Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Detective #288

On the most obvious level, this issue is part and parcel of the horrific "monster of the month" era in Detective Comics that characterized a good part of Jack Schiff's tenure as editor of the Batman family of magazines. And make no mistake about it, that's the primary (and exceedingly silly) plot.

The story starts with a lightning bolt hitting a pool of chemicals causing a strange transformation:

The bit about life arising from chemical wastes is probably inspired by the movie, Godzilla. Batman and Robin encounter the creature and their initial attempt to defeat it reveals that it is more powerful than it looks:

So by this point in reading the story, I'm already yawning at the transparent absurdity. But then something interesting happens. The creature heads towards the house of an old actor who's become wheelchair-bound. Batman moves to help him, while sending Robin to the town to get help.

The actor is somewhat fatalistic, until he sees Batman in trouble:

And in town, Robin discovers that the only official around is a mere clerk, who doesn't think he can handle the crisis until:

There are quite a few Batman and Robin tales from the Golden Age that follow this pattern, and they are among the classics of that era. While the stale art and the monster focus prevent this story from reaching those heights, the subplots did make it quite a bit more entertaining than I expected.

The third subplot involves a bank robbery featuring an ingenious method of escape:

"Nothing can stop us now," is of course begging for trouble, and the creature flies into the blimp, grounding it. Batman and Robin capture the crooks, and help the clerk calm the local citizenry, then electrocute the creature. And in the end:

The Roy Raymond story (one of the last in that long-running series) sees Roy solve the case of an heiress who has been cursed with the gaze of Medusa, causing anyone she glances at to be turned to stone. Of course, it's all a plot by a guardian to steal her inheritance.
The Martian Manhunter story is rather bizarre. MM's good friend Larry Loder has fallen for a swindle. A bunch of crooks sold him some treasure-finding inventions, with which he hopes to pay back the investors who lost money with him earlier. And when you see the inventions, it's not hard to believe that he's a pretty poor financial advisor:

J'onn takes pity on him and makes the inventions seem to work. But it turns out that this was stage two of the crooks' con job:

So the Martian Manhunter makes sure that the final invention works in such a way that the crooks are caught by Larry. The reward money ensures that Loder will have enough funds to pay back all his investors, who presumably reinvested the funds with him in a bagful of magic beans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In fairness to Schiff, it should be noted that he opposed the "monster of the month" trend in Batman (according to an interview in the 1983 Overstreet Price Guide). He was overruled by the editor in chief or publisher, who wanted to cash in on the monster/science fiction fad at the time. To this day, though, fans refer to the bug-eyed-monster stories as "the Schiff era."