Posts tagged ‘Mysto’

Detective 500 – 4 Batman stories, two of them team-ups, scads of detectives, and Elongated Man and Hawkman end

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Many anniversary issue build themselves up as being something really special, but few live up to their promise.  Detective 500 (March 1981) is one of the rare ones.  It’s not all gold, but enough of it is.

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The first story, by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, bring us to a parallel world, where a new Batman is about to be born.

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The Phantom Stranger brings Batman and Robin to this world, seemingly so that Bruce will have the opportunity to prevent his parents’ deaths.

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They find this world similar, but different.  James Gordon is still just a lieutenant, and Barbara , though a librabrian, is his fiancee, not his daughter.  Bruce is hunting for information on Joe Chill, while Dick discovers that this is a world with no heroic legends, no caped heroes, nothing to inspire heroism.

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Observing the Waynes, we see that Bruce is hardly a baby hero, more like a rich spoiled brat, but Batman is blind to this.

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Batman’s pursuit of Joe Chill, who on this world is not even from Gotham, and just arriving in the city, brings him into conflict with Gordon, but Batman manages to convince him that they are friends on another world.

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His search for Chill has raised such flags that the man is murdered by the Gotham mobs.  Batman learns that the planned murder of the Waynes is happening sooner than he expected – he had not counted the extra days from leap years.

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Robin, who has been watching the Waynes, sees the murder about to occur, and struggles within himself, thinking that is might be meant to be; but Batman swoops in saves the day, his parents, and himself.

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The Phantom Stranger takes the heroes back to their own world, and they are left to wonder what will become of Bruce, but the reader gets to see the impact the attempted murder had, and that even with his parents alive, young Bruce is on the road to becoming Batman.

Sadly, this is not a parallel world we ever visit again.

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Slam Bradley gets the billing, but this story, a re-write of a Batman tale from the 40s, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, is pretty much a free for all with a vast line-up of detectives.

They are all at a celebration for an older detective, who gets murdered in front of them.

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The original version of this story has Batman working with a number of detective based on famous fictional ones from the era.  This story brings Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target and Roy Raymond together on the case.

For Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith and Slam Bradley, this the first time the character appeared since the end of their own series.

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There are leads in a number of directions, which allow the detectives to split up and pursue them in smaller groups.  The story gives everyone at least one moment to shine, and they wind up stopping a number of bad guys.

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Slam suspects there is more to the case, and it’s Roy Raymond who provides the real solution, that this was an elaborate suicide, designed to prompt the men to tidy up some hanging cases of his.

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Jason Bard and the Human Target both return in the pages of Detective within the next couple of years, while Roy Raymond pops up in DC Comics Presents.  Many of the rest have their next, and final, appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Slam Bradley returns a little after Crisis, returning to the pages of Detective for one story.

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The next story in the issue is a wonderful 2-pager, by Len Wein and Walt Simonson, that uses Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” as it’s text.  Clever, and visually gorgeous.

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The Elongated Man gets his final solo story in this book, by Mike W Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  As well as being a decent mystery story on its own, it delves into the facts around the death of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Chiefly, the identity of the mysterious “Reynolds” that Poe called out for shortly before dying.  The story has to do with a letter explaining who Reynolds was, and leading to an unpublished magazine by Poe.

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Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, and Ralph and Sue are always fun to read about.

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One of his best mysteries, this is also the Elongated Man’s last solo story until his miniseries in the 90s.

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On the downside of the issue, there is this text story by Walter Gibson, with some scattered art by Tom Yeates.  I recall reading this as a kid, but not finding it particularly memorable.  And I dislike text stories like this in comics.  If I’m going to read a book, I’ll read a book.  I read comics for the visuals.

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Hawkman also has his last solo story in Detective in this issue.  Well, kind of a solo, really he and Hawkgirl get equal roles.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert helm this tale, that sees Katar and Shayera trying to solve the mystery of the death of a scientist many years earlier.

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There’s some great Kubert art, and the story itself is not bad, but it’s a bit of a tease.

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At the end, Hawkman reveals that the scientist whose death they were investigating was Dr. Erdel, who had died after bringing the Martian Manhunter to Earth.  J’onn had blamed himself, and Hawkman wanted proof that it was not J’onn’s fault.

Hawkman’s next solo outing is the Shadow War of Hawkman miniseries.

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The final story in this issue was also a let-down to me.  Even moreso, as it’s a Batman/Deadman team-up, and those had been above average stories, on the whole.  But Carmine Infantino’s art is not what it was, and Cary Bates’ story doesn’t help much either.

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Pursuing some criminals, Batman gets killed.  Sort of.  Almost dead.  Robin is really stressed, but Deadman shows up and decides to inhabit Batman’s body to bring his killers to justice.

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Oops, someone spilled a plate of scrambled eggs on the comic.  Oh, wait, that’s Infantino’s art for showing Batman and Deadman conversing on the astral plane.

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Deadman moves Batman around and catches the bad guys, and doing so ignites the spark that brings him back to life.  A shame this story closed the issue.  It would have done less damage buried in the middle.

Detective 212 – Batman battles giant puppets, and Mysto ends

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Over the years, Batman faced a number of villains who went by the name of Puppet Master, or used puppets in their crimes,  but the one in Detective 213 (Oct. 54) is my favourite, just because his puppets are the largest.

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Bill Finger and Dick Sprang created this story, in which puppeteers Jonathan Bard is so determined to win a puppeteer competition that he sabotages his rival’s puppets.  Booted out of the contest, he turns to a life of crime, as many puppeteers do.

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And above are the giant puppets that he uses>  Got to be impressed, though it’s difficult to figure out how he could be manipulating these from above.  He captures Batman and Robin, intending to turn them into puppets, but fails.

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Mysto makes his final appearance in this issue.

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After having to do an emergency landing out in the country, he discovers a town in which the residents have become prey to a group of carnys and their fixed games.

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Mysto uses his sleight of hand skills to outwit their games and expose them to the people.  The gang catches Mysto and tries to kill him, but he gets free and rounds them up.

Mysto’s series ends, as the comic decreases its page count.  Of the three back-up series, this was undoubtedly the most difficult to come up with stories for, which is likely why it was the one dropped.  Mysto returns in Detective 500, so clearly he does not retire.  I expect he simply took his act on the road, so to speak, and travelled the world using his abilities to solve crimes.

Detective 211 – Batman vs Catwoman on a tropical island, and Mysto impersonates an escape artist

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Catwoman returns in Detective 211 (Sept. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton and Dick Sprang that marks her final appearance until 1966.

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She has a Cat-plane in this story,a deadly device capable of shredding the Batplane, although the end result is that both planes crash on a tropical island.

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On the island, Catwoman’s gang repeatedly try to kill Batman and Robin, but she goes out of her way to save them.

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In the end, that means actually working with the heroes she had tried to capture, using her control of the cats on the island to begin a stampede that takes out her gang.

She escapes at the end of the story, and is not seen again for over a decade.  Again, this was due to the repressive nature of the time.  A hero could not have a romance with a villain, so Catwoman had to go away.  It’s shocking to realize that Catwoman’s next appearance was on the tv series, and it was only the success of that which brought the character back into the comics.

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Another good Mysto story in this issue, centring on an escape trick which keeps taking the lives of those who attempt it.

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Mysto fears for the life of the next man to try the escape, so he knocks him out and takes his place.

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I really like the way the art conveys the cramped, immobile situation inside the jar, as the close-ups build the tension.  Mysto figures out that the jar releases a gas that messes up coordination, and covers the jet, allowing him to escape.

Detective 205 – the origin of the Batcave, and Mysto tracks a magician killer

tec_205 Detective 205 (March 1954) contains the origin of the Batcave, a story by Bill Finger, with art by Sheldon Moldoff. tec_205_001 In this story, Bruce recalls purchasing the house he lives in, and coming across the cave under the barn accidentally.  The idea that he is not living in the house he inherited from his parents is an odd one.  I don’t recall another story that makes such a claim. tec_205_002 The story recaps the areas of the Batcave, we usually see, and adds a new big screen television.  Then Batman digs up a native artifact which reads “death to the man of two identities.” tec_205_003 Well, that just begs to be explained, so off go Bruce and Dick to see Carter Nichols, who sends them back in time to the earliest white settlement in Gotham.  We meet Jeremy Coe, who is a scout for the army, clearing the land of the natives. tec_205_004 Jeremy is using the cave as a hideout while he disguises himself as a native, learning their plans.  Batman helps him turn the cave into more of a Barcave, even starting a trophy room for him.  It all gets destroyed in the big battle between the cavalry and the natives, with Batman on the side of the cavalry, of course.  Their discovery complete, Batman and Robin return to the present. tec_205_005 Mysto has an intriguing case in this issue, as a number of magicians are murdered while performing in a television studio. tec_205_006 The network just keeps sending more magicians up to die, but are concerned enough to ask Mysto’s help in figuring this out. tec_205_007 It turns out the real motive was to prevent the magicians from using the trap door, and discovering a tunnel being built for a bank robbery.

Detective 203 – Catwoman returns to crime, Captain Compass begins, and Mysto debuts

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Catwoman returns to crime in Detective 203 (Jan. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton, with art by Sheldon Moldoff.

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In the pages of Batman, Catwoman had recovered her memory of being Selina Kyle, and given up her life of crime.  This story sees her return, for no really good reason.  It is therefor considered the first appearance of the Earth-1 Catwoman, as the Earth-2 version served her sentence and then married Bruce Wayne.

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She has a new Cat-car and Catacombs, and embarks on a cat-themed crime spree.  Batman stops her thefts, but she escapes at the end.

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Captain Compass had debuted in Star-Spangled Comics, and then moved to World’s Finest.  In this issue, he finds a berth in Detective, in a story by Otto Binder.

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Captain Mark Compass travels the various waters of the world, solving nautical crimes.  In this story, he deals with a sea-going showboat that is being used as an escape route for a criminal.

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Another hero with little to no backstory or supporting cast, just a themed name.

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Mysto, the Magician Detective, makes his debut here, in a story that details how young pilot Rick Carter became the magical hero.

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Rick’s plane crashes in the Himilayas, and he is taken in and healed by an old man.

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The man teaches him the secret of eastern magic, and then dies, as they always do.

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Rick, now calling himself Mysto, returns to the US and begins a life of stage magic and crime fighting.

Detective 20 – Spy tries to help a senator, Bruce Nelson goes to Broadway, Crimson Avenger debuts, and Slam Bradley learns magic

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Bart and Sally’s marriage is never mentioned in Siegel and Shuster’s Spy story in Detective 20 (Oct 38), but she appears to dress a bit more demurely now.

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Aside from that, there is no significant change in the series, now that the characters are married.  Which is a good thing, overall.  They are assigned to help a senator under threat, but he makes things hard for them.

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Also notable is the final panel, once again of them in their signature embrace.  Also nice to see their married status didn’t change that.

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This issue begins a serial, Bruce Nelson and the Song of Death, a Broadway backstage murder mystery, in which he recruits a socialite, Billie Bryson, to take over a “cursed” role in a musical comedy while he searches for the killer.

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Billie would make brief appearances in two other serials, as his girlfriend, but sadly not help him on any more cases.

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The Crimson Avenger started off as a sort of hybrid of the Shadow and the Green Hornet, both successful pulp heroes.  Lee Travis, the young published and editor of the Globe Leader, would dress up in a dark blue suit with a matching wide-brimmed hat, with a large red cape and cloak, packing two pistols that he would shoot through openings in the cloak.

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He had a faithful Chinese servant, Wing, who knew his identity, and functioned largely as his driver.  Wing was capable of speaking clear English.

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In his first story, the Crimson Avenger goes after a shady defense lawyer, offering to kill the DA for him, but in fact setting him up, effectively entrapping him.

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I’m going to go out on a limb with Siegel and Shuster’s tale in issue 20, in which Slam learns enough magic to be able to become invisible and control what people are able to see.  As he uses his magical powers to take down a gang, they get a different magician, Mysto, so aid them, but Mysto proves unequal to Slam.

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Mysto never does anything villainous, just tries to help the bad guys, and I think Mysto comes to regret his rash behaviour.  I think he is just really young and unwise at this point in his life, and he would grow up, taking the straight and narrow path, eventually becoming the Mysto, Magician Detective that would get a series in Detective Comics in the early 1950s.

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Slam displays an astonishing range of powers in this story.  He can create illusions, but also turn invisible, and intangible, and is immune to bullets shot at him at point blank range.

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At the end, Slam declares that he has no interest in using magic anymore, and prefers his fists.

 

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