Batman: 1973 pt. 1

I decided to split the 1973 overview into 2 digestible parts rather than one banquet-sized screencap feast, one for JLA and World's Finest (below) and one for Detective Comics, Batman, and The Brave and The Bold (next time.) This'll allow me to spend a bit more time on individual issues of note.

Before we begin, a maintenance note: I've been neglecting to include inkers when listing the artists. What's wrong with me? Inexcusable. From here on out, I'll include the inkers. Let's dig on in.

Issues 104 - 108
Writer: Len Wein. Artists: Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano

In the words of Allen Gamble from The Other Guys, "Look, they're not all first round picks, okay?"

Even weirder? There have been four (!!!) incarnations of Shaggy Man.

Equally long-lived in the DCU, T.O. Morrow returns to wreak some havoc. The character's gimmick has always been fun; he peers into a special television set/ computer that allows him to see the future. He's also a talented inventor who routinely creates "perfect duplicates" of heroes - too perfect, as the case usually is. (They're so alike their doppelgangers that they inevitably turn on their creator. Grant Morrison wrote a terrific ode to this aspect of the character early in his run on JLA.)

His most enduring creation is the Red Tornado:
Guess who does not destroy them all.
Red Tornado had a cool look. Unfortunately, he's the mopiest robotic bastard this side of Marvin from Hitch-hiker's Guide. His primary programming seems to be crying to himself in the corner about not being human, not feeling useful, not having any friends, and/or all of the above, sometimes at the same time.

Red Tornado's endless self-wallowing notwithstanding, this year's JLA/ JSA cross-over is a bit more fun than the past few. Mainly because it's superheroes vs. Robot Nazis, and Uncle Sam (literally) is a domestic insurgent. Who just kinda/sorta materializes on Earth-X, because Nazis.

So he's a bit like Beetlejuice. Or Candyman. Seriously, tho, I love this absolute shrug of an origin story.
It introduces Earth X and the Freedom Fighters, a group comprised of several heroes DC acquired when it bought Quality Comics. DC folded them into its multiverse the way it had the heroes it acquired from Charlton (Blue Beetle, The Question) or Fawcett (Marvel Family.)

Earth-X is... well, let's let the captions do their work:

Someone needs to keep a tally of how many times German characters have referred to the Batman as "Die Fledermaus!" It only happens once in this two-parter, but overall, I mean. I also love that the soldier mixes in his own translation. Perhaps his companion isn't a native speaker.
As so often happens, our gang is attempting to attend their yearly multiverse-hopping picnic with their Earth-2 counterparts and are blown off-course (this time due to Red Tornado's tagging along, because he felt left out and wanted to prove himself and thus ends up with his usual "Typical, this is all my fault" mechanical hand-wringing) and land on Nazi Earth. Whereupon they meet and immediately join forces with the Freedom Fighters on a mission to destroy the Nazi mind control devices scattered around the globe.

Batman et al. fight Nazi Landru atop the Eiffel Tower.
The old "You! Are! The Evil!" trick.
Followed inevitably by this:

They grapple for a bit then mutually realize it's all a big misunderstanding, like superfolk often do.
Red Tornado gets to save the day.
Not that it does anything for his self esteem. Seriously: Lighten Up, Red Tornado, you just punched Robot Hitler in the face.

Issues 216 - 220
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Dick Dillin, Murphy Anderson, Frank Giacoia, Dave Cockrum.

Even if you're a forgiving reader of Silver Age storytelling in Bronze Age clothes (as Bob Haney's Bat-universe was specifically designed to be) this year of World's Finest really seems out of place. Picture the space hippies from "The Way to Eden" chanting "Herbert! Herbert!" over the attempts to be so Now about everything, though, and it's all rather fun.

Let's start with issue 216, where we pick up with

Reminder, this is the Elseworlds (once known in the DC vernacular by the charming but redundant sobriquet of "Imaginary Stories") of Superman and Batman, Jr.(s)
Things start with the Jrs. - sharing a motorcycle for their cross-country find-themselves journey - rolling into a small town, hungry for burgers and good vibes.

Things quickly escalate from Easy Rider to X-Files / The Wicker Man (and even a bit of Halloween III; obviously these are my own reference points and not contemporaneous ones) and the Jrs. are quickly knee-deep in alien takeovers, corrupt officials, and hippie philosophizing. Also, in mending the relationship of the far-out-locals who befriend them. If that makes you say, "Oh wow, I've got to read this," I sympathize, but it's really a huge mess.

After many puzzling twists, it ends with:

The next issue switches back to regular-continuity Superman and Batman.

Through a convoluted set of circumstances, Metamorpho is transformed into a tri-hybrid of the World's Greatest Detective, the Man of Steel, and his own Superfreak self.

Just another of those "My Neanderthal man-servant is playing elaborate dress-up and taking "How Do You Stack Up to a Superhero" quizzes" subplots. (Also: APE Magazine!)
Another dang ol' chestnut: "My Neanderthal man-servant accidentally alters the main character's structure by washing his dress-up clothes in the chemical pool attached to the super-computer."

Superman and Batman don't take kindly to the news that Metamorpho suddenly has their powers in addition to his own. (I guess he gets Batman's detecting abilities?)

Batman and Superman are sure responding to this irrationally, aren't they? Could they possibly be misdirecting the reader? (From the Fortress of Solitude, no less! You figure that would be the one place on Earth where they wouldn't have to keep up a cover story / ruse, which, of course, they clearly are, since every reader/ citizen of Earth would instantly suspect something was up if they suddenly started acting so completely not like themselves.)
"America's biggest international rival" is never mentioned again in DC continuity.

Metamorpho has to battle them before it's all "revealed" to have been a set-up so Superman and Batman could thwart Slavia's experimental military ambitions.

Metamorpho is deprived of his Super/Bat-powers in the very last panel:

"Meh. Must've worn off."
The next issue is even stranger.

Things start off with a mysterious stranger blackmailing Commissioner Gordon (who gave false testimony to the Grand Jury) and the Mayor (who has given kickbacks to family members.) Oddly, this is not brought up again, surely due to inattention / sloppy writing, but it lends a certain cynicism to things: no one is all that bothered by the entrenched corruption.

Not when there's some kind of goat-blackmailer on the loose.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Operation Black Goat!
This one has some particularly weird jump-cuts. If you're familiar with the kind of storytelling shortcuts common to comics of the period, you can fill in the blanks, but it's almost surreal in its defiance of logic.

The villain is introduced completely randomly, for starters. And then things move at a breakneck pace.

Everyone behaves as if they are simply being pulled along by an itemized list of plot points/ images: how do we get some of this astrology fad in here? Can Batman and Superman fight a goat? What's the mystery? Who cares? And then wham, here's the ending, you work it out:

As messy as issues 217 and 218 are, they've got nothing on the "El Monstro" two-parter. Batman and Superman are hired by Gotham City National Bank to investigate Nazi Gold in the fictional South American country of Favela. (Incidentally, if Alan Moore was on good terms with DC, he could write one hell of an atlas for all these fictional countries in this era of Batman alone.) Also: reports of a mysterious creature known as "El Monstro" who attacks petroleum companies and banking interests and leaves trails of riches for the country's exploited workers. This needs to be stopped, obviously.

Once in country, Batman (inconspicuously, as you can see) starts sniffing around.
Anaconda attack!

The monster wins Batman over with its tale of woe and desire for revenge. Meanwhile, Superman displays a rather un-super grasp of ecology:

and then a spate of un-Superman-like behavior once he catches up with Batman.

Fortunately, El Monstro senses that Superman's vaunted compassion can be triggered by its final reveal:

Whereupon Superman musters some compassion for the creature's plight. The corrupt government of Favela attempts to destroy her, and she self-sacrifices.

Good recall of the cover blurb, Batman.
It's an interesting contrast to the Relevance movement going on in Green Lantern at the time (although by '73, that was nearing its end.) Having disposed of the Nazi Gold and El Monstro and a handful of corrupt foreign officials, Batman and Superman restore the status quo for the foreign companies/ banks and it's all job-well-done and back to the States.

World's Finest, indeed! Of course we can't fault the story for not being as ahead of its time as we might prefer it to be, but it stands out as a collection of troubling assumptions. It does point the way to the mash-up of William Friedkin's Sorcerer, "Metamorphosis," and Nolan's Bat-trilogy I never knew I needed to see, though, so for that, I doff my cap and offer humble thanks.


  1. (1) Shaggy Man! I had never heard of him, so I followed your link, and soon thereafter found these three marvelous lines: "Besides the history above, the second Shaggy Man broke free and rampaged through Russia. This time he was captured, lured onto a rocketship by Batman and fired into space. Seeing as it was unable to die, this Shaggy Man is still out in space somewhere." That's like weirdo poetry, there. Or Ed Wood narration. Or SOMETHING memorable.

    (2) Really, what origin could you give Uncle Sam that would be satisfactory? Maybe something about escaping from his masters so as to gain freedom from religious-based persecution, mixed with something about being peeved over taxation without representation. I dunno, there's something there...

    (3) "The BATMAN to you, punks!" Now, I could be wrong about this, but I suspect that the writer of that dialogue was imagining Clint "Dirty Harry" Eastwood as Batman. Which would have been fine by me, quite frankly; the fact that nobody at Warner Bros. -- Clint's home studio!!! -- had the sense to make a "Batman Beyond" movie while he was still young enough to play old man Bruce is a rotten shame.

    (4) That panel of Superman pulling a "j'accuse!" on Uncle Sam is just delightful. I imagine that Batman is thinking to himself, "How do I keep getting mixed up in these foofaraws?!?"

    (5) "I'm perishing for a hamburger, and lonely for the look in a chick's eye when she sees the muscles rippling under my t-shirt!" Comment the first: Has there ever been a more complete summary of what it's like being a dude? Comment the second: Notice that his primary interest is the hamburger. Comment the third: WTF

    (6) "Like Mr. O'Ryan said, we;re all earthlings and aliens..." WTF

    (7) If I was Batman and Superman "summoned" me to his Fortress of Solitude, I'd be all like, "screw you, dude, you can be at my place in, like, five seconds!"

    (8) "Eh? A goat?!" I nearly choked on a sandwich when I read that.

    (9) A Joe Chill reference! Those must have been few and far between during this era.

    A fantastic post, sir, as always!

    1. Thank you, glad you enjoyed!

      I can't believe that didn't occur to me about being summoned to the Fortress of Solitude. That's totally true. "Can you meet me in the Arctic?" "Uhm. No." click.

      That Batman, Jr. line cracked me up, as well. His dialogue in general is all chip-on-the-shoulder/ ultra-groovy.

      Clint Eastwood in Batman Beyond? Again, I curse the day I ever learned what an Ur-Kindle was and knowing I'll never experience such a thing.

      That is hilarious about Shaggy Man's fate/ that write-up.

      As for Uncle Sam, I seem to recall a mini-series with the character from a few years back, but I never read it. It certainly seems like the type of thing people would be all over, though. I should look into this and see what all's been done with the character. (I was never an All Star Squadron fan, and I believe that's where the character lived when I was making a sincere effort to keep up with DC back in the day.)

    2. Here's the one I was thinking of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Sam_%28Vertigo%29

      But, I never read it. Anyone out there read it? Any good?