This afternoon’s post concerns another DC 100-page comic that I bought in Strathaven in the 1970s. If I had to rank these Bronze Age bargains, this issue is definitely in my top five Super-Specs and probably in the top three. The artwork is fantastic virtually throughout.
The Crimes of Two-Face: This is a hugely atmospheric slow-burner, beginning with a fantastically spooky splash page. It’s also reprinted here only a couple of years after Neal Adams’ famous revival of Two-Face. In this story, handsome attorney Harvey Kent has a nervous breakdown after he is disfigured by an acid attack. As Gotham’s “most unpredictable crime-master”, he can do good deeds or evil ones, dependent on the toss of a coin- ironically, the evidence that convicted his attacker. The story ends on a cliff-hanger. Will Two-Face’s coin decide his destiny?
The Man Who Led a Double Life: Events propel Two-Face back into a life of crime and although he attempts to win back his fiancee Gilda, his temporary wax makeup melts grotesquely over a romantic candlelit dinner. This most psychologically-complex and melodramatic of Golden Age villains ends up in jail at the end of a satisfying story of revenge.
Dr. Mid-Nite: Although the weakest in this bunch, this is a colourful and kinetic short by Alex Toth. It’s also one of only two Golden Age Doc McNider stories I’ve read. I think Mid-Nite was retconned as one of DC’s first gay heroes but basically, he’s just a more colourful Batman, with a disability that doesn’t actually affect him. The crook called Tarantula reminds me of the Hood from Thunderbirds.
An Orchid for the Deceased: A Chandler-esque but slight crime noir with a dramatic setting at Gargoyle Head Lake, beautifully drawn by Infantino. The Canary is an emancipated and capable heroine but her private detective boyfriend, Larry Lance, comes across as a bit of a boorish freeloader.
The Case of the Camera Curse: A fantastically atmospheric and almost photo-realistic (no pun intended) Starman adventure by Jack Burnley. The milksop Cuthbert Cain employs “voodoo formulas”- actually the Lovecraftian incantation “Thyl’th Ny’a’a!”- to mentally dominate victims through his camera. Although Starman’s shtick (not his stick) is very similar to Green Lantern, his stories have a more sombre and realistic tone.
Blackhawk teams up with Fear: Another good-looking Quality tale with an exotic setting and an alluring heroine, the adventuress Miss Fear. Like Steven Moffat’s River Song or Irene Adler, Fear is more dynamic than her male counterpart and steals the spotlight from Blackhawk effortlessly. Again, Chop Chop is an astoundingly crude caricature, by modern standards. There’s no art credit, unfortunately.
The Spectre: a surreal tale that surely inspired Grant Morrison’s “Painting That Ate Paris”. Giant satyr-like creatures attack from a strange Art Deco metropolis within a painting. They are lead by “The Man”, a ” repulsive unclean thing”, who wants to escape into reality. This weird tale is depicted in small, child-like panels by Bernard Baily and yet has a haunting, dreamlike quality. There is also an ad for the upcoming reprint of the Spectre’s beginnings in Secret Origins.
The Count That Never Ended: This is the best-looking Wildcat reprint yet, drawn by Gil Kane, as “Gil Stack”- his lithe Wildcat and oily-looking seawater are giveaways. Comedy sidekick Stretch is kidnapped by glamorous Catwoman-wannabe, the Huntress and the story has a cinematic beginning- starting at the end with two Ted Grants in the ring.
The End of Two-Face: This is an unusual Bat-tale for modern sensibilities, since it depicts a happy ending for a Gotham gangster. Love for Gilda turns Harvey away from crime and not only does he save Batman’s life, plastic surgery restores his face- until, of course, the fantastic cruelty of an explosion, in 1949, which undoes the surgery.
There was a later, baroque story in the 50s, in which a Method actor, portraying Two-Face, is identically disfigured in an horribly ironic “twist of fate”. Amusingly, in this issue, Kent’s coin is the size of his hand!
The Super-Specs leters page features a discussion of racial stereotypes, with reference to Blackhawk’s Chop Chop, and the credits for the Two-Face story: seems it could be a genuine Bob Kane for once.
Next: The Prairie Troubador
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