Tag Archives: Len Wein

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.

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Batman 326 – Selina says goodbye

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One of Batman’s lesser known foes makes a dramatic return on the final page of Batman 326 (Aug. 80), although when I first bought this comic, I had no idea at all who he was.

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Wein, Novick and McLaughlin open this story with Selina Kyle, all recovered, leaving Bruce Wayne.  She was not at all impressed that he refused to believe she was innocent of Cat-Man’s thefts, and has come to terms with the fact that she cannot leave her Catwoman past behind her.  Bruce is quite upset about this, and (rightly) blames himself, and his Batman persona, for screwing up their relationship.

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He tries to throw himself into his work to forget about her.  As he patrols, he comes across a criminal whose methods of operation match another Arkham inmate, and discussing it with Commissioner Gordon, learns about the case from the earlier issue, in which much the same thing happened.

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After contacting the head of Arkham, who insists that the suspected felons are still there, and had not escaped, Batman decides to go undercover, getting committed to Arkham himself.

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The final page reveals that Professor Milo is now in control of the asylum.  As I said, not having any clue who this was, the big reveal fell flat for me.

Mile had last appeared in these pages in 1975, a story in which he was seemingly killed by Anthony Lupus.  The big scar on his face is clearly meant to reference his attack by Lupus.

The story continues in the next issue.

Batman 324 – Batman and Catwoman vs Cat-Man

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Wein, Novick and Smith bring the long-running Catwoman saga to a close in Batman 324 (June 1980).

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Picking up from the end of the previous issue, Cat-Man activates his sticky cat’s cradle to rip Batman and Catwoman apart, and then heads off with the stolen Egyptian herbs.  Catwoman, sick to begin with, passes out, but Batman manages to save both of them.

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In a set-up for a coming storyline, Commissioner Gordon is distressed to find writing at a murder scene, all of which indicates the identity of the killer – a man who Gordon has already arrested, and who is supposedly incarcerated in Arkham Asylum.

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Batman brings Catwoman to the Batcave to recover. He chides her for not telling him about her fatal illness.  He also analyzes some dirt left behind from Cat-Man’s boot, and determines that it comes from one specific Greek island.  He insists that Catwoman is too ill to accompany him, but she tells him that she will follow him no matter what he does, so Batman agrees to bring her along.

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At the island, we see that Cat-Man has been dealing with a Greek millionaire, stealing a variety of objects for him, in exchange for the deed to the island.  There is a natural geyser on the island, which Cat-Man has been using to store his loot.

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Batman and Catwoman confront him, and during the fight Catwoman grabs ahold of his robe, just before the geyser erupts, seemingly killing Cat-Man.

Not much has been made of it so far, but Cat-Man’s cape supposedly endows him with nine lives.  The bit that Catwoman tore off is credited with miraculously curing her fatal illness.

Their story is not quite done, although next issue does not follow up either this, or the Arkham story, both of which have to wait till issue 326.

Cat-Man does survive the geyser eruption, but is horribly scarred by it, which is dealt with in his next appearance, a little over a year down the road in Detective Comics.

Batman 323 – Catwoman hunts for a cure

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After more than a year as Selina Kyle, Catwoman dons her costume again in the Wein, Novick and Smith story in Batman 323 (May 1980).

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Hearing about the theft at the museum, Batman comes to question Selina, and demands that she turn herself in.  Selina refuses, sicking her cat on Batman and fleeing out the window.

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Batman is conflicted, not wanting to believe Selina has returned to her life of crime, but certain she is the thief.  At the office, Bruce meets his new secretary, Caroline Crown, who replaces Gwen.  Gwen had never been more than a characterless name, but more will be done with Caroline.

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Bruce is surprised to find Catwoman in his office.  She has come to him for help and support, but he says basically the same things he did as Batman, that she should turn herself in. Catwoman even comments that he sounds just like Batman, but does not put two and two together.  Instead, she simply flees again.

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There is also a brief scene with Lucius Fox and his troubled son, Timothy.

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Catwoman head to a deserted warehouse, and the old rum running tunnels located beneath it.  Batman is on her trail. When they both fall into a trap, it becomes fairly clear that Catwoman cannot be the one responsible for the thefts.

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And, indeed, the true villain is Cat-Man.  He had last appeared (not counting his cameo in the previous issue) facing the Freedom Fighters three years earlier, but this is his first time facing Batman since the early 60s.

The story concludes in the next issue.

 

Batman 322 – Captain Boomerang comes to Gotham

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Captain Boomerang, a frequent Flash villain, comes to Gotham City in the Wein, Novick and Colletta story in Batman 322 (April 1980).

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But Selina Kyle is really a far more important character in this tale. Still suffering her mysterious headaches, she also finds herself perusing a scrapbook of her adventures as Catwoman.

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Captain Boomerang’s target in this story is a newspaper, the Gotham Guardian, which he demands a million dollars from, although the reason behind this is not clear at first.

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Selina pays a visit to Dr. Dundee, and learns that she is dying from a rare and almost symptomless disease, the only cure for which as known to the ancient Egyptians.

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Conveniently, the Egyptian exhibition, seen a few issues earlier, happens to have some sealed jars reputed to contain rare curative herbs.

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Alfred does some research for Batman, and discovers that the Gotham Guardian is owned by Gregorian Falstaff – and we find that he is Boomerang’s real target.  Boomerang had invested stolen money in a company bankrupted by Falstaff, and has come demanding compensation.

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Batman gets involved, saving Falstaff, but getting captured and tied to one of the Captain’s giant boomerangs.  He manages to escape, using the smoky blast that launches the boomerang into space as a cover, and takes down Captain Boomerang pretty fast.

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The story ends as a cat-garbed figure breaks into the museum to steal the ancient herbs. Is Catwoman back in action?

The story continues in the next issue.

Captain Boomerang returns in a couple of years in the Flash.

Batman 321 – the Joker’s birthday party

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I knew Batman 321 (March 1980) was destined to be a classic the day I first bought it and read it, and indeed, to date this tale has been reprinted five times.

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Wein, Simonson and Giordano have a ball with this tale, in which the Joker decides to throw himself a big birthday party, kidnapping a number of Batman’s friends and allies to decorate his cake with. Commissioner Gordon is the first one we see get taken, though chronologically, Robin had been captured earlier.

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Lucius Fox and Selina Kyle appear in the sequence in which the Joker bursts into the Wayne penthouse to grab Alfred.  The Joker recognizes Selina, but assumes she is there undercover, as part of some scheme as Catwoman.  The Joker takes her out, but leaves her behind.

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The Joker lures a huge crowd to an auditorium on the harbourfront, offering free cake.  Once the building is filled to capacity, he seals the people in, and drugs them into submission, providing himself a captive audience, as he reveals his giant cake.

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Batman shows, as the Joker expects he would, and even offers himself in exchange for the other captives.  The Joker agrees to the deal, but quickly reneges once he has Batman tied to a giant candle. But Batman was expecting that, and had already rigged the centre candle to fire as a rocket.  Some nice batarang action cuts the fuses on the candles the others are tied to, and frees Robin, allowing him some action in the tale.

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A great story from start to finish, quirky, funny and deadly.

The Joker returns the following year in Detective Comics.

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.