Retro Comics are Awesome

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:07 pm

Batman #50
December 1948 - January 1949

Lights - Camera - Crime!
"What a man!" - Vicki Vale admires Batman in crime-busting action.

Vicki Vale handles the toughest assignments for her magazine, and her editor assigns her to get photos of various law enforcement groups in action, including the FBI (and we get a Joker cameo as she is embedded with them), the Coast Guard, State Troopers... and of course, that most famous lawman, Batman. She plies her feminine wiles on Gordon ("The dear Commissioner was SO understanding" she explains, while Gordon looks embarrassed) to get him to use the bat-signal to call Batman, who agrees to help. Vicki gets lots of photographs of Batman and Robin busting crooks, which leads into the other main storyline as a man Batman rescues, former crook Tom Macon, relates a story of taking $100,000 to take a fall for gangster Stilts Tyler. Macon went to prison after getting the money up front and hiding it where Stilts could not find it, rightly suspecting Stilts would try to steal it back. But Macon learns from the prison doctor that his heart is bad, so when he gets out and is saved from an attack by Stilt's men by Batman, Macon says he'll be dead soon and he'd rather Batman gave the money to charity than let Stilts have it. To make a long story short, Batman, Robin and Vicki are captured and allowed to escape so they'll lead the gang to the money. The final confrontation on a lighthouse sees Vicki help Batman and Robin beat the gang, with Vicki's editor praising her photos.

The Return of Two-Face!
Harvey Dent (last seen as Harvey Kent in Detective Comics #80, October 1943) is having nightmares that he's reverted to being Two-Face. He's a lawyer now, not the District Attorney, and married to Gilda, his love interest from the earlier stories. After a page recapping his origin, crime spree and cure, Batman discusses his condition with Wilkins,his butler, and worries about his current mental state. And he's apparently right to do so, as Two-Face reappears in public to commit various thefts themed around the number two. But when Two-Face drops his scarred coin by accident, Batman thinks he's figured out what's really going on. When he and Robin finally catch Two-Face in Gilda's old art studio, it's Wilkins in disguise. Wilkins had been drugging Dent's food and committing crimes as Two-Face, hoping to pin the blame on a mentally disturbed Harvey Dent. All's well that ends well as Dent and his wife are reunited, and Wilkins goes to jail.

I seem to remember reading somewhere that Bill Finger wanted to bring back Two-Face, but didn't want to ruin Harvey's happy ending, so this was his solution: an impersonator. It's a decent story that does make it seem plausible that Dent has had a relapse until the reveal at the end. And I'll admit, I'm happy to see Dent keep his happy ending too.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 6:46 am

Batman #50 concluded

The Second Boy Wonder!
After a few nights of being told to stay home while Batman goes out, Dick Grayson wonders what exactly is going on. To his shock, Batman is training another boy, Jimmy, in crime-fighting down in the Batcave, and even unmasking in front of him! Dick believes he's being replaced and can't understand why... hasn't he always been loyal and determined? He finally tells Bruce that he knows what's going on, and that Bruce is training another boy as his replacement. But of course, in the end there is another explanation. During a fight with Waxey Wilson's mob in which Jimmy is forced to put his training to good use, it's revealed that Jimmy is actually blind, but wants to go into law enforcement when he grows up, and that's what Batman was helping him learn. He's not Dick's replacement at all, but for a few panels there are indeed two Robins taking on Waxey's gang. Dick was never told about Jimmy because Jimmy's final test, his "graduation" from training would be to run a mission with Robin. It's all a bit contrived, but I enjoyed it anyway.

Detective Comics #142
December 1948

Crime's Puzzle Contest!
The Riddler has survived his apparent drowning, and immediately returns to challenging Batman and the police with his riddles. This time he announces cash prizes to those who figure out his riddles, leading to crowds of people hoping to find the hidden prize or traffic jams, all of which distract and delay Batman and the police while the Riddler pulls off his real crime elsewhere. Diversionary tactics, in other words. This can only work for so long of course, and the Riddler is eventually caught when he tries to hide in a hall of mirrors, but Batman finds the real Riddler because the question marks on his costume aren't reversed. The Riddler is captured, and like so many other Golden Age villains, will not be seen again for decades. He is the latest in a long list of villains who make two, three or four appearances before being permanently jailed.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Mon Feb 18, 2019 7:13 am

Detective Comics #143
January 1949

The Pied Piper of Peril!
This is another "crook with a gimmick" storyline, with what has to be one of the more distinctive covers of the era (Batman and Robin in a giant pipe with the crazed looking Piper about to light it). The Pied Piper is committing a series of crimes around Gotham while initially running a pipe store in civilian life. He initially fools the suspicious Batman and is able to stay one step ahead of him for a while, but is caught in the end, ironically defeated by a pipe. In some ways, this feels like the type of plot that would normally be assigned to the Joker or Penguin, but it is refreshing to get a new villain instead.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 10:21 am

World's Finest Comics #38
January-February 1949

The Impossible People!
When mythical figures from American folklore, such as Father Time and Jack Frost, appear and cause a public spectacle, and then a crime is committed, Batman suspects that these "impossible people" are responsible for the crimes. That's reasonable, and such a scheme would be nothing we haven't seen before in some form from the Joker or Penguin. But there's a twist: all of these mythical figures are members of the Folklore Society, doing nothing but drumming up publicity for their group, while crooks use their activities as a diversion. An investigation leads Batman to the janitor in the Society's meeting hall, who gave their plans to the mob for a cut of the loot. The genuine crooks are rounded up as they drive a giant replica of Paul Bunyan (who built this thing? Why not just sell it and pocket the money?), and Batman and Robin get inducted into the Folklore society.

Batman #51
February-March 1949

Pee-Wee, the Talking Penguin!
The Penguin again appears to have gone straight, and is basking in the publicity afforded him by his partnership with Pee-Wee, a talking penguin. It's obvious from the start that this is a scam, so the question becomes how is the Penguin doing this? It turns out to be a collar on the Penguin with a slight electrical charge so Pee Wee opens and closes his beak on cue, and ventriloquism by the Penguin. It seems that if he could go to all this trouble, the Penguin could have genuinely gone straight and had a career in show business and made big bucks that way. But no, his scheme is found out, and he heads back to jail.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Wed Feb 20, 2019 9:44 am

Batman #51 concluded

The Stars of Yesterday!
Retired performers live in "The Old Troupers' Home" and talk about the glory days of their careers. They're all looking to make a comeback, but it's racketeer Rufus Lane who wants them for his Showboat Theater as a front, while he and his gang commit crimes. Enter Batman and Robin, who figure out the waterfront angle while examining a lost trunk dropped by fur thieves. They go to see the old-timers' show, and while prowling the ship, Batman is hit from behind and nearly roasted to death in an old boiler, but Robin rescues him. With the scam revealed to the old time performers, Batman enlists their aid to trap and capture Lane and his gang.

Superman did a similar plot with washed up old comedians returning to the stage, and there was a Batman story where old time pilots are looking to return to the glory days of flying, so the plot is a little too familiar. But it works, and it's good to see Batman engaging in some forensic work to find a lead on the criminals, and the death trap is genuinely sadistic. Lane could have just shot Batman, but instead he has his men try to kill him in a much more painful and prolonged way.

The Wonderful Mr. Wimble!
It's "The Secret LIfe of Walter Mitty" set in Batman's world, as meek, quiet Mr. Wimble daydreams that he's a famous crime-fighter who assists Batman in solving dangerous cases. A chance encounter with the real Batman leads Wimble to pursue a clue and attempt to solve a crime on his own, which almost gets him killed. He is shot, but survives, and in the end Batman finds him a job with a Gotham detective agency. In some ways, this feels like it should have been an Alfred story, but of course for whatever reason, we have not seen Alfred in quite some time. Like Julie Madison, it seems the writers forgot about him.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Thu Feb 21, 2019 8:48 am

Detective Comics #144
February 1949

Kay Kyser's Mystery Broadcast!
I believe this is the first appearance of a real life celebrity in the Batman series. Kay Kyser was a Big Band leader in the 30s and 40s, whose band had many number one records (including the Woody Woodpecker theme), and his "Kollege of Musical Knowledge" was an actual quiz show that ran first on radio and then on television. Kyser would dress up in cap and gown, just as he's depicted as doing in this story. I'd never heard of him or his band, but they appear to have been a big deal at the time this story was published. Maybe the writer was a fan, or maybe Kyser was a fan of Batman. Who knows?

The story isn't half bad either, and it uses Kyser's "guest starring" role well. Big Jack Bancroft is on the run from police, and in flagging down a car at gunpoint to make a getaway, he happens to get the car driven by Kay Kyser. Bancroft decides that since he resembles Kyser's saxaphonist Eddie Blinn, the perfect place to hide until the heat dies down is on Kyser's show, with his men holding Blinn hostage. Kyser figures out a way to get hints about the situation out over the air, which Batman of course picks up on, leading to his appearance on the show and the capture of Bancroft. I love how Bruce has no clue about contemporary musical slang and has to be coached secretly by Robin. I knew the youth culture and the generation gap was emphasized in the 60s and 70s, but not this early.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Mon Feb 25, 2019 1:41 pm

Detective Comics #145
March 1949

Robin, the Boy Failure!
The cover of this issue is really good, featuring Batman and Robin in a canal being threatened by a machine-gun toting thug, but seemingly has nothing to do with the story on the inside, which is all about Dick Grayson losing his memory and Bruce trying everything he can think of to restore it. A woman falls out of an upper story window and while Dick successfully breaks her fall, he's injured and can't remember anything past the point where his parents were killed. He doesn't remember Bruce, or Batman or being Robin. Nothing works, from security footage of Batman and Robin in action, to meeting Batman in person, to Batman re-training him from scratch. In the end, it's the sight of Batman supposedly falling to his death that triggers the return of all his memories since it mirrors the woman falling. I do enjoy revisiting Dick's past with the circus and that his parents get mentioned, and Bruce mentions that he adopted Dick, though he's still referred to as his ward, which is more guardianship than adoption. Still, it's a good character-focused story.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby Shockwave » Mon Feb 25, 2019 3:21 pm

andersonh1 wrote:Detective Comics #145
March 1949

Robin, the Boy Failure!
The cover of this issue is really good, featuring Batman and Robin in a canal being threatened by a machine-gun toting thug, but seemingly has nothing to do with the story on the inside, which is all about Dick Grayson losing his memory and Bruce trying everything he can think of to restore it. A woman falls out of an upper story window and while Dick successfully breaks her fall, he's injured and can't remember anything past the point where his parents were killed. He doesn't remember Bruce, or Batman or being Robin. Nothing works, from security footage of Batman and Robin in action, to meeting Batman in person, to Batman re-training him from scratch. In the end, it's the sight of Batman supposedly falling to his death that triggers the return of all his memories since it mirrors the woman falling. I do enjoy revisiting Dick's past with the circus and that his parents get mentioned, and Bruce mentions that he adopted Dick, though he's still referred to as his ward, which is more guardianship than adoption. Still, it's a good character-focused story.


I'm surprised they didn't call this one Robin, the Boy Blunder. We saw that often enough in the live action series.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Tue Feb 26, 2019 6:08 am

Shockwave wrote:I'm surprised they didn't call this one Robin, the Boy Blunder. We saw that often enough in the live action series.


I thought of that too, but I guess we really haven't reached the point where all those silly nicknames have become a part of the series. I suspect it's the Adam West tv show that really made them a staple of old school Batman, and that's still 15 years in the future. In 1949 this is clearly a kids adventure series, but within that frame of reference and on that level, the writers take the characters seriously. I'm not sure how long that will last and the "holy _____, Batman!" type dialogue will become commonplace. Should be interesting to see.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Wed Feb 27, 2019 10:15 am

I can't afford (and am not interested) in every classic omnibus DC prints, but along with GA Batman and Superman I have been buying and reading the Justice League of America reprints, and just bought Bronze Age vol. 2. That series ran for 261 issues, from October-November 1960 to April 1987, with a three issue tryout in the Brave and the Bold, for a total of 264 issues before it ended after the Crisis and was replaced by the JL/JLI series. I note that to show how few volumes it will actually take to reprint the entire 27 year run if DC sticks with it. Here's what they've published so far:

Justice League of America omnibus: Brave and the Bold 28-30, JLA 1-30
Justice League of America Silver Age omnibus vol. 2: Mystery In Space #75, Justice League of America #31-76
Justice League of America Bronze Age vol. 1 - Justice League of America #77-113
Justice League of America Bronze Age vol. 2 - Justice League of America #114-146
Justice League Detroit Era: Justice League of America #233-239, 241-261, annuals 2 and 3

That leaves 147-232, or 85 issues, which they'll probably spit into two or probably three more books. Eight hardcover volumes to reprint 264 issues is pretty good, and for someone like me who would just like to be able to read this material, a cheaper and easier to manage option than boxes of old monthly issues.

How does Marvel approach their classic reprints? I imagine they have a similar program going on. I know I read that Marvel Masterworks vol. 1 of Spiderman that had 10 issues? I just wondered if they had gone to larger volumes as well.
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