Posts tagged ‘Frank McLaughlin’

Detective 491 – Maxie Zeus and the Golden Fleece, the origin of Jason Bard, Robin has a tail, Black Lightning shorts out, and a new job for Barbara Gordon

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The split cover for Detective 491 (June 1980) might be considered a metaphor for the variable quality of the stories it contains.

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton contribute an excellent Maxie Zeus story.

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It begins with a Wayne Foundation scientist showing Bruce Wayne some actual gold cloth he had created – before gunmen burst in, kill him and steal the cloth.  Bruce does his best to pursue them, but most of them get away.

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Batman impersonates one of Maxie Zeus’s captured men, and goes to see him at Arkham.  Batman slips up, not knowing the plans, and Maxie knocks him out, and escapes.

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The story takes a surprising turn, as we discover that Maxie’s plan for the cloth was to give it to his daughter, Medea, as a gift.  Batman has the grace to stop this, but provide a different gift for the girl.  This is Medea’s first appearance, but she would become an integral element of Maxie Zeus’ world.

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This gets followed by another great scene.  Batman and Maxie leave the home where Medea is being raised, and have a calm conversation about Maxie’s plans, and the fact that the murder was not part of the scheme – and all the while Batman is fighting Maxie’s men.

Batman solves the murder mystery, a rival co-worker, but it’s the scenes with Maxie Zeus that stand out so much.

Maxie Zeus returns in an issue of Batman later in the year.

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Jason Bard stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, as we learn his sad background, from Mike W Barr and Dan Spiegle.

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We learn that Jaosn grew up in a small town, the son of an alocholic, abusive, criminal father, and a long-suffering mother whose suffering was cut short when the father killed her.

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After being discharged from the army because of his wound, Jason became a detective, in the hopes of one day finding and apprehending his father.  He does find him, and the man is even worse than Jason remembered.  Still, he is not pleased when his father dies in a shoot out.

A really good background story for this character, and Dan Spiegle’s art is perfect for it.  I wish he had done more Jason Bard stories.

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On the weaker side of the issue, we have the Robin story, by Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and Vince Colletta.

I should have mentioned in the last post, that starting with the last issue, Robin notices that he, and Dick Grayson, are being followed by a mysterious man in black.  He will pop up in each story until his character is explained.

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This story deals with a killer on campus, and evidence that points to a black basketball player with anger management troubles.  Robin realizes the guy is just being framed, and finds the real killer.

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Black Lightning wakes to discover himself powerless in this second half, by Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin.

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I remember reading this as a kid, and expecting that this story would see the boy he was trapped with gain his powers, but nope, nothing like that.  We do learn that the voodoo queen’s big plan was this spell, that would make her son and Black Lightning equal in power.  But the spell did not give her son powers, just removed those of the hero.

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Black Lightning isn’t even very stressed about the situation, figuring that he became a hero before he got his powers anyway.

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The Batgirl story in this issue, by Cary Burkett, with art by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella, would have repercussions that lasted through Crisis on Infinite Earths and beyond.

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Crime boss General Scarr debuts, upset that Batgirl has returned to Gotham, and figuring that she will be a menace to their plans.  Apparently Batman doesn’t bother him at all, but whatever.  He has brought in a hired killer, Cormorant, to kill Batgirl.

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Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon has started a new job, as the head of social services, for the Human Research and Development Centre, which sounds very vague yet progressive.  She meets a couple of her co-workers, a handsome but rude man, Richard Bender, and an unattractive but pleasant and brilliant one, Roger Barton.

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Cormorant lures Batgirl to the roof of a building by dangling the dummy of her from a flagpole, as seen on the splash page.  He holds a little girl hostage, demanding she stand out in the open and allow herself to get shot.

We appear to see her fall to her death at the end of the story.  Obviously not, and it continues next issue.

 

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Detective 485 – Batwoman gets murdered, the Demon ends, and Man-Bat faces SST

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The League of Assassins returns in this Denny O’Neil/Don Newton story that pits the Sensei against Ra’s Al Ghul.

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Kathy Kane, the former Batwoman, is in town with her travelling circus, and Batman has received word that the League are going to be attacking there.  Puzzled as to why, he goes to check it out, and discovers Kathy holding her own against them.  This is Kathy’s first appearance since her team-up with the Freedom Fighters in the final issue of their book.

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All is well until the Bronze Tiger shows up.  A master of martial arts, he battles Batman while another member of the League murders Kathy.

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The killers flee, and Ra’s Al Ghul shows up.  Batman realizes that Ra’s manipulated the League into attacking Kathy, so that Batman would seek vengeance against them.  Ra’s Al Ghul and the Sensei have rival plans for the League, and this storyline sees the war between them for dominance.  Talia pops up as well, but all she does is cry about loving Batman.

Up to now, the Sensei’s connection with the League of Assassins had mostly played out in Deadman stories, while Ra’s Al Ghul appeared to be their leader in Batman tales.  Though it is never spelled out in detail, the League must at this point be split between the two factions.

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The Bronze Tiger, Ben Turner, had been a supporting character in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, and had been kidnapped by the League when the series was cancelled.  Here we learn that the Sensei (who last appeared in a late issue of Phantom Stranger, for those keeping track) has hopes of making Bronze Tiger into his greatest weapon.

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Batman and the Bronze Tiger battle, but one of the members of the League jumps in, shooting a poisoned dart at Batman.  Though the Sensei kills the man who did this, Bronze Tiger is furious at the breach of honour, and turns on the League.  The lights go out, conveniently, so Batman misses the climax of the action, finding only the bloody masks of Tiger and Batwoman.  The story continues, although not immediately.

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The Demon’s series comes to an end with this story, by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.  The Demon stashes the Eternity Book with a relative of the previous caretaker, but this man wants nothing to do with it, and tosses it on the trash.  The book does not return until the Demon’s own series, in the 90stec_485_007

Jason Blood returns home, only to find his friends held captive by Baron Tyme. He demands the Eternity Book, but when he discovers that Jason no longer has it, comes up with a different plan.

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He casts a spell that half-transforms Jason into Etrigan, and then draws on the mystical energy of the transformation to pull his missing half back to reality.  This almost works, until the Demon steps behind a mirror, and Tyme’s spell winds up backfiring on him, sending his entire body to the nether realm.

That’s it for Baron Tyme, who has never been seen again.  The Demon, along with Glenda and Randu, appear next in the pages of Wonder Woman a couple years down the road.  Harry Matthews has to wait a few more years, until the Demon miniseries by Matt Wagner, to return.

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Man-Bat returns to Detective, with a story by Bob Rozakis, with art by Don Newton and Frank McLaughlin.

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Kirk Langstrom and Jason Bard are called on by a woman whose husband has been acting strangely, sneaking out at night.  She suspects he is having an affair, and hires the detectives to follow him.

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Since Man-Bat excels at surveillance, he follows the man to an abandoned building, where he dons a suit of armour and goes flying out the window. Man-Bat is convinced he has a super-villain on his hands, and starts fighting him.  But once he sees the man’s expression, he realizes that the guy is just not in control of his suit at all, and helps him crash safely.

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The story ends with Kirk complaining about how irresponsible the man was, trying to be a hero but not taking proper precautions and risking his own life, becoming a menace to others. It takes Jason Bard to point out the irony.

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Although I didn’t find either the Robin or the Batgirl stories worth writing about – both deal with art thieves, and both have mediocre art – there is a really nice pin-up of them by Dick Giordano on the back cover.

Detective 483 – Maxie Zeus debuts, Human Target begins, Batgirl goes on a date, the Demon returns to Castle Branek, Robin wipes up MAZE and a kangaroo race

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton bring back Leslie Thompkins in this follow-up Crime Alley story, which also serves to introduce the new villain Maxie Zeus.

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It’s once again the anniversary of the deaths of his parents, and Batman heads to Crime Alley, where he once again comes to the aid of Leslie Thompkins.  This story is the first to raise the notion that the deaths of the Waynes affected the entire city, sent it into a decline.

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Batman gets word that crime boss Maxie Zeus is having men spread poison gas through an entire apartment building in Crime Alley, just to kill one man, and Batman sets out to stop them.

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He does so, saving the innocents, as well as the man Zeus intended to kill.  Leslie still hasn’t pieced together that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but her dialogue hints that she isn’t too far from the secret.

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The ending warns Maxie Zeus that Batman is coming for him, which happens next issue.  Although not much is done with Maxie Zeus in this first story, it helps build him as a powerful threat to be faced.

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Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has his back-up series move from the Brave and the Bold to this book,a result of the DC Implosion.  Christopher Chance works as a bodyguard/impersonator.  If someone has threatened your life,he will take on your identity and flush out the wannabe killer.

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In this story, by Len Wein, Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, he takes on the identity of a Hollywood actor, after a number of incidents on a film set lead him to believe someone is trying to kill him.

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It’s not hard to solve this one, there is really only one viable suspect, but the story is fun is the art is great.

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Batgirl faces off against some homegrown terrorists in this story by Bob Rozakis, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

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After rounding up part of the gang, she gets asked out on a date by a soldier, who had first met her when she battled Madame Zodiac in the Pentagon, in a late issue of Batman Family.  Barbara agrees, but the date quickly turns into a farce.

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The evening lurches from disaster to disaster, and though it is terrible for the two on the date, it’s certainly entertaining for the reader.

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Just as the silliness threatens to outlast its welcome, Batgirl is reminded of something the terrorists said, and realizes they are going to attack Washington Monument that night.  She and her soldier boy wind up working together to round up the remainder of the gang, so the date is a success after all.

What I really appreciate in this story is that, with the date plot, it’s basically a romantic story, but it does not weaken Barbara, or put her in a subservient position to the soldier in any way.

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Steve Ditko takes over the art for the rest of Len Wein’s Demon story, as Etrigan faces off against Baron Tyme.

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Baron Tyme fills in his story between the events of Man-Bat and now.  When he vanished in that book, he was drawn into a nether realm, which allows him great knowledge, but is a torture to his body, which is trapped between dimensions.  With the Eternity Book, he intends to open Merlin’s tomb in Castle Branek, and use him to return completely to this world.

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The story brings back the town’s inspector, who looks straight out of a Frankenstein movie.  The Demon attempts to reach Merlin’s tomb before Tyme does, but does not succeed.

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Tyme uses the Eternity Book to force Etrigan to transform back into Jason Blood, and then traps him, as he prepares to open the tomb.

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Robin’s long battle with MAZE comes to an end in this story by Bob Rozakis and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The leader of MAZE has brought all his members together, which turns out to be a good thing for Robin and the police, as they bust in.  Raven flees, and Card Queen shows her true colours, betraying MAZE and helping to bring them down.

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Card Queen is revealed to be Duela Dent, in yet another identity.  This (and last issue) are her first appearances since the break-up of the Teen Titans.  She would not appear again until the wedding of Donna Troy in New Teen Titans.

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But the story is not yet over. Dick confronts Lori Elton and her new boyfriend, who Dick reveals to be the Raven. As the guy tries to fight back, and loses, Dick goes on to explain a number of dangling plot threads, bringing this long tale to a satisfactory, if sad, conclusion.

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The final, silent, page is quite powerful.  Lori attempts to return to Dick, but he rebuffs her.  As he walks away from the rest of the students, he looks stronger, and more like a man, than at any time before.

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The final story in this issue, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, was intended to be one of the “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” stories that ran in the back pages of Batman, until the DC Implosion ended that.

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It’s silly, but entertaining, and sort of clever.  Knowing that an Australian hit man has come to Gotham, Bruce Wayne finances a kangaroo race in the city, in order to draw him out.

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Once he has spotted the man, he follows him as Batman, finds the men who hired them, and rounds them all up.

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There is also a nice pin-up on the back page of the current Batman family, with Batgirl, Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.

 

 

Detective 464 – Batman vs Black Spider, and the Calculator vs Black Canary

 

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Black Spider’s introductory story concludes in Detective 464 (Oct. 76), in a Gerry Conway story, with art by Chan and McLaughlin.

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Batman does not get hit by the airplane, but Black Spider manages to kill one of the deplaning passengers, and get away.  Batman hunts the streets looking for information on him, and learns the past of a “friend” of the Spider.  A kid who became a junkie and turned to crime to pay for his habit, eventually killing his own father.

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It’s hardly a surprise when Batman unmasks Black Spider, and reveals him to be the junkie, now clean, but determined to do away with those who profited from his addiction.  Black Spider appears to die at the end of the story, though Batman doubts it.  And indeed, he returns a couple years down the road in the pages of Batman.

I should have mentioned that City Councillor Arthur Reeves, who despises Batman, is re-introduced.  He has a small role, complaining to Gordon about Batman, at the start of the previous issue, and conclusion to this one.

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The Calculator returns, this time in Star City, where he faces off against Black Canary, in a story by Bob Rozakis, Mike Grell and Terry Austin.

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His plan is to steal the city’s Founder’s Day, by creating a deadly heat wave – one made worse by Black Canary every time she uses her sonic cry.

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She wins by pushing things as far as she can with her cry, which causes the Calculator’s device to melt and short out, but not before he presses his special button!

 

Detective 463 – Black Spider debuts, and the Calculator vs the Atom

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It’s Batman vs Spider-Man!  Nope, not even close.  Detective 463 (Sept. 76) introduces the Black Spider, a murderous vigilante, created by Gerry Conway, Ernie Chan and Frank McLaughlin.

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It’s a 2-part story, and this first issue spends much of it’s time setting up the antagonist.  Batman and Gordon are pursuing leads in Gotham’s drug trade, but the dealers they are after keep getting murdered.

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Batman manages to confront the Black Spider towards the end of the story.  Despite his name, and his web-swinging appearance on the cover, mostly he shoots people.

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The Black Spider manages to get away from Batman, leaving him on a tarmac in front of a landing plane.

The story concludes next issue.

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Technically, this is a one-shot back-up story featuring the Atom, but really, it is the start of a six-part story introducing the Calculator.  Bob Rozakis, Mike Grell and Terry Austin provide the art for this instalment.

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In Ivy Town, the Calculator attacks a scientist who has invented an earthquake predicting machine.  Throughout this run, the Calculator would steal things on “the day they were worth the most.”  In this one, he steals the scientist’s life on the day of his big success.

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The Atom captures the Calculator, but the villain does not seem to mind.  He presses a button on his keypad, and happily plots his next crime while in prison.

 

 

Detective 462 – the conclusion to the Captain Stingaree trilogy

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Bob Rozakis, Mike Uslan, Ernie Chan and Frank McLaughlin bring the Captain Stingaree story to a conclusion in Detective 462 (Aug. 76).

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There are also a couple of guest stars in the story.  The first to appear is Robin, who had been captured by Stingaree and encased in a block of ice.  Perhaps Stingaree got hold of Mr. Freeze’s gear.

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Once again, Stingaree lures, captures, and unmasks an unfamiliar Batman.  But then the real one shows up.  Soon, Stingaree and his men have a veritable army of Batman fighting them.

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That’s actually an illusion, courtesy of the other guest star in this issue, the Flash.  He just moved Batman around really quickly.

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So Captain Stingaree gets captured, and we learn he was the fourth of a set of quadruplets.  His three brothers became detectives – and he suspected they were also, as a group, being Batman.  It becomes clear how and when the switches were made, letting the brothers get captured in his place.  But exactly why Batman and the three brothers went to all this trouble, rather than just rounding up Stingaree and his men, is not made clear at all.

Captain Stingaree appears from time to time.  His next appearance came about 6 months later, in the pages of Secret Society of Super-Villains.  But his brothers never return, and without them, Stingaree is just a pirate-themed villain.

Detective 461 – Captain Stingaree, part 2, and Tim Trench ends

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While the Batman story in Detective 461 (July 1976) is not bad, there simply isn’t much to this middle chapter in the Bob Rozakins/Mike Uslan/Ernie Chan/Frank McLaughlin saga.

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With no explanation about the captured Batman from the end of last issue, this story again has Stingaree’s men luring Batman into a trap.  Batman and Stingaree fight.  There is a space of time between Batman being defeated, and Stingaree approaching his body.

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And another unmasking, and again, it’s not Bruce Wayne.

The story concludes next issue.

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Tim Trench gets his second, and final, case in this story by Denny O’Neil, Pablo Marcos and Al Milgrom.

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It’s another story straight out of a film noir, with Tim being asked to guard some money, and winding up with a corpse on his hands.

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There’s some creativity with the violence in this one, but otherwise, it just feels old and characterless.

While Tim Trench would never again get a series, he would make rare appearances over the years.  He next pops up during Mark Millar’s run on Swamp Thing in the 90s.

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