Thursday, July 30, 2015

Detective Comics #403

Detective Comics #403 (On Sale: July 30, 1970) has a nice cover by Neal Adams.

This month is ending with the holy trinity of DC books, Action, Adventure and the companies' namesake, Detective Comics and in some ways these three books are indicative of DC as a whole.

There is the old guard, Mort Weisinger in Action Comics, still pushing "imaginary" stories because, lets face it, he hasn't had a new idea for Superman in a decade. I think Mort was tired, god knows the fans were tired of his old shit. In Green Lantern Speedy is a junkie, in Action Superman's imaginary son is a klutz. Which one sounds like the more compelling story?

Then there is Adventure Comics, Carmine's dalliance with the artist as "auteur." In this case the book is owned lock, stock and barrel by Mike Sekowsky and for a first issue he has given us a truly original vision of the super-heroine as a young woman on her own, trying to find her way in the real world. In a couple of months CBS will unveil the same basic idea in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I think Sekowsky was on to something, but it will never take off the way the MTM Show did. It is important to remember that last month this book was in Mort Weisinger's hands.

Then there is the tried and true, Julie Schwartz has been at the helm of Detective since the "New Look" took place in 1964 and has steered the book through a long, slow transformation from day-glo villains, insectoid aliens and outrageous plots, to Infantino-land absurdities, to Batgirl and the TV show influence, to a more somber and realistic Batman ushered in by the likes of Irv Novick, to the emerging Dark Knight of Neal Adams' design.

Action Comics equals no change and embracing the past. Adventure Comics equals dramatic change, breaking free of the past. Detective Comics equals evolutionary change, remembering the past but building for the future.

In 1970 you could not go wrong with a Neal Adams cover, particularly on a Batman book. It sold your book. This however, is not a great cover, but a nice one. It has great technique and mood, but is in the service of not much. That "not much" being  "You Die by Mourning," a 15-page Batman tale from Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia. Bruce Wayne’s V.I.P. office is visited by a mysterious woman who claims before running out that her husband will be murdered by morning, and Batman investigates. I never cared for any of Robbins' VIP stories and thought it took the character in the wrong direction.

This was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Batman Vol. 5.

The back-up is Robin in "Break-Out." It is eight pages that prove once again that nothing dulls an artist's pencils like Vinnie Colletta inks. In this case Gil Kane is the man who has his work smothered in a bunch of weightless lines placed on the page in a haphazard manner. Writer Mike Friedrich probably wondered what the hell happened to his story. Robin investigates the escape of two juvenile delinquents from a corrective home.
This was reprinted in Showcase Presents: Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.

Edited by Julius Schwartz

No comments: