Tag Archives: Gardner Fox

Batman 202 – Alfred collapses, and Robin begins

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An evocative cover for Batman 202 (June 1968), but not a great story to suit it.

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Fox, Stone and Greene spin this story in which Batman and Robin deal with a series of robberies that seem to involve floating weapons and hidden enemies.  Alfred knows something about what is going on, but when he tries to tell the heroes, he collapses, after muttering about an “Eternal Gate.”

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Following that clue, Batman and Robin head to the Eternal Gate Cemetery.

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They find and defeat the bad guy.  Alfred wakes up, and give a long explanation about how he knew that the villain must be a mind reader who he knew years ago.  The man saved his life once, and Alfred’s internal conflict about turning him in caused his collapse.

I would happily have skipped over this tale, except I had to write about the back-up story.

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After a number of stories in which Robin had played the lead, but not received the billing, he finally ascends to his own back-up series, which will jump back and forth between Batman and Detective over the next few years.

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Friedrich, Stone and Giella open this story as Dick Grayson heads out to run for school council.  Bruce is impressed, and agrees that he needs to devote a bit more time to his life as a teenager.

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On the way to the school, Dick gets attacked by a biker gang.  Switching to Robin, he follows, and then infiltrates them.  He succeeds in taking down the entire gang himself.

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But it proves to be a hollow victory.  He has missed the student council debate, and, as a result, lost the election.  Alfred and Bruce try to cheer him up, but it’s clear they do not succeed.

Dick Grayson has discovered the cost of playing the hero.

Batman 201 – villains protecting Batman

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Fox, Stone and Giella craft a really off-beat story in Batman 201 (May 1968).

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The story opens as the Penguin assembles a collection of Batman’s enemies, and tell them of a gangland plot to kill the hero.  Feeling that Batman is theirs to deal with, the Penguin enlists the Joker, Catwoman, Mad Hatter, Cluemaster, Johnny Witts and the Getaway Genius to work as secret guardian angels, helping keep Batman safe.

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It’s a strange grouping, of big name and really minor ones.  Sadly, the big name get the least play in this tale.  It also doesn’t really show Batman in a very good light, both because he needs the help of the villains to survive the various death traps, but also because he never figures out what is going on.

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Batman’s villains do succeed at their goal, and keep Batman alive until he can bring don the mobsters.

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The conclusion has another twist, as we discover that the mobsters hired Mr. Esper as part of their scheme, and he, in turn, prompted the Penguin to gather the villains to prevent it from coming off.

This sets up Mr. Esper’s return in a few issues.

Batman 197 – Catwoman gets jealous of Batgirl

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Catwoman returns to the page of Batman after an absence of more than ten year, in a story by Gardner Fox, Frank Springer and Sid Greene, in Batman 197 (Dec. 67).

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This is the first story in which Catwoman wears a costume that resembles the one from the tv show, although the colour is obviously different.

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She has become a crime fighter, in the hopes of proving to Batman that she would be a better partner than Batgirl, who was recently introduced in Detective Comics.  Catwoman is convinced that Batgirl and Batman are romantically involved, and her motivation for joining the forces of good is simply jealousy.

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This is also the first tory in this book to feature Batgirl, and it repeats the montage, shown in her earliest appearance in Detective Comics, that shows Barbara Gordon changing into her reversible Batgirl outfit.

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Catwoman makes Batman choose between her and Batgirl, and when he once again insists that there is nothing between him and Batgirl, Catwoman changes sides again, and has her men capture the three heroes.

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Batgirl helps Batman and Robin escape, and is even the one to take Catwoman down.

Catwoman returns in a few issues.

Batman 195 – a good villain with two terrible names

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A great cover for Batman 195 (Sept. 67), and an interesting villain, created by Fox, Moldoff and Giella.  But sadly, the title calls the character the Spark-Spangled See Through Man, while the story itself calls him Bag O’Bones.

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The villain with two bad names is also called Ned Creegan, a thief who breaks in to a radiation chamber to steal some gems being used int he experiment by Nevil Logan.

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Batman and Robin track Creegan when he tries to sell the jewels, but he winds up affected by the radiation, his skin turning invisible, and acquiring an electric charge that holds off the heroes.

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Distressed, Creegan returns to Logan, who gives him pills to control his changes.  He keeps Creegan’s crime secret, so that he can use him in his experiments to create a cure for radiation.  But he also informs the thief that when he is in his “Bag O’Bones” state, his life gets shortened dramatically.

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Unsure as to whether Creegan’s electric charge is positive or negative, Batman and Robin each arm themselves with some neutralizing gloves.  The charge turns out to be a positive one, but the power is so intense that Batman has to release his glove, or be stuck to him for good.

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They trail Creegan back to Logan’s lab, where the scientist pits the radioactive animals against them.  Batman and Robin manage to stick the oppositely charged animals together, and capture the thief and the scientist.

Creegan is sent to prison for ten years, but knows he will die during that time.  Which I suppose he does, as we never see him again.

But the look of the character, if nothing else about him, will come back with the introduction of Dr. Phosphorus ten years down the road.

Batman 194 – Blockbuster hates everyone

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A great cover for Batman 194 (Aug. 67), as Fox, Moldoff and Giella bring Blockbuster into this book for the first time, following his encounter with the Justice League and Justice Society in recent issues of JLA.

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The Justice League story ended with Blockbuster and Solomon Grundy having pounded each other into a state of happiness.  Blockbuster is in prison as this tale begins, but in a cheerful state, until he sees a cut out of Batman.  This sends him into a rage, and he busts out of prison.

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Batman tracks down Blockbuster, which isn’t really the hardest thing to do.  He tries the various techniques that have worked before to calm him down, unmasking to reveal that he is Bruce Wayne (who had saved Mark Desmond as a child), or duplicating the voice of Mark’s brother.  But neither of these work this time, and Batman keeps getting pounded while he tries to come up with a way to calm Blockbuster down.

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After Blockbuster tosses Batman into a swamp, he gets the idea to emerge looking like Solomon Grundy (apparently he had the make-up in his utility belt).  Grundy is the one person that Blockbuster still likes, and he calms down.  Batman then tosses him into the swamp, and then rescues him as Grundy, to ensure that Mark will continue to trust him.  It makes more sense than it sounds.  It also has the added benefit of making the confused Blockbuster believe that Batman is really Solomon Grundy, rather than Bruce Wayne.

Blockbuster is not seen again until 1976, when he appears alongside many other villains in a Justice League issue.

Batman 190 – the Penguin’s futuristic crimes

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I like the cover for Batman 190 (March 1967), but the Penguin story inside, by Fox, Moldoff and Giella, is not so hot.

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The Penguin decides to go futuristic for his new crime spree, even to the degree of forcing his gang to eat food pellets instead of real food.

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The Penguin does have some impressive gear for Batman and Robin to deal with: a robot duplicate of himself, mentally controlled trick umbrellas, and a gravity beam.  Makes for some good scenes, although it all seems a bit out of place with this character.

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Alfred shows that he has totally recovered from being dead, and is the one who manages to take the Penguin down, while Batman and Robin are dealing with the robot double.

Batman 189 – the Scarecrow returns

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The Scarecrow, not seen since the early 1940s, makes his big return in a story by Fox, Moldoff and Giella, in Batman 189 (Feb. 67).

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Since the character had not been seen in so long, the first few pages of the issue recap the origin of Jonathan Crane, and how the university professor turned to crime.

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This is also the first story in which the Scarecrow uses chemicals to induce fears in Batman and Robin, keeping them off balance while he and his men escape with their loot.

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Alfred, having recently come back to life, after a period as the Outsider, makes a small appearance in this story.

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It’s a good story, solid and serious, and the Scarecrow proves what a good villain he really is.  Batman and Robin have to overcome the various fears he induces in them in order to triumph.

 

Batman 183 – Poison Ivy’s explosive hair, and the phony Batman

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The Batman tv show makes the cover of issue 183 (Aug. 66), although for some reason the title has been changed.  Doesn’t really matter, the show is not used in the corresponding story.

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Poison Ivy is back in a story by Kanigher, Moldoff and Giella, a direct follow-up to her debut tale.

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Batman finds himself constantly thinking about Poison Ivy, even as he dates other women as Bruce Wayne.  His obsession affects him even as Batman, when on a case.

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Ivy sends Batman a gift, a mirror that sends him messages from her.  Robin doe not seem able to hear or see what Batman can, implying there is more to this than just a mirror.  The story does not delve into this, though.  Batman smashes the mirror, to try to get Ivy off his mind.

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Ivy then seems to be dying, which finally brings Batman to the prison, which had been her goal all along.  Ivy reveals that she has “utility hair.”  Various strands have medicinal properties, able to induce or cure ailment, and also cause explosions.  Mercifully, this concept does not appear in any of her later stories.

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Batman breaks Ivy out of prison, and she uses her exploding hair to take out the police cars pursuing them.  Batman insists that he would rather die than join Ivy, and even makes her think he has died.  The ending is a bit quick, as he takes advantage of an angry panther to capture Ivy.

Whenever this story is referenced in later days, much more is made of the hypnotic quality of the kiss she gave Batman in her debut, and how this induced his obsession in this story.  It really make sense, and this tale seems right on the verge of including that explanation, even though it doesn’t.

Poison Ivy would pop up in a number of books in the 70s, from Lois Lane to Justice League to Secret Society of Super-Villains, but she doesn’t actually return to face Batman one on one until 1980.

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The cover story is by Fox, Moldoff and Greene, and sees Batman fall into a sticky trap, getting replaced by an impostor.

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Robin knows immediately that this Batman is not the real one, though how he knows is not yet explained.  The phony Batman pretends to sprain his ankle.

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With “Batman” injured, Robin goes out on patrol on his own, although he uses monitors in the Batmobile to keep an eye on him.  Sure enough, once Robin is gone the fake Batman sets a bomb to destroy the Batcave.

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The phony Batman goes to check on the real one, who has escaped the trap, and they fight, with the real one winning, of course.

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The conclusion reveals how Robin knew the fake was a fake.  He didn’t have the yellow circle around the bat.  That is true on the cover as well.  To my shame, the first time I read this, I really didn’t pick up on that.

Batman 181 – Poison Ivy debuts

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Poison Ivy gets the cover for her big debut, in Batman 181 (June 1966), in a story by Kanigher, Moldoff and Giella.

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Three other female villains get introduced in this story: Dragon Fly, Silken Spider and Tiger Moth.  Each claims to be the “Queen of Crime” in Gotham, but Poison Ivy shows up to insist that only she deserves that title.

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Ivy lures the three woman into a trap, using an electrified crown to hold them.  Batman and Robin show up, and Ivy makes a play for Batman.  She kisses him, but he rebuffs her.  This story only really endows her with one power, that of being able to climb a building the way ivy does.  Curiously, this is not a power that remains in her repertoire.

Batman captures her, but she vows to return, which she does in the next new issue (182 is an all-reprint issue).  As for the other three women, they have to wait until the 90s to return.

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This issue also contains the best Mystery Analysts story, possibly because it’s really more of a Batman story than anything else, by Fox, Moldoff and Greene..

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Kaye Daye shows up for a meeting of the Analysts, announcing that her latest book was not written by her.  Just after she explains this, her brooch relays a death threat.

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Batman is very suspicious about all of this.  He figures out that the Kaye Daye who came to the meeting could not have been the real one, and must have been in on the scam, in order to be wearing the correct brooch.

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He pieces together some subtle but clear clues, and finds the real Kaye Daye, as well as her impersonator.  As I said, the best of the Mystery Analysts series.

 

Batman 179 – the Riddler’s compulsion

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The Riddler is back again, in a story by Fox, Moldoff and Giella in Batman 179 (March 1966).

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The Riddler escapes from prison, and leaves behind a riddle on how he managed to do it.  But he realizes that sending the riddles has been his downfall, and decides to commit crimes without sending clues first.  But hen he tries to do this, he finds he cannot steal.

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Slowly, the Riddler trains himself to steal without ending clue.  But then weird clues do take place throughout Gotham.  They aren’t sent to Batman or Commissioner Gordon, but nevertheless provide clues to the Riddler’s thefts.

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Thanks to the clues, Batman and Robin stop the Riddler.  To his dismay, the Riddler discovers that he was sending the riddling clues while sleepwalking.  He simply cannot overcome his compulsion.