After yet another technical hitch in the public library, this week’s post is another Bat- review. This time it’s the very last Batman Giant of the Bronze Age, issue 262 from April 1975.
The previous issue was the last 100-page Super-Spectacular; I also own a Legion giant ( with the “Villainaires”) and a Kamandi issue in this format. There are no Golden Age reprints this month but the main feature is another villain revival by Denny O’Neil.
The O’Neil/Robbins/Adams era of the early 70s had seen a scarcity of appearances of the Silver Age Bat-Villains. Perhaps they were too greatly associated with the Adam West-Camp era. However, O’Neil and Adams revivified the Joker and Two-Face as dangerous psychopaths. While O’Neils subsequent portrayals of Catwoman and the Penguin had been corny and rather juvenile, he is more successful here with B-lister, the Scarecrow, an academic turned costumed criminal.
The Scarecrow’s Trail of Fear features pencils by Conan’s Ernie Chua/Chan. It’s not a jarring departure from Novick; unflashy but consistent with the look of the book. There’s a plausible gimmick in the form of Scarecrow’s device which affects the paraympathetic nervous system. O’Neil’s love of stagey underworld slang -” hat”, “dingus” and “pineapple” -is groan-worthy and the creepy image of the Scarecrow on a roller-coaster (on the dark, moody blue cover) isn’t actually in the script. However, it’s a mildly entertaining exploit of the dread Batman.
The Scarecrow seems ideally suited to Wanted – the World’s Most Dangerous Villains. While a Golden Age foe with only two appearances, his place in the modern Batman canon is probably largely down to his resonance with Goth/Metal/horror culture from the late 80s to today. Aside from one atmospheric Silver Age Infantino cover, I knew him only as a Joker imitator in a couple of JLA stories.
The reprint feature in the comic is a two-parter in “the grand old tradition” by Fox/Infantino and Green. I first read The Round-Robin Death Threats and Where There’s a Will-There’s a Slay in the b/w Super DC monthly more than 40 years ago.
This is a gorgeous story about a series of intricately-planned murders. It echoes the look of the tv series without being too tongue-in-cheek ( if one overlooks the giant electro-magnet, Batman calling a secretary “my dear ” and the Bat-Channel titles) The “eerie climax” heavily features Robin tracking down the criminal scientist “Doc” Hastings. It’s superior to any of the Fox-Moldoff stuff of the period, such as the “Outsider” serial.
There’s a two-page Bat-Trivia Quiz with cameos by Batwoman, Bat-Mite and Betty Kane/ Bat-Girl – a character unseen since long before the debut of Barbara Gordon. I get a sense that this unloved and derided Bat-Era is gradually being rehabilitated by 1975.
This was the second time I’d read this particular giant. Around 1980, it was part of the collection of my school friend Graham Sim, who moved from Hamilton to Dumfries in 1988. We subsequently lost touch . The only trace I can find of him on the internet is a reference to a company directorship- and even that was twenty years ago. I would like to think he might see this post.
Coming soon: The Dynamite Duo; the Joker’s Daughter; and in the late summer, Kull and the Barbarians.
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