Monday, August 30, 2010

The Bat and the Demon: Batman 242

Batman #242 (July 1972)
"Bruce Wayne -Rest in Peace!"
Denny O'Neill -writer
Irv Novick -pencils
Dick Giordano -inks

Karen: Finally - we're doing our Batman/Neal Adams reviews! But as you might have noticed, this issue wasn't drawn by Adams. We've included it because it's the first part of our story, the next two parts of which are by Adams. We really felt this issue was needed to set the other two up. Make sense?

Karen: I want to say first that I am doing my reviews based on the stories as they were printed in the trade paperback, Batman: Tales of the Demon. Unfortunately, like many TPBs, this format excludes the covers, and the coloring has been redone in a very unnatural looking way. This may affect how I review the art in this series of reviews.

Doug: I am living in reprint land as well -- I'm reading this story out of one of the treasures of my youth: Limited Collector's Edition C-51 from August 1977. The LCEs, for those of you not in the know, were DC's version of the Marvel Treasury Edition. I'll be looking at the other two stories in our review from my copies of Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams.

Karen: Our story is only 14 pages long -I assu
me there was a second story in the original comic. Essentially, Batman fakes the death of Bruce Wayne so he can prepare to go after Ra's Al Ghul (who knows he and Wayne are one and the same). Then he decides that to face Ra's, he'll need help. This is where it got a little weird for me. He apparently goes to recruit a criminal named Matches Malone, but Malone winds up getting killed. So Batman then disguises himself as Malone and then tries to get a scientist to join his cause against Ra's. Only we don't know that Malone is really Batman 'til later in the story. I don't know, the whole thing was pretty convoluted to me. I don't see why he needed Malone at all. He could have just as easily disguised himself as anyone and approached the scientist.

Doug: Yeah,
I agree with you. It's not like we'd never seen Batman using disguises to get information, etc. By the end of the book, there really was no reason for the whole Matches Malone stuff -- the biophysicist "Malone" kidnapped had no knowledge of Malone anyway. So the identity was pretty useless.

Karen: So Ra's sent a kung fu warrior to kidnap the scientist. He fails and nearly dies from a fall off a roof, but Batman saves him. Based on his culture, this now obligates the warrior to serve Batman -hokey as a 1940s serial!

Doug: You mentioned that this story was only a 14-pager. I'd say that it all could have been done in 3 or 4 pages! I've read plenty of stories from both of the major publishers where the first few pages of a story were set-up or background information; this could have been done in that manner. But, if we assume that this was hype for next month's pay-off, then I understand the marketing aspect of it.

Karen: This story is pure set-up, but even so, it comes across as very weak to me. The art is acceptable, but no where near as good as the Adams stuff that we will get to next time around.

Doug: Irv Novick seemed to fall into what I think of as the DC "house-style" of the 1970's -- Novick, Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, Bob Brown, and others. All very similar in the elongation of their figures, all very good storytellers -- shoot, this tale really didn't need words, other than for the explanation of the Matches Malone fiasco (which Batman tells us will still be an element of the next issue). One of the things that I've always enjoyed about Batman is the way his cape is so organic. It's totally impractical -- that was addressed in a scene in the 1989 Batman movie when Michael Keaton got all tangled up in it. But it just looks so cool in motion, and Novick/Giordano make that work a few times here. Hey, and another element that pervaded Bat-history was the outright dumbness of one James Gordon, Gotham City police commissioner. Newshound Lois Lane was always closer to Superman's secret ID than was this leader of detectives! But at any rate, I'm looking forward to seeing that gorgeous Neal Adams art -- in just a couple of days!


Daniel Graves said...

I remember this one well as LEC was one of my first comics. I always liked Irv Novick as he seemed to be the stalwart Batman artist from the late 1960's through early 1980's... kind of Batman's Curt Swan through that era. Other artists would come and go, but you could always rely on Novick to come back to Batman and illustrate a good story.

As for Matches Malone, I remember that confusing me as a kid, but I think O"Neil was just using it as a way to introduce the character as Batman used that persona A LOT during the bronze age.

Thanks for covering this one!
Fr. Dan

Andrew Wahl said...

The inside art might not be up to the Adams' standard, but that's a great cover!


Doug said...

I'd probably add Jim Aparo to that "DC house style" list. I like all of those guys!


Fred W. Hill said...

Looks like the DC House-style of the time was pretty much aping Adams' style as much as possible, just as Marvel's predominant housestyle was aping aping Kirby. Rich Buckler aped both, but I much preferred his Adams' style from his run on the Avengers. Novick's art isn't too bad, from what little I've seen. I never collected Batman regularly, but most of the Bronze Age issues I've seen that weren't drawn by Adams still at least vaguely resembled Adams. Maybe Giordino's inking on many of them reinforced that. Then again, there was also Marshall Rogers' classic run; a realist style, like Adams, but still uniquely his own.

Andrew Wahl said...

Neal Adams talked about Novick and others last month at a Comic-Con panel about his '70s Batman work with Denny O'Neil: "It would be almost idiotic for those guys not to follow what Denny and I were doing," Adams said. "It was no secret we were doing Batman right." He then tried to convince the crowd that that wasn't an arrogant statement. That just made me smile.


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