Death Traps and Diabolical Masterminds

(A nod there to Mrs. Emma Peel’s exit from the Avengers tv show.)

Today’s post continues with our look at Batman Giants in the early 70s. This time. it’s Batman 228, a 64-page comic from February 1971 and an issue I actually owned at the time.

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It’s one of my favourite covers too- the yellow and red masthead contrasts vividly with the white background. The Bat-logo is groovy and the cover also evokes the tv series with its “deadly traps” theme. A couple of months later in 1971, that concept will be the core of one of my favourite series of the seventies, Kirby’s Mr. Miracle.

Mr-Miracle-01-00-Murder-Missle-Trap1

I’ve ranked the stories in terms of my enjoyment from first to sixth.

2. Outlaw Town USA (1953)  B&R hunt three crooks in a ghost town, Silver Vein. It’s been taken over by criminals as a haven and themed around crime: a restaurant serves “Beef a la Dillinger” for example. The story ends in a Western-style showdown even though it’s a noir-ish scenario.  Lawless Silver Vein could be an intriguing location in a coherent DCU.

6.The Living Batplane (1955) Crooks use the Batplane for crime in a story of aerobatics that is pretty dull.

1. The Duplicate Batman (1954) Batman is injured in a plane crash and a crooked impostor fools Robin and Alfred. Gangster “Fish” Frye ( whose skin appears scaly) has recruited a double who loses his memory. Harry Larson then recovers from his amnesia and sacrifices himself to save the real Bats from being incinerated on a giant searchlight.  This Hitchockian adventure was my favourite in the issue.

4.The Gotham City Safari (1957) The Safari Club has recreated the jungles of Africa, India, Malaya and Mexico on an estate outside Gotham. This is a story of blackmail and murder: a little like the Himalayan story in the previous giant.

5.Prisoners of the Batcave (1957) B&R are trapped in the Batcave with the evidence to save an innocent man from execution. One of the trophies is a giant bust of Two-Face. I think this was probably the first time I’d seen the character- the next being his revival by O’Neil and Adams in the summer of ’71.

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3. The Doors That Hid Disaster(1956) A lethal “funhouse” of replica traps is the legacy of a dead criminal called Checkmate, who succumbed to radiation poisoning after hiding from B&R near radioactive material.

Checkmate is the first costumed villain to star in a Giant Batman for about a year ( if we count the hooded & robed Wrecker). He likes to wear a crown and fur-trimmed robe over his chess-board themed suit: recalling both the Riddler and the Monarch of Menace, but with the added twist of being dead. Hence my reference to The Avengers: the villain of the classic “House That Jack Built”  strikes from beyond the grave.

The death traps are all from past cases, we’re told, which seems a bit pointless since B&R obviously escaped them. Silly Checkmate! A number of heretofore unknown villains are namechecked: The Harbor Pirate, the Bowler and, er, Wheelo, the crooked stunt rider. Given the calibre of Col. Gumm, the Archer and Lord Fogg on tv, they didn’t sound  improbable to me as a kid.

superman1971-4

While harking back to the Sixties heyday of Batman, the giant also features the two-page teaser of the Swanderson Superman and previews Kirby’s debut on Jimmy Olsen. It’s an era for which I have huge fondness, since it was the first comics “reboot” I was prepared for. Batman had shifted tone from dayglo camp to Gothic horror without warning, it had seemed.  I also dig those far-out chicks, Thorn and Supergirl.

All in all, an entertaining package although I have no recollection of the circumstances under which it was first bought or read. There’s one more Bat-giant to go before the Super-Spectacular era begins; I’ve already covered them in earlier posts.

Coming soon: the 200th ‘Optikon.

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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2 comments on “Death Traps and Diabolical Masterminds

  1. Kid Robson says:

    I always liked The Rose & The Thorn strip, which was another revamp of a Golden Age character, if I recall correctly. As for Mister Miracle – after Jimmy Olsen, I thought it was the best mag that Kirby did for DC. Preferred Vince Colletta on the inks ‘though, same as with JO.

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