Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Ursus mellifera wrote:
Thu Jan 28, 2021 6:28 am
andersonh1 wrote:
Thu Jan 28, 2021 6:25 am
I love how Sinestro tries to win the "most evil" contest against the Qwardians in an early appearance in the 60s. He makes no pretense at being anything but a bad, bad person in the early days. :lol:
But... did he win?!
He was one point ahead of the 2nd place guy with his scheme to kill Green Lantern, but since his scheme failed, one can only assume that the final score was reduced accordingly. Sorry, Sinestro, Gypo-Bax is the most evil citizen of Qward. Better luck next year. :lol:

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #181
March 1952

The Crimes of the Human Magnet!
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Jim Mooney Inks: Charles Paris

Human magnet defies Batman! Strange new criminal with fantastic electromagnetic powers declares himself master of Gotham City!

Batman and Robin take on a super-powered opponent. Cool. He's sort of a bargain basement Magneto when it comes to his powerset. David Wist is a skilled watch repairman who tried and failed to get into a criminal gang as a safecracker but was refused. He engages in burglary on the side, and while running from Batman and Robin (who Gordon oddly called in for a small time breaking and entering case) enters the Ultra-Nuclear Fission Lab and apparently electrocutes himself on power lines. But this does not kill him, it gives him magnetic powers. We haven't seen a lot of villains like this in Batman so far, so there's a novelty here in a good old fashioned "accident that should kill someone leaves them super powered instead" type of opponent.

Wist creates a costume and uses his newfound powers to increase his criminal activities. Bullets can't get near him, and he can repel any metal, including that in Batman's utility belt. He is ultimately defeated because both his hands have opposite charges, and if they're brought together they stick. Batman tracks the Human Magnet to a greenhouse, releases mosquitoes into it, and though Wist knows he can't put his hands together, he instinctively claps them while swatting at mosquitoes and ends up with them stuck. That's a pretty gruesom predicament, honestly, so I hope they were able to free his hands while he was in prison.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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World's Finest Comics #57
March-April 1952

Public Enemy Bruce Wayne!
Writer: David Verr Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Stan Kaye

Next in the series of temporary careers for Bruce Wayne (sort of) is "Leader of the Underworld!" Okay, this is a misunderstanding rather than a genuine job for Bruce, like being a detective, a riverter or the mayor were, but it's still a focus on Bruce rather than his alter ego.

Batman invites a camera crew into the Batcave (!) so he can broadcast the names of the big gangsters in Gotham City and the Kingpin of crime. No, not that Kingpin. This crime boss wears an orange suit and a gas mask (early Sandman?) to hide his identity even from his lieutenants. A series of circumstances lead Bruce's society friends to suspect that he might be the Kingpin. It seemed odd to me that rather than have Batman solve the case and then reveal the true identity to us, the story actually tells us on page 8 that the Kingpin is Spotswood Hartley, one of Bruce's society friends, who is framing Bruce. Bruce, naturally, plays along even when he doesn't know who is setting him up, because he hopes to lure the real culprit out into the open. The plan works, the Kingpin is captured, and Bruce's reputation is restored.

Vicki Vale gets a cameo appearance in the story, We haven't seen much of her lately. We get a reminder that Bruce and Gordon are friends, something else we don't hear too often. Once again it's nice to see Bruce get some page time and not just Batman.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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I've been too busy reading Transformers to keep up with my Superman read-through, but variety is always a good thing.

Action Comics #43
December 1941

The Crashing Planes
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: Ed Dobrotka

Skyways Airlines planes are crashing, and due to his "bungling" his last assignment, editor White gives the story to Lois. She's sent to interview Avery Thornton, manager of Skyways and has to fly to get to where he is, well out of the action. This works out well for Clark, who follows the plane as Superman and not only stops it from crashing, but gets it safely back into the air. When Lois goes to see Thornton, Superman finds that he's been murdered and he gets Lois away before she can be blamed. And of course he has to show up as Clark, who gets a great scene blocking bullets fired from an airplane, unknown to Lois. His suit appears to be undamaged by the gunfire, which the story neither notes, nor offers an explanation for.

The culprit turns out to be Dutch O'Leary, an ex-Skyways employee with a grudge against the company for being fired for recklessness. So this is all strictly a revenge plot by an ex-pilot turned gangster.

Action Comics #44
January 1942

The Caveman Criminal
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: Ed Dobrotka

Her ability to get into mischief is absolutely amazing - Superman comments on Lois Lane

A caveman has been found frozen in an Alaskan glacier, and Professor Steffens and Dr. Kemper plan to bring him back to life. The experiment is successful and though the crowd is terrified of this "dawn man", he's quite docile and friendly to Lois, to the point of following her like a puppy. Clark and Lois return him to the museum, but soon a series of crimes committed by the dawn man begin to make the newspapers. His enormous brute strength enables him to assist Steffens in various robberies.

Now if you're asking why a caveman would want money and jewelry, you're not alone. Turns out that the real dawn man has been locked up and a fake one has been committing the crimes, so that the real version would be blamed. But when Lois is in danger, the dawn man comes to her aid, only to be shot and killed by the crooks. Superman saves Lois and rounds up the crooks fairly easily.

I got a "beauty and the beast" vibe from this story, at least during the parts where the dawn man is clearly attached to Lois and steps up to defend her from harm. Once again, the only thing keeping Superman at bay is lack of knowledge. Like so many of these stories, the villains are physically no match for Superman, and it only requires him to get to the bottom of the mystery to put an end to their schemes with ease. More and more I appreciate when he has a physical opponent that gives him a real challenge, which is often the case in more modern stories. At least a revived caveman is more colorful and interesting a concept than crashing airplanes for revenge, as in the previous story.

100th Superman story.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #70
April-May 1952

The Robot Cop of Gotham City!
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

The Machine Age catches up with Batman! So proclaims the opening narration as inventor Mr. Weir creates a robot that can pass for a human, and gives him to the Gotham Police Department. Gordon is willing to experiment, and he has Batman put the robot through a series of tests, which he does very well on, and he's put to work. But Bruce, who is apparently now able to understand the robot's programming, thinks that Weir has missed something. Weir is controlling the robot remotely, and starts to show a little too much pride in his creation. Gordon actually assigns Batman a desk job in research and a secretary, assuming that with the robot, Batman is no longer needed. Gordon, you ingrate.

Now of course, it's obvious that the robot won't ultimately replace Batman, no matter how successful he is at fighting crime and taking any punishment the crooks try to dish out. I had assumed that Weir's pride in his machine would be its downfall, but it's not that at all. When the robot stops functioning near a health exam van, Batman figures out that x-rays interfere with it and render it non-functional. Gordon decides that makes the robot too vulnerable and mothballs the project, saying no machine can replace Batman. If I were Batman, at this point I'd tell Gordon to pound sand and let him try to fight crime for a few months on his own, just to put an end to any future thoughts of replacement! Seriously, it's a fun story, and yet another step into sci-fi for 1950s Batman.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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So Mary Jane Watson's first appearance is early in ASM volume 2 (the apparently well-known "face it tiger, you just hit the jackpot" scene) after the first volume spent issue after issue teasing her appearance but never letting us see her face, with Peter just sure she'd be unattractive and boring. I did not expect her to talk like a beatnik, daddy-o. She and Snapper Carr from JLA speak the same language! :lol:

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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The Masterminds of Crime!
Script: David Vern Pencils: Curt Swan Inks: Charles Paris

Batman and Robin start to encounter more agile, more athletic criminals and quickly come to suspect a criminal organization is training these men to be more capable than the average crook. Batman is correct, there is an underworld academy that attempts to be the opposite of the FBI and train crooks to "scientifically and intelligently" commit their crimes. Bruce infiltrates the group in disguise in order to get the goods on them, and ultimately ends up competing for a spot in the rotating leadership of the organization, only to be beaten at every athletic and intelligence test by Walls. It turns out that Walls cheated, but Bruce can't prove it. It's lucky for him, because when the crooks figure out that Batman is among them, they decide that it must be Walls, because who else could be so physically and mentally accomplished? The diguised Bruce wins leadership, and is able to call the police in to round everyone up.

Curt Swan, well known later as a long-time Superman artist, draws this story and does a great job of it. However this isn't the first story we've seen where crooks try to organize and refine their methods, and it's not the first time we've seen Bruce infiltrate such an organization. But there are enough variations on how the plot plays out, in particular Bruce losing the "Batman competition" and his reaction to that to keep this from feeling like a complete retread. There's still some mileage in a Batman vs. organized crime plotline.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #70 concluded.

The Parasols of Plunder!
Script: ? Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

Why in the world would the parole board possibly let the Penguin out, after he's gone back to crime every single time they've done this before? But he's been a "model prisoner" so he's released, and the warden advises him to get rid of his birds since they tempt him into crime. The Penguin actually does so. Now we've seen these "the Penguin goes straight" stories before, and most of the time he's not sincere about it. So when he acquires an umbrella manufacturing facility, Batman is on alert for some scheme. The Penguin's scheme seems to be to get Batman to endorse his business, though of course Batman refuses (I was amused that the Penguin was so indignant about the refusal even for "your old enemy who has known you for years!") And the Penguin does trick Batman into endorsing his umbrellas, sort of.

Notwithstanding that the Penguin did genuinely go straight in one story (temporarily), the odds were always that this was a scheme, and it turns out to be a plan to rob everyone who bought one of his umbrellas. Batman does not capture the Penguin in Gotham City, but by tracing his freight shipments is able to capture him at a Caribbean resort. It's birds that are his downfall as Batman dumps a load of fish on to his escape boat, attracting so many seagulls that the boat is about to be swamped. Even the Penguin admits, as he heads back to prison, that birds and umbrellas are the bane of his life.

I thought this was a fun story of the "will the Penguin really go straight?" variety. Odds always are that he won't, but then he actually did back in "Penguin on Parole" from Batman #38, only to return to a life of crime due to his ego, so it's always possible that it could happen again. The story breaks from the usual "themed crime" formula, so I enjoyed seeing the Penguin again.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #182
April 1952

The Human Puppets
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwartz Inks: Charles Paris

The story's villain calls himself the Puppet Master. We had a villain that used that name before, back in Batman #3, Fall 1940, but this is a different man using the same name, though his gang usually call in "the Maestro". He does not hypnotically control people, so his m.o. is different from the original. He uses his puppets to model and plan out his gang's crimes down to the last detail. He has puppets of Batman and Robin and insists that he knows who Batman is, and will unmask the puppet and reveal his identity at the proper time.

Batman and Robin notice how well-planned recent crimes are and are on the trail of the unknown mastermind. They come close to capturing him a few times, slowly whittling away at his gang and his equipment. We get some old fashioned Bill Finger fight scenes, where Batman and Robin pun their way through the fight, something we don't see as much of these days. But the Puppet Master reverses the situation and captures Batman and Robin, stringing them up like puppets and prepares to unmask them. Batman is able to use some of the Puppet Master's "plastic wood" molding material to make a tiny version of the Puppet Master's face, put it on the Batman puppet, and then while the crowd of cons who have gathered to see the unmasking are angrily going after "the Maestro", Batman captures him instead and... then what? There's no scene showing them having the crooks rounded up or Batman contacting the police. There is a line of dialogue telling the reader that "the evil maestro and his crew are in prison", but that's it. The story just kind of ends with Batman discussing how the face on the puppet Batman isn't really his, just close enough that it would have fooled the audience, so his secret ID is safe.

Though this story works well enough, there is a lot of repetition of ideas here: a reused villain name (though who was likely to remember an obscure villain from 12 years earlier?), a criminal mastermind who plans down to the last detail, a threat to Batman's secret identity... it's all familiar at this point, but the remixed plot elements work well enough that I did enjoy the story.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1 wrote:
Wed Mar 24, 2021 6:23 am
Batman captures him instead and... then what? There's no scene showing them having the crooks rounded up or Batman contacting the police. There is a line of dialogue telling the reader that "the evil maestro and his crew are in prison", but that's it. The story just kind of ends with Batman discussing how the face on the puppet Batman isn't really his, just close enough that it would have fooled the audience, so his secret ID is safe.
Why did they do that? Did they run out of pages? You can't just do us dirty like that, DC.
Check it out, a honey bear! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinkajou

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