Posts tagged ‘Frank Robbins’

Detective 436 – Batman gets scared, and the Elongated Man needs a clue

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A very creepy cover by Nick Cardy for Detective 436 (Aug,/Sept. 73), as Shotgun Smith returns in a story by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia.

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Bruce Wayne returns from a vacation, and Shotgun Smith is now working customs, checking for drugs.  Alfred is quite surprised to find some in Bruce’s luggage.  Bruce examines the powder, just before Shotgun comes bursting in to arrest him.

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Batman finds himself suffering a crippling fear of the dark – a side effect of exposure to the powder, but still has presence of mind to demand a warrant from Shotgun, which he does not have.

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Batman realizes that only Shotgun and the stewardess could have planted the drugs on him, and follows him, finding the two together.  But he has also been alert enough to spot that this is not the real Shotgun Smith, but someone impersonating him, and using his position, in league with the stewardess, to smuggle drugs on unsuspecting passengers.

Not a bad story, but it’s unfortunate that Shotgun isn’t really himself in his second appearance.

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Sue gets kidnapped in this Elongated Man story, by Elliot S! Maggin and Dick Giordano.

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The kidnappers lure Ralph to them, with an invisible dog trick. I love the panel of Ralph stuck in the glass jar.

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They show Ralph a live video feed of Sue, who flashes two fingers at him.  Ralph pays little attention to their demands – they want him to use his powers to their benefit – instead trying to figure out Sue’s clue as to her location.

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He does so, and captures the bad guys (booga booga), but the story ends on the wonderful twist, as Ralph explains how he figured out Sue’s clue, and Sue replies that she never intended it as a clue, she was just telling him to save her before 2 o’clock.

 

 

Detective 435 – Batman vs the Spook, and Jason Bard ends

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The concluding half of the Spook’s introduction is featured in Detective 435 (June/July 1973), by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, who also did the cover.

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Batman’s attempt to draw out the Spook fails, and he realizes that the Spook must have multiple bugs on the hoods he ensures, and was getting a duplicate signal, clueing him in that the Big Turk in prison was a phony.  And Batman is dead on with all of that.

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He then, finally checks out the scene where the Batmobile was stolen, and figures out how that was done – a huge trick that relied on Batman driving onto one exact street – although the Spook more or less implies that there are similar set-ups around Gotham.  So he must employ a road works crew.

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So Batman follows the tunnel and confronts the Spook, but finds it all but impossible to actually tale hold of the man, between his tricks and flexibility.  He finally plays on his ego and goads him into a position where Batman can grab his controls and neutralize them.

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The story has a surprising twist at the end, as it’s revealed that the Spook is Val Kaliban, a man executed 10 years earlier.

The Spook returns in a couple of months in the pages of Batman.

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Jason Bard has his final outing in Detective done by Frank Robbins.  It’s better than his Don Heck stories, but it bothers me in a different way.  Jason is on hand when a man dies while group parachuting, by being stabbed in the back.  As can be seen in that very first page, they all go down together as a unit.

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When the man hits the ground, he has a knife in his back.  Jason ponders which of the other skydivers could have done this.  And has so much trouble figuring t out he goes up in a plane with them to re-enact it.

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Only then does he realize that the killer had to be the one standing behind the dead man when they jumped.  The only possible person.  AND, Jason, with his bad leg, is going to sky dive?  REALLY?  Because he wants to be even more crippled?

So that’s the end of Jason Bard’s less than impressive run in Detective.  He would remain a supporting character and pop up all over the Batman books as the years pass.  He would even get a back-up series again in Detective, part of One Year Later.

 

Detective 434 -The Spook debuts, and Hawkman ends

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Mike Kaluta does the cover for Detective 434 (April 1973), the first half of the introduction of the Spook, a major player against Batman in the 70s.

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The Spook is introduced by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and  Dick Giordano, materializing in a cell in Gotham’s new high security prison, offering the man incarcerated , Big Turk, a way out.  The Spook blinds the man with dust first, to keep it a secret.

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No one can figure out how the escape was done, but Batman does manage to round up Big Turk, and has him in the Batmobile when the Spook suddenly appears in the road before him.  Batman gets out to investigate, but the Spook vanishes.  More frustratingly, so do the Batmobile and his prisoner!

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While Batman is getting humiliated by having the police return the abandoned Batmobile to him, we get to see the Spook’s lair, and his intricate monitoring system, while he gives his sales pitch to a hood.  For a price, the Spook will ensure to free anyone who gets captured.

There is nothing supernatural in the way this character is played, despite his name.  Anything that gets explained, is shown to be scientific in nature, or a trick.

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At story’s end, Batman disguises himself as Big Turk, and heads to prison, in order to get to face the Spook and see his game for himself.

The story concludes next issue.

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Hawkman solves a puzzling mystery in this issue, about the serial thief who keeps getting caught, but the stolen goods keep vanishing.

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E Nelson Bridwell scripts, with Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano on the art.  Hawkman eventually figures out that the thefts were done earlier, and the “stolen goods” he was caught with were dissolving duplicates.  Kind of impressive scientific stuff for a thief.  Bet he stole the secret on how to do that.

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This is Hawkman’s last solo story before he is ordered back to Thanagar, and resigns his position with the Justice League.  In a couple of years he gets exiled, and returns to Earth, and his next solo story is also in the pages of Detective.

Detective 432 – Batman and the torn up money, and the Atom begins

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Dick Giordano does the cover art for Detective 432 (Feb. 73), while Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson tell the tale of a distinct lack of trust among thieves.  I am tempted to say this story is inspired by the opening half hour or so of “Diamonds are Forever,” as the plots are almost the same.

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After a man is murdered during a mugging, Batman discovers that the briefcase the man was carrying contains a million dollars in bills torn in half.  With Commissioner Gordon, they deduce that this is the loot from a major robbery, committed by an entire gang.  Batman impersonates the dead man, taking the torn money to follow the trail.

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Batman avoids the exploding rental car the man was meant to die in, and follows the girl who set him up, after she grabs the money.  But she gets taken out next, and Batman continues to follow the new killer.

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The gang had torn the loot so that no one could run off with it, but their continued distrust of each other turned them against each other, so in the end Batman simply has to nab the sole survivor.  They made it easy on him, really.

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The Atom story in this issue, by Elliot S! Maggin and Murphy Anderson, was meant to begin a rotating position in Detective, as with Jason Bard, Elongated Man and Hawkman, but the suspension of the rotating back-ups a few months down the road meant that this was his only tale in Detective at this time.  A few years down the road, the Atom would return to Detective, but his solo series ran more often in Action Comics in the 70s and 80s.

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Jean Loring’s client announces on the witness stand that he will vanish, and promptly does so. Ray Palmer recognizes the lights that accompanied his disappearance as those from the Time Pool, and goes to see Profesor Hyatt, who tells him of its unusual behaviour.  As the Atom, Ray descends into the Time Pool on the track of the vanishing thief.

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He winds up in Chicago, just minutes before the outbreak of the Great Fire, and though he finds the man, the time trip has driven him insane.  He winds up dying in the past, so although Ray solves the mystery, he has nothing to show for it.  Still, the story is entertaining and the art, particularly the splash page, is top drawer.

Detective 429 – Man-Bat in Las Vegas

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Frank Robbins writes and draws another Man-Bat story in Detective 429 (Nov. 72), and it’s far superior to his earlier one.

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After seeing a news report about an apparent attack by a giant vampire bat in Las Vegas, and discovering that Kirk and Francine Langstrom are there, Batman heads out to take down Man-Bat.

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Batman gets a chorus girl to act as bait, luring the giant creature.  Batman is surprised at how much more violent Kirk has become as Man-Bat.  The creature flees, but Batman tracks it to its lair.

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Batman discovers that it is not Kirk Langstrom terrorizing the city, but Francine, as She-Bat.  Francine was scratched by a vampire bat while they were working, and it set off her “condition.”  The story ends with Batman preparing another cure for her.

Man-Bat returns, as a hero, in an issue of Batman early the next year.  His next appearance in Detective follows the cancellation of his (very) short-lived series a couple years down the road.

 

Detective 428 – Batman meets Shotgun Smith, and Hawkman begins

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Another Kalauta cover on Detective 428 (Oct. 72), as Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Dick Giordano introduce Shotgun Smith, the toughest cop in Gotham City, a character inspired by Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle in The French Connection

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As with the movie, drug dealers are the main focus of this story. Unlike the movie, the character has a young daughter, which makes him more vulnerable.

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Batman and Shotgun Smith disagree over methods, and it’s kind of bizarre to see Batman coming down on him for not proceeding through proper police procedures.  But also necessary to build some animosity between the two as the story kicks off.

Batman comes to suspect that Smith is actually working with the biggest drug lord in Gotham, using his position as a cop to take out his rivals.

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The story comes to a highly satisfying conclusion, as we learn that Shotgun was using Batman as part of his cover, as he tried to convince the drug lord he was working with him, in order to protect his daughter. In this instance, Batman is not angry about being manipulated at all.

While he never becomes a significant supporting character, Shotgun Smith does return on occasion.

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Hawkman begins as one of the rotating back-up features, in a story by E. Nelson Bridwell, with art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.  Hawkman had not had a solo series since the cancellation of Atom and Hawkman, but continued to appear as a member of the Justice League.

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The story in this one is almost alarmingly simple. A series of thefts of valuable objects have occurred in a old mansion in Midway City.  The stolen goods have been replaced by immaculate forgeries, which indicates that this has been going on for some time.  Hawkman investigates, and the thief reveals himself, coming out of a secret passage.  They fight for a bit, and Hawkman wins.  The end.

Detective 426 – Batman plays Russian roulette, and the Elongated Man begins, again

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A powerful Kaluta cover on Detective 426 (Aug. 72), and a good story by Frank Robbins – and one on which I feel his art style works perfectly.

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Batman comes across a thief in a home with a dead man.  At first, it looks like murder, but the thief protests his innocence, and Batman realizes the man died playing Russian roulette.

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A series of similar death follow, and the trail leads Bruce Wayne out onto a gambling ship, where he meets Conway Treach.  Treach is on the prowl for compulsive and extreme gamblers, challenging them to Russian roulette.

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The story climaxes with Batman and Treach playing, as the bullets decrease but neither gets shot.  Probably my favourite single page of art by Robbins.

Batman has spotted the trick, a latch Treach presses to prevent a bullet from going into the firing chamber, and uses it as well. A solid, intense story.

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The Elongated Man returns to the pages of Detective Comics in this issue, with a fun little story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  The Elongated Man would alternate with Atom and Hawkman and Jason Bard at this point, but his series would continue sporadically in the back pages of Detective throughout the 70s and into the 80s.

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In the desert, Ralph and Sue come across a dying man in divers gear.  The only form of civilization around is an abandoned western film set, but Ralph finds blind fish, leading him to an underwater lake, and the criminals who are hiding their loot, and killed the member of the gang who tried to betray them.

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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