Posts tagged ‘Scarecrow’

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.

Detective 540 – the Scarecrow plays with Robin

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Moench and Colan once again finish off a 2-part tale begun in Batman.  Detective 540 (July 1983) stars the Scarecrow, who has developed a device that radiates fear.

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Batman and Robin are lured into a house of horrors the Scarecrow has created, where the effects they feel are multiplied by the device.

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It’s an ok Scarecrow story.  Kind of overly tech-y for the character, I thought.  Gene Colan on the Scarecrow should be a treat, and it had its moments, but failed to score.

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 503 – the Batman family vs the Scarecrow

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Gerry Conway and Don Newton contribute a full-length story to Detective 503 (June 1981), featuring the Scarecrow.

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Batman gets shot with a dart while making his rounds of beating up the usual Gotham thugs.  It has not immediate effect, but he takes it back to analyze.

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The effects begin to manifest the next day, as people become afraid of him, as both Batman and Bruce.  Commissioner Gordon all but freaks out during a meeting they have with Hamilton Hill.

In both Detective and Batman, there is a running plotline now about the mayoral election, and the rival candidates Hill and Arthur Reeves.  Reeves is anti-Batman, but Hill is not fond of Gordon.

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Even Alfred reaches the point of not being able to be around Bruce, and he cannot function when people run or freeze in terror at the sight of him.  Using Alfred as an intermediary, he gets Robin and Batgirl to help him track down the Scarecrow, who has been running rampant in Gotham.

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They don’t prove to be much help, falling into the Scarecrow’s hands pretty quickly.  But Batman has been working on an antidote throughout this, and of course he finds one.

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It’s ok, but not my favourite Scarecrow story.

 

Detective 486 – Maxie Zeus causes deaths from a distance, the Human Target joins the Sea Devils, Batgirl chases Killer Moth, Alfred protects the penthouse, and Robin unmasks the Scarecrow

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Maxie Zeus returns, though he spends the entire duration of the story from Detective 486 (Oct./Nov. 79) in Arkham Asylum.  But that is sort of the point, as he announces which rival gang members he wishes to die, and how they will do so.  And when the first dies while skydiving, of the “thunderbolt” that Zeus ordered, Batman gets on the case.

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton relate this story.  It’s really not hard to figure out that Maxie Zeus’ lawyer is carrying out his commands, although how he is doing it is a bit of a mystery.

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Batman figures out how the parachute death was pulled off, and tries to warn of Zeus next target, who was warned he would die in brimstone.

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And though Batman exposes the lawyer’s guilt, and stops his plot, a chain reaction does cause the man to die in sulfur – as brimstone is now called.

Maxie Zeus returns a few months down the road.

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The Human Target is called in to sub for an actual hero in this story by Len Wein and Dick Giordano.  The story never states it, but the man he is impersonating, Dane Dorrance, and his girlfriend Judy, are both members of the Sea Devils, having last appeared a couple of years earlier in Showcase 100.

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Dane has been hospitalized after an attempt on his life, and Judy calls in Christopher Chance to root out the killer.

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Once again, the story isn’t about figuring out who is trying to kill him, it’s about the action and fun, and Dick Giordano’s beautiful art.  I have no complaints.

Dane Dorrance and Judy next appear, along with the other Sea Devils, in Action Comics in the early 80s, the lead-in to the Forgotten Heroes.

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To a degree, this story, by Jack C Harris, Don Heck and Joe Giella, follows up on events from an issue of Batman the previous month, which had both Batgirl and Killer Moth in it.

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Killer Moth is back to his original scheme, providing insurance and escapes for criminals who pay his premium.  When Batgirl gets involved, Killer Moth thinks that she has pursued him all the way from Gotham to Washington DC, unaware that she has made that her base for a while now.

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When the son of one of his victims mentions that Killer Moth hired his father to make shoes, Batgirl realizes that is where he has his homing device on the villains, and takes their shoes, messing up his plan.  Kind of a lame plan that can be messed up by taking someone’s shoes.  His old Mothmobile is back though, at least in two panels of this story.

It’s four more years before the character returns.  Because she debuted against him, Killer Moth pretty much became a Batgirl villain.

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Alfred gets a solo story, by Bob Rozakis and George Tuska.  He had last solo’d in the pages of Batman Family.

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In this story he gets grabbed by hoods while entering the Wayne Foundation Building, and taken as a hostage to the penthouse.  He does his best to get rid of the thieves before Batman shows up, possibly exposing his identity.

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Alfred remains his unflappable self throughout the tale.  He gives the men drinks, in order to get their fingerprints, and tries to fob them off with worthless stamps.

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In the end, it’s his mention of Commissioner Gordon that drives them away (though it’s surprising they don’t think he’s lying).  Alfred traps them in the elevator, and then prepares the house for Bruce’s arrival.

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Robin squares off against the Scarecrow in this story by Jack C Harris and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The Scarecrow comes to Hudson University, where he holds four professors in his thrall, tormenting them with their personal fears unless they pay him off.

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Dick becomes suspicious of one of the new professors after he duplicates Jonathan Crane’s fear demonstration in class, firing a pistol.

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But having the professor duplicate his research was just part of the Scarecrow’s cover. Robin exposes Crane, tearing off his disguise, when the Scarecrow mentions that he had been in the school alone, but while impersonating a man terrified of being by himself.

 

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 389 – Scarecrow gives Batman the evil eye, and Batgirl beats up the Justice League

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Jonathan Crane is released from prison in Detective 389 (July 1969). a mere year and a half after being caught in an issue of Batman last year.  Clearly the brief sentences given out in Gotham courts are part of the crime problem.

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Crane promises to go straight in this Frank Robbins/Bob Brown/Joe Giella story, but of course that doesn’t happen.

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Instead, he injects Batman with a solution that causes him to incite paralyzing fear in anyone who sees him.

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The Scarecrow then traps Batman in a mirrored room, hoping to cause him to scare himself to death, but Batman is smart enough to close his eyes and smash things until he escapes and defeats the Scarecrow.

The Scarecrow’s next appearance is in Justice League of America, as a founding member of the Injustice Gang.

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Batgirl’s story concludes from last issue, as Robbins, Kane and Anderson as Batgirl takes down a group of jewel thieves dressed as Justice Leaguers.

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Despite doing this in front of a crowd, no one suspects that she is really Batgirl, and she still accepts the “Air Hostess With the Mostest” trophy.

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Batgirl tracks down the woman who got her involved in all this, finding her at an ailing relatives, as she said, although the man is an aging bank robber.  Batgirl captures the two and retrieves the stolen diamonds.

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