Saturday, October 15, 2011

Focus on Firestorm: Firestorm #1 (1978)

The germ of a notion that eventually evolved into the character we know as Firestorm struck writer Gerry Conway, he claims, during his run as the author of Marvel's The Amazing Spider-Man.  What if, Conway wondered, it had Flash Thompson, the football star, rather  than Peter Parker, the science nerd, who had gotten super-powers?  He filed the notion away in the back of his mind until several years later when he found himself working at DC, where, in late 1977, it found expression in the debut issue of Firestorm
That issue's origin tale, "Make Way for Firestorm," opens with a colorfully clad figure whose head appears to be on fire reveling in his new found super-powers before heading off to confront the bad guys responsible for turning him into the creature he had become.  From there we fade into the obligatory flashback and meet Ronnie Raymond, new student at Bradley High, on his first day at his new school, where he meets two other students who will become the backbone of the books supporting cast, Cliff Carmichael and Doreen Day.  Completing the role reversal, Conway makes Cliff, the class brain, the bully, belittling Ronnie's intelligence and making him look foolish in class.
With his insecurities about fitting in at his new school, his attempts to impress Doreen, and hints of problems at home, Ronnie actually seems to have more in common with Peter Parker than Flash Thompson.  Perhaps that was the point that Conway was making; that all of us, jock and brain alike, have the same insecurities and problems.  
Nobel Prize winning physicist Dr. Martin Stein certainly has his share of problems when we meet him.  He has just designed and built the world's first fully automated nuclear power plant, but the machinations of his disgraced former assistant, Danton Black, who sues Stein, claiming that Martin stole his ideas for the plant, threaten to keep the facility from going on line as scheduled.  
Meanwhile, Ronnie gets the fool notion in his head that joining a group, headed by a shady looking guy named Eddie Earhart, protesting the new nuclear plant will somehow make Doreen like him.  It turns out, however, that the protesters have a little more on there mind than carrying signs. In fact, Ronnie hooks up with them just in time for Earhart to decide to use him as the fall guy for their plan to blow up the new power plant.  
Events move quickly from this point as our cast converges.  Stein decides to defy the court order and activate the reactor early, even as Ronnie and Earhart's group arrive and Danton Black sneaks back into what he believes to be an empty facility to sneak a peak at Stein's plans for the reactor.  
Earhart knocks out Ronnie and the Professor, set their bomb, and flee.  Ronnie wakes up and attempts to drag the still unconscious Stein to safety, but doesn't get to far before the dynamite explodes, just as Black arrives.  
This being a comic book, getting caught in a nuclear explosion, rather than killing the trio, turns out to be a good thing.  Ronnie and Stein find themselves merged into the super-powered being whom Ronnie decides to call Firestorm, while Black will return in future issues as the super-villain Multiplex.  (With a name like Multiplex, it sort of seems like his evil schemes should involve forcing small one or two screen movie theaters out of business, doesn't it?)
As much as I love Conway's writing, I've always thought of his work on Firestorm as one of his weaker efforts.  Perhaps that because I first encountered the character late in his run on The Fury of Firestorm and he might have been a little burned out and running out of ideas.  However, Firestorm #1 is a good, solid super-hero origin tale. There are certainly a lot of good and original ideas in this debut issue.   The characters powers of matter transmutation are something that hadn't been seen before in super-hero comics, as is the idea of the hero being a merger of two people.  Even more interesting, is the concept that, because he was unconscious at the time of the initial merger, Stein doesn't remember anything that happens while he's part of Firestorm and, at first, has no idea what happens during his mysterious "blackouts."  
The weakest part of the issue, for me, can be summed up in one word: Milgrom.  I've never been a big fan of Al's work, and he's very inconsistent in this issue.  Some panels look better than any I've seen from him, while others are just awful. Still, he tells the story well enough.  He also came up with a nice costume design and you've got to love the awesomely bad late 70's facial hair on Cliff Carmichael and Eddie Earhart. 
Of course, as we all know, 1978 was not a good time to launch a new super-hero comic, no matter how original or innovative.  Four issues after this promising debut, Firestorm would run smack dab into the infamous DC Implosion.  The Nuclear Man didn't spend too long in Comic Book Limbo, however.  Conway, who was also the writer of DC's premier super-hero team book, Justice League of America, soon drafted him into that group.  Shortly thereafter, Firestorm would return to solo adventures as a back-up feature in Flash and eventually earn another shot at his own monthly comic.
I'll take a look at the first issue of that series, The Fury of Firestorm, in my next post.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Potpourri for 1000, Alex (A Hodge-Podge of Seemingly Unconnected Random Thoughts)

Here are a few things that have been on my mind over the past few days.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked the rhetorical question, "What does Sheldon Cooper (of The Big Bang Theory) think of DC's New 52?"  That was meant as a joke, but, having a fairly mindless job that allows me to ponder such things as I perform my menial tasks, I found myself thinking more about the question and coming up with  a partial answer.  Sheldon strikes me as someone who doesn't deal well with any sort of change, so I assume that he was quite distressed by the initial announcement.  However, as Green Lantern seems to be his favorite character, he was most likely at least partially reassured by the fact that that character's continuity has escaped the reboot essentially unaltered.
Speaking of Big Bang Theory, I was watching an older episode in which Leonard states that he has 2600 comic books in his apartment.  For a serious geek of Leonard's age, that number actually seems kind of small to me.  Perhaps he was referring to the comics that he actually keeps at home, with the bulk of his collection stored elsewhere.
Moving on, then, based on what I've read so far, it seems to me that DC's relaunch isn't so much a bold step forward into a new future for comics as a giant leap backwards to about the early 80's.  Co-publisher Dan DiDio has apparently recently announced that Crisis On Infinite Earths and all subsequent "Crisis-level" events never occurred. The upcoming Justice Society series will be set on Earth-2.  The Huntress may once again be the daughter of that parallel world's Batman.  On Earth-1, if that's what they're calling it, Barbara Gordon is Batgirl again and Supergirl is once again Superman's Kryptonian cousin (although that retro move actually occurred a few years ago). Over in Superman, Morgan Edge looks like he will once again be a major supporting player and there are hints that Clark Kent may once again be taking a job as a TV news anchor sometime in the near future.  Edge is now a bald, goateed African-American man, but other than that minor cosmetic change, he  appears to be the same character who was a thorn in Kent's side throughout the Bronze Age.  Now, if Clark were dating his childhood friend Lana Lang, who was also his co-anchor on the nightly newscast, then it would be 1983 in Metropolis all over again.
I can only fervently hope that DiDio's revelation that all stories with the word "Crisis" in the title never happened includes Identity Crisis.  If any story ever needed to be negated by editorial fiat, it's that one.  I would love to see Ralph Dibny show up alive somewhere with his girlfriend Sue Dearborn. With the apparent exception of Buddy Baker, it seems that super-heroes aren't allowed to be married in the new DCU.  Most famously, the marriage of Clark and Lois Kent has been retconned into oblivion, while in Flash, Barry Allen isn't even dating Iris West anymore.  But, as far as I'm concerned, they don't need to be married as long as they're alive.  
By the way, it sort of reveals what a huge geek I am that I actually know Sue Dibny's maiden name, doesn't it?
I've found myself wondering if, in this new continuity, Batman has yet caught up with the killer of Thomas and Martha Wayne.  In the pre-COIE continuity, Batman found Joe Chill fairly early in his career, and, though  the details changed, in the post-Crisis DCU he also encountered Chill fairly early.  However, after the DC Universe was destroyed and restructured for the second time in Zero Hour, it was decided that not only had Batman never found his parents' killer, but it wasn't even Joe Chill.  I was unaware of the change, though, until I read "Public Enemies," Jeph Loeb's first storyline in Superman/Batman.  The change was undone soon after "Public Enemies" in what was basically a throwaway line of dialogue toward the end of Infinite Crisis.  Now, with the latest restructuring of the DC Universe in the wake of Flashpoint, the issue may once again be up  in the air. 
I recently ran across this old interview on-line in which Denny O'Neil, editor of the Bat books at the time, defends the initial continuity change thusly: "It was done because we thought that Batman's motivations--and therefore his saga--are stronger if he never learns who killed his parents."
I have to disagree with Mr. O'Neil here.  To me, it makes Batman a stronger, and saner, character if he discovered and caught the Waynes' killer and still continued being Batman.  He becomes less of a revenge driven psycho and more the public spirited crimefighter that I feel he was meant to be.  Bruce Wayne's being Batman, after all, isn't really about finding his parents' killer, or revenge, but about making sure that no one else ever has to go through the ordeal that he did.  It's about helping other people, not making Bruce Wayne feel better.
Finally, it appears that DC may not hate me as much as I'd initially thought.  They are sort of giving me a Christmas present.  As of December's issue #4, J.T. Krul will no longer be writing Green Arrow.  He cites some mysterious new project as the reason for his leaving, but I honestly don't care as long as he's gone. The new writers will be Keith Giffen and Dan Jurgens, who will continue as penciller with George Perez inking.  
I still have a few reservations.  I'm assuming that Giffen and Jurgens' working relationship will be similar to that of Giffen and other collaborators, with Keith plotting and Dan writing the dialogue.  Unfortunately, dialogue is, to me, the weakest of Jurgens many weak points as a writer.  Also, from what I've read, it seems that the Green Arrow of this new series isn't quite the same character I fell in love with back in the 70's.  Apparently, he's closer to the character as portrayed on TV in Smallville than the O'Neil/Adams version. I only saw a couple of episodes  with Green Arrow in them, but I wasn't exactly thrilled with their depiction of one of my favorite characters.  Still, I do plan on picking up Green Arrow #4 the first week in December (provided that it stays on schedule) and I will, of course, report my impressions to you here on this blog.
Well, it certainly feels good to get all that off my chest.  Now, I've got some old Firestorm comics to re-read so that I can tell you all about them. 
Talk to you later.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Action Comics #2 Reviewed

Heed my words, children, for here lies wisdom.
In the dark days before the Great Reboot great uncertainly lay over the legions of fandom and there was upon them much wailing and gnashing of teeth.  To them in these days the prophet did speak, and spake he thus: "...Grant Morrison will be writing Action Comics and that's going to kick ass."  And lo, did it come to pass that in the first week of the second month of the Great Reboot were the words of the prophet fulfilled, for, verily, the second issue of Action doth ROCK!  And throughout the land of the fanboy there was much rejoicing.
Can I get an AMEN, brothers and sisters?!
Ahem...Sorry.  I really don't know what came over me.  
You might get the idea from that outburst above that I kind of liked Action Comics #2 just a little bit.   You would, of course, not be wrong.  With this issue, Action begins to live up to the awesome potential inherent in the combination of the names "Grant Morrison" and "Superman," and the end of the issue indicates that it's only going to get better in the months ahead. 
Truly, the best parts of the issue, at least for veteran Superman readers, are the hints dropped about future plot developments.  Storywise, "Superman In Chains" is pretty simple and straightforward.  At the end of last issue, you may recall, a trap set by Luthor and General Lane had succeeded in capturing Superman.  As #2 begins, he is being held in a top secret military facility and "interrogated" (a polite way of saying "tortured") by Luthor.  It really isn't such a spoiler to say that he escapes.  He may not be as powerful as he's been depicted in the past, but he IS Superman after all.  Along the way we encounter a couple of "new" characters whose names will be familiar to those versed in the old continuity, a Dr. Irons--John Henry, I presume--and Sgt. John Corben.  Though we know, or think we know, what's going to happen to them, the fun will be in seeing how Grant gets them there.   When we last see Corben, he looks about ready to don a high tech battlesuit and take on Superman in an attempt to impress Lois Lane.  On top of all that, the issue ends with a shot of a menacing looking spaceship that I'm assuming--'cause Grant isn't telling just yet--belongs to none other than Brainiac.
Action #2 is a fast paced and exciting story in its own right, and promises even more excitement to come.  It's pretty much every thing a good super-hero comic should be.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Superman #1 Reviewed

For me, it really doesn't take a lot to make a decent Superman story.  Just give me Kal-El flying around and throwing a few super punches, battling a ludicrous super-villain or a giant monster, and I'm good.  On that count, the new Superman #1 delivers.  The first few pages move quickly to establish the Man of Steel's new post-Flashpoint status quo before getting into the meat of the issue, which is Superman's battle with a giant creature made of living fire.
If DC really wants to appeal to non-fanboys with the New 52, it would behoove them to have an entry level title that the casual reader can pick up every now and then and get a satisfying single issue reading experience.  If this debut issue is any indication, Superman might just be that title.  This would be appropriate, since everyone knows who Superman is.  He's not only DC's most famous character, but one of the most recognizable fictional characters in all of literature.  Therefore, you don't really need to spend a lot of time introducing the characters to new readers.  If you were in a comics shop about to pick up your first ever comic book, wouldn't you be more likely to go for a character you already know from movies and TV? 
This issue, more than any other of the New 52 titles I've read, is very accessible and new reader friendly. There are subplots and hints of things to come, including a possible crossover with Stormwatch, but it ultimately delivers a complete single issue story with everything the reader needs to know to enjoy and understand the story contained within the story itself. 
Visually, the book is an interesting hybrid.  Writer George Perez does breakdowns, and the storytelling, with multiple small panels on almost every page, is pure Perez.  It's dense, but never confusing.  The pencil and ink art by Jesus Merino looks like an accomplished Jim Lee impersonation.  Actually, I like Merino's art better than Lee's.
All in all, this is a good start to the Man of Steel's new adventures.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Focus On Batgirl: Batgirl #1--Must There Be A Batgirl?

This is not going to be a review so much as a dismissal of this comic. I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about the artistic merits of Batgirl #1.  It's basically a fairly good comic.  The art by Ardian Syaf is nice.  The foreshortening on Batgirl's leg on the splash page looks a little off to me, but otherwise it's a lovely looking book.  It's also well written, but then I'd expect no less from Gail Simone, although this really isn't her best work.  
The biggest flaw of this comic, as far as I'm concerned, is that it fails to make a compelling case for why there needs to be a Batgirl in the DC Universe and why it needs to be Barbara Gordon.  Given the controversy surrounding Barbara Gordon's return to action, I really think that this is something they needed to do.  This story, in fact, accomplishes just the opposite, pointing out why it was a mistake to bring back the Barbara Gordon version of Batgirl.
I can understand DC's reasoning for reinstating Barbara as Batgirl, though I can't say that I agree with it.  Much like they did a few years ago with Supergirl, following several not all that successful attempts to introduce a new version of the character, they finally decided to go back to the original.  Then there's the company's perhaps somewhat fanciful notion that the new 52 will bring in readers outside of their core demographic of middle aged fanboys.  To that larger public, due to the 60's Batman TV series and, to a lesser extent, recent animated outings Batman: The Animated Series and The Batman, Barbara Gordon is Batgirl and Batgirl is Barbara Gordon.  However, the fact remains that Barbara Gordon as Oracle was a unique and interesting character who filled a niche within the DC Universe at large, not just the Batman titles, while Barbara Gordon as Batgirl is just another chick in a batsuit, especially in the current DCU.
Simone even refers to this in the story when someone that Batgirl has just rescued says, "Bless you, Batwoman."  Maybe that was meant to be a joke, but to me it just serves to underscore the redundancy of Batgirl in a world where you've got not just Batwoman, but the Huntress, not to mention Batman himself as well as Robin, Red Robin and Nightwing.
Compounding the problem is that the characterization of Batgirl in this first issue seems to be picking up the doubt plagued and uncertain heroine from 1988's Batgirl Special.  She freezes, flashing back to the Joker's shooting her, when a gun is pointed at her right where the Clown Prince of Crime's bullet landed.  This is certainly understandable given what Barbara's gone through, but not the kind of behavior you want in a costumed crimefighter.
This review is a tad less than timely.  The second issue of this series is due to hit comic shops today.  I'll be heading over to the Laughing Ogre shortly after I post this.  I'm going to get the new issues of Action Comics and OMAC, but I'll be giving Batgirl #2 a pass.   As I said at the outset, overall the first issue is a decent enough comic, but one that ultimately fails to justify its own existence, at least to my satisfaction. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Focus On Batgirl: "The Last Batgirl Story" (Batgirl Special #1; 1988)

The decision to retire Batgirl seems to have been made as early as 1985.  Her brief appearance in Crisis On Infinite Earths #4 shows her questioning her own role as a hero even as she watches Supergirl save a plane load of people from the encroaching anti-matter cloud.  This portrayal was taken to the extreme in the Batgirl Special that formally ended her crimefighting career, for the time being at least.   When writer Barbara Randall named this story "The Last Batgirl Story" she wasn't kidding around.  The last page of the story is followed by a house ad for The Killing Joke, the Alan Moore penned tale that left Barbara Gordon in a wheelchair for the next twenty-three years and paved the way for her career as Oracle.
"The Last Batgirl Story" opens with a flashback to Batgirl's encounter with a hired killer known as Cormorant.  It was Cormorant's attempt on her life that forced Barbara to confront her own mortality and realize that she could get killed playing super-hero, bringing on the self-doubt and uncertainty that plagued her.  Flashing forward to the present, a man is murdered in the Gotham City Library where Barbara works and she becomes convinced, on the flimsiest of evidence, that Cormorant is the killer. Her obscession with Cormorant blinds her to mounting evidence that the real murderer is a female serial killer, dubbed "Slash" by the media, who is targeting men who've committed crimes against women.  At the same time, she's afraid to confront Cormorant.  Meanwhile, childhood friend Marcy, having deduced that Barbara is Batgirl, shows up hoping to convince Babs to hang up the cape.  She agrees to do so, but only after closing the books on the Cormorant case.
When she finally does confront her nemesis, she's about to get herself killed for real when Slash shows up because Cormorant just happened to be next on her list of intended victims.  Batgirl is reduced to little more than a spectator as Slash and Cormorant, with an assist from Cormorant's abused spouse, take each other out.  Nonetheless, Cormorant is finally captured and Barbara keeps her promise to retire from crimefighting.
The reason I didn't enjoy this story has little to do with its actual quality.  It's well written and features nice early work by artist Barry Kitson. (from a survey of Kitson's credits at the Comic Book Data Base, it appears that this was his first work in American comics.)   My problem is with the portrayal of the title character.  Batgirl is shown as confused, willfully blind, inept and ultimately useless.  If the intent was to make the reader agree with Barbara's decision to stop being Batgirl, then it was successful.  The Batgirl of this story isn't the type of super-hero I really care to read about, and Barbara did herself, Gotham and comics readers a favor by packing it in. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Focus On Batgirl: "Enter Batgirl; Exit Penguin"

You might say that Batgirl is the Cousin Oliver of the DC Universe.  You might say so, that is, if you're an incurable smart-ass with a freakishly extensive knowledge of old TV shows.  If you're me, in other words, and thank whatever gods you may worship that you're not.  In the mid-60's, the Batman TV series kicked off a phenomenon that came to be called "Batmania", bringing renewed interest and popularity to DC's Batman comics and rescuing them from the brink of cancellation.  However, as it embarked on a third season, the TV series itself teetered on the edge of that very precipice.  So they did what many ailing series did in their waning years, they added a new character, just as, several years later, Robbie Rist as Cousin Oliver joined the cast of The Brady Bunch in its final season. Though, and I promise this is my final Cousin Oliver reference for this post, I never understood just who that character was meant to appeal to, the logic of bringing in Batgirl is inescapable.  The girls in the audience got a role model to identify with, and the boys didn't have to wait for a Catwoman appearance to have a spandex clad hottie to ogle.
"Enter Batgirl; Exit Penguin", Batman's third season premiere, opens to a typical day in Gotham City, as the Dynamic Duo return from rounding up Catwoman yet again and change back to their civilian identities of Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson for a night at the opera with Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara and the Commissioner's daughter, Barbara.  The TV show, by the way, actually bothered to come up with an explanation for why we hadn't seen or heard of Barbara Gordon before this.  It seems that she'd been off at college for the past four years.  She must have taken some time off after high school, as Yvonne Craig, the actress portraying Barbara, was thirty years old at the time.
Next we meet Barbara herself, heading home from her job at the Gotham Public Library to prepare herself for the aforementioned night at the opera when she is kidnapped by the Penguin and held captive in an empty apartment right next to her very own.  The Penguin's latest somewhat ill thought out scheme is to force Barbara to marry him, thus making him the police commissioner's son-in-law and thus, or so he believes, above the law.
Pengy  sends two of his henchmen out to snatch a minister to perform the ritual, and they happen to find pick one who happens to be having tea with Batman's butler Alfred, who tells the goons that he's the minister and gets nabbed in the real reverend's place.  Alfred is locked in the bedroom of the vacant apartment, where he sees Barbara climbing out the window in order to go back to her place and change to Batgirl, thus learning her secret identity.
Summoned by an emergency signal activated through a switch hidden in Alfred's belt buckle, the Dynamic Duo arrive on the scene and are just as surprised as the Penguin and his gang when a third caped crime fighter shows up.  Penguin and his henchmen are seemingly defeated, after which Batgirl disappears.  However, Penguin recovers and overcomes Batman and Robin, then packs up the Caped Crusaders, Alfred, and a dummy that they take for an unconscious Barbara Gordon and head off for their alternate hideout.
To make a long story short, if it isn't already too late, Barbara breaks out the Batgirl-cycle, trails the bad guys to their new lair, frees Batman and Robin and helps them defeat Penguin and swears Alfred to secrecy regarding her secret identity.
Despite the bad rap it has among comics fans for making a laughing stock out of their beloved hero, viewed objectively, Batman is actually a really well done TV show, and "Enter Batgirl; Exit Penguin" is one of its better episodes.  Due to declining ratings, the series, which had aired twice a week, was cut back to one episode a week for its final season, yet this episode delivers just as much fun and excitement as a typical two-parter, without all the extraneous silliness.  The highlight of the half-hour, as it should be, is Yvonne Craig's performance as Batgirl.  She perfectly portrays a young, sexy female crime fighter who does what she does not because of some trauma in her childhood, but because it's fun.  Lou Grant would hate her, because, by God, she's got some spunk.  Burgess Meredith's typically over the top performance as the Penguin, a role he seems to have been born to play, is also worth mentioning, and Commissioner Gordon's love and concern for his daughter give Neil Hamilton something other to play than a confused and buffoonish caricature.
The addition of Batgirl may not have saved Batman from its eventual cancellation, but creatively, she was quite a shot in the arm for the series.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

'Tec Support: "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!" (Focus On Batgirl)

Created by a trio of comics legends, editor Julius Schwartz, writer Gardner Fox and artist Carmine Infantino, at the behest of Batman TV series producer William Dozier, who was looking for a female character to appeal to that segment of the TV audience, the new--and "real", as we're told in a caption--Batgirl (there had been a previous character called Bat-Girl in the late 50's and early 60's) met the comics reading public in the January 1967 issue of Detective Comics, #359, in a story entitled "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!"   The introduction of Batgirl, incidentally, was not the first change made in the comics to accomodate the TV series.  One of Schwartz's first moves on assuming editorship of the Batman books was to kill off Bruce Wayne's butler, Alfred.  However, he and Fox were compelled to bring the character back to life when the producers wanted to include him in the show.
The story moves quickly, giving us just a two panel introduction to Barbara Gordon, the previously unseen and unmentioned librarian daughter of Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon, before she dons her Batgirl costume and is off to the Policeman's Masqerade Ball.  Setting off  for the ball, Barbara thinks that "...tonight will be the highlight of my life!"  She's right, of course, but not quite in the way she was thinking of.  A funny thing happens on the way to the party, when she sees Killer Moth's minions attempting to put the snatch on "...Daddy's millionaire friend" Bruce Wayne.  Proving that "clothes make the woman," she leaps into action to save Wayne, allowing the millionaire to slip away and change to Batman.  The Caped Crusader ends up having to rescue Batgirl while Killer Moth escapes. Her costume messed up in the fight, Batgirl tells Batman she won't be going to the masqerade after all, but holds back on telling him her name, despite thinking to herself that this might be both Batgirl's "...debut and farewell appearance..."
She soon finds, however, that after her brush with crimefighting, the fast paced life of the librarian just doesn't thrill her the way it used to.  Then one night, Barbara goes to deliver a rare book to Bruce Wayne and sees him apparently murdered by Killer Moth.  She once again goes into action as Batgirl, but soon learns that her interference has spoiled the Dynamic Duo's plans to follow Killer Moth back to his hideout.  Nonetheless, it turns out, somewhat predictably, I'll admit, that despite her initial blunder, it is Batgirl whose nick of time arrival at Killer Moth's lair serves to save Batman and Robin's bacon and capture the villain.
If, as the conventional wisdom among comics fans holds, the intentionally campy tone of the TV series had infected the comics, it is not much in evidence in this issue.  True, Killer Moth, with his themed henchmen Larva and Pupa, is a silly villain, and Robin spouts a couple of truly dreadful puns, while, at one point, daring to criticize Batgirl's "terrible puns."  For the most part, however, "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!" is a fairly straightforward, serious minded adventure story, thanks to Fox's fast-paced and witty script and Infantino's suitably dark and moody artwork.
Quite a few of the "important" stories of the Silver Age--the first appearance of the Teen Titans springs to mind--are worth reading only for their significance to comics history.  Detective #359 is not one of those issues, though.  "The Million Dollar Debut of Batgirl!" stands on its own, aside from its place in history, as an entertaining and fun Batman story.
In a future post, I'll take a look at Batgirl's second first appearance, in the third season premiere of the Batman TV show.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things To Come--I Hope

So, I recently wasted spent an entire afternoon downloading and listening to all the extant episodes of The Fire and Water Podcast, a show devoted to Aquaman and Firestorm and hosted by Rob Kelly, author of the blog The Aquaman Shrine and The Irredeemable Shag of the Firestorm Fan blog, who, by the way, has been known to check in on this blog occassionally and has left a comment or two in his wake.  Anyway, there's a point in each episode where   the pair tell the listener about all the other blogs and podcasts that they do on top of having jobs and families and lives outside of cyberspace.  This left me feeling a little bad about not even being able to keep up one blog on anything resembling a regular basis recently.  Of course, there have been "real world" events that have kept me away from the keyboard, but I think those are now under control to the point where I can devote a little more time to spouting off about the funny books for the half dozen or so people who actually care about my opinions. 
Sitting on the floor beside my computer desk is a pile of comics that I want to write about and taped to the wall in front of me is a long list of topics to cover, so I've got more than enough material to carry the blog through the end of the year if I can just overcome the the forces of inertia and start writing. That's part of the reason for this post.  I figure that if I tell you about some of the stuff I  want to write about, I will then be obligated to actually do it.  Here's just a sample of what's in the pile and on the list:
photo by Max Ink
Thanks to Jonathon Riddle, who gave me First Issue Special #4 for my birthday a few weeks ago, I now have the complete run of that quirky little Bronze Age book and hope to write about the entire series issue by issue.
I managed to lay my hands on a copy of Batgirl #1 after all.  Before I get to reviewing it, however, I want to look at a handful of significant Batgirl stories, including her first appearances both in print and on the tube. 
Earlier I said that I might pick up Superman #1 if I had $2.99 burning a hole in my pocket.  Well, it turns out I did.  Actually, it was a twenty dollar bill that I found lying on the ground in the parking lot of the office building next to where I work and which I proceeded to blow entirely on comics.  
In addition to Superman, I also purchased two The Fury of Firestorm #1's.  That's two different comics, by the way--the new one and the one from 1982, which I probably paid too much for because the Laughing Ogre tends to overprice their back issues, but it was found money, so what the hell--and not two copies of the same book.  With that acquisition, I now have all four of Firestorm's debut issues, and plan on reviewing them in chronological order. 
Dark Horse recently released a trade paperback collecting all fifteen issues of John Arcudi and Doug Mahnke's Major Bummer, originally published by DC in the late 90's.  I didn't buy it, in part because I didn't really have thirty dollars to spend on a comic book right then, but mainly because a few days before it was released I had found nine of the fifteen issues in the clearance boxes at Half-Price Books for a quarter apiece and subsequently tracked down the remaining six for a buck each at Packrat Comics.  Thus, I managed to acquire the contents of a thirty dollar trade paperback for $8.25, which, even if I never get around to writing the review, I just felt like bragging about. 
Also, even though it's now almost two months since their release, there are still a couple of the DC Retroactive one-shots that I'd like to write about. 
If you actually see the list I wrote of above, you'd see that what I've described is just the tip of the iceberg. Therefore, it's time to quit yapping about what I plan to do and actually do it. 
Talk to you all soon.