Retro Comics are Awesome

A general discussion forum, plus hauls and silly games.
User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Green Lantern #47
September 1966

Green Lantern Lives Again!
Script - John Broome Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

Grief-stricken, Katma Tui remains by the dead Hal as the other Green Lanterns leave, only to be shocked as the body vanishes. The story shifts to the far distant future year of 5706, and I see where this is going as the inhabitants clearly need their champion Pol Manning, Green Lantern, to deal with the red virus that both physically and mentally alters those who contract it, turning them hostile and evil. The Solar Council feel it could be the end of their civilization. So imagine their shock when Green Lantern arrives, and he's dead. However, 58th century medical science is able to do what even the Guardians of thousands of years earlier could not (and I can almost buy it, but not quite... the story will attempt to address this before it's done), detecting "an atomic spark of life... deep within him" and they are able to revive Hal, or as he thinks of himself in this era, Pol Manning.

So "Pol" goes to work on the main plot of this issue, fighting the red virus. He learns that the goal is to spread the virus, and for a being to absorb the energy from the other "viros" and be able to use 100% of his brain to mentally dominate. Green Lantern finds this "super-Viro" and learns that he has only reached 90% capacity. "That gives me a chance!" is a pretty darn Hal Jordan assessment of an almost impossible situation, I have to say. After a battle that goes back and forth, GL defeats the Super-Viro and returns him mentally to normal, but he still has to defeat the red virus. It's a pretty good sequence where Hal himself is infected and has to use all his willpower and the ring to cleanse himself of the disease. So far so good, but he wins one battle only to find himself in another, as the viruses he cleanses appear as large creatures who swarm and attack him (they remind me of the creatures from the Star Trek episoded "Operation Annihilate" in terms of size and the way they control their victims) but he kills them by superheating the air. The crisis is averted, and "Pol" returns to his own time, with poor Iona sad that she hardly had any time with him.

Back to the story I'm most interested in as Katma sees Hal lying there and thinks she must have imagined him vanishing. She's shocked and delighted that he's alive. Hal immediately remembers the fight with Dr. Polaris and that Tom is in danger and heads back to Earth, leaving Katma to tell everyone he's alive. Polaris is shocked that GL is alive, but he had a magnetic trap prepared. Hal's ring protects him and he gives Polaris a well-deserved "one punch" hit that knocks him out. He's able to coax Tom back to full health with the ring, and then explains why he's still alive. Polaris's weapon was not 100% effective, Hal wasn't quite dead, but the "magnetic effect" kept the Guardians from discovering that "atomic spark of life"... in other words, it caused their instruments to give a false reading. What Hal cannot understand is what brought him back, because of course he has no memory of the 58th century despite three trips there, due to how the process works. But he has another bit of that century as a clue in the form of a tiny jewel stuck to his uniform, a jewel from Iona's necklace. Hal adds it to his other mysterious items, knowing that somehow he's been active as GL without knowing it, and that it's a mystery he wants to solve.

Great first part last issue, but this follow up, while enjoyable, can't quite live up to the first part. I'm all about 58th century medicine being able to accomplish what 20th century medicine cannot, but it's hard to believe even the 58th century science can surpass the Guardians of the Universe. Sure, they're not omnipotent, and maybe we can chalk this up to Hal being the first human in the Corps for any length of time and the Guardians being relatively unfamiliar with human physiology, so they don't realize their machine is giving them inaccurate readings. As I said, I can almost buy it, and I do think the 58th century solution to reversing Hal's "death" is a clever one, even if going from "he's dead" to "he wasn't quite dead" is a bit of a cheat for John Broome to write his way out of this corner. The 58th century hate plague story is fine, if not as interesting as the Dr. Polaris story, and I'm looking forward to Hal learning at some point that he's been time traveling, as he surely will. Dr. Polaris needs to be locked up on Oa instead of Earth... if he's dangerous enough to nearly kill a Green Lantern, he's a real threat that needs to be in something other than an Earth based prison.

In any event, this is a pretty big storyline, one that needed the extra length. The cliffhanger last issue with Hal "dead" gives more weight to his death than wrapping it all up in a single issue would have. The presence of so many other Green Lanterns, rarely seen together in this era, gives it some extra weight as well. Hal gets some genuinely heroic moments in both present and future storylines. I think while I can nitpick some details, overall I enjoyed the first two-parter of the series.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Detective Comics #208
June 1954

The Nine Worlds of Batman!
Script: Ed Herron Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

This is a space race story for Batman that I really enjoyed. The title makes it seem like it's going to be sci-fi, but for the most part it's fairly grounded in a fictional version of an astronaut training program. A gang of crooks use a missile fueled by the top secret R-17 rocket fuel (which Batman of course knows about, despite the fact that it's top secret!) to break into a vault, and Gordon is understandably panicked about what that kind of weapon could do to Gotham. Batman decides the nearby Space Research College is the only place that crooks could have obtained that fuel. He investigates, determines the most likely suspects, and survives a number of attempts on his life. The title of the story refers to the simulated planetary environments, simulated down to the airlessness of the moon and the heat of Mercury. Ultimately Batman catches the crook stealing the rocket fuel by trapping him with a piece of faked technology that he knew the their could not resist.

This is the kind of sci-fi story that suits Batman: a modern day mystery set among the high-tech trappings of the early Space Age. It gives him and Robin plenty of opportunities for action and detective work, and plenty of great machines and vistas for Dick Sprang to draw. Memorable panels are both panels that Gordon appears in for the look of panic on his face (he's way out of his depth here), and some of the panels with machinery on pages 4 and 9. The moonscape on page 5 is quite good too.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

In the past month or so I've been digging through the dollar boxes at my local comic shop and this past weekend at Comicon jr. in Greenville, and I've picked up maybe 30-40 issues of the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern series to add to the dozen or so issues I already owned. It's a big gap in my Green Lantern reading that I've filled in somewhat. I had never read most of these issues before, and had a few thoughts.

- Ron Marz does a fairly good job with the casual dialogue and definitely establishes a character for Kyle, but all his villains are ranting, over the top speechmakers (Parallax included). They really do all sound the same. When you read a bunch of these issues in a row, the pattern really stands out.
- He often seems more interested in Kyle's personal life than in telling superhero stories, and by that I mean that villains can often be perfunctory or a means to facilitate the "soap opera" elements of the storyline. I'm not necessarily saying this as a criticism, but it does tend to make villains disposable rather than memorable. Not to mention that in a super-hero comic, super-powered heroics are the reason we're reading this genre, meaning that ought to be prominent. In my opinion.
- Generally speaking, I do enjoy the series, for the most part. Kyle's clearly a rookie who doesn't have a good handle on how to use the ring, but his imagination and determination and genuine desire to help people gets him through. And he grows in experience and comes to appreciate the history of this role he's taken on as time goes by.
- I like his mom. Makes her death (off screen) in Sinestro Corps War a lot sadder in retrospect.
- Good continuity with Donna Troy, his on again off again girlfriend for maybe 30 issues. There are a number of gaps in the issues I have, so I don't have the full story. I know he ends up with Jade later on.
- Having become so used to Green Lantern being primarily set in outer space, it's strange to have a Green Lantern spend the majority of his time on Earth. It makes the book almost retro, since the majority of the Green Lantern series prior to this one had done the same. There's a Bronze Age GL issue where the Guardians chide Hal for spending so much time on Earth, fighting petty crime (given the enormous power of the Green Lantern rings) when he should be giving more attention to his entire sector. It won't be until Geoff Johns that the series shifts its focus mainly to space, so I can't fault Ron Marz for sticking with the tried and true Earth-based hero who occasionally ventures into space.
- I similiarly can't really criticize him for using a lot of guest stars and a lot of established villains over creating his own, though he does do some of that as well. He's integrating a new character into an established universe, so pairing Kyle up with the Flash or Martian Manhunter or the Titans makes sense.
- I like that Kyle doesn't instantly get catapulted to the Justice League. He starts out solo, then ends up with the Titans, then finally the Justice League. He's awed by the people around him, and the sense of a normal guy thrust into an extraordinary world that makes all sorts of new demands on him is pretty well written.
- the plots are hit and miss. Some of them are memorable, some of the issues exist just to let Kyle have girl troubles. There's an entire issue about Kyle meeting his old friend in a bar in LA and discovering his friend is an alcoholic. Green Lantern only appears in flashback and while rescuing his friend from a car crash. I think if that had been my only GL story for a month I'd have felt ripped off. On the other hand, watching Kyle team up with the Darkstars (including John Stewart and Donna Troy in their ranks) and Adam Strange to fight an invader of Rann who might be Darkseid's son is a suitably grand story for a Green Lantern book. Overall I'd say the quality of the book is generally good, if too tilted towards Kyle's personal life over his heroic one.

So it's not bad, it shows Kyle growing into a hero and the series maintains more of an awareness of Green Lantern history than I expected, given that they were trying to wipe the slate clean. I was in no mood to read it in the 90s, but now I can read and enjoy it just fine.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Batman #84
June 1954

The Valley of the Giant Bees!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Sugar refineries are being robbed, in one of the more seemingly bizarre choices by criminals of things to steal that we've seen in this series. Batman's already in a death trap on page one and has to escape before checking in with Gordon, who doesn't know why sugar is being stolen. Batman and Robin trail the crooks in the Batplane and land, only for a sudden gale force wind to knock them off their feet and over a cliff. They survive and Batman wakes up to see a horrible sight: giant bees, using humans to carry sugar to a giant beehive! Robin is missing, but Batman is unable to get near the beehive. Attempting it in the Batplane, he ends up in a dogfight with the giant bees, who try to impale the plane with their stingers. The bees attack Gotham and Batman is able to drive them away with a balloon used for a parade that's shaped like a giant spider. Heading back to the beehive, Batman pretends to be hypnotized like the others and infiltrates the hive, where he finds Robin prisoner of the Queen Bee.

And that's when Batman wakes up, right back where he fell, with Robin noting that he found the reason for the sugar thefts: an illegal liquor still in the valley. We don't actually see Batman and Robin capture the crooks, we find out in the final panel of the story that Federal Agents arrested them. Batman has removed an object from the Batplane's fuselage, and though it's probably just a stick from when they landed the Batplane, it could be the stinger from a giant bee....

When I first read this story, The splash page just made me shake my head in sheer disbelief. We're well outside Batman's typical territory of gangsters and urban crime here. Giant bees? Really? But you can't judge a story by the splash page, because this turned out to be a fun bit of fantasy storytelling that falls into the "it was all a dream... probably" category. We've seen this type of thing before, and this reminded me of "The Land Behind the Light!" from Detective Comics #44 October 1940, where Dick Grayson falls asleep while reading a book and the adventure with giants turns out to be all a dream. I attempted some psychoanalysis of that and wondered if Dick's dangerous lifestyle of taking on maniacs and gangsters led to nightmares of giants trying to kill him. I wonder what in Batman's life made him dream about giant bees? You'd think that clowns or penguins would be in his subconscious. Note that in a nice bit of visual storytelling, Batman's pose is the same on the first panel of page 4 and the first panel of page 10, reinforcing that everything in between is his hallucination or dream.

It's a weird story, but I liked how off-beat it was, and I liked how freaked out Batman was by the whole thing. Even with all the strange things he's seen in his life, giant bees were still a bit too much for him. This one stands out just because it's so different. And I even like that there is an explanation for the sugar thefts, even though the crime spree is clearly the subplot that exists only to facilitate the giant bee story.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Picked up the "Hal Jordan: Green Lantern" volume 1 at Ollie's yesterday. I guess they had been planning to reprint the 90s GL series? I know Kyle got two similar volumes, but neither line went very far. This book has Emerald Dawn I and II, so it's a 12 issue tpb, which is not bad at all. This is the origin with the infamous drunk driving incident, which I don't think went over well at the time. I assume both series have since been rendered moot and out of continuity by Geoff Johns, although it's worth noting that Hal being able to fly into the central battery and absorb all the power first appears in Emerald Dawn, since that's how he defeats Legion, the villain of the first story. I think this is the first time we learn that Hal's dad died in a plane test flight as well. After getting used to how Johns wrote Sinestro, it's very strange to go back and read the older characterization in Emerald Dawn II. I have the original issues for both, but it's always nice to have the reprints on better paper instead of having to read stuff printed on newsprint. I've never been a big fan of Mark Bright's art though.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Finishing up Batman #84. With this issue done, there are only three issues and five stories left in Omnibus #9. Can't believe I've reviewed every one of them up to this point.

The Sleeping Beauties of Gotham City!
Writer: David Vern Reed Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff Inks: Stan Kaye

They didn't waste much time bringing Catwoman back for another round after she reverted to her former criminal ways, and unlike Joker or Penguin, she hasn't worn out her welcome. She has become far more assertive though, as she announces her return while it's "raining cats and dogs" with paper cats warning that she's back. No subtle, behind the scenes criminal activities for her, she's up front and in everyone's face. Batman updates the police force on who she is and what she's capable of. But they don't expect her to just turn up, out of costume, and enter a beauty contest. When Batman and Robin go to confront her, she rightly points out that they have no evidence (even though she's been in prison, so they should have photos and fingerprints on file... I guess someone didn't realize that) so they can't do a thing. I like this far more assertive Selina. She was a bit too timid and retiring as a reformed criminal, in all honesty, as much as I enjoyed seeing her reformed and on the side of the law for a few stories.

After a single crime spree among giant prop musical instruments, during which Batman is forced to let Catwoman escape to save Robin's life, Selina develops a rare "sleeping sickness" and is inside a glass case in her pet shop, sleeping away, so the medical professionals can safely study her condition. I knew of course that there had to be a trick of some sort, and indeed, Catwoman is still committing crimes, though she's supposed to be safely under glass. Meanwhile all the other contestants in the beauty contest succumb to the same "sleeping sickness", only for Selina to recover and win the contest by virtue of being the only contestant. But that was never her goal, and Batman figures out her true goal just as she receives the crown: a diamond smuggling scheme. The winner of the beauty contest would receive a European perfume, and the diamonds had been smuggled in, avoiding customs officials. Batman can't prove that Selina is connected to the smuggling, but he can prove that she faked being ill using "two movie projectors operating in tandem" showing a continuous looped "3-D picture of Selina" sleeping. Sounds very much like what we'd call a hologram today. So she's taken into custody for Catwoman's crimes committed while she was supposedly asleep.

I think Selina's bold, brazen attitude makes this story work for me. She appears in civilian identity and plays a fun game of "you can't prove anything" with Batman, keeping him on his toes, and I even like the smuggling plan, convoluted though it was. Seems like once it got through customs, it would be a whole lot easier for Catwoman to steal it than to take the chance of being caught in full view of everyone receiving stolen goods. Still, I think this story made excellent use of Catwoman, and it feels like it's been a while since Batman had a run-in with one of his costumed enemies, so I was glad to see a story of that sort.

Ten Nights of Fear!
Writer: David Vern Reed Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff Inks: Charles Paris

We start with quite the splash page: Batman gone crazy, and being taken by the men in white coats to "Gotham Insane Asylum"? Gordon thinks he's cracked up after years of fighting crime, while the crooks love that Batman has "bats in the belfry". The story itself begins with Batman and Robin working on the Batmobile, improving their Batarang, and visiting with a Scotland Yard Inspector. Seems like a typical day, but that night Bruce has a nightmare that crooks capture and unmask him and Dick. Bruce is genuinely unnerved by the dream, but carries on as usual the next day, only to lose it when Gordon is holding a mask exactly like a giant one from his dream. That night Bruce has another nightmare, of being killed in an explosion, and the following night of being devoured by a dinosaur-like creature, and each time something from his dream appears in real life. As an aside, I like the placement of this story in the same issue with the nightmare about giant bees, though these nightmares have a different cause, as we will see.

Batman finally cracks up, and he's taken away in a straightjacket, whereupon the story reveals that the supposed inspector from Scotland Yard is a fraud, impersonating the real inspector. He had borrowed Batman's belt radio early in the story, which didn't seem significant at the time, and used it to essentially broadcast a form of hypnosis, planting these images in his mind. But he tried the trick once too often, by trying to plant images in Batman's mind while he was awake, Batman figured out what was going on and that his radio had been tampered with, though it wasn't just that. Once again, it's those tiny details that Batman notices but no one else does, and in this case, the fake inspector wore his monocle on one eye the first time Batman saw him, and on the other eye the second time. Looking back through the story, Moldoff did indeed draw the monocle on one eye in the inspector's first appearance, though it's in profile so it's easy to miss, and on his other eye in all subsequent appearances. I didn't pay any attention until Batman brought it up.

Honestly, this is a pretty good attempt by crooks to take down Batman, and they are nearly successful. Batman and Robin are so stalwart and well-adjusted most of the time that it's strange to see Bruce so shaken by his crazy dreams. We definitely haven't seen a story like this before, not that I can remember, and it was good to see Batman facing a different kind of threat.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Green Lantern #48
October 1966

Goldface's Grudge Fight Against Green Lantern!
Script - Gardner Fox Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

Goldface is going to be Fool's Goldface when I get done with him!

The Goldface we all know is here, as Keith Kenyon has adopted the familiar all-gold suit and helmet. And he's out for revenge on Green Lantern, robbing a bank and coating a night watchman in gold solely to attract GL's attention. The story also helpfully offers a recap of Kenyon's first appearance so we can be sure that this is the same man, since he looks so different. GL is in no rush to go after him, to Tom Kalmaku's surprise, since he has an appointment at a movie premier about Carol's grandmother. We don't get a lot of info about her, but I like that aircraft are apparently a generational interest for the Ferris family. I also had to laugh at the Zsa Zsa Gabor lookalike starring in the film, and how Carol is constantly jealous of her as GL flirts with her.

But GL can't avoid this problem as Goldface uses the gold dental fillings of everyone in town to broadcast his challenge to Green Lantern. That's a fun comic book villain method of communication. Goldface has cut off the police with a golden barrier, so only GL can get to him. Meanwhile GL, his pride stung by the challenge, is so mad he just wants to punch Goldface out. Forget the ring, it's his fists that do the job. "What's Batman got that I haven't?" he says at one point as he lays into Goldface's minions. A chance impact on the display Goldface is hiding behind takes him out of the fight while GL captures his entire gang.

But a second challenge draws GL back, this time in a mine, and Goldface has already found more underlings. GL doesn't fare so well against the invulnerable Goldface, who stands there and takes a punch and a hit by a wooden beam without moving. He then accomplishes his goal, coating GL with gold. I would think this would suffocate Hal and suffocate the night watchman, but no, according to Goldface they're in an "auric coma", suspended animation. Goldface frees the night watchman, but then GL breaks out of the gold coating and attacks him yet again. I did laugh at Hal's comeback to "Don't you recognize a better man when you see him?" with "I sure do! I see my own reflection in that gold face of yours!" Hal ultimately defeats Goldface by removing his helmet and using the ray from it to coat him with gold, since the only power Goldface is vulnerable to is his own.

So how did Hal survive the gold that his ring could not affect? He solidified the air around his body, and that is what was coated, not him. That left him free to move and attack when the opportunity presented itself. Do I buy it? Sure, it's well within the capabilities of the ring at this point, and Hal has been able to fight yellow objects indirectly in a number of stories. The story ends with the movie premier only, and GL dancing with Zu Zu to make Carol mad at him, in the hopes that she will give Hal the time of day. I thought as a sequel this had some good ideas, and the evolution of Keith Kenyon/Goldface as a villain reminded me of Hector Hammond changing after his first few appearances, so Goldface is not the first GL villain to get an upgrade. The bit in the middle of the story with Hal so angry that he doesn't want to use his ring feels a bit forced, but if I remember right we'll see more of Hal resenting the power ring down the road. I wonder if this "fallible hero" characterization was influenced by Marvel's approach to their main characters?

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Detective Comics #209
July 1954

The Man Who Shadowed Batman!
Script: Ed Herron Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

A new gangland boss, the Inventor, appears in the splash page and one panel before we cut to Batman and Robin investigating a robbery of a bank vault with no sign of how it was opened. The story doesn't play this for any sort of mystery, making it clear that the Inventor's devices allow him to open locks and silence alarms with ease. But he can't account for everything, and a battery powered alarm triggers police headquarters, sending Batman and Robin to stop yet another robbery. This story moves quickly, and is illustrated by the always excellent Dick Sprang, so it feels action packed and dynamic. I think this is only Ed Herron's third story so far, with the other two being The Nine Worlds of Batman and The Human Firefly, so he doesn't have a long record of writing for Batman, but what he has written is good.

Without rehashing all of the plot, the main problem for Batman is that the Inventor has developed a means of tracking him which he calls a "magno-radarscope". The Inventor dropped a key made of a special metal, seemingly by accident, but it was purposefully done for the purposes of tracking Batman. A grid tells them exactly where in the city he is and they can even see an image of him on the screen. And it works time and time again. The crooks commit crimes when they know Batman is elsewhere, and can spot him closing in on them so they escape before he arrives. Batman and Robin are at a loss as to how they know. Unfortunately, it's not by some good detective work that Batman learns the truth, but sheer luck. When he's ambushed and is shot (not badly, apparently, given the speed of his recovery) his utility belt is damaged, and he leaves it behind for Alfred to repair. Nice to see Alfred, by the way, since he rarely turns up these days. And when they investigate the hideout of the crooks, they see the tracking screen and Batman understands exactly what's been happening.

He's able to trick the crooks by having Alfred bring a dummy Batman to the warehouse, wearing the utility belt, for the crooks to follow on their scope while he and Robin tackle them by surprise. It's good to see Alfred help with the resolution of the case, we haven't seen that for a long time. The Inventor has one more trick as Batman pursues him and traps him in an electromagnetic cage, as seen on the splash page. The magno-radarscope is the only reason Robin knows where he went, and he rescues him, while Alfred hits the fleeing Inventor with his shoe, knocking him out cold. We get one more "old school" image with Batman, Alfred and Robin linked at the elbows, having solved the case. It's been years since the three of them were treated like a team, and I quite enjoy revisiting that.

The story's big flaw is that Batman solves it by sheer luck, otherwise I quite liked the idea of a criminal inventor using technology to defeat Batman. So often it's the other way around, with Batman lecturing Robin in the use of high tech (for the day) methods of identifying and tracking criminals. But there's no reason a crook can't do the same thing. I'd just like to have seen Batman deduce the answer somehow, but the story works pretty well regardless.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Green Lantern #49
December 1966

The Spectacular Robberies of TV's Master Villain!
Script - John Broome Pencils - Gil Kane Inks - Sid Greene

Hal returns from space, where Tom gives him a letter that arrived while he was away. It's an invitation to Barry and Iris's wedding. That's a nice bit of shared universe for the era, and of course it references the friendship between Hal and Barry. But Hal missed the wedding, which happened two days ago while he was off-planet. This may be the first time that Hal's life as Green Lantern has been shown to cause him to miss things happening on Earth, but it's not the last. Barry has taken the plunge, and Hal has decided that he's going to propose to Carol. He's done playing around. But sadly, he's waited too long. Carol is engaged to a man named Jason Belmore. Like Barry's wedding, Carol's engagement happened while Hal was away. Carol knows how Hal feels and even says she's sorry, but despite clearly being hit hard, Hal is gracious to Carol's face in accepting the situation. Curious to see that she's still thinking of her crush on Green Lantern as Hal drives away...

This is the major status quo change that I referred to a while back. After over 50 issues (counting the Showcase issues) of the Hal/Carol/Green Lantern triangle, it's all gone in three pages. It was quite a surprise when I first read this story, I knew Hal had other girlfriends but I had expected that to happen down the line rather than in the mid-1960s. It's almost an interruption when the super-hero side of the plot kicks in and Hal has to investigate what appears to be a meteor. It's a man in a costume that Hal recognizes as a television character called "the Dazzler". And what's more, the power ring has no effect on him. He ultimately escapes and Hal sounds out his thoughts on the encounter with Tom, after which both go to the tv studios to investigate.

The story doesn't completely abandon the situation with Carol as Hal finally tells Tom all about it, and how he's tempted to throw away the whole Green Lantern responsibilities, because they've kept him away from Coast City and Carol, and now he's lost her. Tom reminds him of what he said to Katma Tui, "once a Green Lantern, always a Green Lantern" and sets him straight. It's a good scene that makes good use of Tom and Hal's friendship, and which makes Hal look as human a character as he ever has. He's angry and hurt and looking for something to blame for his loss. Tom Kalmaku often feels like Hal's forgotten friend, with Oliver Queen and Barry Allen almost always in that role, but in the series so far it's always been Tom who was Hal's confidant and best friend, so I enjoyed seeing him put to good use here.

Ultimately Hal decides to start his investigation with Peters, the special effects man for the Dazzler tv show. When GL can't read his mind with the power beam, we all know something's up. Peters stumbles and knocks himself out while running from GL, his mental defenses are down, and we get the answer. He's an alien named Kahu Ibor, from a world of knowledge and data and routine. Ibor became fascinated by the Earth custom of theater and drama, and he traveled to Earth to experience it for himself. It was against the law on his planet, but he didn't care. He ultimately got a job doing special effects for the Dazzler show, where because of a mishap the star of the show learned his secret and persuaded Peters to teach him his mental techniques, after which he turned to crime. Hal stops the Dazzler after a difficult fight with him and his mental duplicates (which is how he'd been able to be on tv and commit the crimes we saw earlier in the issue at the same time). When he gets back, Tom tells him that Peters, or Ibor, had returned home.

And here's where the second big status quo change happens. Hal leaves Coast City. He quits his job at Ferris, takes his power battery and tells Tom (who is only concerned about Hal) good bye. Imagine Superman leaving Metropolis, Lois and the Daily Planet behind, or Batman leaving Gotham. It would be a big deal, and it's a big deal here. The familiar surroundings and supporting cast are gone, and Hal has hit the road. I don't think he gets back to Coast City even for a visit until near the end of the omnibus, right at the end of the Silver Age, before the famous Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues begin. I've read the whole book once, but I can't remember a lot of what happens going forward, so it'll be interesting to revisit it. I still can't help but think that Marvel's method of writing their characters may have influenced DC's writers, and the idea that characters were just "cardboard cutouts" in the Silver Age really never has been true, but it's certainly not true now. The approach that John Broome has taken to writing Hal has changed in the last few issues. I don't think we've seen the last of those changes either.

User avatar
andersonh1
Moderator
Posts: 6157
Joined: Fri Jul 18, 2008 3:22 pm
Location: South Carolina

Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

Detective Comics #210
August 1954

The Brain that Ruled Gotham City!
Script: ? Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

It's the Brain of Morbius! I can almost hear Michael Spice's voice when the Brain speaks. Okay, so "the evil brain in a tank" didn't start with Doctor Who, but it's the one I'm the most familiar with. So we're in late 1954 and clearly not yet in the age of the Comics Code, because we can still open a story with a criminal on his way to be executed in the electric chair. This criminal is "Brain" Hobson, a man with a oversized head, who is supposed to be a genius. One of the inmates taunts him because Batman was too smart for him, but Hobson claims that not even the electric chair will stop him, and that the warden will be hearing from him. Kind of rough for Robin (a minor, don't forget) to be there as a witness to the execution along with Batman.

Batman and Robin discuss the end of Hobson with the warden when a guard bursts in and says the body of Hobson is gone, missing from the prison morgue. Batman figures out how the body was stolen fairly quickly, but not who took it or why. The story moves to an old abandoned farmhouse where Hobson's gang wait while a Professor Duvlik works behind closed doors, with the big reveal being that Hobson's brain is still alive! Floating in a tank and able to speak via a loudspeaker, the Brain can not only communicate, but control men's minds as he hypnotizes a rebellious gang member into shooting himself. The Brain will continue to run the gang through his subordinate Henley and the Professor. This is a great little 50s b-movie horror setup adapted for the Batman series, and though I say this nearly every time, it's Dick Sprang's art that really sells it, from the anger and fear and shocked facial expressions of the gang, to the way the tank with the brain is always shown at different angles.

Batman and Robin take on the Brain's gang, but when they capture one man they find that the Brain has made him crazy so that he can't talk. A reporter who was taken to the gang's hideout confirms that horrible truth about the brain in the tank running the gang. The crooks made sure the reporter could not know anything about the route to and from the hideout, but in a great little sequence, Batman deduces a ton of details from his photos and narrows down the probable location, a location later confirmed in a flyover in the Batplane. Batman and Robin are captured and the Brain seemingly hypnotizes Batman into shooting himself, much to Robin's horror.

But in a quick turnaround on the last page, Batman reveals the truth: this was all a scam by Hobson (driven by ego to perpetuate his name and reputation) and top members of his mob to attract a large gang, steal a ton and then run off with the loot. Amusingly, Batman explains it all to Robin as they're busy punching out the mob. Batman pretended to die to put the men off-guard and then leapt to the attack, knowing that the men who were in on the scam wouldn't dare expose his fraud in front of the rest of the gang. The brain in the tank was actually plastic. This was a nice attempt at a "mad science" plot that the writer keeps going until the last page, and the explanation for all of the supposed crazy occurrences works for me. Anyone "hypnotized" or "driven crazy" by the brain were men who were in on the scam and acted as they did to keep the rest of the gang in line. I thought this was a pretty creative story for Batman, and it stands out as something different than the standard fare.

Post Reply