Posts tagged ‘Marty Pasko’

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 490- Batman relaxes in a garden, Batgirl learns to dance, a snowy encounter, Robin takes a test and Black Lightning takes a shower

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton being their League of Assassins war storyline to a conclusion in Detective 490 (May 1980), although it’s a bit less confrontational than the cover implies.

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Batman fights Lurk for the second time, following their encounter in a DC Special from a couple of years earlier. Lurk looks almost identical to Ra’s Al Ghul’s earlier sidekick, Ubu.  In later years, it would be established that Ubu is more of a title than a name, so Lurk would be the second Ubu, really.

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Working with the seismologist Batman freed last issue, he determines that the League’s plan is to cause an earthquake.  Checking the fault lines, Batman figures out that the goal must be a high level peace conference being held in an estate on the line.

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Batman has to fight his way in, and warns the men to leave before the earthquake hits, and is less then impressed with one religious leader who refuses to go, saying it would be bowing to terrorism.

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Ra’s Al Ghul, the Sensei and Talia only show up for the last few pages.  Talia shoot Batman with a tranquilizer, and takes him away, as his father and the Sensei have their standoff in the mansion.  It gets destroyed in the earthquake.  Though the implication is that both men have died, Ra’s Al Ghul shows up in Batman not too long down the road.  The Sensei, however, may well have died, as his next appearance is in the Deadman mini-series, set years earlier.

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The story concludes as Batman and Talia relax in a garden as she tends to his wounds.  The big battle with a bit of a let-down, but the ending is strong, if only because it is such an untypical, happy ending.

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Batgirl’s story, by Mike W Barr, John Calnan and Joe Giella, has her on the trail of someone who is trying to kill a b=famous ballet dancer.

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In order to keep an eye on the potential victim, Barbara goes undercover as a ballerina.  Probably wise, as the murder attempts just keep coming.

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The story has a sadly ironic resolution, as the wannabe killer is revealed as the ballet master’s son, who felt his father was keeping him out of the spotlight.  The father is devastated – he was planning to retire that night, and make his son the main dancer.

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Bob Rozakis and George Tuska craft an excellent Tales of Gotham City in this issue.  There is no talking, but the narrative relates a radio interview with a policeman about how women need to keep safe and know how to protect themselves.  As we read this, we watch a woman struggling to drive during a snowstorm.  Her car gets stuck, and she sees a shadowy man approach.

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The story has a happy ending – the man is a police officer – but it’s great to see that the woman is shown capable and prepared to defend herself.

So a good story, if not a really “Gotham”-y story.

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Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and John Calnan put Robin into the middle of an exam nightmare in this issue.

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After a teacher finds evidence that some students had the exam questions before the test, he announces that there will be second exam, the first was invalid.  Jennifer comes to tell Dick, and almost catches him in his Robin gear.  Perhaps he should change out of it before sleeping.

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The professor himself turns out to be the bad guy, selling the exam results for extra money.  Perhaps not a ground-breaking story, but certainly a realistic, university-based tale.

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Black Lighting, who had not been seen since an issue of World’s Finest the previous year, begins a short run in Detective with this issue.  Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin are teh creative team as high school teacher Jefferson Pierce dons his costume again to help another student.

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The story is a curious one.  It begins with the student kidnapped out of the school showers.

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The trail leads him to drug dealing gangs, and an aging voodoo queen, but even still, Black Lightning cannot make any sense of their actions.

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But the voodoo queen knows what she is doing, even if no one else does.  The story ends with an electrocuted Black Lightning and the student trapped together.

Detective 459 – a mystery writer’s murder, and Man-Bat ends

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Marty Pasko and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez craft a decent whodunnit in Detective 459 (May 1976), but unfortunately it really has little connection to Ernie Chan’s cover.

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The story deals with a successful mystery novelist, whose books always have a trademark “clue before dying.”  He is wealthy, successful arrogant, hated, and fairly obviously going to be the victim.

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His body is found, along with a clue left before dying.  But was the clue really his, or a distraction by the killer?

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Some good action scenes, and a solid mystery that plays fair.

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The concluding half of the Man-Bat story, also by Pasko, with art by Pablo Marcos, has the villain trying to draw supernatural energy off of Man-Bat and She-Bat.  Up to now, there had never been anything supernatural ascribed to them, and though by and large the Man-Bat stories would stay in the realm of the scientific, occasionally he would be portrayed as something magical.

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Much of this story has Kirk fighting the bad guy, both in human form, and as a demon.  It’s not clear which of the two forms is the villains true nature.

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Kirk manages to defeat him, and frees Francine, restoring her to human form.  The Langstroms return a year down the road, when Man-Bat gets a series in Batman Family.

Detective 458 – Batman and a tattooed victim, and Man-Bat begins

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Detective 458 (April 1976) is one of those issues that I loved as a kid, but that really don’t stand up well.

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Elliot S! Maggin and Ernie Chan tell this story, in which a policeman, dressed as Batman for a policeman’s ball, is murdered, with a tattoo on his forehead warning Batman.  Bruce Wayne happens to be at the ball, and Commissioner Gordon fills him in on everything.  Gordon also leaves it up to Batman to contact the widow.  Coward.

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There is a bit of a mystery as to which tattoo artist is behind it, but most of the story is Batman chasing people and beating them up for information.

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I do like the art at the story’s climax, the terrified face of the gunman as Batman approaches him.

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Man-Bat begins a two-part story, crafted out of the unpublished third issue of his own, quickly cancelled, series, by Marty Pasko, Pablo Marcos and Tex Blaisdel.

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The story has Kirk explaining his origin to his sister, as part of explaining why he has tied Francine to a bed.  She has fallen under the spell of an evil magician, who is forcing her to transform into She-Bat.

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Kirk changes to Man-Bat and follows Francine, and discovers that she has been turned into a stone gargoyle.  Oh no!

The story concludes next issue.

Adventure 478 – Aquaman, Starman and Plastic Man end

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Aquaman gets the cover for his final, really final, story in Adventure 478 (Dec 80), by Jean-Marc DeMatteis and Dick Giordano.

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Black Manta has gathered an army of homeless and disaffected people, and told them lies to make the Atlanteans seem like evil monsters.  Aquaman and Cal manage to escape, and Aquaman swims right by Manta and his men, who probably could have at least tried to stop him, but don’t.  They just…don’t.

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Pretty dumb move, as Aquaman convinces Vulko and the Atlanean troops to open the gates.  Must have done some really fast convincing, as it happens almost immediately.  But it works, and Manta’s men desert him.

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Mera captures Manta in a hard water bubble, and Cal Durham shows up as well, just as everything goes boom.

The story continues in Action Comics, as Aquaman’s series moves over there.

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Starman’s tale concludes a bit more than the Aquaman one does, but not by much.  Paul Levitz and Steve Ditko do bring Mn’torr’s story to an end though.  He is sentenced to death for saving Prince Gavyn, and as Starman showed up to try to save him, he faces the same sentence.

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Not content to die, Starman fights back against the monsters that are meant to kill them, saving Mn’torr once again.

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Meanwhile, Jediah Rikane and Lady Merria return to Throneworld, only to learn that Empress Clryssa is on her death bed.

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Mn’torr insists that, no matter how much Starman wants him to survive, his time is at an end, and dissolves in a really cool, very Ditko way, bequeathing Starman his staff of power.

As promised, the story does get resolved in an issue of DC Comics Presents, though not exactly “soon.”  More like eight months.

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Plastic Man’s story really does end.  And begin for that matter, as it’s complete in this issue, by Marty Pasko, with Joe Staton art.

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Plas and Woozy Winks deal with thieves who resemble Groucho Marx and Harpo, and I do like the layout of this page, integrating the building into the panel lay-out.

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Plastic Man’s series continues as a back-up in Super Friends, which it would fit in with pretty well.

Adventure 447 – The Fisherman returns, and the Creeper ends

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The Aquaman story in Adventure 447 (Oct 76) feels a bit like a filler issue, before the full length story in the following issue.  Paul Levitz, Marty Pasko and Jim Aparo craft a decent enough tale, but it really does little except lead up to the coming resolution.

After bidding farewell to Aqualad and Aquagirl, Aquaman pursues the gun-smuggling operation to a Civil War mementos factory on land, and falls into the hands of the Fisherman.

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The Fisherman is working as hired muscle for Black Manta, and his fight with Aquaman takes up most of the issue.  Only at the end do we see Manta and Karshon plotting together.  There is also a brief scene with Mera and Aquababy, presumably just to remind us they are part of the story as well.

The Karshon plotline concludes next issue.

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The third and final chapter of the Creeper story is a bit better than the previous two.  Not that Marty Pasko has remembered to make Jack Ryder abrasive, but Ric Estrada and Joe Staton’ s art is satisfactory.

It turns out the Maddox’s robot is acting on his unconscious whims, but no less deadly for that.  The Creeper manages to get him to face his creation, in order to stop it.

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That doesn’t work exactly as planned, as Maddox dies destroying the robot, but the physiotherapist gains the ability to walk again, even though the telepathy thing is a bit of a stretch.

Jack Ryder has a cameo in Teen Titans, and the Creeper next appears in Secret Society of Super-Villains.  His next run at a series is in World’s Finest Comics, with his creator, Steve Ditko, returning to helm the character.

Adventure 446 – Aquagirl returns, and the Creeper fights a robot

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Adventure 446 (Aug 76) was the first issue of Adventure Comics I ever bought.  Curiously, one the main reasons was the cover, which I now find overly busy.  But at 11 years old I loved Aquaman riding the giant seahorse, and the whole Aqua-Family on the banner, as well as the Creeper, whose story in Super-Team Family 2 I had really enjoyed.

Not being familiar with the characters, I thought Topo was an evil monster in the opening sequence, when it grabs Aquababy, rather than simply the boy’s babysitter.  To be fair, the previous issue sets it up to look like an attack as well.

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Robin has a cameo, as Aquaman tries to get information to Aqualad about Karshon being the new king of Atlantis. The story, by Paul Levitz and Marty Pasko, with art by Jim Aparo, uses that to transition to Aqualad and Tula, Aquagirl, on board a ship tracking down Black Manta.

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Tula had not appeared since the final issue of the Aquaman comic, and I had never seen her before, so I was genuinely concerned when she got tied up with an anchor and thrown overboard.  Of course, being an Atlantean that merely causes her some difficulty, not death.

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Aquaman joins the fray, and all three heroes take on Black Manta, who does the wise thing and flees, leaving behind the cargo of guns he was smuggling.  Aquaman is left to ponder the connection between Manta’s gun-running, and Karshon’s take-over of Atlantis.

And I just loved it.  I bought every issue for the duration of Aquman’s run in this book.

 

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On the other hand, I was not too impressed with the Creeper story, by Marty Pasko, with Pic Estrada and Joe Staton art.  Never cared for Joe Staton.  And it didn’t help that I hadn’t read the first part of the story.

The Creeper flees from the cops, and figures out a connection between the robots and a telekintic scientist, Maddox.  Just as it starts to pick up, with the physiotherapist being forced telekinetically to walk off her balcony while the Creeper is stuck fighting the robots, it ends.

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But as it concluded the following issue, I was not too distressed.

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