Tag Archives: Joe Kubert

Batman 400 – everyone vs Batman

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Batman 328 – Gilda’s bad luck with husbands

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Another great Kubert cover on Batman 328 (Oct. 80), and the beginning of an interesting two-part tale, by Marv Wolfman, Novick and Giordano.

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A man named Carl Ternion was acquitted of the murder of Anton Karouselle, whichwas deemed to be accidental.  But he sends Batman a tape confessing to the crime, which, he says, he cannot be re-tried for, because of double jeopardy.  I’m not sure that is exactly true, considering that he has confessed, but whatever.

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Batman begins looking into Karouselle’s death, as Carl starts romancing Gilda, the widow of a man who Karouselle supposedly murdered.

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Lucius Fox also gets a brief scene, tendering his resignation so that he can deal with some personal issues (his son?  it’s not made clear).  Bruce refuses to accept this, and puts Fox on a paid leave of absence.

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There are a lot of subtle hints as to who Ternion really is. We see that he had plastic surgery on his face, although the surgery is coming apart, and Ternion kills the doctor who performed it.

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With a mention of the doctor also having operated on yet another of Gilda’s husbands, and Ternion’s dreams of marrying Gilda a second time, there are loads of clues, both in the text and the art, as to who the villain in the story really is.

The story concludes in the next issue.

Batman 327 – Professor Milo runs Arkham Asylum

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A great Joe Kubert cover on Batman 327 (Sept. 80).

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Continuing the Wein, Novick and McLaughlin story from last issue, Batman is undercover as an Arkham Asylum inmate, which has been taken over by Professor Milo. Batman sneaks out of his cell, and explores some of the other cells.  Maxie Zeus gets a cameo, his first appearance in this book, following his last appearance in Detective Comics a couple of months earlier.  It will be a couple of years before his next appearance, also in Detective.  Batman checks out the cells of Two-Face and the Joker as well, even though both are currently considered dead. In both cases, and for Zeus as well, it seems the inmates are allowed to decorate as they see fit.

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But Milo has been watching all of this on his spy cameras, and has Batman brought to him.  He gives him drugged tea, which Batman throws away.  But the cup was drugged as well, with a hallucinogen absorbed through the skin, which Batman did not suspect.

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Milo then plays his mind games with the hero, trying to convince him that he only thinks he is Batman, a symptom of his insanity.  This almost works, until Batman catches a glimpse of himself in a mirror, and sees his dilated pupils.  Unfortunately, the art at this point shows his eye slits as all white, denying what the text is telling us.  Ah well.

With his plans foiled, Milo puts on a sealed suit and releases a gas guaranteed to drive any who inhale it insane, and then sicks the inmates on Batman.  But instead, they turn on him, attacking him and tearing the suit.

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So the story ends with Milo completely insane. This is the last pre-Crisis appearance of the character (indeed, his last appearance until very recently), so one can safely assume Milo spent his remaining time crazy, and in the asylum.

The comic expands with this issue, gaining eight extra pages, and has a Batman and Robin back-up story, which is too mediocre to write about.

Batman 319 – the Gentleman Ghost returns

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The Gentleman Ghost is back, and once again gets a Kubert cover, inked by Giordano, in Batman 319 (Jan. 80).

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Wein, Novick and Bob Smith are the creative team on the tale itself, which plays up the element of Batman refusing to believe that the Gentleman Ghost is really a spirit.  As with many of the character’s Hawkman stories, Batman finds various tricks that the Ghost uses, projections and dummies, but can never quite prove that everything is being faked.

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Early in, the story has a set-up for the forthcoming Joker tale, as his henchmen kill some policemen, leaving them with deathly grins, as they retrieve one of the Joker’s men from custody. The Joker will not actually appear in the following issue, which takes place almost entirely in Spain, but does show up in issue 321.

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Wayne Manor is used again for the bulk of the tale.  The Gentleman Ghost does fit this locale better than urban Gotham.  Bruce Wayne is hosting a costume ball, and showing off a collection of gems, which he expects the Ghost to go after.  Bruce is dressed as Henry VIII, with Selina Kyle as Katharine of Aragon.  Lucius Fox is dressed as Lincoln, and even Alfred gets into the spirit of things, going as George Washington.  Bruce makes peace between Selina and Lucius, who find out that they have something in common – a curiosity as to why Bruce keeps disappearing.

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The Gentleman Ghost has his men dress up as well, in his own costume, making it much more difficult for Batman to determine which of them is the real Ghost.

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And though Batman unmasks the fakes, stops the robbery and even finds a projector that the Gentleman Ghost is using, he is incapable of actually capturing the spirit, or even proving that he is not really a ghost.

This is the last time the Gentleman Ghost and Batman will face each other, though the character does have a cameo along with a host of other Batman villains three years down the road, in the story that sees Jason Todd become Robin.  It’s kind of a shame, I really enjoyed the Ghost’s two stories with Batman.

Batman 310 – Batman vs the Gentleman Ghost

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Batman 310 (April 1979) was the first appearance of Hawkman’s old foe, the Gentleman Ghost, in four years, following a cameo in Justice League of America, and the first time I had seen the character.  The issue has a very good Joe Kubert cover, though he does not draw the Ghost in the story itself.

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Wein is joined by Novick and Giordano for this story, in which the Ghost robs the Wayne penthouse of a number of antiques, which are, nonetheless, not particularly valuable.

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Selina Kyle, the former Catwoman, makes a cameo, flirting with Bruce Wayne, under the excuse of discussing her investments.

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Bruce discovers that Alfred has gone missing, and goes in disguise to gain information.  There is a wonderfully subtle touch of having Batman’s disguise look like Alfred originally had.  Honestly, I missed this completely as a kid, and only noticed it now.

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Batman learns that Alfred had been at a bar, bragging about what a fine estate the closed down Wayne Manor was.  Batman realizes that all the stolen antiques had been from the Manor. Sure enough, that’s where the Gentleman Ghost is, with Alfred in his thrall, and the antiques all restored to the original locations.  The Gentleman Ghost was robbing to furnish his dream house.

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The Ghost tries to make Alfred shoot Batman, but of course Alfred cannot do such a thing, and in fact it breaks the spell the Ghost has over him.

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There is a brief final battle between Batman and the Gentleman Ghost, in which the villain goes over a cliff in a carriage.

It’s not a bad story by any means, but oddly does not at all play on the question of whether the Gentleman Ghost is a genuine spirit or not.

The Gentleman Ghost returns a few months down the road.

Flash 104 – Hawkman, the Flash, Ghost Patrol, the Atom, and Black Canary end, as does Flash Comics

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Flash Comics comes to an end with issue 104 (Feb. 49), with a cover for the Broome and Kubert Hawkman story.

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Hawkman flies solo in this story, which involves criminals who have stolen an invention that projects realistic images.

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It’s a pretty simple and unremarkable tale, notable only for the art.

Hawkman continues to appear as a member of the Justice Society in All-Star Comics.

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The Flash gets an excellent villain in this Kanigher, Infantino and Giacoia story, which begins by re-capping Jay Garricks’s origin.  He faces a similarly garbed enemy, Rival, who Jay fears knows his identity.  Of course, looking back at the Flash’s earliest stories, he took no efforts to conceal it at that time, so his fears now are a bit odd.

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Rival is capable of running as fast as the Flash, but as the story progresses, it becomes clear that he can only do short bursts, which enables the Flash to defeat him.

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Flash unmasks Rival, who turns out to be a chemistry professor, Dr. Clariss, who overheard part of the experiment that created the Flash, but was unable to duplicate it exactly.

The Flash continues to appear as a member of the Justice Society, in All-Star Comics, but Joan Williams has to wait till the Silver Age for her return, in the first team-up of Jay Garrick and Barry Allen.  Rival does not return until around the Millenium, in the pages of Justice Society of America.

Professor Zoom, the Reverse-Flash, was very much an updated version of Rival.

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The Ghost Patrol get their final story to date here, with art by Infantino and Sachs.  Pedro, Slim and Fred come to the aid of a horse in this story who is concerned about his son-horse, which reveals that they are able to talk to animals – or at least dead ones.

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It’s pretty much the standard evil gambler plot, enlivened by the antics of the ghosts.

The Ghost Patrol do not return until after Crisis on Infinite Earths, and even then only make rare cameos.

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The final story of the Golden Age Atom, by Arthur Adler and Reinman, has Al Pratt and Mary James out fishing, when they see a lighthouse sink into the ground.  Mary then winds up getting kidnapped.

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It’s all part of a plot to steal oil from the government, and with such a visible giveaway, these guys would have got caught even if the Atom hadn’t come on the scene.  The death-trap is not bad.

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The Atom continues to appear as a member of the Justice Society, in the pages of All-Star Comics.  Mary James does not appear again until a DC Comics Presents story in the 80s.

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Black Canary’s final outing, by Kanigher, Infantino and Sachs, has a complicated plot, once again reminiscent of a film noir, in which Dinah Drake and Larry Lance come to the aid of a noted criminologist who may have been murdered while investigating an old case.

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But it turns out the criminologist is actually the killer.

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Black Canary continues to appear in All-Star Comics as part of the Justice Society of America.  Larry Lance does not return until a Brave an Bold story in the mid-60s, although chronologically his next appearance is in a previously unprinted Black Canary story in DC Special in the early 70s.

Flash Comics comes to an end here, but the numbering would be used for the Silver Age Flash comic.  Despite this, the latter Flash series is not really a continuation of this anthology book, but of All-Flash, his solo comic.

 

Flash 103 – the timed robberies, and Hawkman takes a cruise with the Gentleman Ghost

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A dramatic, if misleading, cover on Flash Comics 103 (Jan. 49).

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The deadly sword only appears at the very top of the story, used like the Sword of Damocles, but only for a mob boss to impress on his gang the effect his crimes are intended to have on the population, making them fear the next crime wave, uncertain of when it will hit.

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Oh, should have mentioned that this story is by Broome, Infantino and Sachs.  Hoods throughout the city all pull their crimes at the same times, down to the minute, overwhelming both the police and the Flash.  It’s fairly clear that a radio show is being used to convey orders to the gang, though not how those orders are sent.  The Flash breaks the code, based on the initial letters of the radio plays, and intercepts the gang and the boss.

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The Ghost makes his final appearance in the Golden Age in this Kanigher and Kubert tale.

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To help a failing cruise line, Hawkman and Hawkgirl go on a promoted cruise.  The Ghost sees the coverage of this, and decides to join them.  The Ghost’s plan appears to be killing the Hawks, and then sinking the ship, presumably to kill all onboard.  Once again, there are fake Ghosts and deceptive tricks, which decoy the Hawks long enough for the Ghost to capture them, and try to kill them.

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And, once again, the Ghost appears to die at the end of this story.

The Gentleman Ghost returns in Atom and Hawkman in the late 60s.  This is also the last appearance of Hawkgirl for an awfully long time, until the All-Star Comics revival in the mid-70s.