid, I didn’t even notice that this, and the following issue, were not issues of Batman Family, as it’s displayed more prominently on the cover than the logo for Detective.

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The first of the two Batman stories in the issue, by Denny O’Neil and Marshall Rogers, has Batman attempting to find a murderer, in order to stop a cynical scientist from destroying his notes on a new heart operation.  It makes more sense than it sounds.

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The story kicks into high gear once all the characters are on board the train, a refurbished antique, with the guests in period costume.

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The killer had a ticket for the excursion, which is what drew Batman. But once he has accounted for all the invited guests, he realizes the host must be the one who dropped his ticket.

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A fairly straightforward, but entertaining tale, and Rogers art ensures it’s a treat for the eye.

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Robin’s series picks up somewhat mid-stream, as his recurring foe, the Raven, makes an appearance in this Bob Rozakis/Don Newton tale.

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Robin is given three hideous new costumes, supposedly designed by students at his university, but in actually by readers who should not design clothes.  One of the outfits allows him to fly, which is useful, although the Raven still beats him.

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The third outfit is not only garish, it’s rigged with a bomb.  Robin figures this out when the bad guys flee, and winds up skinny dipping to survive.

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Batgirl’s series, also by Rozakis, is also mid-storyline, as Barbara Gordon heads to China in her official capacity as a congresswoman, in order to secretly investigate the Sino-Supermen. Don Heck does the art, so it looks awful.

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Believing that the reason the US has so many heroes is because the government is creating them, the Chinese government is working on their own super-hero program, which Batgirl is out to destroy.

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But the Chinese are spying on her and her reporter friend as well.  They believe the reporter is actually Batgirl, and kidnap both of them.

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Man-Bat’s series has him and Jason Bard running a private detective agency at this point.  Once again, it’s Bob Rozakis scripting, with Newton on the art.

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They are hired to find a millionaire’s missing wife.  There is a ransom demand, which Jason fulfills as Man-Bat observes from on high.  They capture the man, who turns out to be another detective the millionaire had hired.  He did not kidnap the wife, and was just looking to profit off the situation.

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So Kirk and Jason make the rounds of the nightclubs the woman frequented, looking for some sign of her.

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In the end it turns out she was not kidnapped at all, simply ran off because she was bored.  The story ends with Kirk and Francine, wondering what a boring life would be like.

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The second Batman story in this issue, by Jim Starlin, with art by P. Craig Russell, is the first half of a 2-parter that concludes next issue.

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Batman is called to the site of a brutal murder.  Investigating, it becomes clear that no ordinary person would have had the necessary strength to have done all the damage.

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He recognizes a photo on the victim’s wall, and realizes the man was a friend of his father.  The page copied above shows the Batcave as being relocated to under the Wayne Foundation Building.  Other stories would show it, intact, still below Wayne Manor.  The only possible logic to this is that Batman actually had duplicates made of the dinosaur and giant penny, so he could have them in both Batcaves.

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Batman seeks out one of the surviving men from the photograph, now old and crippled, but pretty clearly the bad guy.  To Batman’s surprise, the man confesses, and then electrocutes himself.

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But the electrocution does not just kill his body, it transfers his mind into the body of the giant ape, which he has already used to kill.

 

Detective 425 – Batman solves a MacBeth murder, and Jason Bard begins

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Great Bernie Wrightson cover for Detective 425 (July 1972), as Batman investigates murderous intentions plaguing Shakespeare in the Park in this story by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano.

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The story deals with straightforward attempts at murder, no use is made of the superstitions surrounding producing MacBeth, but the story is very good anyway.  The director has modernized the production, making it controversial (it’s 1972, remember).

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There are the usual issues of romance and jealousy, as well as the controversy over the show.  As far as typical backstage mysteries go, this one is only missing the gangsters.

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O’Neil works in a fair amount of dialogue from the play itself, but again, doesn’t use it for anything other than background.  The vital clue is fairly simple, but not overly obvious, making this a completely satisfying little mystery tale.

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Jason Bard moves from supporting character to series star in this issue. Sadly, he brings along Don Heck, as well as Frank Robbins, from the Batgirl series.

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This first case involved a fellow Vietnam vet, Matt Clay, who is wanted for murder.  Jason has a hard time believing his friend could be the crazed killer the media are making him out to be, but winds up coming across his recently murdered psychiatrist, whose secretary insists Clay is the killer.

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Jason manages to find his friend, who has indeed gone off the deep end mentally, but is not a killer. Knowing that, he realizes the secretary must be lying, and killed her boss herself, and spots the vital clue to prove it.

Not a bad story, except for the art.  Jason Bard’s series continues, alternating with the Elongated Man, the Atom, and Hawkman over the next couple of years.

 

Detective 424 – Batman deals with a bank robbery gone wrong, and Batgirl ends

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Another dramatic Kaluta cover for Detective 424 (June 1972), as Batman gets a good mystery tale and Batgirl’s series comes to its conclusion.

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The story, by Frank Robbins, with art by Brown and Giordano, begins as Batman and Commissioner Gordon review the tapes of a bank robbery in which a civilian got killer. Gordon bemoans it as a tragic accident, but Batman’s suspicions are aroused by the fact that the bank robber did not shoot at the guard, but instead at the clock near him.

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Investigating the dead man, Batman finds that his widow is not at all pleased with the news that her husband’s death may not have been an accident.  Batman expects her to contact the bank guard, but instead she calls a different man and discusses killing the guard to silence him.

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Batman saves the guard from being killed, and then impersonates him in order to draw out a confession from the other man in the scheme, the widow’s lover, with whom she plotted this murderous scenario.

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Batgirl’s series reaches it finale with this Frank Robbins and Don Heck story, set on the day of the election.

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Barbara had to deal not only with her rival candidate, but also with organized crime, attempting to stop her supporters from voting.  Once again, she spends more of this story as Barbara than as Batgirl.

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It’s Jason Bard who really gets to be the hero of this story, anyway.  He picks up on the clues and figures out the plan to bomb Barbara during her acceptance speech.

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And while it’s a bit odd (and somewhat demeaning) to have Jason rescue Batgirl in her own series, she is busy winning an election, and he is about to gain his own series.

Batgirl heads off to Washington to be a Congresswoman, and is not seen again for over a year.  She returns in an issue of Superman, a story so popular it revived her character, and she would get her own series back, in the pages of Batman Family.

Detective 423 – Batman oversees a prisoner exchange, and Batgirl runs for congress

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Mike Kaluta gives an interesting perspective on the cover for Detective 423 (May 1972), as Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Dick Giordano relate this cold war story.

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The basic premise of the story is clear enough – protecting a spy being traded for one imprisoned in a foreign nation (pretty obviously Russia).  Disgruntled right wing militiamen are trying to kill the spy to prevent that, unaware that the spy being sent back is really a double agent.

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While not a really great story, it certainly does show off Batman’s organizational abilities, and his competence compared to the police.

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Picking up right where the last issue ended, Barbara Gordon announces her intention to run for congress, and her dad willingly cedes his campaign to her, in this tale by Robbins and Heck.

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She runs a populist campaign, promising to boot the fat cats out of Washington, and gains the nickname Boots Gordon.  Jason Bard works on her campaign, as does another man, who brings in a lot of donations, although he then turns around and steals them.

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It’s probably a good thing he did, as it gives Barbara a chance to get into action as Batgirl for a few panels.  Otherwise, this is a Barbara Gordon tale, more than a Batgirl one.

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