I Am Not a Number

This morning’s post is the first of a trio of Batman entries. I’ll be writing about DKR on Some Fantastic Place as soon as I finish processing it:  a pal’s just tweeted  me  about a villain I didn’t spot! In the meantime, here’s a recent ebay purchase, originally published in October 1974. The baby- blue cover is a little too gentle for the menacing images:

Threat of the Two-Headed Coin: O’Neil, Novick and Giordano produce a sequel to “Half an Evil” from 1971, which was the first Silver Age appearance of Two-Face.  If I recall correctly, in that appearance he had lost the green tinge to his scarred side. ( I must get replacement copies of that one and the Adams/Joker story soon!). Harvey’s green again here though.

This is a less moody, more fanciful story in which a an embittered conservative inveigles Harvey in his nuclear blackmail scheme. Batman ponders his kinship with Two-Face. Interestingly, these are some of the tropes of The Dark Knight Rises. While the pop-psychology is quite unusual for Bronze Age Batman, there are several WTF moments: the suicide of the military blackmailer and the “thermal flare in my left Bat-ear”?  Robin abandons Batman  to go back to University class during a nuclear countdown in Washington?! O’Neil’s weakness for cutesy names manifests in “Samuel Smith-Smythe” and arsonist “Hotsy Totter”.

There is an tense, almost wordless climax, however, and a chilling cameo by the Joker so this “Batman does Goldfinger” story almost works.

The Three Racketeers: a 1942 story begins with a fantastic Dick Sprang splash page as the Batman looks down on the Bat-plane’s tank battle. We meet three crooks, playing cards. One made phoney police broadcasts, one invented a “laziness drug” and the third led a gang of tank bandits. We discover that Batman has, of course, put them all in jail. An amusing yarn with an effective narrative gimmick

7 Wonder Crimes of Gotham City: another verbose. stiffly drawn short from  Fox and Moldoff. This 1967 snoozer is about crimes based on the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

Twenty-Ton Robbery:  A reprint from the winter of 1944-1945, this is the second appearance of the Cavalier, a society playboy-turned-crook who wields an electrically charged sword. Despite his dashing exterior, the “Romatic Rogue”  places Robin in a death-trap. He also attempts to steal a whale! It’s quite a slow-paced story; I can’t find any reference to a Silver or Bronze Age reprint of  “The Cavalier of Crime”. It would have been an ideal  feature in Wanted.

In his JLA run, Brad Meltzer revealed the Cavalier was in a gay relationship with mid-70s crook Captain Stingaree. Black Lightning was playing on this to get information. Charming. I was surprised to realise that was six years ago.

The Guardian of 100 Cities: this 1955 short  is set on a Hollywood storage lot and concerns the redemption of a retired movie actor -turned- night watchman. The structure reminded me  of the Bat-Signal story we looked at recently.

The Man with 1000 Eyes: Count Florian, spymaster from the kingdom of Boglovia turns his talents to crime; his agents wear a third eye decal. An atmospheric pulp thriller from the winter of 1949.

Rally ‘Round Robin: The extra letters page hosts the debate for and against reuniting the B and R team.  Stephen Kachinsky nixes the idea that Robin should grow a moustache.

This is an entertaining collection, despite the half-baked (ahem) opener. Meanwhile, let’s return again to see what Marvel UK was  doing in long-ago summers. The market was shrinking: POTA, one of the most popular titles, had absorbed Dracula Lives in June ’76. As we’ve seen previously, The Avengers merged with MWOM the following month. This created a very diverse comic, featuring kung-fu, barbarians and Bronze Age superheroes. The trend would continue the following summer :

In 1977, Super Spider-Man had absorbed Captain Britain (just after the Silver Jubilee storyline).  MWOM, having merged with POTA in March, was hosting Dracula by its 250th issue. This may be because Brides of Dracula, Kiss of the Vampire and Dracula’s Daughter were all on Saturday night telly that July. I find it hard to reconcile these comics with the current Top of the Pops repeats in BBC4, featuring the likes of Brotherhood of Man and Carol Bayer Sager.

In July 78,  the Top Thirty included You’re The One That I Want (of course) , Man With The Child In His Eyes and Joe Walsh’s Life’s Been Good.  Rampage went monthly- although it really came into its own the following winter when it began to reprint the Cockrum X-Men.

Next: The Weed of Crime Bears Bitter Fruit

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners



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