Welcome to another edition of Into the Bronze Age! Today I bring you a special treat. This post features the return of Batman’s greatest villain. His most magnificent foe. A felon more felonious than all of the many and storied members of the Dark Knight’s rogue’s gallery. He is more colossal than Calendar Man, more outrageous than the Outsider, more catastrophic than Condiment King, more dangerous than Dr. Double X, more cataclysmic than Crazy Quilt, more sensational than Signalman, and even more crazily kinetic than Killer Moth or Kite Man! I am, of course, speaking of the raw star power that is….the Ten-Eyed Man!
That’s right, my favorite utterly ridiculous Mort of a villain returns in this month’s issue of Batman, and his presence overshadows everything else in these books in its epic import.
(You can see everything published this month HERE)
Action Comics #400
Adventure Comics #406
Brave and Bold #95
Detective Comics #411
The Flash #206
Forever People #2
G.I. Combat #147
Green Lantern/Green Arrow #83
Justice League of America #89
New Gods #2
Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane #110
World’s Finest #202
Bolded entries are covered in this post, the others will be covered soon.
“Blind Rage of the Ten-Eyed Man!” Writer: Frank Robbins Penciler: Irv Novick Inker: Dick Giordano Letterer: John Costanza Editor: Julius Schwartz Cover Artists: Neal Adams and Gaspar Saladino
“Wiped Out!” Writer: Mike Friedrich Penciler: Irv Novick Inker: Dick Giordano Letterer: John Costanza
Brace yourself for the awful majesty of that emperor of the oculus, that vizier of the visual, that sultan of sight, the Ten-Eyed Man! Be still your beating hearts, my frantic fellow Batman fans, and enjoy the literary masterpiece presented here for your edification.
We’ve got a cool concept in this cover, as it tries to play with perspective, but the weird representations of the finger-eyes (feyes?) with little pictures of Batman don’t quite work, and the whole thing has to contend with the silliness of the basic concept, putting it at an immediate disadvantage. The result is a cover that ultimately suits the content within, a mixture of bad ideas executed relatively well. And the story inside is certainly something else, though not as over the top and silly as you might expect for a tale featuring such a ridiculous villain. Instead, Robbins plays it pretty much straight, adding realism and internal consistency, such as the Ten-Eyed Man, Reardon, having to wear gloves to sleep since he can’t close the ‘eyes’ on his fingers. That attention to detail doesn’t make up for the fact that he has eyes on his fingers, however. The seriousness of the yarn really makes it all the more hilarious, with the splash page positively screaming that Batman and the Ten-Eyed Man are “The deadliest enemies that fate ever brought together!” Forget that Joker guy! He’s old news! The new nemesis of the Masked Manhunter is the Prince of Perception (you thought I had run out of them, didn’t you!).
Trying so desperately to be cool and failing so tremendously…
The plot begins after the events of Reardon’s previous appearance, with the blinded former soldier obsessed with revenge on the man he blames for his condition, Batman! In order to accomplish that goal, he sets out on a rather convoluted plan to lure the Dark Detective to the Vietnam jungle so that the fight can be on Ten-Eye’s ‘home’ ground The Oligarch of Optics begins his operation by getting a job as an air marshal (another sign of this being the Golden Age of Skyjacking), using his ‘feyes’ to spot a threat and pass the test. On his first flight, Reardon pulls his gun and hijacks the plane himself! Ohh the irony! He routes the aircraft to Vietnam and issues a challenge to Batman, demanding that the Dark Knight meet him in the jungle.
When the Caped Crusader lands, Reardon toys with him before leading his foe into the bush, which the hero quickly discovers is full of booby traps. Batman barely avoids some punji stakes, but he manages to trail Ten-Eye through the trees (though one thinks swinging from vines would probably blind that buffon). Unfortunately, his foe is one step ahead of him and has prepared a trap involving a blinding flash grenade. When it goes off, the Dark Knight seems to be stunned, but when Reardon drops his guard, Batman drops him! The hero revealed that he was watching the villain’s hands, and when the ten-digited-doofus hid his ‘feyes,’ the hero protected his own eyes, allowing him to capture his “deadliest foe.”
You just have to wonder why in the world Frank Robbins looked at all of the great stories he had written, at the characters he had created, including the honestly great concept of the macabre Man-Bat, and decided that this guy, this ridiculous, goofy, and utterly worthless Z-lister was the one that deserved a return engagement. Robbins clearly isn’t a bad writer, and he also is heavily involved in the growing maturity and style of the Batman books, but for some reason, he told not one, but two different stories about a guy with eyes in his fingers. The fact that they were so clearly meant to be taken seriously separates these comics from even the zanier efforts of Bob Haney and the like.
Aside for the silliness of the antagonist, this story is just a bit lackluster on its own merits. I suppose that so much time is spent on catchup and setup that the actual confrontation in the jungle, which could have been pretty exciting (with a different villain), is given short shrift. Essentially Batman dodges one trap and then just utterly owns the loser who drew him halfway around the world. It’s certainly a fitting ending given how worthless the villain is, but it isn’t supposed to be that way in context. So, I’ll give this strange story 1.5 Minutemen. It’s not boring, and it’s not just downright annoying like others, but it certainly is goofy. Novick draws the heck out of the tale, but he can’t rescue it. Apparently this will sadly be the last appearance of the Emperor of Eyes (last one, I promise!) until 1975, but I’m astonished that he’s going to be coming back that soon!
The Robin backup strip continues to entertain me, in contrast to this month’s headline tale. Mike Friedrich also continues to demonstrate his skill at cramming a lot of plot and even some character development into seven pages at a time, which is pretty impressive. We pick up with Robin after the apparent death of campus radical Hank Osher in the previous issue. I have to say, I’m surprised that Hank really seems to be dead and that the bombing plot actually was resolved with the explosion that claimed his life. I really expected there to be more to that, and I’m slightly disappointed. The way it stands, that arc ended a bit too abruptly. We’re left with the dangling thread of the orange shoed yahoos who jumped Robin, giving him the once-over. The story begins with Dick ruminating on his failure to save Hank and feeling rather down about the job he’s been doing as Robin. Suddenly, a knock at the door heralds the arrival of a pretty young girl named Terri Bergstrom, who apparently just ‘sensed’ that she and Dick had been matched by a computer dating service.
This girl could give Lilith lessons in being cryptic, as she seems to have a 6th sense about everything, but seeing as this is the first real inkling of anything unusual with her, I’ll give it time to develop before I make a judgement about how this works. The two set out for a date, swinging by her place to check movie listings, only to find her room has been ransacked. They check back at Dick’s room and find the same, with his valuables stolen. The young hero begs off the date and sets out to catch the thieves, reasoning that if anyone were spying on the computer dating service (common theme in these years, it seems), they could have known he and Terri were out of their rooms on a date. So, he heads to another member of the service who he knows is out on a date and finds a thief making his get away.
The Teen Wonder puts an end to that escape and threatens a lead out of the punk kid. He discovers that the “Bronco” frat, the orange shoed punks from the previous story, are behind the thefts, so he goes to confront them at the gym. Feeling like he’s got something to make up for after the beating they gave him (and he really does), Robin throws it into high gear and utterly annihilates the three thugs he finds there with some nice acrobatic attacks. It’s a reasonably good payoff for the uncharacteristic trouncing the hero took previously, and Novick makes it look great. The tale ends with Terri and Dick making up their date, as he explains how Robin captured the thieves and had Batman take down their Gotham-based fence.
Check out dapper young Dick’s fabulous pink ascot.
This is a good little story, building on what came before to maximize narrative space. It’s cool to see Robin get his revenge on the Bronco buffoons who flattened him the first time, and we discover that their attack actually tied way back to the political scandal several issues ago. We also get a sense that Terri has more going on than at first appears, and have a love interest officially introduced in their date, about which I find myself ambivalent. As I’ve said before, I’ve always got a soft spot for the Robin/Batgirl romance. Nonetheless, I continue to find myself enjoying these college adventures of the Teen Wonder significantly more than I expected to. I’m still a bit disappointed that there wasn’t a bit more to the bombing plot, but I’m looking forward to what comes next for my favorite sidekick! I’ll give this one 3.5 Minutemen. It moves away from the heavier themes of the previous stories but still delivers a solid, small-scale adventure, and the ease with which Robin handles these teenage toughs seems fitting for Batman’s partner.
Brave and the Bold #95
“C.O.D. Corpse on Delivery” Writer: Bob Haney Penciler: Nick Cardy Inker: Nick Cardy Letterer: John Costanza Editor: Murray Boltinoff
Zany Haney returns, and he’s as zany as ever! We’ve got a mystery guest star this month, and a gimmicky cover to capitalize on that. It’s an okay image, pretty much solely designed to take advantage of the unknown guest, which the tale inside lives up to remarkably well, with the resolution to the mystery being a fairly dramatic reveal. This issue is a heck of a fun and entertaining ride, but it is definitely not a Batman story. The whole thing has the feel of a film noir flick dressed up in superhero garb, with schemes, betrayals, and classic adventure beats filling it. The characters involved are pretty much superfluous. The whole thing would work much better with Humphrey Bogart than Bruce Wayne.
The crazy tale opens with Batman waltzing into the lobby of the “Big Double R,” the skyscraper headquarters of the richest women in the world, ruthless industrialist Ruby Ryder. The Dark Knight passes through security, emphasizing just how far this portrayal is from the still developing hero of the other Bat-books who broods in the shadows. After being approved (like he doesn’t have weapons in his utility belt? I’m thinking that guard should be fired), Bats strolls into Ryder’s office, where she tries to buy his services with a five million dollar donation to the charity of his choice. That’s already a bit odd, especially for the super-rich Bruce Wayne, but his dialog is even more out of place, as he tells her “That’s a lot of bubble-gum wrappers!” The lovely lady begs the hero to seek out her fiance, who has gone missing in South America, and despite the fact that the Caped Crusader tells her, “hunting criminals is my bag-not missing bridegrooms,” he agrees when she begs him on her knees.
Living up to his name, the Masked Manhunter heads down to South America, where he finds a low-life pilot who supposedly flew the missing man, Kyle Morgan, out into the bush. The pilot refuses to talk, so Batman gives him some ‘gentle’ encouragement. The fight scene is beautifully rendered by Cardy, of course, and we get a nice action beat.
The furious flyer, Jake Angel, relents and gives the hero a lift to the remote village to which he supposedly delivered Morgan. After dropping his passenger off amidst a crowd of headhunters, the perfidious pilot takes off again, abandoning him. Batman whips out a smoke bomb and disappears, scattering pictures of his quarry among the natives, and this overawes them enough that they point him to a hut in their village. Inside, he sees a shrunken head!
Yet, it turns out to be a fake, and after a dangerous journey back, Batman squeezes the truth out of Angel, finally being led to a deliriously feverish Kyle Morgan. This is just page eight! Despite the pilot’s efforts to stop him, the Dark Knight takes his plane and his charge and flies back, though when the missing man awakens, he attacks his rescuer. Batman spins the plane, and we get a clever upside down panel, with dialog to match, and he disables Morgan.
Unfortunately, the reunion of the lost lovers isn’t quite what the Caped Crusader imagined. Ruby Ryder pulls out a pistol and shoots Morgan in cold blood, framing Batman for the murder…which seems like more than a little bit of a stretch. He’s found with the body, the gun, and the check, but he’s also inside her building. Either way, the Dark Knight escapes by diving through a high-rise window! Later, and quite ridiculously, Batman, dressed in a hat and trenchcoat, OVER his costume, waylays the fiery femme fatale’s lawyer at Morgan’s funeral to try to get some information. It’s a really silly image. Not so silly, however, is the fact that, unseen, the casket opens and something emerges! Dun dun DUNNN!
Batman sets out to track Ruby Ryder down, as she’s gone into hiding outside the country, but as he pursues his investigation, people try to kill him, but he is saved by a mysterious figure that he never quite sees. Ohh, and the bad guys totally discover his secret identity because he’s sloppy and gets observed going and coming from Bruce Wayne’s window, but they are too stupid to put the pieces together and assume he’s just using the millionaire’s identity. Finally, the Dark Detective finds a mysterious note left in his locked room that point him towards Marrakech (spelled Marakeech).
Crossing the desert towards Ryder’s hideout, Batman is once again rescued by his mysterious ally, who rises out of the sand in strange, undulating shapes and, apparently, kills the hero’s traitorous guide. Keep that in mind when we get to the reveal. The Dark Knight finally captures the vicious vixen, taking out her guard and avoiding a trap, and brings her back for trial. After she is sentenced to death, we jump to the date of her execution. Fortunately for her, the Masked Manhunter has finally put the pieces together, and he rushes into the chamber and unmasks her would-be executioner as her still very much alive former fiance…Plastic Man?!?!
Yep, that’s right, the goofy, humorous, devil-may-care Ductile Detective, Plastic Man, was Kyle Morgan. Apparently he got tired of living as a “freak,” and decided he wanted to settle down and get married, so he took on a desirable identity and appearance, and fell in love with Ruby Ryder. However, when he discovered how cruel and vicious she was, he faked his death to leave her. Of course, when she shot him, it didn’t do a whole lot of good, and he wanted her to face her death and see how it felt, though he swears he wouldn’t have flipped the switch. Given the fact that he’s apparently killed at least one person already, that seems a tad dubious! After this revelation, the dangerous dame goes free, and Plastic Man is left trying to decide what to do with his life.
This is such a wild story, and, as usual with Haney, it is utterly packed to the gills with plot. It moves at a rapid pace, and yet there is even a little time for characterization with Ruby Ryder and (mis)characterization with Batman and Plastic Man. Yet, Batman is really and unquestionably miscast here. He’s just way too casual and chatty, and even the ‘Policeman’s Friend’ Batman of the Silver Age wasn’t usually quite so trendy in his speech as is the slang-slinging version that Haney pens. The story doesn’t really fit the character either, and the role could have honestly been more fittingly filled by a hardboiled character like Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, or Johnny Double.
The Plastic Man reveal is actually quite well done, and if you don’t happen to know it’s coming, there is a good chance that it will surprise you. Of course, Haney applies his usual filter to the character, and ‘down on his luck has-been’ was his favorite angle to take with a B&B co-star. Despite the incongruous character elements, this is actually a pretty solid story, and a very enjoyable adventure yarn that is remarkably efficient in its storytelling. Haney could really tell a tale when he was of a mind, even if he could rarely be bothered to make it fit in with anything else. Ruby Ryder herself is a really impressively drawn character. She is just bursting with personality, as are so many of Haney’s supporting characters, but she is something special. Brought to beautiful life by Nick Cardy, not only is she a femme fatale, she is also a powerful and capable business tycoon. This is a very independent woman, one who is cold and calculating, yet with the viciousness of a woman scorned. This character is pretty significant, standing out from the crowd in 1971 by treating a woman as quite the equal in a man’s world. I’ll give it 3.5 Minutemen, and though I really enjoyed it, I can’t quite justify giving it 4 because of its mischaracterizations.
And thus we bid adieu to a new character who is really quite interesting in Ruby Ryder and a recent character who is only worthwhile for his complete goofiness! Our next set of books sees the introduction of another femme fatale, one who would go on to play a fairly major role in the DC mythos in years to come. Tune in soon for another addition of Into the Bronze Age! Until then, keep the Heroic Ideal alive!