Posts tagged ‘Mike Grell’

Detective 464 – Batman vs Black Spider, and the Calculator vs Black Canary

 

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Black Spider’s introductory story concludes in Detective 464 (Oct. 76), in a Gerry Conway story, with art by Chan and McLaughlin.

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Batman does not get hit by the airplane, but Black Spider manages to kill one of the deplaning passengers, and get away.  Batman hunts the streets looking for information on him, and learns the past of a “friend” of the Spider.  A kid who became a junkie and turned to crime to pay for his habit, eventually killing his own father.

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It’s hardly a surprise when Batman unmasks Black Spider, and reveals him to be the junkie, now clean, but determined to do away with those who profited from his addiction.  Black Spider appears to die at the end of the story, though Batman doubts it.  And indeed, he returns a couple years down the road in the pages of Batman.

I should have mentioned that City Councillor Arthur Reeves, who despises Batman, is re-introduced.  He has a small role, complaining to Gordon about Batman, at the start of the previous issue, and conclusion to this one.

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The Calculator returns, this time in Star City, where he faces off against Black Canary, in a story by Bob Rozakis, Mike Grell and Terry Austin.

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His plan is to steal the city’s Founder’s Day, by creating a deadly heat wave – one made worse by Black Canary every time she uses her sonic cry.

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She wins by pushing things as far as she can with her cry, which causes the Calculator’s device to melt and short out, but not before he presses his special button!

 

Detective 463 – Black Spider debuts, and the Calculator vs the Atom

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It’s Batman vs Spider-Man!  Nope, not even close.  Detective 463 (Sept. 76) introduces the Black Spider, a murderous vigilante, created by Gerry Conway, Ernie Chan and Frank McLaughlin.

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It’s a 2-part story, and this first issue spends much of it’s time setting up the antagonist.  Batman and Gordon are pursuing leads in Gotham’s drug trade, but the dealers they are after keep getting murdered.

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Batman manages to confront the Black Spider towards the end of the story.  Despite his name, and his web-swinging appearance on the cover, mostly he shoots people.

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The Black Spider manages to get away from Batman, leaving him on a tarmac in front of a landing plane.

The story concludes next issue.

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Technically, this is a one-shot back-up story featuring the Atom, but really, it is the start of a six-part story introducing the Calculator.  Bob Rozakis, Mike Grell and Terry Austin provide the art for this instalment.

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In Ivy Town, the Calculator attacks a scientist who has invented an earthquake predicting machine.  Throughout this run, the Calculator would steal things on “the day they were worth the most.”  In this one, he steals the scientist’s life on the day of his big success.

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The Atom captures the Calculator, but the villain does not seem to mind.  He presses a button on his keypad, and happily plots his next crime while in prison.

 

 

Detective 455 – Batman battles a vampire

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Mike Grell’s art is the real star of Detective 455 (Jan. 76), and Elliot S! Maggin’s story is serviceable enough to let it fly.

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Bruce Wayne and Alfred are travelling through the countryside when their car breaks down near a crumbling old mansion.  Investigating, they immediately find a coffin.

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The vampire then shows up, announcing exactly what he is, allowing the rest of the story to be the battle.  The vampire in this story bears more than a passing resemblance to Christopher Lee’s Dracula from the Hammer horror films.

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Batman figures out that this is a special vampire, whose back story he just happens to know, who hid his heart so he cannot be destroyed.

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Lots of fighting between the two men, but it all looks just great.

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Batman correctly guesses that the vampire’s heart is hidden in the ridiculously loud grandfather clock, and fires an arrow into it, killing the vampire.

Detective 445 – Bat-Murderer continues, and Robin begins, again

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Len Wein and Jim Aparo’s Bat-Murderer saga has its second chapter in Detective 445 (Feb./March 1975).

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Jack Ryder cameos, recapping the previous issue’s events, and setting up his larger role to come next issue.  Alfred actually asks Batman if he did it, but really we can excuse that lack of faith as the necessary set-up to hear Batman’s side of the “murder.”

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Batman figures that Ra’s Al Ghul must have some knowledge of what is going on, or possible be behind it, and breaks into Gotham prison to question him.  Ra’s openly admits to being behind his daughter’s death, and then promptly pulls out a gun and kills himself.

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In a really nice touch, Batman escapes the prison using one of the Spook’s passages.  But now he is wanted for two murders.

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Robin’s series moves back into Detective from Batman, after a year with no solo tales, in this story by Bob Rozakis and Mike Grell.  Robin joins the rotating back-up slot.

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Robin is still at Hudson University, but his previous supporting cast and campus issue based stories are done.  This tale deals with vandalism of a football from a historic game, and a long held grudge leading to a murder attempt.

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The story isn’t bad, and Grell’s art is a treat.  Police captain Frank McDonald is introduced, and will be a part of the Robin series for the next few years.

Adventure 440 – The Spectre ends, and the Crimson Avenger chapter of Seven Soldiers of Victory

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Mike Fleisher and Jim Aparo bring their run on the Spectre to a suitably unhappy ending with Adventure 440 (Aug 75).

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As with the 1940’s origin story from More Fun Comics, Jim Corrigan gets set up by a stool pigeon named Louie, and murdered by the mob.  His corpse is dropped off with Gwen Sterling, in a grisly sequence.

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The voice that give him his powers restores him to his undead life, and turns him back into the Spectre.

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He exacts his vengeance on his killers in horrific fashion, as is his wont.

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And though Gwen gets to find out that he is back, he leaves her.  Downer, but great.

This series would remain popular over the years, and would be collected in the 80s in a mini-series called Wrath of the Spectre.  The final issue of that would include three new stories by Fleisher and Aparo, which would also bring Earl Crawford back.

The Spectre would continue to make guest appearances across the DC Universe.  His next solo series would be a brief run in the early 80s in the comic Ghosts.

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Mike Grell takes the art for the Crimson Avenger chapter of the Seven Soldiers of Victory serial, as he and Wing wind up at a royal banquet.

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It’s a story mildly reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland, with fluids that make the Crimson Avenger and Wing grow and shrink.

Adventure 437 – The Spectre faces suicide bombers and Aquaman ends, again

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Adventure 437 (Feb 75) is the final issue to feature the word “Weird” on the cover, and leads off with a Spectre story by Mike Fleisher, with art by Ernie Chan and Jim Aparo.

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The villain is a mad scientist who has a mind control device, and goons who kidnap people that he programs to act as human bombs, getting them to steal for him.

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The goons make the fatal mistake of kidnapping Gwen Sterling, which of course gets the Spectre on his case.  This is the only story in the run where there isn’t a really well shown horrific death for the villain, though the Spectre does force him into a tank of man-eating fish.

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The final Aquaman back-up story, by Paul Levitz and Mike Grell, has him attempting to day a day off  from kinging, but winding up dealing with Black Manta, an undersea monster and a child in peril anyway.

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Throughout these three stories, Mera has been around, but mostly standing silently.  She speaks more words in the panel above than in the rest of the three stories combined.

Nevertheless, this back-up feature was popular enough that Aquaman would return to headline Adventure in another few issues.

Adventure 436 – The Spectre takes on terrorists and Aquaman deals with robots

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Earl Crawford returns, once again following Corrigan to try to find the connection between him and the Spectre, in Adventure 436 (Dec 74), by Mike Fleisher and Jim Aparo.

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A militaristic terrorist group, who use poison gas, are the bad guys in this story.

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And again, Crawford winds up on the scene in time to see the Spectre’s horrific murders of the group.  There is an unfortunate sameness to the tales, the originality pretty much confined to the methods of death.  The one thing that makes it stand out is that it is the hero who performs the frightening deeds, rather than the villain.

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Aqualad returns to the pages of Adventure for this story, written by Steve Skeates with Mike Grell art, as Aquaman deals with a robot duplicate.

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The robot was commissioned by Aquaman to relieve him of the kingly duties he finds “boring.”  Although not intended at the time, this can be seen as the start of his dissatisfaction with being king, and alienation from his people, that would grow throughout the 1970s Aquaman stories.

The Bugala, an undersea monster that Aqualad dealt with in the old Aquaman comic, returns in this story, although it turns out to be a robot as well.

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The Aquaman robot was drawing the Bugala robot to the city, and the final panels show that Black Manta was behind this attack as well.

Aqualad next appears in Aquaman’s next run in Adventure Comics.

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