Posts tagged ‘Murphy Anderson’

Detective 480 – Batman fights a killing machine, and Hawkman fights the Pied Piper


I remember being so disappointed when I picked up Detective 480 (Nov./Dec. 78), and discovered it was not by the previous creative team.  Denny O’Neil and Don Newton craft a serviceable story, but it’s just not on par with what had come before.


The story deals with an overweight boy, hated and teased, unloved by his parents, who becomes a tool of a wealthy man who wants to create a living weapon.


Dr. Moon makes an appearance, the scientist behind the transformation.  Dr. Moon was always Denny O’Neil’s evil scientist of choice.  He had last appeared a few months earlier in Richard Dragon, Kung-Fu Fighter, and would return in a couple of years in the pages of Wonder Woman.


The boy does well against Batman for a while, but as soon as he starts to lose the man behind it all gets abusive and, realizing that he has been used, he kills the man instead of Batman.


Len Wein and Murphy Anderson are behind the Hawkman story in this issue, which pits him against the Pied Piper, who is selling his skills and weapons.


The Piper is working on sonic weaponry, and though he is selling his equipment, he is using the man who bought it to see how well it works against a superhero.


So even though Hawkman defeats the middle man, when he goes after the Pied Piper he has more advanced sonics to face.  Which he does, and wins.

Hawkman’s series is cancelled as part of the DC Implosion, but begins again in short order, in the pages of World’s Finest Comics.

Detective 432 – Batman and the torn up money, and the Atom begins


Dick Giordano does the cover art for Detective 432 (Feb. 73), while Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson tell the tale of a distinct lack of trust among thieves.  I am tempted to say this story is inspired by the opening half hour or so of “Diamonds are Forever,” as the plots are almost the same.


After a man is murdered during a mugging, Batman discovers that the briefcase the man was carrying contains a million dollars in bills torn in half.  With Commissioner Gordon, they deduce that this is the loot from a major robbery, committed by an entire gang.  Batman impersonates the dead man, taking the torn money to follow the trail.


Batman avoids the exploding rental car the man was meant to die in, and follows the girl who set him up, after she grabs the money.  But she gets taken out next, and Batman continues to follow the new killer.


The gang had torn the loot so that no one could run off with it, but their continued distrust of each other turned them against each other, so in the end Batman simply has to nab the sole survivor.  They made it easy on him, really.


The Atom story in this issue, by Elliot S! Maggin and Murphy Anderson, was meant to begin a rotating position in Detective, as with Jason Bard, Elongated Man and Hawkman, but the suspension of the rotating back-ups a few months down the road meant that this was his only tale in Detective at this time.  A few years down the road, the Atom would return to Detective, but his solo series ran more often in Action Comics in the 70s and 80s.


Jean Loring’s client announces on the witness stand that he will vanish, and promptly does so. Ray Palmer recognizes the lights that accompanied his disappearance as those from the Time Pool, and goes to see Profesor Hyatt, who tells him of its unusual behaviour.  As the Atom, Ray descends into the Time Pool on the track of the vanishing thief.


He winds up in Chicago, just minutes before the outbreak of the Great Fire, and though he finds the man, the time trip has driven him insane.  He winds up dying in the past, so although Ray solves the mystery, he has nothing to show for it.  Still, the story is entertaining and the art, particularly the splash page, is top drawer.

Detective 397 – Batman and the crazed collector, and Batgirl looks for a date


O’Neil, Adams and Giordano return for Detective 397 (March 1970), for a less supernatural, but still very powerful, tale.


The story also briefly introduces us to Cathy, Bruce Wayne’s housekeeper, who appears only in this story.


The villain of the tale is a reclusive millionaire, Orson Payne, who collects art that reminds him of the opera singer he loved and lost.  If the art reminds him of her, he must have it, whether the owner has any desire to sell or not.  The violence and theft this entails brings Batman onto the case.


Adams and Giordano do exceptional work on this story.  Payne’s mansion is stunning, the art works are beautifully executed, and the man himself is shown in glorious madness.


Payne attempts to kill Batman.  He fails, and almost dies himself, pursuing an illusory image of his lost love.  After sending Payne to prison, Bruce realizes that Cathy is really Caterina Vallance, the opera singer he loved and tried to control, who fled her entire life simply to get away from him.


Batgirl’s quest for the Orchid Killer concludes in this issue, a story by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson.


Jason Bard turns out to be the one who grabbed her, as he is pursuing the same case.  Barbara once again tries to lure the killer, but seems to get yet another innocent man.


In fact, all the men she has encountered, except for Jason, are the same man, disguising himself.  Batgirl takes the killer down.  Jason remains jealously protective of Barbara.


Detective 396 – Batman and the millionaire biker, and Batgirl goes after a woman killer


It;s back to Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella for Detective 396 (Feb. 70), as Batman comes to the aid of a young millionaire who spends his life on his motorbike.


Crooks learn that he delivers his stock orders while biking, and bug his machine, but he dictates in code, and they are forced to kidnap him.  When he starts selling Wayne stock, Bruce gets alerted, and figures out the situation.


It’s not a bad story, not great.  The one thing I do like about it is that the ugly new Batmobile, which appeared a few issues earlier with its awful yellow trim, gets trashed at the end.


Batgirl goes after a serial killer who uses a dating agency to find his prey in this 2-part story by Frank Robbins, with art by Kane and Anderson.


The killer, who gives his victims orchids before strangling them, seems to have a liking for the “Plain Jane” type, so Barbara does herself up that way, and joins the dating agency, in hopes of luring the killer.


Her date does bring her an orchid, and she attacks, but the poor man is simply mystified.  The story does end on a cliffhanger, and she gets grabs from behind.

Detective 395 – “The Secret of the Waiting Graves,” and Robin joins the protest


With Detective 395 (Jan. 70) Batman took another step towards the dark knight, thanks to Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.  While the stories by Frank Robbins had enmeshed Batman in a world of real street crime, this story moved the character to the verge of the supernatural, taking advantage of the gothic craze from the early 70s, and adding a new darkness to the character.


The story takes Bruce Wayne to Mexico, where he meets the reclusive Juan and Dolores Muerto.  Although the couple seems open and friendly, Batman has already spotted the violence occurring on their estate.


One of the other party guests turns out to be a government agent.  The Muertos own a ruined monastery, in which grow hundreds of “sibyl” plants, which give immortality, but at the cost of madness.  The plants are illegal, and the agent is out to get the Muertos, but they get him first.


Batman doesn’t fare too much better than the Mexican cop, getting caught and thrown into the monastery, where he is subject to the effects of the flowers, and of Neal Adams love for psychedelic panels.


Batman sets fire to the monastery and the flowers, and the story comes to a pure horror comic conclusion, with the Muertos rapidly aging and falling into their pre-dug graves.

While Detective Comics would stay largely within the realm of realistic crimes for the next few years, the supernatural element from this story would play big time in early 70s Batman.


Robin’s story, by Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, concludes in this issue.  Robin confronts Fire-Brand Fran and Jonah about being in league with the phony cops.


It then turns out that the student radicals are really foreign agents trying to destroy the US.   That’s a kind of shocking dismissal of the issues that were being protested on US college campuses at the time, and later Robin stories would deal with those issues in a much more intelligent way.


Detective 394 – Batman and Robin miss each other, but fight crime anyway


Batman spends a fair bit of his story missing Robin, and at the end of his tale he and Alfred eagerly read a letter from Dick, the contents of which are the narrative for his story, in Detective 394 (Dec. 69).


Batman’s story, by Robbins, Brown and Giella, involves his new Victims, Incorporated program, and a race car driver, shot while competing, who believes Bruce to have hired the killer.

Which, of course, he didn’t, but as Batman he hunts down the actual bad guy, a rival driver.


Robin’s story, by Frank Robbins, while similar to Friedrich’s tale of unions and riots at his high school, is far more suited to the rebellious university life of 1969.


Kane and Anderson handle the art as Dick arrives at Hudson University, and immediately gets caught up in student protests, lead by Fire-Brand Fran and Jonah Ram.


Robin realizes they have hired fake police to bust up and arrest the protestors, and wonders what their goal is.

The story continues next issue.


Detective 393 – Batman moves out of Wayne Manor, and Batgirl fights alongside Jason Bard


As Robin prepares to head off to college, he and Batman have their last case together, in Detective 393 (Nov. 69), by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella.


They also move out of Wayne Manor in this issue, poor Alfred reduced to tears.  Their new residence is not shown until next month’s Batman.


The remainder of the story deals with a street kid Bruce and Dick take under their wing, who falls under the spell of a wealthy party girl.


She uses the boy to get back at her negligent parents, but is being used in turn by other criminals, and Batman has to fix everything.


The concluding half of the story introducing Jason Bard, by Robbins, Kane and Anderson sees Jason and Batgirl work together to solve the murder mystery, while Jason never clues on that she is really Barbara Gordon.


That doesn’t make him much of a detective, but between that and his bad knee, it gives Batgirl the chance to shine in her own series.


His knee is also good for some dramatic visuals when it goes out.  This chapter is largely action, as the last was set-up, but together they make one of the better stories of Batgirl’s run in Detective.

Detective 392 – Batman impersonates someone else, and Batgirl meets Jason Bard


Detective 392 (Oct. 69) features another of the hard boiled detective action tales that Frank Robbins loves to write, with art by Bob Brown and Joe Giella.


Batman meets with a gangland informer, only to have the informer try to kill him.  Both fall into the water, but only the informer emerges, returning to the praise of his mobster boss.


But the gang is haunted by hints that Batman is still alive, and none are quick enough to figure out that Batman is impersonating the informer, which is really not that hard to guess.


Barbara Gordon meets Jason Bard in this Frank Robbins tale, with art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson.


Jason is a private detective and Vietnam vet, wounded in action and requiring a cane.  He and Barbara meet through the library, and discover their shared interest in a series of crimes.  Jason explains his deduction that the killer was over 7 feet tall.


They go to a basketball game to look for suspects, and the story gets quite entertaining as each lies to the other in order to get away and pursue their suspicions.  Batgirl winds up coming to Jason’s help against some hoods.

The story concludes next issue.

Detective 391 – Ginny Jenkins returns, and Robin’s school goes on strike


Ginny Jenkins, who had claimed to be Mrs. Bruce Wayne in her first appearance, makes her second and final bow in Detective 391 (Sept. 69), in a story by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella.


This time round she is being romantically pursued by Tim Clark, a masseur at a spa frequented by mobsters, one of whom happens to be a newspaper publisher, and Ginny’s boss.


Tim tries to warn Ginny away from the boss, but she refuses to believe him.  Tim decides to dress up as Batman, as so many people have done in the last year or so.


Tim fails to convince Ginny to leave her job, and fails to stop the mobsters from beating him silly, but once the read Batman swoops in and exposes the payoff scheme with the restaurant reviews, Ginny realizes the truth and lives happily even after with Tim.

I kind of like it when a minor character returns for another story, and then disappears this way.  Were Batman real, there would be many people whose lives he touched tangentially, and then moved on, like Ginny Jenkins.


It’s strike action at Dick Grayson’s high school in this Mike Freidrich tale, with art by Kane and Anderson.


Robin gets on the trail of the hoods who forced the school board head to launch the strike, and discover that they are in the pay of a developer, backing the strike so that the budget would go to construction of a new building on land he owned.


Again, not much about this story feels like the world of a high school teen, but it’s a good tale nonetheless.


Detective 390 – the man who makes Batman’s costumes, and Robin tries to avert a teacher’s strike


Batman is usually assumed to have made his own costumes, or to have had Alfred make them for him, but in the Frank Robbins/Bob Brown/Joe Giella tale from Detective 390 (Aug. 69), he has a tailor, Sam Tweed, make them for him.


This becomes significant when a new villain in town, the Masquerader, has his men keep attacking Batman and trying to tear of bits of his costume, until he finally retrieves one with the tailor’s name on the tag.  Which Batman just left there.


Batman gets a new costume from Tweed, but finds a Masquerader costume in the box as well.  Calling Tweed, they reach the villain who tells Batman he is holding Tweed until Batman comes to give himself up.


Batman realizes it’s a trap, but has not clued in to the fact that Tweed is really the Masquerader.  He went on working on Batman’s costumes for years, planning the day when he could lure him into a specially made shrinking suit and kill him.

It doesn’t work.  Should have stuck with his day job.


Dick Grayson’s high school is the location for this Mike Freidrich story, with art by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson.  We see the Dick works on the school newspaper, and is heavily involved in the school’s politics, as strike negotiations hold his interest.


As Robin, he breaks up an unusual post-game riot, which feels to him like it was not really the opposing school attacking them.


As the story ends, the head of the school board is forced by a mysterious phone call to reject the teacher’s offer, and a strike is announced.

While this is not a bad story, largely a set-up for the following issue, it is unusual to have such a tale given to Robin.  It is a high school story, but not a teenage one.

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