Friday, January 22, 2010

Batman #220

Batman #220 (On Sale: January 22, 1970) has a cover by Neal Adams. Three things about this cover: 1) I don't normally like the multi-panel covers, but this one completely works for me, 2) some attribute the inks on this cover to Dick Giordano, but I just don't see it, particularly in the Batman figure in panel one, and 3) this is the debut of a radically new Batman logo, this after reverting back to pretty much the original logo less than a year ago. Now I liked this new logo, but it would not last very long; within a year they would slip Robin's name into the logo and a year after that they will move to a new logo that is more a throw-back to the logo they are currently replacing.

This issue has the book-length "This Murder Has Been... Pre-Recorded" by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. It opens up with pretty much a rehash of the cover and then shows us how we got there. Bruce is visited by Marla Manning, the woman whose articles on "Victims Anonymous" was the inspiration for Bruce's own Victims Inc. Program. She relates how she has received anonymous threats ever since she hinted in an article that the death of young file clerk in the city contract bids department might be linked to bidder for a certain city contract. Bruce's VIP had provided some financial aid to the victims sister and when he checks his files on the woman, Sandra Sloan, they are missing and in there place is a note to "Lay off...or else!" Bruce says he will call on Batman's help and sends Manning on her way.

Manning floated the name of Nova Demolition Co. and Bruce checks into them and the other companies who bid on the suspected contract. That night Batman visits Sandra Sloan and is given the brush-off at the door. Suspecting foul play Batman crashes in and interrupts an unknown gunman who gets away. Sloan knows who it was, but refuses to tell. Batman heads to Nova Demolition where he breaks in to look at their records. There he fights with owner Zack Nova, ex-military demolition expert. Nova threatens to call the police on Batman if he doesn't leave and tells him to "lay off."

Batman then visits Manning and convinces her to say in her next article that she has evidence of who killed Sloan. When the article hits the paper, Manning gets a call from Nova, saying he knows she is lying about having proof but offers to give her what she needs for $5,000, the money to be left in a phone booth.

In preparation for the meeting Batman goes to the airport for something and then meets Manning near the phone booth where he takes her place for the rendezvous. As soon as the booth door closes a tape plays of Zach Nova confessing to the murder and then the booth blows up. Manning comes out of hiding and is confronted by Zach Nova plans on killing her just in case she heard his confession. Just then his confession starts replaying and Nova freaks out a bit. Batman comes out of hiding and takes Nova out explaining that he used a black box recorder from a plane to capture the confession and put an inflated Batman costume into the booth while he then ran for cover, expecting that a demolition expert was planning an explosion.

Afterward we learn from Sloan's sister that Nova had saved Sloan's life in Viet Nam and used that to get secret information from Sloan so that he could win contracts. When Sloan could bear it no longer and threatened to expose Nova he murdered Sloan.

Once again, I am disappointed by the Robbins' story, yet I recall loving this stuff 40 years ago.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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