Continuing my series of Batman Giant posts after a pause for Free Comic Book Day and the May Day Bank Holiday. The lowlight of FCBD was Future’s End. I have a fondness for Terry aka Batman Beyond ( or Batman 2099, to be more precise) but this preview was an ugly, shameful rip-off of X-Men/ Days of Future Past tropes, poised to hit cinema screens worldwide shortly.
In any case, this post revisits August 1970 with a nod again to Prince, who provided the soundtrack to Burton’s first Batman movie. ( I may have mentioned I was the only person who recognised the verse of “Electric Chair” as quoted by author Alan Bissett a few weeks ago, at his one-man show in Elgin.)
The giant in question features a cover by Curt Swan, more associated, of course, with Superman for nearly three decades. The theme is B&R adventures outwith Gotham City or the USA. Numerical values indicated how much I enjoyed the story in question: 1 being the highest rating. Later in this post, there’ll be an Avengers-themed digression…
1. City Without Guns (1953): A US gang leader takes on Scotland Yard. B&R pursue him from Madame Tussauds, to the Thames- and to Oxford, minutes later! ( Maybe on Earth-2, they’re adjacent?) There’s a charming glimpse of the Pickwick Bicycle Club and we are introduced to Chester Gleek, a slightly creepy English Bat-fan. Silly fun in Merrie Olde England.
4.Batman of the Mounties (1953): B&R tackle the ruthless LeClerc brothers, who have attacked Mountie Bob Jason. While wearing their white “snow uniforms”, the Dynamic Duo face danger from wolves and on a log chute. Picturesque but a bit tame.
5.The Mardi Gras Mystery (1944): A syndicated strip from the late summer of ’44. Bruce and Dick attend Mardi Gras dressed as the Dynamic Duo (*Hee!*) and discover a cache of money hidden on a riverboat for almost 70 years. Starts amusingly enough but not enough plot.
2. Journey to the Top of the World (1955): Exciting short where an impostor menaces a Himalayan expedition. B&R also discover the tracks of a “mystery Snow Creature” never actually referred to as a Yeti.
3. Around the World in Eight Days (1957): B&R chase vital stolen medical supplies from a Dutch windmill to a Venetian gondola, through the Parisian sewers, a Viennese funfair, the ruins of Greece, the streets of Algiers and a Siamese temple to a Mexican bullring. B&R fall into exhausted sleep at the end of this noir-ish, educational tale.
Again. there are no super-villains in this issue. I imagine this is because DC/National was still trying to distance their “dread Batman” from the tv version. Indeed, in the next issue, the villain Moloch is a hideous, deformed crook, as if a tv rogue were being viewed through the prism of the new wave of mystery/horror titles.
It’s a tremendously atmospheric Neal Adams cover but the O’Neil/Novick contents are workaday, despite the New Orleans setting. My experience of early 70s Batman was generally of horror-flavoured stories:
Speaking of grotesque villains, the Avengers issue of July 1970 saw the first assembly of this ugly band:
The Lethal Legion is interesting because its members were all created as antagonists for the Avengers and generally for weaker rosters numbering four or five. like Cap’s Kooky quartet (Swordsman, Power Man) or Hank/Jan/T’Challa/Hawkeye (Grim Reaper).
This was the last issue I read for nearly a year and a half. This was particularly frustrating at the time because issue 80 introduced Red Wolf, Marvel’s first Native American superhero. (Wyatt Wingfoot had no secret i.d.)
RW- his family slain by crooks connected loosely to the Zodiac cartel’s Taurus- actually had something to avenge and must have been created with a view to full membership. But his schtick was too similar to the Panther and Ka-Zar- even the Falcon- and he never returned to the comic.
Red Wolf had a short-lived Western series circa 1972 then languished as a D-lister, eclipsed by the fatalistic X-Man Thunderbird, who had the advantage of borrowing from the wardrobe of Lightning Lad and Ultra Boy.
Incidentally, I got Avengers 79 in Ayr in the summer of 1970- where I also saw these Tolkien posters, in a shop in the Sandgate.
Apparently, they were distributed by the legendary shop Dark They Were and Golden Eyed. I had already heard of LOTR from the letter pages in X-Men 64 and I would learn even more from Monsters on the Prowl 16. The posters really capture the foggy, incense-scented world of fantasy that existed right up until the late 70s.
This lengthy digression is related to the fact that I’m re-reading our school library editions of Essential Avengers, so there may be more Marvel musings this May.
Coming soon: Inescapable Death-Traps!
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