Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Batman: Bullock's Law

I've talked about my enjoyment of this character before, so when I found this small GN at a local garage sale, I had to pick it up. The name may be a play on the old TV series, Burke's Law. Harvey Bullock finds himself on the horns of a dilemma. Members of the Black Mask gang capture him, but their objective is not to kill him, but to provide him with lots of evidence on rival gangs. The only condition is that he help them out by not testifying against a Black Mast underling named Johnny Poodles. Complicating matters is the fact that Bullock is about to be cashiered out of GCPD for health reasons. He reasons that he might as well bring in a bunch of bad guys while he's trying to lose weight. And as for Johnny Poodles, he finds the answer in an old film:
But a bunch of people notice that Bullock seems to be getting lucky with his busts lately, including a very stylized Batman:
I just love that look. So Harvey seems to be on the Black Mask team, but when it comes to the crucial courtroom scene, he double-crosses his informer:
And when Black Mask's underlings try to kill him for reneging on the deal, he has a surprise waiting for them:
And he figures out a way to deal with the doctor who's about to force him into retirement as well.

Overall, a very entertaining story.  I particularly like the way Harvey's passion for old movies is used to reveal the reasoning behind the decisions he makes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Batmania #1

Biljo White's early fanzine for Batman can be read and (with registration) downloaded here.

It's a terrific opportunity to step into the shoes of the Bat-fans of (almost) fifty years ago.  There is a lot of discussion of the "New Look" Batman, which had recently debuted.  The general impression (which I endorsed a few years back) is that it was an improvement, but not enough of an improvement due to the retention of the existing artist (Carmine Infantino did get assigned the covers, and was also responsible for the interior art on every other Batman story in Detective).  Back then the fans assumed it was Bob Kane doing the lion's share of the work; of course nowadays we know it was actually Sheldon Moldoff.

Hat Tip to reader Diane, who stumbled across this terrific find.  Thanks!

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Tributes

Tributes are sort of like Easter Eggs, but there is an important difference. Easter Eggs are intended to be somewhat hard to find, where Tributes are more in-your-face. Easter Eggs are more commonly located in the artwork, while Tributes are in the dialogue or narrative passages. The Tributes in Batman comics are legendary and extensive. For example, consider this map of Gotham, from No Man's Land: Starting from the upper left, we have the (Irv) Novick Tunnel, the (Bill) Finger River, (Frank) Miller Harbor, Port (Neal) Adams, (Vin) Sullivan Island, (Charles) Paris Island, (Chuck) Dixon Docks and (Bob) Brown Bridge. In this particular case the tributes are located in the artwork, but they are hardly hidden and indeed have almost certainly been introduced in earlier stories.

As far as I can tell, the beginning of the Tributes came during the famed Steve Englehart run in Detective Comics during 1977. Englehart's work started with #469, but the first tribute I noticed was in the following issue:
Dick Sprang gets the earliest tribute I could find.  Of course, you can make an obvious case for Kathy (Bob) Kane about 20 years before, but I really think that is a quibble, especially when you consider the long intervening time and the way Englehard's tributes kept coming.  In Tec #471:

And Finger Alley was not the only tribute in that particular issue:
Jerry Robinson was one of the earliest "ghosts" for Bob Kane.  His lithe, gymnast-type Batman is actually my favorite visualization of the Caped Crusader.

In Detective #473, Englehart made a tribute to the then-current Batman writer, David V. Reed:

And to a Silver Age Batman writer, John Broome:

Broome wrote the first Batman "New Look" story in Detective #327.  You could argue that's also a tribute to Charles Paris, although since it refers to the actual city in France, it doesn't really fit.

In Detective #474, there was a tribute to longtime Superman editor (and Julius Schwartz's buddy) Mort Weisinger:
His connection with Batman was somewhat tenuous; he did edit World's Finest after the May 1964 purge of Jack Schiff from Batman-related comics and apparently edited Batman during at least part of the Golden Age.

BTW, I should mention that while I have certainly heard the Englehart-Rogers run praised for many years, I never really appreciated it until I read through the entire 1970s Batman catalog.  It is one thing to read The Deadshot Richochet or The Laughing Fish as individual stories, but when reading them in context, this whole run really pops out as significant and highly influential.