Retro Comics are Awesome

A general discussion forum, plus hauls and silly games.
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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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There is a third of a page missing where presumably an ad would have gone (the omnibuses don't reprint the ads), so they did lose space for two panels. Maybe that's where the capture of the crooks would have gone. But yeah, it's an odd ending, with Batman and Robin swinging down from the catwalk over the stage to grab the Puppet Master, facing down a room full of cons, maybe 30-40 people. In the next panel, they're back in the Batcave. How exactly did they capture all of them? We'll never know.

Found a scan of the page:
Image

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1 wrote:
Thu Mar 25, 2021 11:54 am
How exactly did they capture all of them? We'll never know.
Cool ending with the Puppet Master guessing at Batman's identity, and I guess Batman and Robin swung away with the Puppet Master and then called the GCPD?

Maybe it's a meta-joke from "Detective" Comics. "Now you, the reader, get to figure out how the fuck this all wrapped up!"
Check it out, a honey bear! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkajou

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Detective Comics #183
May 1952

Famous Name Crimes!
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Gotham City has a lot of odd clubs. This story is built around the "Namesake Club" where people have to have the same last name as a famous historical figure. The club boasts a Mr. Bonaparte, Lincoln, Cook, Hamilton, Drake, etc. A man with the last name of Hood is turned down for membership because "Robin Hood" was not that man's actual name, and of course Hood is angry at being refused. So when members start dying in the same way their historical namesakes died, Hood is the immediate suspect. Batman and Robin are called in, and Bruce disguises himself to join the club under the name "Warwick". There is a great inside joke here as Robin asks him why he didn't just join as himself, since Bruce Wayne's namesake was Mad Anthony Wayne, the Revolutionary War general, which I have read is actually where the character got his last name. Nice.

Hood has hidden in a remote cabin, afraid he'll be blamed for the killings, but Batman has figured out that he can't be the killer. The culprit turns out to be Cook, the vice chairman of the club, hoping to profit by managing the massive amounts of money that the dead men had left to the club. The final panel notes that "weeks later" Cook paid the penalty for his crimes, and all I have to say is that the trial and punishment is very swift in Gotham City!

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World's Finest Comics #58
May-June 1952

The Murder of Bruce Wayne!
Writer: David Verr Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Bruce attends a board of trustees meeting of the International Chemical Company, where board member Roger Keep has decided that the other board members are all against him. During an inspection of the plant, Keep is injured in an accident and loses the use of his legs. When Keep is kidnapped from the hospital, Batman and Robin investigate. Keep has snapped and lost his mind and wants revenge on the rest of the board, who he blames for his condition, including Bruce Wayne. He had his bodyguard state a fake kidnapping, and from hiding sets out to carry out his plan for revenge.

Keep wants to personally witness each murder, but since he can't move, he watches via remote cameras, and he warns his victims in advance that they're going to die. He gets two of the board members with Batman unable to prevent it, leading "what have you done for me lately" Gordon to gripe about how Batman has "failed him miserably", removing him from his assignment when three of the four board members are murdered. Batman has, however, figured out exactly how Bruce Wayne is going to be killed and is able to track and capture Keep, after which he reveals that none of the other board members were actually killed. Batman had faked the killings so Keep would continue trying to kill the other men, giving Batman more time and more clues to find him, and he left Gordon out of the loop because the less people that knew about his plan, the more likely it was to remain secret.

This isn't the first time we've seen Batman willing to look like a failure while secretly working his own plan. Gordon really should know better though. I'll admit, the story had me fooled into thinking that Keep really had killed all of those men, so much so that it almost feels like a cheat to reveal that they're still alive. But it does feel like the type of plan that Batman would carry out successfully.

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Superman #14
January-February 1942

This issue of Superman has that well-known cover with Superman standing with an eagle perched on his arm and a stars and stripes shield behind him. We've had Superman marching arm in arm with servicemen and Superman punching a Nazi gunboat to save a boat of civilians as examples of patriotic covers, but this is the most blatant "Superman is American!" image we've seen. I'm not quite sure when "truth, justice and the American way" became associated with the character. Possibly it was during the radio show, but the idea is definitely here on this cover.

Concerts of Doom
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Leo Nowak

Lois offers to cover a piano concert by Rudolph Krazinski when Clark objects to going. Later she finds that her pay envelope is missing from her purse, and Sgt. Casey tells Lois that many others who went to the concert are complaining of being robbed. Lois decides to go back to investigate and Clark tags along. Everyone in the theater except for Clark falls asleep, so he pretends to sleep as well. It becomes clear that Krazinski has hypnotized the audience so his men can rob them while they sleep. A vengeance minded thug takes Casey and plans to kill him, against Krazinski's orders, but Superman saves Casey from being shot.

Krazinski's ultimate plan is to hypnotize the entire city via a radio broadcast, leaving his thugs to rob everywhere, which keeps Superman busy stopping them. He follows the radio waves (because of course he can see or hear them, the story doesn't say which) and confronts Krazinski. The pianist tries to hypnotize him and briefly succeeds, but Superman breaks free and smashes the device that's been hypnotizing everyone. Rather than be captured, Krazinski plays "the death tune" and commits suicide. He's a minor opponent for someone of Superman's power levels, but more interesting than the standard crime boss or crooked politician, and it's always fun to watch Superman able to operate because he's immune to something that affects everyone else around him.

The Invention Thief

Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Leo Nowak

Superman goes into action to save lives during a tenement fire, along with the fire department, but a third man, Chet Farns, is busy putting out the flames with a powder that he's been working on for a few years. Clark talks to a friend of his who might be interested in this new invention, but Chet has already sold his discovery to promoter Jim Baldwin. Clark knows that Baldwin has a bad reputation and checks in on Chet, and finds that he's being roughed up by thugs. It's no surprise that Baldwin is cheating Chet out of his rightful earnings by sending the thugs to kill him. Superman gets a confession from the thugs and then puts a stop to Baldwin's plans. It's not a bad story, if more mundane than the previous one, but it's always good to see Superman sticking up for the little guy. Swindling Chet out of his discovery is small potatoes for Superman, but he's still got time for that type of injustice.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Superman #14 concluded.

The Undersea City
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: John Sikela

So they're starting to more regularly include overt sci-fi and fantasy in the Superman series at this point. We've had social justice stories, mad scientists, a couple of super-villains (the Ultra Humanite and Luthor), spies, a few plagues, and an assortment of other villains, but this story joins "City Beneath the Earth" in creating another race and another civilization on Earth for Superman to encounter. The type of genre that the character is plugged into continues to expand. And to top that, Lori Lemaris is not the first mermaid Superman encounters. That distinction belongs to Princess Kuella, a mermaid that Superman saves from a superstitious fisherman.

Superman's "advanced intellect" allows himi to instantly understand her language. She's come to warn of a plan to invade the land by her father the king's adviser Akthar. Because she's come to the surface, the law says she has to die, but Superman's not about to sit by and watch that happen. He finds a city deep beneath the ocean and rescues Kuella from a giant octopus in "the pit of horror". Akthar insists that Superman has to pass a series of tests to be set free (as if any of them could stop him if he wanted to leave) and he passes with ease. But Akthar temporarily freezes Superman in place with a "strange spell" and carries out his invasion. The flooded streets of Metropolis and the undersea armies remind me of Namor invading New York early in the Lee/Kirby Fantastic Four, or the Throne of Atlantis storyline in New 52 Aquaman. Superman shakes off the spell, single-handedly stops the invasion, but Akthar wants revenge and destroys the undersea city by exploding his ship and causing a volcanic eruption that kills everyone.

I like this story a lot. It's a nice change from gangsters and social justice, as much as I've enjoyed those plotlines, and the series clearly benefits from this wider range of places that they're taking the character of Superman.

The Lightning Master
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Leo Nowak

Back to mad science used for extortion, as the "Lightning Master" has harnessed the power of lightning for use as a weapon. He destroys a building in Metropolis and then demands (a paltry) $300,000 ransom or he'll destroy the entire city of Metropolis. He intends to publish his demands via an interview with Clark Kent, but when Lois takes the call and goes to his location herself, he's just as happy to tell her. But when she rips off his mask, he decides he has to kill her. I thought he was Luthor, he looks just like him beneath his green hood. But no, it's someone else entirely, whose name we never learn. Long story short, the city refuses to pay, and when the Lightning Master tries to destroy the city, Superman ultimately tracks him to his lair and destroys his machinery, with the Lightning Master dying due to an electric charge.

Three out of four of the stories in this issue of Superman are larger than life threats, which honestly suit Superman better than the standard "work his way up through the criminal hierarchy" plots we often used to get. I like those, but the series had to grow and change to keep from getting stale, and I think the creators were doing a good job of that.

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Action Comics #45
February 1942

Superman's Ark
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: Ed Dobrotka

Metropolis is supposed to be a modern, progressive city. If you ask me, no city is complete without an adequate zoo!

Superman saves the Metropolis Zoo, and takes out a crazy big game hunter in the process. When Clark and Lois visit the zoo and find it deserted, the keeper says there's not much to see and the city council won't purchase any new animals. Superman borrows an old Noah's Ark from an exhibit and takes it to Africa to collect some new animals for the zoo. While there he encounters Count Von Henzel, big game hunter, who is keeping a woman and her brother prisoner. Von Henzel tries to kill Superman, both directly and indirectly, but of course fails. Von Henzel dies when he trips into his refrigeration unit (it looks like a fall kills him, but it's hard to say) and Superman rescues the brother and sister, as well as collecting specimens for the Metropolis Zoo. He doesn't fly across the ocean, he leaps with the Ark to the ocean, then swims and pushes it, interestingly. Superman also reads an issue of Action Comics in one panel, which is always fun. Grant Morrison would enjoy that.

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Back to Batman vol. 8. Volume 9 should be out in June, and should be the final Golden Age volume. DC seems to be using the start of the comics code as the dividing line between Golden and Silver Age Batman.

Batman #71
June-July 1952

The Jail for Heroes!
Script: John Broome Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Stan Kaye

At a prison in a marsh outside of Gotham City, the prisoners include Batman and Robin. Turns out this is a prison run by convicts under their leader, Scar Brinks, who gloats that all the lawmen who tried to get him into prison are now behind bars instead. He uses the threat of unmasking Batman and Robin to keep the other lawmen in line, along with armed guards of course.

Now immediately I have to wonder just how this prison was built, and how it has not been found, and how long it's going to be before the Gotham police or the FBI get busy searching for all of these missing lawmen. Batman notes that "nobody ever comes into the marsh" surrounding the prison, but that's a mighty weak excuse. So it's hard to buy into this scenario, even if we accept that it's only been going on for a short time.

Batman organizes a mass jailbreak, but when detective Joe Pearson breaks and goes over the wall alone instead of waiting, Scar is ready to unmask Batman. Pearson thinks better of it and gives himself up to protect Batman's secret, so Scar doesn't unmask Batman, but he plans to kill Pearson in the gas chamber. Batman picks a fight with Scar and is soundly beaten, which ought to clue the reader in real quick that Batman is up to something. The explanation is that he took a dive, and knocked out Scar while in a dark corner, switching places with him. How he could possibly do this with everyone watching the fight is hard to imagine. Disguised as Scar, he frees the prisoners who are able to capture all the cons.

This is the first time I've seen John Broome's name on a Batman story. I'm more familiar with him from 1960s Green Lantern, He's not so good here, in this story that has a fun concept (a prison where the roles are reversed between crooks and police), but he just can't make it work. There's no way so many people could vanish and remain hidden in such an obvious location without being found by law enforcement, and there's no way Batman would have the time or opportunity to switch places with Scar to resolve the situation. I know Batman does a lot of unbelievable things, and any reader of these stories has to just play along, but having Batman duck into the shadows, switch clothes with Scar and make himself up to look like him, in the middle of a fight that the whole prison is watching, is just impossible to believe.

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Commissioner Gordon's Greatest Case!
Script: David Vern Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

I love the splash page for this story, featuring Commissioner Gordon shining a flashlight on a tiny Batman and Robin standing atop a file labeled "the case of Batman's identity." When an injured Batman and Robin report to Gordon after a fight with the Masked Mystic's gang and ask to use his private bath to treat their injuries, it occurs to Gordon that he could easily learn Batman's secret identity, because there is a hidden trick mirror that allows him to see what's going on in that room. But Gordon resists, despite feeling that he has the right to know, because he thinks he should do it the right way, by good detective work. We get some of Gordon's personal history as a detective and police chief and some of the cases he solved that others could not, which he's quite proud of. Convinced he can do figure it out, and that Batman is among his inner circle of friends, Gordon sets to work.

So the story is a series of incidents where Gordon essentially takes advantage of his friendship with Batman to try and uncover his identity. I do like that Gordon having Bruce Wayne as one of his suspects did not originate with Frank Miller and Year One, it happens here in this story. Batman soon figures out what's going on and it becomes a battle of wits between Batman and Gordon. In the end, Gordon gives in to temptation and sees Batman unmasked through the trick mirror, even confessing to an angry Batman. Gordon becomes so obsessed with knowing the secret that the Masked Mystic kidnaps him to force him to tell... but Batman, having figured out what Gordon was up to, let himself be seen while in disguise as another of Gordon's friends and target of the Masked Mystic, James Bartley. When Gordon has another chance to learn Batman's identity, having avoided disaster once he wisely decides that he's learned his lesson.

This is definitely an entertaining story, but where was this guy Gordon all through the 1940s? He's in the book, but he's barely there most of the time, and now we get more and more of his personal history and he's become probably the most important supporting character in the books as Alfred vanishes for months or years at a time. It's fun to watch Gordon act essentially as the villain of the story, with the Mystic there to drive the plot, but otherwise not much of a threat.

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Finishing Batman #71:

The Mask of Mr. Cipher!
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Rumors are circulating in Gotham that Batman is letting certain crooks get away if they pay him. So once again, Batman's reputation is suffering, but as usual he doesn't care. The story doesn't leave us wondering though, while it's true that Batman lets some go as we see on the opening page of the story, those are Gordon's undercover men, trying to catch Mr. Cipher. Cipher has his gang members, well-known and experienced criminals, undergo plastic surgery so their past criminal records can't be used against them. "New crooks for old" as Batman puts it.

Cipher learns that his gang has been infiltrated and he learns of the marked coins that identify the undercover police to Batman. He uses one of the coins to trap Batman. Batman won't talk of course, and Cipher uses the utility belt radio to try and lure Robin in as well, only for Batman to warn him in code that the undercover men are in danger. Robin acquits himself well in this story. He keeps his calm and warns Gordon that his men are in danger, and that he's going to walk into the trap so Gordon will be ready to act as backup. Robin picks up on an earlier clue as to Cipher's possible location when he arrives, and realizes that this must be the hideout, so he calls in the police before sneaking into the building to help Batman, who is already fighting his way out. Cipher is a fairly grotesque villain once he's unmasked, his face changed so often by plastic surgery that the muscles dont' work, giving him a saggy, melted facial appearance. Shot by the police, he refuses to reveal his name before he dies, and remains a cipher.

I'd say this story is a step above many others from this era. The Gotham police are competent and useful, Robin is excellent backup for Batman, and the villain is effective and dangerous. Too bad they killed him off. Batman not caring what the public thinks of him when he's pursuing a goal is a consistent character trait. This story honestly feels a little old-school for Batman at this point, like something we'd have seen in the early 40s. I like it.

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