Thursday, April 7, 2011


Issue: Batman #139

Cover Date: April 1961

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: The introduction of Bat-Girl begins with Batman, Robin, and Batwoman fighting the Cobra Gang at an exhibit of new scientific equipment. It seems that the Dynamic Trio has thwarted the elements of crime once again, when the remaining member of the gang traps them in an electronic-ring. The criminal begins to tighten the ring, but is felled by a sudden kick from Bat-Girl. After turning off the device, she leaves through the window she came from, leaving Robin to wonder who she is. The answer is made clear to Batwoman when she later returns to her Bat-Cave, where her niece Betty stands in the costume. The story then flashes back, showing Betty arriving for a visit and later watching Batwoman capture thieves robbing a school supplies manufactrer on the news. When Betty found gold stars in Kathy's brush, she deduced the truth, made her own costume, and followed Kathy. Kathy is of course worried about her niece getting injured and asks Batman for advice. He suggests that Kathy tell her that she can be Bat-Girl after a lot of training, to stall Betty until she has to leave.

Kathy puts this plan into action, having her practice on a trapeze and read books on criminal law. Days pass, with Kathy going out on patrol at night and Betty left to study. One night, she throws a book in frustration and knocks particles loose from one of the Cobra Gang's shoes. Studying them under a microscope, she identifies them as traces of cellulose acetate and sets out to find the Gang's hideout to prove herself to her aunt. She finds the Gang in an abandoned rayon factory and attempts to distract them with a self-inflating balloon so she can lasso them. Her plan backfires when the surprised boss' cigar pops the balloon in her face and the Cobra Gang takes her as a hostage to get their fellows released. At first distraught at the situation due to recklessness, she collects herself and looks for a way to fix things. Cutting some sheets of carbon paper into bat shapes, she sends them out an exhaust vent, which alerts a shoe shiner to call the police. The Dynamic Trio soon arrive and begin subduing the Cobra Gang, but are stopped when the holds a gun to Bat-Girl's head. Bat-Girl fakes fainting and knocks the gun out of his hand, resuming the fight. After the Gang is turned over to the police, Bat-Girl apologizes for her foolishness and Batwoman, accepting that she saw the recklessness in her actions, tells her that she proved herself to be a good crimefighter. Excited, she poses that maybe her and Robin can work on a case together sometime. Asking the Boy Wonder if that's a date, the story ends with Batman and Batwoman chuckling at Robin's embarrassment.

Thoughts: In comparison to Batwoman's first story, Bat-Girl's debut introduces the character right. When she first appears, she saves the Dynamic Trio from a criminal's trap without sexist comments about her being a girl. In the flashback, we see Betty noticing that Kathy disappears every night, showing her to be inquisitive before she finds the stars. While the acrobatic and crime training during Kathy's attempt to stall refine and improve the skills Betty could use as a crime fighter, she learned about the cellulose acetate in school, showing a natural intelligence. When the Cobra Gang captures her, she laments how rash her actions were, but then finds a way to get in touch with the rest of the Bat Family rather than stepping backward into being a damsel in distress. This is even more apparent when, with a gun to her head, she fakes a very damsel in distress action and disarms the criminal. Bat-Girl is shown to posses all the ability of a super-heroine without the sexism that Batwoman was saddled with.

While Batwoman wanting Betty not to be Bat-Girl may appear hypocritical after Batman had wanted her to stop fighting crime, it should be remembered that Betty is Kathy's niece. Her worry about her getting hurt is genuine, not covered up sexism like in the previous story. And given how much more forward thinking this story is, I would like to think that Batwoman went to Batman for advice because he has had experience raising a youth who is a crimefighter. Speaking of Batwoman, her characterization is much better, fighting alongside Batman and Robin as an equal rather than being viewed as a nuisance. However, her fighting criminals in a school supplies factory is a little suspect and her being unable to figure out Bat-Girl's identity don't reflect well on her. Knocking chairs and boxes of gold stars, as well as flipping criminals over her head, does reflect better than the purse based crimefighting tools of her first appearance. And while Betty has a utility-purse, the self-inflating balloon and Bat-Lasso are also improvements. While Robin still says things like "an inexperienced girl is bound to get hurt pursuing crooks" and "not bad - for a girl," these statements don't come off as sexist as they did when directed at an adult, but as the reaction of a boy to a girl his age.

As usual, Sheldon Moldoff brings his cartoony charm to the story's pages. Before I comment on the story, I should say a few words about Batwoman and Bat-Girl's costumes. While Batwoman's costume does not say "creature of the night" like Batman's does, but I do like how it is distinct from his. While the color scheme for Batwoman's costume might strike one as oddly different, the colors of Bat-Girl's costume match Robin's. This matches her up with her counterpart in the Dynamic Duo, while still staying unique. As far as the designs of the Cobra Gang, they begin as entertaining wearing scaly hoods and capes along with traditional comic book criminal suits. Then, the boss shows up in a full cobra hood costume and you know Moldoff had a blast drawing Gotham criminals that offered more creativity than the norm. In this story, there was a distinct piece of art that stuck out as a mistake and one that caught me by surprise. The mistake occurred in the scene with the balloon, where in one panel the balloon flies to the left of the panel as Bat-Girl enters from the window on the right side of the panel. In the next panel, Bat-Girl is suddenly on the left side and getting dazed by the balloon popping, rather than her approaching from the right side. However, the panel where the Cobra Boss holds a gun to Bat-Girl's head caught me by surprise, as I didn't expect for a Silver Age comic at this time to allow something so mature.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Annual #7, the Batman From The 30s to The 70s HC, and the DC Comics Classics Library: The Batman Annuals Volume 2 HC.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"The Batwoman!"

Issue: Detective Comics #233

Cover Date: July 1956

Writer: Edmond Hamilton

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Stan Kaye

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: The debut of Batwoman begins with Batman and Robin heading towards a new air terminal after the Bat Signal shines in the sky. Unbeknownst to them, the criminals are already being subdued by the Batwoman. She is handcuffing the crooks by the time the Dynamic Duo arrive, running off afterward with the pair in pursuit. They try to catch up to her in the Batmobile, but her Bat-Cycle loses them in a narrow alley. The next night at a world premiere, the Batwoman prevents a diamond thief's robbery, once again racing away. The rest of the jewel gang attempt to get the drop on the Dynamic Duo while they search for Batwoman, but once again she is there to save them. Later, Robin laments that she is making the Caped Crusader look bad, but Batman does not care about that, worried instead about the risks the Batwoman is taking.

At that moment, Batwoman is returning to her own Bat-Cave, located in an old mine tunnel in the suburbs. After changing out of her costume, Batwoman is revealed to be an heiress named Kathy Kane. Reflecting back, we find out that she was a skilled circus trapeze and motorcycle stunt performer who wanted to use her skills to fight crime like Batman. After inheriting her uncle's fortune, she builds a mansion, outfits a Bat-Cave with equipment underneath it, and adopts the super-heroine identity of Batwoman. Back in the present, Bruce Wayne attends a party at Kathy Kane's mansion, where Batwoman comes up in the conversation. Bruce and Kathy appear to hit it off, but abruptly say goodbye to each other when the Bat-Signal appears in the sky. They reunite as Batman and Batwoman at the "Tomorrow Club," where dodging fake Martian idols leads them to respect each others acrobatic skill. Batwoman is able to throw a net on the criminal, but not before he knocks out Batman when the Caped Crusader jumps between Batwoman and the giant robot hand the crook was operating.

Batwoman has the opportunity to discover Batman's identity, but does not as he got knocked unconscious saving her from getting hit. Batman comes to as Robin arrives; the Caped Crusader proceeds to interrogate the criminal, who refuses to talk. Despite his silence, Batman deduces that he must have been a distraction so that his boss Hugo Vorn could commit a crime elsewhere. His suspicions are confirmed when he sees an advertising blimp heading towards the mint. The Dynamic Duo and Batwoman arrive as the mob lands, immediately leaping into action. Using her shoulder-bag strap as a makeshift Bat-Bolo, Batwoman ties up Vorn as he makes for the blimp, which Batman apparently sees as giving her the right to turn the mob over to the police. In reality, Batman left her to it so he could use circus terms she spoke earlier to discover her identity. Back at the Bat-Cave, an analysis of the Dynamic Duo's files not only uncovers her identity as Kathy Kane, but where her Bat-Cave is located. The pair confront her when she returns and Batman convinces her to give up her career as Batwoman. The story ends with Batwoman's portrait from her Bat-Cave hung in Batman's trophy room, with Robin wondering if one day they'll fight crime with her as a Dynamic Trio.

Thoughts: This story is an important one for the era, as it is the first appearance of Batwoman, but it is also deeply flawed. Theses flaws come from the fact that the Comics Code Authority at the time had guidelines that were inherently sexist when it came to female characters. As Michael Uslan cites in his introduction to Batman In The Fifties, "The inclusion of females in stories is specifically discouraged. Women, when used in plot structure, should be secondary in importance, and should be drawn realistically, without exaggeration of feminine qualities." As a result of this stance, Batwoman does not come across as a full character. The story begins with one of the crooks saying, "Ha ha, what can she do?," before the other crook is knocked out by Batwoman spinning a giant globe. This showing of Batwoman as a capable super-heroine in the face of sexism is short lived, as she subdues the other criminal using a powder puff from a shoulder bag and then chains the two together with charm bracelets disguised as handcuffs. These gadgets continue, as she stops the diamond thief by reflecting light in his face using a compact-mirror and a perfume flask containing tear gas stops the rest of the jewel gang later. While I can understand wanting to differentiate Batwoman's equipment from Batman's, this was not the way to do it.

The making light of Batwoman because she is a woman is not limited to the criminal, but extends to the Dynamic Duo too: Robin says "A girl saving you? It's ridiculous!" and Batman himself says "This is no place for a girl." While Kathy being inspired by Batman to use her acrobatic skills to fight crime is fine, his picture on her desk in the next panel introduces a romantic angle that is unnecessary. At the party, Kathy asking "how any woman could ever equal the great Batman," Bruce suddenly voicing admiration for Batwoman's courage, and the two lamenting if only they could tell the other of their costumed identities, furthers the wrong ideas of the story. Its attempt to show Batman wanting to end Kathy's career as Batwoman because he fears for her safety, not because she has made him look bad as Robin sees it, just comes across as more sexism. This is furthered as his reason for Kathy to give up crime fighting, if he uncovered her identity eventually a criminal would, is an unlikely one. It is shown to be an even poorer reason in the next panel, as Kathy is revealed to have assembled cameras and instruments to take photos, x-rays, and height and weight records that would allow her to uncover Batman's identity, showing how intelligent she is. That Batman hangs her portrait in the Bat-Cave at the end just adds insult to injury. While the story shows that Kathy Kane had the intelligence and acrobatic skills which would make her a fine super-heroine, the sexism of the time that pervades it prevented the character from achieving that status.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Annual #4, the Batman From The 30s to The 70s HC, the Batman In The Fifties TPB, and the DC Comics Classics Library: The Batman Annuals Volume 2 HC.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Bat-Mite's Super-Circus!"

Issue: Detective Comics #310

Cover Date: December 1962

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are enjoying a moment of relaxation, noting that sooner or later Batman and Robin will be needed. Meanwhile, Bat-Mite has returned to the crime fighting pair's dimension and is eager to see his hero perform more fantastic stunts. He transforms an old mining town into a variety of objects (including a statue, pirate ship, castle, and fountain), seeing it as a perfect setting for more fun. The next day, Bat-Mite diverts a trio of crooks into going to his circus, where he gives each of them a super-power. The Dynamic Duo first contends with a crook who can stretch, dodging his extended reach by jumping from the ship they boarded to the statue. The second criminal, a human cannonball, rolls toward the statue, but Batman and Robin evade him by sliding down the statue's arm. The third thug, a strongman, prepares to swing a lamp post at the pair, but Bat-Mite transforms it into a flower. While Batman is beginning to figure out that this is another Bat-Mite adventure, the imp hits his head on the pirate ship's plank when he jumps up in excitement.

After having been invisible for the fight so far, Bat-Mite suddenly becomes visible. Before he can try to figure out why, he attempts to remove Batman and Robin from the rubberman's grasp, but finds that he cannot use his powers. He explains to the Dynamic Duo that the part of the brain that allows him to project his powers has been affected, before he is grabbed by the strongman. Batman diverts the water from the fountain into the rubberman's face, allowing the trio to make a run for the Batmobile. They begin to drive off, but the strongman uses the rubberman's body to propel the human cannonball into the Batmobile, knocking its occupants out. The three super criminals leave the Dynamic Duo and Bat-Mite to drown in the dungeon of the castle, but Batman is able to throw Bat-Mite up once they leave to turn off the water. Later, while driving in a spare Batmobile, the crime-fighters receive word that the strongman is breaking into the Gotham Aircraft Company.

When they reach the Company, the trio head for where the payroll safe is located, followed by the strongman. Batman fights the criminal one on one and appears to slam his head into a wall. The strongman delivers what he thinks is the finishing blow, but Batman dodges it and the strongman's fist bounces off the wall and collides with his own face. Batman explains that the wall was in fact a slab of foam rubber used to make seat cushions and he only pretended to be dazed. They then drive to a National History Museum, where an alarm signals the rubberman trying to steal a necklace of black pearls. The rubberman at first has the upper hand, dodging the Dynamic Duo and stopping Bat-Mite with his foot. Quickly, Batman once again outsmarts his opponent, punching his head up into a doorway. For the final criminal, his m.o. provided by the Batcave's crime files leads them to the S.S. Atlanta where a Rembrant is being delivered. While first stopped by oil slick, the human cannonball prepares for another strike, rolling down a gangplank straight for a bunch of explosives. Suddenly, a trampoline appears for the criminal to bounce off of and he returns to normal, signaling Bat-Mite having his powers once again. After dropping the criminals off at prison, Bat-Mite explain's that running into the rubberman's foot returned his powers. The Dynamic Duo point out that this means he had them the entire time they fought the human cannonball, causing Bat-Mite to make a hasty exit.

Thoughts: Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the publication of Detective Comics #267, the first appearance of Bat-Mite, so what better way to celebrate than reviewing a Bat-Mite story? Before I go into this fun little story, I do have a few criticisms, one major and one minor. My major problem is actually with the first panel of the story after the title splash page. In it, Bruce wishes that they had more days of luxury and Dick agrees with him. Now, I am not saying that the pair should never have downtime, but they should always be shown as dedicated to fighting crime. In the Golden Age, the origin stories of both heroes showed them vowing their dedication due to both losing their parents to crime. After those stories and before this one, Batman had confronted his parents' killer and the man who ordered the job done. While continuity was not considered nearly as important as it is today, the number of call backs to Batman's origin should have set how important his dedication to crime fighting is, and by extension Robin's. My other, and much more minor, problem is that Batman says "whoa" after Bat-Mite reveals how long he's had his powers back. Robin saying "whoa" sure, but Batman saying it is odd.

Other than those points, this is another fun Bat-Mite tale. The imp creating an entire castle, a pirate ship, and a statue are clear signs that this is a Bill Finger story. Bat-Mite giving criminals super-powers takes the common story of the Dynamic Duo against normal crooks and makes it more interesting. As Bat-Mite spends most of the story powerless, most of the focus is on Batman and Robin cleaning up his mess, allowing Bat-Mite to tag along and observe his hero in action like he wanted. Bat-Mite still has a few highlights, such as Batman throwing him like a football out of the dungeon and hiding that he got his powers back so that Batman would have to fight the last criminal. Batman outsmarting the super-crooks and making them essentially defeat themselves was the right way to go, rather than a scenario like having them best the Dynamic Duo and Bat-Mite getting his powers back on the last page. Winning fights with his supervillains, and super-criminals such as these, through brain with a little brawn as opposed to merely brawn is how Batman should operate.

Sheldon Moldoff's adds the charm that a Bat-Mite story needs. The expressions he draws on the imps face are part of what makes the character as entertaining as he is. This story also features one of my favorite Bat-Mite panels, where Batman is holding up Bat-Mite by his cape after the trio have been thrown in the dungeon, with the Dynamic Duo's faces on either side and Batman pointing his finger at the imp. There's an art detail that might have been described in the script or a choice by Moldoff. When Batman rescues Bat-Mite from the strongman, he tucks him under his arm like a football, an interesting choice as Batman describes throwing Bat-Mite "like a football." The most interesting art detail is that the rubberman's costume was colored purple and his hair colored red, making him resemble DC's Elongated Man. Elongated Man debuted in Flash #112 from 1960, adding a bizarre little coincidence to another fun visit from Batman's biggest fan.

This story has not been reprinted.

"Batman Meets Bat-Mite"

This review was originally posted on July 27, 2009, but is being reposted on the anniversary of the issue's publication as was originally intended.

Issue: Detective Comics #267

Cover Date: May 1959

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Curt Swan

Synopsis: The Dynamic Duo's first encounter with Bat-Mite begins with Bruce and Dick descending into the Batcave. After donning their costumes, they notice several items are out of place, including Batman's utility belt moving from the closet to the floor and damaged lab equipment. Robin wonders if there could be a stranger in the Batcave, when suddenly a voice apologizes for the damage. The voice remarks that it should make itself visible and in front of Batman and Robin appears, in Robin's words, "An elf dressed in a crazy looking Batman costume!" The "elf" of course tells them that he comes from another dimension where all men are his size and after observing Batman's exploits has decided to don his own costume and help Batman fight crime. Batman isn't thrilled with the idea, informing Bat-Mite that they'd have a hard time explaining a creature from another dimension and that it takes a lot of training to become a crime-fighter. Bat-Mite is disappointed, but he disappears with a "Pop!" all the same. The Dynamic Duo believe he has returned to his home dimension, when in actuality he has turned invisible and hitched a ride atop the Batmobile.

Batman and Robin see Tipper Neely and his gang making a getaway on the waterfront. After cutting their car off, the Dynamic Duo pursue the gang across a bridge. Suddenly, the bridge begins to twist and turn, up and down like a roller coaster. Batman quickly deduces that Bat-Mite's powers are responsible, but doesn't understand why he's using them to complicate matters. Batman and Robin slide down one of the dips that formed in the bridge to get to the gangsters. Batman takes a swing at Neely and finds his punch connect in mid-air. The bridge has turned to rubber, but Batman takes it in stride, bouncing along and knocking out the rest of the gang. One of the gangsters wonders what happened with the bridge, prompting Batman to come up with the explanation of chemicals from a nearby plant causing hallucinations. Back at the Batcave, Batman asks Bat-Mite why he transformed the bridge, with Bat-Mite replying that he wanted to prolong the fight since it was progressing so quickly. Batman tells Bat-Mite that crime-fighting is serious business and asks him to return home. Bat-Mite of course turns invisible and waits for the Dynamic Duo to go back out on patrol.

The next evening, Batman and Robin respond to a robbery at a hi-fi show. The Dynamic Duo quickly corner the criminals, too quickly for the Bat-Mite in attendance. He summons a giant record, which slides underneath the criminals and flies high above Batman and Robin. The crime-fighters act quickly, with Batman holding onto the tape from a giant tape recorder and Robin setting it in motion. Batman uses the momentum to fling himself onto the record and bring it and the criminals down. Afterward, Batman and Robin again confront Bat-Mite at the Batcave and again he disappears before their eyes. They turn their attention towards a tip that the Yellow Gloves Gang will rob the Gotham Auto Company and guess they will use an empty warehouse for their escape route. The invisible Bat-Mite overhears this and fills the empty warehouse with giant props, including a giant Batman statue, sphinx, globe, and viking ship. When the Batman and Robin encounter the gang that night, both groups make use of the props. The criminals push the viking ship towards the Dynamic Duo, prompting Bat-Mite to use the sphinx to help them, but he makes it go too high. Batman forgives Bat-Mite for overdoing his powers and has him use them to animate the Batman statue, dumping the criminals out of the viking ship. When Batman asks Bat-Mite to return to his home dimension after the criminals have been taken into custody, the imp agrees...and promises that it is "Good-bye...for now!"

Thoughts: This is it, the first appearance of everyone's favorite imp, Bat-Mite. As it is his first appearance, it has all the characteristics of a Bat-Mite story: Bat-Mite being Batman's biggest fan, his habit of using his powers to extend Batman's fights for his own amusement, and Batman warning Bat-Mite that he's going to spank him. Yeah, I still don't get that one, but there was a precedent set here. I also find it interesting how Batman is so insistent about them having a hard time explaining Bat-Mite away when there were so many aliens invading at this time, not to mention Superman living the next city over. There are a number of great uses of Bat-Mite magic in this issue, with the roller coaster bridge, floating records, and giant statues. Bill Finger was a big fan of giant props and Bat-Mite's magic gave him a great way to channel that into his stories.

This story has some great Sheldon Moldoff art in it. Interestingly enough, even though he co-created the character, the first depiction of Bat-Mite readers saw back in 1959 was Curt Swan's, via the cover. As far as Moldoff's design for Bat-Mite, not much changed from his original depiction except from the head. Later versions have a smaller head and no lines depicting teeth. The facial expressions on Batman, Robin, and the criminals are well drawn, most memorably Batman's in response to Bat-Mite promising he'll return. There's also nice detail in the Batcave, both in the walls and the equipment within the cave. Moldoff also does a great job handling all the magical happenings as a result of Bat-Mite, from the wobbly bridge to the giant Batman statue.

This story is, of course, a classic. If you haven't read it yet, pick up the recently released Black Casebook TPB and get introduced to Bat-Mite all over again.

Addendum: Thanks to Pat for reminding me that this issue marked the 20th anniversary of Batman in Detective Comics.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Annual #7, Batman In The Fifties TPB, Batman: The Black Casebook TPB, and DC Comics Classics Library: The Batman Annuals Volume 2 HC.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 45 - "Emperor Joker!"

Written by: Steven Melching
Directed by: Ben Jones
Original Airdate: October 9, 2010

Synopsis: The episode begins with a teaser entitled "The Rainbow Batman" (in color) under the banner of Batman's Greatest Cases. Batman is seen putting on a red (pink) Batman costume and, when questioned by Robin, tells him that he must wear a different colored costume every night. The show then cuts to the gold depository where Firefly is breaking into a vault, only to find the Dynamic Duo already inside. When he fires a red beam from his belt at the pair, Batman is able to deflect due to his costume being the same color. Not ready to come quietly, Firefly activates all of the colors on his belt and creates a rainbow creature. The creature has different colored beams each with their own power, using one of them to turn Robin into a two-dimensional state. Batman presses a button on his belt, transforming his suit into a rainbow one. Now impervious to the creature's beams, he punches it into little more than light and knocks out Firefly soon after.

The main story begins with the Ten-Eyed Man about to rob a jewelery store, when Batman speaks from above him. The fight barely begins when Bat-Mite pops into reality, advising Batman about the Ten-Eyed Man using Who's Who #23. Batman reminds him about his promise to stay in his own reality and then picks his fight back up, leaving Bat-Mite to continue reading the Who's Who entry. Bat-Mite eventually helps his hero by creating a cactus, which Batman throws at the Ten-Eyed Man, who catches it with predictably painful results. After Bat-Mite expresses wanting to see Batman in a fight worthy of the Caped Crusader, he takes Batman to his shrine of all of Batman's greatest battles with his arch-enemy The Joker. When Batman says he won't be battling the Clown Prince of Crime since he's in Arkham, Bat-Mite uses his powers to allow The Joker to escape.

Batman brings Bat-Mite along to stop Joker from robbing Gotham's Comedy Museum, albeit on the condition that the imp not use his powers. Bat-Mite agrees and gets the fight he was wanting, as Batman not only has to face off against The Joker, but Harley Quinn and four of The Joker's goons (with appearances that resemble silent film comedians). During the course of the fight, Bat-Mite becomes smitten with Harley Quinn, perhaps because they both feel that Batman and The Joker bring out the best in each other. Eventually, an exploding hand allows The Joker and his henchmen to gang up on Batman. While keeping his promise to Batman, Bat-Mite finds a loophole to help his hero by giving his powers to the Caped Crusader. Unfortunately, the transfer misses Batman and hits The Joker instead. While The Joker uses his newfound powers to subdue Batman with a giant boxing glove and force lightning from a joy buzzer, Bat-Mite is left to deal with a Joker-Mite created just for him.

After an impromptu musical number of The Joker celebrating the power he has gained, he sets off the equivalent of a "Mouse Trap" that appears to kill Batman. While The Joker at first mourns the death of his adversary, he brings Batman back to life so that he can kill him again and again, utilizing a giant beaker of acid, flamethrowers, sharks, and other scenarios. As for Bat-Mite, he has been reduced to a court jester thanks to Harley Quinn intervening on his behalf. Batman appears to beg for The Joker to stop killing him and take away his sanity instead, an idea that The Joker delights in and plans to go into Batman's head to do it himself. When he does, Batman outsmarts him by placing him in a world where Batman does not exist and therefore The Joker has nobody to match wits with and ceases to be who he is. Meanwhile, Bat-Mite and Harley Quinn team-up to take down Joker-Mite and the rest of Joker's gang. The episode ends with Bat-Mite returning the world to normal, The Joker left drooling from his encounter with Batman's mind, and Bat-Mite having his own arch-nemesis in the form of Joker-Mite.

Thoughts: Before I talk about the main story, I have to touch on the teaser segment. You can tell how aware the crew behind the show are when they turn the infamous "Rainbow Batman" cover into a cartoon. While it does not follow the plot of the story behind the cover, they created a new, more fantastical story that fits into the Silver Age mold. They even bring in other fifties era stories, as Firefly and his light belt debuted in Detective Comics #184 and the Rainbow Creature appeared in Batman #134. Even before the real story has begun, the episode has woven three stories together into a fun wink at the fans who know about them.

Of course, the main attraction is Bat-Mite in his second appearance in the series and it is another great one. As Bat-Mite is Batman's biggest fan, Melching takes that concept and applies it through the lens of the 21st century comic book fan. Not only does Bat-Mite read the Ten-Eyed Man's Who's Who entry, but he bags the comic and puts it into a longbox. He comments about how much he loves Batman's show, which refers to both that Batman: The Brave and The Bold is a cartoon and that Bat-Mite's observing Batman is like watching television for the imp. In his shrine to the Batman/Joker fights, he has replicas for the fifties story "The Joker's Utility Belt," as well as the more modern stories "The Laughing Fish" and "A Death in the Family." For the latter, Bat-Mite even asks Batman how he thinks Bat-Mite voted, calling back to the fan vote over whether Jason Todd would live or die. This playing up of the fanboy aspect of Bat-Mite is not a cruel jab, but rather gives comic fans an opportunity to laugh along with the show. But Bat-Mite's fanboyism is not the only interesting aspect of the character in the episode. I have to imagine that Bat-Mite's crush on Harley Quinn is a call back to Bat-Mite's crush on Batwoman in "Batwoman's Publicity Agent" from Batman #133. Bat-Mite's attempt at transferring his powers to Batman keeps the Bat-Mite story element of the imp's attempts at help causing Batman more trouble, while showing he respects his hero's wishes (even though Bat-Mite transferring his powers to Batman is a use of his powers). The Joker-Mite is a fitting concept that one would expect to see out of a Silver Age comic and Bat-Mite's defeat of him without his powers mirrors Batman taking down supervillains without being superpowered.

In contrast to the fun Bat-Mite elements are the darker Joker elements. In the series, the more harmless Silver Age Joker incarnation has been played up more than the homicidal clown. This episode, however, brings out the more murderous side of the character. While Batman is not shown dying, the episode leaves little to the imagination. When Batman is smashed by a giant hammer and crushed by a pair of walls on camera, and when he is beheaded by a guillotine off camera, there is no blood, but the sound effects emphasize what is happening. When Batman is drowned in the acid beaker, his skeleton floats toward Joker and a distraught Bat-Mite. While cartoony (down to a transparent angel Batman floating upward after his first death), the montage of Batman deaths shows how sadistic The Joker is and is pretty macabre for what is seen as a children's cartoon. Not that I am complaining mind you, as it is what Joker would do if he had potentially unlimited power (and did in the original comic storyline, albeit with Mr. Mxyzptlk's powers). Keeping with The Joker's character, touches of humor are added to the deaths. In the initial "Mouse Trap" death, Batman gets out of the spike filled coffin that will supposedly kill him, only for the trap to continue and the hammer to crush him. When Batman is about to be dropped in the beaker of acid, he starts to give an encouraging speech to Bat-Mite when The Joker cuts the rope before he can finish. The experience also shows that Batman's mind is so well disciplined that not only could he focus enough to come up with a plan, not only could his mind create a world that would show how The Joker's existence would have no meaning if Batman was gone, but that he could come out of dying multiple times still in possession of his sanity. By mixing the amusingly self-aware element of Bat-Mite with the morbid element of The Joker, the episode strikes a balance that allows Bat-Mite to shine and Batman's mental prowess to be examined.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Batman Meets Fatman"

Issue: Batman #113

Cover Date: February 1958

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Synopsis: The story starts with Fatman, a circus clown who lampoons Batman, performing his act. It starts with Fatman falling down after swinging on a bat-line, throwing a huge batarang that comes back and hits him in the stomach, and pulling odds and ends out of an oversize utility belt. He ends his act by praising Batman for the great crime fighter that he is. Speaking of Batman, the Caped Crusader and Robin are busy fighting the Red Mask gang, who had just committed a bank robbery. Unfortunately, the gang escapes on a motor boat, leaving Batman and Robin to contact the harbor police and leave for the charity show at the circus. After the Dynamic Duo perform several athletic feats, they offer to give Fatman a ride in the Batmobile, during which they get a message from the police to go back to the wharf. Batman is able to deduce from a comment by one of the gang that they stashed their loot in a now missing boat.

After finding out the boat has been rented to publicize a movie, the Dynamic Duo set out with Fatman along for the case. While the clown stays in the car, Batman and Robin fight the Red Mask gang on the boat in the middle of a street. While they 're kept busy, the leader of the gang cuts a rope, sending a wrapped up sail crashing into the Dynamic Duo. Batman and Robin are then taken back to the gang's hideout, an abandoned stable, and locked in a horse stall. Fortunately, Fatman followed them in the Batmobile and sets out to rescue them. After falling over and tying himself up in his silken cord, Fatman appears to swing a hammer too heavy for him when he hurls it at the lock on Batman and Robin's stall. While the Dynamic Duo deals with the gang, Fatman has the privilege of stopping the boss with his stomach. After the criminals are taken to the police, Batman praises Fatman for outsmarting the gang using his comedy act. The story ends with Fatman being cheered at the circus once again.

Thoughts: I sought out this story solely for the curiosity factor of there being a character named Fatman in the Batman mythos, and that's all it is: a curiosity. The idea of a clown who has an act centered around Batman is an amusing one and it's tailor made for the big props that Bill Finger loved to write into his stories. Having Fatman use his act to get the drop on the criminals was a nice touch to bring things full circle, but I question Fatman being so put out about being kept out of the fight at the boat when he held Batman's work in such high regard. Of course, under Silver Age logic, hero worship serves as a valid explanation. While I enjoy the goofy and sometimes downright insane aspects of the Silver Age, Fatman saying "only a dummy would run into my tummy" is simply a groaner. Apart from Fatman, the story is a rather by the numbers fifties Batman story with the normal criminal gang. Worse yet, the gang, not one of the supervillains, gets the drop on the Dynamic Duo and locks them in a horse stable. I admit that Batman and Robin getting locked in a horse stable is rather funny, but still, the Dynamic Duo are a bit too easily taken down by regular criminals at times. The major art note of interest is the resemblance of Fatman's cowl to that of this blog's namesake, albeit with the other ear bent. Even more interesting to note is that Fatman debuted before Bat-Mite, as Detective Comics #267 has a cover date of May 1959. On the whole, this story is hardly essential reading and only worth checking out for the sheer novelty of Fatman.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Family #4.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Added To The Collection - Batman From The 30s To The 70s HC

This is a book that I've wanted to have in my comic collection for a long time. Not just because it reprints fifties era Batman stories, but because it's a nice collection to have as a Batman fan in general. I've been looking for a good deal on eBay for awhile and finally got one, as I won the auction for $15. It's in great shape for both its age and the price I won it for. The dust jacket is complete, with some wear, but no major tears. The pages are yellowed at the edges, but are pretty white inside the book. None of the pages are missing and they are still bound rather tightly to the spine. Here is a list of the fifties era Batman stories that it collects:

"The Man Behind The Red Hood!" from Detective Comics #168
"The Origin of The Bat-Cave!" from Batman #205
"Superman's and Batman's Greatest Foes!" from World's Finest Comics #88
"The Man Who Wrote The Joker's Jokes!" from Batman #67
"The New Crimes of Two-Face!" from Batman #68
"The Crime Predictor!" from Batman #77
"Two-Face Strikes Again!" from Batman #81
"The Voyage of the First Batmarine!" from Batman #86
"Batman - Indian Chief!" from Batman #86
"Ace, The Bat-Hound!" from Batman #92
"The Batwoman!" from Detective Comics #233
"The Challenge of Batwoman!" from Batman #105
"Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk!" from World's Finest Comics #113
"The Second Batman and Robin Team!" from Batman #131
"Bat-Girl!" from Batman #139
"Bat-Mite Meets Bat-Girl!" from Batman #144
"Prisoners of Three Worlds" from Batman #153

As I am well into my fifties Batman collection by this point, there are only two stories I don't already have in issues or reprints. That's fine by me, as it is a great book to own in and of itself.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

"Two-Face Strikes Again!"

Issue: Batman #81

Cover Date: February 1954

Writer: David Vern Reed

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: Harvey Dent, face restored by plastic surgery and having renounced the villainous ways of Two-Face, is walking along a street when he sees safe crackers in a television store. When he charges in to stop them, one of the criminals accidentally lights the explosive he was preparing. While the thieves get away, Harvey is caught in the resulting blast and his plastic surgery is undone. Seeing this as a sign that he was meant to be Two-Face, he lets the flip of a replica of his two-sided coin be the final test. After it lands scarred side up, Two-Face resumes his career in crime by robbing Tarando the clown, Charles Ford the millionaire deep seas diver, and John Benson the actor. While the Dynamic Duo is at first unable to find a pattern, Batman deduces that those robbed were all to an extent men with two faces.

After a successful series of crimes, Two-Face decides it's time to hire a gang, chosen through coin flips of course. His henchmen hired, Two-Face sets off to rob "Chicago Al" Garver, a big-time gambler. Batman and Robin are at first puzzled as to why Two-Face has been spotted in the area of Gotham Point, but Batman once again comes up with the answer, Garver's "poker face" fulfilling the two face motif. They soon arrive at the mansion, following the criminals up a giant replica pool table. The gang releases giant pool balls at them, forcing the Dynamic Duo to dive into one of the runways under the table. The distraction allows Two-Face and his gang to escape, albeit empty handed. The next morning, a headline about a disgraced Japanese envoy (having "lost face") allows Batman and Robin to anticipate Two-Face's next crime. Two-Face is almost caught after leaving his calling card by scaring the face of a statue, but Robin's rope getting cut by a pick-axe allows the gang to get away.

The Dynamic Duo decide to act rather than react, thanks a local Sioux reservation wanting to make Bruce Wayne an honorary chief for his charity work. On the day of the ceremony, a biplane with two-motors arrives, making Batman and Robin think they've caught Two-Face. But Two-Face was prepared for the crime fighters, using the plane's propellers to blind them with sand. They are brought to Two-Face's hideout, where he plans to tie the pair to a giant coin and flip it onto a bed of spikes. Due to the added weight of Batman and Robin, the coin will certainly land on the side they're strapped to. When the coin does flip, the Dynamic Duo land safely and are able to free themselves. Batman and Robin apprehend Two-Face and his gang, telling them that by turning their radios into electromagnets and connecting them to the wires binding them, they were able to repel the spikes and land safely.

Thoughts: While not as good as the previous story, this one is still a lot of fun. You of course have to suspend your disbelief when it comes to an explosion undoing just Dent's plastic surgery and in a way that he becomes Two-Face again, but since this is the Silver Age, that shouldn't be a problem. The gimmick associated with Two-Face is pretty clever, centering around people with double lives rather than theft of objects having to do with the number two. While the diver is a bit of a stretch (especially when compared to the two faces of a clown and an actor), the "poker face" and "losing face" spins on the concept advance it further than simple physical appearance. While one would expect Two-Face to choose two henchmen for his gang, keeping with the gimmick, the three henchmen plus Two-Face still goes along with it. On the henchmen note, I always get a kick out of the caption, "then, as the hoodlum applicants line up, each finds his chance for a job hangs on the turn of a coin." On a more subtle nod to Two-Face, the honorary chief ceremony takes place two days after Bruce comes up with the idea. Given the giant pool table, fight on the giant statue, and the giant coin trap, you would think this was a Bill Finger story, but it was indeed by David Reed. Now it should be noted there are several lines, Robin referring to the Japanese envoy as an oriental and Bruce referring to himself as being made a paleface Indian, that stand out as being racist today. So while the story is an entertaining one, be prepared to come across such lines if you choose to read it.

While Dick Sprang is not given as much freedom to be creative as the previous story, he still turns in great art. The splash page in particular is memorable, with a giant Two-Face head looming over small figures of Batman and Robin. The trails of smoke and the moon in the background recall the panel of the cat temple I previously mentioned. Sprang makes sure Two-Face's office reflects the character, with the number two on the desk on floor, two telephones, two pen holders, and two chairs. The most interesting aspect of Sprang's art in the story are the panels, as he abandons the typical squares for trapezoids when the Dynamic Duo are falling down the pool table runway and when Batman saves the falling Robin on the statue. The most unique panel is during the statue save, where a circular panel of Robin helping Batman up is cut is cut inside of the panel of Batman saving Robin, completing the action. Even in a story without the more creative setting of "The Jungle Cat-Queen," Sprang found a way to make it even more interesting.

This story has been reprinted in the Batman From The 30s to The 70s HC, The Greatest 1950s Stories Ever Told HC/TPB, the Batman in The Fifties TPB, and the Batman vs. Two-Face TPB.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 35 - "The Super-Batman of Planet X!"

Written by: Adam Beechen
Directed by: Michael Goguen
Original Airdate: March 26, 2010

Synopsis: Like the rest of the episodes, this one begins with a short teaser. Batman and Dr. Will Magnus are undercover (with Batman as Matches Malone), making an intergalactic weapons deal with Kanjar Ro. Their cover is blown, and Ro and his two goons start firing lasers, when Magnus makes a joke about a planet having moons when it in fact doesn't have any. Magnus throws his briefcase at their opponents, which turns into Iron and Platina who dispatch the goons. Magnus is then saved from laser fire by Lead acting as a pogo stick and Tin serving as a parachute. The battle continues with Lead knocking one goon over as a giant bowling ball, Gold (who served as gold teeth) punching another, and the previous goon slipping and trapped by Mercury. Kanjar Ro holds Magnus at gunpoint, but a well aimed batarang causes his gun to explode. The teaser ends with Magnus asking when they'll do it again, Batman responding with a resigned, "I'll be in touch."

The episode proper begins with Batman and Green Arrow in pursuit of space pirates who have stolen a valuable emerald. After a space battle between the heroes and aliens, the combination of one of the aliens' lasers and the Bat-Rocket's energy shield creates a wormhole. Batman is sucked in and crash lands on another planet with a futuristic city. He hears a scream from nearby, where a family is being robbed by a mugger in an alley. He throws a batarang at the mugger, which fortunately misses as judged by the large hole it creates in the nearby wall. He dodges the laser response by the mugger, but the criminal is stopped by a combination of martial arts and Bat-Radia waves by the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. The two Batmen meet and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh welcomes his counterpart to the city of Gothtropolis. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh receives a transmission from Chancellor Gorzon informing him that is arch-nemesis Rhotul and his robot army are attacking downtown, leading the two Batman to team-up to stop him.

When Batman leaves the futuristic Batmobile with his jetpack, Rhotul summons more robots to keep the Batmen busy. After stopping several robots with cables and batarangs, Batman discovers he has super-speed and super-strength when saving the reporter Vilsi. With his newfound powers, he easily dispatches the rest of the robots and stops the robot escaping with Rhotul with freeze vision. The two Batmen return to the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, when they discover through scientific testing that Batman has acquired super-powers do to an element in Zur-En-Arrh's atmosphere not found on Earth, rodon. The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh has to leave for his day job, which is (if you haven't guessed) as a reporter for the paper. While he's at the paper, Batman uses his super-powers to foil a bank robbery, punch an incoming asteroid to pieces, and defeat a giant alien monster.

While pacing around his cell, Rhotul deduces that Batman must be from Earth and that he does in fact have a weakness. Using a transmitter hidden on a tooth, he summons one of his robots to break him out. Back at the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, the two Batmen are discussing that there are still unknown aspects of Batman's powers when they receive an alert of Rhotul's robots attacking the city. Batman confronts Rhotul, but is sapped of his strength by a combination of rodon and quartz. Batman is about to be crushed, when the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh arrives in his spaceship to fight back. After crashing his spaceship, the two team-up to dismantle the rest of the robots. When Rhotul captures Vilsi, the combination of the batarang and Bat-Radia are enough to finish off the final robot. After the battle, Green Arrow arrives after figuring out how to create another wormhole and he and Batman return to Earth.

Thoughts: As "Batman - The Superman of Planet X!" is one of my all time favorite 1950s Batman stories, I was very excited when this episode was announced. At the same time, I wondered how they would expand upon the original story to translate it to a half-hour cartoon. While the episode does alter the original story, Beechen was able to stay true to it while also having the episode serve a secondary purpose. In the scene with the mugger, the family that is being held up consists of a father, mother, and son, in effect allowing the Batmen to to face a criminal resembling the one who killed their parents and prevent the creation of yet another Batman. The design of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is straight from the comic and a close-up shot on the Bat-Radia recalls a similar panel. The brief appearance of added character Chancellor Gorzon pays tribute to the artist of the original story by having him drawn in the style of Dick Sprang's Commissioner Gordon. Rhotul's robots, at first grey and then red, are also a perfect recreation of the threat in the comic, albeit with the addition of a mad scientist. We get to see more of the Batcave of Zur-En-Arrh, complete with alien parallels to the original's trophies and even a robot Alfred. The bank robbing aliens during the montage of Batman's super-heroics and the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh's rocket are taken from the story. In a final nod to Batman, the Caped Crusader is shielded from the equivalent of Zur-En-Arrh kryptonite by a spray from a can, recalling the shark repellent bat-spray from the 1966 Batman movie. As far as the Batman element goes, the original story was done pitch-perfect justice, with a few added touches.

As you could probably tell from the summary, the major change in the adaptation is to make the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh a combination of Batman and Superman without the superpowers. On one hand, the Superman elements could be seen as too on the nose, but they make sense with when the episode was produced. At the time, the show did not have the rights to use Superman, so making the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh also that planet's version of Superman to an extent allowed them to use facsimiles of the Superman characters. It also allowed for them to add a bit to the character of the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh. While the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh is shown to be a little jealous at the attention Batman is receiving, it doesn't lead to anything petty; he keeps a cool head and proves his heroism when it is needed. It also raises questions about the Batman-Superman relationship; if Batman is at times jealous of Superman's powers and the great amount of good they can do. Batman's over-reliance, not corruption, on the powers also highlights how easy it is for someone to get caught up in having super powers and the control Superman has. The Superman angle is given another layer through the casting of voice actors from the DC Animated Universe cartoons. Kevin Conroy, most well known for providing distinct voices for both Bruce Wayne and Batman, plays the Batman of Zur-En-Arrh, essentially having him play Batman and Clark Kent. Clancy Brown was Rhotul, a mad scientist in the vein of the Silver Age Lex Luthor in contrast with the businessman Lex Luthor he played in the DCAU. Rhotul adds an entertainingly over the top mad scientist element, giving personality to the robot threat. Dana Delany voiced the Lois Lane counterpart, perhaps the weakest part of the episode not due to Delany's voice acting, but because there was a bit too much emphasis on her as a lovestruck damsel in distress. While the addition of the Superman angle could have been too much, it was on the whole an effective addition to the original story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"The Jungle Cat-Queen!"

Issue: Detective Comics #211

Cover Date: September 1954

Writer: Edmond Hamilton

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: This story begins with a pilot preparing to leave his plane to deliver a shipment of diamonds. Suddenly, he is confronted by a black panther, begging its owner (Catwoman naturally) to call the animal off. She complies once the pilot gives her the case of diamonds, flying away in her Catplane. Soon after, a radio news report and the Bat Signal in the sky tell Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson that they are needed. Arriving at the airport, Batman identifies the islands the volcanic clay that fell from the Catplane's tires came from, and the Batplane soon takes off in pursuit of Catwoman. Batman and Robin do manage to catch up with her, but the villainess did not embark on her crime unprepared, slashing the Batplane's wings with her Catplane's retractable claws. The pair manage to land on the island Catwoman was heading towards, making their way to a mine Robin spotted from the air. The miners appear at first to be afraid that Catwoman is after their diamonds, but reveal their true colors when they set off a noose-trap the Dynamic Duo intended for Catwoman.

The miners are in fact criminals in league with Catwoman and prepare to shoot Batman and Robin, but are stopped when the cat-queen herself arrives. She prefers to hunt them rather than merely shooting them, making the pair don jungle clothing so that they won't have their usual gadgets to rely on. Batman and Robin run into the jungle, eventually using the reeds-as-breathing-tubes trick to evade Catwoman and a trio of her jungle cats. As night begins to fall, the Dynamic Duo follows the cat tracks hoping to find Catwoman's secret lair. They lead the pair to a giant temple originally occupied by cat worshippers, where they discover Catwoman's jungle cats are in fact circus animals she brought with her. Using a whip, Batman is able to drive the animals to their cages, leaving Catwoman to be apprehended. John Jarrow, the head of the miners is able to provide a distraction, releasing a gorilla who manages to pick up Robin.

Batman fends the gorilla off with fire back into its cage, but left himself open for Jarrow to point his gun at the Caped Crusader. To get rid of Batman once and for all, Jarrow plans to have him sent tied up down a river and over a waterfall. Catwoman suggests that he given his costume back so it will disappear as well. While Batman is being thrown in the river, Robin wakes up with a lion sniffing him and manages to send the animal away with the smoke from a burning plant. Meanwhile, Batman is able to save himself from a watery death using a silken rope and emergency knife that Catwoman missed removing. After tying up Catwoman, Batman makes his way to the mine sites and confirms that the criminals were stealing diamonds and pretending they mined them themselves. The "miners" corner Batman, but Robin saves the day through a stampede caused by the smokescreen he created. While the Dynamic Duo knock out the criminals, one of Catwoman's cats frees her and she escapes in her Catplane. Batman confirms to Robin that Catwoman intentionally the tools in his belt and that such sentimentality will allow them to catch her.

Thoughts: For my first reviews back, I wanted to spotlight some of Batman's rogue's gallery as many of the stories I've written about have featured the standard criminal gangs. And Catwoman's use in the story allows for a top quality fifties Batman tale of adventure, mystery, and a gorilla too. From the tropical island setting to the diamond smuggling operation to the animal threats, it's high comic book adventure at its finest. It is interesting how Hamilton attempts to ground the story in a degree of realism by explaining the animals are circus animals, only to introduce a giant ape that can hold Robin in one hand soon after. But I'm not complaining; as a wise man once said, everything's better with monkeys (or apes as the case may be. At the beginning of the story, Batman taps into his inner Sherlock Holmes to identify the islands the clay is from without having to consult any books or scientific equipment. The mystery of the diamond mines is a bit more clever, as the reader dismiss Catwoman's theft of the diamonds when she's part of a mining operation as convenience for the plot before the story is over. The most interesting aspect of the story is Batman's relationship with Catwoman. From their first meeting, the game of cat and mouse between the two of them has been a flirtatious one. This is apparent in Catwoman wanting to chase Batman rather than easily dispatch him. Her wanting to swap the Dynamic Duo's costumes with the jungle outfits may seem odd at first when removing their utility belts would be adequate, but apart from the obvious Tarzan nod, it fits with the underlying romantic tension between Batman and Catwoman. And it is the Batman/Catwoman relationship that elevates this story from an entertaining fifties Batman adventure story to a great one.

In addition to choosing the stories for this week for their featuring supervillains, I also chose them because they featured artwork by Dick Sprang. It's apparent that the reader is in for a visual treat with the title splash page, depicting Catwoman charging on a giant Tiger towards the Dynamic Duo hanging from their ropes. This splash page sets the tone for the adventure to follow, with the larger than life tiger even anticipating the giant gorilla to come. In a story with a heavy presence of animals, you need an artist that can draw them well and Sprang certainly fits that bill. Not only does each animal look like they are supposed to, they are drawn in a detailed manner where hair and spots are concerned. One of the best drawings is of the gorilla taking a swipe at Robin, drawn with dynamism and energy. The hair trails off the body, giving the gorilla a more realistic look, while the swiping arm crosses into the next panel, allowing the strength of the arm coming towards Robin to be conveyed. Sprang's attention to detail extends not only to the animals, but to the island jungle. When the Batplane arrives on the island, Sprang could have gone with a shot closer to the craft, showing it and some trees. Instead, Sprang utilizes a long shot over the island, showing not just trees, but the "mining" camp, mountains, and a waterfall. Such details bring the setting to life and makes it standout against the city settings of most Batman stories. While the art is great throughout, my favorite panel has to be the first one of the ancient temple. The towering temple, the cat statues around it, and the wisps of fog across the panel work together to set a mood of foreboding. While Sprang's art always receives high praise from me, I feel confidant in saying that this story was one of his best.

This story has been reprinted in Batman #198 and The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told.

Monday, March 21, 2011

I Believe In Bat-Mite is (Really) Back

It has been over a year since I last posted, ready to blog more than I ever had before. Then, nothing. I do not have a profound explanation for this. I had a couple of projects I was working on in addition to the blog that fell through, which kind of sapped my burst of enthusiasm for producing internet content. Like I said, not much of a reason, but all the same I apologize for my radio silence. Now however, I have the enthusiasm to blog again. I am excited to talk about fifties Batman again. And I want to really, actually stick to a schedule this time. I have the rest of March and April planned out for the blog, covering a lot of stories that I have been wanting to talk about, specifically the Second Batman and Robin Team:


3/22 - "The Jungle Cat Queen!" from Detective Comics #211
3/23 - Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 35 - "The Super-Batman of Planet X!"
3/24 - "Two-Face Strikes Again!" from Batman #81

3/29 - "Batman Meets Fatman" from Batman #113
3/30 - Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 45 - "Emperor Joker!"
3/31 - "Bat-Mite's Super Circus" from Detective Comics #310


4/5 - "The Batwoman!" from Detective Comics #233
4/6 - Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 46 - "The Criss Cross Conspiracy!"
4/7 - "Bat-Girl!" from Batman #139

4/12 - "The Second Batman and Robin Team" from Batman #131
4/14 - "The Return of the Second Batman and Robin Team" from Batman #135

4/19 - "The Son of The Joker" from Batman #145
4/20 - Batman: The Brave and The Bold Episode 49 - "The Knights of Tomorrow!"
4/21 - "Danger Strikes Four" from Batman #154

4/29 - "The Boyhood of Bruce Wayne Jr." from Batman #159
4/31 - "Bat-Girl - Batwoman II" from Batman #163

I have other posts in mind too, but I'll leave those to be seen when they are posted.

So, there it is. I'm back, I have a plan, and I'm dedicated to posting about fifties Batman for a long time to come.