moving the blog

moving my blog over to Google blogs, as they do not have the limits on the media library.  Not entirely happy with how the new one looks, but I will figure it out in time.


Batman 400 – everyone vs Batman


Although it was not promoted as such, Batman 400 (Oct. 86) really was the grand finale to the adventures of the Batman of Earth-1, a double sized special issue, written by Doug Moench, with a vast artistic line-up: John Byrne, Steve Lightle, Bruce Patterson, George Perez, Paris Cullins, Larrry Mahlstedt, Arthur Adams, Terry Austin, Thomas Sutton, Ricardo Villagran, Steve Leialoha, Joe Kubert, Ken Steacy, Rick Leonardi, Karl Kesel and Brian Bolland.  As one might guess, each artist only does a few pages of this story.


The tale bears a close resemblance, in its opening, to the later story Knightfall, as both Arkham Asylum an the main prison in Gotham City get blasted open, freeing the inmates.


They find their costumes all conveniently hanging on trees, and this allows for a number of villains to make small appearances, not joining in on the major story. So this sequences marks the final appearances of, for example, Dr. Double X and Mirage, whose outfits can be spotted.


While some villains join with the Joker is following the grand plan of their benefactor to take out Batman, others, such as Croc, want no part of this, and simply take their freedom.


Then there are a number of scenes that see Batman’s various friends and allies captured by the villains – Harvey Bullock, Commissioner Gordon, Vicki Vale all get attacked, and poor Julia Pennyworth has to suffer her second shower scene attack, this time by the Scarecrow.


Ra’s Al Ghul is the mastermind, and openly declares himself such to Batman.  Once again his goal is to recruit the hero, and even offers to help eliminate all the villains that he has just freed.  It’s really a much better Ra’s Al Ghul plot than any since his original big storyline.


While Batman and Robin try to take the various villains down, they are clearly out numbered, and have little choice but to play along wit the larger game.   They take out Black Spider and Cat-Man, but have to allow the Riddler, Scarecrow and Poison Ivy to go free, as long as they are holding the hostages.  Catwoman, no longer Batman’s partner, gets involved, and decides to follow the departing villains.


The Joker leads his crew, which includes the Penguin, Cavalier, Killer Moth, Deadshot and Mad Hatter, in taking over the headquarters of the police, to Commissioner Gordon’s dismay.


Poison Ivy is holding Harvey Bullock, and having a grand time of her own, toying with him.  Catwoman does track her down, but fails to stop her.


Kubert’s pages deserve mention, even though they do not really advance the story much.  But they look sooo good.


Talia joins forces with Batman and Robin to help scupper her father’s plans.  Batman has so much on his plate that he has little time for the Joker or his games.  Even still, the Joker is one of the few villains in the story who really gets much of a chance to show his stuff.  most get overwhelmed by the crowd scenes.


In the end, of course, it comes down to a battle between Batman and Ra’s Al Ghul, who has taken a dip in a Lazarus Pit without dying first, to super-charge himself.  Bolland’s art makes the most of this scene, although it plays out in the standard fashion, with Talia betraying her father, who appears to die at the end.


But it’s really the final sequence that makes this story, as Batman brings all his friends and allies – Robin, Catwoman, Alfred, Julia Pennyworth, Vicki Vale, Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock, to the Batcave.  The reason given is the tenth anniversary of Batman being Batman, but the stalactite that falls and pierces the cake is a stark reminder that Bruce Wayne is not Batman for the fun of it.

A great “last” issue.

Batman Annual 10 – the final attack of Hugo Strange


Batman Annual 10, by Moench, Denys Cowan and Alfredo Alacala, is a wonderful final story of the Earth-1 Batman, irrevocably marred by the cover, which reveals that the mystery villain is Hugo Strange.


As the story begins, Wayne Enterprises finds itself in dire financial straights, which is being reported on by Vicki Vale and Julia Pennyworth.  Lucius Fox offers to suspend his mayoral campaign (a barely developed subplot) in order to help Bruce Wayne, but Bruce refuses.


A mystery villain makes a shocking return from the dead – so shocking that it gives Alfred a heart attack.  See how much more interesting this would be had we not known it was Hugo Strange?  At  least Batman and Robin didn’t get to see the cover, and remain puzzled.


Because Bruce is in danger of losing all his money, the Child Welfare Bureau comes back into the picture, threatening to take away Jason Todd.


An then we get to the “good” part – at least, the part in which Strange is revealed as the villain.  He zooms in, back in the Batman costume.  Batman takes down the motorcycle, and after the crash sees that this is not really Strange, but another of his robots.


Strange himself is back in the Batcave, and to a large degree this plays out much like his last story from a couple of years earlier, although in the real Wayne Manor, not a fake one.  And as before, the building gets destroyed.


There is a clever ending, as Batman informs Commissioner Gordon and Bullock that he has hypnotized Strange into believing that Batman is Bruce Wayne, so no one believes him.  And Strange himself even begins to wonder if his knowledge is real, or if he had been hypnotized.

As Wayne Manor is in ruins at the end of the tale, this must actually come after Batman 400.  But Batman 400 is such a superior last tale that it’s preferable to imagine that there are a few months between this story and that one, and that Bruce had the repairs done really quickly.

Batman 399 – a grisly tale


A cheery cover for Batman 399 (Sept. 86), and the Moench and Mandrake tale does not shy away from it.


In fact, the image gets repeated right away, on the splash page.  The story deals with a misogynistic axe murderer, and makes the most of Mandrake’s art style.


There is even a decent mystery at the core of it, as Batman, Bullock and Commissioner Gordon cannot piece together the victim with any motive, and wonder if the killer got the wrong victim.


As one might expect from the cover, this plays out more like a horror film than anything else, and is very effective at it.


Catwoman has a small role in the story, despite the end of their partnership in he previous issue.  They never really said goodbye, and the kiss at the end of this issue is the big farewell to their romance.

This story is also the last “normal” story for the Earth-1 Batman.  The annual (which had actually been released before this), and Batman 400 both function as final stories of this version of Batman.

Batman 398 – will Circe help cure Two-Face?


Moench and Mandrake conclude the Two-Face/Circe story in Batman 398 (Aug. 86).


While Catwoman and Batman discuss their relationship and partnership, and the effect it is having on Robin, Jason Todd falls in love – or at least into a serious crush – and begins to finally understand why Bruce and Selina are acting the way they are.


Catwoman had been upset that Batman had not informed her that he had contacted and recruited Circe to help him with Two-Face, and he is actually apologetic about keeping her out of the loop.  Circe leads Two-Face into the robbery of a golden mask of a pharoah, and appears to knock out a guard, but we see that the guard is really Batman, and the whole thing is a set-up.


It’s a big psychological game, intended to make Two-Face willing to go back to being Harvey Dent.  Though Circe plays a romantic game with Dent, it’s odd that at no point in the story does he talk about his wife, Gilda.


Also, in a fairly shocking development, though Two-Face says he will allow the flip of the coin to determine his choice, we see him flip the coin repeatedly, to get the answer he wants.  This is not something that has been shown before, and basically goes against everything the character stands for.


Two-Face then plays some make-up games, to make both sides of his face match, both as good, and underneath as bad.  He has figured out that Circe was manipulating him wit the golden mask, and none too happy about it.  Fortunately, Batman was ready for this.


And though both Robin and Catwoman help out on the case, by the end of the tale, Catwoman has decided that their partnership really is not working for her.

Two-Face is back almost immediately, in Batman 400.

Batman 397 – Two-Face meets Circe


A very good Two-Face cover on Batman 397 (July 986), as Moench and Mandrake continue thhe Two-Face tale begun in the previous issue of Detective, which has the villain encounter Circe, Black Mask’s former girlfriend, after escaping from prison.


Catwoman is the first to track down Circe, who is now working in a strip club.  She keeps her scarred face concealed behind a mask, which simply entices the men even more.  Catwoman seems far more shocked about this than she ought to, considering her own costume and background.


Tensions have not disappeared between Catwoman and Robin, despite their working together in the previous storyline, and the boy resents finding her curled up in the Batmobile.  All three are working on the Two-Face case, though to keep harmony, Catwoman is pursuing her own investigation, rather than working alongside Batman and Robin.


Still, this story does sort of plod along.  Two-Face is using computers to help plan his crimes, but insists on having two, and using his coin toss to determine which one to follow.


There are some good moments, but overall this story spends a bit too much time working towards the Two-Face/Circe stuff, considering that it’s clear that this is the direction the story is going in.

Thee story continues in the next issue of Detective.


Batman 396 – Film Freak goes King Kong


Moench and Mandrake continue with the Film Freak’s introduction in Batman 396 (June 1986).


Batman and Catwoman had been working separately on the case from Robin and Harvey Bullock, but Commissioner Gordon brings them all together to share their information on Burt Weston, and his actions as Film Freak.


Batman realizes that his crimes has been making references to Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much, and just in time he figures out that a bomb was meant to go off just as an explosion took place in the premiere of a new movie, called Boom.  The director is none too thrilled to have his movie cut off at the big scene, but overall this entire sequence plays the suspense very well, and in a true Hitchcock fashion.


Film Freak manages to grab Julia Pennyworth again, while dressed up as a giant ape, so that he can do a King Kong thing – but the Film Freak gets caught.  Was he seriously planning to plummet to his death?

Catwoman and Robin decide to put aside their differences and work together, which makes Batman happy.

Film Freak returns in a couple of issues.