Posts tagged ‘Lee Travis’

Detective 89 – Batman exposes the Cavalier, Air Wave gets a cat, and the Crimson Avenger ends

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The Cavalier makes his third appearance in Detective 89, with Dick Sprang art.

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The story begins as we discover that the Cavalier is really Mortimer Drake, a wealthy Gothamite, who is a member of the same exclusive club as Bruce Wayne.  One of the club’s other members, Professor Hellstrom, talks about a new typewriter he has invented.  That night, the Cavalier attempts to steal it, though others do as well, and the Batman and Cavalier briefly work together to defeat the other thieves.

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Batman realizes that the Cavalier must be a member of the club.  Drake unwittingly confirms this by writing up a glowing bio of the Cavalier in the club’s “who’s who.”

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Scoping out the members, Bruce spots a chemical dye on Mortimer Drake’s hand, and then, as they fight, exposes his identity.  The Cavalier manages to escape again, and returns to the pages of Batman in a couple of months.

The notion of having one of Batman’s villains come from the same background, or belong to the same social circle, will be used again with a number of Batman villains over the years: Cat-Man, Black Mask and Hush, among others.

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Air Wave’s sidekick parrot Static had appeared in a number of stories, but was never an “always there” sidekick, like Robin or Sandy.  This story ignores his existence completely, as Larry Jordan winds up with a cat as his sidekick.  This guy loves animals.

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Air Wave is pursuing a crew of thieves, who seem to follow a mysterious man, Mickey.  Air Wave does some clever broadcasting with his equipment, sending the thieves voices through all sorts of metal objects to scare and disorient them.

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Mickey turns out to be a trained cat the hoods use in their thefts, but Air Wave first transfers his voice through the cat’s collar, confusing the thieves, and then sends electricity into the cat, which surprisingly does not kill the animal, but does take down the bad guys.

At the end of the story, Air Wave continues to send his voice through the cat’s collar, pretending they are having a conversation.  Larry needs a human friend.

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The Crimson Avenger’s series comes to an end with this issue.  he and Wing take on the Ghost Gang, who put pictures of empty interiors of banks in the windows of the banks they are robbing, to divert attention.  They make the mistake of sending challenging letters, bragging of their crimes to come, to the newspaper, which puts Lee on their trail.

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Although his series ends at this point, the Crimson Avenger and Wing continue to appear as members of the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Leading Comics.

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Detective 85 – the Joker’s Double, the Crimson Avenger vs Lone Wolf, and the Boy Commandos vs Agent Axis

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Bill Finger and Dick Sprang provide the first of many variations of this story, in which a criminal adopts the guise and/or style of crime of the Joker, in order to deflect suspicion from themselves.

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The double of the Joker commits murder, using spades and clubs, to frame the famous felon, but Bruce Wayne is suspicious from the start.

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Although he does not say it, the Joker has stopped murdering people, so that would be the reason the crimes are out of character.

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Batman and the Joker wind up working together to find the imposter.  We get to see the Joker’s hideout, with his arsenal, monitoring equipment, and costume room, mirroring Batman’s.

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There is an enjoyable fight between the two Jokers to conclude the tale, and the real one escapes.

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The Crimson Avenger gets another named foe in this story, Lone Wolf, but again it’s simply a masked man whose identity is unknown.

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The villain drops an old photo, with a faded phone number on the back of it, and Lee approaches the typesetter for the newspaper to scan old phone books to find the identity of the man.

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There is some action right towards the end, but the Lone Wolf was not a strong enough character to warrant a return.

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Jack Kirby did the pencils on this Boy Commando story, which pits them against a plot by Agent Axis.  She was their major enemy in their own book, and only recurring foe for a while, but this was her first appearance in Detective Comics.

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The Boys are performing as part of a USO show, and Agent Axis is brought in to take them out and destroy morale.  But once she has assembled her crew she vanishes from the story.

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Detective 73 – Batman vs the Scarecrow, the Boy Commandos and the tin box, and the Crimson Avenger gets a cloud

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The Scarecrow makes his second appearance in Detective 73 (March 1943), which turns out to be the last appearance of the character until the 1960s.  Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson illustrate.

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Professor Crane is out of prison, and has thought up a new set of crimes, which have absolutely nothing to do with fear or scaring people at all.  Nope, instead he has a little blackboard and leaves three letter rhyming clues (vat, mat, yat).  What a let down.  Linda Page appears briefly, buying a ridiculous hat.

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The Scarecrow does hoist a nasty looking machine gun, but without the fear gas element (which had been created by Hugo Strange before the Scarecrow was introduced), the character just doesn’t sing.

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Simon and Kirby give each of the boys a chance to shine in this tale, which sees the Boy Commandos navigate a dense jungle to deliver a little tin box.

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There are Nazis pursuing them, of course, but unlike the other tales to date, this one gives much more play to the team itself.  Brooklyn still manages to grab focus.

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The tin box is revealed to be tin foil wrappers, and Rip Carter explains the importance of recycling stuff for war.  So propaganda again, but far more readable than the Japanese one.

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The Crimson Avenger starts using a capsule that releases a crimson smoke cloud, which he uses for dramatic entrances and exits, and also for messing up the bad guys during a fight.  It seems to affect the brain at times.

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The City Desk Editor is left befuddled at Lee Travis’ disappearance, while Lee himself managed to change costume and fall out a window.

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The Crimson Avenger and Wing are pursuing a mob boss who likes his people to dress and use tech from the turn of the century.  A mob boss keeping his people behind the times is not likely to triumph.

Detective 69 – the Joker sends gifts, the Boy Commandos in Russia, and the Crimson Avenger helps a rookie

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The Joker returns with a really complicated scheme in Detective 69 (Nov. 42), in a story with art by Kane and Robinson.

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The Joker sends four men odd little gifts, and then begins blackmailing them.  Eventually, it’s revealed that the men were all involved in an explosion that killed two others.

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Linda Page has a brief appearance, accompanying Bruce Wayne to a fair.  The only reason for her to be there is to give Bruce a big scene, how to get away when they are trapped on the parachute jump.  He simply pretends to accidentally fall out.

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The climax to the story takes place in an aircraft manufacturing plant, shown in obviously photographic accuracy.

All in all, the cover is better than the story on this outing of the Joker.

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The Boy Commandos head to Russia in this Simon and Kirby tale, coming to the aid of the besieged town of Krovna.

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The main character in the story is really Tanya Vanin, a young girl who sees the Nazi plans to surround the town, and escapes over the ice to warn the coming Allies.  The plan is comically simple on the map in the first panel.

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Rip and the Commandos show up just as Tanya is about to collapse from exposure, rescue her, learn of the Nazi forces, and successfully relieve the town.

So unusual to see Russians portrayed as noble and heroic, but the propaganda mill wasn’t aimed at them for these few years.

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As the Crimson Avenger series progressed, we see more and more of the staff at the Globe-Leader.  At first, there is just one reporter, Mac, who Lee deals with regularly, but soon many of the stories would focus on individual staff – reporters, the weather forecaster, the society columnist, the printing staff, the obituaries writer.  The best of these is in this issue.

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Lee Travis gives a young journalist from a small-town a shot at working for the paper if he can bring in interviews with three notable recluses, and then as Crimson Avenger helps him do so, with Wing tagging along.  There appear to be all manner of dreadful crimes occurring in this tale, when in fact there are innocent explanations all around.  But neither this reporter, nor any of the others ever appear a second time.

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Detective 51 – Batman at the fair, and the Crimson Avenger shows his dark side

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I really like the cover for Detective 51 (May 1941).  The composition and lighting are well done, and the cape has maximum effect.  But I do wish it had been an image relating to the story inside.

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It’s not a great tale.  Finger, Kane and Robinson were churning out a lot of Batman stories, and this one has a by-the-numbers feel to it.  Bruce and Dick go to a fair, but discover that it is run by scam artists and thieves.  So, you know, carnys.

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And so we get fights scenes scattered throughout the park, making use of the setting.

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The roller coaster is saved for the climax, of course.

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The Crimson Avenger story in this issue is intended as a light-hearted tale, with Lee accompanying a wealthy boy on his birthday, and helping him fend off kidnappers, but the ending shows his darkest side.

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After the bad guys have been caught and tied up, and are merely waiting to be shipped off to jail, Lee dons his costume and beats them up.  Not a very heroic act, but it does perhaps explain why Lee adopted a costume that better concealed his identity.

Detective 49 – Clayface returns, and the Crimson Avenger battles Echo

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No pirates in Detective 49 (March, 1941), although there would be a story coming in a few months that does pit Batman against them, so perhaps this cover can be viewed as a trailer.

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Clayface returns, along with Julie Madison and the head of the studio, in a Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson story that is really just a replay of the original.

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Julie Madison has not been seen since the last Clayface story, as she has been swept up by Hollywood, and even given a new name, Portia Storme.  She formally ends her engagement with Bruce Wayne in this story.

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Meanwhile, Basil Karlo escapes during a prison transfer, and again dons his Clayface garb, intending to kill everyone he didn’t manage to kill the last time around.  Preferably on a movie set.  Like last time.

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The car is officially the Batmobile as of this story, although it’s still the red one.  Just occurred to me that we haven’t seen the blue car in Detective since the introduction of Robin, so perhaps this was a new car he painted in Dick’s honour.

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The story really only gets into high gear in the last few pages, once they are back amid the phony castles of the set.

It’s not a bad story, but it’s the same story, without the whodunnit element.  This was the last appearance of Basil Karlo as Clayface until the early 80s.  There would be two more men adopting the name Clayface before his comeback, the first of which was Matt Hagen, in the early 60s.

Julie Madison also leaves the comic after this story, pursuing her Hollywood career.  She next appears in an issue of World’s Finest in the late 70s.

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The Crimson Avenger is given his best opponent by far in this issue.  A mad scientist (just named Jon), builds a giant golden android, Echo, and sends it on a destructive rampage.

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The Avenger wins out through some deft footwork, and a lot of luck.  After seeing an attack by Echo, Lee follows it back to the scientist’s lab.  When the bad guy orders Echo to kill, the Avenger steps out of the way, and Echo kills his master.

 

 

Detective 48 – Batman in a cave of bats, the origin of Cliff Crosby, Speed Saunders figures out whodunnit, and the Crimson Avenger pulls off an amazing costume change

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The corner inset picture of Batman changes from dark and scowly to happy and smiley with Detective 48 (Feb. 41).  This means the only people on the cover not smiling are the bad guys.

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The story in this issue has nothing to do with the Batcave at all.  Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson’s tale has to do with a cave located under a gold depository, and the plan to use it in a robbery.

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As with the previous issue, Bruce and Dick merely pass through a tunnel while heading from the Manor to the barn, which is now shown to also house the car.  It’s still not the Batmobile.  This one is back to the awful red colour!

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The climax of the action takes place in the cave, and with all the bats shown, the stalagmites and stalactites, and all the shadows, it’s difficult to imagine this story had no influence on the development of the Batcave.

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This issue serves as sort of an origin story for Cliff Crosby.  We discover that his father was killed by gangsters for exposing them in his paper.

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Cliff and Kay manage to find proof of the killer’s identity, and bring him to justice.  Took the writer an awful long time to figure out who the hero of the series was.

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This issue sees the Speed Saunders stories change their format a bit, becoming more of a whodunnit series..  From here on, each story has Speed come across a murder, often in an unusual location – a train, and airplane, a baseball diamond during a game.

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Speed investigates for a couple of pages, and in many issues (though not this one) there is box informing the reader that the clues are all there, and challenging them to determine the identity of the killer, which Speed reveals and explains on the final page.

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The costume changes in the Crimson Avenger series are not always well-handled.  In a number of the stories we see that he wears his costume under his normal clothing, but in this story Lee Travis is captured by hoods, tied up and thrown into the river.

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He emerges from the river in full costume (which still included the cape at this point), miraculously having changed underwater.

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And still, despite the costume, there is nothing of note to distinguish this from any non-costumed hero.

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