Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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The Man Who Wrote the Joker's Jokes!
Writer: David Vern Pencils: Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane Inker: Charles Paris

You're in my power, Batman! Ho-ho! I could pull your mask off now - and end your reign - I could even kill you - but I won't - not now! No - if I did that, what fun would there be left for me? You're the only opponent worthy of me...

The Joker has not been able to dream up a good crime lately and fears he's going stale. He hits on the idea of hiring gag writers to plan his crimes. And not just any crime, he wants crimes that will make a fool out of Batman. So he hires the best and tries to pull of the crimes, which almost work. The first involves a giant potato sack on a float at the Gotham State Fair so that Batman will be left "holding the bag". It almost works, but the Joker's henchman with the money does not get away. The next joke is to make a jackass out of Batman, and when the Joker traps him and Robin in a burning building then tosses asbestos lined donkey costumes, they suit up and wear them in order to escape the flames. Even so, they manage to capture the guy with the loot once again.

The remaining gag writers quit, and the Joker decides that Batman will create his crimes. He captures Robin (and once again writes out "Ha Ha!" on the note to Batman) and gives Batman 24 hours to come up with a crime or Robin dies. Batman comes up with a robbery at the Gotham chewing gum co, where he is able to dump a vat of gum on the Joker and his goons to capture them. When they say they'll kill Robin once they get free, it turns out that Robin has escaped and brought the police, having secretly signaled Batman about his plan. This was more fun than the typical Joker story, and once again we see the idea that the Joker doesn't really want to know who Batman is, because he enjoys the contest too much.

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Wrapping up Batman #67:

The Lost Legion of Space

Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Dick Sprang Inker: Charles Paris

So long, 1951! 3051, here I come!


Robin is working alone in the Batcave when a strange globe materializes out of thin air, and out steps Batman. But it's not Bruce Wayne, it's a red headed Batman from the year 3051 whose own Robin, his nephew, broke his leg while fighting "Yerxa's band". So of course, what does future Batman do? Travel to the past and recruit the help of the original Robin, of course! Robin agrees and travels to the future, and somehow I just love the panel where he's on a future skyscraper, looking out across the landscape of roadways and strangely shaped buildings, exclaiming "Golly, the future!" Who wouldn't want to take in a view like that? I love this story, it's just pure fun time travel adventure where Robin gets to see the sights, go into space, and fight the bad guys as led by Yerxa, solar system bandit!

To stop Yerxa from stealing a supply of Vulcanite and making a deadly weapon, future Batman and 1951 Robin join the "Lost Legion", prisoners on Vulcan, a planet orbiting between Mercury and the Sun. There's a whole group of colorful villains working the mines, and rock eating "Gobblers" they pacify by feeding non-Vulcanite. Long story short: Batman and Robin find out how Yerxa is stealing and they send him back to Earth for trial, and Yerxa tries to get his revenge by revealing that Batman is Brane Taylor, a secret his telepathic henchman learned, only for Robin to save the day by retrieving Bruce Wayne from the past to impersonate future Batman.

My first assumption was that this was the return of Brane, the future Batman of the year 3000, from Batman #26 December 1944-January 1945. But this appears to be a different man, both from his appearance and the 50 year gap, even though his name is Brane Taylor. Bill Finger may have been working from memory and got some details wrong, or he may have deliberately created yet another future version of Batman. Either way, it's nice to see Dick Grayson get a turn as lead character for a story, and this is another fun sci-fi entry for 1950s Batman that I really enjoyed.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #176
October 1951

The Underworld Crime Committee!
Script: Bill Finger Art: Dick Sprang

Mr. Velvet is a crime boss with a nationwide organization, an "underworld empire". But his empire is being hit and dismantled a bit at a time by Batman, and Mr. Velvet decides that there must be an informant in his organization. He hold hearings to try and find the informant, but has no luck. He decides the one man who might find the culprit is of course Batman, and by capturing and holding Robin prisoner, Mr. Velvet is able to force Batman to act as chief investigator for the underworld. Batman's detective and observational skills are able to get results that Mr. Velvet could not, and he uncovers some police informants. Mr. Velvet promises that both he and Robin will go free at the end of the investigation, but of course it's a lie, because Batman knows too much.

As you might imagine, Batman is not only able to free Robin by figuring out where he's being held prisoner due to transmitter interference at Mr. Velvet's headquarters, but he uses what he learned during the investigation to help take down the entire criminal network and put Mr. Velvet behind bars. This is a good story for Batman's Sherlock Holmes-like powers of observation and deduction, but poor Robin does nothing but get to be a hostage, though he's defiant to the end as the crooks prepare to kill him via firing squad, only for Batman to stop it at the last second. And I can't help but think that a crook with the massive organization that Mr. Velvet heads up would be worth multiple issues worth of plot for modern comics, but in 1951 he's disposed of in 12 pages.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics #177
November 1951

The Robberies in the Bat-Cave!
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: Dick Sprang Inks: Charles Paris

Trophies are going missing from the Bat Cave, but there is no evidence of intruders. There's a lot of continuity in this story as we get mentions of past stories, and we see that in this pre-digital, pre-computer age, Batman keeps careful files on every piece of equipment and every trophy noting when it was brought to the cave, and when it leaves, such as a centrifuge that was taken to a police convention. Robin notes that the last time they used the centrifuge, they accused the wrong man of murder, a man named Monroe Peel who was an orchid grower, but Batman says that since the error was caught, there's no point in worrying about it.

Items continue to disappear, and Bruce worries that someone has learned who Batman and Robin really are. The alarms they set still detect no intruders. One clue is that every stolen item was used in a murder case. Robin remembers another accusation made in error, and though that man also went free, he wonders if they've sent innocent men to be executed, but Batman says the evidence was airtight in those cases. They try a few leads with no success. You've probably guessed the truth by now: the thief is none other than Robin himself, sleepwalking and taking items out of the Batcave, with Dick's fears that he and Bruce may have sent innocent men to the electric chair causing this behavior. That's pretty heavy stuff for Batman in this era, and while it's not quite clear how old Dick Grayson is meant to be at this point, he's still a young teen at best, fighting hardened criminals and murderers and sending them to death row. The idea that it would eat away at him is not unreasonable in the least, but it's not the type of topic the writers normally go anywhere near.

At any rate, Batman is able to work out that Monroe Peel was actually guilty, so they had not actually accused an innocent man in that case. He recovers the equipment after watching Robin sleepwalk out of the cave and discovering where he stashed it, and eventually explains, reassuring Dick that they had not sent innocent men to their death, so he's able to move past his fears. It's a pat ending for such heavy material, but all in all this was a pretty good story that actually examines what the psychological toll of this type of life might have on Dick Grayson. He's awfully young to be making such life and death decisions.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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World's Finest Comics #55
December 1951-January 1952

The Bird Sayings Crimes!

Writer: Bill Woolfolk Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwarz Inks: Stan Kaye

Dear Batman and Robin: Pictured below are complete plans for my next crimes. Try and stop me. The Penguin

It's the Penguin's birthday and all the other crooks send him cards, but rather than well-wishes they mock him and advise him to give up bird-themed crimes. Naturally the Penguin is angry and vows not just to continue said crimes, but to send his plans to Batman prior to carrying them out to prove he can't be stopped. I won't go through all the details of the crimes, but there are some leaps in logic by Batman that turn out to be correct and some narrow escapes by the Penguin, who does manage to capture Batman and Robin with his final clue. But leaving them alone in the deathtrap is a major but typical blunder by the Penguin. Batman and Robin escape and capture the Penguin, sending him back to jail.

Unlike the Joker stories where the writers have found a few new angles on the character, this is a typical Penguin runaround with themed crimes, a death trap, and very little new to offer that hasn't been seen before. And we don't even have Dick Sprang's definitive Penguin to liven things up visually.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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I can't help feeling this describes the entire Adam West series.

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Shockwave wrote:
Thu Dec 03, 2020 10:59 am
I can't help feeling this describes the entire Adam West series.
I thought the exact same thing! :lol:

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #68
December 1951-January 1952

The Atom Cave Raiders!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Dick Sprang Inker: Charles Paris

Just as WW2 influenced the tone and storytelling of many 1940s Batman stories, the Atomic Age seeps into these 1950s stories. Here we have a tale of the wealthy hiding their treasures in "atom caves", underground storage designed to survive an atomic bomb attack. Crime boss Longhorn Bell organizes a gang of specialists to rob these caves. Bell blackmails geologist Duane to help him locate the caves. They locate them, tunnel in, remove the goods and are out with no one the wiser until they discover the missing items. Once the robberies become public, it's only a matter of time until Batman and Robin are on the case.

But there's a twist. While searching for caves with their "electronic sounding equipment", Bell's gang discover a cave under Bruce Wayne's mansion. It does not match the standard atom shelter cave, leading the crooks to wonder if they've found the Bat-cave. Duane, now fully converted to Bell's cause with all the money he's making, misleads the police, but Bruce doesn't trust him. The crooks do in fact tunnel into the cave, but Bruce has disguised it as a wine cellar and makes it appear as though movie filming is going on (just him, Dick and Alfred make this work?), so once again Bruce has dodged a bullet and his secret is safe.

1950s Batman is so awesome that he traps the crooks and flushes them out of hiding in cooperation with the army by faking an atomic bomb explosion in the desert near their cave and then pretending that he and Robin are dying of radiation. When the crooks run for it, they're rounded up and arrested. It's a solid story made more memorable by the inclusion of the atomic bomb fears of the day. I have to admit, I thought Duane would turn on the crooks at some point, but he does the opposite, so it was nice to be surprised by that character twist.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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The Secret Life of Batman's Butler!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwarz Inker: Charles Paris

Alfred's been fired! Bruce gives him an extra month's salary but no explanation, and poor Alfred is heartbroken, because Bruce and Dick are like family to him. He's a little bitter, understandably so, and the story reviews some of the cases in which he's been involved, and includes a new story where he invented a tiny version of the Batplane, the sky sled, and proves that it works. He needs someone to vent to, and so he calls his new friend Willis. If you're guessing that the reason he was fired has something to do with Willis, you're absolutely right. Willis, as it transpires, had worked out that Bruce Wayne was probably Batman, and went out of his way to ingratiate himself with Alfred in the hopes of learning the truth. Since he hooked Alfred up to a lie detector, Bruce (who had seen Willis meet Alfred and recognized him as a crook from Chicago) fired Alfred strictly so Alfred could truthfully say he wasn't Batman's butler and fool the lie-detector machine. I have to say, it's pretty cold of Bruce to cause Alfred so much pain so that he could protect his secret identity, but that's what this all boils down to. Alfred being the loyal guy he is, is just happy to be back where he belongs.

Apart from Bruce being a jerk, I had expected to see more of Alfred's past and current life, as we saw with Gordon in his similarly titled story. But no, it's pretty much just Alfred, the crime fighting butler, so we learn very little that's new about Alfred in this story.

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The New Crimes of Two-Face!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Bob Kane, Lew Sayre Schwarz Inker: Charles Paris

As I've noted before, Bill Finger really seems to have wanted to bring Two-Face back without undoing Harvey Dent's happy ending. The solution in this story is to have actor Paul Sloane, playing Harvey Dent in "True Crime Television Playhouse", scarred with acid by a jealous prop-man whose girl left him for Sloane. Sloane's mind snaps and he begins acting out the part of Two-Face in real life. Sloane becomes obsessed with the number two and goes on crime spree after crime spree. At one point he captures Batman and Robin, but the coin toss to decide their fate frees them since Two-Face won't go against his coin.

Batman calls in Harvey Dent to help, but his televised appeal to Sloane does no good. In the end, Batman allows himself to be captured and then tricks Sloane into agreeing to undergo plastic surgery if the coin lands on its edge, and of course Batman has slipped a rigged coin into his pocket in place of his real one, guaranteeing to get the result he wants.

It's good to see Two-Face again, even if he's not the genuine article, and the cameo appearance by Harvey Dent is appreciated. There aren't many new ideas here, it's just a chance to revisit a classic villain, and even to some extent the classic ending of the very first Two-Face story back in Detective Comics #66, August 1942, only there the coin landed on its edge due to rolling into a crack in the floor. In a way, Two-Face, in one form or another, has become only the fourth Batman villain at this point to break the 2/3/4 appearances pattern (Joker, Penguin and Catwoman being the first three) for what is now his fifth appearance. There is the original trio of stories, then a return in Batman #50 (with someone impersonating Two-Face while trying to make Dent think he'd relapsed) and now this story. And there's another one in this volume, I believe, which we'll get to down the road. If this had been a formula Joker or Penguin story, I wouldn't have much to say, but Two-Face has appeared rarely enough that it's still a novelty to see him again.

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