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Johnny LaRue's Crane Shot
Friday, October 7, 2005
Holy Crap! Invisible Robots?!

I think this comic book cover just made Tolemite, the world's biggest fan of robots, explode.

In the 13-page story "The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces", the Dynamic Duo does indeed fight foes that are not only robots...but also invisible! Incredible! Long-time Batman artist Sheldon Moldoff drew this cover for DETECTIVE COMICS #306 (August 1962) and pencilled the story, which was inked by Charles Paris. The backup story was a 12-pager starring John Jones, the Manhunter from Mars, who eventually became known as J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter.

Many of today's Batman fans are stunned to see these Silver Age stories, which were a long way from the Dark Knight characterization they're familiar with. It was not unusual for Batman to battle robots, aliens, extra-dimensional beings, monsters, giants or other fantastic foes. Some of them are a lot of fun and are certainly better than the so-called "New Look" Batman created in the mid-'60s.

Those stories, which mostly coincided with the campy ABC TV show, were limply written and drawn, and it wasn't until creators like Denny O'Neil, Neal Adams, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, Frank Robbins and others brought the character back to Earth around 1969 that Batman stories, in BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, were worth reading again. I think the character hit its peak in those stories of the early- to mid-1970's, when Batman was both a grim avenger of the night and an appealing character with a sense of humor. Batman actually enjoyed his "job", and the writers often created intricate mysteries befitting his nickname of the Darknight Detective. I don't think Batman has done much actual detecting in comics in decades.

For Batman at his best, seek out stories like "Moon of the Wolf" (written by Len Wein and adapted as an episode of BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES) in a 100-page BATMAN or "Red Water, Crimson Death" (by O'Neil/Adams) in an atmospheric THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD that featured a "teamup" between Batman and the House of Mystery. The only stories that come close to capturing the atmosphere, scope and mystery of the '70s Batman (later in the decade, Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin did an incredible job drawing the character) are the first handful that appeared in DETECTIVE in 1939 and 1940, although Bob Kane's crude artwork, effective as it was at the time, doesn't stand up next to Adams, Brown, Novick, Dick Giordano et al.

Posted by Marty at 11:51 PM CDT
Post Comment | View Comments (5) | Permalink

Saturday, October 8, 2005 - 2:07 AM CDT

Name: Tolemite

Can Batman and Robin see the robots' outlines or are they just put there for our benefit? why question it...robots are awesome.

Marty, there has to be a story where someone builds a robot Batman. Find it...or i'll find you.

Saturday, October 8, 2005 - 2:25 AM CDT

Name: Marty McKee

Funny you should say that. I know for certain there were at least two--in DETECTIVE #239 and #281. I'm pretty sure I have the #239 story around someplace...I think in the BATMAN FROM THE '30s TO THE '70s hardcover compilation.

Monday, October 10, 2005 - 1:02 PM CDT

Name: dj_jbrown

Hold on a second...Are you saying that those stories are better than the return of the "dark" knight, as penned by Frank Miller and others? I have to say, the angry, vengeful, demon-fueled revenge Batman is, in my opinion, the best one.

Monday, October 10, 2005 - 2:59 PM CDT

Name: James T. Kirk

Today's Batman = dull, one-dimensional, non-heroic. Who cares about an egomaniacal psychopath? How could this Batman manage to raise a "son" or engender the loyalty of Alfred or fit into an organization of crimefighters like the Justice League? How could this character have logically adopted a 10-year-old boy and trained him to be a crimefighter? The whole point of the Batman mythos is to strike back at lawlessness like that which destroyed his parents, to become the "voice" for victims who otherwise could not speak, to protect the weak and the preyed-upon. Today's Batman has as much contempt for the people he protects as he does for the criminal element.

Anyone who thinks Frank Miller is a good writer, two words: ROBOCOP 2.

Okay, that's a cheap shot, and truthfully, his work on DAREDEVIL isn't bad, but his Batman stories, including THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, are painfully bleak, boring and cliched. When I saw Batman beating up Superman--Superman!--I was screaming for a TV brick to throw. The word on his latest series, ALL-STAR BATMAN AND ROBIN, is even worse.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005 - 3:56 AM CDT

Name: Tolemite

You all know me. Know i'm the guy who likes Robocop 2. I'll tell ya why i like Robocop 2 but it ain't gonna be easy...bad movie.

how can't you find any charm in a movie where robocop gets promoted to giving safety speeches to kids who spit at him, and then spends a full third of the movie battling a 15-foot tall Tom Noonan robot with foot blades and a chain gun?

i think R2 was an appropriate followup and that R3 was the real clunker (SPOILER) killing off officer lewis right off the bat, and flying robocop? you'll be begging for that Tom Noonan robot after 20 minutes of that.

i dug Batman: Year One quite a bit, and Dark Knight Returns a bit less. i think it's overrated...especially with its (literal) deus ex machina of the bat-suit that lets bats beat up Supes. ain't gonna happen. (they did the same thing to let Bats beat up the Predator). i didn't touch Dark Knight Strikes Back...just a flip through the pages looked like a total fucking mess.

that's not to say that i don't like the dark Batman. Tim Sale and Matt Wagner have both done some very good stories that don't forget about Bats being a master detective as well as caring about the citizens of Gotham.

there's room for both takes on the character in our lives (even the Kelley Jones interpretation!)... as long as everyone acknowledges that Adam West was the best Batman of all time, everything will be cool.

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