Friday, October 30, 2009

Detective Comics #394

Detective Comics #394 (On Sale: October 30, 1969) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

We begin with Batman in "A Victim's Victim" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. Oh, does this issue continue harming the Batman legend. This is the second of the inane Victim's Incorporated Program (V.I.P.) stories. Picking up from the end of this month's Batman story, Bruce Wayne is confronted in his V.I.P. office by a Native American sporting a gun and an eye-patch, one Dakota Jones, race-car driver. It seems Dakota thinks Bruce Wayne hired someone to shoot him in the eye during the last Gotham Classic Cup Race, so that the car owned by Bruce could win.

I take note here that this month DC put out two comics staring Batman and featuring racing, The big difference is that in The Brave and the Bold both Batman and Bruce Wayne take an active part in the racing, while here Bruce owns the car. Anyway, Bruce and Dakota spar and Bruce wins and figures that someone must be feeding Dakota the idea that Bruce was involved.

Later that night as Batman, Bruce heads for the scene of the crime in one of the stupidest looking Batmobiles of all time. This is some Italian race-car looking thing, with one-way mirrors for windows, diplomatic license plates and an ugly spoiler on top. He thinks this will be less obtrusive than the old Batmobile. World's greatest detective my ass! I digress. At the track Batman determines that the shot must have come from the inside of the track, and since there is no place for a sniper to hide, the shot must have come from Wayne's car.

For some reason, Wayne's car is still at the track and on inspection, Batman finds a shell casing under the floor mat (a race car with a floor mat?). Just then he hears some low lifes, "Chance" Collins and some of his goons, coming, talking about how they convinced Dakota that Bruce had ordered the "hit" on Dakota, not them, who bet heavily on the Wayne car to win. They are back to retrieve the gun from behind the glove compartment of Wayne's car. Batman does see the gun there and hides in the car.

When Collins' men open the car batman attacks them but is overpowered. They tie him up and are going to use the same remote-controlled gun rig that they used to shoot Dakota to kill Batman. Before they can do that though, Dakota arrives and takes out a couple of thugs while Collins slips away in Wayne's race car. Dakota takes after him and Collins crashes the car on the same turn where Dakota was shot. An eye for an eye, as they say.

I can't go forward without mentioning the lack-luster Bob Brown and Joe Giella artwork. Brown didn't seem to be trying very hard (one Batman face is repeated three times) and Giella never was one for thrilling inks.

The back-up story features Robin in "Strike... While the Campus is Hot" by Frank Robbins, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. The artwork on this one is a night and day reversal of the main story. Gil Kane's pencils are exciting and vibrant, and Murphy Anderson's inks are lush and inviting, smoothing off some of the rough edges of Kane's pencils. The story begins with Batman and Alfred reading a letter from Dick, telling of his first college "bust."

Dick relates how he has found a room in a boarding house with a conveniently-placed drain pipe for Robin to exit and enter and how on his first day on campus he ran into a protest by a group called CTT (Citizens Tomorrow--Today). They seem to be provoking the campus administrators when the dean shows up to say that they will talk with the protesters and tat they will be no police action or interference. This seems to take the wind out of the protesters who appeared gunning for violence. Suddenly police cars appear and the leaders are taken into custody.

However, Dick notices that the cops are phonies and is knocked out and taken as well. At the campus the remaining CTT leaders accuses the school of lying and along with the press head down to police headquarters. Finding no CTT leader there, CTT accuses the police of being in on a massive cover-up. Meanwhile Dick awakens in an old silo and changes into Robin (something about a reversible shirt and hidden pockets that makes little sense, but hey, it's the comics, right?). He finds the "cops" bandaging up the CTT leader. Robin leaps down and starts fighting the leader only to find the "cops" standing on the sidelines watching and smiling.

This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Adventure Comics #387

Adventure Comics #387 (On Sale: October 30, 1969) has a Supergirl cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

We begin with Supergirl in "The Wolf-Girl of Stanhope" by Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger. The back-up story is our cover story, "Lex Luthor's Outlaw Nephew" by Leo Dorfman, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Able.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Action Comics #383

Action Comics #383 (On Sale: October 30, 1969) has a Superman cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

We begin with Superman in "The Killer Costume" by Cary Bates, Curt Swan and George Roussos. The back-up story features the Legion of Super-Heroes in "Chameleon Boy's Secret Identity" by E. Nelson Bridwell, Winslow Mortimer and Jack Able. Jim Shooter would be back as Legion writer next issue, but would then leave DC for five years. It was reprinted in Legion of Super-Heroes Archives Vol. 9 HC.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World's Finest Comics #190

World's Finest Comics #190 (On Sale: October 28, 1969) has a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

We begin with Superman and Batman in "The Final Revenge of Luthor" by Cary Bates, Ross Andu and Mike Esposito. The back-up story features Robin in "Murder on the Chessboard" drawn by Jim Mooney and reprinted from Star Spangled Comics #135.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Showcase #87

Showcase #87 (On Sale: October 28, 1969) has a Firehair cover by Joe Kubert.

"The Shaman" by Joe Kubert is the last of the three Firehair issues of Showcase. It is also the weakest of the three as you will see, yet it still has the wonderful art of Joe Kubert at his peak.

In his travels, Firehair comes to the edge of the Grand Canyon, where he is attacked by a mountain lion. The lion's sharp claws cut deeply into Firehair, but he uncoils his rope and wraps it around the lion's neck. However, before it can do much good the lion's aggressive action throws them both over the edge. Firehair manages to grasp onto a scrub plant as he falls and climbs back onto a ledge where he quickly passes out. When he awakens it is night and he sees the fire of a tribe on the canyon floor. He somehow makes it down the canyon wall and into the camp, where the tribe's shaman says they have been expecting "Firehair."

The shaman calls Firehair "the evil one" and dunks a totem of Firehair into a pot of water, causing Firehair's lungs to fill with water. The shaman removes the doll and Firehair is placed on a mound surrounded by a pit of rattle snakes, where he falls fast asleep. When he awakens he is taken into a cavern to the edge of a bottomless pit when a spirit of the nether-world is called to pass judgment on Firehair. The giant man with the head of a coyote says Firehair must face the judgment at the black pool of "he that holds the world."

Firehair is taken deeper into the cavern to a black pool where he is tied up and left to face "he that holds the world," a giant mutated turtle. Somehow Firehair escapes his ropes as the cave begins to crumble. Firehair must dodge large pillars of rock. Suddenly his world goes black and when vision returns he is in a Navajo camp, where they have tended to him as he has lain delirious from the poison of the lion's claws. Quite a let down from the two previous stories, almost a filler issue and not what you would expect only three issues into the series.

Also in this issue is a one-page Warrior piece on Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians of Idaho drawn by Ken Barr.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Justice League of America #77

Justice League of America #77 (On Sale: October 28, 1969) has a cover by Murphy Anderson and the first appearance of the JLA headshot line up along the left edge. This would of course become a familiar addition to the JLA covers for some time to come.

"Snapper Carr -- Super-Traitor" is by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella. While walking down the street one evening, Snapper Carr is assaulted by a group of men, who seem upset that he is friends with the JLA. Snapper is rescued by John Dough, the most normal man in America. Meanwhile, back in JLA headquarters, Green Arrow is trying to help Black Canary tame her Canary Cry, but the destructive waves seem to go in the opposite direction Canary is trying to send them.

When Batman and the Atom go to investigate an alarm set off by one of the JLA, they find Snapper, who along with John Dough attacks them using laughing gas. As they subdue both heroes, John Dough reminds Snapper that he is working for the greater good of average Americans. Does this line of idiotic thought remind anyone of a certain Presidential campaign from last year?

When Batman awakens he finds himself with John Dough, tied up and wearing an oxygen mask. Dough explains that Batman will watch on a monitor the destruction of the JLA and that as soon as Dough leaves, the chamber he is in will be filled with poisonous gas, which is the reason for the mask. Meanwhile, the Atom is back at JLA headquarters and explains what happened and that he woke up alone. Superman points to a newspaper which discusses John Dough's popularity as "Mr. Average" and how he is gaining followers all over the country. Though the JLA are not average people, Flash says that they use their extraordinary powers toward the cause of justice for all, while Atom says that he doesn't blame average people for distrusting super-heroes. Green Arrow says that's "Baloney" and that the human race has progressed enough to accept people who are different. Batman shows up to say that Arrow will have chance to prove that as they have all been invited to a John Dough rally that night.

Batman goes on to explain that he had a talk with Dough and that Snapper just got "carried away" with things. Batman has passes fro all of the JLA except Black Canary who he doesn't seem to know. Of course the real Batman is watching this all happen from his gas-filled chamber. That night as the crowd fills the stadium for a debate between the JLA and John Dough we see Dough aims a large machine which he says will stimulate the crowd's parasympathetic nervous systems, making them jumpy and ready to believe anything.

Snapper speaks first for Dough, saying how super-heroes are harmful and that we have become too dependent on them and that we have forgotten how to fight our own battles. In the crows a group of men attack Black Canary because she is much better looking than most and therefore, not normal. As the JLA jump to her rescue they are one by one beset by problems: The Flash is woozy and can't control his speed, Green Lantern can't concentrate and control his will, Superman feels slow and stupid, Green Arrow can't remember which arrow does what.

The JLA all leave and a special Senate subcommittee is called to investigate John Dough's charge that the JLA caused a riot at the stadium. Batman escapes John Dough's chamber in time to unmask the Batman testifying at the Senate as John Dough. Dough uses fire grenades to mask his escape while the JLA saves the Senate. They capture Snapper Carr and ask him why he helped sabotage them with the tickets to the debate that contained tiny transmitters while interfered with their nervous systems? Snapper says that he was tired of being the JLA mascot and that no one liked him for himself. Also, he says that he believed Dough, that the JLA are too different from the rest of the world. Green Arrow tries to straighten him out on that line of thinking.

Batman says he knows where to find John Dough and who he really is, that he is hiding in their headquarters. They confront Dough and Canary is able to use her Canary Cry to take Dough down. Batman unmasks Dough as the Joker. This story was reprinted in Justice League of America Archives Vol. 9 HC, JLA: The Greatest Stories Ever Told TPB and Showcase Presents: Justice League of America Vol. 4 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heart Throbs #123

Heart Throbs #123 (On Sale: October 23, 1969) has a cover by Vince Colletta.

We begin with "3 Girls--Their Lives...Their Loves Chapter 22 Final Episode" penciled by Jay Scott Pike. I think this is the first of the DC romance soap operas to bite the dust. They obviously were not helping sales any. Next is "Doesn't Anybody Want Me?" penciled by Ric Estrada. Lastly we have "I'll Never Love Again" penciled by Vince Colletta.

Edited by Joe Orlando.
From Beyond the Unknown #2 (On Sale: October 23, 1969) has a cover by Murphy Anderson.

We begin with "Parade of the Planets" by Otto Binder and Frank Giacoia from Mystery in Space #52. Next is "Giants of the Cosmic Ray" by France Herron, Carmine Infantino and Bernard Sachs from Strange Adventures #82. Lastly we have "The Brain-Masters of Polaris" by John Broome, Alex Toth and Sy Barry from Strange Adventures #12.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Brave and the Bold #87

Brave and the Bold #87 (On Sale: October 23, 1969) has a Batman and Wonder Woman cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

Batman and Wonder Woman star in "The Widow-Maker" written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano. I remember being so very disappointed when this book came out that Neal Adams was not drawing it, particularly because I had read that Wonder Woman was the team guests and had wanted to see Neal's version of her. At the time it didn't even occur to me that the big news here was that Bob Haney's four-year run on Brave and the Bold ended this issue. Haney would be back next issue though, while it would be a year before Adams would return to these pages.

All those sour grapes aside, this is one of my favorite Brave and Bold issues and turning it over to Mike Sekowsky was exactly the right thing to do. With Wonder Woman Sekowsky was mining a new direction for pure action comics, aside from super-hero comics and this fit in well with the powerless Diana Prince/Wonder Woman and the equally powerless Bruce Wayne/Batman. Throw in a European local, and Formula One street-course racing, a homicidal driver, a little revenge and some jet-setter flirting between Bruce and Diana and you have a great story, sans super powers and traditional comic villains.

Diana and I Ching are checking out a fashion shoot taking place in the mechanic area of a European rally when she is spotted by driver Bruce Wayne and Willi Van Dort, the driver of the car Widow-Macher. Bruce butts in when Willi tries to make time with Diana, saving her from Willi's unwanted advances, but Diana doesn't recognize Bruce as he ex-JLA buddy Batman and remembers him only as a millionaire playboy. While watching Willi's qualifying lap they learn that Willi's car is called the Widow-Macher or Widow-Maker because the last seven drivers who seemed on the cusp of beating Willi have all died on the track.

When it is Bruce's turn to qualify his time is three seconds faster than Willi's and Willi and his team take notice. Later while passing a window Diana sees Willi talking to his men in sign language, which Diana can read. However, she does not speak German and does not know what Willi is saying, but as she spells it out I Ching translates the conversation and they learn that Willi has ordered his men to fix Bruce's car so that he will not win tomorrow.

Late that night as Willi's men go to work on Bruce's car they are interrupted by Bruce who begins to go all Batman on their asses until Diana and Ching show up. Bruce holds back in an effort to keep his identity secret from Diana and in the process get whacked in the head with a wrench. Willi's men escape capture and Bruce ends up in the hospital with a concussion. Told by a doctor that he cannot race Diana offers to take his place, but Bruce makes a call to Commissioner Gordon and Batman is (supposedly) soon racing to Europe to take Bruce's place.

The next morning it is Batman who is seated in the Wayne One Special. As he pulls out into a throng of press he is also met by Willi who informs Batman that he is the son of General Van Dort, a crazy lunatic that Batman once stopped. Willi promises to avenge his father's honor. After warning Batman of the Widow-Macher aspect of Willi, Diana uses binoculars to once again eavesdrop on Willi giving instructions to his men to see that Batman does not finish the race.

The rest of the story is one narrow escape from a Willi tactic by Batman followed by one take down of a Willi henchman by Diana and Ching. It's fun stuff excellently done by Sekowsky and Giordano. In the end Willi is killed in a trap meant for Batman and Diana needs Bruce's help to bail her out of jail when she and I Ching inadvertently used the wrong car to chase down Willi's men. This leads to the promise of a dinner date between Bruce and Diana. This story has been reprinted in Showcase Presents the Brave and the Bold Batman Team-Ups Vol. 1 TPB and Diana Prince :Wonder Woman Vol. 2 TPB.

They fill out one page of space with "A Matter of Life and Death" by Murray Boltinoff and Jack Sparling, a tale regarding the thoughts of a corpse in the back of an ambulance.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Debbi's Dates #5

Debbi's Dates #5 (On Sale: October 21, 1969) has a cover by I don't know.

We begin with Benedict in "The Best Food in Life is Free." Next we have Debbi's Dates in "The Blind Date." That is followed by Ding-a-Lings in "The Record 1rst Prize." We end with Buddy in "Nothing But a Hound Dog." I know nothing about any of these stories.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Witching Hour #6 (On Sale: October 16, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

We begin with "A Face in the Crowd" drawn by Don Heck. Now this is Heck's first work at DC in three years and his first on a horror story. Heck had been working at Marvel for a few years now, drawing just about everything. Most notably he is one of the co-creators of Iron Man. Heck also introduced us to Hawkeye and the Black Widow during his run on Iron Man in Tales of Suspense.

At DC he would mainly do female characters, becoming the main Batgirl artist starting in 1971, but also pulling stints on Wonder Woman, The Rose and the Thorn, Zatana and Supergirl. Heck would also pull a long run on The Flash and Justice League of America. Heck died of lung cancer in 1995.

Heck was one of those guys who was not very appreciated by fans, but who turned out competent work year after year. Tony Isabella said of Heck, "If there were a Marvel Universe version of Mount Rushmore, he would be up there with Stan [Lee], Jack [Kirby], Steve [Ditko], and Dick [Ayers]."

I was personally not much of a Heck fan till I found X-Men #64. Smack dab in the middle of a Neal Adams' run on the book Don Heck has to do a fill-in issue. Sure, Tom Palmer did a lot to make the work look Adams-like, but Don Heck did a heck of a job (pun fully intended) in pinch-hitting for Adams. Not everyone can do that.

Next is "The Doll Man" drawn by Jose Delbo. We end with "Treasure Hunt" by an unknown artist. I am sure there is a framing sequence as well, but I can't find my copy of this book to check it out.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Star Spangled War Stories #148

Star Spangled War Stories #148 (On Sale: October 16, 1969) has another wonderful Enemy Ace cover by Joe Kubert.

We begin with Enemy Ace in "Luck is a Puppy Named Schatzi" by Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert. This is just a neat little tale of Von Hammer and a puppy. It is the kind of story that Enemy Ace was created to tell, for it gives you an unsettling feeling of death waiting around every corner, of the uneasy feeling of being in war and Hans Von Hammer's acceptance of this unreal reality and his small part in the bigger picture. This is wonderful stuff and Joe Kubert was at the top of his game in 1969, of that there is no doubt.

A small puppy sniffs around the Jagdstaffel field before running out to play in the grass, not knowing that he is playing on a runway until a squadron returns and lands almost on top of him. Von Hammer finds the dog under his plane, his foot damaged and he takes the dog in. The other pilots cannot believe that the Hammer of Hell is cuddling a puppy, but hammer sees Schatzi as another soldier injured in the perilous war. The next day Schatzi rides with Hammer to the coast near Cuxhaven where English planes have been using a battle ship for an air base and inflicting much damage.

Hammer's squadron arrive to find Cuxhaven in flames and as they move in closer the English fly out from behind the columns of thick black smoke and attack. Hammer watched one of his men, Kurt, on his second patrol, go down in flames. Hammer gets his men under control and they begin to attack the English who quickly turn and run back through the dark pillars of smoke. Hammer and his men follow only to find the battleship off the coast, now shooting at them. Hammer maneuvers the English Sopwiths in behind him and they follow as he hoped they would. he then dives toward the battleship and sips sideways between the ships funnels, while the less maneuverable Sopwiths impact into the ship in a fiery crash.

When they return to base his men congratulate Hammer but he asks them who will congratulate Kurt (whose name has morphed into Josef in the last three pages) who went down in flames over Cuxhaven? Hammer then takes his good luck charm Schatzi off into the woods to meet the black wolf who sometimes seems to be Hammer's only real friend. When they return to the Jagdstaffel Hammer is informed that his squadron is to provide air support for a drive into France.

In perfect Kanigher fashion they fly into France though a downpour and Hammer tells Schatzi, "Stay under my collar, little one...this rain will not last for long...then the sun will dry us out! Do not whimper, Schatzi...only the heavens my cry in war!" They fly into a pitched battle with the British depicted with amazing skill by Joe Kubert. It is during this battle that the cover scene happens, as Hammer summer-saults to dislodge a pursuer, Schatzi falls from his cockpit. In other comics there would have been some amazing heroics to save the small pup, but this is Enemy Ace and Schatzi falls to his death...and Von Hammer goes berserk! Or as Kanigher puts it, "Like a madman, the Hammer of Hell tears into battle--wreaking a terrible havoc..."

In the aftermath his men return to Germany and their Jagdstaffel, but Hammer does not return with them. One says they saw him land amidst the dead, "It--it was horrible! Like something out of Dante's Inferno! Perhaps...he landed to confirm his kills! He is truly a killing machine!" But of course he landed to properly bury Schatzi. Reprinted in Enemy Ace Archives Vol. 2 HC and Showcase Presents:Enemy Ace Vol. 1 TPB.

The back-up is "The Fall of the Red Knight" drawn by Ric Estrada. I wouldn't be surprised if Estrada also wrote this short retelling of how Captain Roy Brown shot down the most famous of all WWI aces, and the obvious template from which Hans Von Hammer sprang, Rittmeister Baron Manfred Von Richthofen, the Red Baron.

We end with at two-pages spread Battle Album on aircraft carriers drawn by the wonderful Ken Barr.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Metal Men #41

Metal Men #41 (On Sale: October 16, 1969) has a cover by Mike Sekowsky and George Roussos.

"Requiem for a Robot" is written and penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by George Roussos. This is the last issue of Metal Men for three years when they will return in reprints. In seven years they would return in new stories by Steve Gerber and Walt Simonson.

Edited by Mike Sekowsky.

Flash #193

Flash #193 (On Sale: October 16, 1969) has a nice cover by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.

Unfortunately the nice cover hides an absolutely horrendous story by John Broome, Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, entitled "Captain Cold Blows His Cool." It begins with a breakout at Central State Penitentiary, where Captain Cold helps five "old timers" escape by, get this, making them young. No explanation is given for Cold's miraculous power, which alone would make someone rich beyond any other crime they may commit, but I digress.

Cold explains that he is in love with old-time movie star Laura Lamont, who's heart he intends to win over by making her young and presenting her with magnificent gifts that he needs the ex-"old timers" to steal for him. Cold also tells us that he does not know where to find Lamont, but that Iris Allen has written an article and interview with Lamont and so he plans on getting here whereabouts from Iris.

In disguise as an estate attorney he visits Iris, explaining the Lamont has come into some big money. Iris will not tell Cold Lamont's location but agrees to pass along the information. Barry thinks the attorney looks familiar and notices him following Iris as she drives off to see Lamont. I already hate this story, but the next piece seals it for me. Barry hesitates "several seconds" before deciding to follow as the Flash and is unable to locate Iris or Cold. Horrible writing on Broome's part.

While searching though he does find some of the ex-"old timers" stealing a painting for Cold and he captures them. The next day he finds out that they have the same fingerprints as two of the old guys who recently escaped. He also finds out that there were a rash of robberies last night. Searching for clues he finds an old stump outside of town that is frozen and figures Captain Cold is behind it all. He traces the residual radiation from Captain Cold's "Cold-Gun" but it soon dissipates. He eventually picks up the radiation trail again and tracks it back to Captain Cold. Another digression here: if Flash has the ability to do this, why has he not done it in the past to quickly find and capture Captain Cold? Like I said, really bad writing by Broome.

Where was I? I yeah, Flash has found Cold but Cold hits him with an Absolute Zero Ray that blows Flash into pieces and embeds him into the wall of Cold's hideout. Cold places a picture frame around the broken Flash (this looks pretty stupid folks, which is why the Carmine Infantino cover was such a great idea). Having followed Iris the night before Cold goes to Laura Lamont's house, makes her young, takes her to his hide-out where he gives her the gifts and proposes to her. He then goes off to call a Justice of the Peace to marry them tonight, but dials Heat-Wave instead and invites him over to show him the frozen Flash.

Heat-Wave once to take on last crack at the Flash and blasts him with his Heat-Blaster, reversing the effect of Cold's gun and restoring the Flash, who quickly mops up the room with the two, now bickering, villains. Laura Lamont doesn't want to be young and uses her ability with make-up to make herself look old again and swears she will do that for the rest of her life.

Iris takes Barry by a theater where Laura sells tickets to her old movies. Later on Barry explains that while he was frozen by Captain Cold, his brain still functioned and that he concentrated on Heat-Wave and through some here-to-fore unknown and never-heard-of-again telepathic ability on Barry's part, got Cold to call Heat-Wave instead of the Justice of the Peace. The less said about this mess the better and thankfully, this tripe has never been reprinted.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Batman #217

Batman #217 (On Sale: October 16, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams, which is sometimes, inexplicably, credited to Irv Novick and Dick Giordano (which is pure lunacy).

Maybe Julius Schwartz was heeding the advice of Neal Adams when he told Julie that Batman had to change, had to be more like the Batman in the Brave and the Bold. Maybe that explains this issue and the massive changes it attempted to bring to the character. Whatever the reason, this issue marks the beginning of yet another revamping of the Batman character. As the cover depicts, Wayne Manor and the Batcave are mothballed. As last week's Detective Comics cover hinted at, Batman and Robin are a team no more as Dick Grayson goes off to college. This certainly allows for the opportunity for Batman to return to being a figure of the night, which is good, but there are other changes here that don't fare nearly as well, as you will see.

"One Bullet Too Many" is by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano and you certainly cannot complain about the artwork, which is wonderful. We begin with Dick Grayson saying his goodbyes to Bruce and Alfred at Wayne Manor as he heads off to Hudson University. After he leaves, Bruce explains to Alfred that Wayne Manor is just too big for the two of them and that Batman must change as well. He plans on streamlining the Batman operation and reestablishing the trademark of old: Batman as a figure that strikes fear in the hearts of criminals.

And not just gangsters but those who use "phony respectablilty...big business fronts--legal cover-ups--and hide in the fortress towers of Gotham's metropolis!" So they move out of Wayne Manor and into the heart of Gotham, to the Wayne Foundation building. Bruce goes on to tell Alfred how he wants to set up a special program of the Wayne Foundation to help the victims of crime, a program they end up calling V.I.P., Victims, Inc. Program, an inane name if ever there was one. Based on a newspaper article, Bruce chooses Dr. Susan Felding, the widow of a recently slain doctor, as their first "client."

Bruce first insults the woman and then offers her a zero-interest loan from the Wayne Foundation and the Batman's help in solving the murder of her husband. they go over the night he was killed, how he answered the door late at night and helped a wounded man into his office. She later heard two gunshots and went down to find her husband shot dead and a bullet in a tray that he had taken out of the wounded man. There are no clues to the wounded man's identity and Bruce leaves.

Later that night Batman visits Susan Felding and talks her into being the "bait" in a plan to flush out the killer. In many disguises Batman plants the story in Gotham's seedier side the Susan Felding got a look at the man who shot her husband. The next day he stakes out her office to see if anyone takes the bait. The killer does show up and Batman almost misses him only to be caught flat-footed and letting the killer escape while he takes a bullet meant for Susan.

He asks Susan to extract the bullet immediately and they take it to police HQ where they compare it to the bullet that shot Susan's husband and the bullet he removed from the wounded stranger's arm. They are all the same, meaning that the man who killed Susan's husband was not the wounded man, but another individual who must have also been in Dr. Felding's office that night.

Surmising that the wounded man was killed by his partner, the man who shot Batman and Dr. Felding, the police are able to track down and arrest "Stub" Sartel. Later in Bruce's office he writes a letter to Dick telling him of the first success of Victim's, Inc. Program when a Native American bursts into his office and pulls a gun on Bruce. This story was reprinted in Batman from the 30s to the 70s HC, Batman in the Sixties TPB and Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1 TPB.

My problem with this whole Victim's, Inc. Program idea is that it is so unnecessary and restricts and confines the stories that can be told. It just seems like a really dumb idea and not the kind of thing that is going to help in making Batman a fearsome character again. Instead it makes him a pawn used by a charitable organization. V.I.P. was a step in the wrong direction for Batman. And instead of this issue breaking up the Batman and Robin team, it began the Batman and Bruce Wayne team, and man was that a dumb idea.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #125

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #125 (On Sale: October 14, 1969) has a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson.

We begin with our cover story "Superman's Saddest Day" by Leo Dorfman and Pete Costanza. The back-up is "The Spendthrift and the Miser" from Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen #28 and is by Otto Binder, Curt Swan and Ray Burnley. Jimmy is hyptonized by two con artists. During the day Jimmy spends all his money foolishly, then at night he turns into a greedy miser. The crooks force Jimmy to sell his Superman trophies which they wanted all along. Jimmy tricks them instead by selling them worthless junk. Superman frees Jimmy of the hypnotic spell, and the crooks leave town.

Edited by Mort Weisinger.

Green Lantern #73

Green Lantern #73 (On Sale: October 14, 1969) has a great cover by Gil Kane. It is moody and effective.

"From Space Ye Came --" by Mike Friedrich, Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson has some beautiful artwork. After the last few issue where Joe Giella and Vince Colletta butchered Gil Kane's wonderful pencils, it is great to see an inker up to the task. Returning to Coast City Hal Jordan runs into his old buddy Pieface from Ferris Aircraft, who now owns half a dozen gas stations. Later after checking into his hotel an off-shore oil rig explodes and as Green Lantern Hal caps it and cleans up the mess. All the while, people watching from the beach, particularly the women, are digging the Green lantern hero vibe.

When finished with the clean up Hal meets his adoring throng, one of whom is old flame Carol Ferris. Hal grabs Carol and flies way with her for some private time. She explains that she has broken off her engagement to millionaire Jason Belmore because she can't get Green Lantern out of her mind or her heart. Sensing that he is about to fall back into a big pile of emotional drama, Green Lantern abruptly leaves. back in her apartment Carol pulls out a sapphire brooch given to her by Jason. Both Carol and Hal are engulfed in thoughts of love for the other, but Hal decides to talk to Pieface about it only, when he leaves his hotel he finds the oil well has blown again.

Once more he cleans up the mess only before he can return to being Hal Jordan, guests in the hotel are being chased by giant apparitions of famous guests from the hotel's past. While keeping people from harming themselves in the panic, Hal finds himself being attacked by the ghostly faces. As Hal uses his ring to try and determine who created the apparitions they quickly dissipate and are replaced by a very real Star Sapphire.

She explains that she has been creating the problems in Coast City to weaken Green Lantern's resistance so that he will consent to be her regal consort. Hal uses his ring against Sapphire and forces her to change back to her real identify of Carol Ferris. As she feels her identity slipping, Sapphire issues one final mental command, transforming Green Lantern to his other identity and banishing him to outer space.

Hal finds himself floating in space unaware the he is Green Lantern! This is Mike Friedrich's first Green Lantern in more than a year and the next to last one he would write. Reprinted in Showcase Presents:Green Lantern Vol. 4 TPB.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

Girls' Romances #145

Girls' Romances #145 (On Sale: October 14, 1969) has a cover by Mike Sekowsky and Dick Giordano.

We begin with "Don't Send My Heart Away" drawn by Ric Estrada and Vince Colletta. Next is "Love is a Game -- ­for Two" penciled by Jack Sparling. We end with "Easy to Kiss" also penciled by Jack Sparling.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Young Romance #163

Young Romance #163 (On Sale: October 9, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy. This is pretty much the last decent cover this book will have as starting next issue Vince Colletta begins a long streak of butchering cover inks.

We begin with "Next Door to Love" drawn by Alex Toth and Ric Dano. I don't know anything about this Ric Dano guy, except that he would only ink three stories for DC and this is the first of them and that even without looking at the work I would bet this is a pen name for Dick Giordano. Next is "Blind Love" penciled by John Rosenberger. We end with "My Father, My Love" drawn by Ric Estrada and Vince Colletta. I didn't know DC was doing incest stories back then.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

Sugar and Spike #87

Sugar and Spike #87 (On Sale: October 9, 1969) has a cover by Sheldon Mayer.

Inside we have three Sugar and Spike tales: "A Tale of Two Sugars," "One Good Deed" and "Plumbers' Problem." All three are written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Leave It To Binky #70

Leave It To Binky #70 (On Sale: October 9, 1969) has a cover by Henry Scarpelli.

We begin with "The Teen-Tour... Play as You Go" drawn by Henry Scarpelli. This story was reprinted in Binky #80 and Best of DC #28. Next is "Sightseeing is Believing" also drawn by Henry Scarpelli and all reprinted in Best of DC #28. Lastly we have "Heap Big End of Trip." This story was also reprinted in Binky #80 and Best of DC #28.

Edited by Joe Orlando.

G.I. Combat #139

G.I. Combat #139 (On Sale: October 9, 1969) has a Haunted Tank cover by Joe Kubert.

The haunted Tank stars in "Corner of Hell" by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath. This story was reprinted in Showcase Presents: haunted Tank Vol. 2 TPB.

The back-up story is "A Man... a Chain... a Rock" by Bob Haney and Fred Ray.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Unexpected #116

Unexpected #116 (On Sale: October 7, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

We begin with a Mad Mod Witch story, "Express Train to Nowhere" by Dave Wood and Artie Saaf. Four passengers board a train to, well, we are not sure. they are Alex, just fired from his job for having no imagination or drive; Doc, a brilliant surgeon leaving the city to become a country doctor because of shaky hands; Linda, an artist who flopped int he big city and is now heading back home in shame, and Zaroff, a circus aerialist who turned to crime to make ends meet, now on the lam.

The train heads into a strange mist and stops. The four exit the train only to find a world of zombie like automatons. They realize their train has vanished in the mist so they attempt to follow the automatons but find themselves trapped by an electronic barrier. Alex convinces Linda to use her makeup to make him look like one of the automatons and in his disguise he is able to pass through the barrier. With Linda's help they all get free.

Only now they find their path blocked by a giant skull. Though Doc doesn't think he can do it, they talk him into climbing the skull and using Linda's nail file and scissors he is able to operate on the skull, triggering the jaw to open. Inside they find a path that eventually is bisected by a deep chasm. Zaroff uses their shirts and jackets to make a rope and uses it to carry Linda across the chasm, like walking a tightrope. Doc realizes that he has seen Zaroff's face on a wanted poster and wants nothing to do with him, but the others convince him to use the improvised rope to cross with them.

Once on th other side they hear the sound of a train whistle in the distance and make a run for it, finding the train pulling out just as they get there. In a mad dash they all make it and the train ends up back where they started. But Linda now has confidence in her artwork and decides to stay, Alex feels he has plenty of imagination and aggressiveness and decides he will prove it, Doc realizes he still has some surgical skills and notices how steady his hands now are, and Zaroff decides to turn himself in and take his punishment. As Alex leaves he knows that once he feels he is a success he will be looking Linda up.

Next is "Steps to Disaster" drawn by Pat Boyette. A Dutch cobbler finds a piece of mahogany floating int he water and decides to make some wooden shoes out of the beautiful wood. A worker in the tulip fields kills his boss and takes the payroll and heads out of town, planning to steal a boat for England. One night a week later he sees the cobbler making shoes and needing shoes he steals the mahogany ones and kills the cobbler. He then steals a sloop and heads for England, but is pulled out to the deep Atlantic by a storm, being pulled ever northward for days. A sudden lurch tosses him into the water where the wooden shoes begin to pull him down. He sees an iceberg as a spectre of death and then sees hundreds of skeletal people trapped in an ice prison. A giant face materializes saying that it is his own evil that has brought him to this place. The shoes pull him under and as he dies the shoes slip from his feet sinking to the bottom where they come to rest at the wreck of the Titanic, where the mahogany beam had come from. Reprinted in Unexpected #162.

Next is "Mad To Order" a one-pager inked by Murphy Anderson. I don't know who penciled it. In it a man invites two tailors into his room for a fitting of a new jacket, but finds the jacket too small, too tight and too constraining. As they leave the room we see him in a straight jacket in his cell saying how he will never by anything from them again.

That is followed by "Ball of String" drawn by Bernie Wrightson. Ethatn had been saving string since he was a small boy and had amassed a gigantic ball, when his landlord threw him our for keeping "that sphere of rubbish." In a fit of rage Ethan kills his landlord and wraps his body up in the ball of string. He places the ball into an open carriage and heads out for the country to bury the body. However, his cat had grabbed a hold of the end of the string and as Ethan drove through town the ball was slowly unwinding, revealing the body inside to a passing policeman. Reprinted in Unexpected #161.

Lastly is "Ashes to Ashes, Dustin to Dust" by Murray Boltinoff and Sid Greene.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Superman #222

Superman #222 (On Sale: October 7, 1969) has a cover by Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson featuring Superman's Secret Family.

We begin with "Superman's Lost Brother" by Ed Hamilton and Al Plastino from Superman #80.

Next is "The Sweetheart Superman Forgot" by Jerry Siegel and Al Plastino and reprinted from Superman #165. Superman encounters Red Kryptonite which causes him to lose his powers and suffer amnesia. This time the effects last for weeks.

During his period of amnesia, Superman takes the identity of Jim White and gets a job as a lumberman. He falls in love with a wealthy farm girl, Sally Selwyn, and plans to marry her. Bart Benson, a lumberjack jealous of Jim, causes a rodeo accident leaving Jim crippled.

Though Jim postpones the wedding, Bart still tries to cause him harm. Bart rolls a boulder at Jim’s wheelchair, causing him to fall into the ocean. Sally believes Jim to be dead, but Aquaman rescues him and takes him to Lori Lemaris to recuperate. When his memory returns, Superman has no recollection of Sally or his other life as Jim White.

"The Fantastic Story of Superman's Sons" from Superman #166 is next and is by Ed Hamilton, Curt Swan and George Klein. In this imaginary story, Superman becomes the father of two children. One of the boys, Jor-El II, inherits super powers; the other, Kal-El II, does not. Kal-El II grows up with an inferiority complex because he can’t perform super deeds.

Superman takes the boys to Kandor, where they become a new Nightwing and Flamebird. Despite the fact that both boys now lack powers, Kal-El II still feels inferior. The boys track down a masked criminal, who escapes Kandor to Earth.

Superman and Jor-El II pursue the criminal, while Kal-El II takes a time bubble back to Krypton and meets the original Jor-El. Kal deduces the identity of the mystery criminal as Phantom Zone escapee Gann Artar. He also develops a way to reverse the effects of Gann’s new weapon. Kal returns to the present and defeats Gann by sending him back to the Phantom Zone. He also rescues Superman and Jor-El II from Kryptonite. With his success, Kal overcomes his inferiority complex.

We end with "The Story of Superboy's Sister" from Superboy #36 by William Woolfolk and John Sikela. When Lana's parents are presumed dead in the African jungle, she moves in with the Kents. Superboy stops a pair of radium thieves, but the crooks escape. Suspecting that Superboy is still radioactive from the radium, the crooks use a geiger counter to find where he lives. The trail leads to the Kent home.

Superboy discovers that the crooks are following him as Clark, but eventually switches their focus to Lana. The crooks begin suspecting that she is really Superboy. When Lana overhears them, she play along. Superboy is able to help Lana secretly, until the crooks are convinced.

Superboy doesn't apprehend the crooks right away because he fears that the radiation evidence could lead them back to his Clark Kent identity. When he learns that a package sent to Lana by her parents contained uranium ore, he is able to explain the radiation and apprehend the crooks. Lana's parents are then discovered to be alive, so she returns home to them.

Edited by E. Nelson Bridwell.

Superboy #161

Superboy #161 (On Sale: October 7, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

"The Strange Death of Superboy" is by the regular team of Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Wally Wood.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff.

Secret Hearts #140

Secret Hearts #140 (On Sale: October 7, 1969) has a nicely done cover inked by Dick Giordano and penciled by, my guess is, Ric Estrada.

We begin with "Half a Heart" and "I Stole His Love Away" both by persons unknown. We end with "Lost in the Shadow of Love" which is penciled by John Rosenberger.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Our Army at War #213

Our Army at War #213 (On Sale: October 2, 1969) has a Sgt. Rock cover by Joe Kubert.

We begin with Sgt. Rock in "A Letter for Bulldozer" by Robert Kanigher and Russ Heath. that is followed by "The Ghost Bayonets" by Robert Kanigher and Sid Greene. We end with Great Battles in History, "Kadesh" written and drawn by Ric Estrada.

Edited by Joe Kubert.

House of Secrets #83

House of Secrets #83 (On Sale: September 30, 1969) has a cover by the legendary Gray Morrow. This is Gray's first work for DC comics and another great addition to the DC stable of artists courtesy of editor Dick Giordano. It will be a year before we see any more Gray Morrow work at DC and at that time we will explore the history of this amazing artist.

This issue has a wonderful framing sequence drawn by Bill Draut where Abel spends the entire issue trying to get into the House of Secrets and being thwarted at every move. It has some nice physical comedy and does a nice interplay with the stories in the issue. For example, Abel tells his imaginary friend, Goldie, that the first story was told to him by a wandering wolfman.

And the first story is "The Stuff that Dreams Are Made Of" by Marv Wolfman and Alex Toth. Jim Ivey awakens to find himself in a strange land where a beautiful woman is being attacked by a hideous monster. Jim fights and defeats the monster and meets the woman, Princess Lyla, who takes Jim to see her father, King Shalla. On the way as Jim and Lyla kiss the world fades away and Jim finds himself in a hospital bed, awakening from a dream. Jim has some fatal, incurable disease and knows he is dying.

That night, as sleep takes him once again, Jim finds himself back on the strange world with Lyla, where he meets and is accepted by King Shalla. Weeks go by and every time Jim sleeps he returns to his beloved Lyla and thoughts of death disappear. But one night assassins attempt to kill King Shalla and Jim fights them off, but the assassin's blade finds Jim and he is mortally wounded. On his deathbed Jim tells Lyla, "It's going to be all right Lyla--I see, now...I'll never have to leave you again, dear--Kiss me, darling--this is--forever!' Back in the "real" world the doctors note that Jim dies with a strange smile on his lips. Reprinted in DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #24.

Next is "Bigger Than a Breadbox" drawn by Mike Roy and Mike Peppe. While searching through the attic used by her departed inventor and husband, Abner, widow Elmira finds a strange box, which she puts to use as a mailbox. The next morning she finds an anonymous letter in the box, which she assumes is from the postman, Mr. Smith, whom she finds sort of cute. The letter speaks of being lonely and looking for someone to correspond with. Playing along with postman Smith's game, Elmira writes an anonymous letter back.

The weeks and many letters pass and Elmira finds herself looking forward to each new letter and the "game" she is playing with Mr. Smith. Sometimes it seems like he doesn't even put the letter in the box and yet one is there almost daily. Finally a letter comes asking Elmira if she would like to meet in person. As she is putting her response into the box postman Smith comes by and she tell him that her answer to his letter is "yes." He says he has no idea what she is talking about and that he has delivered no mail to her box in a very long time.

Crushed that he would spurn her so, she retreats to the house and begins sobbing, when she is interrupted by a knock at the door. There, holding out a bouquet of flowers to her is a scaly orange creature. Though Elmira called the box a worthless piece of tin, her departed husband Abner called it an interdimensional teleporter.

This was one of only seven stories that Mike Roy drew for DC and the next to last one. It was also the first work he had done for them since he drew all of the stories and the cover for Jackie Gleason and the Honeymooners #3 in 1956. Roy studied at the High School of Industrial Art, as well as the Pratt Institute. He began his comics career in the 1940s, assisting Bill Everett, the creator of the original 'Sub-mariner' at Atlas Comics. He worked through the Funnies Inc. shop, and contributed to comic books by Holyoke Publications ('Hammerhead Hawley'), Archie Comics (funny titles) and Hillman Periodical (crime, war and western).

He also appeared in Lev Gleason titles like Crime Does Not Pay, Crime and Punishment, Daredevil and Desperado. During the first half of the 1950s, Roy produced a large amount of artwork for the romance titles of Better Publications. He later also contributed to many Dell/Western titles.

Roy also worked on newspaper strips. Between 1948 and 1951, he did the 'The Saint' daily and Sunday strip for the New York Herald Tribune. In the 1950s, he made the newspaper strips 'Ken Weston' and 'Nero Wolfe', and assisted on 'Flash Gordon'. In the 1960s followed the acclaimed Native American Sunday strip 'Akwas', and the 'Hoss Laffs' daily and the 'Indian Lore and Crafts' Sunday page. Mike Roy was active until the 1990s, working mainly on educational comics for Custom Comic Services. His final work was Screaming Eagle, a hardcover graphic novel for Discovery Comics. Mike Roy also co-founded a museum for Native American and Eskimo Art. He died in 1996.

Lastly we have "The House of Endless Years" by Gerry Conway and Bill Draut. This little gem is about two girls and their dog searching in the woods for, Neal, the brother to one of them. It is thee that they come upon a house. One believes a witch lives there, the other believes she is just an old hag, but the both know that this is where Neal may be and so they head toward it. In the basement the old woman tells Neal that he was a fool to come there, when a flock of bats tell her that the girls are coming. She tells the bats to keep them away, but Neal cries out for his sister. The two girls hear Neal's cry and enter the house.

There they are confronted by the woman who pleads with them to leave before the evil of the house takes them over as it did her many years ago. The dog thinks the woman is attacking the girls and jumps to defend them, causing the old woman to fall down the stairs. When the girls reach her, she has turned to dust. Suddenly they notice that the dog is now old and withered and then they see Neal. Neal, now an old man warning them to leave before it is too late. Neal, who collapses at their feet and turns to dust. The two young girls, now ancient woman look down at Neal, who they know is not old, but young, just like them. This has been reprinted in House of Mystery #224, DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #24, Welcome Back to the House of Mystery #1, and Showcase Presents: The House of Mystery Vol. 3 TPB. It and the entire contents of this issue have been reprinted in Showcase Presents: The House of Secrets Vol. 1 TPB.

Edited by Dick Giordano.

Challengers of the Unknown #71

Challengers of the Unknown #71 (On Sale: October 2, 1969) has a cover by Nick Cardy.

The full-length story "When Evil Calls" is by Denny O'Neil, Jack Sparling and Frank Giacoia.

Edited by Murray Boltinoff