Friday, July 19, 2013
THE JOKER'S MILLIONS
I love finding things like this on the Internet! Feast your eyes on "The Joker's Millions," from Detective Comics #180, with a cover date of 1952.
The Joker inherits a fortune from a former rival in the underworld. And that's just the start of his troubles!
It's as good as "The Joker's Journal." Heck, it's probably better than "The Joker's Journal." But "The Joker's Journal" gets so many extra points for the "Batman the Sapman" comic strip and the section where Gotham's crooks are interviewed about what they think of Batman and Robin.
Friday, July 12, 2013
No Batman today. Sorry. Today we're talking about one of Batman's co-stars in Detective Comics, the amazing Robotman! Robotman is kind of obscure today, but he had a pretty good run in the Golden Age. He first appeared in Star-Spangled Comics #7 in 1942, ran in Star-Spangled until #82 in 1948, and then got switched over to Detective Comics, where he appeared from #138 all the way to #202 in 1953.
That's twelve years! He lasted two years after the Golden Age Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkman had disappeared from the comics pages! (And way longer than current favorites like the Spectre or Dr. Fate, who were long gone at this point!)
(Let's be careful not to confuse him with the other Robotman, the one from the Doom Patrol, who didn't appear until the early 1960s. The Golden Age Robotman looks like this.)
The earlier Robotman was a scientist named Robert Crane who worked tirelessly to create a robot body that could be used to house a human brain in case the subject's body was, let's just say for argument's sake, killed by criminals who showed up to rob a laboratory. Well, Dr. Crane was in luck when he was shot by criminals who showed up to rob the laboratory. Crane's assistant managed to place Crane's brain into the mechanical body and that's how Robotman was born!
I can't say too much about the Robotman stories because I've only read a handful but they have a reputation for being a cut above your average Golden age fare, especially with the artwork of Jimmy Thompson. I found a couple of stories online. Here is a link to "Robotman in the Moon!" and "Robot Town, U.S.A!" These two stories are from 1948 and 1949.
For much of his run in Star-Spangled Comics, Robotman enjoyed the assistance of Robbie the Robotdog. Unfortunately Robbie was gone by the time Robotman shifted over to Detective Comics.
When Robotman was ousted from Detective, he was replaced by ... Captain Compass and Mysto the Magician Detective! (Well, the times, they were a-changin'.)
Robotman returned (sort of) when Roy Thomas resurrected him for The All-Star Squadron in the 1980s. The All-Star Squadron, you may recall, was set in the 1940s, and Robotman was one of the Golden Age heroes that Thomas utilized a little more than some of the others, but the Golden Age Robotman was seldom used in modern-day stories, probably because somebody wanted to spare the readers from being confused by the existence of a Golden Age Robotman and a slightly more well-known Silver Age Robotman (the one from The Doom Patrol). Eventually, the brain of Dr. Crane was put into a human body. (It's a long story.)
And that's pretty much it for Robotman!
Friday, June 28, 2013
THE READY-MADE GENERIC ROGUES GALLERY
I was going to call this Why We Love Detective Comics: The New 52. But unfortunately, Detective Comics has not been well served by DC's latest reboot. The art's pretty good, and the series got off to a strong - if shocking - start, but the storylines have been a bit drawn out and meandering. And not much happens in each issue because there's three panels per page. And Batman is not much of a detective a lot of the time.
Detective Comics - the comic book from which DC got its name - started in 1937 and ran 881 issues before it was canceled in 2011 and then started up again the following month with a brand new first issue, in which The Joker had his face cut off for some reason. Starting over again with a new #1 seems to me to have been a mistake, but I'm not going to hold that against the new Detective series. My problem with The New 52 version of Detetcive Comics is that it's not really very good.
However, Detective Comics has been around for a long time and has had its rough patches. In hindsight, these rough patches have provided some of the charm of the venerable series. So that's why - after ignoring the new Detective Comics for a year and a half, I've decided to pick out something that I got a kick out of.
The guy who looks like he should be called Light-Bulb Head is Mr. Combustible. The guy with the scarf and the spectacles is known as Hypnotic. The dude in the center in the back is Mr. Toxic. The others? Ya got me. I coudn't find their names mentioned anywhere.
I'm kind of intrigued. They're more like villains from the pulps than comic book villains. But they aren't really breath-taking creations. They remind me of all those one-shot Batman villains from years past. (Like Mr. Camera and The Spinner and The Mirror Man.)
I guess I could describe what's going on in the issue. But I just read it a few days ago and I've forgotten already. I'd have to read it again and the very idea is making me sleepy.
Still. These dudes. (I think they were called "the investors" at some point. Not the best name for a super-villain group.) There's some potential here. I think they've appeared since, alone or in groups. But they haven't made much of an impression as yet.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Batman has his very own personal Dr. Fu Manchu!
His name is Dr. Tzin-Tzin.
Dr. Fu Manchu is, of course, the iconic Asian mastermind, a shadowy and evil character from the Orient who always has some unwieldy master plan that he hopes to enact with his super-science and his faithful hordes of assassins and warriors. He originally appeared in 13 novels published between 1913 and 1959, written by Arthur Henry Sarsfield Ward under the pen name Sax Rohmer. The novels spawned a number of films (with such actors as Boris Karloff, Warner Oland, Christopher Lee and Peter Sellers as Fu Manchu), radio shows, comic books and so on.
(Actually, I could write an entry on Dr. Fu Manchu as one of the reasons to love Detective Comics because, in the very early days of Detective Comics, Fu Manchu was one of the features! It ran from #17 to #28 and I would guess that it's an adaptation of one of the novels. And you may notice that Detecive Comics #27, the first appearance of Batman himself, is included in that run! So Fu Manchu appeared in the very first comic book that Batman ever appeared in!)
Fu Manchu has spawned a number of imitators, the most notable among them being The Mandarin, who used to be Iron Man's arch-enemy, and The Yellow Claw, who had his own comic book in the 1950s and used to pop up sporadically to fight Captain America, S.H.I.E.L.D., Iron Man, Nova and the Avengers. (The Mandarin and the Yellow Claw are both Marvel characters, which makes Marvel look kind of greedy. Did they really need two Fu Manchu surrogates, especially when you realize that - for a time - they had Fu Manchu as well?)
Which bring us to Dr. Tzin-Tzin.
That's him. The lemon-colored fellow on this page from Detective Comics #354, 1966.
To defy me is to die!
I guess that, what with Marvel greedily hogging all the "good" Fu Manchu imitators, by the time DC got around to jumping on the Fu Manchu imitator bandwagon, all that was left was Dr. Tzin-Tzin.
He shows up every once in a while with some weird scheme. He took a hiatus after his first appearance, showing up a few years later in Detetcive #408. (He was now affiliated with the League of Assassins and didn't seem quite so ludicrous with Neal Adams drawing him.) A few months after that, he fought Supergirl in Adventure #418. A few years later, in 1977, he appeared in a few issues of Batman, where our hero foiled his attempts to steal New Gotham Stadium or something.
And then he took another hiatus, later showing up in The Peacemaker in the late 1980s.
Not very ambitious. Dr. Tzin-Tzin needs to try harder!
Friday, April 12, 2013
Well, he was never in an issue of Detective Comics, but I still love Mr. Camera for being such a stereotypical lame one-shot Batman villain.
(He's probably not a one-shot villain anymore. Somebody's probably used him for some weird purpose over the lat 15 years. And I don't feel like looking it up. But his single appearance in the classic era of Batman was Batman #81 in 1954.)
He has a suit and tie. And an opera cloak. And a camera on his head.
(Look at the panel where you can see his face through the lens! What is up with that?!)
And his crimes revolve around cameras.
Isn't that a certain type of awesome?
(The people of Gotham City are a bunch of FREAKS!)
The story actually revolves around Robin. It starts off with Dick Grayson going to school and confessing that he is Robin. And that means that Bruce Wayne is Batman! Soon it's all over the news, the talk of Gotham City!
It's just part of an elaborate ruse, you see.
Mr. Camera is about to get out of prison. (The bulk of the story about Mr. Camera took place some time ago, even though it was never revealed until now as part of the explanation as to why Dick Grayson admitted he was Robin.) During hs past escapades matching wits with Batman and Robin, Mr. Camera had set up a camera in an alley next to a crime scene - he liked to film his exploits, you see - and he thinks he filmed Batman and Robin changing from their secret identities! He hid the film before he was apprehended, but he never had a chance to develop it and look at it.
So Batman and Robin attempt a pre-emptive strike. If they debunk yet another "Bruce Wayne is Batman" incident just before Mr. Camera's big reveleation, people will be more likely to just blow it off. So Dick Grayson admits he's Robin, setting off another Batman's Identity Scandal for Bruce Wayne to deal with.
Despite numerous difficulties, they pull it off. Dick Grayson admits he said he was Robin just to impress a girl. The crisis blows over. And then it turns out that Mr. Camera's film was badly overexposed and didn't show anything anyway.
Mr. Camera can't do anything right.
But we love him just the same! Somewhere between Signalman and the Spinner, Mr. Camera takes his place in the Batman pantheon.
Friday, April 05, 2013
There's a certain charm in most of the crude art in the early years of Detective Comics. Oh, sure, some of it was done by dudes like Jerry Robinson and Dick Sprang, but a lot of it was ... not quite so dynamic.
And then there was Jack Burnley:
He knew how to draw.
Friday, March 29, 2013
The first issue you ever bought
For me, the first issue of Detective Comics that I picked up at the newsstand was #473.
It was a great place to start! This was the era when Steve Englehart was the writer and Marshall Rogers was the artist. (We mustn't forget the magical inking of Terry Austin.) To some, this era is not just among the best Batman comics, this handful of issues is among the best comics ever! (Count me in!)
I had been buying comics for a few years at this point, and I picked up Batman's own comic book every once in a while, but I had never read an issue of Detective Comics. I'm trying to even remember why I didn't like Detective. Partly it was because I didn't read very much DC, but it was also probably because I just couldn't really get into anthology comics. You know, like Action and Adventure and House of Secrets and stuff like that. I was more used to the Marvel way, and the anthology comic at Marvel (for super-heroes anyway) was long over by the end of 1977, when this issue was published.
I had to get it because it had The Penguin! (You can see his shadow on the warehouse in the cover above.)
Even though I didn't buy Batman on a regular basis back then, I would pick it up if it had one of the great villains on the cover. (And I knew which ones were the great villains because I had seen them on the Adam West TV show when I was a little kid. The Joker! Yay! The Penguin! Yay! The Riddler! Yay! Catwoman! Yay! Egg-Head! Yay! Two-Face! Who's that?)
There's this statue of a penguin. And the Penguin plans to steal it. And there's a bunch of dumb clues. And Robin shows up! (He was busy with the Teen Titans at this point abd hadn't been Batman's regular partner for years.) And the body of Professor Hugo Strange! And Rupert Thorne! And Silver St. Cloud. And the Joker ... well, you don't see him, you just hear him laughing. But just wait until the next issue!
Comics don't get much better than this.