Catspaw

I eventually chose that title -a Star Trek reference- because I had a mental  “Bloch”. Ahem. Anyway, this post concerns the second Batman 100-page Super-Spec that I ever read (as ever, from Baird’s pet supplies store in Strathaven) and is the sequel to todays post on Some Fantastic Place.  Batman 256 is contemporary with the Devil-Fish, Libra and Nightowl issues of LSH, JLA and Shazam previously featured.

The Catwoman’s Circus Caper: After modernising Two-Face and the Joker with Neal Adams, Denny O’ Neil revived a third long-lost adversary of the Darknight Detective in this issue. In the next Super-Spec ,  O’Neil would turn his attentions to the Penguin, but this story seems pedestrian and hackneyed.  Big cat-tamer “Nelias” is a paper-thin alias  for Catwoman but the circus milieu works very well, naturally, for Teen Wonder Robin.  Bruce ends the story on a self-pitying note as he moons over portraits of Catwoman and Talia , the Fah Lo Suee of Gotham City. In a world with The Daughter of the Demon,  Marvel-style anti-hero is the only feasible route for Selina. I’d never seen a white tiger before; that’s what I took away from this comic, in the 70s.

Dinosaur Island:  The theme of the remainder of the issue is Batcave Trophies- hence the reason I twinned it with the Place blog on themed Batman Giants. This is an exciting riff on The Most Dangerous Game/Hounds of Zaroff that reveals the origin of the Batcave robot dinosaur.

If Bruce Wayne had not become The Batman: a memorable two-page “what if” feature proposing alternate identities for Bruce.  My favourites are “incarnation of danger” The Scorpion and “meteoric nemesis of evil” The Shooting Star. Art by Pat Broderick, I think.

The Penny Plunderers: Joe Coyne’s poverty-stricken childhood leads him down the “path taken by weak fools” but his murderous criminal career comes to an ironic end in this noir-ish morality tale. It also features that famous giant coin.

Brothers in Crime:  another compelling morality tale about three gangster brothers whose lives are ended by their bulletproof vests. I can picture Cagney playing tragic Pete Rafferty, who tries to reform. This 1942 saga is probably the best story in the collection; it’s like a mini-movie.

The Thousand and One Trophies of Batman: This 1950 story, in which the trophies are turned against B&R, is somewhat similar to 1957’s “Prisoners of the Batcave” (see Batman Giant 228). The villain here, Dr. Doom (!) is hoist by his own petard and looks like Patrick Magee of Clockwork Orange fame.

The Secret of Batman Island: in this story, rich Bat-fan A.K.  Barnaby has a large private collection of Bat-trophies, including a portrait of the clown Fatman ( Hence my confusion over the satire strip in 1967’s Solo)

The Catwoman: a gallery of the Feline Felon’s costumes. That ludicrous tailed outfit with buccaneer boots has thankfully been erased from public consciousness. For me , these are the only cat-suits that matter:

The short-lived Barr/ Davis B&R of the 80s was near-perfect.

Letters to the Batman: Scott Weingarten writes an imaginative letter, about an imaginary Batman run in 1989. Bruce Wayne and Alfred have died on an experimental lunar cruise. Dick is Batman with the late Barry Allen’s son Bruce as his ward. Weirdly, Tim Drake was introduced as Robin in the real August of ’89 and Barry Allen was dead (at the time).

There’s also a  letter from the sister of regular lettercol contributor James T. McCoy of Kentucky, whose name had registered with me as a Trek fan. She explains that her brother suffered from Muscular Dystrophy and died in the October of 1973.  She thanks DC on behalf of her “child-man, Jjmmy” and “all the other child-men in the world”.  It’s ineffably touching  and stuck with me all these years. I imagine Jimmy would have been in his fifties  now.

I regret now not buying more 100-page Batman issues since I enjoy those Forties and Fifties stories so much.

Next: The Mystery Men of April (already!)


All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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One comment on “Catspaw

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I have to confess that Gil Kane’s Batgirl artwork really rang my bell. I bought the Showcase Presents figure of her in memory of my childhood fantasies. One day I’ll take it out of the packaging.

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