Welcome to the last post on August 1970! It’s not as bad as the Superman tale we met last time, but this isn’t quite the soaring success we encountered elsewhere this month. I hope you enjoy this next step, Into the Bronze Age!
Roll Call (You can see everything published this month HERE)
- Action Comics #391
- Aquaman #52
- Batman #224
- Teen Titans #28
- Detective Comics #402
- The Flash #199
- Justice League #82
- Phantom Stranger #8
- Showcase #92
- Superman #229
- World’s Finest #195
Bolded entries are covered in this post, the others will be covered soon.
World’s Finest #195
“Dig Now, Die Later!”
Writer: Bob Haney
Penciler: Ross Andru
Inker: Mike Esposito
Editors: Mort Weisinger and E. Nelson Bridwell
This is definitely Zaney Haney, and not his most successful issue, though neither is it his least. Compared to some of them, this one is even a little tame. Haney lets this story get away from him a bit, so it isn’t quite as good as the previous iteration. One highlight is the inclusion of the sidekick team. I always enjoy seeing Jimmy Olsen and Robin join the World’s Finest. I find them a fun addition, though they really don’t do much here. Nonetheless, this issue has some good moments. Unfortunately, Superman entirely overshadows everyone else in the, as he is wont to do.
When I started reading the Silver Age Superman and World’s Finest books, I was particularly surprised to discover how big a role Olsen often played in these adventures. It seems that in order to provide Superman a sidekick akin to Batman’s, Jimmy was dragooned into service, despite not really being an equivalent figure. It’s a weird little trend, and sometimes it really doesn’t fit. Still, he is a resource kid and a good character, so it also led to some enjoyable yarns. This one sadly doesn’t offer us anything special along those lines, though.
We pick up where we left off, with Superman unmasked by the brain-damaged Batman, who thinks he is the Mafia’s ‘Big Uncle’ Lukaz. Trapped by the kryptonite wreath, the Man of Steel is rapidly weakening, and knowing that escape is impossible, he tries a desperate gambit. He employs ‘Super-Ventriloquism’ to ape the sound of Krypto, hovering outside the fortieth floor window, causing a panic among the hoods. Now, Super-Ventriloquism is a pretty goofy power, but I have to admit, this is a clever use for it. It’s actually a good way for the hero to buy himself some time.
It’s also funny to see a bunch of tough guys running away from a dog…
With his captors temporarily routed, the Metropolis Marvel puts everything he has left into an inhalation of super breath, which sucks the lead-lined suitcase closed, cutting off the deadly radiation. When the mafiosos return, Superman seems to just be starting to recover, so they prepare to finish him off, but he fakes a memory loss like Batman’s, pretending he thinks he really is a hood. Pseudo-Lukaz decides to make him into a weapon for the mob, and then we get one of the sour notes that trouble this story as the disguised Batman announces that he’ll continue to dress as Batman “to confuse the law!” Ooookay. Sure. That’s a thing. This has absolutely no follow-up and doesn’t affect anything. It’s just an extra bit of weirdness that Haney decided to include.
Well, the Bat-Godfather, hereafter, the Batfather, takes his new ‘soldier’ to his special gallery, where he has wax figures of all of the mafia’s enemies. He shows Superman the figures of Robin and Jimmy Olsen and tells him that they are the next targets. They summon both boys to a junkyard where the Batfather plans to ambush them. However, when the two youths are captured and on the point of being executed, Robin delivers an impassioned speech to his mentor, declaring that he loves Batman like a father. The impact of the Teen Wonder’s words snap the Dark Knight out of his mafia persona. It’s not a bad moment, though not given much room to breathe.
Just then, Lukaz shows up, having escaped the Fortress of Solitude through yet ANOTHER head injury, this time that of a robot jailer, whose head-blow jarred its circuits into recognizing him as its master. The Godfather and his two measly henchmen apparently frighten the entire team into inaction. There is a good idea here, as the bad guys, using regular old guns, threaten Superman, not with death, but with the deaths of his allies. The Man of Steel continues playing his part, knocking Batman out with a super-slap and burning Robin and Jimmy Olsen to ash with his heat vision! He hands over their “hearts” to Lukaz in a special case and carries his erstwhile partner off to ‘dispose’ of him.
I’m sure that’s fine for a man with a concussion…
On the way, the Dark Knight revives and punches Supes in a really odd looking panel, but the Man of Tomorrow calms him by explaining his plan. He planted a tracker in the case, and they are headed to find Lukaz’s stash of evidence. Along the way, we get another sour note, as Batman is stymied by a door marked “For accredited criminologists only.” Can you imagine the Caped Crusader being stopped by a ‘no trespassing’ sign? Well, they find the stash, but they are jumped by the Godfather and his two thugs. Really? Again? If you’re going to fight freaking Superman and Batman, you should really bring more than two guys!
Anyway, Robin and Jimmy arrive and take them out, with Superman revealing that, before he roasted them, he switched them out with their wax doubles from the head gangster’s own collection at super speed. It’s a solid resolution, though, if the Man of Steel had time to do that, one thinks he could probably have just disarmed the thugs as well. I suppose he needed the ruse to find the evidence cache, so we can ‘no prize’ that.
This was a fun story, creative, with some clever moments from Superman and a good character moment with Robin and Batman. Unfortunately, that was about the only good moment the Dark Knight had in this tale, with Superman carrying almost all of the action, even solving the mystery, making the World’s Greatest Detective pretty much entirely superfluous. The end results is still enjoyable, but not terribly exceptional. I’ll give it 3 Minutemen on the strength of the cleverer moments.
This comic also had a Congo Bill backup. It was a reprint, so I won’t be covering it, but it was a fun little story about a jungle con-artist, which basically employed the old ‘beguiler beguiled’ trope.
Well readers, I ALMOST made it to September before our own September ended. So close! C’est la vie. Nevertheless, we have successfully made it through August, and an interesting month it was! We saw some of the very best and very worst stories we’ve yet covered. August unfortunately saw the goofy Silver Agey-y Super Sons and, horror of horrors, the insipid foolishness of both tales from the Superman issue (which I was really probably too hard on), but it also gave us more great books than we’ve yet seen in one place. The Legion backup, Aquaman, Detective Comics, Teen Titans, The Phantom Stranger, and Showcase all featured excellent stories, earning 4.5 Minutemen. That’s not half bad! We’re seeing innovation continuing to grow, with the Aquaman book and the creative Phantom Stranger tales, and we’re seeing a further growth of more mature (in the true sense, not in a ‘sex and violence’ one) themes and horror motifs in the Batman books. All-in-all, I would call it a good month. It seems we are settling in to something of a routine, with most books following a predictable pattern of quality and style. Please join me next time to see what September holds!
The Head-Blow Headcount:
We’ve had a busy month in the head-blow department, with our favorite Aquatic Aces both making an appearance. Our Aqua-guys just can’t catch a break! I’m mollified by the fact that, even though Aqualad has been added to the Wall, at least Robin is on there twice. Take that Boy Wonder!