Posts tagged ‘Mike Kaluta’

Detective 438 – the monster of Wayne Manor, and Manhunter goes to a bank

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Detective Comics goes to 100 page size with issue 438 (Dec./Jan. 73).  It’s mostly reprints, and between this and the similarly sized Batman comic, they reprint the Outsider and Zatanna sagas over the next few months.

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The lead story, by Archie Goodwin, with art by Jim Aparo and a cover by Mike Kaluta, deals with reports of a monster seen lurking around the, currently abandoned, Wayne Manor.  Bruce and Alfred are, for obvious reasons, extremely reluctant to let anyone go poking around there, especially a ghost hunter who has just arrived in Gotham.

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When Alfred gets attacked, Bruce has no option but to allow an investigation.  We see the monster at this point, and it’s clearly a human, with something very wrong with him. The monster is, in fact, Ubu, the henchman of Ra’s Al Ghul, wounded after his last encounter with Batman, and seeking vengeance.  And Batman’s suspicions about the ghost hunter also prove to be correct, that he is entwined with the League of Assassins as well.  Ubu kills the ghost hunter, but is captured by Batman.

Ubu’s near death state in this story, followed by his hale and hearty appearance when next seen, is the first indication that Ubu is likely a title, rather than name, and that there have been a few of them.

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Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter continues in this issue, as we meet Damon, Christine St. Clair’s boss.

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This chapter details more of the observations Christine has made of Paul Kirk.  He went to a bank in Swizerland to withdraw money from an account dormant since the 1940s, looking much like he did back then.  He seems to be being followed by ninja assassins, although he consistently defeats them.

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To make things even more puzzling, his attackers wear similar costumes, although blue instead of red, and all look like Paul Kirk as well.  And while Christine is on the up and up, we see that there is more to Damon, who burns her report at story’s end.

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Detective 434 -The Spook debuts, and Hawkman ends

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Mike Kaluta does the cover for Detective 434 (April 1973), the first half of the introduction of the Spook, a major player against Batman in the 70s.

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The Spook is introduced by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and  Dick Giordano, materializing in a cell in Gotham’s new high security prison, offering the man incarcerated , Big Turk, a way out.  The Spook blinds the man with dust first, to keep it a secret.

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No one can figure out how the escape was done, but Batman does manage to round up Big Turk, and has him in the Batmobile when the Spook suddenly appears in the road before him.  Batman gets out to investigate, but the Spook vanishes.  More frustratingly, so do the Batmobile and his prisoner!

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While Batman is getting humiliated by having the police return the abandoned Batmobile to him, we get to see the Spook’s lair, and his intricate monitoring system, while he gives his sales pitch to a hood.  For a price, the Spook will ensure to free anyone who gets captured.

There is nothing supernatural in the way this character is played, despite his name.  Anything that gets explained, is shown to be scientific in nature, or a trick.

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At story’s end, Batman disguises himself as Big Turk, and heads to prison, in order to get to face the Spook and see his game for himself.

The story concludes next issue.

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Hawkman solves a puzzling mystery in this issue, about the serial thief who keeps getting caught, but the stolen goods keep vanishing.

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E Nelson Bridwell scripts, with Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano on the art.  Hawkman eventually figures out that the thefts were done earlier, and the “stolen goods” he was caught with were dissolving duplicates.  Kind of impressive scientific stuff for a thief.  Bet he stole the secret on how to do that.

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This is Hawkman’s last solo story before he is ordered back to Thanagar, and resigns his position with the Justice League.  In a couple of years he gets exiled, and returns to Earth, and his next solo story is also in the pages of Detective.

Detective 428 – Batman meets Shotgun Smith, and Hawkman begins

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Another Kalauta cover on Detective 428 (Oct. 72), as Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Dick Giordano introduce Shotgun Smith, the toughest cop in Gotham City, a character inspired by Gene Hackman’s Popeye Doyle in The French Connection

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As with the movie, drug dealers are the main focus of this story. Unlike the movie, the character has a young daughter, which makes him more vulnerable.

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Batman and Shotgun Smith disagree over methods, and it’s kind of bizarre to see Batman coming down on him for not proceeding through proper police procedures.  But also necessary to build some animosity between the two as the story kicks off.

Batman comes to suspect that Smith is actually working with the biggest drug lord in Gotham, using his position as a cop to take out his rivals.

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The story comes to a highly satisfying conclusion, as we learn that Shotgun was using Batman as part of his cover, as he tried to convince the drug lord he was working with him, in order to protect his daughter. In this instance, Batman is not angry about being manipulated at all.

While he never becomes a significant supporting character, Shotgun Smith does return on occasion.

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Hawkman begins as one of the rotating back-up features, in a story by E. Nelson Bridwell, with art by Dick Dillin and Joe Giella.  Hawkman had not had a solo series since the cancellation of Atom and Hawkman, but continued to appear as a member of the Justice League.

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The story in this one is almost alarmingly simple. A series of thefts of valuable objects have occurred in a old mansion in Midway City.  The stolen goods have been replaced by immaculate forgeries, which indicates that this has been going on for some time.  Hawkman investigates, and the thief reveals himself, coming out of a secret passage.  They fight for a bit, and Hawkman wins.  The end.

Detective 426 – Batman plays Russian roulette, and the Elongated Man begins, again

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A powerful Kaluta cover on Detective 426 (Aug. 72), and a good story by Frank Robbins – and one on which I feel his art style works perfectly.

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Batman comes across a thief in a home with a dead man.  At first, it looks like murder, but the thief protests his innocence, and Batman realizes the man died playing Russian roulette.

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A series of similar death follow, and the trail leads Bruce Wayne out onto a gambling ship, where he meets Conway Treach.  Treach is on the prowl for compulsive and extreme gamblers, challenging them to Russian roulette.

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The story climaxes with Batman and Treach playing, as the bullets decrease but neither gets shot.  Probably my favourite single page of art by Robbins.

Batman has spotted the trick, a latch Treach presses to prevent a bullet from going into the firing chamber, and uses it as well. A solid, intense story.

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The Elongated Man returns to the pages of Detective Comics in this issue, with a fun little story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  The Elongated Man would alternate with Atom and Hawkman and Jason Bard at this point, but his series would continue sporadically in the back pages of Detective throughout the 70s and into the 80s.

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In the desert, Ralph and Sue come across a dying man in divers gear.  The only form of civilization around is an abandoned western film set, but Ralph finds blind fish, leading him to an underwater lake, and the criminals who are hiding their loot, and killed the member of the gang who tried to betray them.

Detective 425 – Batman solves a MacBeth murder, and Jason Bard begins

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Great Bernie Wrightson cover for Detective 425 (July 1972), as Batman investigates murderous intentions plaguing Shakespeare in the Park in this story by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano.

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The story deals with straightforward attempts at murder, no use is made of the superstitions surrounding producing MacBeth, but the story is very good anyway.  The director has modernized the production, making it controversial (it’s 1972, remember).

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There are the usual issues of romance and jealousy, as well as the controversy over the show.  As far as typical backstage mysteries go, this one is only missing the gangsters.

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O’Neil works in a fair amount of dialogue from the play itself, but again, doesn’t use it for anything other than background.  The vital clue is fairly simple, but not overly obvious, making this a completely satisfying little mystery tale.

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Jason Bard moves from supporting character to series star in this issue. Sadly, he brings along Don Heck, as well as Frank Robbins, from the Batgirl series.

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This first case involved a fellow Vietnam vet, Matt Clay, who is wanted for murder.  Jason has a hard time believing his friend could be the crazed killer the media are making him out to be, but winds up coming across his recently murdered psychiatrist, whose secretary insists Clay is the killer.

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Jason manages to find his friend, who has indeed gone off the deep end mentally, but is not a killer. Knowing that, he realizes the secretary must be lying, and killed her boss herself, and spots the vital clue to prove it.

Not a bad story, except for the art.  Jason Bard’s series continues, alternating with the Elongated Man, the Atom, and Hawkman over the next couple of years.

 

Detective 424 – Batman deals with a bank robbery gone wrong, and Batgirl ends

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Another dramatic Kaluta cover for Detective 424 (June 1972), as Batman gets a good mystery tale and Batgirl’s series comes to its conclusion.

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The story, by Frank Robbins, with art by Brown and Giordano, begins as Batman and Commissioner Gordon review the tapes of a bank robbery in which a civilian got killer. Gordon bemoans it as a tragic accident, but Batman’s suspicions are aroused by the fact that the bank robber did not shoot at the guard, but instead at the clock near him.

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Investigating the dead man, Batman finds that his widow is not at all pleased with the news that her husband’s death may not have been an accident.  Batman expects her to contact the bank guard, but instead she calls a different man and discusses killing the guard to silence him.

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Batman saves the guard from being killed, and then impersonates him in order to draw out a confession from the other man in the scheme, the widow’s lover, with whom she plotted this murderous scenario.

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Batgirl’s series reaches it finale with this Frank Robbins and Don Heck story, set on the day of the election.

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Barbara had to deal not only with her rival candidate, but also with organized crime, attempting to stop her supporters from voting.  Once again, she spends more of this story as Barbara than as Batgirl.

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It’s Jason Bard who really gets to be the hero of this story, anyway.  He picks up on the clues and figures out the plan to bomb Barbara during her acceptance speech.

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And while it’s a bit odd (and somewhat demeaning) to have Jason rescue Batgirl in her own series, she is busy winning an election, and he is about to gain his own series.

Batgirl heads off to Washington to be a Congresswoman, and is not seen again for over a year.  She returns in an issue of Superman, a story so popular it revived her character, and she would get her own series back, in the pages of Batman Family.

Detective 423 – Batman oversees a prisoner exchange, and Batgirl runs for congress

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Mike Kaluta gives an interesting perspective on the cover for Detective 423 (May 1972), as Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Dick Giordano relate this cold war story.

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The basic premise of the story is clear enough – protecting a spy being traded for one imprisoned in a foreign nation (pretty obviously Russia).  Disgruntled right wing militiamen are trying to kill the spy to prevent that, unaware that the spy being sent back is really a double agent.

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While not a really great story, it certainly does show off Batman’s organizational abilities, and his competence compared to the police.

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Picking up right where the last issue ended, Barbara Gordon announces her intention to run for congress, and her dad willingly cedes his campaign to her, in this tale by Robbins and Heck.

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She runs a populist campaign, promising to boot the fat cats out of Washington, and gains the nickname Boots Gordon.  Jason Bard works on her campaign, as does another man, who brings in a lot of donations, although he then turns around and steals them.

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It’s probably a good thing he did, as it gives Barbara a chance to get into action as Batgirl for a few panels.  Otherwise, this is a Barbara Gordon tale, more than a Batgirl one.

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