Tag Archives: Don Newton

Batman 379 – Nocturna vs the Mad Hatter

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The Mad Hatter story line concludes in the Moench, Newton and Alcala story in Batman 379 (Jan. 85).

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There are a number of things I like about this issue: the repeated use of bedtime stories by various characters, and the way the Mad Hatter builds an army of mind controlled subjects.  But it also buries itself deep in the Nocturna soap opera, which gets less and less entertaining the longer it goe on.

In a weird editorial decision, Vicki Vale gives Julia Pennyworth the job of writing up the custody battle over Jason Todd for the newspaper.  Giving the assignment to a woman currently living with Bruce Wayne is hardly going for a bias-free article.

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The Mad Hatter builds his army of mind controlled victims by putting up ads for a job, and forcibly recruiting any whom come to apply.  This take on the Mad Hatter, keeping him a mastermind on the sidelines while his slaves do the work, would become the standard way the character operated from now on.

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Nocturna tries to convince Jason to stay with her, but when Batman comes a calling, Jason makes it clear that he has no intentions of giving up being Robin.  Nocturna’s seductive powers don’t seem much use at keeping Batman off the streets either.

I should also mention that, though I didn’t take a clip of it, we see that the Night Slayer is being tended to by a blind woman, who comes to believe that he is a good guy.

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While Batman and Robin find themselves immersed in battle with the Mad Hatter’s slaves, it’s Nocturna who winds up taking down the villain herself.  True, he did use his hats on her in the previous issue, but one gets the feeling that she does this more to show that she could be a partner to the two heroes.

The Mad Hatter returns in Batman 400.

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Batman 378 – the Mad Hatter sends Nocturna a present

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The Mad Hatter, last seen in Detective Comics in 1983, makes his return in Batman 378 (Dec. 84), using hats for mind control, in a story by Moench, Newton and Alcala.

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This is really the first time that the mind control element has been added to the character, who now looks far more like the Tenniel illustrations, the way the character originally appeared in the late 1940s.

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Lucius Fox looks far more devastated than Bruce Wayne as the court awards Natalia Knight the custody of Jason Todd.  Jason had requested to live with Nocturna, but did this in order to get evidence against her, and he lets Bruce know of his plans.

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Nocturna receives a hat from a “secret admirer,” and it’s a tribute to her ego that she assumes that the present is from Bruce Wayne.  She dons the hat, and falls under the control of the Mad Hatter.  He hopes to use his computerized hat controlling machine thingy to get all that Nocturna knows about Batman, hoping to find out the hero’s secret identity.

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Batman had been heading over to see Robin, and they wind up coming to Nocturna’s aid.  But the mind control machine doe not work, and Batman winds up fighting against a raging Nocturna, while Robin gets stuck dealing with the Hatter’s monkey, allowing the villain to escape.

The story continue in the net issue.

Batman 377 – Nocturna rejects the Night Slayer

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Nocturna becomes a major player in the next year of Batman comics, beginning with the Moench, Newton and Alcala tale in Batman 377 (Nov. 84).

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Natalia Knight has petitioned the courts for custody of Jason Todd, and Bruce Wayne does a really horrible job of trying to argue against this, looking like a raging lunatic despite Lucius Fox’s best efforts.

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But Nocturna is not at all pleased when Anton Knight reveals to her that he has killed Hellstrom, out of love for her.  And has also changed his name from the Thief of Night to the Night Slayer.

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Nocturna puts the moves on Batman, who is seduced by her drugged scent – and possibly by her as well.  The Night Slayer is hovering around, and when he sees Batman and Nocturna go at it, he attacks.

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The battle between Batman and the Night Slayer gets cut short when Anton gets shot by Nocturna.  He flees, and Nocturna tends to Batman’s wounds.

The story continues in the next issue of Detective.

Batman 376 – Bruce does not appreciate pranks

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Batman 376 (Oct. 84) was an issue I had considered skipping over, but the villain of the story, Hellstrom, is important in the larger scheme of things.

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The story also sees Jason Todd now living in a group home, and very unhappy about it, as are Bruce and Alfred.

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Hellstrom has been pulling deadly pranks in Gotham, and Batman is far from amused.  Harvey Bullock helps Batman check on the man’s past, and he does have criminal record, which includes burglary.

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When Hellstrom tries to pull his games at a society party, attended by Bruce Wayne, as well as Vicki Vale and Julia Remarque, Bruce publicly humiliates the man.

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Changing costume, he then goes after Hellstrom as Batman, although in this case the bad guy gets away.  Batman realizes that the romantic issues and stresses about Jason are having a negative impact on him.

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As the story ends, we see that Hellstrom has been a pawn of Nocturna, which leads into the next issue of Detective.

Batman 375 – Gotham under ice

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Mr. Freeze is back in Batman 375 (Sept. 84), with his biggest plans to date.

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Newton and Alcala provide some excellent art on Moench’s story, as the villain tries to freeze the entire city of Gotham.

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Mr. Freeze recaps his own origin to his men in this story, and how he changed his name from Mr. Zero.  This is the early origin, which has nothing to do with any sick wife.

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He creates a large glacier, which draws not only Batman and Robin, but also Commissioner Gordon and Harvey Bullock, and Vicki Vale and Julia Remarque as well.  But this is also the night a representative from child welfare comes to the house, and only Alfred is home.  He tries to cover Bruce and Jason’s absence, but the woman is infuriated when she catches him in a lie, and decides that Jason Todd must be removed from the home.

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Having both women in the story helps emphasize that, while Vicki Vale is interested in Bruce Wayne, Julia only has eyes for Batman.  Robin find this all very amusing, until Alfred informs him of the child welfare decision.

Mr. Freeze get no further with his plan than the first ice cap, and will not be seen again for a couple of years, until Batman 400.

Batman 374 – pictures of the Penguin

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Moench, Newton and Alcala do a fine job making the Penguin into a darker and more serious villain in Batman 374 (Aug. 84).

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A lot of that simply has to do with the art. The story still has him using birds and umbrellas in his crimes, but in more plausible ways, such as hiding stolen jewels in the gullets of carrier pigeons.

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Wanting to be taken seriously, the Penguin visits Vicki Vale, and asks her to take some non-comical photographs of him.  Vicki refuses, after discretely taking a shot, insisting that she reports news, rather than feeding the egos of thieves.

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Looking at the picture she did take, Vicki finds that she actually did exactly what the Penguin requested, and then has to struggle to decide whether to print it or not.  She also gets another scene of being jealous of Julia.

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Bullock, who got shot at in the previous issue of Detective, thinks that the Penguin may have been responsible, but Commissioner Gordon insists that there is no reason to tie the Penguin to the attempted murder.  And, indeed, the reader sees that it was Hamilton Hill who ordered the hit, and who still wants Bullock dead for turning on him.

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The Penguin pulls of a jewel theft, although Batman recovers the gem, and also kidnaps a journalist with hot information from the Pentagon.  Batman also frees the reporter, but not until the Penguin gets the secret information he wanted.  The Penguin escapes from Batman, who has to pursue him into the following issue of Detective.

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There is also a brewing subplot about Jason being tired and unattentive in school.  This leads to the Child Welfare Bureau discovering that his parents are dead, and though the boy is living with Bruce Wayne, there is no legal adoption or guardianship.

Batman 371 – Cat-Man makes a wager

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Cat-Man is back in Batman 341 (May 1984), still scarred and back in prison after his last appearance, the previous year in Detective Comics.

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He makes a wager with his cellmate, that he can escape and steal from the Bast exhibit.  If Batman captures him, then the cellmate will in the Cat-Man suit with its magical cape.  If he succeeds, he will get to take the hidden loot from the other man’s last robbery. Moench, Newton and Alcala spin an interesting story, with some decent twists, but mar it a bit as Cat-Man uses a many words that start with “cat” as they can think of.

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Julia has now moved into Wayne Manor, and there is a scene as she eats dinner with Bruce and Jason, while her father serves them.  It’s a bit odd.  Vicki Vale, who seems to have turned into a deranged and jealous woman, happens to phone Bruce, but Julia picks up the phone.  Simply hearing a woman’s voice is enough to make Vicki jump to conclusions.

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Learning that Cat-Man ha escaped from prison, Batman and Robin head right for the museum, the obvious target. Batman recaps Cat-Man’s origin on the way for Robin, a fairly faithful re-telling of his earliest stories.  The battle is pretty short, as Cat-Man gets caught before the end of the issue.  But we see that the cellmate has chosen to break out as well, and his part in this story will become important in the second half, in the next issue of Detective.