True Detective

I have about a dozen more Treasuries and Tabloids to revisit on the ‘optikon in 2013 . This morning’s post, however, returns to DC’s Super-Spectacular series with a pre-Xmas ebay purchase:  Detective Comics 441 from July 1974.  For those with orderly minds, this entry fits immediately before the Amazo/JLA issue.

Detective_Comics_441

Judgement Day: a moody tale from Goodwin and Chaykin. The dread Batman has to rescue Robin the Teen Wonder from  the desolate  Seapsray Inn. This resort was  formerly a front for  heroin smuggling; now it has been turned into a deathtrap by the Judge, a hooded inquisitor who blames Batman for his daughter’s blindness.

It stretches credulity that Robin, with all his experience, should be so easily abducted and the blind girl’s death off-panel is an anticlimax.  Chaykin’s Film Noir art is highly atmospheric however- the Batman logo is a dripping grafitto on an alley wall. The story also introduces Harvey Bullock, the corpulent rogue cop who became a comedic character in the 90s animated series. Interestingly, this year’s Batman Earth-One graphic novel transformed Bullock into a handsome reality tv star.

Plastic Man: This is the fourth Golden Age Plas story I’ve read and the most entertaining  It’s a 1946 strip in which the flexible funster tries to solve the murder of columnist Snoopy Hawks. Jack Cole’s witty, cartoony style is very appealing .

The Case of the Prophetic Pictures:  A spooky serial murderer tale of Batman and Robin from 1940. Bruce Wayne, the effete playboy, becomes embroiled in a spate of killings linked to portraits by a fashionable artist. The killer wears a skull mask and a beret! This is a Finger/Kane/Robinson pulp classic.

Holocaust, God of Destruction: a pretty Kurt Schaffenberger story from 1948  in which Fawcett’s Master of White Magic must capture a three-headed god. I was reminded of the JLA story “Fiend with Five Faces” from the summer of 1978.

Helmet_of_Fate_Ibis_the_Invincible 07

Horus 1963

Ibis is basically Sargon the Sorceror in a red turban and blue cloak. Seven years ago, however, he received a makeover for a new incarnation and now he looks like Horus from Alan Moore’s 1963 project. One of these days, I need to blog about this largely-overlooked Sixties-Marvel pastiche…

The Two Faces of Doom!: this 1964 Eclipso tale, lettered and drawn by Alex Toth, is gorgeous. Eclipso has been such a world-shaking menace in the Nineties and Noughties, it’s striking to see him in a self-contained story. Here, the Divided Man pretends to be a hero in order to steal magnetic powers from a meteoric energy worm. Bob Haney- ’nuff said!

Alias the Spider: this is the first and only time I’ve seen this 1942  Quality Comics  strip. It’s attractively drawn by Paul Gustavson.  The Spider is a bare-legged archer with a chauffeur sidekick, investigating a bizarre killer: a “milquetoast” character with one brawny, overdeveloped arm. James Robinson retroactively made the Spider a  crook and a murderer posing as a hero in the first Shade miniseries of the late 90s.

Shade_Vol_1_3

The Carbon Copy Crimes:  a 1946 sequel to the “Prophetic Pictures” adventure. The murders are re-enacted by a psychologist as an experiment to break Batman. The insistence that the original case literally took place six years earlier is problematic however.  Even if Robin were, say, twelve years old in ” Prophetic Pictures” , he’d now be eighteen, which seems improbable. It’s a curiosity of a story but a faintly disappointing one.

Cathedral Perilous: this is another chapter in the Simonson/Goodwin Manhunter serial. A family of US tourists are visting a cathdral in Istanbul where Manhunter and Christine are battling the Council’s clone warriors. A kid-in a cowboy outfit- witnesses the conflict while his parents remain oblivious. There isn’t enough Manhunter for my liking since he takes second place to this running gag.

Despite an odd selection of reprints ( what are an Egyptian sorceror and a schizo super-villain doing in Detective Comics?)  this is an entertaining comic with striking art of both the vintage and modern varieties.

Coming soon: 2013! King Kirby!! Superman vs. Spider-Man!!!

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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2 comments on “True Detective

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I bought that issue of Detective Comics amongst a half-dozen or so others from the late Pete Root, back in the days when he had premises in Forbidden Planet (I think). I don’t remember ever seeing them when they first came out, and therefore wonder if they were non-distributed in this country. I had bought the issue with the first appearance of Simonson’s Manhunter in the early ’70s, but that was the last regular-sized, 36 page mag before the page count was increased to 100. Luckily, I’ve now got all the issues that Manhunter apppeared in.

    • Dougie says:

      The Toth biplane issue (442) was definitely distributed because I got it in Strathaven in 1974. But perhaps that was a fluke. I don’t remember seeing any others (and I snapped up Super-Specs.)

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