Posts tagged ‘Lee Travis’

Detective 44 – Robin dreams, the Crimson Avenger changes clothes, and Cliff Crosby on a island of vampires

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Another generic Batman and Robin cover for Detective 44 (Oct. 40)

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The story inside is fairly generic as well, certainly not one of the better efforts by Finger, Kane and Robinson.  Dick Grayson is reading a book about fairy tales, and falls asleep.

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The art is pleasantly extreme, and as it is pretty obviously a dream, going along for the ride is not too difficult.

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The Crimson Avenger gets a new costume in this story, as Lee Travis dons a tight red outift, complete with finned headpiece, and cape.  The unusual symbol on his chest is often interpreted as a sunburst, but one story argued that it was really a bullet hole.

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The costume change is the one and only change, as we follow a pretty simple kidnapping story, and even throwing the hero and his new suit in among lions doesn’t really spark this up.  Wing stands mutely to the side.

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Cliff Crosby’s stories continue their path into the bizarre in this tale, as he winds up shipwrecked.

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And wouldn’t you know it, the island is being used by an Asian caricature as he turns people into vampires.

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The series may be crazy, but at least it’s fun.  Cliff is aided by a friendly monkey he calls “Doc,” whom he takes with him when he leaves the island.

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Detective 41 – Robin undercover, Red Logan comes home, the Crimson Avenger in Chinatown, and Cliff Crosby fights an invisible man

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Batman still has his big ears in the image in the upper corner, long past the changes to hood in the actual comic, on the cover of Detective 41 (July 1940).

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A series of unusual events at a military boarding school prompt Batman to send Robin off on a solo mission in this story by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.

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Bruce appears at the beginning of the story, enrolling Dick in the school, but after that it’s all Robin until the conclusion.  There is a decent cast of characters filling out the suspects and victims.

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Robin uses a device in his belt buckle to communicate with Batman.  It looks better in close-up than it does in use.

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Batman shows up for the conclusion, but it’s Robin who gets to take the counterfeiter down.

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Red Logan is back in the US in this issue.  It’s an interesting story. Red testifies at the trial of gangster Bugsie Gordon, who is found guilty and executed, but who seemingly returns from the grave to kill those who caught him.  Red figures out that the murderer is really Bugsie’s twin brother.

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One very odd thing about the Crimson Avenger stories at this point.  Wing seems to lose the power of speech.  He rarely talks.  And when he does, it takes on more of the stereotypical Asian accent.

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This issue deals with human smuggling, and takes Lee Travis and Wing to Chinatown, but even here Wing stays in the background.

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Cliff is “returning from his latest expedition,” which I assume does not refer to overseeing airplane construction, so this must take place a while after the last story.  He runs into an old friend, Inspector Doyle, and hears about murders committed by an invisible man.  He asks to join the case, which implies that he has some standing with the force already.

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It’s a really manic tale, with a stolen submarine, but I find it enjoyable.

 

Detective 37 – almost the Batmobile, Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise ends, the Crimson Avenger returns, Cliff Crosby debuts, and Slam Bradley inherits a racehorse

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Detective 37 (March 1940) contains the final Batman story before Robin shows up.  Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s story loosely resembles the movie The Old Dark House, and overall the feel is of a horror movie.

The Batmobile is almost in existence at the start of this tale.  While there is still no emblem (or name), The way the car is drawn and coloured emphasizes it as an attribute of the man.

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Batman shows off another bit of gear, infra-red lenses to allow him to see in the dark, which come in useful in a fight scene.

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Batman never cares much if the villain dies in these early stories.  While the man impales himself, Batman still shows no remorse.  The end of the story promotes the next Hugo Strange tale, but it appears instead in Batman 1 – a solo tale, pre-dating Robin.

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In his final story Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise goes undercover as a sailor on the Sea Swan, investigating a series of ships that have gone  missing while crossing the Atlantic.  It turns out the vice-president of the line is selling these ships and their cargo to the Nazis.  Some of the crew are in on the scam, and lead a mutiny, then turn the ship over to the Germans, who arrive in a u-boat.  Cosmo infiltrates the mutineers and ruins their plans, and when the u-boat surfaces, Cosmo and Captain Barker have it shot at, blowing it up.

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They stand on deck rejoicing over their victory, but I think this is short-lived.  The sub would certainly have been in contact with the rest of the fleet – more than one sub would be needed to deal with the ship and its crew and prisoners.  I fear that though they blew up one sub, there were more around, and the Sea Swan was torpedoed and sunk, killing Cosmo and all the others aboard.

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The Crimson Avenger returns, with no significant change to the series.  Lee Travis still runs the Globe-Leader, Wing is still speaking decent English and driving the car.

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The story sees him pursue and capture some kidnappers.

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Cliff Crosby’s series languished amid the back pages of Detective Comics for the entirety of its run.  The art managed to reach a passable level, but the stories, often only 5 or 6 pages long, never achieve anything memorable.

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The series begins without making it clear what Cliff does for a living.  He helps a reporter friend, Terry Jensen, find a kidnapped judge in his first tale, but there is no indication of anything really definable about the character.  Little by little, over the few years the series ran, the picture would get drawn.

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Slam inherits a racehorse in this Jerry Siegel tale.  There are drugged animals, fixed races, and blackmail at the root of the tale.

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The story climaxes with Shorty filling in for a murdered jockey, and winning the Kentucky Derby.

Detective 29 – Batman vs Dr. Death, Crimson Avenger takes a break, Cosmo vs the Avenger, and Slam Bradley goes to Hawaii

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Batman gets his second cover appearance in Detective 29 (July 1939), and the story even matches the picture!

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Batman is given his first recurring villain, Dr. Death, in this story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  He has a stylish monocle, an murderous servant, and a taste for killing people.

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There is no notion of a Batcave yet.  Bruce Wayne appears to keep his gear in a trunk in the living room at this point.  We see the utility belt for the first time, and it gets used later in the story.

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Even in this early, and rough, form, Batman still makes for dynamic reading.  And seems to need exotic villains to balance the extreme look of the character.

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Batman strangles the servant, and Dr. Death appears to die in a fire, but in fact returns in the following issue.

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The Crimson Avenger’s series ends with this story, although it returns in early 1940.  After a kidnapping, Lee Travis learns the details of the sounds the victim heard while captive, and uses those to track the bad guys.

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Wing gets a small role in this one, helping the Crimson Avenger escape the burning building at the end.  The final panel announces more adventures for the hero, and I suspect the series was put on hold because it was felt too similar to Batman; and that the boom in heroes was the cause of it’s return.

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Cosmo is pitted against the Avenger, a mad scientist who has developed a weapon that causes a bell tower to collapse, a ship to sink, a dam to burst, and airplanes to fall from the sky.  Cosmo tracks down the scientist, and claims to be an “electric meter inspector” when he approaches him, but does not disguise himself for that, which turns out to be a bad move, as Cosmo is famous enough that the crazed Professor Salvini recognizes him immediately, and almost kills him.

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In fact, if it were not for a stray bullet causing Salvini’s weapon to explode and kill him, Cosmo would have certainly fallen victim to the Avenger.

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Siegel and Shuster are still credited with this Slam Bradley story, but again it looks unusual to me, art-wise.

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Slam receives a note warning him to stay away from Hawaii, which he takes as a challenge.  He and Shorty head there, and meet Betty Clark, whose uncle has disappeared.  She sent the letter, figuring that he would take it as a challenge and come.

Must be an easier way to hire someone.  Like, offer to hire them.

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They get caught up with foreign spies trying incite native revolts, and creepy looking green lepers.

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It’s also worth noting that Slam and Shorty share a bed in this story.  It’s not the first time we have seen this, either.

 

Detective 28 – Batman uses his rope, Bart gets a new partner, the Crimson Avenger gets a new secretary and Dr. Fu Manchu ends

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While Batman did not get the cover for Detective 28 (June 1939), he retained the lead spot in the book, and his name does appear on it.

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There is not much to the second Batman story, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  Batman is pitted against jewel thieves, but is mistaken by the police for part of the gang.

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His first bit of bat-gear appears in this story, although it’s simply called a “silken rope.”

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But what the heck, I’ll still call it the Bat-rope.  It’s also notable how little Batman speaks in this era.  Nor was it felt necessary to have thought balloons explain everything (“I’ll attach my Bat-rope to the other building so I can swing to it and escape!”)

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Batman’s car is still the big red roadster in this story.  Commissioner Gordon appears only in the last panel of the story, but even this early, we get the dynamic that Gordon is the only police officer Batman really trusts.

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The Siegel and Shuster Spy story in this issue once again shows the US on the verge of war.  Bart is assigned to solve the mysterious bombing of a ship in the harbour.

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Bart also gets a partner in this story, Jack Steele, who sticks around for a couple more issue.

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No matter how good a spy Bart Regan is, without or without his new partner, it still feels a bit absurd to see a headline in mid-1939 saying “War Peril Banished.”

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Lee Travis gets a new secretary in this issue, Miss Blaine.  It’s not clear what became of Miss Stevens.  Miss Blaine seems made of tougher stuff anyway, as she gets captured by jewel thieves in this story, but holds up well under pressure.

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Both the Crimson Avenger and his secretary have been set up in the story by the woman whose jewels were supposedly stolen.  She even sicks a cobra on them, but the Crimson remains triumphant.

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Dr. Fu Manchu ends its run in this issue.

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It’s unclear how far they planned to go with these adaptations, but Sax Rohmer does not even reach the ending of his first book by the time this is cancelled.

Detective 23 – Speed Saunders on skis, the Crimson Avenger vs Zombies, Spy investigate dead celebrities, and Slam Bradley heads into the future

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Speed Saunders gets the cover and the lead story in Detective 34 (Jan 39), as he hits the slopes, finding murder on the way down.

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Fred Guardineer has taken over the art on this series, which improves it a bit, although frankly it’s not Guardineer’s best.  The story is ok, mostly action as opposed to detecting.  This was the only time Speed Saunders got a cover appearance.  Between this, and the Crimson Avenger cover last issue, it seems that Detective was looking for something to draw in more readers, but had no series dynamic enough to carry the cover spot.  One was about to come along.

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As for Lee Travis, this issue sees him, as the Crimson Avenger, fighting zombies!

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They are not the flesh eating zombies we know and love, though.  These are actually much closer to the Caribbean original, mindless people enslaved to a madman.

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Once again, the art seems to go up a notch when a car is involved in the scene.

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It’s another darker, more serious tale for Bart and Sally in this episode of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.  A number of famous and prominent people are murdered, and our heroes are put onto the case.

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There is a scene of Sally in the shower.  Nothing at all is seen, but I still think this would have been pretty risque at the time, especially as one of the bad guy’s goons is searching her room at the time.

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Less banter, and a more competent villain, but Bart and Sally still function as equals throughout this story, even if Bart gets to save the day in this one.

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Siegel and Shuster give a very unusual adventure to Slam Bradley and Shorty in this issue, the first half of a two-part story.

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It begins simply enough, with a scientist who has invented a “time flyer.”  He takes Slam and Shorty with him on a trip to 2 Billion A.D.

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And then it just gets bizarre, with all manner of weird and dangerous creatures, even a flower that almost kills Shorty.

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And for the first time in Slam Bradley’s series, a cliff-hanger ending, as he races to find a cure for Shorty.

Detective 22 – the return of Fui Onyui, the Crimson Avenger shoots from the car, Spy become firefighters, Cosmo as a farmer, and Inspector Kent ends

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The Crimson Avenger gets his first cover, although he does not get the lead spot in Detective 22 (Dec 38), remaining buried deep in the middle of the book.

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Slam Bradley leads off the issue, as Siegel and Shuster bring back Fui Onyui, who had vowed vengeance against Shorty in the very first issue.

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Shorty gets kidnapped, and Slam follows his trail, leading to the almost mandatory opium den.

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The story avoids explaining exactly what has happened to Shorty, leaving him in a deathlike trance, but opium would be the obvious answer.

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Slam forces Fui to inject something into Shorty that revives him, and Shorty joins in the fight that brings the bad guy to heel again.  This was Fui’s last appearance.

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Lee Travis, though his paper, begins offering a $5,000 reward for the Crimson Avenger, dead or alive.  Life just isn’t providing enough danger and thrills, it seems.  He actively wants to encourage people to kill him.

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Corrupt cops are at the root of the story in this issue, as the Crimson Avenger has to track down missing papers.  By far the best scene is a car chase, with the Avenger shooting out the window.  This shot would be used for the issue of Secret Origins that told his story, in the mid-80s.

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Bart and Sally are assigned to root out spies and secret info at a foreign embassy in this chapter of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.

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Once again, it is refreshing to see that being married to Bart has not changed the dynamic in the relationship between them.  Sally still speaks her mind and goes her own way.

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The story gets a bit silly, as they disguise themselves as firefighters after they bomb the embassy, to gain entrance, but it’s all fun.

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I haven’t mentioned any of the Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise stories so far because none really grabbed me.  Lack of character development is one thing, common to series from this era, but Cosmo’s lack of using or really playing with his central concept just becomes tedious.

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In this story, dealing with stolen gems, there is a scene with Cosmo disguised as a farmer.  This is the first time in the strip that we do not see Cosmo get into his disguise first, and his identity is sprung on the reader.

Seems like a basic idea, but it took them 22 issues to use it.

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Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard has his second, and final, story in Detective Comics, once again pitted against the Raven.

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Once again Kent does a less than impressive job.  It takes him far too long to realize the Raven is impersonating his partner, Sergeant Willy Wiggbert.

Inspector Kent had one final story, appearing in Adventure Comics the following spring.

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