Thursday, November 29, 2018

Detective Comics Centennial 500

Looking at a very special issue of Detective Comics and the life and times of Batman, halfway to 1000, here is Detective Comics #500, which is something very special.  It is the second comic book ever to reach its 500th issue!  

The reason it has lasted so long can be summed up in one word: Batman!

Detective Comics 500

Thing is, Detective Comics was also more than Batman....there was Robin, his faithful companion, as well as many back up features over the years, so this issue split its focus, giving readers 7 special stories done by a wealth of talent, as evidenced by the cover of Detective Comics #500 (March, 1981), with Dick Giordano providing the large Batman and Robin, Walt Simonson doing the Batman in the magnifying glass, Joe Kubert drawing Hawkman and Hawkgirl, Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez drawing Elongated Man, Carmine Infantino providing the back cover's Robin as well as Deadman and Commissioner James Gordon (inked by Bob Smith), Tom Yeates providing a Bruce Wayne, Jim Aparo finishing the rest of the detectives, with Bob LeRose providing the classic covers.  

Now, most of these are detective stories, so, all the spoilers with the solutions to the mysteries will either be in links or at the end of the article....after a spoiler space for fans!  Now...onto the stories!


First up, "To Kill A Legend" by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, with a one page summary of Batman's origin (as a dream) which leads him out onto the streets to stop another crime.  With a bit of magical manipulation, Batman ends up in Crime Alley (the spot where his parents were killed), and he gets a little help from Robin. 

The Phantom Stranger appears (having been the manipulator) and explains that Batman has a chance to save his parents on another world (as he failed to do here, as did the Bruce Wayne on Earth-2, predating his story of becoming the Batman in Detective Comics #27).  So, Batman (with Robin following along) so to this Earth, to find a young spoiled Bruce Wayne, who likely won't be more than the playboy Batman pretends to be, encounters the younger versions of Jim Gordon (a Lieutenant in Gotham's police force) as well as his fiancee, librarian Barbara Kean (giving Batgirl's mom a full premarital name for the first time).   

Along the way, Robin discovers this Earth has no historical heroes, nor a planet Krypton, so that this world needs a Batman.  Events progress to the faithful day and time of the alleyway shooting after Bruce and his parents attend a movie...but, what will Batman do?

Slam Bradley

Next up, a convention of detectives, with Slam Bradley, one of the stars of Detective Comics #1 as the lead (created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster),  with all these detectives (who all had features in Detective Comics), leading to "The 'Too Many Crooks...' Caper" by Len Wein and Jim Aparo.  

The detectives were honoring Archie Evergreen, a retiring detective....who, while talking to Slam, gets shot in the back at the party, prompting the roomful of sleuths to act to find Archie Evergreen's greatest enemy and murderer.  

Slam meets the other detectives at this time:  Captain Compass, naval detective; Jason Bard, Gotham private investigator; Mysto, magician detective; Roy Raymond, TV detective; Pow-Wow Smith, frontier lawman and Christopher Chance, the Human Target.  They all resolve to find the killer, with Slam starting with getting the lowdown on Archie's greatest enemy, smuggler Victor Dominion.  

Compass and Chance get proof of Dominion's other crimes on his yacht; Smith, Bard and Mysto confronting Dominion at his mansion, with Bradley confronting him and bringing Dominion down (literally) by shooting his escaping helicopter.  But, who was the murderer?  Raymond provides the facts, that, were "Impossible...But True".


Next up, back to Gotham, and an adventure of Batman by Len Wein and Walter Simonson which seems like a simple tale, as in a two page story, using every novel writer's bad cliches...a quite entertaining little Batman tale unfolds in "Once Upon A Time..."....a tale with no particular mystery!

Elongated Man

The ductile detective, Ralph Dibny, and his wife, Sue, stumble onto a talking raven, and a dying man mumbling "Reynolds" in "The Final Mystery Of Edgar Allan Poe" by Mike W. Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.   The injured man in his office was Edwin Allman Pohe, a noted collector of the works of Edgar Allan Poe, with his head struck by a candlestick and holding an old piece of paper in his hand.  Pohe's assistant, Marcia Douglas, tells the Dibnys that Pohe was expecting someone, perhaps a rare book dealer to be stopping by, as well as giving the facts of Pohe's collection, which she supported (but didn't know that "Reynolds" was also Poe's mysterious last word).  

Ralph goes to very the date on the old paper, finding out it was only aged to look old, as Sue finds out Reynolds was a publisher Poe knew around the time he died.  Ralph figures out that Edgar Allan Poe had a magazine he was to print before he died, and tracks down the man Pohe was suppose to meet (to supposedly sell him a copy of that magazine, which was never printed).  Finding him, a Steve Billman, he also had access to old printing plates, and Ralph, Sue and Marcia went to find the killer!


"The Batman Encounters -- Gray Face" is a text story, by Walter B. Gibson (the creator of the Shadow), with spot illustrations by Tom Yeates.  

This story deals with Batman's detective and escape artist skills, as Batman has to track down the mysterious villain of Gotham's Chinatown area....Gray Face, after Herbert Garland was found, wandering the streets, speaking of dragons after an encounter with Gray Face. 

Batman's abilities are put to the test surviving the trials put on him by this foe!


"The Strange Death Of Doctor Erdel" was the case that Hawkman chose to solve (with some help from his wife, Hawkgirl) in the story by Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert.

Doctor Erdel was a scientist in an isolated laboratory who died of an apparent heart attack, where Erdel was found by his assistant, Fred Schneider, and Erdel's niece, Anna, inherited Erdel's patents and wealth.  

Erdel's heart attack was found to be brought on by electrical shock (likely from one of his inventions, that have sat untouched for years).  

Hawkman and Hawkgirl track down Anna (finding her innocent, as she had given away the money and devoted herself to charity work, with a tear stained scrapbook of her uncle's achievements), then to finding Fred, who had changed careers, becoming a successful ornithologist (thus eliminating his motive to want to steal Erdel's work).  

So, the Hawks head back to check to see who could have directed the computer to deliver the fatal shock to Dr. Erdel?  And which famous Justice Leaguer was Dr. Erdel responsible for?


Last, but not least, is "What Happens When A Batman Dies?" by Cary Bates, Carmine Infantino and Bob Smith, where....well, Batman dies!  

Disillusioned by the constant need for his services, Batman is feeling like his war on crime does no good, making him careless in taking down a few thieves at a simple mugging...

....not realizing that it was a trap by dog master Stryker, so that his hound, a trained attack dog, could bite the Batman with its poison coated teeth.  

The poison is killing Batman, and Robin and Gordon have to figure out how to save Batman (with Batman using his force of will to try to survive, ends up summoning Deadman, a wandering spirit able to possess bodies and control their actions, to help).

Deadman, possessing Robin, injects Batman with adrenaline, combined with Deadman possessing him, allows Batman to rise, and start to track down his killer as well as deal with his feelings of despair. 


After this brief depiction of Batman's villains by Jim Aparo (from a slightly earlier dollar sized issue of Detective Comics, and these and other previously invented villains were sadly lacking from this issue of Detective Comics)...

.....the answers to the mysteries!

Here they are!

Batman's dilemma to save his parents or not on the alternate Earth: he does, which does inspire that Earth's young Bruce Wayne to take up the study of criminology as well as athletics, leading him to a path as a possible Batman, out of awe instead of fear.

After dropping his TV show tagline, Roy Raymond reveals Archie's killer to be....Archie himself!  Using a small remote control, he fired the shot into his own back (Archie was dying, and wouldn't have been able to bring Dominion down in the time he had left, so, came up with this plan to have the world's greatest detectives do it for him).

Elongated Man and Sue did find the killer...Marcia!  She was trying to destroy clues along the way, as she and Billman were trying to sell Pohe a fake Poe magazine (but, the magazine did exist in rough form, so Ralph had it printed and a copy give to Pohe upon his recovery).

Hawkman found that, in an empty room, the culprit behind the computer shocking Erdel was....the computer!  This computer achieved sentience, and wanted Erdel out of the way so it could view the galaxy unhindered by human contact.  It was also the teleportation device which brought the Martian Manhunter to Earth in his first appearance in Detective Comics #225 (thus, this absolves J'onn of his guilt for the death of Dr. Erdel).

Last, Batman found inspiration from the spirits of Thomas and Martha Wayne, and all those he had saved as Batman (who had later passed on).  Batman and Deadman found Stryker's dog training facility, finding the dog, and getting a sample of the poison for a cure, as well as stopping Stryker (who met his fate at the jaws of another of his attack dogs).

With this, Detective Comics was halfway to 1000 (not unlike Action Comics a few years before!) building from 100, 200, 300 and 400....



Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Flash Facts: Giant Rivals?

To be fair, this issue of the Flash is a bit of a lie. 

While the cover is beautifully illustrated by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson, this, the first of Flash's 80 Page Giants within his own title (numbered Giant #G-21, or just Flash #160 of April, 1966, taking place after a Flash Annual and a couple of 80 Page Giants already devoted to the Flash), it really isn't a collection of his greatest super-speed rivals (at least not entirely)....

...but, take a look through the individual stories reprinted here and see of you agree.

Flash #107

Starting with "The Amazing Race Against Time" from Flash #107 (June-July, 1959) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella (with Broome and Giella providing the cover), things seem to relate to racing.

Flash encounters a man faster than he is as Barry tries to stop a runaway truck.  Problem is, the man doesn't recall who he, the Flash tries to help him with his amnesia, as Iris West plans a charity race between the two (with the memory challenged fellow running backwards as he sees he is clearly faster than the Flash).  Flash brings the man to a doctor, who after exposing him to electricity, does return his memory, but at the cost of his speed.  The man is really an artificial lifeform called a Hominoid from another world, with the name of Kyri.  Kyri was trying to return to his home dimension, but cannot without his speed.  Flash helps him out, repairing his ship and providing the needed speed.

All-Flash #32

Next up is a jump back to the Golden Age, with a "Duet Of Danger" from All-Flash #32 (December-January, 1947/1948) featuring Jay Garrick, the original Flash, fighting his foe, the Fiddler, for the first time in a story by Robert Kanigher, Lee Elias and Moe Worthman (with Elias and Worthman providing the original cover!).

Isaac Bowen was a thief who got sent to prison in India, and partnered up with an Indian fakir, transferring the musical magic he learned to a fiddle instead of flute (using the fiddle to kill the fakir).  Returning home, Bowen planned to use his new skills to become a crime boss, but instead ended up facing the Flash in Keystone City.  It appeared at the end of this story that the Fiddler perished, but he would return (to face Flash individually as well as a member of the Injustice Society of the World). 

But Fiddler really isn't a super-SPEED rival....

Flash #113

And now, for something completely different, the reprint of the main story of Flash #113 (June-July, 1960) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, with the Flash facing "Danger In The Air" in the form of....the Trickster!

James Jesse premiered in this issue of the Flash, being a criminal who used gimmicks, including shoes that allowed him to walk on air, to commit robberies (all to make up for the fact that he was a failed circus acrobat...or at least had no affinity for that job; his fear of heights led him to invent the shoes that allowed him to walk on air, and his name, being the reverse of famous outlaw, Jesse James, led him to a life of crime).  Trickster still had a bit to the showman in him, facing off against Flash, at least until his theatrics helped Flash figure out his identity, leading this jail!

Don't worry, the Trickster does return, again and again, same Flash-time, same Flash-channel (but, also not really a speed threat....).

Flash #114

Time for a back up, the Kid Flash back up story from Flash #114 (August, 1960), wherein young Wally West faces off against the "King Of The Beatniks" in a story by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

Wally's friend, Jimmy King, gets caught with an answer sheet to a test, and, leaves school.  The teacher, Miss Grant, realizes her mistake and recruits Wally to find him.  Jimmy went to New York to live with his cousin, Paul, the leader of a Beatnik Gang.  Kid Flash busts the Beatniks during a robbery, then, Jimmy returns to Blue Valley and school, to clear his name.

Other than Kid Flash, little speed here.

Flash #124

This time it's two heroes for the price of one, as Flash and Elongated Man have to avoid Captain Boomerang's "Space-Boomerang Trap" as originally presented in Flash #124 (November, 1961) by John Broome, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.

Captain Boomerang gets out of jail, and has a new scheme with a special boomerang that travels through time, allowing him to establish an alibi for his crimes.  Flash has problems solving this mystery, so calls in detective Elongated Man, and they sniff out the solution (but along the way, all three have to help stop an alien invasion, then have to contend with Captain Boomerang using a weapon gotten from those aliens against the Flash....with Elongated Man barely able to stretch to catch his friend in time!).

A great tale, but the rivals weren't all that speedy!

Adventure Comics #123

Time for an from Johnny Quick, from Adventure Comics #123 (December, 1947), as Johnny deals with "The Adventure Of The Antelope Boy" by Don Cameron, Mort Meskin and George Roussos.

Johnny Chambers and Tubby Watts are headed to Africa to find the legendary Antelope Boy who can run so fast, but mobster Mobs Racket tries to get to the lad first.  Shame he didn't count on having to outrun Johnny Quick and his magic formula.  Johnny helps save the lad from the mobster, and is offered track scholarships to many schools in the United States!

A pretty speedy run-through of those stories, along with a Flash pin-up from Flash Annual #1 of 1963, it does lack one individual, the Reverse-Flash, who would most definitely need to be included in any collection of Flash super-speed rivals (but to be fair, at this point, Reverse-Flash only had 3 appearances!).

Monday, November 26, 2018

Mad About Snoopy

Who could be mad about Snoopy?

No one, that's why we let Alfred work with him to celebrate the birthday of Peanuts creator, Charles Schulz, today with this cover from Mad Magazine #138 (October, 1970) by Jack Rickard.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

All-Star Comics 3 The First Meeting Of The Justice Society Of America

On November 22, 1940, in a hotel lobby, was "The First Meeting Of The Justice Society Of America" as relayed to readers in All-Star Comics #3 (Winter, 1940) under a cover by Everett Hibbard in a story by Gardner Fox.

The eight members there: Sandman, Spectre, Flash, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Green Lantern, Hourman and the Atom formed the charter membership of the Justice Society of America, and was the first teaming of super heroes formed.

The story wasn't much of a team-up, but instead the heroes gathering to tell individual tales of their exploits (and the party was crashed by non-members, the original Red Tornado and Johnny Thunder as well).  Still, it was a good start.

With the next issue, All-Star Comics #4 (March-April, 1941), the team began to work on the same case (though they'd go off on their own).  Soon after that, old members started to leave and new members would join....but readers had to wait until DC Special #29 (August-September, 1977) to get the tale of how these heroes (as well as Superman and Batman, who were too busy to be anything but honorary members in the 1940s) originally met for the first time.

All-Star Comics #3 was reprinted a few times, first in the Famous First Edition #F-7 (June-July, 1975), then in the first volume of the All-Star Archives (a 12 volume series, which reprinted All-Star Comics #1-57, with a zero issue covering the two pre-JSA issues, and ending with volume 11, which contained All-Star Comics #50-57), and most recently in the Millennium Edition: All-Star Comics #3 (June, 2000).

All-Star Comics #3 came out on November 22, 1940, and according to America Vs. The Justice Society, that's the date of the meeting as well.  The four issue mini-series from 1985 was a great source of information on the JSA (though DC didn't reprint the inner covers in the tradepaperback, lessening the helpfulness of the TPB, as Roy Thomas put extensive notes on the inner covers of the original issues, including where to find all the Golden Age reprints of JSA and individual JSA members stories (which has been updated for most members, like Starman and Black Canary, here).  The fact Roy was also born on November 22, 1940, is just luck!

A comic that started the heroic tradition of team-ups and teams, something to be thankful for, as that tradition continues to this very day!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Batman Outspends Superman

True, Clark Kent gets by on his reporter's salary, but he can't compete with Bruce Wayne, who, thanks to his parents and his hard work, has millions upon millions of much money, that it is even like a super power of its own.

Even then, Superman does get a little worried when his friend over does it, with "Batman's Super-Spending Spree", the story of World's Finest Comics #99 (February, 1959), under a cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye.

In the story by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and Stan Kaye, Batman is behaving oddly, coming home to the Bat Cave with a million dollars, telling Robin of his plans to spend it, buying a bunch of businesses that fail almost as soon as he buys them.  This worries Robin enough to call for help from Superman, who starts making them profitable by using his super powers. 

This is all against Batman's plan....Batman was trying to lose the money as part of a rider on a will, that he had to lose a large sum of money to allow the rest to go to the rightful heir of the fortune.  Superman sells his friend a bunch of useless trophies for a million dollars, allowing the will to be fulfilled.

This issue also featured a Green Arrow story drawn by Jack Kirby and a story of American Revolutionary war hero Tomahawk, drawn by Fred Ray, with each hero fighting fearsome foes with the help of their young sidekick (Speedy for Green Arrow, Dan Hunter for Tomahawk).

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Lois Lane's Four Fantastic Kisses

Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #29 (November, 1961), with a cover by Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, had three stories in it......but, at this moment, just taking a look at the cover story....with "The Irresistible Lois Lane" (with a mistakenly blond Lana Lang on the cover).

This story, by Robert Bernstein, Curt Swan and Stan Kaye, is a little odd for the time, with four super-heroes guest starring in Lois Lane's feature.

Lois receives a mysterious gift as Krypto flies above the Daily Planet making an "L" symbol.  Lois, having had a break in stories for a bit due to Superman not being around, goes to Perry White to sell a new story....of super-heroes she has kissed!  

Lois then goes out and finds Green Arrow, Aquaman and then Batman, and leaves ruby red lipstick on all of them (after a kiss, of course).  This frustrates Lana Lang to no end, but odder still, the heroes meet up after, gather the lipstick remains, after which, Batman flies in his Batplane to near Superman's Fortress of Solitude, where invading aliens are holding Superman captive with Green, Batman throws Superman a handkerchief full of Lois's lipstick?  

Superman, now immune to the Green K, chases the aliens off.  Then, Lois explains....Superman had a Plan "L" for Lois, where she would get Red Kryptonite (this variety which gives the Kryptonian exposed to it 48 hours of invulnerability to Green Kryptonite) to Superman.  

Lois, realizing her mystery gift was a device from the aliens to monitor her, came up with the kissing facade to get the Red K to Batman, who, as Superman's friend, knew where the Fortress was, and could get it to him.   (You think Batman is a planner, he's got nothing on Silver Age Superman and Lois).  As a reward for her aid, Lois gets a kiss from Superman!

Why a mention of a fantastic foursome?  Well, because this comic also came out the same month as Stan Lee and Jack Kirby's Fantastic Four #1!   

Not knocking the Lois Lane tale, but just using it as an example of the changes that issue helped bring to the comic industry!



Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Showcase On Fireman Farrell

A look at the first issue of Showcase from March-April, 1956, and the hero of that issue....

....Fireman Fred Farrell.

That first issue had three stories, then Farrell had 3 appearances after that up to the Crisis On Infinite Earths.

Showcase 1

The first story of the issue is "The School For Smoke-Eaters" by Arnold Drake and John Prentice.  This story introduces Fred Farrell, Jr., the son of a fireman who died in the line of duty, who had to pass a rigorous test to become a fireman. 

The second story, "Fire Under The Big Top", by Drake and Prentice, has Fireman Farrell getting his first assignment of fire inspection duty from Fire Lieutenant Reiner, dealing with a problematic circus, that has been fined in the past for setting off unsafe fireworks displays at their shows.   

The third and last story by Drake and Prentice, is the "Fourth Alarm", which details how the news media underplays what firefighters are worth as a problem with fireman pay is detailed as the residents of Center City are voting on a pay increase for their fire fighting heroes.

The issue also had special features on fireman and their equipment, setting up for the comic's rotating features.

Showcase 100

Showcase #100 (May, 1978) is the next appearance of Fireman Fred Farrell, though Paul Kupperberg, Paul Levitz and Joe Staton really only give us a cameo of the man who started off the long run of this issue which featured many of the past stars of Showcase working together in "There Shall Come A Gathering", where he helps deal with the chaos that happens when events get crazy around super heroes.

Batman 305

Under a cover by Jim Aparo, Batman #305 (November, 1978) features the story of a "Death Gamble Of A Darknight Detective" by Gerry Conway, John Calnan and Dave Hunt, where a group of villains called the Death's Head Group are aggressively attacking Gotham City under the direction of mystery villain Thanatos by bombing sites, prompting Fire Chief Farrel (spelled this time with one "L") to ask Batman and Commissioner Gordon to work as hard as they can to stop the problem.

Crisis On Infinite Earths 7

Fireman Farrell appears as part of the world changing mini-series, in Crisis On Infinite Earths #7 (October, 1985) by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Jerry Ordway and Dick Giordano, as Earth's heroes deal with the Anti-Monitor, Fireman Farrell does what he always does, work to put out fires and keep people safe, even visitors from other universes like Lady Quark. 

Post Crisis

Fireman Farrell has two appearances after the Crisis, where he seems to have moved to Metropolis, being involved in the creation of a new Eradicator in Action Comics #693 (November, 1993), and in a flashback tale Batman & Superman: World's Finest #4 (July, 1999).  All this is done to show how important firemen are to the DC Universe, and here in the real world!

Monday, November 12, 2018

Stan Lee Excelsior

What do you say about the legend that was Stan Lee?

A man who worked on Simon and Kirby's Captain America?

Co-creator of Groot, Fin Fang Foom and a whole host of monsters for Timely's monster comics of Strange Tales, Tales To Astonish, Journey Into Mystery and Tales of Suspense?

A man who revolutionized the comic industry in 1961 with the creation of the Fantastic Four for Marvel Comics (with Jack Kirby), that led to other creations like the Hulk, Ant-Man, Dr. Doom, Iron Man, Thor, the Wasp, the Avengers, the X-Men, the Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, the Inhumans, Black Panther and (with Steve Ditko), Spider-Man, Dr. Strange and all their fearsome foes including the Sinister Six!

A man who was there as Marvel properties found their way live on your television set, with shows like the Incredible Hulk (which had movies with Daredevil and Thor), Spider-Man, and made for TV movies Captain America and Dr. Strange?  Not even mentioning the various animated features (including the Simpsons, which Stan more recently lent his voice to as well).

A man whose cameos in recent Marvel movies are legendary?

We say that Stan Lee shall forever remain, "the man".  Excelsior.

Rest in peace, Stan Lee; December 28, 1922 to November 12, 2018.