Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #191
January 1953

The Man with a License to Kill!

Script: ? Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

I've done your work for you, Batman! Bannig was wanted dead or alive! There he is --- quite dead!

The premise of this story is hard to accept: a hooded and robed man who calls himself "the Executioner" goes after crooks who are wanted "dead or alive" and always kills them to collect the reward. I'm don't think it would be legal for a private citizen to take the law into their own hands like this, either now or in 1953. And to be fair, the characters in the story aren't comfortable with the situation either. It's interesting that even in 1953 we're still getting Batman stories with lots of images of guns and people being hunted and gunned down on panel. We haven't reached the lighter and softer Comics Code era just yet.

The Executioner kills escaped con Tony Bannig for the $10,000 reward. He's quite open about what he did and takes both Batman and Gordon to his office where the walls are plastered with wanted posters. Batman is impressed with his case files, and Gordon observes that the Executioner's work is "cold blooded but legal". The Executioner thinks to himself that the $10,000 is "chicken feed" and he has larger goals in mind. Gordon has the Executioner followed after paying him the reward, and he disappears into a fair in midtown Gotham. The story presents us with six suspects as Batman and Robin question everyone who works there, with the narration assuring the reader that one of the men is indeed the Executioner, who carries on his trade of killing men wanted dead or alive and collecting the reward for doing so.

Batman's usual penchant for using small details to get to the truth is in play here. He and Robin capture a fugitive near a factory before the Executioner can kill him. Batman observes that a substance used to trap and kill Japanese beetles was present in quantity at the factory, so he releases some beetles into the fair and they swarm around shooting gallery owner Willy Hooker. So they know who the Executioner is by page 8. They also figure out that he's been helping break people out of prison precisely so that he can kill the escapee and claim the reward. But even then there is more to what's going on. The end goal is to break crime boss Big Cal Davis out, fake his death, and then Davis and Hooker would split Davis's million dollar stash. The end of the story sees Batman impersonate Big Cal in order to catch the Executioner in the act, and the Executioner finding Big Cal's stash and deciding to actually kill him and keep all the money. One mistake is what saves Batman's life as the Executioner throws his empty cartridge box in the river along the route Big Cal was supposed to take when he escaped, letting Batman know that danger was ahead.

There is a lot of plot packed into these 12 pages, and the Executioner is one of the more ruthless and murderous villains we've seen in recent days. As I said, I didn't expect a story this dark at this stage in Batman's history. I still question the premise of the story with the Executioner being allowed to operate like this with the full knowledge of law enforcement. But it's a good hardcore crime and punishment Batman story. The writers were getting a lot of mileage out of these "Batman vs gangsters" plots.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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World's Finest Comics #62
January-February 1953

Sir Batman and the Black Knight!

Writer: David Verr Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

"Scholarly criminal" Felix Dunn heads a criminal gang in Gotham City, but he's a man who enjoys reading about his hero, the Black Knight. Dunn styles himself "the Black Rogue" after his favorite historic criminal. While escaping after a jewel heist where he swiped the Sandovian Crown Jewels (some pretty important jewelry), Dunn hits his head on a low-hanging branch while running through the woods to meet up with his gang. He suddenly believes that he is the Black Knight. When he is reunited with his gang, his second in command Fenner realizes that it's no act, but Dunn has hidden the jewels and Fenner is afraid if Dunn recovers his senses, he'll forget where he hid them. It's all a setup to allow Batman and Robin to play act as knights, and as contrived as it may be, I'll give the writer credit for not resorting to time travel this time around. Not that we've seen professor Carter Nichols for some time anyway....

So Fenner and the gang set up base at a castle north of Gotham that used to belong to an eccentric millionaire and all dress up as knights to humor Dunn. Fenner still finds "jobs" to pull while everyone is dressed up as knights, but Batman, Robin and even Commissioner Gordon (who is meant to be King Arthur) get in on the act. And so we get a lot of very silly action as all involved ride around on horses wearing armor, shoot arrows, fire a trebuchet, and just generally play at being knights. There's a death trap that Catwoman clearly borrowed for her first episodes on the 60s Batman tv show as spiked walls close in on Batman and Robin at one point. Batman gets to pull the sword from the stone and joust. In the end, Batman pretends to be Merlin and scares "the Black Knight" into revealing the location of the jewels. The crown jewels are recovered, and the Black Knight and his gang are arrested, but I presume Dunn is still not in his right mind since the men in white coats are seen leading him away in the last panel.

This was contrived and probably one of my least favorite stories in this volume, but at least it's fun to read and had the usual very strong Dick Sprang artwork to carry it.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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When I first started this thread, I had started reading and reviewing the 1990 Green Lantern series. Last night I got in the mood to dig that out and re-read it for the first time in a few years, so I might get back to reviewing.

I'm still in a Green Lantern reading mood, and for the first time in a number of years I've started re-reading the 1990 Green Lantern series began by Gerard Jones and Pat Broderick, with later art by Joe Staton and M. D. Bright. The first eight issues were collected in a trade paperback titled "The Road Back" which I've had for years, so since that's the easiest to read I'm very familiar with them, but it's been a long time since I got the original issues out and read from issue 9 onward.

As much as I enjoy this series, reading it in the light of everything that's come since makes me appreciate just how many new elements that Geoff Johns introduced (or at least he put new spins on old ideas) when he wrote Green Lantern. Gerard Jones starts his series restoring a lost status quo by bringing back the Guardians and starting to rebuild the Corps, and his one big new idea is the Mosaic world on Oa. Geoff Johns also restored a lost status quo, only he gets the entire Corps up and running much more quickly, because he had the goals of Sinestro Corps War and Blackest Night in mind right from the beginning, so he needed a full Corps. Jones's approach never gets us beyond maybe a dozen members (who will later be the Lost Lanterns during the Johns run) because the rebuilding of the Corps proceeds very slowly, and then he goes into Earth-based adventures for Hal alternating with outer space in ways that would have fit right in with the previous Green Lantern series of the 60s, 70s and early 80s. The 1990 series is about consistency with what came before, the 2005 series is about doing things differently. Both are good in their own way, but I have to admire Geoff Johns's creativity and imagination.

Having said all that, it's interesting to me how different Hal Jordan is in the 1990 series compared to modern series. He's had the ring for 15 years, he's starting to go grey, and he's clearly portrayed as an introspective, experienced and thoughtful character who has been doing this for a long time and is getting a little older and world-weary. He's a bit lost without a purpose in life since he's burned so many bridges and hopped from job to job and relationship to relationship. He's not the "so brave he's reckless" character who throws himself into a situation and gets through on experience and sheer bravado (though he can do that), but rather he plans, he thinks ahead, he takes calculated risks. This is the version of the character that made me a Green Lantern fan, since this is the first GL series I remember reading. I may or may not have read Emerald Dawn before this, but I think I went back and read it based on enjoying this series.

I've read issues 1 through 15 over the past few nights, and I'm in the middle of the original Mosaic story arc. John Stewart is another character that is vastly different at this point. Modern John Stewart has his military history emphasized (probably due to how he was portrayed in the animated Justice League series), but in the 1990 series his architectural background is prominent. He's a man who enjoys his music and his philosophy, quoting songs and various writers in equal measure. The death of his wife Katma Tui and the destruction of Xanshi are very recent at this point, and he's still dealing with raw emotion over both. I like this John Stewart quite a bit, and when I'm done with this series I'm going to have to re-read the Mosaic series.

At this point there are two major gaps in my Green Lantern reading. I've read all of the 1960s, the first 60 issues of the 90s series, and the vast majority from 2004 to the present. I've read very little of Kyle Rayner's GL series, and very little Bronze Age GL, other than the Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues and a smattering of random back issues. I keep hoping the omnibus reprints will move into the Bronze Age for GL, but nothing so far.

Green Lantern #4
September 1990

Among My Souvenirs
Script: Gerard Jones Pencils:Pat Broderick Inks: Bruce Patterson

Hal has taken Clay's tip and gone out west to work in the orchards. He's in a good mood, he feels free with no duty and no masters, and though he's still charging his ring, he doesn't recite the oath. He's paying so little attention to events that he misses the news stories about cities vanishing into space, and even when Clay tells him about them, Hal is more concerned with picking crops, reasoning that the world is full of heroes and he isn't needed. It's a message from John, still trapped on Oa, that gets Hal's attention. As he suits up and follows the trail of vanished cities he realizes that they're following the trip he, Green Arrow and the Old Timer took. When witnesses at Hope Springs (where Hal met Rose Hardin a few issues back) describe the city vanishing "in a flash of green", Hal knows exactly what happened and who did it, and for the first time in this series he calls up his lantern and recites his oath as he charges the ring and heads out into space.

We've hit the halfway point of the story and Hal has finally quit wandering and "trying to find himself" and has stepped up to accept his responsibilities, so the use of the oath and the full page splash that ends the issue are well-earned. A lot of this story draws from probably the most well-known and reprinted era of Green Lantern prior to this point, the Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow issues, but it also picks up plot threads from the previous Green Lantern series with the Guardians having left the universe, leaving only Appa behind to tend Oa and the Corps, until they triggered the destruction of the central power battery by (ostensibly) executing Sinestro. There are also references to the Green Lantern stories from Action Comics Weekly, which was where Hal primarily appeared between the end of his old series and this one. I knew none of this when I first read the issue in 1990, but the story worked well enough and explained enough that I had no problem following the story and understanding what was going on.

One of the things I appreciate about Pat Broderick's art in this series is the old school, "keep it in the boxes" nature of the storytelling. Some artists today get so loose and creative with the layouts that the page becomes a jumble of color and images, but in this 31 year old issue the images are largely contained to their own panels, each one well composed to tell the story. Splash pages are used where appropriate for dramatic effect. There are some nice tight angles where it's warranted, and there are some great full page shots of Oa and the massive construct that Appa Ali Apsa is using to move the cities and intimidate the residents of the cities. I'm not entirely a fan of Broderick's style and the way he draws people, but I can't fault the storytelling and the level of detail he put into this book.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #5
October 1990

Back Again
Script: Gerard Jones Pencils:Pat Broderick Inks: Bruce Patterson

A patchwork world, as far as I can see.

Hal is ambushed in space near Oa by Appa Ali Apsa and wakes up in Rose's house. He has to intervene when some of the locals attack a group of Xudarians who have come looking for help. This is where Hal realizes that the Guardian is tapping the power of Oa and has likely gone mad, and that he's up against someone far more powerful than himself. As he explores all the various places from different planets that have been brought to Oa, he wonders just how much power is required to keep all those different gravities and atmospheres intact. The whole situation is a disaster waiting to happen. John can't help, and Appa confronts Hal, letting him know that he's let everyone know that if anything happens to him, they all die, since he's keeping their environments intact.

For a few pages, Appa gets inside Hal's head and makes him believe that everything is fine. But Hal had taken precautions, realizing that might happen (and this does not come out of nowhere, he actually mentions that he needed to do this before heading out to explore earlier in the issue). The ring jolts him out of it when he's no longer being monitored, and not quite believing he's doing it, he calls Guy on Earth to come help. Guy is reluctant, but decides he might as well go.

I always read these issues with a mind on what's come since, and this careful, cautious and resourceful version of Hal doesn't quite line up with Venditti's version for example (who would probably just dive in and do something reckless), but at this point Hal is supposed to be a more seasoned and older character. His exact age is not given, but he does mention in the first issue that he got the ring from Abin Sur 15 years earlier, so he's a veteran GL. I always figured he was supposed to be in his mid-40s, starting to go gray, and some of his inner dialogue reflects that he's not feeling as young as he used to. In my opinion this is where Guy starts to develop as a character from a one note jerk to something more nuanced. It's not an even journey, and he's got a long way to go, but this may be one of the first times he chooses to listen and cooperate and actually be helpful to someone other than himself. I remember liking him for the rest of this storyline. The art continues to be excellent, and I prefer Hal in his element much more than Hal walking the Earth and feeling sorry for himself as he was in the earlier issues. The Mosaic world is a great idea, and one I look forward to seeing more of in future issues.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #6
November 1990

Two Against the World
Script: Gerard Jones Pencils:Pat Broderick Inks: Bruce Patterson

You have made a wise choice. We of Xudar are proud to have given our brother Tomar-Re to the Corps. We will never turn our backs on a Green Lantern.

Guy arrives on Oa by hiding in the latest city to be brought to the planet, and by his nature of being a very visible and aggressive presence once he's on the surface, he keeps Appa's attention while Hal starts putting his plan into effect. John learns that Appa will need to drain the energy of all the native planets that he's abducted the cities from, in order to sustain them.

This issue marks the first appearance of Tomar-Tu, who will become a Green Lantern and last as a recurring character all the way to the end of Robert Venditti's run, where he joins the Darkstars and then ultimately kills himself, unable to live with becoming a killer. Here he helps Hal despite Appa's threats. Hal summarizes the plot for Rose in a very succinct fashion which helped me enormously as a new Green Lantern reader when this issue was first published. While Guy occupies Appa, Hal approaches John, spelling out his plan to absorb power from the wreck of the central battery as he did 15 years earlier while fighting Legion (during Emerald Dawn), leaving John to attack Appa mentally. The plan fails miserably, since Appa is unaffected by Hal's boosted power and now all three human Lanterns are prisoners, held immobile beside the ruins of the central battery. Appa doesn't know what Hal was thinking, quite literally, because Hal erased part of his memory, so it's clear that there's more to the plan that what we've seen here.

I normally can't stand the Guy Gardner of this era, but his negative traits are mostly absent here, leaving his stubbornness and aggression to be put to good use as he struggles to get past all the hostile aliens and humans to find Hal. This has the effect of keeping Appa's attention diverted while Hal puts his apparent plan into motion, though as we'll see next issue there was more to it than is shown here. John gets little to do at this point in the story, but later issues will make up for that. Good action, good characterization all around and the events of the issue fly by.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #7
December 1990

Homecoming
Script: Gerard Jones Pencils:Pat Broderick Inks: Bruce Patterson

What were they thinking of? Yes there are twenty-two of them and one of me. But they left Oa! They have only their own little stores of power, while I absorb all the power of this planet!

Hal has done what he had to do, now he's helpless and immobilized by Appa. All he can do is wait as Appa taunts him, John and Guy. Appa sends the aliens who he controls to attack those who helped Hal, the Xudarians and the humans, and he's about to absorb Hal into himself to increase his power when Hal's plan pays off. The Guardians of the Universe have returned to the Universe, and I have to say, it's pretty impressive to see twenty-two of them on panel at once. They deal with Appa Ali Apsa while the Green Lanterns go to rescue everyone in danger. I particularly enjoy the panel on page 16 where Appa Ali Apsa is standing on top of the ruined central battery and the 22 Guardians are in a ring around him. They stand in judgment of Appa, and had thought he would take care of whatever remained of their affairs when they left the Universe to go elsewhere with the Zamarons.

But it's not quite over yet. Appa is still in control of the planet of Oa, and in control of John, so he is able to fight back, even at 22 to 1 odds. He instantly sucks all the power out of the GL rings, leaving Hal and Guy powerless in the face of the horde of hostile aliens, and rants about how he has absorbed the power of the planet and is the last true Guardian. Great cliffhanger.

Green Lantern #8
January 1991

Bringing It Together
Script: Gerard Jones Art:Pat Broderick

The situation is dire. The GLs are trapped on Oa, and out of power, facing an army of alien thugs. The Old Timer is crazy and picking off the other Guardians one by one. So we get to see one of those "what does a GL do without his power ring" sequences, and as these things go, it's a pretty good one. The situation with the aliens is partly resolved when the Xudarians show up to help fight, and shut down for good by Rose and her shotgun, which is just fun. Hal standing there with a powerless ring, defending Tomar-Tu with both of them about to get killed is a great moment for the character. All that's left is to deal with an insane Guardian controlling all the power of the planet Oa, and Hal quickly figures out that Appa has released his hold on all the cities, forcing most of the Guardians out of the fight to keep them intact while Appa fights the rest. Hal's solution is a gamble: have the Guardians release the cities which will then force Appa to reestablish control to save them all, while John attacks Appa from inside his mind.

And it works. Appa is dismayed and confused, three of the Guardians seize the power in another great panel, and they kill the Old Timer. It's too everyone's credit that this is treated as a sad thing rather than a triumph, since Appa had been a friend. In the end the Guardians announce that they have returned for good, and intend to rebuild the Green Lantern Corps. They interestingly pin the beginning of their problems on Appa stepping down to walk the Earth with Hal and Ollie, saying that a madness has crept into all their actions, but that it is past, and that they intend to guide the cosmos "with reason and humility". Not that events will go that way at all...

Great story that cleans up some loose ends from the previous GL series and works towards reestablishing the old status quo of the Guardians and the Corps, destroyed during and shortly after the Crisis. It's one of my favorites, with great art, big stakes and plenty of good cliffhangers and ideas, and I enjoy this early attempt to create a Green Lantern series with multiple lead characters. Hal and Guy both grow quite a bit in these eight issues, but John Stewart's turn will come down the road. I've read this story quite a bit more than the rest of the series since I have this one in trade paperback, while the rest of the series hasn't been collected in trade format as far as I know.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Time to wrap up Golden Age Batman volume 8.

Batman #75
February-March 1953

Outlaw Town, USA!
Script: David Vern Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

This set-up can't last forever! Sooner or later, the law'll move in - maybe even the army!
But if we hold Batman hostage, nobody'll dare move in for fear of his life! We'll be able to live like kings for the rest of our lives!


"Outlaw Town" is the western town of Silver Vein, a formerly abandoned ghost town that has been completely taken over and run by criminals and turned into a sanctuary for wanted men, thanks to a state law that let old mining towns like Silver Vein govern themselves. The crooks in charge figure it will be years before the law can be changed, so they're living it up in the meantime. When Batman and Robin pursue the fugitive Jenko brothers into Outlaw Town, they're all alone in a town where everyone is out to get them and the town is full of traps to hinder them. The boss wants Batman alive as a hostage to keep the police out of town.

Given that this is an old west town, a saloon fight, a stay in the local jail and a showdown at high noon are perhaps ineveitable. Batman and Robin triumph and ultimately get their man, with the promise that the whole town will ultimately be cleaned out by the national guard. I love the "Please refrain from using the napkins to clean your guns!" sign in the restaurant, and we get a rare overt reference to alcoholic beverages in these kids' comics as Batman and Robin douse the thugs with beer during a fight. "It's on the house, boys! All the beer you want!" The town has a dummy of Batman hanging from a noose that Batman puts to good use late in the story. There's no reluctant crime-fighting here, Batman and Robin enjoyed taking down the Jenko brothers and were ready to go back and get the rest if the army hadn't beat them to it.

Mr. Roulette's Greatest Gambit!

Script: David Vern Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Vicki Vale (of Vue magazine, possibly the first time we're told who she works for) receives two packages from "Mr. Roulette", who tells her in a note that he's a gambler, and he wants her to gamble as well. She picks a package and opens it to find $1000, while the other, opened after the fact, contains worthless money. Mr. Roulette wants the publicity, and picked Vicki for the big scoop. She goes to interview Roulette, who hides his identity behind a hood. He lives for gambling. Life is tedious and dull for him, but gambling provides a spark of excitement, but he doesn't bet on money. He gambles with his life by filling his house with death traps. Batman and Robin enter the story when they show up to act as bodyguards for Vicki.

So Vicki sees that the story is published, while Batman and Robin state the obvious: that Roulette is sick and needs help, and they determine to learn who he is. Roulette won't have them spoiling his fun and he captures them and locks them in his basement, but they are able to escape. When Mr. Roulette apparently falls victim to one of his own traps and is unmasked, Robin recognizes him as a notorious gambler. But Batman has paid attention and knows that the dead gambler is not Mr. Roulette. The whole thing was a setup to commit the "perfect murder" by one crook against another so he could take all the profits from an oil well they invested in. He figured Roulette's death would be accepted due to the story they set up and had published about a bored gambler risking his life, but Batman is too observant a detective to be fooled by the scheme.

So the scenario presented of a masked gambler bored with life is perfectly plausible in Batman's world, but once Batman starts noticing fine details that don't quite line up, it's apparent that a twist ending of some sort is going to happen, and it's just a case of waiting to see what it is, since all the information isn't presented to the reader over the course of the story. But the story works, regardless, and I enjoyed it. Even the way the villain leaves Batman and Robin alive makes sense, because the goal is to trick them into accepting that Mr. Roulette is dead so that everyone else will believe it too.

The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City!
Script: John Broome Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

George "Boss" Dyke is going to the gas chamber, but he's not concerned, certain that he'll escape his fate. Batman and Robin close the case, but in a secret lab in Gotham City a mad scientist saves his brain and transplants it into a giant gorilla's body. The operation is a success, but Dyke is not done. He wants his brain transplanted into Batman's body after he's finished his crime spree. This is a mad science and body-swapping story, a far cry from the usual urban crime stories that are the bread and butter of this series. So it's Batman and Robin versus a giant gorilla with a human brain. Only in comics....

After a number of run-ins with the beast, during which it demonstrates human intelligence of course, Batman is captured and the mad scientist gets ready to swap brains yet again. The ape wakes up early and heads out into the city and of course we get a King Kong homage with the gorilla on top of a skyscraper and airplanes all around. Turns out that Batman woke up in time to hear the fate planned for him and switched places with the mad scientist, disguising him as Batman. When Dyke awoke, still in the gorilla body, he figured he had been double-crossed and ran out in a rage, allowing the gorilla to be killed and allowing Batman to escape and lead the police to round up the gang. This was a strange story, and a rare venture into the "horror" genre for Batman in this era. It feels very 1950s sci-fi to me, which of course it is. It's a strange note on which to end volume 8, but it's the final story of the book.

We're at 8 volumes and 486 Batman stories done and dusted. I've enjoyed the vast majority of them, and I'm ready to dive into volume 9. A Batman Silver Age volume 1 has been solicited, and given where it begins, there should be a Golden Age volume 10 to fill the gap between the end of volume 9 and the beginning of Silver Age volume 1. I'm still looking for crazy aliens and the other staples of 1950s Batman that I've heard about, but we're not quite there yet.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Green Lantern #9-12
February-May 1991

A Guy and his G'Nort
Script: Gerard Jones Pencils:Joe Staton Inks: Bruce Patterson, Pablo Marcos

Guy Gardner finally gets what he wants and is made the Green Lantern of second 2814. Hal is sent to recruit new members for the Corps, and John is put in charge of the Mosaic world on Oa until the Guardians can send all the cities back. Guy is delighted and goes back to Earth to play hero and figure out what to do with his new status. Everything is going great (from Guy's point of view) until G'Nort shows up. When Guy decides to ask the Guardians about him, they've never seen G'Nort before and deny ever giving him a power ring....

Without going into all the plot mechanics, this story tells us who G'Nort is and why he has a Green Lantern ring. He doesn't, he has a fake ring and so do about a dozen others, and it's all part of a Qwardian plot to smear the reputation of the Green Lantern Corps and the Guardians in case they ever came back. So stupid, selfish and thoughtless aliens were given the fake rings to abuse and enjoy as much as they liked. One of the interesting ideas in this story is the Qwardian "cult of the red man" where some of them worship Sinestro, refuse to believe that he's dead, and fully expect him to return one day. In the end Guy is able to shut down the cult and the fake Green Lanterns, in part because G'Nort actually acts heroic and helps destroy the source of power for the fake rings, because he's trying to protect Guy. Guy promises to put in a good word for G'Nort with the Guardians, a promise he quickly comes to regret.

Joe Staton's art is pretty good here, and Guy is actually tolerable and likeable in what may be his first story as a lead character. G'Nort is essentially a joke character created for the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League era, and what is established about him here doesn't entirely line up with what we're told about him in that series, at least from what I remember. But I haven't read those JLI issues in forever, so I can't say that for certain. After a heavy, GL-mythology filled opening storyline, this light and at times silly storyline is just what was needed. A lot of how well it works depends on your tolerance for bowl-cut Guy Gardner and for G'Nort, but it's not bad.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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On to the Golden Age Batman omnibus volume 9!!

Detective Comics #192
February 1953

The Phantom Eye of Gotham City

Sure, I know I'm not Batman, and you know it! But does anyone else know it? Sir, Mr. Ex-Batman, I'm replacing you. And if you'd like to expose me, go ahead! Just try to prove that you're really Batman. Ha, ha!

Just a note on the cover: I enjoy that depiction of Robin doing chemical analysis and the fact that Batman apparently has a giant flat-screen tv in the Batcave (black and white of course, this is 1953!). The Batman and Robin of this era are serious about their work, they are scientists and engineers as much as they are pugilists. They put in the work needed to catch the criminals. I do have to question where the breeze that's whipping their capes around is coming from though.

And then there's the splash page with Bruce about to remove his costume in the middle of a crowded street?!? I realize it's symbolic rather than literal as these splash panels often are, meant to encapsulate the story quickly to give the reader an idea of what's coming, but this was taking things a bit too far.

A seemingly robotic creature, calling himself "the Phantom Eye", breaks in on Gotham City tv broadcasts to show crimes in progress, and captures the attention of the entire city. The Phantom Eye challenges both the police and Batman on the lawless streets in Gotham. During one of these "crimes in progress" broadcasts, which Bruce Wayne happens to be watching, Batman appears and is unmasked, live on camera. It's the big game hunter, Byron King. Everyone's seen his face, live on television, and Gordon offers police protection to King. When Batman confronts King secretly, King challenges Batman to prove that he's the real deal. Batman can't figure King's angle out, because he's always been "a pillar of Gotham society".

I won't go through all the plot mechanics, but the game of wits between Batman and King makes a great story, one which I really enjoyed. The scene from the cover appears in the story as the Phantom Eye does indeed broadcast from the Batcave, but that seemingly clever move (achieved by putting a small camera on the Batmobile) is his undoing when Batman, as he so often does, notices a small detail that leads him to the truth. The twist involving King and why he's pretending to be Batman is one that I'll leave to readers rather than spoiling, but it's a good one. And it's yet another small detail that Batman the "walking encyclopedia" picks up on that leads him to suspect that King the big game hunter is not who he appears to be....

I'm being vague so as not to spoil a decades old story, I know, but it really is a satisfying end to the mystery, and a great story to open volume 9. I love the brazen nature of the crooks' scheme and Batman's patience in solving the mystery and exposing the crooks behind it all.

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Post by andersonh1 »

I was browsing through the dollar boxes at my comic book shop and bought a few Kyle Rayner Green Lantern issues. I'd like to read more of his time as GL because I've read very little of it. But I have to say, while Darryl Banks' art is very good, the book very much feels as if it's lacking something without the Corps in the background. I like Kyle fine as a lead character, but a lot of what makes the character and concept of GL unique is lacking when he's just another superhero on Earth interacting with supervillains. The issues aren't bad, they're just unremarkable.

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