Monday, May 27, 2019

DETECTIVE COMICS #440, #441, & #442

Penciler: Sal Amendola | Inker: Dick Giordano | Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin

They can't all be winners...

Archie Goodwin started his run on DETECTIVE COMICS with two mostly strong stories (aside from his characterization of Bruce Wayne, as discussed last week) -- and he immediately follows those up here with a pair of duds. And this is where, as I did years ago when reading NEW TEEN TITANS, I will note that allowing your writer to edit himself is not really a great idea! If Julie Schwartz had been editing Goodwin on DETECTIVE around this time, he might have helped to whip these tales into shape. But unfortunately, that wasn't the case.

"Ghost Mountain Midnight!" opens with a young lady named Sarah Beth kidnapped from a nightclub in Gotham where she works as a minimally-clad server. Batman does some investigative work and learns that Sarah Beth was taken by her own brothers to their home in the Appalachians. Batman tracks the group down and discovers that Sarah Beth is to be executed as a sacrifice to an Indian god, per the terms of a pact her family made with the Indians decades ago. The Caped Crusader saves the girl, kills a bloodthirsty bear (more of that Batman-on-animal violence we touched on a couple weeks back), and solves the mystery of a moonshine ring in the mountains. All in a day's work for our hero, and all extremely silly to boot.

The bizarre, out-of-place plot isn't helped by Goodwin's phonetic accents for the hillbilly characters; they're all running around saying "yew" instead of "you" and "hit" instead of "it". Sal Amendola's layouts aren't the greatest either, though Dick Giordano does what he can to turn them into something presentable.

Monday, May 20, 2019


Writer/Editor: Archie Goodwin | Art: Jim Aparo

And now begins the brief Archie Goodwin era on DETECTIVE COMICS. As I understand it, sales on the series had been flagging for some time, so DC decided to try and reinvigorate the title by yanking it from the editorial purview of Julius Schwartz and turning it over to Archie Goodwin (Schwartz would remain editor on BATMAN, however, and eventually retake DETECTIVE as well when the Goodwin experiment eventually reached its end). The result is a year's worth of bi-monthly issues featuring Goodwin as the writer/editor of the series, and a parade of talented artists to help him tell his stories. The first of these artists is one who many consider the definitive Batman storyteller, the great Jim Aparo.

In THE GREATEST BATMAN STORIES EVER TOLD, "Deathmask!" came immediately after "Ghost of the Killer Skies" -- as a result, child-me came to assume that Batman spent the entire decade of the seventies embroiled in solving moody murder mysteries. That's not the case by any means, but the fact remains -- this is a chilling and masterfully crafted mystery. Concerned with the opening of an exhibit at the Gotham Museum dedicated to a South American Indian tribe's god of death, it sees three men killed when the "god" seemingly comes alive and begins committing murders while wearing a ceremonial mask and robes.

Monday, May 13, 2019

BATMAN #251 & #255

Story: Denny O'Neil | Art: Neal Adams | Editor: Julius Schwartz

Note: Screenshots below come from BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOLUME 2 and are not representative of these stories' original colors (the covers are presented as published, however).

Neal Adams' brief time with Batman comes to an end in these two tales, and the first teams him with his most frequent collaborator, Denny O'Neil, for the return of Batman's best-known villain. As discussed when we looked at "Half An Evil" a while back, my understanding that in the late sixties, after the Batman TV show ended and DC wanted to reestablish the character as something closer to his puply roots, there was a conscious decision made to retire the classic rogues gallery for a time, to allow the campy screen versions to fade from memory before reintroducing them. Now, I have no idea whether this is true, but in any case the Joker returns here four or so years after his last appearance.

I've said before that the Joker isn't my favorite Batman villain -- but, nonetheless, for my money "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge!" is pretty much the quintessential Batman story, and probably one of the few I might show somebody to introduce them to what exactly I believe Batman is all about. To wit: we have, as noted above, the best-known member of Batman's rogues gallery. We have Commissioner Gordon summoning Batman to the scene of a murder for investigative assistance. We have Batman setting out to track down the Joker, using his detective skills to do so. We have him demonstrating his "ultra-competence" as he easily catches up with a hoodlum who believes he's given Batman the slip. Yet we also have a fallible Batman, who's clubbed from behind by that same hood after turning his back on him. But most importantly, we have a Batman who refuses to give up; who, when thrown into a death trap by the Joker, uses his wits and athleticism to find a way out.

Monday, May 6, 2019


Story: Denny O'Neil | Art: Neal Adams & Dick Giordano | Editor: Julius Schwartz

Note: Screenshots below come from BATMAN ILLUSTRATED BY NEAL ADAMS VOLUME 2 and are not representative of these stories' original colors (the covers are presented as published, however).

The Ra's al Ghul saga is done, the villain has been brought to justice, but there's one loose end yet to tie up. Back when Batman started his crusade against the Demon in issue 242, he faked Bruce Wayne's death via a plane accident in South America. Now it's time to resurrect Wayne, but the deed is complicated when two rival political bosses get involved, one of them accusing the other of murdering Wayne. What ensues is a mystery Batman doesn't want to solve. He must, in order to bring Bruce Wayne back from the dead, but he knows that to do so will pave the way to get a dirty politician into office. However Batman does what he must, and by the story's final page, Gotham is as corrupt as ever and Bruce Wayne is alive again.

This is one of those stories that I feel should be included in any printing of TALES OF THE DEMON, but at the same time I understand why it isn't. Ra's al Ghul is never mentioned at any point; the entire saga is pretty much ignored. But it does show us how Batman brings Bruce Wayne back to life following his "death", tying up the one remaining plot thread from the O'Neil/Adams opus of preceding issues. But at the same time, TALES does not include issue 242 either, and that one is far more essential -- plus, without it, this story is even less important. If you're not gonna print the story that actually does further the main plot, why print a story that wraps up a sub-plot from it?

Otherwise, this is a decent story -- a nice palate cleanser after the globetrotting of the previous installments, it plants Batman firmly back in Gotham and sets him against that staple of his early seventies adventures: normal, everyday criminals in business suits.