Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week

I've been doing some research this week on Gil Kane, and this research has led me to a very important conclusion:

No one could draw someone getting punched like Gil Kane could.

Gil Kane's punches were dynamic, exploding out of the page with a sense of power, drama, and action that is unmatched. So, to honor one of the greatest superhero artists in the history of the genre, I'm going to start a regular feature called "The Gil Kane Punch of the Week."

Here's the first entry:

From Green Lantern 68, art by Kane and Joe Giella, story by Denny O'Neil.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Curious Case of the Cross-Dressing Caped Crusader

It seems that, in the 70s, Batman got a lot more pleasure out of fighting crime than he has in recent years. Take, for example, the time he disguised himself as an old, rich Southern widow in order to catch a jewel thief:

Batman is so eager to take on this case, that he finishes Gordon's request before the commissioner can get it all out. And it's clear that Batman has this disguise all ready to go, just waiting for an excuse to use it.

Now, there are a lot of different ways Batman could have gone about this. He could have had Batgirl go undercover, for example. Or he could have had Alfred show off the jewels in public. But, clearly, Batman wanted to get some enjoyment out of this caper, so he went with Bertha Carrington-Bridgewater.

Also, there is no such town as Sprung Axle, Texas. I checked.

He even stays in character when he's out of the public view and alone in the suite with Alfred:

Batman always commits to a role.

This is yet another perfect Batman story from the mid-1970s: "The Curious Case of the Catwoman's Coincidences," written, of course, by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, from Batman 266.

This story opens with Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon playing backgammon on a train, when they are suddently accosted by a gypsy woman who warns Bruce Wayne that he will soon be plagued by coincidences. One thing that's not a coincidence: Bruce Wayne is on this train because it's carrying a carload of prisoners headed to the state pen, including Catwoman. Soon, the coincidences begin, as the train is derailed by a runaway tractor manufactured by the "Caterpillar" company:

Get it?

Interestingly, Catwoman was not planning on escaping--she wanted to serve out her time and eventually go straight. This may be the beginning of a status quo change for the character, who would eventually become an ally of Batman in the next few years.

Nonetheless, she slips back into her old habits and costume, and then she proceeds to initiate a string of jewelry heists, which inspires Batman's cross-dressing ploy.

And also, because it's a Denny O'Neil Batman story from the 70s, Batman has to abuse some animals--this time, Catwoman's ocelots:

I just want to point out that Batman fucks up a thug with a sack of ocelots. Then he finishes things off with a face-kick. I can't think of anything better than this page.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Batman Defeats Middle Eastern Villain with Hockey

In Batman 268, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Irv Novick and Tex Blaisdell, Batman fights a brand-new villain known as "The Sheikh," a character who, as far as I can tell, never returned after this one appearance.

In looking back at these mid-70s Batman comics, one clear motif emerges: animal fighting. In Denny O'Neil's vision of Gotham City, there is a vibrant trade in exotic animals, both legal and illegal. In Batman 263, we saw that giraffes were such a valuable commodity that the Riddler saw fit to launch an elaborate heist in order to steal them. Inevitably, these animals inadvertantly get caught up in the violence that is also inherent in Gotham City.

Case in point, Batman 268 opens with Bruce Wayne attending the arrival of a herd of camels that the Wayne Foundation has purchased for various zoos. As the camels are being unloaded from their cargo ship, a burnoose (as Alfred identifies him), fires a rifle and causes the camels to stampede. Batman then has to take one of the camels down with a chokehold:

Batman comes across as a little judgy there--that camel's just being a camel.

Batman stops the stampede, but not before wealthy oil baron Fredrick Goforth is trampled by the beasts.

Batman suspects that Goforth was murdered, but his investigation will have to wait because he has a prior engagement: box seats at the Hudson University hockey match. I like his sense of priority.

Luckily, Bruce is able to kill two birds with one stone, as the Sheikh strikes again by assassinating the man in the box next to Bruce Wayne.

As Batman gives chase to the Sheikh, we can see that the Caped Crusader's anti-animal bias has clearly gotten out of hand:

(Just don't call him late for dinner!)

The Sheikh actually gets the better of Batman, and Batman falls off the roof of Gotham Sports Arena, only saving himself by sliding down a long neon sign. Unfortunately, this messes up his hands pretty badly, and Alfred has to put on these really clunky bandages:

Because he no longer has the use of his hands, Batman is unable to save the Sheikh's next victim, but he does find clues that lead him to discover that the Sheikh loves hockey:

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's cultural stereotypes.

It turns out that the Sheikh is actually two villains: Goforth and Hopkins, the two "victims" that Batman had failed to save earlier in the story. Their deaths were faked in order to cover their plan to murder their third partner in the oil business.

So, Batman and Robin confront the villains at the hockey rink, and, in a scene that undermines the positive image of the sport, the Dynamic Duo beat the crap out of them with hockey sticks:

Also in this comic: Alfred shares a little too much information about his private life with Dick Grayson:

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My First Time

I don't remember the first comic that I read, but I would guess that it was probably an issue of Richie Rich from a stack of Harvey comics my babysitter had when I was about 5 years old. Whatever the case, I do have the first comic I ever owned as a kid, which was this issue of Batman from 1975:

Batman 263, story by Denny O'Neil, art by Ernie Chua and Dick Giordano.

However, the actual comic itself did not look like this; instead, it was missing the cover and the first page, and all the pages were loose (More than likely, it never had a cover while I owned it. I got a lot of my comics that way back then.). At the age of 6, I read the comic so many times that it literally fell apart.

Since then, I've been able to replace the comic with a complete copy, though it took some doing as I did not know the date or the issue number. Luckily, the cover reflects a key scene in the story, so it was easy to figure out once I saw the cover.

In looking at this comic today, it's easy to see why it hooked me right in to comics in general, and Batman in particular.

This scene, from the bottom of page 2, was missing from my original copy, paying a visit on a Gotham mob boss while the boss and his gang eat at "Mama Bell's"--a Gotham restaurant known for having a phone at every table. Batman takes advantage of the restaurant's unique feature:

Even Batman's ring kicks ass. These guys know they're fucked even before they pick up the phone.

This was the opening page of my original copy, and here we see Batman take out the entire gang with a phone.

Clearly, Phone : Dr. K :: car battery : Chris Sims. Also, this page had the added benefit of educating 6-year-old Dr. K on the definition of "gaucho."

In the rest of the story, Batman fights the Riddler, and the villain is pretty consistent with Frank Gorshin's portrayal on the Batman TV series. During occasional interludes in the story, the Riddler accosts pedestrians on the street with riddles. If they get the riddles wrong, he robs them, and if they get them right, he gives them money. But in this scene, a little kid turns the tables on the Riddler:

For the final challenge in the story, the Riddler gets all Alex Trebek up in the place and gives Batman the answer to a riddle, leaving the Caped Crusader to guess the actual riddle. The answer: "A centipede with fallen arches."

The riddle is, of course, "What's worse than a giraffe with a sore throat?" Batman goes on to prove this riddle true by using a giraffe's neck to launch a devastating face kick:

That giraffe looks unimpressed.

Re-reading this story after several years, I've been inspired to go through the Batman comics from this era, and there are some great comics that got me hooked into Batman at a young age. Over the next few weeks, I'll be going through my Batman collection to highlight some of these comics.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Chronicles of Solomon Stone Debuts!

Chris Sims, whom I am funnier than, along with Matthew Allen Smith and Benjamin Birdie, as debuted part one of the first adventure of Solomon Stone, the world's greatest half-vampire detective, over at the Action Age site. I have had the pleasure of reading the whole story, and I can guarantee that it is a hoot and a half. Check it out! You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Blog Project

Sorry posting has been a little light here lately, but I've been spending my time working on a new blog project, which I'm prepared now to unveil right here.

I just couldn't take it anymore. I know I'm funnier than Chris Sims, and it makes me sick that he's so much more popular than I am, with his thousands of daily hits and dozens of comments by loyal readers. Screw him. Now the world will know how much more awesome I am than Chris Sims!

It is, indeed, on!