Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #178
December 1951

The Defeat of Batman!
Script: ? Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwarz Inker: Charles Paris

Crime boss Barton Swane has organized his criminal gang in military fashion, complete with marching, discipline and salutes. He plans criminal heists like military campaigns and employs a spy in police headquarters. He aspires to be a modern Napoleon. One of his "soldiers" notes at one point that when he had a chance to be a real soldier during WW2, Swane hid from the draft board. Batman is able to improvise and counter his tactics. Swane ultimately employs stolen tanks during what he calls "the Battle of Gotham Bank", and then an aerial bomber. Rather than see civilians hurt by bombing, Batman surrenders to Swane's army, but is able to contact Robin who brings the police to the warehouse hideout of Swane's criminal gang and rounds them all up.

This story reminded me of Detective Comics 654-656, where Ulysses Hadrian Armstrong acts as "The General", organizes some of Gotham's street gangs like a military and proceeds to take on the Gotham police as if he's fighting a war. Armstrong's aims are not the same as Barton Swane's in this story, but the idea of crooks acting as a military unit to take on Batman and the police is. This is also, I think, the second 10 page story rather than the standard 12 pages, and we'll see more stories at this shorter length going forward.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #179
January 1952

Mayor Bruce Wayne
Script: David Vern Pencils: Dick Sprang Inker: Charles Paris

I've proved it! Bruce Wayne is Batman! Why didn't the real Batman answer the Bat-signal? Because he was too busy in his role as mayor!

Conman Deuce Chalmers has worked out that Bruce Wayne is Batman, but he can't prove it. He has a plan to expose the truth. Meanwhile Dick Grayson is off to the Pacific to guard atomic experiments (another nice contemporary nod) while Bruce gets to be "Mayor for a Week" thanks to Gotham City tradition of a randomly chosen prominent citizen sitting in for the Mayor while he's on vacation. Secret identity-keeping will be a problem, but Bruce is hoping for a quiet week. He has no such luck as Chalmers puts his plan into action: to impersonate Batman while Bruce is mayor, because Chalmers figures that Bruce will be unable to respond as Batman while in public view as mayor, thus confirming his suspicions. Chalmers even plays Batman at a dinner with Gordon and Bruce Wayne, and invites them both to the Batcave. He takes them to a fake cave of course, and enjoys watching Bruce try to think of a way out of the situation.

Chalmers ultimately wants to extort money from the "Big Six" group of millionaires and uses his disguise as Batman to kidnap them all. But Bruce hypnotizes his mayoral assistant into thinking he's Bruce Wayne, and as the real Batman goes to confront the fake. In front of the Big Six he explains that he's been off in the Pacific with Robin (and even has a fake sunburn to prove it) which is why he couldn't respond when Chalmers did. Chalmers and his men are arrested, Bruce's secret is safe, and Bruce is more than ready to be done with his time as mayor.

Secret ID storylines can work well if they're creative and entertaining, and this one is both. Chalmers is not the first crook to figure out that Bruce is Batman, we've had several over the years, but Chalmers comes about as close as anyone to exposing the truth. It's Bruce's skills and quick thinking that save him. Bruce gets yet another temporary career, this time as mayor, a role he does not seem to think highly of. This is a rare solo Batman story in this era, with Robin present only for a few panels and then gone for the remainder of the story.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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World's Finest Comics #56
February- March 1952

The Crimes in Double!
Writer: David Verr Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Big Dan Hooker has set up a crime scheme that will accomplish two things: weed out the less capable criminals while at the same time distracting the police and Batman. To do this he sets up a competition where two crooks commit nearly identical crimes at exactly the same time, such as Red and Nitro both cracking a safe at two different banks simultaneously. The crook who gets caught is the loser, while the winner gets to be a part of Hooker's organization (nothing is said about what would happen if neither or both are caught... presumably it's tried again). Hooker even has the entire plan laid out on a big poster in his hideout, and the underworld enthusiastically competes in this contest. The final contest, the "9th inning" is the big one, murdering Batman.

Batman knows something is going on by all the underworld activity, so he disguises himself as "Fat" Phelps to lure one of the crooks who recently hit town, so he can take his place. He gets into Hooker's organization and learns exactly what's going on. But he's caught and forced to let the two crooks assigned to capture and kill him hunt him down. But when one of them, "Ugly" Grimes tries to kill him rather than take him back for unmasking before the kill, Batman captures him, switches places with him, contacts Gordon and rounds up Hooker and his gang, ending the scheme.

I enjoy Batman vs. suit and fedora-wearing gangsters, a tradition carried on from the 40s. Hey, he can't take on Joker or Penguin every month. There are flaws with Hooker's plan of course, but it makes for a fun "crime scheme" for Batman to figure out and foil.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #69
February-March 1952

The Batman Expose!
Writer: Walter Gibson Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Bruce Wayne has invested in a friend's movie production company, and when that friend goes bankrupt, Bruce inherits the studio. Bruce has no time for it and intends to sell the studio, but is talked out of it when told 150 people will lose their jobs. He decides to financially back their movie project and otherwise stay out of it... but is shocked to see that the script is a Batman movie, that hits too near the truth in some aspects of how Batman operates. Bruce decides to let the movie go ahead anyway, but when no one can be found who is suitable to play Batman, it's Bruce and Dick (in disguse, of course) who audition and win the roles. So yes, it's Batman and Robin playing themselves in a movie, though they're the only ones who know that.

There are some fun jabs at the Batman series as the author floats his theories (Robin can't be a kid and do what he does, he must be a "midget", Batman wouldn't wear his costume under his clothes because he'd be caught to easily, the Bat "cave" is really inside an abandoned water tower, the utility belt is actually a travel kit with razors, soap and toothbrush), and of course Bruce playing Batman has to get mixed up with real crooks who want to shut the movie down, so he has to look good, but not too good. Bruce gets a good laugh at all the writer's incorrect theories and just generally has a good time fighting crooks and filming the movie before shutting down the crooks trying to end the production.

Only in this era would Batman act like this, taking on a movie role playing himself to save 150 jobs. I can't imagine modern Batman jeopordizing his secrets this way, but "world famous lawman" Batman, public figure, would of course look out for the little guy, take great risks with his secret ID, and have a fun time doing it. This is not a plausible story if we're to take seriously Bruce's desire to hide his secrets, but it's a fun one and I enjoyed it.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #69 concluded...

The Buttons of Doom!
Writer: Walter Gibson Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Amidst these generally light-hearted 1950s stories is still the occasional attempt at something darker, and we get that here with a criminal who attacks someone, steals a button off of their clothing, and then burns them with a flamethrower. I can't say I expected something gruesome like this during this era. Batman refers to the criminal as "the Blaze". We've already had a crook by that name back in Detective Comics #95, January 1945, but this is someone else entirely. Batman is able to work out that the crook operates on a pattern based off an old children's rhyme and so he can anticipate possible future victims, but even so it takes some time to capture him. The Blaze is Jim Garth, a man out for revenge because he was burned in a house fire and his son killed, for which he blames the volunteer fire department for not answering the alarm when his house was burning. The buttons turn out to have nothing to do with anything, it's just "a product of a twisted mind" as Batman puts it. All the men targeted were once members of the volunteer fire group who failed to save his house and his son.

This is a pretty good crime/revenge story, one in which Batman almost doesn't seen hard-edged enough for the gruesome crook's methods. It's interesting to learn that Bruce Wayne was once a volunteer fireman. The return of the descriptor "the acro-Batman" is not so welcome however. I thought we'd seen the last of that one. Garth is introduced into the story by name only, so we never see his scarred face until he reveals it on the last page.

The King of the Cats!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Former Catwoman Selina Kyle is still reformed, still running her pet shop, but another cat-themed criminal has turned up in Gotham. It's a man who calls himself "King of the Cats". He has a very Black Panther-like costume, with the addition of a tail and open faced cowl, possibly the better to display his waxed moustache. And of course he drives his "Kitty Car" which looks like a purple cat with green tires. Talk about your change in tone, from a madman using fire to exact revenge last story to the male counterpart to Catwoman this story. Batman and Robin consult with Selina about ways to fight this cat-themed criminal, only for him to send flowers and a note while they are there, so they know there's some connection. Batman thinks she's fallen for him, but it turns out that he's her brother Karl (which makes some of his interactions with her before the big reveal a little creepy). Selina gets to dress up as Catwoman briefly to help stop Karl, but at the end of the story she's still on the straight and narrow, having not returned to her life of crime.

I didn't think they'd carry on the "Catwoman as heroine" idea through multiple stories, but so far it's a permanent status quo change, which the writers use every time she turns up to make the reader question whether she's truly reformed. I know she'll go back to crime eventually, but not knowing when has made her current status all the more interesting. I guess we could count Karl as the original Cat Man, even though he doesn't use that name. It's nice to see new constumed criminals continue to appear in the Batman series. And lastly, if I've kept my count correctly, this is the 450th Batman story since "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate", almost 13 years earlier.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1 wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 7:50 am
It's a man who calls himself "King of the Cats". He has a very Black Panther-like costume, with the addition of a tail and open faced cowl, possibly the better to display his waxed moustache. And of course he drives his "Kitty Car" which looks like a purple cat with green tires.
I just looked this dude up. That is some crazy 80's style Hot Wheels shit right there. I was hoping for a more full moustache, though. Less like Sinestro, and more like Lord Chumley.
Check it out, a honey bear! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkajou

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Ursus mellifera wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 9:03 am
andersonh1 wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 7:50 am
It's a man who calls himself "King of the Cats". He has a very Black Panther-like costume, with the addition of a tail and open faced cowl, possibly the better to display his waxed moustache. And of course he drives his "Kitty Car" which looks like a purple cat with green tires.
I just looked this dude up. That is some crazy 80's style Hot Wheels shit right there. I was hoping for a more full moustache, though. Less like Sinestro, and more like Lord Chumley.
Yeah, that's an insane car. There's no hiding from the police in that thing.

"Sinestro moustache" is the perfect description. I wish I'd thought of it. :D

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1 wrote:
Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:53 am
"Sinestro moustache" is the perfect description. I wish I'd thought of it. :D
My wife was reading the Sinestro Corps War a few years ago, and remarked to me: "There's a guy named Sinestro, who looks like Devil-Hitler, and everyone's surprised he went bad?"
Check it out, a honey bear! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkajou

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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I love how Sinestro tries to win the "most evil" contest against the Qwardians in an early appearance in the 60s. He makes no pretense at being anything but a bad, bad person in the early days. :lol:

Detective Comics #180
February 1952

The Joker's Millions
Script: David Vern? Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Racketeer "King" Barlowe dies and all the other big names in crime show up for the reading of the will, including the Joker, who is not too popular with the other crooks, one of whom notes that Barlowe and the Joker were enemies. They all expect a big payoff from the will, but only the Joker gets anything substantial, in his case millions of dollars in cash and jewels. Gleeful with his fortune, the Joker decides that he no longer needs to live a life of crime since he's now wealthy, and he starts living it up and going on a spending spree. Batman can't prove that Barlowe's money was stolen, so there's nothing they can do.

Things turn on a dime when the Joker realizes that most of his stacks of bills and jewels are fake. He's spent almost all of the real money, and is now dirt poor with nothing but counterfeit bills. It was all Barlowe's revenge, done to humiliate the Joker. To make matters worse, the IRS show up, and rather than admit he was fooled and thus become a laughing stock in the underworld, the Joker agrees to pay the inheritance tax. He decides he must turn back to crime to make the money to pay the tax, but the kicker is that he has to (oh, the horror) commit mundane, ordinary crimes so that no one will suspect the Joker was involved. This is just hilarious stuff as the Joker bemoans the fact that he's reduced to safe-cracking and armed robbery. It hurts his pride! Batman figures out what's going on and is able to disguise himself as a known crook, interact with the Joker and get him to confess, ending his charade and sending him back to jail.

The Joker was in a rut for a long time with a lot of formulaic stories, but he's had some good ones lately, and this is my favorite by far in a long time. I love how the Joker is trapped by his pride and it's comedy gold when he grumbles about the mundane crimes he commits that he can't put his "genius" to work on. This is great stuff. And there is a continuity nod to some of the Joker's past crimes as he ponders which of his past schemes he should use before deciding against any of them, including his crime costumes and going way back, the way he killed a man with a voice recording. The Joker has changed so much that he seems like a completely different character than the killer of the early days. I can't imagine that Joker in a story like this one.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1 wrote:
Thu Jan 28, 2021 6:25 am
I love how Sinestro tries to win the "most evil" contest against the Qwardians in an early appearance in the 60s. He makes no pretense at being anything but a bad, bad person in the early days. :lol:
But... did he win?!
Check it out, a honey bear! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkajou

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