Posts tagged ‘Riddler’

Detective 566 – Know Your Foes, and a mystery villain in Green Arrow

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Doug Moench and Gene Colan provide a review of Batman’s major villains in this story, a lead-in to the big Batman 400.  The bulk of it reads much like a Who’s Who, but that series, and its variants, were in the future, and there really had not been anything like this.  It was much more appreciated at the time than such an issue would be now.

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After receiving a mysterious letter saying “Know your foes,” Batman and Robin review them.  All the big names are covered: Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Riddler, Scarecrow, Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia.  Killer Moth makes the cut into the big names, as does Black Mask, the newest addition to the line-up.

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Curiously, this is the first time Poison Ivy makes it into a listing of Batman villains.  She’d been a foe of his since the 60s, but rarely in his own books.  Mad Hatter, Deadshot, Nocturna and the Night Slayer round out the ones who get full entries.

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There is a curious mix on the “B-list” page.  Cavalier and Tweedledee and Tweedledum are golden age holdovers, but Black Spider and Clayface III are supposedly dead.  Mr. Freeze, Cat-Man and Croc could easily have made the cut to major villains at this time.  And they included Crazy Quilt.  Really?

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Green Arrow and Black Canary’s series builds to its finale in this story by Joey Cavalieri and Jerome K Moore.

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Onyx is giving a long, roundabout explanation to her wanna-be boyfriend about why she has come back to Star City, but it gets interrupted by a bad guy smashing right through the wall.

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Who is the mystery attacker?  That gets saved for the finale.

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Detective 526 – Jason Todd dons the costume

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Celebrating Batman’s 500th appearance, Detective 526 (May 1983) is a forgotten, but worthy, anniversary issue.  Crisis on Infinite Earths would remove this story from continuity, and the origin of Jason Todd radically changed, but this work by Gerry Conway, Don Newton and Alfredo Alcala stands on its own merit.

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The Joker calls together a mass assembly of Batman’s enemies.  Croc is out to kill Batman, but he’s a newbie, and not worthy of the honour, the Joker insists.  So he lays out a plan that will give them all chances of killing Batman that night.

The line-up includes the regulars: Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and Scarecrow.  Cat-Man, Killer Moth, Mr. Freeze, the Mad Hatter, and Matt Hagen as Clayface had all appeared within the last few years.  The Cavalier had not been seen since an issue of Batman Family in the late 70s.  Tweedledum and Tweedledee had not been seen since the 1940s!  Technically, this is the first appearance of the Earth-1 versions of the characters, but with Crisis looming that scarcely matters.

Some of the newer villains are included as well: Black Spider, Captain Stingaree and the Spook.  Talia is there, without her father being involved in the story, which is rare.

The Gentleman Ghost is a Hawkman villain, but had fought Batman twice in his own book.  This is the only time he appears in a line-up of Batman villains.

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Catwoman watches, but takes no part in the meeting.  Talia also has no interest in killing Batman, but has to fight her way out.

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Both Catwoman and Talia head to the Batcave to warn Batman of the plans against him, but get involved in a cat fight of their own.

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Meanwhile, things aren’t going so well for Dick Grayson.  His great plan to use the Todds against Croc simply put them into his hands, and he has Jason driven to Wayne Manor to keep him safe.

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Barbara accompanies her father as Commissioner Gordon checks out the abandoned theatre where the villains met, and finds evidence pointing to a gathering of their enemies.

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Barbara goes to find Dick, and they suit up as Batgirl and Robin and head out to fight the villains, as Batman does the same, with Talia and Catwoman as back-up.  No one is at home, so Jason is left to explore Wayne Manor, and guess where he winds up?

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The Spook manages to get the drop on Talia, if only for a moment.  But with so many fighting against them, the two women and Batman get taken.

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Robin is the one to find the remains of the Todds, fed to his namesakes by Croc.

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Jason, unawares, has found an alternate Robin costume in the cave, and suited up.  He heads out to join the rest of the heroes.

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Batgirl and Robin fight well together. There is no hint of romance, as there had been in their Batman Family team-ups.  Robin is in a budding romance with Starfire in the pages of New Teen Titans, but their ease with each other reminds one of the bond between them, the best duo of Batman’s supporting cast.

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Jason happens upon  a group of the villains, which gives him the information he needs to find out where everyone else is.

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Finally the big climax, as the Joker gloats over his captured foes.

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Croc had been working behind the scenes with the Joker, using all the other villains to wear Batman down.  He makes his move, but Batman manages to duck at the right time, and Croc takes down the Joker.

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Jason Todd arrives just as Batman has beaten Croc into submission, and delivers the final blow.  Only afterwards does he discover his parents bodies.

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The epilogue sees Bruce sending Catwoman and Talia off together in a car.  Where is he sending them?  Why did he stick these two women in the same car together?  How far did they get before their fight forced the car off the road and into a ditch?

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The issue ends with Bruce and Jason Todd, who is looking relatively ok for a boy whose parents were horribly murdered the night before.  But he is to be the new Robin, and there is a sense of hope.

Which is all kind of weird now, because Jason Todd was given such a different origin, and made such a different character, in the post-Crisis reality.

But for a couple of years, this was the origin of Jason Todd, Robin.

Detective 493 – Batman vs the Riddler in Texas, the Red Tornado’s first solo story, Robin confronts the man in black, the Human Target becomes a trucker, and Batgirl braves the fire

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Good gosh, the Batman Family are really happy about Detective 493 (Aug. 80).  Smiles a mile wild. The Human Target is less happy, falling out of his awkwardly shaped spot, but the clear star to the cover is the Red Tornado, never before or since considered either a member of the Batman Family, or a detective.

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Batman faces off against the Riddler in this story by Cary Burkett and Don Newton, which also introduces a new hero, the Swashbuckler.

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As usual, the Riddler sends a clue before he begins his spree, but it’s Alfred who notices that it is not a real riddle, but a snatch of lyrics from a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta.

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That was all Batman needed, and he is on the trail of the Riddler, following him to Texas.  The story winds up taking place in Houston, using actual locations.

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Batman runs into a local hero, the Swashbuckler, who claims to be the nephew of Greg Saunders, the Vigilante.  He’s not a bad character, though the mask seems a bit excessive.

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The amusement park next to the Astrodome is one of the locations the Riddler leads the heroes to.  His big crime is teased by him saying he was going after the only person who is a bigger riddler than he is.

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Batman and Swashbuckler ponder possible crimes, but Batman figures out he is going after a man named Noone, as “no one” was a bigger riddler in the villains eyes.

Sadly, so far as I know and recall, the Swashbuckler never appeared again.

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Ok, so first of all let me say I like the Red Tornado as a character, I like Tales of Gotham City as a series, and I like Jean-Marc deMatteis as a writer.  Jose Delbo and Vince Colletta aren’t the top of my list, but I don’t hate them.

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But why is Red Tornado starring in a Gotham City story when the character has never been a part of this milieu?  And why, for his first story, is he in the middle of the city’s black ghetto, in the midst of a tale of religious faith and community standing up to drug dealers and the like?

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I guess this was a try-out for his upcoming series in World’s Finest Comics, but I never liked it.  The tear in the android’s eye in the final panel just makes me gag.

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Robin resolves the man in black plot in this issue, by Jack C Harris, Charles Nicholas and Vince Colletta.

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The pressures of being Robin, academic life, his relationship with Jennifer, and his job on the university paper get to be too much for him.  We haven’t even seen him at the paper since his run in Detective began.  Stressed, Dick leaves and heads for Gotham.

Neither Bruce nor Alfred are at the penthouse, but he does run in to Lucius Fox.  Dick heads back to the old Batcave.

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Changing to Robin, he leaves, and runs into the man in black.  Confronting him, he discovers that the man is actually a bodyguard hired to protect Dick Grayson, at Lucius Fox’s orders.  Dick gets that taken care of.

It’s worth noting that this is the same month that the New Teen Titans launched, and Dick’s inability to cope with university would lead into that series.

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The Human Target gets his last solo story in Detective, although he makes a few more appearances in the book.  As usual, Len Wein and Dick Giordano helm this tale of a murdered trucker.

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The man’s body was completely charred, but his vengeful widow hires Christopher Chance to impersonate him, pretending that he survived the murder attempt, to draw out the killer.

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It works, but the victory is not all the widow hoped for, as she learns that the hired killer was just doing it for the money, hired by a rival trucking firm, and there was nothing personal in any of it.

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Batgirl has the first chapter of a longer story, by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Joe Giella.

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It begins with a spat between her and Roger Barton over rival housing development plans.  Barbara goes to inspect the site of the theatre in question, and is surprised to find the protestors not interested in the theatre at all.

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Her attention gets drawn by a nearby fire, and she changes to Batgirl, and winds up saving the little girl who had been held hostage by Cormorant, and was still living in fear.

 

Detective 484 – Batman vs Maxie Zeus, the Human Target has a mystery client, Batgirl tries to save her father, Robin returns to the circus, the Demon vs Baron Tyme, and an unsolved case of Batman

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Batgirl’s story gets the cover spot for Detective 484 (June/July 1979), though it’s deceptive in implying that Batman and Robin are also part of that story.

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Batman’s main story, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, is a follow up to last issue, as Batman penetrates Olympus, the penthouse retreat of Maxie Zeus.

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We get a bit of background on the villain.  He comes from wealth and education, and is credited as being an organizational genius.  His pretense of being a Greek god is looked on with amusement by his gang, who stay with him despite this.

Although he knows Batman is coming for him, and in spite of the pleas of his men, throughout the tale, that he flee, Maxie Zeus remains secure that he will triumph.

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Batman makes it past Zeus’ bodyguard, Odysseus, and winds up in his “Scylla or Charybdis” trap – between attack dogs and whirling blades.  The scene in which he survives by sending the dogs into the blades is pretty awful, but the only way out.

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Even when he is captured, Maxie does not seem in any way put out. Instead, he is delighted when Batman tells him his pride was his undoing.  And Maxie is not out of the picture, returning in a couple of months.

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The Human Target gets an unusual case in this issue, courtesy of Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  He is called on the phone and warned off of helping Floyd Fenderman, but no such person has contacted Christopher.

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So rather than disguise himself as the potential victim, Chris has to try to find out who the victim is.  He does adopt a disguise for part of the tale.

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But for the climax of the action it is simply Chris being himself.

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The story ends on a cute note, as Christopher discovers that Fenderman has been trying to get into contact with him for days.

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Jack C Harris, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta are the creative team on this Batgirl story, in which she hunts down the men who tried to kill her father.

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She meets with a fair bit of resistance when she insists that the case is hers.  The Gotham police feel it’s their duty to avenge their boss, and want to call Batman in as well.  Fortunately for Barbara, he is busy with Maxie Zeus.

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Despite that conflict, and the cover, this is a fairly simple story.  When she goes to check on her father, she spots the bejewelled nurse, and her suspicions are aroused.  She prevents a second attempt on her father’s life, and rounds up the bad guys.

Not bad, but it could have been much better.

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Robin returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.  There are a number of stories in which Dick returns to Haly’s Circus for the first time since his parents’ deaths, but I believe this one genuinely is the first.

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He is surprised to see posters for the Flying Graysons, but discovers that it’s merely a stage name for performers playing off the notoriety of the dead performers.  Oddly, Dick is neither repulsed nor offended by this.

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The story recaps his origin – the candlelit vow is there.  It is always featured in his origin to this point.  It gets dropped eventually, and I’m going to keep an eye out for when that happens.

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The rest of the story has him stopping some crimes at the circus.  Adequate, but not exceptional.

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Baron Tyme and Jason Blood continue their confrontation before Merlin’s tomb in this story by Len Wein and Steve Ditko.

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The Inspector leads the townsfolk into the remains of Castle Branek, but Tyme is powerful enough to hold them all off as he opens Merlin’s tomb. The distraction does allow Jason the opportunity to turn back into Etrigan.

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Tyme discovers the tomb is empty, and Etrigan beings down the castle around him.  The Demon passes on the Eternity Book to the Inspector, and feels that all is done, but we see that Tyme survived the collapse.

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The final story in the issue is one of the Unsolved Cases of the Batman.  As with the Public Life of Bruce Wayne, this was intended as a back-up story in Batman, but moved here as a result of the DC Implosion.

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The story, by Denny O’Neil, John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin, has a scientist decipher notes by Galileo for the creation of a universal solvent, and a way to contain it.

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He creates the solvent, but cannot contain it, and it dissolves everything, including the notes.  Batman manages to turn it into a non-destructive gas, but the secret is lost.

So the case is only “unsolved” in that Batman did not find out the secret of creating the destructive solvent.  That’s not really unsolved.  That basic problem was likely a factor in ending these “unsolved” tales.

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The issue’s back cover features a pin-up of Batman’s major villains.  The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Two-Face are joined by the Scarecrow, who hasn’t usually made the cut for such spreads before, as well as Ra’s Al Ghul, the new kid on the block.  Catwoman’s appearance is a bit out of date, as she had already started on her road to reform, but I’m not complaining.

 

 

Detective 377 – The Riddler sends the Batman to jail

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One of the best Riddler stories from this era (and there are a lot to choose from), is this Gardner Fox story from Detective 377 (July 1968).  More than any other, it feels like a (good) episode of the tv series.

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The Riddler is compelled to leave clues for Batman before he can commit his crimes, but in this story attempts to rig his clues to make them difficult to read and/or deadly.

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Like the show, there are no real subplots or character development, just puzzles and action from start to end.

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The trap in the page above, with the clues on blocks, the heroes trapped behind a cage, and an explosive device that will hurl the cubes randomly, would have been perfect for the series.  And even in the comic, it’s well devised, as Batman and Robin use scattered gems as if they were marbles to move the blocks before setting off the explosive.

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This is also the Riddler’s last appearance until the mid-70s.  While the tv series made him a very popular villain, the backlash that followed the tv series kept him off the pages.

Detective 373 – Batman vs Mr. Freeze, and Elongated Man vs the Riddler

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Mr. Freeze makes his second appearance against Batman in Detective 373 (March 1968), in a story by Gardner Fox.  In the villain’s only previous outing, in a Batman story from the late 50s, he had used the moniker Mr. Zero, but the name was changed to match the tv show.

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Aunt Harriet is undergoing emergency cryo-surgery, but the machine breaks down, and the heroes pursue Freeze in order to get his cold gun, which could be used for the operation.

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Freeze has no interest in being helpful, and so everyone fights.  And he loses, again.

Mr. Freeze would remain a marginal Batman villain until the 90s, but does make his next appearance in a Batman issue in the late 70s.

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The Elongated Man is in Gotham City in this story by Gardner Fox, with art by Gil Kane and Sid Greene.

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The Riddler has sent a clue to his next crime to Commissioner Gordon, who turns on the Bat-Signal, but it’s Ralph who answers the call.

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Ralph figures out the solution, and stops the Riddler from committing a jewel theft.

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Batman and Robin show up at this point, and in a really entertaining ending, Batman and Ralph argue over their different interpretations of the riddle, even though both came to the same solution.

 

 

Detective 364 – a mysterious foe for Batman

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I love this cover, but I always think the villain in the story is the Getaway Genius, who does not even appear in the tale.  Detective 364 (June 1967) has art by Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella.

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The Riddler opens this tale, getting taken down by Batman and Robin.  They discover a mysterious clue, not from him, and continue to find these at the sites of other crimes.

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Moldoff is not up to par at all on this issue.  Aunt Harriet looks about 20 years older, and the Batmobile is an ugly version of the tv car.

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The story isn’t that great, either.  It wanders, and then concludes with the villain being a sleepwalking Alfred, partly under the control of the Outsider.

I do love the cover, though.

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