Family Affair

This afternoon’s post concerns two more issues of the Bronze Age Batman Family title: specifically numbers 3 and 4 from February and April 1976.

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Isle of a Thousand Thrills: arch humorist scripter/hipster Elliot  Maggin wrote a thinly-disguised Dany Kaye into a Detective Comics/ Robin story in October ’73. However, I’m unsure who “Major Montana” is supposed to be exactly- perhaps Orson Welles? Anyway, this mogul has opened a theme park island in an oddball story which, thanks to Garcia Lopez, is quite pretty to look at . There are phony dinosaurs and a Monty PyTHON joke about the Spanish Inquisition.

I’ve never been keen on Maggin- his  Last Son of Krypton novel is wearily 70s and sourly unfunny . Despite that, I respect his loyalty to DC’s non-powered street level heroes, like Batgirl and Green Arrow. For that reason, he might have been an interesting choice for Daredevil or Spider-Man at the House of Ideas.

The Challenge of the Batwoman: Bored society girl Kathy Kane is duped by Robin into believing amnesiac crook Curt Briggs is really Batman. This 1957 story resembles 1954’s “The Duplicate Batman” but the climax takes place in Gotham’s Chinatown Museum.  Batwoman’s feminine gimmicks, I suppose, help to differemtiate her from Batgirl. She uses an expanding hairnet and charm bracelet handcuffs in this story.

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Crimes of the Kite-Man: This is a forgettable 1960 debut for a much-lampooned villain  instrumental in the creation of Plastic Man in the Brave & Bold tv cartoons, in  a parody of the Joker’s origin. I think Batman ’66 should revive Kite-Man.

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The Year 3000: this adventure of Brane (BRuce wAyNE) and Ricky is a futuristic allegory for WWII from January 1945.  The new Dynamic Duo use 20th century commando tactics to overthrow Fura (Ha!), the dictator from Saturn and his robots. It’s very gung-ho but quite touching too. This doesn’t seem to be the flirty Batman of Tomorrow from 1967’s Batman Giant 187 however- their worlds seem quite different.

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Issue 4 is a festive holiday tie-in. Batgirl and Robin have separate adventures in this issue.

Cage Me or Kill Me: Crook Tad Wolfe requests protection from mob hitwoman Diamond Lilly. Biker Batgirl is described by Maggin as “an avenging demon of flames screaming through the night”. Dramatic but sounds more  like Ghost Rider, no?

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A New Look for Robin:  a sweet 2-page feature of fan designs that are essentially riffs on the Neal Adams costume worn by the E-2 Robin. Jamie Hightower’s drawing is clearly inspired by the Starlin cover however. It seems a lot of Robin-fans wanted him to go down the flower child route, even in late 75. Ageing Dick Grayson was always a poor idea however and caused too many problems for the Bat-franchise.

Robin’s White (Very) Xmas (sic): crooks crash a Xmas charity fundraiser at Hudson U. Dick receives a festive visit from Bruce, Alfred and Aunt Harriet whom I don’t think had been seen for about ten years.

Batman Meets Fatman: a childlike fable in which a circus clown helps B&R corral the crooked Red Mask Gang. The “tears of a clown” angle is terribly hokey. I could understand if Fatman were a performer in Haly’s Circus, giving us a connection with Robin. But as it is, this mere existence of this 1958 story  confused me as a kid, what with the Batchap comic strip from 1966 and Solo comic’s 1967 Fatman and Sparrow.

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The Secret War of the Phantom General: I had previously read this in 2007’s Batman/Showcase vol. 2. It’s a book-length tale from Sept 1965. The Dynamic Duo and Elongated Man, the Stretchable Sleuth, travel to the Andes to stop war criminal General Von Dort from building a death ray.

It’s a Bondian story apart from when Infantino draws a lugubrious John Broome as narrator in one panel . Ralph Dibny is wearing his ultra-drab purple outfit sans creepy mask.  I’d hoped it might be a more outrageous story but I think it would take a Bob Haney to make this South American Nazi caper work.

While these comics are slimmer than their early-70s giant counterparts, they’re still a fascinating window on a period of Bat-publishing that was gradually being rehabilitated.

Shortly, we’ll look at a trio of issues in this series. Then a sequel to the Giffen/LSH posts and possibly some Bronze Age sword and sorcery with DC’s Stalker and Marvel’s Solomon Kane.

Coming soon: The Princess and the Vagabond

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners.

 

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