Posts tagged ‘Impossible But True’

Detective 487 – The League of Assassins go after a writer, Roy Raymond returns, Robin goes to Germany, the Odd Man debuts, and Batgirl runs for re-election

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton manage to craft a League of Assassins story that reads like a farce, without actually diminishing the power or threat of the League.

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The tale centres on a writer, Sergius, who works out his plots as he jogs.  The Sensei overhears him talking about the assassins and their plot, and mistakenly believes he knows something about their organization, and sends the League out to kill him.

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For a while, the clumsy Sergius is oblivious to what is going on, narrowly avoiding death.

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But the League’s activities draw Batman’s attention.  He persuades Sergius to allow Matches Malone to be his bodyguard.  For those who do not know this, Matches Malone is Batman’s “criminal” identity.

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As Matches he saves Sergius from the League’s most elaborate murder attempt, drowning him by flooding his apartment.  Batman succeeds at rounding up a number of the group’s killers, but of course the Sensei remains free.

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Roy Raymond, last seen a few months earlier in Superman Family, gets one last solo story in Detective, courtesy of Bob Rozakis and Dave Hunt.  Morgan Edge has a small role, as Roy is hosting an Impossible But Truespecial on WGBS.

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Three beings claiming to be aliens are to appear on the show.  One is an R2D2 type machine, one is along the standard lines of an alien monster, and one is an ordinary looking woman, claiming to be exiled from her homeworld.

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In a particularly nice touch,Roy is reunited with old friend and former helper, Karen Duncan.

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Roy exposes the machine and monster as fakes.  Even as a kid I could see the twist that the ordinary looking woman really was an alien, but it was a pleasant shock when it turns out to be Hawkgirl.

Roy Raymond next appears in Detective 500.

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Robin’s story, by Jack C Harris, Kurt Schaffenberger and Joe Giella, takes Dick to West Germany to inspect Wayne Enterprises holdings.

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Dick finds it all terribly boring, until he hears of an unusual bank robbery, in which the wall was pulverized.

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As Robin, he investigates, and quickly gets on the track of some new mini-tanks being developed by his company for the US base there, and figures out a neat trick on how they load the tanks into trucks, using them for the robbery.

Definitely one of the better stories from Robin’s run in this book.

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The Odd Man gets his only solo story to date, by Steve Ditko.  This was intended to be the back-up feature in Shade, the Changing Man, but when that comic was cancelled in the DC Implosion, this story got shelved, until it’s appearance here.

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By far the most annoying thing about this tale, given that it is the character’s only story, is how little we learn about him.  His normal human identity is Clay Stoner, a private detective.  He is facing off against thieves patterning themselves on ancient Egyptians.

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We see him use “powder and smoke gloves”, and he also has a plastic spray he seals a villain in, but that’s it for weaponry.  Does he have any powers?  Who knows.  Why does he dress so strangely?  Who knows.

The Odd Man does pop up from time to time, but no appearance has ever clarified who he is.

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Jack G Harris and Dick Giordano send Barbara Gordon back to the polls in this story.  It’s the first time re-election has been mentioned, so even though she went to Washington seven years earlier, it must only be 2 comic book years since that story.

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Her political adversary, Della Zigler, is based on an actual politican from this era, Bella Abzug, known for her huge hats.  And while Barbara is trying to defeat Della in the election, as Batgirl she is working to save her life from gangsters who want her dead.

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I was genuinely surprised at the ending of this story when I was kid.  Barbara Gordon loses the election.  But heroes never lose!  While I would never say this story is powerful, it certainly has a kick in the teeth ending, though Barbara herself admits she spent too much time as Batgirl and too little campaigning.  And looking back over her seven years in Washington, very few stories showed her functioning as a congresswoman.  I expect her constituents were also feeling neglected.

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Detective 276 – Batwoman meets Bat-Mite, and Roy Raymond and the space hoax

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Bat-Mite makes his second appearance in this Bill Finger/Sheldon Moldoff tale from Detective 276 (Feb. 60).

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In this, and his first appearance, Batman keeps convincing the criminals that the odd things that happened when Bat-Mite was around were hallucinations, but Batwoman discovers that Bat-Mite is real.  As she does not bark at him like Batman does, Bat-Mite decides to hang out with Batwoman and help her fight crime.

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She also finds the imp’s help frustrating, but there is a feel-good thing permeating this, so no one stays angry for long, no matter what Bat-Mite does.  I think that’s part of his powers.

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Together, Batman, Robin, Batwoman and Bat-Mite stop the Hobby Robbers, the villains whose activity was pretty much completely overwhelmed by the guest stars.

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A man approaches Roy Raymond, announcing that he has created a hoax, but still challenging Roy to expose it in this Ruben Moreira story.

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Roy cannot pass up such an interesting proposal, so he and Karen go along, as the man claims to be transporting them to an alien world.  Roy eventually realizes they really are on an alien planet.

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He then exposes the man as an alien, and the story abruptly shifts into high gear, as the alien tries to kill Roy and Karen, who use jets to fly to safety.  Another alien shows up and stops the first, explaining that they had a bet as to whether the first could fool Roy Raymond about being human.  They watched the broadcasts of Impossible But True on their home planet.

 

Detective 202 – Batman goes to a resort, Roy Raymond gets his own series, and Robotman and Pow-Wow Smith end

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I skipped over many of the issues from 1952, and almost all the issues from 1953, but Detective 202 (Dec. 53) marks the end of two series, and a name change for another, so the tales in this issue get covered in my blog, even though, on their own, they likely wouldn’t.

The early 1950s were a bleak time in comic books.  They were viewed as a corrupting influence on children, and wound up neutering themselves to the point of tedium.

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The Batman and Robin story in this issue has art by Sheldon Moldoff, and a story that has Batman and Robin hunting a pirate that preys on wealthy people, staying at an island resort.

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There’s s bit of fun action, but it’s all been seen before.

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Roy Raymond, TV Detective begins, seamlessly evolving from Impossible But True, with Ruben Moreira still on the art.  Overall, this has been the best series in Detective in the last couple of years, with stories that were always interesting, even if the explanations did not always hold water.  This one has to do with a ventriloquist who claims his dummy is able to speak for itself.

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Although he is not able to take the dummy apart, Roy cannot find anything to prove the dummy is not speaking on its own.

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In the end it’s all a piece of classic misdirection, an attempt to smuggles a midget felon out of the country, in the body of the dummy.

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Robotman makes his final appearance in a story that pits him against stolen US military equipment.

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Not a bad story.  Short and action-packed, as Robotman tales were.

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Robotman did not appear again until an issue of Justice League of America in the mid-70s, and has rarely appeared since then.  In the mid-60s, a different version of Robotman, Cliff Steele, was introduced as a member of the Doom Patrol, and has “owned” the name ever since.  Curiously, for DC, the two Robotmen have never met in any story.

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Pow-Wow Smith is off to Hollywood for his final tale in Detective, which is, in fact, his second Hollywood story, though the last one was tv based.

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In this tale he is working as a stunt man, while at the same time investigating murder attempts on the actors during the shooting.

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It was the producer, doing it for the insurance.  A run of the mill plot, for a series that lost its exploration of a man of two cultures for straightforward crime stopping.

Pow-Wow Smith gets promoted, taking the cover and the lead spot in Western Comics.

 

 

 

Detective 193 – The Joker’s Journal, and Roy Raymond faces competition

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The Joker sets up his own newspaper in Detective 193 (March 1953).

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Put to work on the newspaper in the prison, the Joker gained inspiration for his plans after escape.  He begins a newspaper, with an entertaining collection of articles designed to appeal to criminals.  He also advertises robbery plans for sale.

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Batman goes undercover and joins the Joker’s mob, taking down the various members during the crimes they had paid for.  The story culminates in a fight in a paper plant.  Were the art better, this could have been a top drawer story.

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Roy Raymond’s show faces competition on the airwaves, to the dismay of his sponsor, in this Ruben Moreira story.

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Roy brings people onto Impossible But True, after being unable to disprove their tales, but the same people show up on a rival network’s show, “Fabulous Phonies,” where they are exposed as frauds.  Not only is Roy personally upset at being made a fool, his ratings suffer, and his sponsor comes down on him.

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The story has a good resolution, as Roy goes on “Fabulous Phonies” himself to expose the fraud that was pulled on him.

Detective 184 – The Firefly debuts, and an earthquake machine

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Garfield Lynns debuts in Detective 184 (June 1952), a decent villain with a weak name and a terrible costume, as the Firefly.

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The story introduces us to Lynns, a special effects expert with a taste for the destructive and an overweening arrogance.  He causes a huge fire in a theatre, and winds up on the run.

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His rationale for choosing the name Firefly is pretty lame.  Lame enough to make you wish for almost anything else, and the costume, designed by Dick Sprang, is no big plus.

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That’s a shame as his “powers” are fairly impressive, with an extensive control of light effects.  Aside from the explosion at the beginning, there is no element of Lynns being an arsonist.

It takes a long time for this character to return against Batman, and his next outing, against the Creeper, took until the mid-70s to happen.

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A man with a machine that can create meteorological events is the focus of this instalment of Impossible But True, with art by Ruben Moreira.  He seeks vengeance on a town for not believing in him, and is more than happy to demonstrate the machine’s abilities to Roy Raymond.

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Raymond keeps giving simple scientific explanations for the machine’s effects, until finally the man declares he will cause an earthquake.

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The earthquake turns out to be an underground explosion, from associates of the man blowing a bank vault.  It was all an elaborate piece of misdirection.  But Roy Raymond was too smart for them!

Detective 164 – the Bat-Signal, Roy Raymond as a child, and Great Owl tells a story

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I love the cover for Detective 164 (Oct. 50).  The story is one of numerous within the next couple of years that deal with some specific item of Batman’s arsenal or accoutrements.

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The story opens with an editor complaining about declining sales, and demanding more of the writer, which probably reflects reality.  By 1950 almost all superheroes had vanished.

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The rest of the story is a series of short tales, in which the Bat-signal is used in as many ways as they could think of, in taking down criminals.  There is even a diagram of the signal and its properties.

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Roy Raymond deals with Marvella, a woman who claims to be able to talk to the dead in this Impossible But True story.  Very little background is ever given for Roy Raymond, so the little bit in this story is a gift.

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To prove to Raymond that her powers are real, she calls up his dead Uncle William, and has his voice emerge from a cat.  He accurately recounts a shared memory of William and young Raymond, which we see in flashback.

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Still, it’s a con, and Roy explains it all in the end.  But the memory was Roy’s, so it remains canon.

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This is a fun variation on the format for Pow-Wow Smith, with art by Bruno Premani.

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The story of Ohiyesa’s tracking and battle with some thieves is told by aged Great Owl to a group of young children in the camp.  Great Owl refers to everything by its “native” equivalent.  The airplane is a great eagle, for example.

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So the story is twice-told, back and forth, as we see the real events, and the way the kids imagine it.

Detective 156 – The Batmobile of 1950, the girl who could talk to animals, and Pow-Wow Smith and the gold dust robbery

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It’s time for a new Batmobile in Detective 156 (Feb. 50).

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The old model gets wrecked in a chase, which also leaves Batman in a cast.  He sets to work building a top of the line, brand new modern car.

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This Dick Sprang designed Batmobile can go faster than the previous one, and has a turbo boost for jumps, so it would have been able to make the jump that trashed the earlier car.

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It also has a monitor, linked to a massive camera that Robin wears as he tracks down the thieves.  Batman follows in the car, smashing through the wall to save Robin and take down the bad guys in the nick of time.

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A couple of deceptions are going on in this chapter of Impossible But True.  Roy Raymond investigates the story of a girl who shows up, having been raised with wild animals and able to talk with them.

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There is also a storyline about a manhunt for a murderer, and the only witness to the crime was the victim’s pet.  Roy arranges for the woman to meet with the pet, but the killer steps in.

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And that was the plan all along.  Roy exposed the girl as a hoax, a Hollywood promo stunt, but got them to work with him on drawing out the killer.

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Great new logo for Pow-Wow Smith, thanks to Carmine Infantino.

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When thieves steal bags of gold dust, the sheriff in the area summons a posse to track them down, and so Ohiyesa dons his Pow-Wow Smith garb to join in.

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The story itself is not as significant as the ending, in which the thief calls Smith a “stupid Indian.”  This is the first glimpse of the racism he faces, and the series would touch on it from time to time.

 

 

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