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The ’80s Revisited: Detective Comics #604

80s_revisited

detective_comics_0604The Mud Pack Part One: Men of Clay

Writer: Alan Grant
Penciller: Norm Breyfogle
Inker: Steve Mitchell
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Assoc. Editor: Dan Raspler
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00
Published by: DC Comics

This cover is another iconic one for me at least…with a mud/clay version of Batman and someone holding a glinting knife over it. There’s no cover credit in the issue…because this almost certainly was when covers were done by the main artist of the issue. And they actually reflected something from the issue itself…either thematically or literally. In this case…literally.

The issue opens with someone holding a mud statue of Batman, and then we jump to a few pages of some clay guy (Preston Payne, Clayface III) in Arkham, talking to a mannequin he’d been in love with but had to tell he wanted to break up. When she didn’t answer, he smacked her and freaks out when her head flies off. He winds up breaking down his door and killing/maiming guards…escaping. Elsewhere, Batman takes down some generic criminals in an alley before responding to a call about the escape. Meanwhile, a cloaked figure stalks through the movie theater district reminiscing about old times and when films were good, talking to someone named Matthew. When he’s approached by some would-be muggers, they get more than they bargained for as he shows them true horror as a slasher, killing them. While Arkham guards hunt Payne, they meet up with a woman in a costume who has mind-powers; Payne had passed out from tranquillizer darts, and she makes the guards shoot each other before she leaves with Payne in tow. In an abandoned theater/now-HQ, the cloaked figure speaks to Matthew again and we learn that Matthew had been Clayface, perished during a crisis, and whoever this is is trying to bring him back. He fails. Batman confers with Commissioner Gordon and they realize Looker of the Outsiders is involved…or so they think. It turns out we have another Clay-person in this Sondra Fuller or "Lady Clayface" or "Clayface Four." She’s like Hagen apparently was–a shape shifter…but it seems she can actually mimic others’ powers! She’s working with the cloaked guy who turns out to be Basil Karlo, apparently the "original" Clayface. While Matthew’s nothing but slopped mud now, this unites the original Clayface with successors Clayface Three and Clayface Four…a unique group sure to now be able to as one, claim fame, fortune, power…and kill the Batman! (And for effect, he stabs the mud statue of Batman he had, fulfilling the cover’s image).

While there’s the name Batman on the cover and he’s kinda in the background, the cover to Batman #439 is more Nightwing than Batman. Which makes this one all the more striking, being a large closeup of Batman, someone holding a knife…is it a statue? Is it Batman himself trapped in a covering of mud? It also feels like a fairly unique cover, all the more for the colors…so much muddy brown on a black background…it’s hardly a bright, cheery colorful thing to leap off and grab someone’s attention. For me, though, it was part of my first exposure to then-current Batman in 1989, and has remained a striking cover to me that always seems to grab my attention if I see it anywhere! And something like this story would be an excellent candidate for a Batman: Clayface or whatever those villain-spotlight TPBs are; or of a massive reprint issue for this arc, etc. Yet other than a Norm Breyfogle-specific collection, I don’t think this Mud Pack story has ever actually been collected as its own thing! Which is a darned shame, really.

41-year-old me in 2022 here thinks he knows that Clayface III (Preston Payne) is an Alan Moore character from an Annual. But this issue seems to give us what we need to know about him, what he is and does to appreciate the character. Same for Karlo…though we get less on Lady Clayface. We see her in action, but not much else. We also get the Hagen bits/references…bringing this group of villainous/antagonist characters together (for the first time?) as a unified threat, setting up whatever comes next. The issue is almost cinematic in some ways with an intro image, then prologue, introducing the characters and bringing them together, the Karlo "reveal" as the mastermind, and so on…leaving off on a (perhaps melo) dramatic cliffhanger/threat.

Visually, this has a definite difference from the Batman over in that title. Breyfogle‘s Batman is rather distinctive to me and rather prone to shadows and for lack of a better phrasing, a sort of "flow" with the action. I also really like his Bat-Signal…it’s recognizable, but its "wavy" effect seems much more authentic than a clean circle on clouds as it’s often depicted. As some of my earliest, regular Batman art, this set the standard for me, along with the likes of Byrne and Aparo as "my" Batman, and a style I very much enjoy.

There’s another thing to this issue that struck me as a kid: the cover proclaims "Free Full-Color Batman Mini-Poster Inside!" Bound into the center of this issue is an actual poster that can be removed (carefully)…a double-page sized image of Batman, and seems to be the same paper as a cover…something higher quality than the basic "newsprint" the bulk of the issue was printed on. This poster is single-sided; and does not even have ads or other promo stuff on its back; removing it in no way decreases (and actually, INcreases) the readability of the issue…no story/panels are lost, it’s truly an actual bonus for the issue! Some comics in the late-’80s/early-’90s would feature "pin-up pages" of art by creators either not as associated with a character or not holding the "main" art gig for the character/team; filler space, etc. This poster is its own thing, an original image not just lifted from a panel…and certainly "worthy" of a cover itself…but, no "variants" here!

I’ve snagged multiple copies of this issue over the years. My original in 1989; as well as copies from bargain bins; at least one copy was solely for that poster, which I have framed on a wall; and a copy I got to get signed by Breyfogle himself some years back when I was unable to locate my actual original copy in time; and now this copy I got for this reading project at present.

I’d definitely recommend this issue if only for the poster, should you happen across it in a bargain bin. The Mud Pack seems a totally forgotten, high-quality story (albeit perhaps from rose-colored glasses of nostalgia) that I’d definitely recommend getting if you’re able to get all 4 chapters; and ideally copies for less than whatever modern comics cost. To me, this is certainly a 25-cent book; but decently worthwhile going up to $3/$4 (maybe $16 at most for all 4 chapters) just because it’s such a quality Batman/Clayface(s) story and strikes me as having a lot more…SOMEthing…than modern $5 and $6 single-issues.

I did a bit of "internet research" because neither this issue nor Batman #439 had cover dates on them…but I know I had to have gotten them at the same time as Adventures of Superman #453 (April 1989) and Superman #31 (May 1989). Apparently somewhere in this timeframe DC and Marvel had some shenanigans on adjusting cover dates, and from what I can figure out, it seems likely that the correlation here–what put these 4 together for me–was that the Superman issues probably were "left over" and had not been pulled; while the Batman issues were very new. Or something to that effect.

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The ’80s Revisited: Batman #439

80s_revisited

batman_0439Batman Year III Chapter Four: Resolutions

Writer: Marv Wolfman
Penciller: Pat Broderick
Inker: Michael Bair
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Adrienne Roy
Assoc. Editor: Dan Raspler
Editor: Dennis O’Neil
Cover Price: $1.00
Published by: DC Comics

This is another issue that’s very iconic TO ME but not necessarily anyone else. This was my first-ever issue of the main Batman title that I got. #439…438 issues came before I got my first! And it’s got a large "Year 3" on the cover…AND it’s marked as "part 4 of 4." It’s hundreds of issues in; it’s the final chapter of a multi-part story; and it’s some middle year, not even a "first year" or such! And I was 8 when I first got the issue, yet it didn’t stop me from getting the next two issues, or further issues of both Batman as well as Detective Comics. But I suppose kids in 2022 are incapable of that…at least for the way publishers treat contemporary numbering outside of Detective Comics and Action Comics.

We open where an Anthony Zucco has apparently just been killed, and Nightwing scolds Batman for letting it happen. The two talk, and there’s obviously some "history" here. We find out the dead guy had some book with details about crimes all over Gotham…so now "the underworld" wants it and an all-out hunt begins. The two talk further in the Batcave–in costumes, but masks off–before Batman leaves, insisting on doing stuff alone. Nightwing and Alfred talk, and we get several pages of flashbacks to how Nightwing–Dick Grayson–was legally able to become Bruce Wayne’s ward…and why it was ward and not adopting him as a son. Dick heads out to check on stuff that might lead him to answers, and we cut to where Batman’s much more brutal than usual, beating answers out of criminals rather than speaking. Meanwhile, Dick follows up and gets useful information without the actuality of violence. While Dick returns to an orphanage he spent some time at, Bruce is back at the cave, putting things together a bit slower than Dick had. Dick speaks with Sister Mary Elizabeth and pieces the final bits together to determine where Zucco’s book is. As he finds it, the primary person behind the situation arrives and wants the book for himself…and Batman arrives in time to realize he’s about to lose Dick the way he lost Jason. Things don’t play out that way, though…but the book is lost to the elements. While Batman returns to the cave alone, Dick visits his parents’ graves.

As said at the start of this post…more than 400 issues, a third year, and part 4 of 4, all elements that should have put an 8-year-old off from getting this comic, at least according to 2022 standards. I don’t even know if I comprehended those elements, though…as an 8-year-old, I simply saw the word "Batman" on the cover and knew it to be a Batman comic. That’s it…plain and simple. Didn’t matter that there was a 438 on the cover; didn’t matter that it said it was the 4th of a 4-part story; didn’t matter that it said "Year 3," it was a Batman comic.

I’ve long considered Jim Aparo, John Byrne, and Norm Breyfogle to be my favorite Batman artists…and in my "memory" I’m sure I figured this to have been one of theirs. It’s not…and I need to add Broderick to that list, I think, based on my most recent read-through of this issue and how well the art worked for me (despite this particular copy of the issue having dulled, the inks bled, and generally the issue’s newsprint paper is hardly in pristine condition 33 years later). Along with stuff like Untold Legend of the Batman, that Man of Steel issue One Night in Gotham City, and Breyfogle on The Mud Pack in Detective, this is iconic early Batman (and Nightwing) for me, visually.

Story-wise, this seems like a solid issue. Even though I have read the entire 4-parter a couple times in the years since it came out, this issue stands out due to being my first issue of the title. Same for this re-read: I read it cold, rather than the entire story. We get a bit of context about Zucco’s death, from Bruce and Dick’s verbal sparring; to figure out what’s been going on in earlier chapters…at least as relevant to this issue specifically.

When I first read the issue as a kid, I had no clue there’d been a Year One or a Year Two. In a way I never give this story much thought in that regard as a Year Three, except right now I take it sort of like Years One and Two were Bruce’s start…and it was the 3rd year when Dick joined. So in a way, this is as much Dick’s story as Bruce’s…maybe more.

I also don’t think terribly much about who WROTE these earliest issues of the title that I read…at the time it was absolutely the character I was getting/reading, with no regard for any given writer or artist. And compared to the likes of Superman, I only dabbled with Batman comics, and the Batman comics never had the same depth nor singular ongoing story the way the Superman books did that led me to being much more familiar with some of the artists and continuity over there. That said, Marv Wolfman being the writer is a pleasant re-realization for me, and sort of a re-epiphany "of course!" as far as what was set up in this story and in the next–A Lonely Place of Dying.

I definitely see the depth in this issue, and the importance of the Bruce/Dick stuff and the flashbacks. As a kid, I probably sort of understood the flashbacks were supposed to be Dick–Nightwing–but I had no real understanding that this was Robin! I also had only begun to "realize" that "a" Robin had even died, or that the original had "grown up" and become Nightwing. In this issue I just saw this guy that had history with Batman/Bruce and they didn’t get along well for some reason.

I don’t believe this story was ever collected as its own thing…I’m pretty sure it was even left out of the Death in the Family volume that combined Death in the Family with Lonely Place of Dying! Death in the Family had a TPB; I believe The Many Deaths of the Batman had a TPB; and I know A Lonely Place of Dying had a TPB (that was one of my very first-ever TPBs!). But this story did not have one. I’m not even sure if this wound up being included in any of the larger collected volumes DC has put out the last few years, and while I know some of the Detective stuff like The Mud Pack wound up in a Norm Breyfogle volume…I don’t have the knowledge of the same thing happening with this story.

I’ve seen a mix of stuff for Batman: Year Three over the years; from issues in bargain bins to being offered in the $10-something range and anything in between. Some of that’s probably moreso the first chapter that introduced Tim Drake, though.

On the whole, I wouldn’t recommend this as a single issue…but if you find it in a bargain bin, I’d recommend getting all 4 parts; it’s definitely worth a read if you can get all four for $5ish or under!

Reading this again has me itching to read other issues from around this time…particularly to actually sit down and read Death in the Family through Lonely Place of Dying straight through. But that’ll be a reading project for some time down the road, perhaps.

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The ’80s Revisited: Superman #31

80s_revisited

superman0031Mr. Mxyzptlk! in "As Good as His Word!"

Scripter/Co-Plotter: Roger Stern
Co-Plotter: Tom Peyer
Guest Penciller: Paris Cullins
Inker: Dennis Janke
Letterer: John Costanza
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: May, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

I think this issue went over a little better with me as a kid than Adventures of Superman #453. I had no idea who this "Mxyzptlk" was, but it was cartooney, magical, random shenanigans and I just took it at surface value.

The cover is one of the more distinctive to me; albeit like the Adventures issue, perhaps more to me as it’s one of MY first-ever comics. Still, a giant Superman stomping kaiju-style through Metropolis is not something you see all the time; nor the "meta"-ness of the cover with Mxy folding back the corner and talking to the reader, saying "This scene PROBABLY doesn’t appear in this issue…but with me around it COULD!" We also have the typical trade dress stuff I mentioned with the Adventures issue; standard enough stuff at the time but rather foreign in 2022 comics!

The story opens with a giant Mxy already in Metropolis, greeting the city and proclaiming his return. There’s a note from Editorial that Superman is unavailable for this issue, and the credits are worded a bit creatively with a "meta" tone to them as well. Essentially, Mxy’s back, causes a bunch of destructive, painful mischief trying to draw Superman out to "play," but when he doesn’t show, the imp goes for the next-most-powerful-guy-around, Lex Luthor. There’re a lot of "sight gags" and cartooney (if a bit more realistic/violent) stuff; and Luthor devises a plan to get rid of the imp by lying to him. While this plan technically proves successful, it leaves open the question of what happens if Mxy ever comes back…and lies?

The art is solid here; it definitely has a rose-colored-glasses appearance for me as one of my very first-ever "new" Superman comics. I’m sure I saw the editorial note that opened the issue, and took it at face value. I know I had no real clue who Mr. Mxyzptlk was, but contextually figured out he had these shape shifting/transformative powers like a cartoon character but in the "real world." Luthor worked something out and the guy went away, so all was well that ended well. 41-year-old-me in 2022 recalls that this wound up impacting Krisis of the Krimson Kryptonite; as it was here that Mxy learned how to lie, and that came back to bite Luthor in the backside during that story.

Yet another comparison to Adventures 453…at the time, it didn’t even phase me that the "main" story was so short; I probably felt at the time like it was a truly "bonus" story; albeit I didn’t much care for the 2nd one.

Hostile Takeover Part III: Poison Pill!

Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Pharmacist: Jerry Ordway

This issue’s Hostile Takeover chapter actually seems to flow out of the main story, beginning with Luthor visiting the hospitalized men of his Team Luthor squad that were inside the power suits "transformed" by Mxyzpltlk’s visit. While Luthor visits a lab where "Brainiac" is being held, we learn that his aim for wanting Star Labs is a specific facility that will allow him to mine the alien intelligence’s mind for alien tech! A montage of "people on the street" reactions to the potential buyout shows that certain themes don’t seem to change…feeling as natural for 2022 as they must’ve been in 1989! Meanwhile, the Star Labs board determines a way to fend off the takeover by issuing new stocks and divesting themselves of the facility Luthor is after, which apparently plays right into Luthor’s plans.

The art is again quite solid, with Luthor in particular being recognizable. That the story flows from the main story adds to the general "continuity" and that it’s another part of the same issue rather than being 100% separate stories. As a kid when I first read this, I certainly did not understand this story nor care for it; though it’s got a lot more interest for me as an adult that sees/understands more what’s going on; as well as the nostalgia of re-reading as a 41-year-old what I first read as an 8-year-old.

* * * * *

Though this issue falls amidst the Exile story arc, it’s not itself a part of it; it’s more of a "filler" story with a purpose that gets referenced a couple years later. It continues the Hostile Takeover story, so places this "in order" after Adventures 453. As I’m almost certain that this issue is not at all in the Exile TPB and not sure if it’s in the omnibus; it’d make sense being so far removed to be excluded. It should be present for "completion" of this era of the Superman comics, but narratively doesn’t touch the actual story of Superman’s quest in space…despite obviously showing us what’s going on on Earth while he’s in space.

This one works better as a one-off for the Mxy story in that that part is a one-off itself. Heck, at 14 pages, add a couple and that story could have been a 2-part backup with the Hostile Takeover doubled in size and being the main story somewhere.

I’m actually interested enough now in the Hostile Takeover story that I’m tempted to dig out the next chapter just to see if my guess of where it’s going was right; and it re-interests me a lot more in this "era" of the Superman comics.

While this issue’s significance is primarily personal for me, it’s definitely worth snagging from a bargain bin, especially if that bargain bin is 25-cents! Since I’m pretty sure Hostile Takeover has never been specifically reprinted, if you’re able to get the four chapters for 25 cents each, that $1 alone would be definitely worthwhile, I think, for being a solid Luthor story!

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The ’80s Revisited: Adventures of Superman #453

80s_revisited

adventures_of_superman_0453Words and Pictures: Jerry Ordway
Lettering: Albert De Guzman
Coloring: Glenn Whitmore
Editor: Mike Carlin
Cover Date: April, 1989
Cover Price: 75 Cents
Published by: DC Comics

This cover is one of the MOST iconic in all the comics that I own. Yet to many, I imagine this is just another cover. But for me, it sticks out in a big way because it was one of my very first comics I ever owned; one of the first four comics Mom ever bought for me. It was my first issue of Adventures of Superman; and thus has that very special distinction FOR ME.

The cover has a lot going on. The trade dress is at the top; the DC "bullet" in the upper left, and a generic image of Superman immediately below it. It’s no "corner box" like Marvel used to have, or that DC would eventually use; but it showed that it’s a DC book, and Superman, just from that corner. The title logo is across the top/center of the cover; a standard location so if you only see the very top of the issue, you know what the title is. The number is in a small white box along with the cover date, the price, and the old Comics Code stamp. There’s a cover blurb "Phantoms of the Past!" to add a bit more to stuff. The main image is 3 people emerging from the ground and reaching for a startled Superman, with a moon-like thing behind him on an otherwise black background. Then there’s a box at the bottom for the barcode for the issue, as well as a companion box showing a headshot of a bald guy (Lex Luthor) with a banner stretched between stating "Plus: Part Two of Lex Luthor’s ‘Hostile Takeover!’" and some creator names.

We start the issue on some sort of planetoid or moon or such; a barren wasteland, with a silhouette of Superman, and narration from someone (Superman) reflecting on the place. Suddenly, three figures emerge from the ground, raining dirt and debris and accuse Superman of burying them alive; though he didn’t kill them, he intended to, and so his guilt remains. The scene then cuts elsewhere to a conversation between a "Jonathan" and a "Martha" via narration boxes, while we see what looks like an old woman in anguish in a bedroom. As the conversation continues and then "Martha" enters this room, now the person looks like Clark Kent, which causes "Martha" to faint in shock. Meanwhile, two of the figures from the ground shift appearances but all three taunt Superman, crushing an air mask before disappearing as Superman lies on the ground. The scene shifts to some older man tinkering with an armored suit while on the phone, discussing something about Luthor and STAR Labs. There’s a guy in the suit and the helmet malfunctions…he gets it off and shields the older guy as it explodes. Back to Superman and the figures now shift to look like a Superman himself, Clark Kent in a suit, and some other guy with the chest of his suit ripped to show a Superman costume underneath. These continue to taunt Superman before he absorbs them and leaps into the air, now whole once again…and then drifts in space, where he’s picked up by some ship and the aliens discuss selling him for games or a body bank.

Fourteen pages, but wow…that’s a lotta stuff going on! I was at most 8 1/2 years old when I first read this, and I had NO IDEA what was going on. Didn’t know how Superman came to be where he is, or who these people were that were confronting him. Something about him having killed them…but I thought Superman DIDN’T KILL? But it must be ok since they’re here and alive; but where’d they go, then? And whatever that conversation was, something about someone having been killed in an apartment…I guess these could be Superman’s parents, but who knows? And the person that looked like an old lady–"Matrix"–becoming Clark Kent? Hokay? And no clue who the guy working on the superhero suit was, nor the guy in it, nor who was on the phone; only vaguely recognized Lex Luthor. I remember "getting" that Superman/Clark Kent/the other guy were apparently parts of Superman and his "absorbing" them back into himself; and something of him being in space and apparently needing air (given his mask was crushed and affected him).

Of course, 33 years later and I know Ma and Pa Kent; Matrix; Luthor; Emil Hamilton and Jose Delgado (Gangbuster). I know General Zod, and the pocket universe, and the Supergirl Saga and whatnot. That in the aftermath, Superman went into space feeling he was too dangerous to remain on Earth and so had exiled himself. As that kid, though, all I knew was that it said Adventures of SUPERMAN on the cover, had Superman on the cover, and whatever had happened to Superman, here he was in space and all that. I’m sure I noticed the high number and "connected" that with all of Grandpa’s comics having numbers on them; but he hadn’t had any with this particular logo or title, so this must’ve been different.

I had absolutely no concept of a Crisis on Infinite Earths or "Pre-Crisis" or "Post-Crisis," nor what a "Reboot" was, hadn’t heard of anyone named "John Byrne," did not know of any comics with the words "Man of Steel" as part of the title; etc. But I read the words on the pages; I reread the issue at least a few times given how few comics I owned at the time; and just took stuff in at face-value. This was "a comic." Obviously I didn’t have the previous issue, nor the next one yet. It wasn’t what I recognized Superman as, but hey, this was a NEW comic at the time (33 years ago!) so it probably wasn’t going to be like "older comics."

Looking at this as my 41-year-old self; this is a good story and moves stuff along. We see Superman being very low on air and thus hallucinating, as he fights through his guilt; mulling over questions such as why he would feel justified to execute the Kryptonian villains, but NOT villains like Lex Luthor or Brainiac; as well as recognizing that even AS "Superman," he was also Clark Kent AND Gangbuster. And that fortunately, as he runs out of air, he’s picked up by some alien spaceship and thus doesn’t actually suffocate to death. We see stuff from Superman’s point of view–his hallucinations; and we get some context of recent events (presumably) going on like someone was killed in Clark’s apartment; and we see Matrix/Mae take on the guise of Clark, shocking his parents (who are still alive in this continuity).

The art is good. I especially noticed the contrast in Superman’s darker blue compared to the brighter blue for the hallucinated version. This is an older issue; the copy I read this time through is especially old-seeming with its newsprint; so some color work has presumably been lost by nature of the printing process and the paper, as well as the amount of detail in so many panels just kinda blending to a darker overall appearance that’s soaked into the paper a bit over the last 3 1/2 decades.

This is by no means an "ideal" jumping on point or first issue…but it was MINE. And it did NOT put me off so much that I never got any more. I just had to gradually catch up and figure out what was going on contextually, piecing stuff together and accepting what the present was.

Even knowing I’ve read this a number of times before, and at least once in/after college as an adult with much more context of what Exile is/was, parts of this felt new to me; especially with Hamilton and Gangbuster.


Hostile Takeover Part II: Insider Rumors!

Writer: Roger Stern
Artists: Dan Jurgens & Dennis Janke
Letterer: Albert De Guzman
Colorist: Glenn Whitmore
Insider: Jerry Ordway

I’m not a huge fan of "backups" in comics; especially not when they cross titles. This issue had "Part Two," and Superman #31 had "Part Three." But at the time, I accepted it; because it didn’t seem that out of place when older comics were often these shorter/multiple stories in one issue; so I just simply had what I had. Though with Superman not even IN this "Hostile Takeover," and as an 8-year-old I had no clue what a "hostile takeover" even WAS, and it just seemed to be a bunch of adults talking, I am pretty confident that I largely ignored the segment when I read this as a kid.

NOW in 2022, though, it’s actually fairly interesting to me.

We start with various people discussing rumors of Luthor buying out Star Labs; and we see reactions from "common people" as well as Luthor himself.  Star Labs workers confront a boss who knows nothing of a buyout; there’s some sort of groundbreaking ceremony for a new facility in Tokyo for Star Labs that Luthor shows up to. Other people react to Luthor’s being on the news; and then as they’re anxious to sell shares of Star Labs, Luthor offers to buy them for $50/share and they seem all too eager.

This is an 8-page backup story; it moves stuff along. Sort of introduces the situation with rumors; we see that Luthor has a plan; and after rumors raise the price of the stock and then people are ready to panic-sell, he magnanimously steps in to take shares off their hands.

The art is good; Luthor is at his overweight, bald, businessman best here. I recognize the likes of Emil Hamilton and Perry White; and of course Luthor himself. I don’t recall what had happened in Hostile Takeover Part I; and I’m not sure even now if this backup has ever actually been collected/reprinted! I’m pretty sure even the Exile Omnibus excluded these segments; and that they were not in the Exile TPB, either.

I’m not sure the behind the scenes context or reasoning for this as a backup feature rather than being a subplot; I can guess, though, that in PART it was that it’s a major plot point with a specific sequence, so it was clustered together and its parts numbered for continuity, where other parts of Exile may not have been as "hard-coded" order-wise requiring a specific order. It may have been to allow other creatives to be involved as well; maybe something was running late; I don’t really know, and I don’t really care.

* * * * *

This is a dense issue; a bit physically murky and aged; and having the place it does in my memory and "comics life," I’m not exactly impartial to it. I can’t say that I necessarily ENJOYED this time through the issue…but it definitely brought back some familiar memories, and certain panels and such jumped out at me that I DEFINITELY remembered being striking to me as a kid. While this holds a lot of nostalgic value for ME personally, I don’t know that it otherwise stands alone overly well except in that this era of the Superman comics were generally quite high quality, so if you get it from a bargain bin, it shouldn’t be bad…but you’ll likely appreciate it all the more if you have several of the Exile issues as a cluster; and I definitely recommend the Exile arc as a whole, if not the single issues!

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Life During Quarantine: Non-Traditional Hauls

Coming up on two months since I’ve been to a comic store. During the shutdowns, I’ve wound up with some "non-traditional" hauls.

Some Kickstarter stuff’s come in–pledged for as far back as a year or more. Some new "Walmart comics" that I was able to order via their site. And an excellent order from Mirage Studios for a run of Usagi Yojimbo that I’ve really never seen (never looked that hard though) anywhere.

And as stuff stacked up, I figured I’m not doing other worthwhile content, so might as well do a "Haul post" and highlight these.

At least for my own personal documentation!

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Odd Tales from the Curio Shop. Tales From Nocturnia.

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I’ve increasingly been a fan of TwoMorrows‘ stuff. Where was all this when I was in school and could have used these as reference citations for papers?!? I’d be interested in the complete American Comic Book Chronicles series…but it’s a bit pricy (textbook-like) and not all volumes are in-print. I backed a Kickstarter for this new printing of the 1980s volume. It also prompted me to acquire the 1990s volume last summer. I also backed their anniversary volume The World of Twomorrows. Why not?

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I was drawn to the Deborah Daring by the art. Unfortunately, I was blindsided by shipping. With all the ‘upgrades’ during the campaign, shipping became a very expensive nightmare to the US from Canada. I was initially ready to write the thing off, but some of that "heat" "in the moment" dealing with the shipping has worn off, so we’ll see if/when I get around to actually reading the thing!

Then we have the Haunted High-Ons: The Darkness Rises hardcover, collecting the 6-issue mini-series! This one was a no-brainer for me, enjoying Manning‘s work and all!

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I’d backed Everglade Angels on strength of Northcott‘s name; having Lobdell on it as well is quite a bonus. Yet another thing that I need to get around to actually reading…but sure is pretty to have thus far!

One of my profs from college introduced me (via Facebook) to Phil Machi some years back; and we’ve been facebook friends now for however many years. I’ve known of his work and enjoyed seeing all he posts about it…but somehow had never gotten around to purchasing anything.

So I put an order in for Silver Lining, one of his Retail Sunshine volumes…and have quite enjoyed it! Just in the first several pages, I was chuckling at the humor…though I’ve not had any extensive work in retail, I’ve had just enough to begin to have a hint of what it can be like…and I’ve read enough Reddit stories to have a feel as well. But to get stuff in strip format like this makes it all the more entertaining and engaging!

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AND Phil threw in this sketch for me as well…totally made my day getting the package and seeing this!

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The collected volume of the 6-issue Hope series came…and I still can’t help but think it should have more of the pink/purpleish tone of the first issue, which is rather iconic to me. That said, this blue cover is enough of a change to draw the eye, and I do like it, and hope to really dig in soon having the whole story in one place and not scattered!

Then For Goodness Sake volume one which is a full K. Lynn Smith piece; another to get into!

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While I’m not keen on exclusive-to-a-single-retailer things… a new line of comics has hit Walmart. Norah’s Saga particularly caught my attention, being another of Blake Northcott‘s projects; but I snagged all four issues to give them a try…though I had to order them online, as the Walmart I’ve been frequenting did not have them out (despite their app saying they had them in stock).

I’m more willing to give stuff like this a shot at $5/issue for the novelty than I am a mainstream publisher; though not on a continuous basis.


I’ve wound up getting quite a bit of stuff directly from Mirage Publishing over the years–back issues, a couple posters, and whatnot.

They may not be pristine "Near-Mint" or such…but that’s great! While I’m not gonna willingly damage my own comics, and don’t necessarily want anything beat to heck and back…I’m VERY MUCH a "reader copy" kinda guy…generally more interested in having the issue than I am with having it "graded" or "gradable" at high grades.

So everything I’ve gotten from Mirage has been excellent for me!

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All the more with a semi-recent order of the Mirage Usagi Yojimbo run.

The site listed issues 4-16 as available. Figuring that’d leave me with just a couple issues (2-3) to hunt down in the wild (pretty sure I’d seen #1 somewhere in going through boxes the last couple years) I pulled the trigger and ordered them.

A few weeks later when my package arrived, I was greeted with a VERY pleasant surprise: #s 1-3 included! So a complete run of the Mirage iteration of the series!

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I emailed to make sure it wasn’t a mistake–and was confirmed to be intentional!

So it was a huge thank-you then…and now publicly! Thank you, Mirage, for being most excellent!

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NECA TMNT ’80s Cartoon Two-Packs

Life’s been its own brand of crazy the last couple months. So I’m only now–a MONTH after the fact–getting around to sharing these cool purchases!

I’ve been AWARE OF the NECA brand since 2010 or 2011…whenever they did the Mirage Comics-style turtles, before the 2012 line for the Nickelodeon 2012 show was out from Playmates.

Having recently (finally) bought the Raphael and then Leo & Mikey 1/4-scale figures, these 2-packs from Target were not a terrible stretch…though it was a LOT to spend in such a short time-frame. But they served as a sort of "retail therapy" or such.

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I’m not the greatest fan of the 1980s cartoon. For a time, I actually held a fair bit "against" it, though as the IDW comics have continued and have incorporated elements, stuff has been somewhat "redeemed" and I’ve come to appreciate its place in history–in general and of the TMNT property in general. And these 2-packs made for a decent "set" of figures…that’s certainly one thing about the TMNT stuff–it’s totally geared for sets of 4 with the main characters!

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Leonardo and Shredder make for a good pairing here. All the 2-packs are one turtle and one villain. So of course, matching the "leaders" up works quite well on a number of levels! 

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While the front of the boxes are showing off the figures themselves, the backs show a staged photo, a short description, as well as the other 3 boxes available for this "wave" of figures! 

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Donatello and Krang are the "brains" of their respective groups…Krang pretty literally so. That makes these a good matchup as well. The walker contraption Krang rides in–from the earliest episodes of the ’80s cartoon–is roughly the same height as the classic Playmates figure…though Krang himself is a lot smaller here and more proportionate. 

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Back of the box showing Donnie poised to tip Krang right on over… 

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Though Raphael has come to be my favorite turtle as an adult, his 2-pack has him and "just" a Foot ninja. I’ve never been overly keen on this version of the Foot–mindless robots just seem like they shouldn’t be a threat whatsoever. And generally they were not MUCH of one, just a delaying tactic. Still, the poseability on the NECA figure(s) makes this far, FAR superior to the classic Playmates iteration! 

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Cliché as it is, there IS the classic line from Raph’s first encounter with the Foot bots. "Klang?!? Did you say–‘Klang’?"

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Michelangelo also comes with a Foot bot, that seems basically the same as the one with Raph. Though it would seem a someone generic thing to have half the packs come with these…it also actually, truly makes sense as the Foot bots ARE generic and to just have one is to defeat the point of having generic minions. And as these are a much better quality, I’m glad TO have two, although I’d have also been rather happy if these came in their own 2-pack, so that their slots could be filled with other characters!

Of course, I believe I saw stuff coming out of the one toy convention that NECA has upcoming plans for Bebop and Rocksteady. And if they come in 2-packs like these…I’d be grateful to get the pair as their own pack. But if there’s to be more hero vs villain foolery to further induce buying of multiple packs…I’d take April and Splinter with them, and/or Casey Jones! 

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Here we have the back of the pack with Mikey gut-kicking his Foot bot.

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I like the sides of the packages. One side shows each of the turtles…

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…while the other side shows the villain that turtle’s paired with!

The packs are definitely quite attractive as-is. But these being TMNT, I "couldn’t" just leave them in their boxes. So I did get them out. However, the photos of the unboxed figures will have to wait for another post!

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The ’80s Revisited: Detective Comics #572

detective_comics_0572The Doomsday Book

By: Mike W. Barr
Colored by: Adrienne Roy
Edited by: Denny O’Neil
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March 1987
Cover Price: $1.25

Chapter One:
Artist: Alan Davis
Letterer: John Workman

Chapter Two
Artists: Terry Beatty & Dick Giordano
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Carl Gafford

Chapter Three
Arists: Carmine Infantino, Al Vey
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Carl Gafford

Chapter Four
Artist: E.R. Cruz
Letterer: Romeo Francisco

Centerpiece
Dick Sprang

Chapter Five
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Letterer: John Workman

dick_sprang_remembers_detective_572

I’m finding that I’m a bit of a sucker for ’80s anniversary issues. Especially ones like this, where it’s not some round number of an issue, not a bunch of variant covers, not a relaunch or renumbering, not even the culmination of some huge story that’s overly self-aware of numbering. This seems–essentially–to be a nice, hefty, done-in-one full-length self-contained adventure…and it’s not at all hard to see where this could (by present-day standards) be dragged out as some six-issue mini-series (at least) if not multiple 2-3 issues mini-series or such.

But of course that would fly in the face of an anniversary ISSUE. In this case, celebrating 50 years of the title, not Batman himself, though the caped crusader has a definite role in the issue!

What we get here is an extra-sized issue with story elements on multiple fronts, allowing multiple art teams to work on the title, as well as the writer to flex and work with different characters that aren’t strictly Batman or his immediate Bat-group. This issue is from a time much closer to the title’s historical format with multiple characters sharing the title…even though Batman’s been the most prominent character, a number of other characters "came up" through the title, not necessarily related specifically to Batman or stories involving Batman himself.

I’ve been aware of Barr‘s work for a long time…and while I’ve come to know him as the writer of Batman: Year Two, and Camelot 3000, and Batman and the Outsiders and whatnot…I most associate him with Mantra, one of my favorite Ultraverse titles growing up in the ’90s. That a creator of a character I thoroughly enjoyed there also has such a history with Batman has been icing on the cake, so to speak.

I’ve primarily read Detective Comics from #604-onward…very much after the "anthology" format was basically jettisoned and it’s been just another Batman title. So while aware of its history, I haven’t actually read much of that history…at least not while of any age to truly appreciate it (I know I’ve read a number of issues from Grandpa’s collection, back in my earliest comic days, but that was a quarter-century ago!).

Slam Bradley finds himself with a client who’s under the gun–literally. Though Batman and Robin intervene for the moment, there’s more to the situation–and story–and he’s determined to figure it out. What he doesn’t count on is learning of a couple names with prominent ties to the past: Watson…and Moriarty. The Elongated Man–Ralph Dibny–gets involved, with a personal encounter with the villain at hand, confirming what Slam Bradley had learned. We then jump to "the past," and a tale of Sherlock Holmes…fitting to the continuity of this issue’s story, while being simply a new Sherlock Holmes story, and certainly celebrating the title Detective Comics.  The various branches of the overall story converge and we get back to Batman and Robin being on the page as all the characters come together…including a rather surprising (to the characters) figure, one that I had actually come to think would not be present in quite the way they turned out to be.

This issue is just over 30 years old, but I still step around stuff a bit. Consider this your spoiler warning.

After this line, I get into "spoilers," as I would if this had not been a three-decade old back-issue.

Batman meets a significantly-aged Sherlock Holmes here. As this was published in 1987, along with being the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics, it was the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes. And with a mention of living conditions and such, and just HOW old the character looks at the end of this issue…it may have been a bit of a stretch to consider a man would live to be over 120 years old (if he was already an adult in adventures in 1887). Of course, 30 years later, this is no longer plausible in the slightest…at least to me. So it "dates" the issue, but in a good way…and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the cover was not JUST a case of being some thematic team-up where both characters appear in the course of the issue but don’t directly interact…we actually get to see Batman meet THE Sherlock Holmes. (Though I’m not gonna get into the meta-stuff of characters recognizing the STORIES but then having the story-accurate character showing up in their midst as a "real guy").

Though there were multiple art teams for the issue, with them being split up across different chapters (instead of several pages here, several there) it really served the story, and kept things from seeming choppy or such. Batman didn’t seem to be in much of the issue, but where he was, he seemed "’80s-accurate" to me; and the other characters (that I’m less familiar with, particularly from this time frame) all work and don’t stand out as contradictory to whatever I do know about them. The cover led me to believe (in conjunction with something I’d read in the past) that the focus of the issue might’ve been a Batman/Sherlock Holmes team-up/adventure. I was initially disappointed, as I thought when I bought the issue that it’d be a team-up. As the issue went on, it took on more a sense of reality, history, and "legacy" that I found intriguing…such that it was simply a treat to have the aged Holmes show up at the end as he did.

There’s a nice "center spread" by Dick Sprang that makes for a good touch, and far out-beats contemporary practices where it would have been a variant cover or a couple of variant covers. It’s just a nice double-page art piece showcasing Sprang‘s take on the characters.

I believe I paid $6 for this issue, against its $1.25 cover price. By contemporary comics’ standards, this was well worth that price and then some. For time it took to read, it more than out-matched contemporary comics, at the "inflated" or "priced back issue" dollar I paid for it. This would absolutely be worth getting out of a bargain bin…and I have no problem with having paid a slightly more "premium" price for it as an actual, priced back issue and not something from a bargain bin. This stands alone as a singular, strong issue, and other than knowing that the characters exist, you don’t really need to know any present-day (at the time) continuity to enjoy this issue; FROM this issue, I would not be able to tell you myself offhand what was going on in issues immediately before or immediately after this issue.

Highly recommended!

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The ’80s Revisited: The Flash #324

flash_vol1_0324The Slayer and the Slain!

Writer: Cary Bates
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Dennis Jensen
Colorist: Carl Gafford
Letterer: Phil Felix
Editor: Ernie Colon
Cover: Carmine Infantino, Rodin Rodriguez
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1983
Cover Price: 60 cents

I have the Showcase Presents: The Trial of the Flash volume, bought a couple years ago. That book has Flash 323-350…basically, the final couple years’ worth of issues of the Silver Age Flash series that took us up to Crisis on Infinite Earths prior to Wally’s series kicking off.

I have "experienced" 28 years of reading new comics myself, all being years after this issue. And in broad strokes I’ve long since "filled in the gaps" or otherwise have "a passing knowledge" of stuff from this "era."

But finding this issue in a 25-cent bin, I was all for it. Sure, I have the issue in that Showcase volume–but that’s black-and-white and a thick volume that’s not the greatest for a randomish, casual read. This issue is in color with all the ads and whatnot in being the actual, original, (vintage) edition.

The cover is what grabbed my attention–The Flash holding Reverse-Flash and exclaiming "Get up, Get up! You can’t be dead!" and a caption proclaiming "But he is–and Flash killed him!" This is both accurate and yet comes off very much as a number of classic covers do–a "technicality" of truth but quite misleading. Of course, I know this isn’t "just" that, but is indicative of an issue with a lasting point that influenced so much at the trailing end of the series.

Then I figured I’d missed the actual occurrence, and "assumed" that this would pick up immediately after the PREVIOUS issue ending on an "Is he or isn’t he dead?" cliffhanger.

What I got from this was a solid read from a key point in pre-Crisis Barry Allen’s life with one of his most dangerous foes, and an issue meeting expectation while drawing me into the then-contemporary story and leaving me curious about a number of things, not limited to: Iris died 40+ issues earlier? I did think that was here. Who is this Fiona, and how important was she as I’ve never consciously been aware of her? And how does an obvious rock-and-hard-place situation stopping a known killer with intent lead to a lengthy story of the Flash on trial?

While I’d half expected to open the issue TO Barry and a dead Thawne, I actually found that the two were still engaged in fisticuffs. Said fisticuffs have made Barry very late for his own wedding, where family and closest friends try to salvage the situation, assuring folks he’ll be there and has NOT left Fiona at the altar. Kid Flash performs a "super feat" rescuing a baby and showing THAT he has the power and speed to do much of what Barry does…and even he is late for the wedding. Or would be, if it was proceeding as it should have. As the wedding situation deteriorates, Wally heads out to try to find Barry, and is intercepted by a Guardian of the Universe (not to be confused with a Guardian of the Galaxy…similar names, different publishers) who does something to dampen his powers, ensuring that no one will interfere with Barry’s fight…at said hero’s request, apparently.

We then switch more fully to the Barry/Eobard fight and see a fraction of what goes on with two mortal combatants at super-speed. Ultimately, seeking to press whatever advantage he maintains, the villain takes the lead, heading to kill the woman who would be Barry’s second wife–forcing Barry to move even faster and decisively to save Fiona’s life. Standing before her as the Flash, he does not tell her that it’s him–Barry–and as she storms away, we learn that Thawne is not just "stopped" but dead.

As said earlier, this cover looks like something right out of the ’70s and classic exaggerated/far-fetched situations. The art inside the issue is solid and seems very much of its time–early 1980s–with all relevant characters being distinct and recognizable, and generally no wonkiness or weirdness throwing me out of the story. Possibly the biggest visual grab for me was that somehow I keep forgetting that Barry was blond, and I’m still used to Wally and thus a Flash without red hair throws me off.

Story-wise, this issue includes a footnote indicating that there were several issues’ worth of development leading to this one–and that by itself serves to pique my interest in finding those issues. It also reminds me that this is from those days long ago BEFORE everything had to be clearly deliniated within a rigid 4-issue or 6-issue "story arc" format…when issues could be issues, telling an ongoing story without necessarily being formulaic X Chapter of Y Story.

I like the structure of this issue, giving us some heroics, super feats, as well as developing the wedding side of things and Fiona’s thinking she realizes what’s happened, then seeing Barry and Thawne and their battle, leading to Barry’s being forced (goaded into?) to kill Thawne to save Fiona.

All in all, I definitely enjoyed this issue. It was an easier read than I expected, half thinking it was gonna drag on and feel overly wordy, as well as thinking I’d be reading simply a random chapter of something–not even a key moment–of a much larger story. Though in a way this IS just another ’80s issue, it being an issue included in that Showcase volume, I feel like it’s an ‘early chapter’ more than an ‘isolated issue’ but found this engaging and interesting, while leaving me interested both in backtracking and getting the later issues (as preferable to "just" a black and white reprint).

For only 25 cents, it was well worth the purchase, a solid read, and I would certainly recommend the issue if you find it in such a bargain bin and don’t mind NOT having the entire 25+ issue "run" necessarily at hand.

The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #3

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0003The Man Behind the Mask

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: September 1980
Cover Price: 50 cents

This issue is one of THE comics of my youth, up there with my "original 4" or the likes of Superman #75 and X-Men #41. Until I read through this for this reading, though, I would’ve said I had the issue memorized line for line, narration included…but the memory can be a fickle thing, as can a slightly modified/incomplete audio cast recording!

My original copy of this issue was a reprint edition, that came packaged with an audio cassette tape (for those of you old enough to remember what those are!) that had a cast-recording audio of the issue. I’d personally "digitized" a copy of that to my computer years back, several years BEFORE the rise of YouTube, and did so off a nearly-worn-out tape from listening to it so much! As with a couple parts of the first issue of this mini, going back through it and seeing (not just hearing/listening) to the contents of the issue, I was reminded of how much has stuck with me and came from this issue, even shaping parts of me beyond just "a comic book."

The over-arching story of the issue sees Batman leave the aftermath of the exploding Batmobile to Robin and Alfred while he goes out to question folks on the street, talk to Jim Gordon, sleep on it and go to work at the Wayne Foundation, mull over what Gordon said, make a realization and visit the old Batcave under Wayne Manor, and confront the responsible party to the destruction of the precious costume, and leave things at a Batman status quo such that this mini happened, but doesn’t need to have any lasting effects.

In practical terms, the framework allows us to see the "origin" of the guy that keeps the Dynamic Duo supplied with quality, reliable Batmobiles; Commissioner Gordon’s involvement with the duo; the origin/involvement of Barbara Gordon as Batgirl, and Lucius Fox.

Story-wise, as with the previous two issues, things are kinda flimsy when you look deeply into ’em. But as a kid, I was not that analytical and just took the issue at face-value, the steady, constant moving-ahead-the-story-doesn’t-stop from the audio rendition, and that was that. It’s stuck with me, such that to ME, this is one of THE most important single issues of all time…while to others, I’m sure it’s "just" some arbitrary Batman comic, a pretty cover, or of note for having been reprinted as a breakfast-cereal comic. (I would love to see an ongoing promotion with modern cereal "prizes" being reprints of small stories/minis from DC!)

Visually, this is a great treat, both the cover AND the interior. We have classic Aparo art, which as I noted with the first issue, means this looked like the same Batman I was familiar with in my earliest days and earliest back-issues with the character, seeming all the more important for the consistency. It also very much "defined" great Batman art for me, where I’ve retroactively determined Aparo to be one of my all-time favorite Batman artists, though I didn’t know one name from another at the time I was first exposed to the issue!

The cover is an iconic one for me, from this issue itself, to its being used as THE cover of the original "collected edition" (mass market paperback black-and-white reprint), and even serves as the cover image of the Tales of the Batman: Len Wein hardcover that came out a year or two ago. If I could have a poster of this cover, I’d be all for it!

Overall, this is a consistent piece fitting with the earlier issues, caps stuff off, and was maybe THE most foundational Batman comic of my life!

I definitely recommend the mini-series for older fans of the character and anyone who’d appreciate Aparo‘s art, or Len Wein‘s storytelling and use of characters! As for me…it’s just been enjoyable revisiting the mini and getting my own thoughts out there!


Now having "covered" this series myself, in my own format, I can listen to Michael Bailey and Andrew Leyland discuss the series on their new show: The Overlooked Dark Knight. I’d been planning on covering this series here, and discovering their new podcast prompted me to jump on this sooner so that I could get my thoughts out in this way prior to listenig to theirs–which I’m certain is far more detailed and insightful than what I can share here textually!  Having listened to their work in the past, I highly recommend the show just for their involvement alone, as well as whatever other Batman-related topics they cover.

And for the audio itself from the old cassette tapes of The Untold Legend of the Batman, you can find where folks have posted it on YouTube (links worked as of this posting):

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The ’80s Revisited: The Untold Legend of the Batman #2

untold_legend_of_the_batman_0002"With Friends Like These…"

Writer: Len Wein
Artist: Jim Aparo
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Cover by: Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez
Editor: Paul Levitz
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: August 1980
Cover Price: 40 cents

This is the "middle chapter" of the mini-series…"only" 3 issues. I knew the first issue from having read a copy that Grandpa had; and the third issue (as I’ll get to soon) is one of the single most familiar-to-me-comics ever.

This issue opens with a furious Batman seeking answers in a bar from the lowlifes that might have some knowledge–any knowledge–of anyone brazen enough to break into his sanctuary and steal–and destroy–one of the most precious items he owned. The situation deteriorates as Batman loses himself in a rage rarely seen (at least until post-Death in the Family). He’s snapped out of it by the arrival of Robin (Dick Grayson), and the two head back to the Batcave. Meanwhile, Dick reminisces about his own past with Batman, and how Batman’s affected his life. Once back in the Cave, the two interact with Alfred, who muses on his own background and coming to be butler to the Caped Crusaders; as Batman pores over files of suspects, we get a glimpse at the extended rogues’ gallery, and a bit about the origins of the Joker and Two-Face. Robin suggests they try police headquarters–and a conference with Jim Gordon–but as he readies to leave, a beeping is heard…and our heroes barely have time to seek cover before the Batmobile explodes. Batman declares war on the as-yet-unrevealed villain.

Of the three issues, I’m least familiar with this one. This was actually the "gap" for me in the story, that I first read (I believe) in a paperback reprint of the story–one of those mass-market paperback-size black and white things. I feel like the "focal" origins here are Robin and Alfred, and once again realized how much this version of both has stuck with me and formed the foundation of my understanding of the characters. We also get another reference to a warehouse explosion that I’ve always considered to be a contrivance or such–but I actually wonder (though have yet to actually opt to do the research) if this ties the story to anything in the ongoing Batman or Detective Comics titles, like if the explosion happened in an issue of either title and then this mini takes place as a "side trip" exploring the ramifications.

Visually, I had a definite sense of deja vu, thanks to Aparo‘s art, and I’m amazed to consider that this was published in early 1980, and that Aparo was still (or again?) a key Bat-artist up to stuff I read in my earliest then-modern explorations of Batman stuff in 1989 and the earliest part of the 1990s. I’m also somewhat amazed at the reminder of this being published in a much different time, where the issues (while part of a singular mini-series, a singular story) don’t flow nearly as smoothly one-into-the-next as they do now. Nowadays, it seems like in many collected volumes, one almost has to GUESS at where the issue-breaks are (accounting for mid-issue high moments and such) where this obviously picks up after the events of the first issue, but it’s a sort of "cold start" that does not REQUIRE one to have read the previous issue to follow along with THIS issue.

Chances are, especially these days, if you’re considering reading this issue, you’ve got #s 1 & 3 as well; and cheesey/hokey/flimsy as the STORY-story is (it’s a loose plot to give us the excuse to see a bunch of characters reflect on their origins, and by these better know "the rest of the story" as readers), it’s worth reading. This firmly embodies late-70s/early-80s pre-Crisis Batman, and is a product of its time. I don’t care for the cover proclamation of this being "an instant collector’s item"–if it SAYS it’s a collector’s item, it’s probably NOT. Then again, there’s the original comic edition; there’s a comic-on-cassette reprint edition; there’s a reprint edition that came in boxes of cereal; and there’s the MMPB collection…so DC got plenty of mileage out of this one 3-issue arc; and certainly formed my basis of understanding for these characters!

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