Posts tagged ‘Spy’

Detective 83 – Alfred takes a vacation, Spy ends, and Air Wave intercepts a flying bomb

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The Batman and Robin story in Detective 83 (Jan. 44) has a more complex plot than usual, dealing with a gang that hit a person with a car, take him to a fake hospital, and hypnotize the victim into robbing their own company.

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The issue is better known for it’s subplot dealing with Alfred, but it also features one of the earliest depictions of the Batcave, appearing somewhat as we think of it now.

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Alfred decides he is not of much use to Bruce and Dick being so overweight and out of shape, so he heads off to a health resort.

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Meanwhile, Batman gets knocked out and hypnotized by the gang, while Robin is held captive.  They are being trailed by a mysterious man.

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The man turns out to be Alfred, who manages to save the day.  He is now tall, thin, with a bit more hair and a moustache, but still good for a pratfall.

The previous Alfred would return occasionally, mostly in stories set in alternate realities, such as his appearance in Zero Hour.

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Spy comes to an end with this issue.  Bart investigates a native tribe.  Considering the way this series has been going for the past couple of years, with everyone from wrestlers to monkeys turning out to be Nazi agents, one almost expects the revelation that the natives are as well.

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The story also includes a preposterous scene in which Bart avoids being attacked by a mama bear by picking up and throwing her cub to another person.  Sorry, Bart, do that and you get eaten.

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So what becomes of Bart Regan, Spy, after this?  His character never appeared again.  I could send Bart off to the front lines, or behind them, at this point.  But he has Sally back home, and a nest of kids by now I’m sure, so I think Bart gets promoted at this point, reaching the higher levels of power in the O.S.S., and likely helps found the C.I.A. after the war.

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The Air Wave story in this issue introduces us to Larry Jordan’s nephew, Buddy.  He has a remote controlled airplane, which must have been very expensive, and totally cool, in 1943.

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The airplane gets stolen, and Air Wave makes the most of his suit’s abilities to monitor and send broadcasts, tracking the plane, discovering that it is bring fitted with a bomb, and messing up the bad guy’s plans.

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Detective 65 – a cop hates Batman, the Boy Commandos go to school, Spy fights Nazis, and Air Wave battles Machine Man

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Batman and Robin welcome the Boy Commandos to the pages of Detective Comics on the cover of issue 65 (July 42).  One might wonder why they didn’t do that last issue, when the Commandos series began.  Do you often welcome people a month after they have been in your house?

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This issue has the first Batman story in Detective that neither Finger nor Kane were involved in.  The art is by Jack Burnley, who is good, but apparently thinks Batman can hold Robin aloft by his armpit.  Even if possible, it would be horribly painful for the boy.

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Bruce and Dick are on vacation again, and in a neighbouring state encounter an honest cop who despises Batman.  He blames the hero for the death of his father, a criminal.

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It’s all fairly predictable, as the cop learns that Batman is actually a good guy, and together they bring down the real villains.  Batman and Robin use special uniforms in this issue that can be attached to skis, providing a glider effect.

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Joe Simon and Jack Kirby bring Nostradamus into this story, and his supposed prediction of Hitler, adding to it a prediction of the Boy Commandos.

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The boys are enrolled in a school in England to continue their education.  At least Rip Carter cares about that, and is not just using the kids as cannon fodder.

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It turns out the friendly gardener at the school is actually a spy working for the Nazis.  The Boy Commandos figure that out, and fight off the Nazi attack he has prepared.

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Kirby’s work on the panels of combat is just exceptional.

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The Spy story in this issue features a murderous genius who implants explosives while pretending to be a repairman.  Despite not actually being a foreign agent, in the splash for the story he is wearing a big swastika armband.  The stories following this were written after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and until the end of his run Bart would be dealing with sabotage and weird plots to destroy America.

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One thing you can’t help but notice in the dozen or so tales is that anyone at all could be a Nazi plant or sympathizer.  The candy shop owner, wrestlers, lunch wagon staff, monkeys, there are Nazis everywhere you turn, all plotting the downfall of the US.

While I can understand the fearful reaction to Pearl Harbour that resulted in this, I see the ground being laid for the communist witch hunts in the decade that followed.

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The evil professor with the big head who tried to short out Air Wave a couple of issue back returns.  He now has a proper name, Professor Gurn, but has lost some of the details on his oversize head.  In compensation, he has built a “machine man,” essentially a robot suit, that he uses to attack Air Wave.

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It could be a decent tale, but the art really lets the story down.  The Machine Man suit looks more silly than threatening.

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Detective 46 – Hugo Strange’s Fear Gas, Spy fights Goldfish-Man, and Cliff Crosby gets an occupation

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Detective 46 (Dec. 40) closes out the year, and despite having another appearance by Hugo Strange, the cover remains a generic Batman and Robin image.

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Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson bring back Hugo Strange, last seen in Batman 1.  This is the first story with Hugo Strange that includes Robin.  In it, Strange develops a fear gas, which causes paralyzing terror in those who inhale it.

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It’s a bit odd to see this gas being invented by someone other than the Scarecrow.  This story predates the first appearance of that villain by a year, and the gas would not become a part of his arsenal until the 1960s. The story culminates in a battle on a cliff between Batman and Strange, somewhat reminiscent of the fight between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in “The Final Problem, ” although in this story it is only the villain who falls to their death. Hugo Strange’s death takes a very long time to be reversed.  His character does not appear again until the late 70s.

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Spy was still being scripted by Jerry Siegel, but the stories in it were all fairly prosaic at this point. Bart does get one interesting villain.  He wears a mask but claims he was born deformed, with a goldfish-coloured head.

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The story gets followed up in issue 48 (more illegal immigrant smuggling), but Goldfish Man does not return.

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With this issue, Cliff Crosby’s profession gets clearly stated, and stabilized. He is the owner and publisher of the New York Record, and his ace reporter is Kay Nevers.  We can assume that exploring is just a hobby for him, and that publishing a newspaper is exactly the kind of experience that overseeing airplane construction requires.

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For a newspaper publisher, his work days remain pretty dramatic.  A shipwrecked man turns out to be a killer in hiding, and Cliff nearly dies a couple of times trying to sort out the story.

Detective 38 – Robin debuts, Spy contends with a lightning gun, Red Logan begins, Steve Malone exposes the Commissioner, and Cliff Crosby finds Arctic Africans

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In Detective 38 (April 1940) Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduced one of the most influential characters of the Golden Age, Robin, the Boy Wonder.  Within a year every super-hero had to have a sidekick, and most were cut from largely the same cloth as Robin.

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The story begins with young Dick Grayson at the circus, performing as an aerilalist with his parents, John and Mary Grayson.  Dick overhears some gangsters threaten the circus owner, and then watches in horror as his parents fall to their deaths.

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Batman then swoops in and takes Dick away with him, informing him that Boss Zucco was the force behind his parents deaths.  We can assume he came to the circus as Bruce Wayne, and saw the accident, because the car he is driving is red.  This is his earlier car, which he likely kept to drive as Bruce, reserving the costume matching car for Batman.  He trains the boy, and there is a scene by candlelight in which he makes the boy swear a vow, similar to the one young Bruce swore.

The similarity in their origins helps make this sequence plausible, without the need for explanations.  It is easy for the reader to see how Bruce viewed the boy, and their connection.

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Dick is frequently smiling as Robin in tales from this era, it is clear the boy is having the time of his life, and he functions to a degree on his own in this story, with Batman watching off to the side.

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Unlike Bruce, Dick gets to bring his parents’ killer to justice at the end of the story.  Bruce gives him the option of returning to the circus, but it must have been a formality.  It was clear Dick had found a new home, Batman had found a sidekick, and a trend had been born.

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With Jerry Siegel still writing the series, Spy stayed largely within the realm of the possible.  The story in this issue pushes it about as far as it will go at this time, with a lightning gun, developed by a mad scientist.

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He is another one-shot character, though, and once Bart disposes of him, the lightning gun is never seen again.

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Red Logan begins in this issue of in Detective Comics, nearly a year after his series ended in More Fun.  Red is in England, working out of an office in the Daily Mail in London as a foreign correspondent for the Times Courier, still with Ivan as his massive sidekick.

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His case involves what appear to be vampire murders, but are actually deaths caused by a mad scientist stealing people’s blood.

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Steve gets one of his edgier cases in this issue, as he goes after the man behind the gambling rackets, and discovers that it’s the Police Commissioner.

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The art on the series has improved dramatically since it began, but the stories remain short and simple.

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Cliff Crosby, now with his friend Dr. Broussard, are abruptly “famous explorers” in this tale, set above the Arctic Circle.  They discover an African tribe there, with a “formula” that allows them to survive the cold.

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Cliff makes a deal with Aga, to restore him to what he claims is his “rightful throne,” in exchange for the formula.  Or, to put it another way, an American installs a puppet monarch in exchange for trade goods.

 

Detective 30 – Dr. Death returns, mind-control in Spy, and bad art in Speed Saunders

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No appearance, but again Batman is mentioned on the cover of Detective 30 (Aug 39).

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Bill Finger and Bob Kane pick up the story immediately after the ending of the first, and then jump ahead slightly.  Batman suspects Dr. Death is back, although this story deals more with a jewel theft than with murder.

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Bruce still is keeping the costume in his living room.

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While this is by no means a Batmobile, it is the first indication that his car is “special.”

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Dr. Death returns, shrouded in bandages, with a new foreign henchman.  The story mirrors the previous one a bit, as Batman deals with the henchman first, and then confronts Dr. Death at the end.

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This specific Dr. Death never appears again, but a similar version appears in the 80s, and then another in more recent years.

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Jerry Siegel continues to script Spy, but the art is in lesser hands, as a scientist plots to take over the United States using a hypnosis ray, and starts by taking over the minds of senators, having them promote suspending democracy and instituting a dictatorship.  He then starts using the ray on agents, and both Jack Steele and the Chief fall prey to it.  He really ought to have used it on Bart, as Bart shoots the machine and frees everyone from his control.

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Jack is not seen again after this story.  Makes me wonder if he really was under the scientists control, or if he turned traitor.

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An overly complex story and some really poor art by Guardineer on the Speed Saunders story in this issue.  The crossbow in the forehead of the victim on the first page made me laugh, which is clearly not the intent.

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There is also a black honeycomb, referred to as coal, that a policeman hides in later in the tale.

Detective 28 – Batman uses his rope, Bart gets a new partner, the Crimson Avenger gets a new secretary and Dr. Fu Manchu ends

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While Batman did not get the cover for Detective 28 (June 1939), he retained the lead spot in the book, and his name does appear on it.

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There is not much to the second Batman story, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  Batman is pitted against jewel thieves, but is mistaken by the police for part of the gang.

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His first bit of bat-gear appears in this story, although it’s simply called a “silken rope.”

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But what the heck, I’ll still call it the Bat-rope.  It’s also notable how little Batman speaks in this era.  Nor was it felt necessary to have thought balloons explain everything (“I’ll attach my Bat-rope to the other building so I can swing to it and escape!”)

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Batman’s car is still the big red roadster in this story.  Commissioner Gordon appears only in the last panel of the story, but even this early, we get the dynamic that Gordon is the only police officer Batman really trusts.

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The Siegel and Shuster Spy story in this issue once again shows the US on the verge of war.  Bart is assigned to solve the mysterious bombing of a ship in the harbour.

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Bart also gets a partner in this story, Jack Steele, who sticks around for a couple more issue.

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No matter how good a spy Bart Regan is, without or without his new partner, it still feels a bit absurd to see a headline in mid-1939 saying “War Peril Banished.”

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Lee Travis gets a new secretary in this issue, Miss Blaine.  It’s not clear what became of Miss Stevens.  Miss Blaine seems made of tougher stuff anyway, as she gets captured by jewel thieves in this story, but holds up well under pressure.

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Both the Crimson Avenger and his secretary have been set up in the story by the woman whose jewels were supposedly stolen.  She even sicks a cobra on them, but the Crimson remains triumphant.

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Dr. Fu Manchu ends its run in this issue.

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It’s unclear how far they planned to go with these adaptations, but Sax Rohmer does not even reach the ending of his first book by the time this is cancelled.

Detective 27 – Batman debuts, Speed Saunders and the Red Crescent, Bart go solo in Spy, and Cosmo infiltrates human smuggling

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Detective 27 (May 1929) saw the introduction of Batman, or “Bat-Man” as he is labelled in this issue.  Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character was close enough to the Shadow or Green Hornet to be on familiar ground, but unlike the Crimson Avenger, not so blatantly a rip-off.

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The look of the Batman was heavily inspired by the popular horror films of the time.  Bruce Wayne is introduced at the top of the story, a wealthy young man with nothing better to do with his time than hang out at the Police Commissioner’s office.  Not that Commissioner Gordon appears to mind this.

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Gordon and the police investigate the murder of the owner of a chemical factory, and the Batman appears, doing his own, more rough and tumble, investigation.

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The car he drives is nothing special, other than being sort of vibrantly red.

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Batman finds a secret contract and figures out part of the crime, though not all of it.  He escapes from a gas chamber death-trap, and punches the villain into a chemical vat, commenting that it is a “fitting end for his kind.”

The final couple of panels are sort of charming in their attempt to use cinematic effects.  Batman is explained to be Bruce Wayne, for anyone incapable of figuring that out.

The series would run in Detective Comics for decades, even with some changes in the identity of Batman along the way, until replaced by a Batwoman series for a year after the Batman R.I.P. storyline.

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Speed Saunders case in this issue is just so obvious.  Too obvious. Shame on Guardineer for this one.  Speed is pursuing a murderous cult called the Red Crescent.

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Along the way he meets a woman virtually covered in red crescents.  What a way to conceal your secret cult!

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And in the end, guess what, she is the evil mastermind and leader of the cult.  Who would have guessed?  Sigh.

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Bart goes solo for the first time in this Siegel and Shuster Spy tale.  No mention whatsoever is made of Sally, nor will one ever be, for the rest of his run.

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In this issue Bart tries to keep a bunch of senators from being poisoned, despite the senators being real dorks whose childish behaviour makes the killers job easier.

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I’m including the Cosmo story in here because it’s so awful it just makes me laugh, envisioning it.  To investigate human smuggling from Asia, Cosmo goes in disguise as a Chinese man.

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Despite the story telling us he can speak Chinese, we read the most insulting and stereotypical version of the Chinese accent, and are left believing this was how he spoke in Chinatown.  Amazing they didn’t slit his throat in seconds.

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There is a page of excellent art in this story, showing the barges being used to smuggle people.

 

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