This post features Batman 218- the first Giant issue of the 70s. Under the bright red Murphy Anderson covers is a collection of mid-40s to late 50s Batman & Robin adventures.
Meanwhile, the O’Neil/Adams era began one month earlier, in January 1970. The GL/GA pairing is 2 months away. The campy Adam West era which began a mere four years ago seems dead and buried and the Gothic Batman, inspired by Dark Shadows and Orlando’s “mystery” comics, is in the ascendant.
Batman and Robin’s Greatest Mystery(1956) The most engaging story is first in this collection. B&R have to use their deductive prowess to solve the mystery of their own secret identities, when a criminal scientist gives them amnesia. (1)
The Hand From Nowhere (1960): a disembodied green hand allegedly belongs to a Gnarl, a giant from another dimension. It turns out to be a gimmick devised by Luthor to facilitate the robbery of rare metals.
It’s refreshing to see Lex in a B&R story albeit a slightly silly and illogical one that is indicative of early 60s sci-fi Batman: the World’s Finest Era for which I have a fondness. (4)
The Man Who Couldn’t Be Tried Twice (1958): a murder suspect is acquitted thanks to Batman’s testimony then boasts he’s really guilty. This turns out to be a deception in a short story with a circus setting. Batman’s seeming error is faintly disturbing. (2)
The Body in the Batcave (1959) A murder appears to have been committed in the Batcave; it turns out to be an accidental death since an intruder disturbed the “Bat-Roost”. Perhaps this is the Earth-One version of 1948’s 1000 Secrets of the Batcave ( see Batman 203)? (5)
Four Hours to Live ( Jun-Jul 1944): A syndicated story from the newspapers. B&R have 4 hours to prove the innocence of a man on Death Row. This noirish story proves to be a very dull read, largely thanks to the tiny panels. 96)
The League Against Batman (1953): A hooded menace called the Wrecker declares war on Batman and anyone who glorifies his name. This full-scale vendetta turns out to be a smokescreen for an insurance scam, in a very disappointing climax. The Wrecker is the closest thing to a costumed crook in this issue- it appears the storied Bat-foes are experiencing an embargo. (3)
I only own two other comics from Feb 1970: the Doomsters issue of JLA that introduced me to Black Canary and the goateed GA and a Tala story in Phantom Stranger 5. DC was looking very hip: moody, stylish and environmentally conscious.
Over at Marvel, the House of Ideas was looking stale by contrast, with a retread of the Circus of Crime and the introduction of the Kangaroo- a less-than-threatening crook (but again one for whom I have a soft spot).
Amazing Spider-Man 2 -in cinemas now- draws upon the Conway Era however. But I was unimpressed by the film’s campy tone, which reminded me of the Schumacher Batman movies and the predictability of the plot. When the Goblin and Gwen Stacy are featured, the ending is surely and unfortunately inevitable. However, I felt we’d seen this all before, only a few years ago. where a slightly unsavoury Peter Parker battled the handsome Harry Obsborne.
Here casting is reversed. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone are attractive and charming and their relationship is the most rewarding aspect of the film. Garfield’s physicality is also convincingly adolescent and gauche: he looks like some of my senior pupils- lanky boys with infeasible hair.
However, the eccentricities of the villains seemed forced and the plot points sometimes bizarre (electric eels?!) . The Gollum-like Goblin’s role in the film felt like an afterthought and the armoured Rhino was ludicrous. Very disappointing , in the wake of Winter Soldier.
Coming soon: The Batman of All Nations
All images presumed copyright of their respective owners