My plan for this week had been to review IDW’s landscape collection of the Batman newspaper strip from 1966-69. These comic strips, reprinted on the cover of Smash! in the 60s were my introduction to Batman in print- alongside the text stories in TV Tornado (which I couldn’t read at that age but the illustrations were exciting, as you can see here: http://kidr77.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/first-issue-of-tv-tornado-part-one.html).
However, S4 deadlines in the last week of term – which ends a week later than in the Central Belt- meant I’m only halfway through my birthday present. So, for today, we’ll look at Batman Family 2, from December 1975 – which does reprint Sixties Bat-tales anyway, behind a, er, dynamic Gil Kane cover.
Batgirl Breaks Up the Dynamic Duo (1967) : I think this might be Babs’ second appearance, where the Masked Maiden discerns Batsy’s swamp fever symptoms and decides to be his secret guardian angel. (Edit: this is Batgirl’s third published adventure, actually) Meanwhile, Bruce decides Dick has a crush on Batgirl.
Her compassion is equalled by her cleverness as Babs unveils a multicoloured light-beam tracker on her Bat-Bike. This device is so Gardner Fox and recalls Adam Strange or Hawkman. Despite the silly sexism of the story, it builds Batgirl up as the best-characterised heroine in the Silver Age, aside from Hawkgirl. As I always say, I cannot understand why Fox didn’t admit Babs to the JLA in his final year.
The Dynamic Trio (1957): this is beginning to look like one of my favourite years for Batsy. Here, he tricks Vicki Vale into revealing the identity of Mysteryman ( it’s Jim Gordon). This is in order to vindicate the commish’s reputation when he is taken off a smuggling ring case.
I only knew of Mysteryman as a cameo in Alex Ross’ fourth issue of Kingdom Come. I love the way Vicki reasonably concludes the new hero must either be Superman or a Batman robot.
The Cluemaster’s Topsy-Turvy Crimes ( 1966): I had previously read this story in the b/w Showcase Presents Vol. 2 in 2007 but found it completely forgettable. The Infantino art is gorgeous, especially in a four panel gloating monologue but Fox’s “walking utility belt” is a redundant villain. He feels like a Flash-y attempt at another Riddler and his only claim to fame is fathering the Spoiler. The real meat of the story is about how B&R foil snooping Aunt Harriet. I quite like the idea of a comic foil living in stately Wayne Manor.
Alfred’s Mystery Menu: a silly Fox/Moldoff tale where the butler is abducted by Duke Kelsey, a new member of the Millionaire Mobster Club. Alfred signals his plight to Bats in the form of a menu of food delicacies! The mobster club with its Edward G. Robinson soundalike is an interesting idea however. This story was the back-up in the Batman Sells Out issue, which I first read in this 1971 Batman hardback annual:
Greetings from the Bat-Family: a “Bob Kane” poster from the 1961 US Bat-annual. Again, the appearance of Bat-Mite, Bat-Hound, Batwoman and Bat-Girl (the latter pair unseen in continuity for 11 years) suggests both their rehabilitation and the effect of the 70s Nostalgia craze.
Despite Infantino’s blend of the naturalistic and the stylised, this issue is a bit disappointing after the premiere of the series. There is however a 2-page ad for Saturday morning tv which features the debut of Isis. I was a fan of the character in her Bronze age comics incarnation and like her better than Wonder Woman, so I was pleased to see this promo again.
Coming soon: Jolly Roger, Blue Max and Laughing Girl
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