Friday, June 28, 2019


Squeaking in just under the wire, and thanks primarily to a Comixology Spider-Man sale coupled with a Comixology BOGO ("Buy One, Get One") coupon code, we have The Unboxing for June -- an all-digital, all-Spidey affair.

I took advantage of the afore-mentioned sale and coupon to fill in some holes in my digital Spider-Man library. Some of these I own already, but I'm always up for getting digital "backup copies" of books I own when they can be had dirt cheap -- plus, if we're honest, I do more of my comic reading on my iPad anyway these days. It's more like the physical copies are the backups at this point.

Anyway, to start, I grabbed some late eighties/early nineties Epic Collections, which I love since they're collecting the long David Michelinie run that I grew up on in elementary and middle school: KRAVEN'S LAST HUNT, VENOM, COSMIC ADVENTURES, RETURN OF THE SINISTER SIX, and ROUND ROBIN.

Then, from my beloved post-Clone Saga era, I grabbed SPIDER-MAN BY TODD DEZAGO & MIKE WIERINGO vol. 1, SPIDER-HUNT, and IDENTITY CRISIS. Marvel has been spotty in collecting this Spider-Man era, which is kind of frustrating. They did the entire Clone Saga in a proper reading order, and they've done the John Byrne/Howard Mackie relaunch from 1999 more or less in its entirety. But the two years in between have received only the above collections, plus a HOBGOBLIN LIVES collection that included a few issues of SPECTACULAR SPIDER-MAN from the era as well. To my recollection, that's about it, but I hold out hope that someday, the entire post-Clone Saga/pre-Byrne period will make it into reprints (i.e., all four core books, plus SPIDER-MAN UNLIMITED, annuals, one-shots, mini-series, and so forth in a proper reading order).

Speaking of John Byrne, the final bunch of items from this month's digital Unboxing is a little grab bag, including Byrne's oft-maligned SPIDER-MAN: CHAPTER ONE. I actually recall enjoying certain aspects of this when I read it way back in college. Mainly I appreciated Byrne running through the first year's worth of Spider-Man stories as if they had all been planned out in advance. That said, there were some questionable decisions in the book as well, and I was annoyed that Marvel briefly had it overwrite Spider-Man's original continuity. Nonetheless, it is something I want to revisit someday, and it's perfect as a "digital only" purchase, since I have no real desire to own a physical copy.

Closing things out are the other random bits: AMAZING SPIDER-MAN MASTERWORKS vol. 20, and SPIDER-MAN: THE NEWSPAPER STRIPS vol. 1 and vol. 2. You'll recall how much I loved the Stan Lee/John Romita run on the Spidey strips when I read them here a couple years back. Those editions were published by IDW's Library of American Comics imprint, but have never been released digitally. However, these editions, which were released by Marvel a few years prior to IDW's release, are just fine with me for digital purposes.

FYI, the BOGO coupon has expired, but the Spider-Man sale runs into mid-July, so all the books mentioned above should still be available at a discount for a couple more weeks, for those who are interested!

Monday, June 24, 2019


Story: Denny O'Neil | Art: Irv Novick & Dick Giordano | Editing: Julius Schwartz

I don't know if it was an official mandate or an unspoken rule, but for whatever reason, it seems as if Denny O'Neil was the only Bat-writer allowed to use the classic rogues' gallery for a few years in the seventies (or perhaps he was, for reasons unknown, the only writer interested in them). Following the status quo reset in 1969's "One Bullet Too Many", Frank Robbins never touched any of those villains. Nor did Archie Goodwin in his year as editor and writer of DETECTIVE COMICS. But, with Neal Adams, O'Neil reintroduced Two-Face and the Joker to Batman's world, and with Irv Novick, he brought back Catwoman and Penguin.

Mind you, I can only speak to goings-on in the core Bat-titles, BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, from this period. If the classic adversaries popped up in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD or anyplace else, I wouldn't know about it. But even when the Joker gets his very own ongoing series in mid-1975 -- first issue cover dated three months after this one -- it is O'Neil who handles writing chores initially before handing the series off to others.

Yes, I did just say this issue was published in early '75. We're jumping back a ways to look at a story published during the "Bat Murderer" storyline we looked at last week, and then below we will skip ahead a full year to an issue published nine months after "Bat-Murderer" ended. Got it?

Monday, June 17, 2019


Writer: Len Wein
Art: Jim Aparo (Chapters 1 - 3); Ernie Chua & Dick Giordano (Chapters 4 & 5)
Editor: Julius Schwartz

I believe DC's first intentional attempt to "Marvelize" their line came in 1977, when Steve Englehart was hired to bring his AVENGERS-honed sensibilities to the pages of JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA (and as part of that deal, he also scripted several issues of DETECTIVE COMICS, which we'll begin to examine here in just a couple weeks). But in 1975, an earlier, "under the radar" Marvelization occurred. It only lasted a few months, but it's clear that DETECTIVE COMICS' new writer, Len Wein, was intent on bringing some of that Marvel flavor to DC's Caped Crusader.

The opening chapter of this five-part serial sees Batman working to thwart a crime ring whose leader turns out to be Talia. Batman, who happens to be holding a gun he lifted from the Daughter of the Demon, shoots her dead. The police attempt to arrest him, but the Masked Manhunter flees to clear his name. Chapter two finds our hero breaking into Gotham's new state-of-the-art prison to question an incarcerated Ra's al Ghul about the incident. But after al Ghul boasts that he did indeed engineer Tali'a death and Batman's frame-up, the Demon's Head kills himself, framing Batman for a second murder and sending the Caped Crusader on the lam once more.

Aside from the fact that it seems incredibly odd that an international terrorist like Ra's al Ghul is being held in jail in Gotham City of all places, these opening chapters are pretty good. Commissioner Gordon goes a bit overboard in accusing Batman of murder and not even considering, even after all their years of working together, than he could be innocent -- and Batman flies off the handle in the same scene, grabbing Gordon's lapels like a madman and raving about his innocence.

Monday, June 10, 2019


Writer: Archie Goodwin | Artist: Walter Simonson

When Archie Goodwin took over DETECTIVE COMICS as its editor and appointed himself writer of the monthly lead feature starring Batman, he also took to populating the series with various backups, including "Manhunter", another serial which he also wrote. In collaboration with Walter Simonson on art, Goodwin scripted six monthly "Manhunter" chapters before concluding the serial in a full-length lead story teaming the character with Batman.

Manhunter's saga begins in DETECTIVE #427 (making it a backup to "Deathmask", which we looked at a few weeks back). Over the course of these six installments, we follow Christine St. Clair, an Interpol agent on the trail of Paul Kirk -- a big game hunter who was reported killed decades earlier. We soon learn that Kirk was a hero named Manhunter in the 1940s, and that he worked for a mysterious Council which put him into suspended animation after World War II.

The following chapters reveal that the Council, which presented itself to Kirk as benevolent, actually has its sights set on ruling the world -- and that part of their scheme involves the creation of a highly-trained troupe of soldiers and assassins to be led by Kirk. Further, it turns out that all these warriors are clones of Kirk created by the Council's scientists. When Kirk realizes what his masters are up to, he deserts the Council and he and Christine find themselves on the run. The serial concludes with Kirk and Christine hooking up with the world's last master of ninjutsu, Asano Nitobe -- a former member of the Council who trained Kirk to fight.

Monday, June 3, 2019

BATMAN #256 & #257

Story: Denny O'Neil | Art: Irv Novick & Dick Giordano | Edited by: Julius Schwartz

We interrupt our look at Archie Goodwin's year as writer/editor of DETECTIVE COMICS to check in with a couple issues of its sister title which were released during that same span (for the record, these two issues were published immediately after Neal Adams' final bat-story, "Moon of the Wolf", which we looked at a few weeks back). For the most part, BATMAN is written by Dennis O'Neil at this point, and features various appearances from the classic rogues' gallery -- including the first 1970s showings of Catwoman and Penguin in these two installments.

Occasionally, when reading a solo Denny O'Neil Batman outing (by which I mean "with any artist other than Neal Adams"), I feel like O'Neil regresses back to the Silver Age in some ways. Which isn't to say he didn't do that now and then with Adams -- see the BRAVE AND THE BOLD installment "Red Water, Crimson Death" from a while back -- but it's just way more apparent when Adams isn't there to help temper him. We've seen it in some of the early League of Assassins tales with Bob Brown, and now we see it here. "Catwoman's Circus Caper!" is the feline femme fatale's reintroduction to Batman's world after years of absence. But rather than getting something along the lines of the moody and atmospheric "Half an Evil" or the dark and chilling "Joker's Five-Way Revenge", which reintroduced Two-Face and the Joker respectively, Catwoman makes her grand reappearance in a story that would've been right at home during the Bat-mania of the sixties.

The story begins for no apparent reason in the Batcave, where Batman has returned after sometime abroad in pursuit of criminals. The only explanation given for the cave's use here is that Bruce has asked Alfred to open up Wayne Manor so he can spend some time recuperating there after this latest mission. But when the Caped Crusader reads a letter from Dick Grayson informing his mentor that he's run off to join the circus, Batman departs to check on his ward.