Posts tagged ‘Vince Colletta’

Detective 495 – The Crime Doctor vs Sterling Silversmith, the importance of a mattress, Batgirl goes after a gang boss, and Black Lightning and Robin end

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Michael Fleisher, Don Newton and Frank Chiaramonte conclude the Crime Doctor storyline in Detective 495 (Oct. 80).

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Picking up from where last issue left off, the Crime Doctor is amazed that the men who hired him would want to kill him, and works with Batman to escape the building before it blows up.

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It was the bloodthirsty and greedy Sterling Silversmith who ordered his men to turn on the Crime Doctor, just so he could avoid paying for his services.

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Silversmith has his men kidnap the Crime Doctor, while Batman hunts them both.  Silversmith gives Thorne quicksilver to drink.  Batman captures Silversmith, but is too late to help Thorne.  He is still alive, but mentally fried, and confined to a hospital.

This is the final appearance of both Sterling Silversmith, and this incarnation of the Crime Doctor, although another one will pop up in the pages shortly after Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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Bob Rozakis and Dan Spiegle share this brief Tales of Gotham City chapter, which deals with a small time gangster who has been stealing from the mob, stashing the money in his mattress.  They are on to him, and he has to pay them back that evening.  Returning home, he finds his apartment on fire.

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He winds up trapped in his burning suite, and uses the mattress to break his fall when he jumps.  The money stuffed mattress winds up with the mobsters, and the man has his life, but nothing else.

A good one.

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Batgirl is after a mob boss in this story, by Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte.

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Barbara is having her own romantic troubles, as office geek Richard Bender tries to make a date with her, while she still longs for the father of the girl she rescued.

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But the bulk of this tale follows her efforts as Batgirl to find proof linking the man, Beeler, to the crimes she knows he is guilty of.  She succeeds, but overall, this story is kind of flat.

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Jean-Marc deMatteis scripts this final Black Lightning story, which deals with street gangs and the crappy life choices for slum kids.

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Inspector Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both guest star – both were supporting characters in Black Lightning’s old book.

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The story gets quite violent and intense.  Even after Black Lightning wins, he has to talk the young hood out of killing himself rather than head to prison.

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While Henderson and Jimmy Olsen both next appear shortly in Superman titles, Black Lightning does not return again until the launch of Batman and the Outsiders, three years down the road.

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Harris, Nicholas and Colletta bring Robin’s series to a close with another story about his stresses at university.

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As before, he is getting barked at by Jennifer, and is in academic trouble.  At the same time, he is trying to track the shipment of drugs into the college from Gotham.

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He gets Jennifer’s blessing to spend the night working on an essay, but winds up heading out as Robin.

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He stops the bad guys, but blows his university career.  Without even saying good-bye to Jennifer he leaves Hudson University, riding off into the pages of New Teen Titans.

Dick Grayson would not get a solo series again for many years.  Tim Drake would get a series before Dick Grayson does.

 

 

Detective 494 – a new Crime Doctor, Pinball, Batgirl uses a garage, Robin deals with a hazing death, and Black Lightning fights the Slime Killer

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Michael Fleisher joins Don Newton for the lead story in Detective 494 (Sept. 80).

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A new Crime Doctor, Raymond Thorne, is introduced in this story.  As with the 1940s version, he sells his skills to other criminals, charging extra for “house calls” during the crimes themselves.  With the ambulance to travel in, and the surgical gear as a costume, I always thought this was a great idea for a villain.

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Batman gets alerted to the existence of the Crime Doctor after discovering one of his prescriptions at a crime scene.

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The story also allows us to see Thorne in his everyday life, as a wealthy and successful surgeon, whose life of crime is a thrilling addiction.

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Batman sustains injuries to great for Alfred to handle, and as Dr. Dundee is out of town, his cases are being handled by Thorne.  He patches up Bruce Wayne.  Later, when the Crime Doctor and Batman are facing off against each other, the bandage gets revealed, and Thorne lets slip that he put it there – and both men realize they know who the other is.

The two wind up trapped, after the men who hired Thorne plot to kill him and leave him at the scene, along with Batman.

The story concludes next issue.

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A classic from the day it came out, Pinball was by far the best of the Tales of Gotham City stories, by Jack C Harris, with art by Dan Spiegle.  Set in a pinball arcade, it deals with a drug runner who is so into his game that he lets a young admirer transport the drugs for him.

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After the boy leaves, he learns that a rival gang is on the hunt for the runners.  The news of this, the pinball game, and the young boy’s journey through dangerous territory are perfectly intercut.

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In the end he leaves his game, worried about the kid, and rightfully so.  The punk sacrifices his life to save the boy.  Redeeming, but dark.  This is Gotham.

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Cary Burkett, Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte are behind the Batgirl story in this issue, which continues the story from the previous one.

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While Batgirl does not have any sort of cave of her own, she does have a friend, Jeff, who runs a garage.  He seems to have a crush on Batgirl, and she feels comfortable storing her motorcycle there.

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Barbara is not above a bit of flirting herself, when she finds out the father of the girl Batgirl rescued the previous issue is single.

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She also discovers that the development plans had been altered, and the original plan buried by slum lords who wanted to hold onto their properties.  She exposes their scheme, and the new housing is built, and the theatre saved.

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It’s back to campus life with this Harris/NIcholas.Colletta Robin story, that deals with a supposed death by hazing, which was really an intentional murder.

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Dick and Jennifer about to go swimming when they discover the body, and once again Dick ditches his girlfriend to go be Robin.

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It’s not one of his harder cases, and he does end up lip-locked with Jennifer.  Considering that their relationship ends next issue, I wanted to include their last really happy moment.

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Black Lightning is back, with a good story by Jean-Marc deMatteis.

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The hero has two major concerns in this story.  As teacher Jefferson Pierce, he is worried about one of his students, who seems to be having some troubles at home.

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As Black Lightning, he is dealing with the Slime Killer, a vigilante doling out bloody street justice.

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Visiting the boy at home, Jeff meets his angry, physically abusive father.

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It’s not much of a surprise when the father turns out to be the Slime Killer, but the story does not shy away from the difficult ending, as the son chooses to support his father, even after he is exposed and arrested.  Not an entirely happy ending, but a good one.

 

 

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 492 – Batman and Batgirl team-up, a bridge story, Man-Bat ends, and Robin vs the Penguin

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Cary Burkett and Don Newton lead off Detective 492 (July 1980) with a Batman/Batgirl team up, divided into two chapters.  Often the structure of something like this gets in the way of the storytelling, but in this case, it works to an advantage.

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Batman sees the news reports about Batgirl being killed, and heads to see Commissioner Gordon, discovering that Batgirl is at home, alive.  She explains how she used the dummy as a decoy for Cormorant.

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She tells the men she has decided to give up being Batgirl.  Batman argues with her, not to give up the good fight.  He looks to Gordon to back him up, but he is more than happy to not have his daughter out risking her life.

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Batman goes in pursuit of General Scarr, working his way up through the man’s ranks of hoods.  These fight scenes are really nicely intercut with a long conversation between Gordon and Barbara about being a hero, what things are worth the risk, and how Batman can be the way he is.

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Batman reaches Scarr, only to discover that he has fought his way into a trap.  He was the intended target all along.

So then, he was lying to his men in the previous issue when he talked about Batgirl being a threat?  Why?  He had to have informed them about the trap, so they had to know they were luring Batman.

It’s a minor point, but it bugged me as a kid.

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The story moves to the Batgirl half, as she discovers Batman has gone missing, and goes in search of him. She faces Cormorant, and finds that he is far more frightened of her than she of him, because he thinks she has come back from the dead.

Cormorant returns in a Batgirl Special in the late 80s, but no long thinks she is a ghost.

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She finds Batman, and though he has already broken his bonds and is taking out Scarr;s men, she still manages to rescue him.

The story ends as if her trauma is cured, but in reality, this event would leave deep scars.

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Bob Haney and Bob Oskner craft this installment of Tales of Gotham City.  There is some excellently vertiginous art as we read about a bridge, and the people on it one afternoon.

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The story is told from the point of view of a man who works on the bridge every day.  There is a little old man he sees walking the bridge daily.  Today is special, though, as there is a really dramatic guy threatening to jump because a girl doesn’t like him, and felons speeding towards the bridge, with police in pursuit.

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The storyline all come together, and the boy does little to save the girl he claims to love, when she gets grabbed by the felons.  It’s the old man who sacrifices his life for her.

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He gets the girl anyway, as she realizes suicidal cowards are hot.  The old man turns out to be the one who built the bridge many years earlier.  Corny, but I enjoyed it, and the art really carries it.

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Man-Bat has his final story, by Bob Rozakis, Romeo Tanghal and Vince Colletta.

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Kirk returns home to find Francine and the baby gone, long overdue from a shopping trip.  He discovers that they are on a subway car, mysteriously trapped in its tunnel.

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He finds the car, and the giant rat that has caused it to stop. My only complaint with this tale is that there is not enough Man-Bat vs giant rat action, as he drives it away with a torch.

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His series ends on an appopriately “can’t win for losing” note, as Kirk’s help in the situation is dismissed by the authorities, who refuse to take him seriously.

Man-Bat next appears, along with Francine, the baby, and Jason Bard, in Barve and the Bold the following month, in a coda to his series.

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Robin’s story,by Jack C Harris, Charles Nicholas and Vince Colletta, involves a pterodactyl egg on display at the university.

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The Penguin has come to town to steal it, and wants Robin aware of his presence.

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Dick winds up having the same romantic problems with Jennifer Anne that he was having with Lori Elton, as he keeps having to disappear and make excuses for breaking dates.  Oh, and there’s that man in black again.

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The Penguin has a fairly silly death-trap prepared for Robin, shutting him in a cage and firing it into the air.  He escapes, and nabs the villain.

 

Detective 491 – Maxie Zeus and the Golden Fleece, the origin of Jason Bard, Robin has a tail, Black Lightning shorts out, and a new job for Barbara Gordon

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The split cover for Detective 491 (June 1980) might be considered a metaphor for the variable quality of the stories it contains.

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton contribute an excellent Maxie Zeus story.

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It begins with a Wayne Foundation scientist showing Bruce Wayne some actual gold cloth he had created – before gunmen burst in, kill him and steal the cloth.  Bruce does his best to pursue them, but most of them get away.

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Batman impersonates one of Maxie Zeus’s captured men, and goes to see him at Arkham.  Batman slips up, not knowing the plans, and Maxie knocks him out, and escapes.

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The story takes a surprising turn, as we discover that Maxie’s plan for the cloth was to give it to his daughter, Medea, as a gift.  Batman has the grace to stop this, but provide a different gift for the girl.  This is Medea’s first appearance, but she would become an integral element of Maxie Zeus’ world.

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This gets followed by another great scene.  Batman and Maxie leave the home where Medea is being raised, and have a calm conversation about Maxie’s plans, and the fact that the murder was not part of the scheme – and all the while Batman is fighting Maxie’s men.

Batman solves the murder mystery, a rival co-worker, but it’s the scenes with Maxie Zeus that stand out so much.

Maxie Zeus returns in an issue of Batman later in the year.

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Jason Bard stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, as we learn his sad background, from Mike W Barr and Dan Spiegle.

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We learn that Jaosn grew up in a small town, the son of an alocholic, abusive, criminal father, and a long-suffering mother whose suffering was cut short when the father killed her.

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After being discharged from the army because of his wound, Jason became a detective, in the hopes of one day finding and apprehending his father.  He does find him, and the man is even worse than Jason remembered.  Still, he is not pleased when his father dies in a shoot out.

A really good background story for this character, and Dan Spiegle’s art is perfect for it.  I wish he had done more Jason Bard stories.

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On the weaker side of the issue, we have the Robin story, by Jack C Harris, Alex Saviuk and Vince Colletta.

I should have mentioned in the last post, that starting with the last issue, Robin notices that he, and Dick Grayson, are being followed by a mysterious man in black.  He will pop up in each story until his character is explained.

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This story deals with a killer on campus, and evidence that points to a black basketball player with anger management troubles.  Robin realizes the guy is just being framed, and finds the real killer.

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Black Lightning wakes to discover himself powerless in this second half, by Marty Pasko, Pat Broederick and Frank McLaughlin.

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I remember reading this as a kid, and expecting that this story would see the boy he was trapped with gain his powers, but nope, nothing like that.  We do learn that the voodoo queen’s big plan was this spell, that would make her son and Black Lightning equal in power.  But the spell did not give her son powers, just removed those of the hero.

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Black Lightning isn’t even very stressed about the situation, figuring that he became a hero before he got his powers anyway.

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The Batgirl story in this issue, by Cary Burkett, with art by Jose Delbo and Joe Giella, would have repercussions that lasted through Crisis on Infinite Earths and beyond.

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Crime boss General Scarr debuts, upset that Batgirl has returned to Gotham, and figuring that she will be a menace to their plans.  Apparently Batman doesn’t bother him at all, but whatever.  He has brought in a hired killer, Cormorant, to kill Batgirl.

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Meanwhile, Barbara Gordon has started a new job, as the head of social services, for the Human Research and Development Centre, which sounds very vague yet progressive.  She meets a couple of her co-workers, a handsome but rude man, Richard Bender, and an unattractive but pleasant and brilliant one, Roger Barton.

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Cormorant lures Batgirl to the roof of a building by dangling the dummy of her from a flagpole, as seen on the splash page.  He holds a little girl hostage, demanding she stand out in the open and allow herself to get shot.

We appear to see her fall to her death at the end of the story.  Obviously not, and it continues next issue.

 

Detective 489 – Batman fights a vampire, Commissioner Gordon in a prison riot, Robin and Batgirl team-up, the Atom meets the Dharlu, Alfred and the evil butlers, and Batman finds Bronze Tiger

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Batman has two stories, book-ending Detective 489 (April 1980).  The first, by Jean-Marc deMatteis, Irv Novick and Vince Colletta has a rash of murders, seemingly committed by a vampire.

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A vampire hunter has also come to town, informing Batman that he and his assistant have been chasing this creature from city to city.  Batman insists there must be some other explanation for the deaths.

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The story looks like it is going the obvious direction, that the vampire hunter is really the vampire, but it doesn’t quite go that way.

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In fact, the vampire hunter is the killer, but with a split personality that thinks he is a vampire.  His assistant explains it all – then turns into a bat and flies away.

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Commissioner Gordon stars in this chapter of Tales of Gotham City, by Paul Kupperberg, Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell.

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A riot breaks out at Gotham penitentiary, and they prisoners demand Gordon be the negotiator, but when he arrives, he discovers they simply intend to kill him.

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This is possibly the most bad-ass story Gordon gets, as he takes down the men about to kill him, fakes a deal with others to get the prisoners back in their cells, and then takes down the other leaders of the riot, all by himself.

This could be a kick-ass action movie.

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Robin and Batgirl, whose team-ups made Batman Family a success, have the last one for many years, and it’s awful.  In so very many ways.  Jack C Harris, Don Heck and Vince Colletta are all to blame.

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I never like Don Heck’s art, but in this issue it descends to new lows.

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Barbara Gordon goes missing, and then show uup with no memory. Commissioner Gordon calls on Robin, informing him that his daughter is Batgirl.  Robin already knows this, he and Batgirl discovered each others identities back in Batman Family, but Gordon doesn’t know this.

One has to wonder why he goes to Robin, though, instead of Batman.

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Anyway, Robin tracks her down, and convinces her to get into her Batgirl costume, although she still remembers nothing.  Conveniently, they promptly run into the guy who stole all her memories.

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So they beat him up, and discover the stolen memories are all on cassette tapes.  Robin plays them and restores Barbara’s memories, but then leaves the last tape, which apparently contains nothing but the secret identities of Batman and Robin, and gives her a bit of a guilt trip, asking her not to listen to it.

And she burns the tape!

The whole reason for this story was to make it so that she no longer knew their identities.  Why not?  Just stupid.  Poorly drawn, poorly written, and a bad idea for a story in the first place.

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Bob Rozakis, Alex Saviuk and Vince Colletta give the Atom an adventure on the JLA satellite.  The Atom’s last solo story was in Five Star Spectacular, but he was soon to get a rotating series in Action Comics.

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The story deals with the Dharlu, a comatose alien that resides in the JLA satellite computer, and has to be there in order for the computer to work.  I never understood that story.  Anyway, investigating some computer problems, the Atom discovers a while bunch of tiny Dharlu’s loose in the computer.  Her kids, one would guess.

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The Atom sends the little Dharlu’s shooting out into the vacuum of space, so they can “find their destinies,” unless they all just die out there.  And he doesn’t even try to take the original one out of the computer prison they keep it in.

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Ok, here’s a story I won’t attack.  Alfred sees a picture of himself in the paper, part of a phony Butler ring being broken up by Batman in this story by Bob Rozakis and Jose Delbo.

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Curious, he goes to investigate, and finds the bad butlers, who mistake him for part of their crew.  Alfred clues in that he was being impersonated to infiltrate the group.

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It’s all a bit convoluted, and Alfred only pretends to have figured it all out beforehand.  Robin cameos, having been the one who had impersonated him before.

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The second Batman story in the issue, by Denny O’Neil and Don Newton, picks up the League of Assassins storyline.  Both the League and Batman have tracked Bronze Tiger to the hospital where he is recovering.  How they did this is not explained, but its been a few months since the last part of this story, so they had time.

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Bronze Tiger defends himself from the League killers, although Batman was there to step in if needed.  Tiger does not recall his time with the League completely, but does remember enough to send Batman to an amusement park they were using.

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There he fights a bunch of the League, but does not find any of the big players – but does find a seismologist being held captive.

And with that unusual detail, the story is set up for its big finale next issue.

 

 

Detective 488 – The Spook sends Batman to death row, Tales of Gotham City begins, Batgirl comes home, the Elongated Man looks for a car, and Robin gets a new girlfriend

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Detective 488 (Feb./March 1980) sees the Spook return.  He had last appeared in an issue of Batman two years earlier.  Cary Burkett scripts, with Don Newton on the art.

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The story also sees Selina Kyle appear, in her budding romance with Bruce Wayne, which had been happening in the pages of Batman.  She, along with much of Gotham, has been reading a runaway best-seller by a man on death row.  His agent and publisher both talk about how much money they could make off a sequel, but of course the author is due to be executed.

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The Spook gets hired to break the man out of prison, and the story adds a mystery element by keeping the identity of the man behind it a secret.

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Lucius Fox, who had been introduced months earlier in Batman, also makes an appearance in this story. giving more background information on the writer.

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The Spook lures Batman to the prison, and uses some special who knows what to make everyone see Batman as the man on death row.  So the Spook breaks the writer out of prison, but no one realizes it, and Batman is due to be executed in his place.

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The Spook even shows up to taunt Batman.  Of course, he manages to escape and catch the writer, the man who hired the Spook, and the big name villain as well.

This was pretty much the last appearance of the Spook, so far as I recall, aside from a couple of stories in the next few years that feature huge line-ups of Batman villains.

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Denny O’Neil scripts the first installment of a new series, Tales of Gotham City.  Some of the stories would feature known characters, but the best of these stories dealt with the every day people of Gotham.

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The first story deals with a cop on his last day before retirement.  He was proud of his record, that he had never had to pull his gun during his time on the force.

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He winds up on a subway car with an escaped convict disguised as a woman, who disappears during the moments the train blacks out in a tunnel.

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It’s a good mystery, for its brevity, and comes to a warm and fuzzy conclusion as the cop subdues the convict without needing to pull his gun and break his perfect record.

True, this is not the dark and seedy Gotham we have come to know and love, but the series would move there.

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Batgirl returns to Gotham in this story by Jack C Harris, with art by Jose Delbo and Frank Chiaramonte.

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The main part of the story deals with rival gang on the verge of a war after the leader of one is murdered, but the better scenes are between Barbara and her father, as they discuss her loss in the recent election.  What caused it, what lessons to take, and where to go from here.

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She averts the gang war, proving that the leader was killed by one of his own gang.

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The final scene shows the exterior of Commissioner Gordon’s house, not something often seen.  He sure seems to make a lot of money as a police commissioner.  I don’t think there is any other story showing him living in such a massive house.

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The Elongated Man is back, with a mysterious car theft in front of a huge crowd, told by Mike W Barr, with art by Eduardo Barreto and Joe Giella.  I don’t know if it’s because this is very early Barreto, or it’s Giella’s inks, but it looks absolutely nothing like his later work.

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The mystery is good enough.  The car simply vanishes, leaving no trace, and Ralph is puzzled until a chance remark by Sue makes him realize the car the crowd saw was just a collapsable shell, not a real car at all.

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Robin’s story, by Jack C Harris, with art by Schaffenberger and Colletta, has a number of wealthy students get kidnapped the first day of the semester.

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One of those grabbed is Jennifer Anne, a pretty blonde that Dick Grayson has been scoping.  So of course he gets into Robin gear to go rescue her.

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The kidnappings turn out to be more extensive than he thought, and Dick learns that he was an intended victim as well.  But knowing that he was meant to be grabbed makes him realize the poor kid, who was handing out assignments to help pay his tuition, is one of the bad guys.

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Robin rescues Jennifer, but Dick gets to make out with her.  There is a “funny” ending, as Alfred gets the ransom note just as Bruce gets Dick’s call about the situation.

But it bothers me that the message seems to be to not trust kids who have to work to pay their tuition.

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 483 – Maxie Zeus debuts, Human Target begins, Batgirl goes on a date, the Demon returns to Castle Branek, Robin wipes up MAZE and a kangaroo race

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Denny O’Neil and Don Newton bring back Leslie Thompkins in this follow-up Crime Alley story, which also serves to introduce the new villain Maxie Zeus.

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It’s once again the anniversary of the deaths of his parents, and Batman heads to Crime Alley, where he once again comes to the aid of Leslie Thompkins.  This story is the first to raise the notion that the deaths of the Waynes affected the entire city, sent it into a decline.

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Batman gets word that crime boss Maxie Zeus is having men spread poison gas through an entire apartment building in Crime Alley, just to kill one man, and Batman sets out to stop them.

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He does so, saving the innocents, as well as the man Zeus intended to kill.  Leslie still hasn’t pieced together that Batman is Bruce Wayne, but her dialogue hints that she isn’t too far from the secret.

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The ending warns Maxie Zeus that Batman is coming for him, which happens next issue.  Although not much is done with Maxie Zeus in this first story, it helps build him as a powerful threat to be faced.

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Christopher Chance, the Human Target, has his back-up series move from the Brave and the Bold to this book,a result of the DC Implosion.  Christopher Chance works as a bodyguard/impersonator.  If someone has threatened your life,he will take on your identity and flush out the wannabe killer.

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In this story, by Len Wein, Howard Chaykin and Dick Giordano, he takes on the identity of a Hollywood actor, after a number of incidents on a film set lead him to believe someone is trying to kill him.

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It’s not hard to solve this one, there is really only one viable suspect, but the story is fun is the art is great.

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Batgirl faces off against some homegrown terrorists in this story by Bob Rozakis, Bob Oskner and Vince Colletta.

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After rounding up part of the gang, she gets asked out on a date by a soldier, who had first met her when she battled Madame Zodiac in the Pentagon, in a late issue of Batman Family.  Barbara agrees, but the date quickly turns into a farce.

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The evening lurches from disaster to disaster, and though it is terrible for the two on the date, it’s certainly entertaining for the reader.

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Just as the silliness threatens to outlast its welcome, Batgirl is reminded of something the terrorists said, and realizes they are going to attack Washington Monument that night.  She and her soldier boy wind up working together to round up the remainder of the gang, so the date is a success after all.

What I really appreciate in this story is that, with the date plot, it’s basically a romantic story, but it does not weaken Barbara, or put her in a subservient position to the soldier in any way.

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Steve Ditko takes over the art for the rest of Len Wein’s Demon story, as Etrigan faces off against Baron Tyme.

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Baron Tyme fills in his story between the events of Man-Bat and now.  When he vanished in that book, he was drawn into a nether realm, which allows him great knowledge, but is a torture to his body, which is trapped between dimensions.  With the Eternity Book, he intends to open Merlin’s tomb in Castle Branek, and use him to return completely to this world.

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The story brings back the town’s inspector, who looks straight out of a Frankenstein movie.  The Demon attempts to reach Merlin’s tomb before Tyme does, but does not succeed.

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Tyme uses the Eternity Book to force Etrigan to transform back into Jason Blood, and then traps him, as he prepares to open the tomb.

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Robin’s long battle with MAZE comes to an end in this story by Bob Rozakis and Kurt Schaffenberger.

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The leader of MAZE has brought all his members together, which turns out to be a good thing for Robin and the police, as they bust in.  Raven flees, and Card Queen shows her true colours, betraying MAZE and helping to bring them down.

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Card Queen is revealed to be Duela Dent, in yet another identity.  This (and last issue) are her first appearances since the break-up of the Teen Titans.  She would not appear again until the wedding of Donna Troy in New Teen Titans.

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But the story is not yet over. Dick confronts Lori Elton and her new boyfriend, who Dick reveals to be the Raven. As the guy tries to fight back, and loses, Dick goes on to explain a number of dangling plot threads, bringing this long tale to a satisfactory, if sad, conclusion.

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The final, silent, page is quite powerful.  Lori attempts to return to Dick, but he rebuffs her.  As he walks away from the rest of the students, he looks stronger, and more like a man, than at any time before.

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The final story in this issue, by Denny O’Neil, Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin, was intended to be one of the “Public Life of Bruce Wayne” stories that ran in the back pages of Batman, until the DC Implosion ended that.

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It’s silly, but entertaining, and sort of clever.  Knowing that an Australian hit man has come to Gotham, Bruce Wayne finances a kangaroo race in the city, in order to draw him out.

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Once he has spotted the man, he follows him as Batman, finds the men who hired them, and rounds them all up.

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There is also a nice pin-up on the back page of the current Batman family, with Batgirl, Robin, Alfred and Commissioner Gordon.

 

 

Detective 467 – Batman on the subway, and the Calculator vs Hawkman

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Batman is underground in Detective 467 (Jan./Feb. 77), pursuing a drug connection in this story by Bob Rozakis, with art by John Calnan and Vince Coletta.

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It’s a pretty straightforward story, livened up when Batman, in disguise, sees another Batman on the subway car, and realizes the fake Batman is part of the pass-off.

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The story is narrated by Batman, although who he is talking to is meant to be a mystery, with little clues sprinkled in.  Of course, it’s the most obvious answer, Hawkman, who has the back-up story this issue.

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After hearing Batman’s tale, Hawkman relates his encounter with the Calculator, as told by Rozakis, Rogers and Austin.

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The Calculator attempts to steal Hawkman while he is in flight.  That really doesn’t sound like a great idea, when he is relying on Hawkman to stay in the air himself.  But he does make himself a nuisance.

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Hawkman has little patience for the Calculator, and simply decks him once he gets the chance.

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The conclusion to the story sets up next issue’s full length tale, involving all the heroes from the past few issues, working with Batman against the Calculator.

 

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