Fowl Play

The countdown to the Dark Knight Rises continues! This morning’s 100-page Super-Spectacular was a very recent ebay purchase. It’s the July-August 1974 issue of Batman. The Cardy cover is a vivid red – surprisingly so for the Darknight Detective- but this issue’s theme is tales of comedy (and tragedy).

Hail, Emperor Penguin!:  There seems to have been an edict from editor Schwartz to revive the classic Bat-Villains in ’73-74, beginning with Adams’ cinematic Joker story. Catwoman’s return in the previous issue’s circus story was corny; here, O’Neil mimics the tone of  the Adam West Batman tv show, with boy-king Peeble IV of Swawak. This story very clearly describes itself as “old-fashioned Batman action made modern”. Robin the Teen Wonder features extensively, the Penguin’s bird-ally has a curare-tipped beak and there’s a diabolical death-trap. Holy Sixties Flashback!  It ends on a surprisingly melancholy note as Bats rejects Talia, who’s been masquerading as a harem girl, and the other “modern” element aside from University-student Grayson.

The art by Novick and Giordano  is a smooth and colourful blend of naturalism with the absurd.  I like Adam West’s Batman more than Christian Bale’s but the retro-style must have jarred the regular readership

The Penguin’s Unique Umbrellas:  an “extract from Batman’s crime- file”, this is a 2-page feature with panels of trick umbrellas spanning from 1942-1967. I was interested to note that Pengy was popular enough to appear in close succession- Batman 33,36 and 38 in 1946. Burgess Meredith remains one of my favourite Bat-villains.

Hunt for a Robin Killer:  I already own this dynamic Gil Kane story of an obsessive Batman in a Double Double comic but I enjoyed it again.  It’s a Marvel-esque series of fistfights and melodrama, right down to Batman’s impassioned vow against a lightning-riven sky. Visually, it’s a halfway house between the preppy Batman of Infantino and the shadowy, dread Dark Knight of Adams and Novick.

Ally Babble and the Fourteen Peeves:  Babble is a flashily-dressed, well-intentioned meddler who drives people, er, batty with his non-stop chatter.  I don’t think the gimmick works very well in a soundless medium. To my knowledge, there was only one more “talky toon”,  Ally Babble and the Four Tea Leaves.  Not very imaginative.

The Conversational Clue: An unmemorable short starring the gentleman’s gentleman.  I’d noticed Alfred’s exaggerated “rawther” before but this was the first time I spotted ” lookin'”; “leapin'” or “murderin””. Very sloppy pronunciation  from the scholarly sleuth. I’d rather read about him spanking Catwoman again .

Die Small, Die Big!: Bob Kanigher piles on the pathos in the tale of  a dying, neurasthenic postman who impersonates Batman to thwart a murderous conspiracy.  Batman’s tears fall as Herbert Small dies;  “a hitherto mute canary begins to sing triumphantly” and Kanigher’s morality tale spirals into bathos. I’m afraid I was never a fan of Bob Brown’s art.

Letters to the Batman: six rave responses to Neal Adams’ “Moon of the Wolf”. One LoC admonishes Wein for “distracting melodramatics”, which I think is unwarranted. Another comments wistfully about Batman’s “iceberg view of love”.

Rackety-Rax Racket: This story homages a 1932 comedy about a gangster and a college football team. The Joker, whose treasure vaults would give Conan the Barbarian apoplexy, kidnaps Batman. The “Mocking Mountebank of Menace” then makes Robin undergo fraternity initiation pranks. It’s quite a volte-face, seeing a Joker whose motivation is simply humiliating the Dynamic Duo, rather than, you know, feeding them to a shark. The strip is also of curiosity value regarding the customs of American college boys.

There’s nothing really funny about this issue; it’s largely whimsical apart from the overwrought pathos of the Herbert Small story and the action of the Kane strip. It’s interesting as a change of pace but I would have preferred a Fifties story to “Die Small…”

That summer,  we had a family holiday in a caravan, outside Borgue by Kirkcudbright. Let’s have a glimpse at what  Marvel UK had to offer at that time, thirty-eight years ago!

Kirby’s New Men and the debut of the Inhumans alongside Fu Manchu!

Coming soon: The Marvel Family.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners


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