Posts tagged ‘Edmond Hamilton’

Detective 245 – Batman teams with Mysteryman

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Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff create a decent little mystery, with a good role for Vicki Vale, in Detective 245 (July 1957).

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A gang of smugglers have been plaguing Gotham, and the mayor insists that Commissioner Gordon turn the case over to Batman.  But Batman feels he needs help on this, and turns to Mysteryman.

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Vicki Vale is consumed by curiosity, and spends the story testing Mysteryman in a variety of ways, trying to determine if he is a robot, or Superman, but always striking out.  Even Alfred is kept in the dark about his identity.

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In the end, Vicki sneaks into the trunk of the Batmobile, and when Mysteryman is dropped off at his home, she realizes it is Commissioner Gordon in the disguise.

She exposes him the next day, and Batman explains to the mayor that Gordon had done all the groundwork on the case, and Batman didn’t want him left out of the loop when the gang was rounded up.

Vicki realizes Batman used her to expose Gordon and give him the credit he deserved, but is more than happy to have been part of it all.

Detective 241 – Batman’s rainbow costumes

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The Batman series had a lot of lame or silly stories in the late 50s/early 60s, but the story in Detective 241 (March 1937), while seeming like a silly take for most of it, actually comes to a decent resolution, by Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff.

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For reasons that are far from clear, Batman suddenly starts wearing colourful costumes, starting with a red one, and then a blue, then green.  Robin stays in his familiar garb.

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Batman branches out from monochromatic outfits, with a white outfit with a big black bullseye that he wears to an archery match at which he expects criminals.  It seems like a dumb costume to wear to such an event, but after the bad guys shoot at him, we discover he is wearing metal plating under the target.

And that notion would be kept in later stories, that the area directly under the bat symbol on his chest is the most padded part of the costume, because it serves as a target, and as such a distraction from shooting him in the head.

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The eye-watering rainbow costume that he wears for the conclusion will live in infamy, but it served its purpose.  Dick Grayson had publicly injured his arm, and the entire point of the costumes was to distract the public from Robin, and make them not notice that one of his arms was not being used.  Flipping back through the story, one can see that they played fair, that one of Robin’s arms is always concealed.  So it works on the reader as well as it works on the public.

Detective 226 – When Batman was Robin, and Martian Manhunter fixes a baseball game

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The origin of the Robin costume, and the training of young Bruce Wayne, are both addressed in the Edmond Hamilton/Dick Sprang story in Detective 226 (Dec. 55).

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Bruce Wayne receives a package with a Robin costume in it, and spends much of the story explaining it to Dick.  Bruce had decided he needed professional training, and approached Harvey Harris, the most renowned detective alive.  Wanting to keep his identity a secret, Bruce created the Robin costume for himself.

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So as Harris trains Bruce, he is also trying to solve the riddle of his identity, and the two of them are working to stop criminals at the same time.

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The package also contain a letter, which we come back to at the end of the story.  Harvey has died, and the package was sent as part of his will.  He had picked up on subtle clues (seen throughout the story) and deduced Bruce’s identity as a child, but kept it secret, cause he’s such a nice guy.

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J’onn gets involved with gamblers wagering on sports in this story.

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Throughout this, and most of his early stories, J’onn is almost always shown in human form, with an aura of his Martian self added when he is using his powers.  J’onn learns of gamblers insisting a pitcher throw a game, and decides to make sure his team does not lose.

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This involves using his powers to affect the players and the ball, effectively throwing the game for the side the gamblers were wagering on.  After this, he rounds up the gamblers.  But, you know, he actively controlled the results of the baseball game!

I guess this can sort of be excused by his unfamiliarity with Earth ways, although he knew it was important enough for people to bet on.

Detective 225 – Batman for a day, and the debut of the Martian Manhunter

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Edmond Hamilton and Sheldon Moldoff contribute an enjoyable Batman and Robin story in Detective 225 (Nov. 55).

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To raise money for charity, a contest is held, and the biggest contributors get to be Batman for a day.  Robin agrees to act as their sidekick and make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.

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Commissioner Gordon gets to be Batman for the second day, giving him a larger than usual role.  Batman gets wind of a crook’s plans, and needs to be Batman on the third day, so he wins as Bruce Wayne.

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Alfred, who has not been seen in Detective Comics for about three years, gets a great cameo, driving the Batmobile as Wayne’s chauffer.  Batman takes pains not to be too good at the job as Bruce, but still captures the crook.

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J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, debuts in this issue, the starting point of the Silver Age.  Joe Samachson and Joe Certa create an extremely powerful character in a really underplayed series.

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Dr. Erdel creates a teleportation device, aims it at Mars and lets fire, bringing J’onn to Earth.

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J’onn has barely started demonstrating his extensive powers, showing off his ability to shape change by taking on a human form, when Dr. Erdel suffers a heart attack and dies.  Dr. Erdel is pretty much doomed to appear only in flashbacks and retellings of this scene, but in the 80s they start fleshing out his corpse.

Erdel’s death leaves J’onn trapped on Earth, until he figures out how to make the machine send him back home.

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His ability to turn invisible and intangible gets the best visuals.  His various other powers only get shown in later stories.

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He decides to adopt the name John Jones, and get a job as a policeman to help deal with the crime he sees running rampant on Earth.  His ease in doing so, with no proper identification, implies his mind-control powers, as would later be explained.

The fact that he so rarely appears as a martian in this story helps keep it solidly a “detective” story, yet there is clearly something going on here unlike anything being published at this time.  The repressive era was melting, and the Martian Manhunter was the first sign of green.

Detective 216 – The Batman of the Future fights crime in the present

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Brane Taylor, the Batman of the Future, makes his third and final appearance in Detective 216 (Feb. 55), in a story by Edmond Hamilton and Dick Sprang.

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While his previous two appearances took place in his own time period, this story brings Brane to the present, as Bruce Wayne gets a broken arm in front of Vicki Vale, and he needs someone else to be Batman while he recovers.

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Vicki gets suspicious anyway, because Brane treats her completely differently then Bruce does, being openly flirtatious.  To Robin’s dismay, he also keeps using futuristic devices, which Robin is forced to explain or cover up.

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The previous issue’s story is unquestionably that of the Earth-1 Batman, because of the later appearances of the foreign heroes in it, but this story must be the Earth-2 Batman, because of his past relationship with Brane Taylor.  The dividing point between the two Batmans is very difficult to draw.

 

Detective 215 – The Batmen of All Nations

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The cover story for Detective 215 (Jan. 55) had far reaching effects in the DC universe.  “The Batmen of All Nations,” written by Edmond Hamilton, with art by Sheldon Moldoff introduced a host of new heroes from around the world.

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The Knight and Squire from England, Musketeer from France, Legionary from Italy, the Ranger from Australia, and Gaucho from Argentina are all their own country’s equivalents to Batman, and come together to honour him.  But one has been replaced by gang leader.

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Batman appears to die in an explosion, but that’s just his cover for outing the Legionary as the mobster in disguise.

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These characters would all return, except for the Ranger, in World’s Finest Comics two years down the road, in “The Club of Heroes.”

As the Ranger was never seen or mentioned again, I think he got killed in the line of duty.  He does nothing of note in this story, so he can’t have been very impressive.

The other thing I find amusing in this tale is that the Musketeer is made the “obvious” suspect for being the gang leader, because he is arrogant and rude.  But as the gang leader was someone else, I guess his behaviour is meant to be understood as just being French.

Detective 211 – Batman vs Catwoman on a tropical island, and Mysto impersonates an escape artist

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Catwoman returns in Detective 211 (Sept. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton and Dick Sprang that marks her final appearance until 1966.

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She has a Cat-plane in this story,a deadly device capable of shredding the Batplane, although the end result is that both planes crash on a tropical island.

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On the island, Catwoman’s gang repeatedly try to kill Batman and Robin, but she goes out of her way to save them.

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In the end, that means actually working with the heroes she had tried to capture, using her control of the cats on the island to begin a stampede that takes out her gang.

She escapes at the end of the story, and is not seen again for over a decade.  Again, this was due to the repressive nature of the time.  A hero could not have a romance with a villain, so Catwoman had to go away.  It’s shocking to realize that Catwoman’s next appearance was on the tv series, and it was only the success of that which brought the character back into the comics.

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Another good Mysto story in this issue, centring on an escape trick which keeps taking the lives of those who attempt it.

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Mysto fears for the life of the next man to try the escape, so he knocks him out and takes his place.

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I really like the way the art conveys the cramped, immobile situation inside the jar, as the close-ups build the tension.  Mysto figures out that the jar releases a gas that messes up coordination, and covers the jet, allowing him to escape.

Detective 203 – Catwoman returns to crime, Captain Compass begins, and Mysto debuts

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Catwoman returns to crime in Detective 203 (Jan. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton, with art by Sheldon Moldoff.

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In the pages of Batman, Catwoman had recovered her memory of being Selina Kyle, and given up her life of crime.  This story sees her return, for no really good reason.  It is therefor considered the first appearance of the Earth-1 Catwoman, as the Earth-2 version served her sentence and then married Bruce Wayne.

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She has a new Cat-car and Catacombs, and embarks on a cat-themed crime spree.  Batman stops her thefts, but she escapes at the end.

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Captain Compass had debuted in Star-Spangled Comics, and then moved to World’s Finest.  In this issue, he finds a berth in Detective, in a story by Otto Binder.

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Captain Mark Compass travels the various waters of the world, solving nautical crimes.  In this story, he deals with a sea-going showboat that is being used as an escape route for a criminal.

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Another hero with little to no backstory or supporting cast, just a themed name.

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Mysto, the Magician Detective, makes his debut here, in a story that details how young pilot Rick Carter became the magical hero.

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Rick’s plane crashes in the Himilayas, and he is taken in and healed by an old man.

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The man teaches him the secret of eastern magic, and then dies, as they always do.

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Rick, now calling himself Mysto, returns to the US and begins a life of stage magic and crime fighting.

Detective 165 – Batman’s costumes

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The Edmond Hamilton/Dick Sprang story from Detective 165 (Nov. 50) was reprinted in a Batman comic I had as a young boy, and I have always loved this story.

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As with the Batcave story, it opens with an inventory, but goes in detail into the costumes.  The white one, from the “North Pole Crimes,” is the only one to have returned from time to time, for its practicality in blending in in the snow.  Otherwise, Batman hasn’t really had a number of specialized costumes, except in these early years.

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After the forbidding “special” costume they never hope to use is introduced, we go into a gangster story that winds up seeing Batman shot.  It resulted from his own stupidity, leaving a trail of water from the river to the trunk of the car, where he was hiding.  Anyway, that sets up the special costume they never hope to use.

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It’s kind of obvious that it has to be Robin in the outfit, but the cutaway to show the breathing impressed me at 10 years old.

Detective 158 – Intruder in the Batcave!

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Detective 158 (April 1950) is the first story to really focus on the Batcave, both on the cover, and  in the tale by Edmond Hamilton and Bob Kane.

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Here we see the dinosaur, giant penny, and symbols of the Joker and Penguin, which will be the basic images that define the trophy room element of the cave all the way until the 90s.

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The story begins with Batman and Robin taking inventory, reminding the reader of the various cases the trophies are from.  There is even the trophy case seen in the “Case Without a Crime.”  This story also confirms that the penny comes from ‘The Penny Plunderers,” and the dinosaur from “Dinosaur Island,” a a source of many arguments.

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The we meet Dr. Doom, who stows away in the Batmobile to get into the Batcave, where he turns the various trophies against Batman and Robin.

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In the end, he seals himself in a sarcophagus and suffocates.  Stupid twit.  But the story does nicely demonstrate the big plus for having a trophy room – you get to use those amazing props again.  There would be far fewer stories with a giant penny in them if it wasn’t already sitting in the Batcave.

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