Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cover Appearances of the JLA Members

This came up in the guest post by M. Hamilton, and I thought it was an interesting enough topic to be given its own post. I went through the covers of Justice League of America to see who did (and who didn't) appear on each cover through 1969. I broke it down 20 issues at a time:

As you can see, Superman and Batman only made rare appearances on the cover of JLA during the first 20 issues. Note that Green Arrow was not inducted until #4 (the Atom in #14, and Hawkman in #31), so aside from them, the Martian Manhunter was the first member not to appear on a cover, Green Arrow was the second, MM the third and then Aquaman became the first to miss two covers in a row.

In JLA #21-40 we see Superman and Batman becoming more regular features on the cover. Wonder Woman's consecutive string of covers ends with #25, while Green Lantern is first missing from #32. The Flash makes it to #33, but just barely, as his run of appearances includes this one from JLA #21:

Correction: As pointed out by sharp-eyed Tom Brevoort in the comments, those aren't the Flash's hands between Green Arrow and Superman, but actually Green Arrow's hands, rather awkwardly drawn (especially the right hand). So in fact Green Lantern had the longest run of the core JLA five. Good catch, Tom, you should be an editor. ;)

The Atom goes missing for a total of 19 issues, from 26-44; obviously his small size made including him on the cover somewhat difficult.

You can see Batmania writ large in this set of issues, as he appears on the cover for 13 consecutive issues, and the first one that doesn't include him has the adult Robin (of Earth 2) featured prominently. Batman was also the only JLA member to appear on the cover of the first issue of a JLA/JSA teamup between JLA #37 and #73, and the first JLA member to be the only JLA member on a cover with JLA #46. Of course that doesn't begin to tell the story as Batman was almost always in the foreground of these covers to take advantage of his newfound popularity with the TV show.

Doing rather well during this entire period was Green Arrow, who made the cover of JLA 40 times out of 74 issues. Not bad considering that his backup feature in World's Finest had been canceled in 1964 and that he seldom appeared anywhere else in the DC universe from 1964-1969. Aquaman, who had his own book, missed 43 of 77 covers, and only appeared on 11 covers after #28. Atom, also a headliner, only appeared on 8 covers from #21-#60.

Who made the most covers? The Flash appeared on 59 covers of JLA by the end of 1969, while Green Lantern made 58.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Trivia Quiz #33: Answers

1. What villain was responsible for Professor X losing the use of his legs?

Lucifer was the guilty party as Professor X revealed in X-Men #9

2. What organization did Flash Thompson start?

Flash Thompson founded the Spiderman Fan Club (Forest Hills Chapter).

3. Jeopardy-style: Flash Thompson, Mysterio and the Chameleon. (That's the answer, what's the question?)

Who were the three people who dressed up as Spiderman (other than Peter Parker) in the first 20 issues of Amazing Spiderman?

4. What villain was Professor X's step-brother?

The Juggernaut was Professor Xavier's step-father's son.

5. What position did Professor X play in football?

The Prof was a quarterback in football.

James Murton came, he saw and he kicked major league butt on this quiz, getting all five answers correct. RAB got the first four correct. ShadowWing Tronix got #4, while Jacque Nodell was right on #1 and #4. Sorry Jacque, but while Flash Thompson may be an enemy of Peter Parker, he's a big fan of Spidey! And Ralph C doesn't realize it, but the Chameleon has been in his kitchen; did you really check that meter reader guy's ID carefully?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Superboy #90

This was a common theme in the DC Silver Age; people were always looking into the future or the past via a television set. The appeal is pretty obvious; who wouldn't want to be able to turn on your TV and see his or her future life? In the story, Lana Lang is helping her father clean out an old laboratory, when she notices a "time-viewing machine" that Professor Wilton had been working on. According to her father, it never worked, but Lana does a little "tinkering" and before long she's watching:

So she decides to try to change the future. She's learned from watching the TV that Lois' parents are from nearby Pittsdale, where a cousin lives. Lois' school starts early, so Lana can spy on her at class. When she sees Lois leave a sample of her work for the student newspaper, Lana pounces:

But as it happens, Superboy sends a gust of wind through the town to prevent an avalanche, and this blows Lana's fake sample out the window. Lana decides what the heck, but Lois had seen her composition blowing away and replaced it with a carbon copy, so she gets on the student newspaper.

Lana sees another opportunity here:

So she puts a tiny speaker (the text says "microphone" but this is clearly wrong) in Lois's desk so she can give the answers to Lois, who believes the voice she's hearing must be telepathy. But Superboy has tested an experimental new explosive for the military which knocks out radio communications for a few minutes, and Lois fails the telepathy test despite Lana's attempts to help her.

Later, Lana tries to help Lois win a scholarship in sculpture. She hires a "starving artist" to help:

He creates a beautiful sculpture of a cat, but Krypto happens by, and indulging himself for a moment, he destroys any chance Lois had of avoiding journalism as a major. Lana is beaten for now, but she resolves to return to Pittsdale again; I don't know if this actually happened or not.

Comments: As I have mentioned many times, the inexorable nature of fate is a very common theme in the DC universe during the Silver Age. In a memorable pair of stories in 1959, both Batman and Superman were shown their fates had the most important and traumatic experiences of their lives not occurred. Of course, for Bruce that was his parents' murder, and for Kal-El it was the destruction of Krypton. In the former, Bruce becomes Batman anyway, while for Kal, he becomes the Superman of Krypton.

It was already well-established that one could not change the past in the DC universe; in a famed story in Superboy #85, Clark uses a time viewer (yep) to observe the assassination of President Lincoln. But when he goes back in time to prevent Booth from killing him, Lex Luthor is hiding out in that time period and he prevents Superboy from saving the president.

This makes a great deal of common sense. If Superboy saved Abe Lincoln, then he would grow up in a world where Abe Lincoln was not assassinated, and therefore he wouldn't go back in time to save Lincoln, who would be assassinated, so Superboy would go back to save him, so he wouldn't die, etc. You can see the problem.

The idea that the future is unchangeable is a different thing; you can argue that leads to fatalism. However, it was certainly necessary in this case, as we all knew from years of reading Superman that he did actually know a reporter named Lois Lane.

The second story features Supertot. Martha and Jonathan are taking a cruise with the toddler when he leaps overboard to chase some fishes. The couple are heartbroken, although not for the reason the cruise ship crew assumes. They know Clark will survive, but they may never find him again.

Sure enough, he makes it to Metropolis where he is put up for adoption. But the first couple he's adopted by discover his appetite is boundless:

The second couple are spooked when Supertot decides to imitate the moving men he'd seen during the day:

And an inventor and his wife are similarly startled:

And so it happens that Supertot is back at the orphanage when Ma and Pa Kent come searching for him.

Comments: Cute story; you could argue that this again was fate working its mysterious way to make sure Clark would be raised by the Kents.

The third story is something of a key in the Silver Age; it features the first time anybody other than the Kents had known that Superboy was secretly Clark Kent. Pete Ross had been introduced a few issues before as Clark's buddy, and in this issue we learn (as does Clark via super-hearing) that Pete's a loyal pal, when a pair of costumed guys invite Pete to a party, but specify that they don't want Clark tagging along:

So Clark decides to take some more secret identity risks in order to be around Pete Ross, and when they go camping one evening, the inevitable occurs:

But for once, the story doesn't end with the secret identity discoverer getting amnesia, or being convinced he was wrong. In fact, Pete subs for one of Superboy's robots when it malfunctions. Pete Ross would remain the only other person to know Superboy/Superman's secret identity in the Silver Age.

Comments: A fine little story, with great characterization for Pete. Unfortunately, there turned out to be little that the writers could do with him, and so he really only made a dozen or so appearances in the Silver Age.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Trivia Quiz #33: X-Men and Spiderman

1. What villain was responsible for Professor X losing the use of his legs?

2. What organization did Flash Thompson start?

3. Jeopardy-style: Flash Thompson, Mysterio and the Chameleon. (That's the answer, what's the question?)

4. What villain was Professor X's step-brother?

5. What position did Professor X play in football?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Guest Post: "Super-Exiles of Earth" (May 1963; Justice League of America #19), or, Life in the Pre-"Crisis" World

Note: I have authored every post here at Silver Age Comics so far. But I received an unsolicited email submission from a "M Hamilton" (a nom de plume) that was well-written and seemed pretty interesting, so I'm going to break with tradition and post it in its entirety. However, I will break in occasionally to make a point (or post a panel or cover to illustrate a point). Here's Hamilton's post:

If I were to recommend a single comic book to a Silver Age newcomer which would introduce him to the DC Universe before Earth-Two became a major force (and really started complicating things), it would be "Super-Exiles of Earth" (Justice League of America #19, May 1963).

It is the earliest JLA story included in the 2006 compilation "Justice League of America: The Greatest Stories Ever Told" and with good reason. The reader not only learns about each hero's superpowers by seeing him in action, but also finds out:

- The secret identity of each superhero along with the city he/she was based in (with the exception of Green Arrow and the Martian Manhunter),
- That Atom's girlfriend was lawyer Jean Loring,
- In the very last panel, Superman mentions his "Fortress of Solitude."
(I assume that the point here is to mention that the story served the purpose of acquainting readers painlessly with the background of the characters. This is definitely worth noting: Justice League of America, while also a (highly successful) magazine in its own right was intended to cross-sell the magazines featuring its individual members.)

This issue is atypical in several ways:

- With regard to the cover, most early JLA covers left out Superman, Batman and Snapper Carr. I think that this cover is the last one to portray the entire roll call of members. For hardcore JLA followers, the crowd drawn in the foreground and background portrayed the civilian identities of all the superheroes (except for Aquaman who had none). And in the foreground, I suspect that Barry Allen, Hal Jordan, Diana Prince, and Ray Palmer were drawn by their respective artists (e.g., Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Ross Andru),


(I concur on the faces; they do seem redrawn. And it's far from the only time that happened on a JLA cover, so it's no stretch. It's definitely one of the more interesting covers on a JLA issue due to the puzzle aspect--if the JLA is really leaving, who are the people on the cover with the real identities of every member?)

- Concerning action, most issues broke the then 9-member JLA into 3 teams of 3 superheroes each. Each 3-member team worked together to fight against a villain or to cope with a problem. "Super-Exiles of Earth" includes mostly one-on-one battles between each member and his/her respective evil alterego which accounts for a page in this story that has 10 panels.

(Excellent point. In the JSA stories in the 1940s All-Star Comics, the individual heroes usually had a chapter of 5-6 pages where they battled alone. During the Silver Age this would not have been possible, due to the larger size of the JLA and the smaller size of the comics. So it was getting traditional to split into mini-teams of 2-3 JLA members to handle one aspect of the current issue's "menace".)

With regard to the plot, there was an incredible amount of logic and consistency in telling the story:

- Early on when the JLA was arrested, one panel portrayed the 3 members who travelled by plane (Wonder Woman, Green Arrow and Batman). Another panel featured the 3 who could fly on their own (Green Lantern, Superman, and Martian Manhunter) and another panel portrayed the remaining earthbound members (Flash, Aquaman, and the Atom),

- When a message written in invisible ink needed to be analyzed, both Superman and Martian Manhunter simultaneously used their super-vision,
(Good point, but the message itself came from nowhere, which is a significant plot hole. On page 13 of the story, the Flash conveniently remembers a mysterious message that had no writing on it that the JLA received during a previous meeting. And Batman suddenly remembered that he put it in his utility belt intending to analyze it for a message, but he forgot to do so.)

- Like most of the JLA stories, the members solved their problems by using reason and deduction rather than by relying solely on their superpowers. Mental effort was always the key to ultimate success in JLA stories,
- And the member who contributed to solving the problem that was the ultimate climax of the story was then newcomer Atom who had joined the JLA a few issues earlier (JLA #14, "Menace of the Atom Bomb"). To justify the worth of new JLA members, it seems that writer Gardner Fox allowed the newest member to play the crucial role in providing the final solution.

(Good points both. Although I should note that the solution entails the following:)

(Given that Ray is a research physicist, there are some questions I might have about his ability to perform the necessary brain surgery from inside).

Concerning Sekowsky's artwork, I feel that the following quote sums up the fact that he was underrated, overlooked and neglected among the roster of DC artists:

- The perfection of art is to conceal art. (Quintilian)

(Sekowsky did a credible job on a number of features in the Silver Age. Personally though, I am not a fan of his work.

His work on the JLA could never be called 'beautiful' in the way that Murphy Anderson's Hawkman or Carmine Infantino's Adam Strange could, but its dynamism was full of a kind of energy that especially suited the brisk pace of the JLA plots. (To get an idea of how the JLA members would have looked if Infantino had been their artist, see Flash #158 "The One-Man Justice League" or Mystery in Space #75 "The Planet That Came to a Standstill.")

[Concerning Adam Strange, Sekowsky was his original artist. What reader can forget the first page of Adam's debut in Showcase #17 ("The Planet and the Pendulum") portraying Adam rescuing Alanna by scooping her up in his spaceship. You were simply pulled into the story by the immediacy of that image. A few issues after JLA #19, Sekowsky would get to draw Adam again in JLA #24 ("Decoy Missions of the Justice League")]
(I concur, Sekowsky did a fine job with the initial Adam Strange story.)

If you compare the cover of JLA #19 drawn by Murphy Anderson with the same scene as portrayed within the issue, you can see that Sekowsky's other strong point was his portrayal of emotion. On the cover, the JLA members look stoic in accepting their exile; in Sekowsky's panel, they look like they are walking the gangplank and some of them look positively broken by having to face their cruel fate.

My favorite panels and pages in JLA #19 include:
- The panel where the members step into their dressing rooms followed by a panel showing them emerging wearing their street clothes as their respective civilian identities,

- When the JLA are in their spaceship taking them away from earth, those panels where the windows give views of an inky black outer space are so atmospheric,

- The page of six panels showing the villain in prison from different angles and revealing his thoughts. One of those panels didn't even include him.

Concerning the evolution of the JLA, "Super-Exiles of Earth" represents the ending of an era when the entire JLA roll call would participate. Beginning with the first issue of the following year (1964), stories would begin to appear where only a partial roll call of members would participate and where Superman and Batman would gain the status of "anchor" members and begin to appear more regularly and prominently on JLA covers. The reduction of members was probably in reaction to the annual summer tradition of the two "Crisis" issues which must have caused Sekowsky to put in a lot of overtime drawing all those superhero (and supervillain) costumes.
(I have recently written about how Julius Schwartz was given permission to use Superman and Batman in the JLA by DC publisher Jack Liebowitz. With now nine very active members (and a tenth in another year when Hawkman joined), it's natural that not every member would be active.)

Re-reading JLA #19 over four decades later, I have to conclude that life in the pre-"Crisis" DC world certainly had its moments.
(Great review, M Hamilton!)

Obvious question for the peanut gallery: Should we make guest posts a regular thing at Silver Age Comics?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Catwoman's Return in Lois Lane

As I have discussed in the past, the Catwoman disappeared immediately after the Comics Code Authority arrived. It seems obvious that her sex appeal, glamorous lifestyle and her habit of getting away at the end of the story with occasional assistance from Batman would surely have been slapped down by the Code. So she joined many other Batman villains from the Golden Age and disappeared.

In Batman #155, the Penguin returned for the first time in seven years, and in Batman #171, the Riddler made only his third appearance ever. And then the Batman TV show hit the screens and the entire country experienced Batmania. As I recall, the first two episodes featured the Riddler. And the second week (Batman was shown on both Wednesday and Thursday) featured the Catwoman.

Now the Batman TV series always featured some lovely woman, usually the featured villain of the week's "moll". But here was a gal willing to match wits with Batman herself. The choice of actress was inspired. Julie Newmar could vamp it with the best of them, as she showed in an early 1960s movie called "Marriage-Go-Round" as a brilliant young graduate student who has decided that she wants to have a baby with an also-brilliant (and happily married and actually faithful) college professor played by James Mason.

And yet, despite this obvious lead-in and even though DC had reprinted several Catwoman stories from the Golden Age, somehow Julius Schwartz resisted the siren call of Batman fans for a new Catwoman story. Indeed, shortly after the Batman TV show started he brought in a new villainess who was clearly inspired by the Feline Felon: Poison Ivy.

Around the same time, Mort Weisinger, whose Superman had ruled the circulation roost at DC forever, thanks to the long-running and successful radio and TV series, suddenly found his numbers declining pretty drastically. He knew the culprit and he knew the answer: Bring back the Catwoman to face Lois Lane.

At the beginning of the story, we see perhaps the fate of journalism writ large 43 years ago. How do the Daily Planet reporters get their news?

Well, it's not hard to see how having inmates provide entertainment at a party for the guards' children might go awry; whose brilliant idea was that?

Lois realizes that the Penguin might be attracted to the exhibition of rare birds on display at the Metropolis Bird Sanctuary, so she goes there. The exhibit has not yet opened, but the intrepid reporter sneaks past a dozing security guard and sure enough, excitement ensues:

But when Lois comes to, she's not being held captive by old Pengy, but:

Very, very cool. Rajah had been featured in several Golden Age Catwoman stories and in CW's final appearance in Detective #211's The Jungle Cat-Queen, she was shown riding off atop Rajah's back towards her plane as Batman and Robin look on, helpless to stop her from escaping. Kudos to Leo Dorfman (credited with writing the story at the GCD) for making sure that he got a little detail like that right.

Some other characterizations seem to be have been obtained from the show, like the constant punning on the "cat" theme. Lois accuses the Catwoman of "pussy-footing", while the Catwoman is amused that Lois is "Purr-plexed" and later:

I'd have to look, but I don't remember a lot of that punning in the Golden Age Catwoman stories. Lois passes her final test, proving she can control the wild cats that Catwoman keeps, and she's given her first assignment:

Dorfman's script takes a little hit in my book. The Catwoman was never a murderer, even using proxies, not in the comics and not in the TV show. Indeed, in Detective #211, Batman notes in the final panel:

"Murder isn't in the Catwoman's heart. Sentiment is her weakness and sooner or later that's why we'll catch her the next time."

And what of the Penguin himself? Why did he pass up an obvious bird crime? Well, apparently because he had other "Birds" on his mind:

Yep, that's LBJ's wife and daughters in the float. But in actuality the Penguin was after the rare birds at the exhibition, he was just hiding underneath the eagle's wing on the float as a way of getting through Metropolis without being observed. Because the easiest way to avoid being detected is in the middle of a float which the Secret Service is protecting, right?

The Penguin finally arrives at the museum where the exhibit has already been robbed, and encounters the Catwoman (actually Lois). Realizing that he's been beaten, he decides to try a little romance:

Big bonus points to Dorfman there; it strikes me as exactly the type of ruse the Penguin would use to keep within range of the exhibit. And another big bonus to artist Kurt Schaffenberger, who presents it perfectly framed. But remember, Lois is programmed to kill and so she sends a "cat-arang" towards the Penguin and he falls backwards, but is saved by:

That is beautiful. Another perfect panel in another perfect sequence. Unfortunately for the Penguin, that is the second to last sequence he appears in; in the next he is captured by Superman, and carted off to prison by Batman and Robin. Superman changes into his Clark Kent identity to gather news information that will "explain his absence", but he runs into the Catwoman. Realizing that she's really Lois Lane hypnotized, he's not quite as concerned as he might otherwise be, when her cats rip his reporter clothes to shreds:

The Catwoman arrives shortly later and sees that while Superman removes the wild cats to a zoo, he leaves Lois alone, telling her he'll be back shortly to help her recover from the idea that she's the Catwoman. She changes places with Lois and:

Of course that "poor, deluded," bit is an obvious nod to the TV show, which often featured Batman hectoring a supervillain's moll with those adjectives.

The story continued in Lois Lane #71. We learn that using guile, the Catwoman had tricked Superman into flying her to the catacombs, her lair. She used a magic wand there to change him into a cat, and imprisoned him in a Krytonite cage. And if you think that's pretty diabolical, get a load of what she does to Lois:

Well, you can imagine the next step, Lois the mouse is dropped into the cage with Superman the cat, who suddenly seems to have forgotten his code against killing. It's pretty fortunate that turns out to be a little nightmare Lois had, and in fact Batman and Robin have captured the Catwoman. But the part about Superman turning into a cat was not a dream, and the wand doesn't work any more, and the Catwoman isn't telling how to make it work. Super-Cat remains optimistic:

But still a little embarrassed by his problem:

What, J. Edgar turning the investigation over to LBJ? Unlikely indeed! So Lois goes to the White House with her cat-carrier. At this point I can't help noticing that the basic plot of the story--Lois and the Catwoman--has been over for pages and that Dorfman is only keeping the tale alive by this ridiculous subplot of Superman turned into a cat for several pages. Anyway Superman eats lunch with the president's dogs, while Lois finds out that animals the space program sent to the moon are doomed unless Supes saves them. She tells Super-Cat who flies to the moon but they have a camera, and it turns out that the animals on the moon are mice. Will Super-Cat eat them instead? No he saves them and then Lois takes Super-Cat over to Lana Lang's place and whaddya know, Lana Lang's dad just found the only monkey's paw that grants one wish and Lana does the right thing, but that doesn't work out all that great for Lois:

Comments: The ending is still entertaining because of Schaffenberger's art, but the story is so padded it makes Megan Fox look natural. Some out-of-character bits also ding Dorfman's script. Still, the tale hangs together despite those problems, and who can resist that panel with Super-Cat writing a message to Lois?

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Magnus, Robot Fighter #2

If there was one thing that the Silver Age had in abundance, it was covers that featured the hero and his double. But this one is painted and really stands out.

I enjoyed reading the reprint of Magnus, Robot Fighter #1 in #22 so much that I decided to try the next issue of Magnus. I don't remember reading a lot of Gold Key comics as a kid; it is my recollection that they had a somewhat different distribution system than Marvel and DC, and you'd come across them in oddball places like Woolworth's and WT Grant's. I had a couple issues of Turok, and one of Korak, Son of Tarzan.

This issue doesn't waste any time getting to the action. Leeja is being kidnapped by robots when Magnus lends a fist:

The seductive poses of the former continue, and check out the outstanding composition of this panel:

Our eyes are drawn to the woman, whose gaze encourages us to look at the fleeing air-car, which leads us to the dialog bubbles. That is perfectly done.

Magnus and Leeja are curious why the robots attacked her; since H8 was defeated in the last issue, she's no longer wanted, and those weren't pol-robs at any rate.

Via scene change, we learn that the robots were created by Mekman, a robot who has learned how to create human-looking and sounding robots, starting with a mechanical version of Magnus:

The robot Magnus lures Leeja to the Mekman's headquarters. With her as a hostage, Magnus himself has no choice but to surrender to the Mekman himself. Meanwhile the evil robot has created duplicates for North Am's governing council. After the substitution is made, the council makes an announcement:

When Magnus learns that Senator Clane has been arrested and is facing execution, he realizes it's time to kick a little robot butt:

He learns Mekman's startling secret:

Magnus realizes that Mekman's pores still need to breathe, so he coats him with mercury, forcing the secret from his enemy before saving him for the good of humanity:

Magnus and Leeja arrive back at the capitol just in time to save Senator Clane, who is about to be executed. Magnus tells the humans nearby that the President and his council are all robots, as is the fake Magnus. They have an obvious test for him:

And in the end:

Comments: The story is solid, the artwork terrific. What's not to like? I do hope that in future issues we get a little more depth to the characters but so far this series is turning out to be a real gem.

There is a backup feature in this issue called the Aliens, which I see started in Magnus #1. I may get around to reading that series but for now I'm going to stick with the robot fighter stories.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Trivia Quiz #32

1. Who failed in his first effort to join the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City?

Private Detective Hugh Rankin was blackballed by Batman in his first attempt to join the Mystery Analysts, although he was later inducted.

2. Who was the first person to graduate at the top of Gotham City Police Academy in all four categories of training: Academic, Physical, Firearms and Overall?

Patrolwoman Patricia Powell was the police academy's finest graduate ever, startling Batman:

In an oddball pair of stories from the very early New Look, Patricia was introduced as a new love interest for Bruce Wayne. She confided in Batman shortly after the awards ceremony, puzzling the Caped Crusader, who could not remember meeting her, but it turned out that they had encountered each other several times, but were always wearing masks at the time: a diving mask and a domino mask at a costume party. But like all of Batman's love interests, she eventually just faded out of the picture.

3. Who did not first re-appear in the Silver Age after a long absence during the New Look period: the Riddler, the Penguin, the Scarecrow or the Catwoman?

I worded this poorly, what I meant to say was that three of those villains returned for the first time in the Silver Age during the New Look period, and one did not. The answer is the Penguin, who first returned in Batman #155, a year before the New Look debuted.

4. According to the Riddler, why do inmates refer to the state penitentiary as "Fiddler's Hotel"?

Because it's a "vile inn" (violin).

5. It is not uncommon for crooks to "die" at the end of a story, but what Batman villain was declared dead three times in the same story?

Deathman died three times in Batman #180; the first two were hoaxes, but the last one was for real as he was electrocuted by a lightning bolt while trying to shoot Batman and Robin.

Michael Rebain got #1, #2, #3 and #5. Ed O'Toole got #2, #3 and #5. And Darkmark90 correctly answered #4. Great job, all!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Batman And the Feminists

Or something. As the 1960s ended, Batman sales collapsed. After selling better than 800,000 copies per issue in 1967, the title crashed to 350,000 two years later. Nothing is less hip to youngsters than last year's fad. So it was necessary to make Batman more relevant, and seizing on the then-novel phenomenon of Women's Liberation seemed a natural. Of course, that writer Frank Robbins and editor Julius Schwartz knew nothing about feminism comes through loud and clear.

As the story begins, a beauty pageant winner is crowned. Her prize? A night on the town with Gotham's most eligible bat-chelor, all televised by a local station. And is Robin going to handle the crime-fighting duties?

So the crooks have a field day, even to the point of robbing discos and other nightspots where Batman has recently been with his date (since they had a big haul with the celebrity attraction).

It is, after all, just one night and so the crooks begin to realize that perhaps tying Batman down with a woman would be just the thing gangland needs to improve the bottom line. So:

She goes to a local ad agency, which is intrigued at the prospect:

Well, never underestimate the ability of Madison Avenue to sell a product:

Batman bails out on the scene, but it seems he will be trapped between two adoring mobs of women, when suddenly:

But when Batman tries to thank her, she blows him off. Will he be intrigued by the only woman in town who isn't panting after him? You betcha:

In the finale, Batman and Robin are observing a car theft ring when they spot the mystery woman's vehicle being stolen. They wade in but it's a trap. Fortunately a third fighter joins them:

The crooks were double-crossing Cleo; her intention was only to entice Batman into marriage, while the gangsters figured they'd just bump him off. Batman learns that Cleo was part of the gang all along:

Batgirl helps out in the nick of time there. It turns out that she only joined WEB (Women to End Batchelorhood) to find out what the plan was. Cleo goes to jail with the rest of the crooks (although we have seen her break no law in the story) and Batman resumes his romance-free ways:

Comments: The story itself isn't terrible by any means; it's the juxtaposition with the then-new Women's Liberation Movement that makes this comic seem sillier than it really is. It is completely believable that Batman would find it difficult to operate if he married.

Irv Novick had settled in as the main Batman artist by this time, and his work supplemented by Joe Giella's inks definitely sets a nice tone for the story.