Wednesday, May 23, 2007

In Praise Of: Batman Spectacular (DC Special Series #15)

Ahh, the dollar comic, the mistaken idea that we bought comics as if they were baseball cards: the more the merrier. No, we thought and bought like candy: we didn't look to see that the Snickers weighed more that the Reeses Peanut Butter Cup, we bought which one was tastier.

And there was nothing tastier than this dollar comic. Three Batman Stories by Nasser, Golden and Rogers, an artistic collection that would be hard to match until the Batman Black and White series well over 20 years later.

Nasser and Rubenstein open with a Dave V. Reed story "Hang the Batman", that, for once, made excellent use of Reed's propensity for gimic driven maguffins, and deliver a great Detective story along the way. Very few writers have the wits to actually write a story with Detection along the way, and this has both solid plot and excellent, witty lines along the way. Nasser is controlled and Rubenstein givens him a great polish.

Next up, a young Michael Golden and Dick Giordano deliver a solid Ra's Al Ghul story with Talia and the Batman "...I Now Pronounce you Batman and Wife".

Golden is still a few year away from the height of his powers, but his innate sense of storytelling made for a single disturbing moment as Batman has to strike and knock out a naked Talia on board Ra's ship. i another artists hands, the scene would be one of simple plot mechanism, but golden render's Talia with such sexiness, that when we see her deliciously '70's dress flat on the bed, we don't need to see her naked to fill the panel out in our head. I doubt taht the image of Batman knocking out a naked woman with a single blow would have made Jeanette Kahn's day back then.

Finally, the semi legendary O'Neil and Rogers text/illustration piece, "Death Strikes at Midnight and Three".

My pages have been yellowing for years on this copy, and it only adds to the flavor that O'Neil is channeling Walter Gibson with the perfect compatriot of an artist in Marshall. Characters are a lead in to the plot as the late February chill hovers over Gotham. Within a page the Gotham prosecutor is dead, telling Wayne to " the blind man at midnight and three..."

ONeil's introduction to the Batman brings us the genius of a writer who has thought through his protagonist:

His upper face was concealed by a cowl that subtly altered the coutrours of his head and a voluminous cape billowed behind hime. Against the gloom of the alleyway, he was nearly invisible.
I always wished the DC would have reprinted this as part of the Black and White series. Roger's linework and design would have been striking and introduced a whole new generation of readers to his brilliance. I'm sure that the art is long gone and scattered to the four winds, glued down text yellowed brittle, if not already fallen off, but the sheer magic of the design at full size would be mesmerizing to see.

I wonder if Denny or Marshall kept any of that art.


Danny said...

Those stories and more werew reprinted here in Australia in oversized magazines. It's where I first became aware of artists like Netzer, Rogers and Golden. Netzer's story, Hang The Batman, is nothing short of amazing.

Great stuff Charles!

inkdestroyedmybrush said...

thanks danny. I wonder if anyone noticed that I photoshopped out the clumsy red shadow behind batman on the movie screen. Its very clear that it wasn't on Marshall's art and doesn't need to be there at all. The art looks far better for its removal.

were your australian copies printed in color?

Danny said...

Nope, they were in glorious black and white, and about the same size an American Golden Age comic book. Generally they'd be about 100 pages (if not more) and be crammed full of stories from all eras. Two of the best ones were just straight reprints of Marshalls work - someone in the publishing company here must have really liked his line art.