Sunday, September 13, 2009

Added To The Collection - Batman #s 102 and 154 and Detective Comics #s 295 and 297

Picked up another batch of coverless comics this time around, the covers to which I'll post below.

Batman #102 has a story that looks to be a lot of fun entitled "The House of Batman," where Batman gets his own crimefighting base in the city. The first story of Batman #154 features the second Batman and Robin team, one of my favorite fifties era gimmicks. Detective Comics #s 295 and 297 both feature giant creatures and there's a good chance you'll see one of them reviewed as part of something I have planned for October.

(And yes, I realize the irony of posting the covers to coverless comics)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

"The Bat-Ape"

Issue: Batman #114

Cover Date: March 1958

Writer: Unknown

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: Every year, Gotham City holds a circus to raise money for charity with the acrobatics of Batman and Robin being the star attraction. This particular year features another popular performance, one featuring an ape named Mogo. His act goes flawlessly at first, when suddenly the usually gentle creature becomes enraged on top of a platform. His trainer, a man named Arthur Harris, is able to calm him down, but the panic the outburst caused allowed a pair of thieves to steal the circus' box office receipts. Because Mogo's outburst served as the perfect distraction for the thieves, Harris is taken into custody on the suspicion that he was in collaboration with the thieves. Harris' assistant, Roder, takes Mogo to his home while the Dynamic Duo investigate the circus for clues. Batman wonders why Mogo didn't become angered until he reached the platform and finds the answer to his question in the form of a shock producing electric wire connected to the metal platform. Harris wouldn't have needed such a wire to cause Mogo to act out, so Batman and Robin drive to Roder's house to find out who could have rigged it.

When the Duo arrive, they find Mogo in a cage much too small for him, which Roder explains was done out of fear that Mogo would flare into a rage again. Batman, furious at the mistreatment of the animal, orders Roder to put him in his original cage and treat him well like Harris told Roder to before he was taken away. Roder not only tells Batman that Harris is the one who rigs the platforms for Mogo, but that he saw Harris talking to a pair of strangers recently. Batman reminds Roder to treat Mogo well as he and Robin drive off, but Mogo has his own ideas, bending the bars of his cage and following the Dynamic Duo back to the Bat-Cave. Batman is still puzzling about the wire when Robin notices Mogo enter the Cave, noting how Batman has befriended the ape. Alfred is assigned to look after Mogo while Batman and Robin research the case, whereupon they find that neither Harris nor Roder has a criminal record. Robin mentions that Harris' lack of needing a wire to control Mogo makes Roder the more likely culprit, when Alfred is suddenly heard calling for help. It seems that Mogo has found himself a cowl to imitate Batman with and he wants a cape too. Batman tells Alfred to give him a cape and brings Mogo along with him and Robin after Alfred makes it clear that he doesn't want to be left with the ape.

Following through on their suspicion of Roder, the Dynamic Trio stake out his house and tail him when he leaves for Gotham City. They follow Roder to a warehouse, where a light on the highest floor turning on tells them where he is. Unable to see what is happening on even the roof of the other warehouse, Batman has Mogo lower him towards the window on a flagpole, where he can now clearly see Roder splitting money with the Vanning Brothers. The trio of crooks spots the Caped Crusader, but Batman tells Mogo to lift him up just in time. After vaulting across to the other roof with Batman and Robin's ropes so that they could swing across, Mogo joins Batman and Robin in pursuit of the thieves. Trapped behind a giant globe due to gunfire, Batman instructs Mogo to push the metal globe towards the thieves, cornering them and giving Batman and Robin the cover they need to jump Roder and the Vanning Brothers. The story ends with Harris planning to show his gratitude for Mogo helping to clear his name by returning to Africa and setting Mogo free.

Thoughts: Compared to the first Bat-Hound story, the debut of Bat-Ape is a much simpler story. There's no mystery that develops as the story goes on; you can pretty much tell that Roder is going to be behind the suspicion being placed on Harris. Not that it's a bad story, as it's the little moments throughout that shine. When you go into a story titled "The Bat-Ape," you expect it to be pretty goofy, but this story actually has a pretty serious moment. When Batman sees Mogo being mistreated, he goes into authoratative Batman mode and commands Roder to put Mogo into his normal cage and treat him well. It's a great moment that shows how serious Batman is, even in the lighthearted fifties. Alfred watching after Mogo provides some great comic relief, starting with Alfred's first line: "Is this blooming monkey going to live with us?" When Alfred threatens to resign, Batman just smiles, clearly enjoying his butler's handling of superheroics being pushed to the limit. And, of course, this story stars an ape in a Batman costume. He proves to be a great asset to Batman and Robin, able to perform feats of strength that the Dynamic Duo would otherwise not be able to perform, which includes pushing a giant globe (making me think this was a Bill Finger story).

While not as iconic as, say, the cover to Batman #156, this cover is one of the more well known covers from the era. Not many have read this story due to it never being reprinted, but everybody knows about Mogo The Bat-Ape due to this cover. Sheldon Moldoff's great handling of drawing animals continues with Mogo in this story. The real strength in his execution lies in the facial expressions he gives Mogo, allowing him to convey friendliness, anger, confusion, and "hello, easily flustered butler." One of the neatest details of the artwork is in the coloring. While colored brown on the cover, Mogo's hair is colored grey in the story. The coloring is very close to that of Batman's costume, creating the effect of Mogo being in full Batman costume despite only wearing the cape and cowl.

This was the only appearance of Mogo, but considering how it is planned at the end of the story that he'll be set free in his native Africa, one story is all Mogo needs.

This story has not been reprinted.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 10, 2009

"Ace, The Bat-Hound!"

Issue: Batman #92

Cover Date: June 1955

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Stan Kaye

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: One night while on patrol, Batman and Robin come across a dog struggling to stay afloat in a river. When they go in to retrieve him, they find the poor animal is stunned and decide to take him home and attempt to find his owner. Upon returning to the Bat-Cave, the dog begins to recover and Bruce Wayne makes preparations to advertise in the newspaper that the dog has been found. When the Dynamic Duo leave for police headquarters the next day, they find that the dog is following after them. Without time to turn back, Batman allows the dog to join them in the Batmobile, but now the problem arises of someone connecting this dog with the one found by Bruce Wayne due to its distinctive head markings. While Batman is inside police headquarters, Robin finds a solution by giving the dog a makeshift mask and a bat-symbol on his collar.

Batman returns to the Batmobile with news that a convict named Bowers escaped from prison and was seen entering the Stevens Warehouse. The Stevens Warehouse is a storage area for circus props, and Bowers takes advantage of this when he pushes a giant figure over on top of the Dynamic Duo has they enter. While Batman and Robin dodge the prop, the dog grabs ahold of Bowers sleeve and keeps him in place, giving Batman and Robin time to catch him. It is during his struggle with the dog that Bowers dubs him a Bat-Hound, a name further supported by the security guard on the scene. The rest of Bat-Hound's name falls into place when a neighbor of the dog's owner calls Bruce Wayne and tells him that the dog, Ace, belongs to John Wilker. But when Bruce and Dick arrive at Wilker's cottage, they find it a mess with signs of a struggle having taken place. It becomes even more clear that Wilker was kidnapped when a visit by Bruce to the printing firm where Wilker works yields that hasn't been to work in two days. The Dynamic Duo planned to use Ace to find Wilker, but their search is delayed by the appearance of the Bat-Signal. Once in Commissioner Gordon's office, the pair receives information on two cases: a theft at a paper company and a child who wandered off and was now missing.

Robin takes Ace with him to talk to the boy's mother, where Ace easily finds the boy hiding in a drainpipe after picking up his scent. Meanwhile, Batman's investigation of the paper theft has revealed that the paper that was stolen was of the kind used to make bonds. Bat-Hound's growling when he catches the scent of the burglars confirms for Batman that Wilker's kidnappers are behind the paper theft and abducted him so that he could counterfeit bonds for them. The trio drive to the next logical place for theft, the inking company, but are stopped in their tracks when one of the burglars pulls a gun on Wilker. Batman and Robin are captured by the burglars, with Bat-Hound left stunned on the floor of the inking company. While the burglars are beginning their counterfitting, the Dynamic Duo make a makeshift Bat-Signal with a knocked over lamp and Batman's bat-symbol from his chest. Ace is able to find the burglar's hideout, and, after biting through the Dynamic Duo's bonds, the trio apprehends the burglars. Wilker knew that the Bat-Hound was his dog as soon as he saw him in the inking company, a fact that becomes known to a reporter at the scene after Wilker removes Ace's mask. Batman was prepared for this and pulls out a photo of Bruce Wayne handing over Ace to Batman (really Alfred), explaining that he borrowed Ace to find Wilker. The story ends Batman and Robin waving goodbye to Walker and Ace, with Robin offering Ace the Bat-Hound position if he ever wants to be one again.

Thoughts: One of my favorite aspects of the fifties era is the extended Batman Family, a Family that began here with Ace. Comparisons to Krypto aside, I actually think the addition of a Bat-Hound to the Batman Family made a whole lot of sense. Back in the fifties, he was of course brought in to boost sales with the popularity of canine heroes at the time, but his inclusion also makes sense from a story point of view. Ace's tracking abilites and his strong canine jaws are both great assets to the caped crimefighters, as illustrated in the issue. The tracking especially, considering the detective aspect to Batman's character. One nice touch Finger has in the story with Ace is his owner recognizing him despite having been clad in his Bat-Hound attire, not being deceived as easily as everyone else is. As for the story itself, the pacing is excellent, with each scene progressing naturally into the next. From the finding of Ace to his joining the Dynamic Duo to the other crimes to the final confrontation with the burglars, it all flows nicely. Batman had to protect his identity a lot during the fifties, and his cover in this instance is one of the better ones. Like most of Bill Finger's stories, this one features a giant prop in the form of the clown statue. This use of a giant prop is a memorable one, when combined with Bowers' thought balloon of, "Must lay low till they're under some big, heavy prop!"

The cover to this issue is one of my favorite Win Mortimer covers. He was able to fit Batman and Robin, the Bat-Cave, the Batmobile, the Bat-Signal, and Ace on the cover without it feeling cluttered. Brilliantly composed and overall a brilliant piece. As for the interiors, Sheldon Moldoff provides some great artwork, much in the vein of his work from "Batman, The Magician." When you introduce a dog companion for your superhero, you need an artist who can draw animals, and Moldoff is an artist who can do just that. His panel of Ace growling when he catches the scent of the burglars in the paper company is a particular highlight. While the clown faces in the background of the warehouse are simple, the one in the foreground has a great amount of detail to it that catches the eye. I do have to note that there is an art mistake in this issue. In order to make the makeshift Bat-Signal, Robin had to tear Batman's bat symbol off his costume. In the panel where Ace appears at the hideout, however, Batman has his bat symbol back on his chest and retains it for the rest of the scene. Apart from this minor glitch, great art in a great story.

This story has been reprinted in the Batman From The 30s To The 70s HC, Batman Family #5, and the Batman In The Fifties TPB.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Added To The Collection - Batman #218 and 259 and Batman Family #4

Continuing the single issue catch up, I recently picked up two Batman Giants and an issue of Batman Family.

Batman #218 - Subtitled "The Strangest Cases From Batman's Crime-File," five of the six stories reprinted in this issue are from the fifties era. Spanning from 1953 to 1960, the stories are: "Batman and Robin's Greatest Mystery" (from Detective Comics #234), "The Hand From Nowhere" (from Batman #130), "The Man Who Couldn't Be Tried Twice" (from Batman #118), "The Body in The Bat-Cave" (from Batman #121), and "The League Against Batman" (from Detective Comics #197).

Batman #259 - Apart from a brand new Batman story featuring the original caped crusader, The Shadow, this issue reprints three fifties era Batman stories: "The Great Batman Swindle" (from Detective Comics #222), "The Strange Costumes of Batman" (from Detective Comics #165), and "The Failure of Bruce Wayne" (from Batman #120). Interesting to note is that the Shadow story was dedicated to Bill Finger, who had passed away in January of 1974, with this issue hitting the stands in August of that year.

Batman Family #4 - I bought this one because it reprints "Batman Meets Fatman" (from Batman #113). 'Nuff said.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Added To The Collection - Detective Comics #s 317, 318, and 320

Before my Signet paperback kick, I bought three issues of Detective Comics off eBay.

I reviewed #317, the second and final appearance of the Flying Bat-Cave, on the blog last week. #318 features the second appearance of Cat-Man (there's a hyphen for ya Pat!) in Detective Comics. All I need is #311 and I'll be set to do a Cat-Man week. The purchase of #320 was based solely on the cover and I think you can see why.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

"The Case of The Deadly Gems"

Issue: Batman #131

Cover Date: April 1960

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Synopsis: One night in Gotham City finds Batman and Robin recieving important information in the office of Commissioner Gordon. Ted Greaves, a criminal who Batman and Robin captured several years ago, was recently released from prison and has now sent a letter threatening the lives of the owners of the Gotham Gem Company. As the Dynamic Duo arrive at the Company, they witness both a person pushed off of a giant advertising gem and the masked man responsible. The masked man loosens the advertising gem to crush Batman and Robin, but they dodge out of the way just in time. After investigating the roof and discovering a piece of cloth from the assailant's cape, they find they three partners of the firm (John Wilcox, Henry Stubbs, and Ed Carder) around the dead man's body. The dead man turns out to be Clayber, the trio's new partner, and his murderer appears to be the aforementioned Greaves. The letter sent by Greaves explains a plan to murder all of the partners of the Gem Company from youngest to oldest, in ways that match their birthstones. This makes Wilcox the next on Greaves' list and the Dynamic Duo return with him to his home to provide protection.

As Wilcox tries to keep calm by taking a walk on his grounds, he is startled by a loud roar. The roar turns out to belong to a Bengal Tiger, released from its cage by Greaves. After distracting the tiger with his cape, Batman follows Robin's suit and the pair trap the tiger with their bat-ropes. Robin wonders what the connection is between Wilcox's birthstone and the tiger, and Batman obligingly explains that Wilcox's birthstone, the moonstone, is the sacred stone of India. Batman and Robin head next to Stubbs' home, which, being a yacht on land, fits with his aquamarine birthstone. When Greaves arrives, he finds the Dynamic Duo waiting for him in the crow's nest. Needing to make an escape, Greaves throws a green lantern, once again in line with the aquamarine birthstone, on the yacht to start a fire. Batman and Robin let Greaves go and are able to suppress the fire. Afterwards, Batman deduces that Greaves can't be the murderer, since he is color-blind and Stubbs' attacker was able to specifically pick out the green lantern. Robin continues this line of reasoning, coming to the conclusion that it must be one of the remaining partners. The pair's next move is to check on Carder, as the identity of the masked man can't be Wilcox or Stubbs.

When Batman and Robin arrive at Carder's home, they find that Wilcox is also there and that they have been playing cards for the past several hours. Perplexed by this latest development, Robin's comment about nothing fitting anymore makes everything clear to Batman. Later, the Dynamic Duo and the three partners meet at the Gem Company, where Batman reveals that all three of the partners are guilty. Carder shouts to the others to grab the Dynamic Duo, a plan which proves flawed as Batman grabs Carder as he rushes at him and throws him at the other two partners. (I am not joking folks, Batman picks this guy up over his head and throws him at the other two). Batman arranged for the police to be at the Company before calling the partners, and after they are called into the room, the partners are quick to surrender and confess. It turns out that the trio had been smuggling gems into the country for years and Clayber discovered what was going on. He blackmailed the partners for a share of their profits, and when he got greedy, they decided to kill him. Batman then explains that he realized the trio was rotating the costume after noticing that the pants fit differently each time the masked man appeared, while each appearance retained the ripped cape.

Thoughts: When you read a Batman story and see a giant diamond about to crush the Dynamic Duo, you know it was written by Bill Finger. And like most of Bill Finger's other Batman stories, this is a good one. During a period when aliens and magical powers were taking over the Batman titles, Finger gives us a good old fashioned mystery story. In stories like this one, it's typical for one of the people involved to turn out to be the true culprit. Finger takes this tried and true formula and twists it, revealing all three of the business partners to be behind the crime. The birthstone gimmick he employs for the staged attacks is also effective, providing the opportunity for some unique situations. If anything, the attack on Wilcox shows how high of an opinion Gotham's citizens have of Batman, because Wilcox's partner is confident that Batman can stop a Bengal tiger before it can attack Wilcox. Batman's detective skills get the spotlight here, as it is his attention to detail that leads to the break in the case. And like I said, Batman picks Carder up over his head and casually throws him into his two partners. I like to think Bill Finger wrote that scene, realized how awesome it was, and threw in a great mystery as an afterthought to get to it.

Even into the sixties, Dick Sprang's art is as great as ever. He showed in past stories that he was skilled at drawing animals and he continues that trend with the tiger in this story. His use of close-ups add dynamism to important dialogue moments. He also employs a neat technique to name the partners and show their ages, by placing their heads within a trio of lenses. When Carder is yelling for his partners to help him rush Batman, you can tell Batman is preparing to counter him. There's even a panel reminiscent of the classic nightime panel from "The 10,000 Secrets of Batman." The only negative thing that could be said about it is that you can't really tell the costume is fitting differently, but really, that isn't too important considering how you can believe the deduction of the world's greatest detective.

This story has been reprinted in the Batman In The Sixties TPB.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

"Secrets of The Flying Bat-Cave!"

Issue: Detective Comics #317

Cover Date: July 1963

Writer: Unknown

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: This story finds Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson once again descending the staircase to the Bat-Cave to change into their costumed alter egos. It is not in order to go out on patrol, however, but rather to prepare to leave for a police convention in Center City. Batman and Robin are attending to help publicize the event, and when Dick laments that they won't be able to show the police the equipment they have beyond what they carry on them, Bruce gets the idea to bring the Bat-Cave to the convention. Soon after, an improved model of the Flying Bat-Cave takes to the skies and begins making its way to Center City. The trip is given pause for a moment, when the Flying Bat-Cave's observational devices show two members of the Condor Gang leaving the Suburban Bank. The Flying Bat-Cave's electromagnet disarms the gang members and the Dynamic Duo subdue them with ease. After taking them to police headquarters, Batman and Robin continue their journey to the police convention, where Batman addresses the assembled officers and leads them on a tour of the Flying Bat-Cave.

That night, a car speeding through the streets ejects a piece of jewelry from its trunk after skidding. A young man comes across it and, after following the car to where it had stopped, attempts to arrest the men who are attempting to lock the trunk. Luckily, Batman and Robin come upon the scene in a compact Batmobile and send the men driving away. The Dynamic Duo pursue the car, but are stopped by a giant advertising sign toppled by a grenade. Returning to the young man, he tells them his name is Joe Arno, a one time hobo who is now a rookie on the police force. He suspects the piece of jewelry he found was stolen by the Condor Gang and that they're using Center City as their headquarters. One identification by the police in another city later, and Joe's suspicion is considered to be accurate. Elsewhere, the Condor Gang holds an emergency meeting where they make plans to get Batman and Robin out of their business once and for all.

The next day, while the Condor Gang makes a statement in the newspapers telling Batman and the police convention to clear out, the Dynamic Duo arrive at the Center City police headquarters to find that Joe did not show up for duty. Thinking he went to do some investigating on their own, Batman and Robin return to where they met him and decide to check out a boarded up store nearby. Inside they come across signs of a struggle, along with a bullet and two hobo signs drawn on a wall. After deciphering the signs on the wall, Batman, Robin, and a group of police officers drop from the Flying Bat-Cave onto the Condor Gang's hideout. They're able to rescue Joe, but two of the Gang disappear through a secret passage. The next day, special ceremonies are being held for a police fund when the Flying Bat-Cave apparently explodes over the crowd. A pair of handcuffs filled with an explosive were swapped with Joe's by the Condor Gang, who rush out to steal the fund. Suddenly, the Flying Bat-Cave appears, trapping most of the gang members in a giant metal hand while Joe captures the final gang member using a whirly-bat. Batman was able to discover the swapped handcuffs as they were lighter than normal handcuffs, sending a balloon of the Flying Bat-Cave in the real thing's place. The story ends with Joe being promoted to detective, later saying that the hero of the case was the Flying Bat-Cave.

Thoughts: The writer of this story unknown, but if I had to make a guess, I'd say it was written by Bill Finger. The giant advertising sign that blocks the Dynamic Duo's path is in line with Finger's tendency to include giant props in his stories. As for the story itself, I enjoyed it much more than the Flying Bat-Cave's first outing. The action scenes were more exciting, from the storming of the Condor Gang hideout by the Dynamic Duo and the police to the apprehending of the rest of the gang members with a giant metal hand and a whirly-bat (have I mentioned how awesome the whirly-bats are?). I also like the story of Joe Arno, going from a hobo to a rookie cop to a police detective. Speaking of Joe's hobo past, the fact that Batman and Robin have a guide to hobo signs in the Flying Bat-Cave proves that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to crime fighting. As for the Flying Bat-Cave, we get a much better look at it, including a galley, sleeping quarters, and mini-garage. The improvements must have been nation wide, considering how Batman is able to contact a random police station via television camera and screen. The Flying Bat-Cave is also equipped with steam valves to create camouflage, along with the balloon for faking out criminals. The use of the electromagnet is a nice touch, as it calls back to its use in the first appearance of the Flying Bat-Cave. Many of Batman's foes were normal gangsters, apart from Batman's Rogues Gallery, so it's nice to see a gang with a gimmick, like this one where many of the members wear condor masks.

Sheldon Moldoff provides some great art for this issue, starting with the cover. It was actually the cover that grabbed me to buy the issue in the first place, with the Dynamic Duo descending on a pair of helpless criminals on bat-wings. The scene on the cover is replicated in the issue, with the inclusion of parachute wearing police officers. Moldoff does a nice job of following up the first design of the Flying Bat-Cave, making only minor changes to it. The biggest change is actually in the coloring, with the originally blue Flying Bat-Cave now purple. Moldoff was also the perfect artist for the condor masks, considering his past run on Hawkman during the Golden Age. He also adds a touch seen in a character design for a pair of characters I'll touch on next week, with the condor masks having a "C" on the bottom feathers. The action scenes in the issue are given a suitable level of dynamism, from Batman and Robin sliding down the electromagnet's cable to the fight at the hideout. And, while I'm not an expert, I'm willing to bet that Moldoff knows his hobo signs.

At the beginning of the story, Batman mentions that maybe they will be using the Flying Bat-Cave more often. Unfortnately, this did not come to pass as the Flying Bat-Cave made only two appearances as far I know. Maybe one day a writer will look back into the past and bring the Flying Bat-Cave back to the skies.

This story has not been reprinted.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Added To The Collection - The Best of the Original Batman

Following last week's acquisition of the Batman vs. The Joker Signet paperback is the first in the series. While the other two reprint collections in the series (the second release having been an original prose novel) each have a villain theme, this one is just a collection of early fifties Batman stories. The only exception is the first story in the collection, "The Legend of The Batman" from Batman #1. The other stories are: "The Web of Doom!" from Batman #90, "Fan-Mail of Danger!" from Batman #92, "The Crazy Crime Clown!" from Batman #74, "The Crime Predictor" from Batman #77, "The Man Who Could Change Fingerprints!" from Batman #82, and "The Testing of Batman!" from Batman #83. I'm particularly looking forward to reading "Fan-Mail of Danger!" after seeing the goof panel reprinted in the introduction to Batman In The Fifties. The book itself is in great condition, especially the cover apart from the bent corner. With this one on the shelf, that makes two down and a Penguin to go.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"The Flying Bat-Cave!"

Issue: Detective Comics #186

Cover Date: August 1952

Writer: David Vern Reed

Penciller: Lew Sayre Schwartz

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: The story begins on an exciting note, with Robin surrounded by gun wielding gangsters. They're fully prepared to bump him off, when their boss "Diamond" arrives on the scene and tells them he can use Robin alive. Later that night, Bruce Wayne is wondering why Robin has not yet returned when the Bat-Signal suddenly lights up the sky. Arriving quickly after at police headquarters, Batman receives a note telling him to go to Regan's Baths if he wants to see Robin alive again. At Regan's Baths, Batman is given one of Robin's gloves as proof that he's been captured. Then, under the cover of hazy steam, he signs an agreement that he and Robin won't set foot in Gotham City for a week to secure Robin's freedom. Several hours later, Robin arrives at the Bat-Cave unharmed, while news of the agreement reaches the home of "Big-Time" Gateson. After Diamond assures him that when Batman puts his name on an agreement, he sticks to it, "Big-Time" tells him he'll be going ahead with the biggest crime Gotham City has ever seen. Back at the Bat-Cave, the Dynamic Duo have twenty-four hours to leave town. As they tick by, Robin makes note of Batman placing a large amount of calls, the latest one being for fifty tanks of helium. As for the criminal underworld, a celebration is in full swing, with Diamond alluding to Batman's absence doing more good for him than anyone else.

The next day, "Big-Time" puts his plan into action by having several members of his gang pose as window dummies to rob armored cars transferring money from one bank to its new location. The plan seems to go off without a hitch, when suddenly, the Flying Bat-Cave appears in the sky. Batman and Robin drop a giant electromagnet from the Flying Bat-Cave, taking away the crminals' guns and allowing the police to capture them. "Big-Time" and half of his gang manage to escape, with "Big-Time" coming up with a new plan that the Dynamic Duo won't be able to stop. The plan in question has "Big-Time" and his gang breaking into the basement of a fur storage warehouse through an underground conduit. While patroling the city, Batman notices the electricity and water off at the section where the gang are and suspects something fishy is going on. Descending into Gotham Harbor via a bat-osphere, Batman is able to detect sounds in one of the conduits using sonar and Robin radios the police to cover the manholes in the area. Trapped, the gang attempt to escape through a drain tunnel leading to the river, but are stopped by Batman and Robin. "Big-Time" was able to spot Batman in time and escape back through the tunnel, leaving him with four days left to pull a job with Batman off the ground.

The next day shows why Diamond hatched his scheme, as he is on trial for a larceny charge. Batman is the only witness against Diamond, and with him unable to set foot in Gotham City, Diamond is confidant he'll leave the courtroom a free man. Unfortunately for Diamond, Batman remembered the trial date and made pre-arrangements with the D.A. to take the witness stand via a television broadcasted to from the Flying Bat-Cave. Diamond is able to get a note to his gang to build a diathermy machine next to the courthouse, jamming the signal, but it's quickly restored by the Dynamic Duo dropping the Giant Penny they brought with them in front of the machine. A few days later, Batman and Robin have less than two hours left in the air when they spot "Big-Time" and his gang on top of the post office. What they think are bags of loot turn out to be a ruse when an anti-aircraft gun is revealed. The Dynamic Duo come under fire and escape from the Flying Bat-Cave via parachutes, descending to the roof of the post office. The gang is defeated, with "Big-Time" exclaiming that Batman has broken his word. Batman informs him that the post office belongs to the federal government, not Gotham City, thus the agreement remains unbroken.

Thoughts: This is an interesting story in that my basic thoughts are a flip-flop of those I had for "The Voyage of The First Batmarine": the premise is implausible, but the execution is done quite well. I can overlook a lot of plots in Silver Age comics, but this one I just can't look past. Super-heroes have values that make them heroic sure, but really, having a hero's ability to fight crime due to an agreement with a criminal makes no sense. I see what they're going for with the angle that Batman is a man of his word, but I really don't think the public would turn against Batman for going back on an agreement with a criminal to round up the crooks that kidnapped his sidekick. I'm going to take a page out of David's comment on my "Voyage" post and say that Batman went along with the agreement because he had the idea for the Flying Bat-Cave in his head and wanted to build it and show it off. Speaking of the Flying Bat-Cave, honestly, I think it's just plain cool. A compacted version of the crime lab, along with a few pieces from the trophy room, in the sky? Awesome. My favorite piece of the Flying Bat-Cave has to be the radar-observascope, which is basically a giant magnifying glass that they use to scan the city.

Despite the premise being shaky, the execution works. A giant magnet, while being a giant magnet, makes sense to bring along ahead of time as guns are the criminal element's weapon of choice. Batman and Robin able to fight crime in Gotham Harbor? Sure; after all, he didn't set foot in the city. The calls at the beginning set up for the television in the courtroom and the post office explanation is also valid. While the premise takes a heftier than average dose of suspension of disbelief, this is another good story with another fun addition to Batman's bat-garage.

Lew Sayre Schwartz's art is servicable. It's not bad or anything, but it falls behind Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff for me. I do like his design of the Flying Bat-Cave, almost like a giant, widened helicopter. Like his fellow Batman ghost artists at this time, Schwartz's Batman has a very distinct look that makes his work easy to identify. I will say that there was one scene where Schwartz's art didn't sync with the story and that was in the courtroom. The facial expressions and body language of the D.A. in some places made it look like he was anxious that Batman was able to provide his testimony despite being on Batman's side. Without the word balloons, this would change the perception of what is going on in the scene quite a bit. Like I said, Schwartz isn't a bad artist, but his work doesn't engage me like that of his contemporaries.

This story has been reprinted in Batman #203 and the Secrets of The Bat-Cave TPB.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Added To The Collection - Batman vs. The Joker

This is probably the most interesting addition to my fifties Batman collection to date. At the height of Batmania in 1966, Signet Books began publishing pocket book collections of Batman comics. The first was a general Batman collection, the second was actually a novelization, the fourth was a collection of Penguin and Catwoman stories, and the third, pictured above, was obviously a Joker collection. As the size is reduced, each page usually has two panels, with the stories complete except for covers. This collection reprints five fifties and sixties Joker stories: "The Challenge of The Joker" from Batman #136, "The Joker's Winning Team!" from Batman #86, "Joker's Millions!" from Detective Comics #180, "The Joker's Journal!" from Detective Comics #193, and "Batman-Clown of Crime!" from Batman #85. Of these five, two have been reprinted elsewhere and the other three haven only been reprinted in this collection. As for the actual copy I picked up, the outside covers are a bit worn and dirty, but the reproductions inside are clear as a bell. Perfectly readable and, in the case of the blog, reviewable.

Friday, August 14, 2009

"The Voyage of The First Batmarine!"

Issue: Batman #86

Cover Date: September 1954

Writer: Edmond Hamilton

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Synopsis: A barge making its way across the Gotham River suddenly begins to sink, becoming a serious threat due to a cargo of nitro-glycerine. Batman and Robin are quickly summoned by the Bat-Signal and go to the harbor with Commissioner Gordon. After Gordon explains the situation at hand, Batman and Robin volunteer to retrieve the nitro, as no other diver will take the risk. The Dynamic Duo are outfitted with diving suits, submerged near the wreck in the middle of the river, and begin placing the cans of nitro in rope slings to be brought up. The pair work for almost an hour, but succeed in retrieving all of the nitro. Unfortunately, Batman and Robin have stayed underwater so long that they will die of the bends if they come up now, and must spend two days gradually reducing the pressure around them before they can return safely to the surface. Fortunately for the Dynamic Duo, a nearby salvage company is able to supply them with a pocket submarine to spend those days in, complete with a bat emblem painted on the front.

While Batman outlines the plan of gradually reducing the pressure within the Batmarine until they're safe to surface, Robin worries that "Slant" Stacy and his gang of Platinum Bandits will take advantage of them being out of action. Robin's worries prove to be justified, as the Bandits are preparing to rob a plutonium shipment from the Art Jewelery Company. Batman is already one step ahead of them and directs Robin to pilot the Batmarine to a lake near the Company. Once there, they are faced with dealing with the gang without leaving the Batmarine. They solve this dilemma by launching a salvage net out of a torpedo tube at the crooks. A couple of the Bandits are caught, but the remaining members quickly regroup and take a boat out onto the lake to drop nitro on the Batmarine. The Dynamic Duo cut the engine, having figured out its sond is how they were being tracked, and the criminals soon leave. Guessing that the Bandits' next target is at the Natural History Museum, Batman and Robin don diving suits and travel a series of pipes into an aquarium in the museum. After using an octopus' ink to hide their presence, Batman opens the main valve and begins flooding the room, driving the Platinum Bandits away once again.

All throughout the story, Stacy has mentioned a full-proof plan to ensure that Batman wouldn't be able to interfere with the Bandits' operation and after two defeats, he now puts it into action. The plan begins with the hijacking of a post office helicopter, which takes the gang to the Gotham Skyscraper. Their target is the Platinum Corporation's safe, which is at the top of the skyscraper. They cut the cables to the elevators and a section of the stairs, preventing the police from reaching them, as well as Batman since he can't leave the water. The Batmarine's periscope sees the Bat-Signal flashing a police code message about the situation. Despite the threat of the bends, Batman is seen leaving the Batmarine. he makes his way to the skyscraper and climbs its walls to the roof. Upon reaching the roof, Batman frees the helicopter pilot, who takes off to get the police. When the police arrive to a mostly defeated gang, they witness Batman collapse, supposedly to the bends. When an officer attempts to revive the Caped Crusader, "Batman" is revealed to be a radio-contolled robot that Batman had been working on while confined to the Batmarine. A few days later, Batman and Robin return to the surface safely, with Robin declaring that he never wants to go underwater ever again.

Thoughts: When I first got into fifties era Batman stories several years ago, I went about the internet tracking down all of the information on the era I could find. My searches eventually led me to Two Morrows publishing, where I found out that the nineteenth issue of their fantastic magazine Alter Ego was a spotlight of the life and work of Dick Sprang. Having already seen and appreciated his work, this was a no-brainer to order. The issue was full of great reminisces, interviews, and artwork. One of the pieces of art included was the splash page to this story in black and white, from the Batman From The 30's To The 70's collection. And it completely blew me away. The Batmarine in the background, the poses of the Dynamic Duo, the underwater world...spectacular. The color version looks great as well, but I think the piece really stands out in black and white. To this day, it's my favorite piece of fifties Batman artwork.

The premise of the story is a good one: Batman and Robin are trapped underwater while the criminal element still runs amok on the surface. How will they be able to continue to protect Gotham City? While the premise is good, several elements of the story stick out. The major one being the work arounds of the bends. Now I am not an expert on the bends, but my impression is that rising fast, no matter if you remain in water, will set off the symptoms. As such, the surfacing of the Batmarine to launch the net should have affected Batman and Robin. Even though they remained in water, the Duo's journey to the museum aquarium should have affected them as well. I liked the two ongoing mysteries, of Stacy's plan and what Batman was building, but Batman's ability to build a robot is unnecessarily suspect. If the Batmarine was presented as an already prepped bat-vehicle, I wouldn't bat an eye at Batman being able to build a robot. But the Batmarine was a normal submarine with a bat symbol painted on the front, not stocked with Batman's normal assortment of gadgets. Of course, comics have to be approached with a suspension of disbelief. Comics during the fifties were written with an eight year old audience in mind, not with the intention of being scrutinized years later. As such, I can still enjoy the story while these inconsistencies jump out at me while reading.

Considering my comments about the splash page, you can probably tell how I feel about the art. As usual, it's great work from Sprang, especially in the underwater scenes. The diving suits and Batmarine are well drawn, along with the various sea creatures. Sprang could have just drawn the underwater landscapes, but instead he puts at least one fish in almost all of the underwater panels, further adding to the undersea feel. Stacy's character design is great, with his head literally slanted at an angle. I had half a thought that he might be an homage to the villains in Dick Tracy's rogues gallery. Sprang's art also provides a bit of hilarity at the end, in the facial expression of the police officer who discovers the Batman robot.

In the Alter Ego I mentioned, there was an anecdote from Sprang noting that he would have liked to see the Batmarine worked into more stories. I agree, as it's a Bat-Vehicle that had a lot of potential for more voyages during the fifties.

This story was later retitled "The Underseas Batman!" and has been reprinted in Batman Annual #2, Batman From The 30's To The 70's HC, and DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals Volume 1 HC.

House Ad For Batman #86

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

"The 10,000 Secrets of Batman!"

Issue: Detective Comics #229

Cover Date: March 1956

Writer: Unknown

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: This case from Batman's crime-file opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson watching a television program entitled "Man-To-Man." At its end, host Waller mentions that next week's show will take place in none other than the Bat-Cave. Bruce mentions that he could not turn such an offer down as Batman, since the sight of his crime fighting equipment would do quite a bit to make criminals think twice about committing a crime. The next week, Batman takes the television crew to the Bat-Cave in a sealed truck to prevent its location from being discovered. The broadcast begins in the Dynamic Duo's trophy room and later moves to the section housing all of their crime-files. Suddenly, a cable from one of the crew's cameras accidently triggers an old trophy, in the form of the Mechanical Mobster. Batman and Robin quickly shut the robot off, providing the show with an exciting conclusion. While Batman is taking the television crew back to their studio, Robin takes down fake granite put up to disguise the real rock of the Bat-Cave. While doing so, he makes a grim discovery that he reveals to Batman upon his return: the microfilm file containing a copy of their entire crime-file is missing! Quickly deducing that the robot being turned on was a diversion, the pair drive off to the television studio to confront the four member crew.

Batman and Robin catch three of the four crew members before they're about to leave and search the premises. When the Duo come up empty handed, they learn that their technician Varnor went home complaining of a headache. Batman and Robin arrive at Varnor's home to find him dazed, having been knocked out and impersonated. After consulting their crime-file for criminals matching Varnor's description, Batman and Robin determine that Mart Mathers is their most likely suspect. Batman goes off to confront Mathers, while Robin informs Commissioner Gordon of the situation. Batman finds Mathers, but is unable to prove he had anything to do with the robbery, though the $10,000 he finds makes it pretty obvious he did. Batman has a plan though, and imitating one of Mather's criminal friends, is able to convince him to seek more money for the job. Batman is able to stowaway in Mather's car and finds the criminal's hideout to be an abandoned organ factory. The gang is run by a man named Creeden, who lets Mathers into his group while gloating about possesing Batman's secrets. Using a pipe organ as a distraction, Batman grabs the box containing the microfilm rolls, but is forced to hide in a boiler to escape gunfire.

Creeden closes the boiler, trapping Batman inside. He also reveals that he has the microfilm rolls on him and that the box originally containing them is just that, a box. Thinking Batman has no chance of getting out, the crooks leave to implement their heist. Unable to contact Robin with his belt radio, Batman uses his ingenuity to snap the boiler's outside safety valve through concentrated heat by burning the microfilm box. Slipping his silken cord through the hole he created, Batman is able to open the boiler and call for Robin. Upon reaching the Bat-Cave, Batman tells Robin their only lead: the criminals' operation requires the use of a rubber boat. After running through crime-file their crime file for locations that can be reached by water, the Dynamic Duo are able to narrow it down to an underground resovoir underneath a jewel firm. due to the small size of the entrance requiring a foldable rubber boat. Batman and Robin turn out to have deduced correctly and sneak up to the crooks' raft through the use of skin diving suits. As gunshots will cause the rubber boat to sink, Batman and Robin quickly subdue the gang and return their microfilm file to the Bat-Cave.

Thoughts: This story has pretty much everything you could want from a Silver Age Batman story. You have action with the robot in the beginning, mystery with the identity of who stole the microfilm file, danger in Batman being trapped in the boiler, Batman using brains over brawn to get out of the situation in the boiler, and gadgets in the Dynamic Duo's crime-file (which is a state-of-the-art for the time card sorting machine). It's one of the most perfect examples of what a Batman story is all about, which is fitting considering it was reprinted in Batman Annual #1, which is an excellent introduction to this era's Batman. Part of what makes the story so great is the set up. Today's Batman would never permit a camera crew into the Bat-Cave, but the Batman of 1956 would; this a story that could only happen in the Silver Age. The scenes where Batman and Robin use the crime-file are nice ways of spotlighting their detective skills, as the have to quickly come with factors that can narrow down their possibilites more and more. I really appreciate how, in an opportunity where the writer could have made Batman and Robin's identities part of the crime-file, he doesn't and instead specifies the crime-file as a collection of top secret law enforcement information. My only issue with the story is Batman's ability to replicate the voice of a criminal who happens to be a friend of Mathers; the line in the story almost reads as if it is the writer speaking directly to the reader. Other than that quibble, the story is pitch perfect, and it's a pity the writer is unknown.

While re-reading this story, I was struck by exactly how brilliant of a storyteller Dick Sprang was. The second panel of the third page shows Robin running towards the robot and the reader, while the page's sixth panel shows the Batmobile driving away from the reader. The fifth panel of the fourth page is a great close up of Batman and Robin's determined faces, while still showing Varnor clutching his head in the background between their heads. Thr fourth panel of page five is a fantastic nighttime panel, complete with a dynamic image of Batman exiting the Batmobile. The fifth panel of the same page is slanted, taken aback just as Commissioner Gordon is within it. The abandoned organ factory is as large and haunting as it should be. Dick Sprang's trademark circular panels are prominent throughout the entire story. Everything about the artwork, even the cards being sorted, is dynamic. I haven't read his entire body of work, but I can't think of a story with artwork more brilliant than what Dick Sprang contributed to this one.

While nothing is ever truly perfect, this story is about as close to perfection as a Silver Age Batman story can get.

This story was later retitled "Batman's Electronic Crime-File!" and has been reprinted in Batman Annual #1, Giant Batman Annual #1 Replica Edition (1999), and DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals Vol. 1 HC.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Batman, The Magician!"

Issue: Detective Comics #207

Cover Date: May 1954

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: The story opens with a group of four criminals rushing into an apartment calling for their boss. They had heard that a rival gang, the Moriarity Gang, had paid a visit to their leader and may have possibly taken care of him for good. They find their boss alive, but teetering on the edge of life and death, as a chemist accompanying the Moriarity Gang has filled a pair of manacles placed upon the boss' wrists with a high explosive. The slightest movement could set off the explosive, making conventional methods of removing the manacles useless. The mob boss thinks all is lost when he catches sight of a billboard for Merko The Great, realizing that the magician's escape artist skills would be best for removing the manacles. The boss' men tell him they'll grab Merko at his show that night, a show that features among its audience Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson.

After the first act of his performance, Merko finds himself falling through his own trapdoor courtesy of the criminals. Bruce becomes suspicious when Merko doesn't appear to take his bow and, after a quick costume change, Batman and Robin appear backstage. It becomes apparent while talking to the stage hands that if Merko was kidnapped, it would be through the trapdoor, but when the Dynamic Duo follow it outside, there is no trace of the magician. This presents a problem as the performance is for charity, and if the show does not go on, the money will have to be refunded. The story then cuts to the criminal gang, who have brought Merko to their boss' new vibration proof room. Merko has no intention of freeing the crook, but figures he can stall as the crime boss needs him to unlock the handcuffs. Back at the theater, Bruce disguises himself as Merko, with Dick Grayson planted in the audience to be picked out as an assistant. The pair finish out the night with such tricks as pulling rabbits out of a hat and making a rope stand straight in the air without touching it.

After the performance ends, Batman and Robin head out to begin their search for Merko. While on patrol, the come across a group of the boss' goons robbing an armored car using a wrecking ball from a construction site. Batman and Robin go in swinging, but are distracted from the crooks by the armored car bursting into flames. They're able to rescue the driver, but the gang escaped in the meantime. The next night, the Duo continue their act, including the suspended animation trick, staying submerged underwater, and making an elephant disappear. While the act is going on, the boss is shown a newspaper with a front page on Merko's acts. Surprised, he quickly deduces that Batman has taken the magician's place and sends his men to take out the Caped Crusader. Their attempt fails thanks to a stampeding elephant and their getaway allows Batman and Robin to hitch a ride to their hideout. The Dynamic Duo easily dispatch the goons and make their way to the boss' room, where Batman reveals that there was no explosive in the handcuffs at all. Batman points out that the vibrations from the phone on the boss' desk would have caused the explosive to detonate long ago, leading Merko to comment that even Houdini himself would be impressed by Batman's "magic of deduction."

Thoughts: Before I talk about what's inside the issue, I want to talk about the cover surrounding it. Win Mortimer did a number of Batman covers throughout the Golden Age and every one of them was a gem. This issue's is no exception. While it is Bruce performing the magic tricks and not Batman, the cover captures the issue thematically. Batman's pose is great and the assistant and Robin complete the magical aspect to the piece.

On the whole, the story is a great one. The potentially explosive handcuffs add a suspense element, leaving the reader asking himself if they're going to explode, and later, how long Merko will be able to stall. The main fight scene is a great one, with a swinging wrecking ball and a rescue situation giving it a heavy dose of excitement. The highlights of the story are the magic tricks performed by Bruce, the secrets of which are revealed to the reader after they're performed. What kid (and adult for that matter) hasn't seen a magic trick and wondered how the magician does it? Well, with this issue, you can find out how five of them are done. The only nitpick I have on the story is that in the scene where the boss becomes aware of the continued Merko appearances, he makes reference to Batman and Robin noticing the criminals kidnapping Merko. The only problem is, the alley is deserted by the time Batman and Robin reach it, so it's a bit of a leap in logic for the boss to make. But I guess when you live in Gotham City and a magician you know you kidnapped is being impersonated, who else could be behind it but Batman?

Artwise, the story has some of the best Sheldon Moldoff work I've seen in a Batman story. Every page looked well polished, as if Moldoff spent more time than usual on the pages. Like the cover, the splash page depicts Batman in the magician garb, but unlike later issues, it's not an exact reproduction of the cover. The magician Batman, complete with turban, has his wand pointed at a top hat from which playing cards, rabbits, gangsters, Batman and Robin, and an elephant emerge. Fantastic splash page and my profile picture of choice at the moment. Moldoff's facial expressions in the issue were spot on, especially the panicked look that appeared on the boss' face. Moldoff's brilliant art complements Finger's solid script perfectly, resulting in a must read Batman story.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Annual #2 and the DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals Vol. 1 HC.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Added To The Collection - A Great Lot of Coverless Batman Comics

One of the funnest aspects to comics collecting is that of the hunt, and eBay is tailor made for the experience. The watching, the bidding, and, of course, getting proxy outbid at the last second. Every so often you end up winning a real gem and this is one of those times.

I'm more of a reader than a collector, so I tend to go after books in the lower (and cheaper) grades. I like to have complete books, but if I can get a coverless book in great condition, that's good enough for me. I came across a lot of ten coverless issues from the fifties and early sixties periods, with an opening bid of $9.99. Four of the issues were complete and specified:

Batman #135 ("The Menace of the Sky Creature")
Batman #156 ("Robin Dies At Dawn")
Detective Comics #283 ("The Phantom of Gotham City")
Detective Comics #284 ("The Negative Batman")

The auction also mentioned four issues of Batman and two issues of Detective Comics, no specifics, each missing the first and last couple of pages. I couldn't make out the issues from the image as they began on the third page, but overall, it looked like a deal to me. I ended up being the only one to bid and won it at starting price. When the issues arrived and I began figuring out what the mystery comics were, they turned out to be better than the ones I knew about:

Batman #103 (The first Silver Age issue of Batman)
Batman #114 ("The Bat-Ape")
Batman #124 ("The Mystery Seeds From Space")
Batman #126 ("The Menace of the Firefly")
Detective Comics #231 ("Batman, Junior")
Detective Comics #251 ("The Alien Batman")

The Batman issues have two stories complete out of the three, but that's fine with me. This was the far and away the best $10 I ever spent on comic books.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 19 - "Legends of the Dark Mite!"

Written By: Paul Dini
Directed By: Ben Jones
Original Airdate: May 29, 2009

Synopsis: As with the other episodes of "Brave and The Bold," this one begins with a teaser seperate from the main story. Catman is seen in a jungle auctioning off a rare tiger in front of hunters, poachers, and a criminal chef. The bidding gets up to four million dollars when Batman swings down from a tree, knocking Catman to the ground. He quickly dispatches the assembled crooks and then finds himself having to deal with the tiger, released by Catman. With a whistle, Batman summons Ace The Bat-Hound from the jungle. Ace fends off the tiger, sending the once ferocious animal retreating to its cage, before barking Catman up a tree. Catman tells Batman to call him off, which Batman does, before giving Ace a bat shaped dog treat.

After the opening, the main story begins with Batman foiling a robbery at the bank. The two criminals give up as soon as they see Batman, when a voice tells them they're doing it wrong. The criminals are then animated to come at Batman with bags of money, then are joined by more criminals out of thin air with machine guns, and then all of the criminals become ninjas. Batman defeats all of these attackers before asking the voice narrating the whole time to show himself. Batman is teleported to another part of the city and the narrator reveals himself to be Batman's number one fan...Bat-Mite. After explaining more about himself and trying to change Batman's costmue, Bat-Mite tries to decide on a villain for him to fight and Batman tricks the Mite into choosing Calendar Man. Bat-Mite sees through Batman asking Calendar Man to take a fall and transforms him into Calendar King, who can summon armies of holiday themed characters.

Bat-Mite thinks Calendar King is going a bit too far with mutant Easter Bunnies and freezes everything to convene a Batman panel at a convention in the 5th Dimension over the validity of the mutant bunnies. One fan speaks up about how his Batman is a dark crime detective and this is not his Batman. The panel (composed of crew members from the show) agrees upon a reply for Bat-Mite to read, which says thus:
"Batman's rich history allows him to be interpreted in a multitude of ways. To be sure, this is a lighter incarnation, but it's certainly no less valid and true to the character's roots as the tortured avenger crying out for mommy and daddy."
After that, and agreement from the audience that the mutant bunnies are pretty scary, the fight continues, culminating in Batman decking Calendar King back into Calendar Man. Bat-Mite is about to decide what fun to have next when Batman convinces him to save his abilities for real crimes, with the help of an autographed batarang.

Batman returns to the Batcave and tells Ace about the pest he had to deal with. The appearance of a second Ace causes Batman to realize he's been talking to a transformed Bat-Mite, who transports Batman away to an alien planet intending to force him to be his plaything. Batman refuses to do so and sits on an otherworldly toadstool instead of fighting the various alien menaces Bat-Mite has thought up. Batman then eases Bat-Mite into the idea of a role reversal, with Bat-Mite acting as Batman and Batman narrating what happens to him. After defeating Gorilla Grodd, Bat-Mite finds himself in a scene paying tribute to the Looney Tunes classic "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery," with both well known and obscure villains chasing after him. Overwhelmed, he asks for Batman's help, who takes out the villains after playfully chiding Bat-Mite a little. Bat-Mite apologizes to Batman and returns him to his cave, who checks to make sure Ace is the real Ace before he relaxes.

Thoughts: I'm a fan of the Dark Knight as much as the next guy, but I'm also a fan of the lighter Caped Crusader as this blog attests. After the steady stream of darker media, it's nice to have a Batman cartoon that's just plain fun. One of the reasons I'm such a big fan of "Brave and The Bold" is because of how much it embraces its characters' Silver Age roots. Instead of playing them as parody, they're played straight with fun fully their intention. There are references peppered throughout the show, such as the use of the 1950's Batmobile in a flashback or Professor Carter Nichols when time travel's needed, but this episode is one for the fans from beginning to end.

Before I get to the easter eggs, let me give some thoughts on the episode itself. In a nutshell, this is the best episode of the show yet. Now I may be a little bias, but seriously, this episode has it all: Bat-Mite, lots of villains, fan easter eggs, and that fantastic convention scene. I was looking forward to this episode as it was featuring Bat-Mite, but then you have Catman and Ace The Bat-Hound in the teaser? Sold twice over. I had my doubts about Paul Reubens voicing Bat-Mite leading up to the episode's airing, but he was a great choice for the role. He put the perfect amount of fanboyism into the character and was able to shift Bat-Mite's emotions when needed. And speaking of Bat-Mite: easily the best modern interpretation of the character, considering the minor updates. It seems odd to hear Bat-Mite say "awesome sauce," but it works. Even Bat-Mite looking to make Batman his plaything fits, taking his wanting to see his hero in action to the extreme true, but it still fits. At his core, Bat-Mite in "Brave and The Bold" is Batman's biggest fan as he's always been. The convention in the 5th Dimension was a highlight simply for
PaulDini's breaking of the fourth wall to give a message to those decrying "Brave and The Bold" for its lightheartdness. And to top everything off, the "Great Piggy Bank Robbery" homage at the end is simply brilliant.

I'm not going to give away all of the easter eggs, but there are a lot for fifties Batman fans:

-During the scene where Bat-Mite changes Batman's costume half a dozen times, it changes to both Bat-Hombre's from Batman #56 and that of the Zebra Batman from Detective Comics #275.
-The 5th Dimensional Comic-Book, Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Horror...& Tiddlywinks Convention in the episode is the 267th, a reference to Bat-Mite's first appearance in Detective Comics #267.
-The Rainbow Creature from Batman #134 can be seen on the alien world, and I wouldn't be surprised if the other aliens are from Batman comics.
-Bat-Mite turns into a Bat-Ape momentarily when going up against Gorilla Grodd.
-A couple of villains that appear during the Looney Tunes tribute: Polka-Dot Man, Killer Moth, Mr. Zero (that's right folks, they don't call him Mr. Freeze, they call him Mr. Zero), and, of course, Zebra-Man.

If you only watch one episode of "Batman: The Brave and The Bold," though you should watch the whole series, make it this one. From beginning to end, it's a fun tribute to the Silver Age and to Batman in general. And don't forget to keep your eye out for easter eggs! That's all for now folks.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Fifties Related "Brave and The Bold" News

I've posted before about how great the "Batman: The Brave and The Bold" cartoon is, and I'll be able to give you more concrete evidence when I review the Bat-Mite episode this Friday. Until then, I give you some news from Comic-Con that made the fifties Batman fan in me want to shake the crew's hands even more:

Tucker later told us that the episode would be an adaptation of a comic where Bruce Wayne discovered that his father had also worn a Batman costume at some time in the past, before telling us that the show will also be adapting the Batman of Zur En Arrh comic from the 1950s, but shying away from the revisionist retcon from last year's Batman RIP.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fifties Batman Blogging Elsewhere

Pat from the Silver Age Comics blog has started up a new series looking at the various aliens that went up against the Dynamic Duo. Sci-fi stories appeared here and there throughout the Golden and Silver Ages, but it is the Jack Schiff era of the late fifties and early sixties that most people associate aliens with Batman. Pat is going to be working backwards, starting in the first post with the significant stories from 1963-1964. You can check it out here. Pat also did an interesting post on the origins of the Silver Age Cat-Man a couple weeks back, who appeared in three Batman stories in the Silver Age.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"An Ode To Bat-Hound" By Mark Waid

I found this on The Captain's JLA Blog through Comic Book Resources. It was originally published in Amazing Heroes #102 from September 1st, 1986. I'm a big fan of Mark Waid's writing and this just made me moreso.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Thoughts On The Batman: The Black Casebook TPB

For those who have not been following the current issues of Batman, let me catch you up to speed. When writer Grant Morrison began his run on Batman with issue 655 (his full run comprising 655-658 and 663-683), he decided to take a unique perspective on the Dark Knight: that every story from Batman's 70 year publishing history happened to him in a 15 year period. He would examine how that amount of stress would affect a person's mental state...and he would also dust off the wacky fifties concepts that many had chosen to neglect. He brought the sci-fi stories of the fifties and sixties back into Batman's canon, explaining that the Caped Crusader transcribed such unexplainable events into the Black Casebook. But more than bring the fifties back, Morrison modernized such characters as the Batmen of All Nations and Bat-Mite and made them part of the stories he told. For fifties Batman fans, each issue brought the excitement of what story Morrison would reference next. For those who were not so familiar with the era, some scratched their heads at where Morrison was pulling all of this from. Before nary an Amazon placeholder appeared, there was speculation across the internet of DC collecting the stories Morrison drew from for his run into one trade paperback. While it didn't come out until months after Morrison's run on the Batman title ended, the collection did indeed arrive back in June.

Alright, enough recap, let's talk about the collection. The cover design for it is simply perfect. The front cover sans the text looks what a journal owned by Batman would look like. The description for the collection on the back cover is designed to look like pen written on a sheet of lined paper, further adding to the journal feel. Dotted across the covers and spine are marks that make the collection look worn, just as the fictional Black Casebook would probably look after 15 years of use. As far as the paper between the covers, it is along the same lines as the paper used in the Batman In The Fifties trade paperback, but of higher quality. The table of contents has a nice touch to it with the word "Closed:" appearing before the issue in which the story originally appeared. Besides assembling in one place the stories that inspired Morrison's Batman run, the collection also includes a three page introduction by Grant Morrison where he explains why he chose the stories he chose to draw upon. As someone who read and enjoyed his run a great deal, it was quite interesting to get a glimpse into how he crafted it.

The stories collected are more scattered than the three annuals from the previous collection I reviewed, so I have compiled a list in the order they appear in the trade paperback:

"A Partner For Batman" from Batman #65
"Batman - Indian Chief" from Batman #86
"The Batmen of All Nations" from Detective Comics #215
"The First Batman" from Detective Comics #235
"The Club of Heroes" from World's Finest Comics #89
"The Man Who Ended Batman's Career" from Detective Comics #247
"Am I Really Batman?" from Batman #112
"Batman - The Superman of Planet X" from Batman #113
"Batman Meets Bat-Mite" from Detective Comics #267
"The Rainbow Creature" from Batman #134
"Robin Dies At Dawn" from Batman #156
"The Batman Creature" from Batman #162

Most of the stories collected have been reprinted before, although there are two or three that have not. In fact, the "Creature" stories had nothing to do with Morrison's Batman run, but he included them because he found the covers interesting.

The only nitpick I have about the collection is that in the spaces where house ads went in the original issues, DC has swapped them out for a Batman oval. The oval of course didn't appear until after the fifties era, and while it's a little annoying, I can overlook it.

With the high amount of already reprinted material, I can see how some fifties Batman fans may pass on this collection. Really, the collection is aimed more at the fans of Grant Morrison's Batman run who have never read this material than the already established fanbase. But with any luck, this collection will lead to a few new fifties Batman fans out there.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Added To The Collection - Batman #s 233 and 254 and Batman Family #3

Hey folks, sorry about the lack of story reviews at the moment. I wisely decided to start blogging again while on vacation in Maine and surprisingly, I haven't had much time to devote to the longer story reviews. Not to worry though, as the weeks coming up will be packed full of story reviews from all across the fifties era. Today I thought I'd make a quick post about some reprint issues I recently picked up. Copies of the original issues, even those right before the New Look Era began, seem to have been going up in price lately. Since I've been able to acquire all of the 80 Page Giant Batman issues, I thought I'd turn my attention to the other Batman giants DC published featuring fifties reprints.

Batman #233 - This was a 64 page giant issue featuring stories with a focus on Bruce Wayne, such as "The Murder of Bruce Wayne" and "Bruce Wayne's Aunt Agatha". Maybe I should do a Bruce Wayne week sometime.

Batman #254 - This was a 100 page giant and an interesting one in that it featured a story from each decade Batman had been published in up to the 70s, when the issue was published. There was only one reason I wanted this issue, however, and it of course concerned the fifties era reprint. From Batman #145 and the year 1962 to be exact..."The Son of The Joker". I scoured eBay for weeks trying to pick up the original issue until I discovered that it had been reprinted in a much more affordable issue all along. It's a story featuring one of my favorite gimmicks from the fifties era, The Second Batman and Robin Team, and if you recall my hint last week, this is the gimmick I alluded to. I'll be reviewing a trio of Batman II and Robin II tales soon and having read "The Son of The Joker" already, I can say it has one of the greatest panels to ever be printed in a Batman comic.

Batman Family #3 - When it comes to Batman reprints, this issue's a home run as far as I'm concerned. You have the second appearance of Batwoman, the first appearance of Kite-Man, and a classic Golden Age Dick Sprang story in "The Year 3,000". And for the fans of Batwoman and Bat-Girl out there, not to worry, I will be giving them their due spotlight in the future; I just don't want to hit all of the major issues of the era too soon.