Posts tagged ‘Neal Adams’

Detective 439 – Batman goes berserk, and the secret of Paul Kirk

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Batman loses control in Detective 439 (Feb./March 1974), in a Steve Englehart story, with art by Dick Giordano, who also provided the inks for Neal Adams’ cover.

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The story opens with a simple robbery, but the gunman shoots and kills a woman in front of her young son, which Batman sees.

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After a brief flashback to his own parents’ deaths, Batman gets enraged, and spends the rest of the story in relentless pursuit of the man and his associates, despite their constant attempts to kill him.

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Batman does not speak a lot in this story, which helps convey his singularity of purpose.  I really love the scene where he dangles the criminals car keys in front of them.  The nervous chatter of the hoods, compared to Batman’s silence, also boosts the mood to the piece.

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Perfectly told, this story is fairly simple, really, but still very powerful in execution.

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The final page, of him unmasked and crying in front of his parents’ portrait, is a crushing denouement, but the perfect coda to this tale.  The vengeance will never heal the grief.

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Christine St. Clair meets the wounded Manhunter face to face in this chapter of Goodwin and Simonson’s Manhunter saga.

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Paul fills her in on his backstory, and we see a montage panel reflecting his stories from Adventure Comics.  We learn that after the end of World War 2, seeking danger and excitement, Paul went big game hunting in Africa, which didn’t go exactly as planned.

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Squished by an elephant.

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His body was retrieved by a secret organization called the Council, and cloned.  The clones trained in martial arts by a supposedly dead master, Asano Nitobe.  Paul himself was eventually revived, intended to lead his clone army, but disagreed with the extreme domination plans of the Council, and has been fighting them ever since.

But is Paul really the revived Paul Kirk, or just a clone who believes he is the original?

Detective 418 – Batman hunts the Creeper

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The Creeper makes his first appearance in Detective, but not his last, in issue 418 (Dec. 71), in a story by Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, with a Neal Adams cover.  This was the second appearance of the character following the cancellation of his own comic, and his outing in Justice League of America.

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The story has the Creeper on a rampage in Gotham City, serving as a decoy while other men steal.  Jack Ryder has been searching for a cure for his condition, but is being played by a scientist.

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The story has his mental instability as the Creeper high-lighted, and having driven him to such desperation that he has no suspicions about the man supposedly curing him, but actually working to extract and duplicate the serum that gave him his powers.

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This could very easily have been an issue of the Brave and the Bold, as Batman and the Creeper each have about the same amount of page time.  The scientist injects himself with the Creeper serum, which does give him powers, but also fries his brain, making it not too hard for Batman to defeat him.  He also gives Creeper the cure the scientist had denied him, reverting him to Jack Ryder at story’s end.

The Creeper returns a couple years down the road in the pages of Detective.

 

 

Detective 414 – Batman in a lighthouse mystery

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Denny O’Neil, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano created a very popular story in Detective 414 (Aug. 71), with a Neal Adams cover, as the comic increases in size, reprinting earlier Batman stories, and stories of other detectives.  Batgirl’s series would continue to feature new stories throughout the duration of the 48 pagers.

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The story is inspired by the film noir “Key Largo.”  Both are crime stories set in the Florida keys during a hurricane, and the character of Loosy, is drawn from Claire Trevor’s Oscar winning turn in that film.

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Batman is on the trail of gun smuggling to a Latin American country, and the lighthouse keeper is minor messenger in a much larger picture.  Loosy is his girl, an aging singer who never made it big.  She helps Batman against the gun runners, and there is even a supernatural touch to the ending, popular in Batman stories from this era.

Detective 411 – Talia Al Ghul debuts, and Batgirl avoids becoming a blouse

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Denny O’Neil is joined by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano for this chapter of the League of Assassins tale, though the cover at least is by Neal Adams.

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Having failed to kill Batman, Dr. Darrk has been marked for death by the League of Assassins.  Batman tracks him to China, and the story takes place on a train as they cross territory that is friendly to neither, but where Batman is in more danger.  Darrk travels with a mysterious woman.  She is silent for much of the story, and her identity only clear about halfway through.

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It’s a well-written story, making the most of the train, and the variety of locales and people they meet along the way.

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After Batman gets injured, the woman tends to him, and we learn that she is Talia Al Ghul, the daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul.  Ra’s has not yet appeared, this mention is the first reference to him in the comics.  All part of the gradual build of the menace and scope of the League.  Dr. Darrk has taken her captive as protection against the League.

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The story comes to a surprising conclusion as Talia shoot and kills Darrk.  Up to that point, she had seemed a weak and helpless victim.  Even still, her facial expression during the shooting does not match the woman we would come to know.  One is left to assume, given the events in later stories, that Talia was playing helpless throughout this entire story, lulling Darrk into a sense of security.  Was she doing this anyway, before Batman became involved?  Or was her being taken captive by Darrk simply a way of ensuring she would get to meet Batman in person?  I believe it’s the latter, and Darrk was unwittingly a pawn in her, and her father’s, interest in Batman.

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Even Dick Girodano’s inks cannot save this Frank Robbins/Don Heck story.  Batgirl manages to escape from the dress cutting machine, so the criminals go after the designer herself, injured in a skiing accident in Europe.

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Batgirl saves the designed from being murdered, and captures the killers.  In the end, all the pundits are routed, as the designed bases her new wardrobe on Batgirl’s outfit.

Yeah, ugh.

This story is followed by a 2-parter dealing with wigs.  Killer wigs that crack open the skulls of women too dumb to take the crushing wigs off of their heads before they die.  These two tales are definitely the low-point of her series, but Heck’s art continues for the duration of her run, making even her passable stories unappealing.

 

Detective 410 – Batman and the circus freaks, and Batgirl gets caught up in fashion

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Another great tale, by Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano in Detective 410 (April 1971.)

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Batman is pursuing a killer, and winds up in an old house that is home to a handful of former circus freaks: a strongman, a thin man, a fat lady and a boy with flippers instead of hands and feet.

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The thin man gets murdered, but Batman realizes it was not by the man he was chasing.  The boy attempts to clue Batman in, but is incapable of speech, and cannot draw clearly with the flippers.

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But there’s not much to figure out once the strongman tries to throw flipper boy off the roof of the house.  Very nice Adams designed page as Batman swoops in to rescue the boy.  All in all, quite a sad, but powerful, story.

The boy with flippers does return many years down the road, gaining the ability to talk, as the bartender in Shadowpact.

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Batgirl’s series has already taken a sharp downtown, largely because Don Heck has become the artist, but Frank Robbins gives her some stories that are all but insulting.  This one, for example, puts Barbara into a situation with gangsters trying to find out if a fashion designed will make mini, midi, or maxi skirts for the new season.

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Yes, sure, it’s a multi-million dollar industry, but the story keeps playing it as if the only reason Barbara is interested in the case is the fashion element.

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The cliffhanger does not help the situation.  What is the point of the blouse template?  Are they seriously planning on turning her corpse into a blouse?

Detective 408 – The house of dead Robins

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Len Wein and Marv Wolfman script the Batman story from Detective 408 (Feb. 71), with Neal Adams and Dick Giordano providing the art.

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Batman is lured to a house in which  all manner of nightmarish things haunt him, most of which have to do with Robin.  So in a way this story, although there are actual villains, can be seen as separation anxiety Batman is feeling now that his child has grown up and headed off to college.

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The final hallucinatory scene has Robin and the Justice Leaguers at Batman’s funeral expressing their disdain for him, before all goes black.

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Then we get to see the real game.  Robin was kidnapped, and used to draw Batman to the house, and the hallucinations were to distract him while Dr. Tzin Tzin got him into a death-trap.  Of course, Batman escapes and frees Robin.

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In this story, Tzin Tzin is attempting to join the League of Assassins.  Killing Batman is his “initiation.”  That’s a big step down for a criminal mastermind, as he was portrayed in his first appearance.  This story also, at the end, implies that Dr. Tzin Tzin has some degree of illusion casting powers, explored more fully in his next appearance, against Supergirl, in the pages of Adventure Comics the following year.

 

 

 

Detective 407 – The Bride of Man-Bat

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The conclusion to the Man-Bat trilogy is in Detective 407 (Jan. 71), by Frank Robbins, Neal Adams and Dick Giordano.

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The story picks up from the last Man-Bat tale, with Batman’s attempt to cure Kirk Langstrom.  Once again, the crazed Man-Bat flees from Batman.

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Kirk returns to Francine, and begs her to go along with his plans.  While I loved this story as a kid, and it still reads like a twisted gothic romance, it’s hard to swallow Francine’s extreme submissiveness in this story.

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Chiefly, that she agreed to take the serum herself, transforming her into She-Bat.  Batman does manage to stop their wedding, but is taken aback when he sees Francine’s change.

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Batman does ultimately corner the couple, and injects them both with the antidote.

As with the original Two-Face trilogy, this does bring their story to an end.  But the huge popularity of the character ensured his return the following year.

 

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