Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Still reading through the Knightfall omnibus. One of the things I'm appreciating is how the mapping of issues is well done. They didn't just put everything in chronological order and alternate between Batman and Detective Comics, but they kept two and three part stories in each title together. This is the first omnibus I've bought where that approach has been taken, and to be fair it hasn't been necessary in any of the others.

Detective Comics 657, 658 - sort of a two part story, where WayneTech is involved in a third of a classified project, with a villain named Cypher who targets the three CEO's of the three companies working on this top secret project, which of course includes Lucius Fox. Robin and Azrael continue to train together while Bruce acts as himself for a while in dealing with his business issues. The running plot of Bruce Wayne being burned out continues, though at this point he's still functional, and he does listen to Alfred briefly and try to rest and take some time off from being Batman, and Azrael continues to show how useful he can be to the Batman/Robin team as he continues to train with Robin.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman 489, 490 - Bane stops simply observing Batman and starts actively challenging him. Batman 489 involves Bane taking on Killer Croc and easily beating him, along with Jean-Paul Valley, filling in for Batman for the first time as Bruce uses sedatives to try and get some rest at Dr. Kinsolving's advice. Bane immediately figures out that Valley is not the real Batman and has no interest in him. In Batman 490 Bruce, active again as Batman, takes on a Venom-fueled Riddler, who Bane has injected with Venom to see how Batman deals with the unexpected problem of a physically stronger Riddler.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman 491, 492 - Bane and his followers attack and armory and steal some major weaponry, which they use to break open Arkham Asylum , freeing nearly every inmate. When the police respond, Bane and his men attack the police with the rpgs they stole, allowing the inmates to escape into Gotham City. The first inmate to make a move is the Mad Hatter, who rather quickly figures out that someone is watching him, and he sends Film Freak to kill Bane, which goes about as well as you'd expect. Batman is visibly in despair that so many of his villains are free at the same time. We finally get some Norm Breyfogle art for the first time in this volume, which I have been looking forward to.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Detective Comics 659 - Knightfall part 2 - Determined to stay ahead of the police and not give the escaped killers a chance to sit and plan, Batman takes on the Ventriloquist and Amygdala, while Robin figures out that Bane's henchman Bird is watching them and goes after him, only to lose the fight, but Bane will not let Bird kill him, not wanting to tip his hand just yet.

Batman 493 - Knightfall part 3 - serial kille Zsasz has taken hostages inside a girls' school and has killed two police sent in to capture him. It takes Batman to actually overpower Zsasz, though by this point Batman is clearly hurting and really suffering from burnout.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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It's interesting to me that while I enjoyed the Superman Exile omnibus, and found it every bit as enjoyable as I remember, Knightfall's violence is more off-putting to me than it was originally, and the lack of a Batman who is at the top of his game and a hopeful figure among the grimness really does make portions of this story very bleak and tougher to get through. Tim Drake/Robin offsets the grim mood from time to time, but this really is one of the more joyless Batman storylines... which is not surprising, considering what happens to Bruce. Don't get me wrong, it's still a good story, and the ultimate goal at the time (as detailed in the intro and closing remarks in the omnibus) to illustrate why Batman should not be a character like the Punisher, is a point that's well made. Despite his modus operandi of using fear to prey on criminals, Batman is still a hopeful, aspirational figure when properly written, and it's his committment to life that makes him heroic.

Also, though the interior pages have been recolored, the covers in the book appear to be scans, some better and crisper than others. I've never been a fan of Kelley Jones' artwork with the distorted figures and those giant, foot long bat-ears on Batman's head. At least the interior art is better. We get some Jim Balent and Grahan Nolan (another of my favorites from this era) in these latest issues.

Detective Comics 660 - Knightfall part 4 - Robin trails Bane, only to be captured and interrogated, though Killer Croc interrupts and has a rematch, making things more even by severing Bane's Venom injection lines.

Batman 494 - Knightfall part 5 - Joker recruits Cornelius Stirk to kidnap Gordon, but when Stirk tries to kill Gordon instead, Batman saves his life.

Detective Comics 661, Batman 495, Detective Comics 662 - Knightfall part 6-8 - Scarecrow and Joker team up and kidnap Gotham's new law and order mayor, while Batman takes on Poison Ivy and Firefly, becoming more and more exhausted. Even the Cavalier takes more effort than he would expect. This is where Bane figures out who Batman actually is, having studied him for months now, figuring he's just about ready to break.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Finished Knightfall the other night. Not as good as I remember, but not bad.

Contents taken from the Amazon listing: BATMAN #484-500, BATMAN: SHADOW OF THE BAT #16-18, BATMAN: VENGEANCE OF BANE #1, DETECTIVE COMICS #654-666 and SHOWCASE ’93 #7-8.

First off, this is a well-mapped omnibus. Just about all the other books I've purchased have issues in strictly chronological order, but that would render this long, long crossover almost impossible to read, so DC put the book together in such a way that consecutive Batman issues that tell a two part story are together, then Detective comics issues that tell a story are grouped together, and so on. The book does not rush into the actual Knightfall story, but starts out with a number of issues of Batman and Detective that set up some of the ongoing storylines, including Bruce Wayne's exhaustion and growing inability to rest and recover. I read Knightfall back in the day when it was first published and still have quite a few of the issues, but I was surprised at just how many of the issues collected in this volume I had not read before. I missed more than I thought.

The Vengeance of Bane one-shot opens the book, followed by a number of Batman and Detective issues as Batman fights various one-shot villains and gets Jean-Paul Valley into training with Tim Drake as Robin. Bruce's deteriorating mental and physical condition is an ongoing plot, and he actually finally goes to a doctor, Shondra Kinsolving, who is treating Tim's father. I had forgotten that she's seeded into the story so early, because she'll end up vital to Bruce's recovery down the road. The art in these issues is variable, with the art for the Black Mask story being pretty poor, and Jim Aparo's appearance a welcome relief. There's some Norm Breyfogle in this volume, and he's my favorite Batman artist of this era, followed by Graham Nolan. On the other hand, I've never liked Kelly Jones art style, but he is mainly covers only (and incidentally, while the interior pages of the books are re-colored, the covers appear to be scans). Rarely does any one artist draw more than a couple of issues in a row, so you'll be constantly switching art styles throughout the book, but the same would have been true reading the monthly series.

Bruce famously gets his spine broken by Bane in this story, leading to Jean-Paul Valley taking over as Batman (a subject the intro sheds some light on), and the collected issues actually end with Valley as Batman beating Bane. In between that and Bruce's disabling injury are collected some side issues, such as Showcase 93 and Shadow of the Bat. DC have done a good job in trying to collect all the issues connected with this storyline, which was absolutely massive and sprawling and went on for over a year, maybe longer. I compared the omnibus to some of my original issues, and the art in the omnibus is larger than the original pages. The colors seem well matched, albeit brighter and more vibrant on the better quality paper. Most of the scanned covers are well done, though one or two seem less sharp and crisp than they should be. There are some nice extras at the end, including variant covers, pages that were apparently never published showing Bane breaking into Wayne Manor, and some sketches.

It's an excellent collection. The quality of the original material is variable. In comparing recent collections of material from this era, I find that while I enjoyed the Superman: Exile stories every bit as much as I originally did, I didn't like revisiting Knightfall as much as I had hoped. The grimness and violence was more off-putting to me now than it was 25 years ago. Still, I did enjoy the story and I appreciate not having to dig out my old issues to read the entire story, particularly since I seem to be missing a few chapters. I will definitely get the other two volumes and read the rest of it again. The omnibus format seems to me to be the ideal way to collect a story like this, one that went on as long as it did and in some many different books.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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On a completely different retro comics note, while browsing Ollie's discount outlet yesterday, I came across a Marvel Epic Collection of old Star Wars newspaper strips, and I ended up buying a copy. These are not sophisticated in terms of writing and art by any means (not that I care, I just enjoy old-school adventure). These were originally in newspapers back in the late 70s after the original Star Wars came out, and though I can tell who the characters are meant to be, the artist doesn't capture the likenesses of Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, etc at all. And it's amusing how all of R2-D2's dialogue is written out, even though he's making the same types of sounds he does in the live action shows (he'll actually have speech bubbles with "beep-do-wah" or that sort of thing). And the characterization is very broad, with some hints of who we saw onscreen, but some OOC moments as well (Vader rants like a typical comic book villain, for example, "I do not tolerate failure, fool!", etc.)

What prompted me to pick up the book was a memory of reading a comic strip story about R2 and C3PO being convinced to try out weapons attachments by some thin-faced alien, and the attachments activating automatically, scaring off some hoods who were after the two robots, though they have no idea they were in any danger and C3P0 is convinced that R2 D2 activated the weapons by carelessness. I could not remember the plot or the reason any of this happened, I just remembered this one incident. And sure enough, that sequence is in the book, so forty years later I'm able to re-read and put some context on a story that I remember reading in my great-aunt's newspaper out on the porch when I was a kid. So far nothing else in this book is familiar, but my brothers and I loved Star Wars and always wanted to read the comics page, so surely I read more of the strip than this. But this short sequence was all I remembered. Nice to see it again.

edit: on second thought, more of the book is familiar as I read through the storylines, such as Luke getting a star map in his eyes (it makes sense in context). My memory is being prodded. I"m glad I bought the book.

This guy turns up in the strip, working for Vader, and I remembered him when I first read the story as well: https://starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Cronal

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Getting back to GA Batman vol. 7 and the first of three stories from Batman #64.

Batman #64
April-May 1951

The Candid Camera Killer!
Writer: ? Pencils: Dick Sprang Inker: Charles Paris

Bruce and Dick attend the annual Gotham Photography show, and of course they're focused on how they can get the best possible crime-fighting equipment, but Vicki Vale is also there (and the dialogue indicates that Bruce has been avoiding her, but she shows no signs of disappearing like Julie Madison or Linda Page did). Vicki wants Bruce to escort her to Gregory Bota's part. Bota is a millionaire collector of photographs, who shows them around his home. But the Bat-signal causes Bruce to make excuses to get away from Vicki (who is none too pleased with him for it), and soon Batman and Robin are visiting Gordon, who lets them know that a bunch of crime lords are converging on Gotham City. All of these various plot thread will coverge nicely before the story is over.

Bota is a collector of crime photographs, and he's as willing to kill for photos as he is to pay for them. He uses these to blackmail the aforementioned crime bosses, and he intends the crowning prize of his collection to be photographs of the death of Batman and Robin. He even has frames ready and waiting. But when Batman and Robin bust up a criminal gathering in Bota's rented mansion, the entire place goes up in flames, destroying Bota's collection. He goes a little crazy after that and spends the remainder of the story attempting to kill Batman and Robin while a camera is mounted to the sights on his rifle. He hides out in Vicki Vale's apartment, taking her hostage by threatening her sister's life if she gives him away. The trap appears to work, with Batman and Robin coming to rescue Vicki and being shot, with the sadistic Bota capturing the moment on film and sending it to the papers, only for Batman to catch Bota with his guard down and capture him, revealing that after realizing what Bota was up to, he had switched out Bota's camera gun with a replica filled with blanks.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Batman #64 concluded

The Forgotten Men of Crime!
Writer: ? Pencils: Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane Inker: Charles Paris

Batman! Batman! That's all I hear! Who is this wonder man? He's just another cop - how tough can he be?!?

After serving a 30 year sentence, Pop Davies is free and out of prison. But he hasn't learned the error of his ways, he's just bitter and angry and jumps right back into a life of crime. He goes to racketeer Jockey Gans for a job, is told that he's too old for crime and shown who Batman is. But he is given one chance to make good. Posted as lookout for a jewel robbery, Pop disregards the "no smoking' order since he's bored, and the light just happens to catch the eye of a patrolling Batman and Robin. The crooks get away, but Gans kicks Pop out, calling him an old has-been.

That only makes Pop Davies angrier, and he begins recruiting other old crooks like himself, men who remember things that others have forgotten, such as an underground river beneath a Gotham bank. A rivalry builds between his new gang and Jockey Gans, attracting Gordon's attention. Batman rounds up Jockey Gans and his gang, but Davies and his "Nine Old Men" are another story. They announce robberies and then pull them off despite the police. They get all the publicity they want.

But they're tripped up by sheer luck when the announce that they're going to rob Bruce Wayne's home, and Davies knows the location of an old cave that was used during the Civil War. Of course the cave is the Batcave, and while it would be simple to capture the gang, Bruce has to content with Gordon and the police protecting Wayne Manor. A little subterfuge gets Gordon out of the way (and there's an Alfred cameo... the poor guy never gets much to do these days) and a false back near the entrance to the Batcave allows Batman to conceal it's location and take down the Pop Davies gang without giving away his secret. We've seen stories along these lines before where old men use their experience to return to crime, but this one was executed fairly well.

The Return of Killer Moth!
Writer: Bill Finger Pencils: Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane Inker: Charles Paris

Picking up right where Batman #63 left him, Killer Moth survives his plunge into the bay and makes his way back into the city via storm drain. The crooks who see him laugh at him for looking like a drowned rat. Unable to get any more protection jobs since he's lost face, Killer Moth, aka Cameron Van Cleer determines that he must somehow prove that he's better than Batman to regain face.Both Bruce Wayne and Cleer end up at the same Gotham Museum Board of Directors meeting, and the theft of a valuable artifact from the museum helps to restore Killer Moth's rep, but it also leads Bruce to suspect that one of the board members must be Killer Moth, since no one else could have known about the artifact. But when Batman shows up to prevent another theft by Killer Moth, he decides that Batman must be one of the board members. After a few more encounters, it's Batman of course who traps and unmasks Killer Moth, revealing him as Cameron Van Cleer.

I still like the idea of an "anti-Batman", but it's a little too on the nose for my liking. And Bruce running in the same social circles as a costumed villain is a bit convenient, and reminds me of the Cavalier, where Bruce and Mortimer Drake are in the same social club, which gives Bruce an opportunity to observe something about his enemy that he would not otherwise have.

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Detective Comics #170
April 1951

The Flying Dutchman II!
Script: ? Pencils: Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane Inker: Charles Paris

Batman and Robin head to sea in the Batplane to hunt down a pirate sub. They spot it and leave the plane to go on the attack, but Robin is grazed by a bullet and falls into the sea, with Batman diving after him to save his life. The two are left treading water out in the open ocean and things look bleak (what happened to the Batplane? Did it just fly on and crash somewhere?), but they're picked up by an old-time sailing ship, the "Flying Dutchman II", captained by smuggler Hans Van Dirk. He and his crew remain at sea beyond the three mile limit so they can't be arrested and can't be extradited. So it becomes a story of survival for Batman and Robin, trapped on a ship at sea surrounded by crooks, with the Captain promising his men a contest where they try to guess Batman's identity, and they'll unmask him after a week to see who is right. And of course it turns out that the pirate sub is in cahoots with the crew of the Flying Dutchman. Batman ultimately resorts to switching costumes with a recently deceased crew member to trick Van Dirk into thinking he's dead after Batman's been dragged through the water behind the ship, and this works long enough for Batman to radio for help before the trick is discovered. Batman and Robin are rescued by Navy planes and the crews of the ship and the sub are rounded up. It's the wrong genre for Batman, which always feels strange, but otherwise it's a good vehicle to show Batman thinking his way out of a trap that he can't possibly fight his way out of, given the odds against him and Robin.

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