Flop Goes the Joker

Recently on Some Fantastic Place ( where an annoying error is preventing me from posting yet again), I presented a fantasy run on Batman by Jack Kirby. The reason for this pipe dream was my disenchantment with the 70s scripts of Denny O’Neil. Submitted for your consideration: Batman 260 from February 1975…

Batman _260

The tomato-red cover with the purple logo is exciting but the contents are lacklustre. Unlike Detective Comics, all reprints are Bat-centric; no other heroes from the DC archives appear.

This One will Kill You, Batman: exposed to drugged coffee during the Joker’s prison break, Bats is in danger of laughing himself to death. Rescuing a guillotine victim from London’s Comedy Manor music hall, Batman cures himself by recalling the Marx brothers’ funniest scenes (!)

This is the first appearance of the murderous Joker ( aside from a cameo in 258) since the legendary ” Joker’s Five-Way Revenge”. It’s quite a comedown. While the Novick/Giordano art is slick and kinetic, O’Neil strikes a macabre and jarring tone. In this story and in his previous Penguin and Two-Face efforts, he seems to be aping the camp craze of the Sixties but with a sour 70s twist. It doesn’t work for me.

The Grade A Crimes: Dick Sprang and Starman‘s Jack Burnley present a 1943 adventure concerning jewel thefts carried out by criminals disguised as milkmen.

The Perfect Crime…Slightly Imperfect: a complex plan to kill author Kaye Daye, this is a dry, dull “Mystery Analysts of Gotham City” story by Gardner Fox and Sid Greene from 1966.

The Case Without a Crime: a 1946 Win Mortimer human interest story about mistrust and suspicion in a costume shop. One employee impersonates Catwoman.

The Pearl of Peril: a mildly amusing 1945 vignette which sees Alfred embroiled in a scam in a restaurant.

The Riddler’s Prison-Puzzle Problem:  Frank Springer ( better known perhaps for Nick Fury and the original Secret Six) pencils a Fox story from 1968 that looks a bit like Gil Kane in its figure work and panel design. This is the first iteration of Batman I ever knew and I prefer it to O’Neil’s jaded campery. Although contemporary Detective Comics looked back to the Forties, in the here and now, DC has launched Batman ’66, a delirious evocation of the tv show.

imagesCA4EIS8U

Also presented for your approval:

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“Meet the Tempter and Die”: Joe Giella and Mike Friedrich mimic Smilin’ Stan’s style rather sweetly with references to ecology, “beautiful people” and the “divine master”. Friedrich’s villain is basically Mephisto (with a dash of Gomez Addams): Superman’s soul is his greatest challenge and he inveigles Hawkman in a plot to restore Kandor that is intended to destroy the World’s Finest superhero.

Hawkgirl and Lois Lane guest-star in this interesting, early-70s attempt to challenge Marvel. Grant Morrison revived the Tempter for his Zatanna miniseries in 2005.

However, the attraction of this issue was really the “Bureau of Missing Villains” featuring the debut of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. “The fantastic rotund rogues” are sluggish sadists who utilise steel traps and electrical weaponry on B&R. They paralyse the Dynamic Duo while robbing a masquerade ball where “the admission is a $1000 War Bond”.

I’ll return to the Golden Age (Earth-Two) Batman in the near future. Hopefully I’ll be able to post my thoughts on a female Doctor Who on Place before the casting announcement this weekend.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

 

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