DETECTIVE COMICS #329 July 1964
Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson original artists
|This is IT! This is where the "New Look " Batman absolutely peaked for me! It just didn't get any better than this thrilling cover of DETECTIVE COMICS!!|
|I mean, just look at it--even in such seemingly
awkward poses, Bats and the Boy Wonder are
perfectly situated to maximize the inherently
dramatic danger called for in this dynamic
composition from one of the greatest artists
ever to toil in the comics field, Carmine
Infantino! But it doesn't stop there! Oh
no. Murphy Anderson's exquisite inks give
every nook and cranny of this evocative illustration
an almost tangible texture--and the coloring
is perfectly balanced, from the red box housing
a subdued yellow tinted gradation set off
by Robin's bold red breast, with the rich
blue of Batman's uniform drawing the viewer's
eye smack dab to the cover's central figure,
all against a back drop up made up of a variety
of warm secondary tones! Sweet! Plus, the
novel notion of our young friend accidentally
stepping on a hidden spring, thus causing
the floor to literally drop out from under
his mentor's Batboots is one heckuva a swell
bit of business! All good props to Neal Adams
and a flotilla of fine Bat-artists, but folks,
this has GOT to be my all-time favorite Batman
Infantino--aided and abetted by the unobtrusively reliable Joe Giella--proved to be almost as wonderful whence providing the interior art for the corny-yet-delightfully titled "Castle With Wall-To-Wall Danger"! This story, while admittedly no potential award winner, is a whole lotta fun. It goes something like this: stumbling across what he believes to be a photo of a long missing fugitive blissfully residing overseas in a feature found in the latest issue of "Lifetime" magazine, Commissioner Gordon excitedly calls the casually dressed crimefighters as they're just about to enjoy their breakfast, asking them if they'd please--please!--hop aboard their supersonic Batplane and fly off to jolly old England to perform a personal bit of extradition for him and the entire Gotham Police Department.
Well, within 15 minutes, the boys are up in the air, uniforms on and bellies empty. Not long afterwards (that is one FAST flying machine!), landing in a field of green nearby the ancient estate pictured in the photo mag, they ready themselves to make the transatlantic bust. But as they grimly walk towards the castle's entrance, they're surprised to be heartily greeted by the very fellow from the "Lifetime" spread--only (and this is an even BIGGER surprise) he's clearly NOT the man they're after, though he does share more than a passing resemblance with their apparently absent quarry. About to turn around and head back to the states, their host-to-be persuades the pair to stay on for a bite to eat, and since Robin never did get to finish his eggs and sausage, the growing boy implores his boss to please put off the flight back, at least until he can quiet his growling stomach. Turns out Batman is hungry, too, so it's decided--they're soon shown to an elegant chamber to await a specially prepared lunch. THAT'S when the trouble starts!...
That provocative cover image? Merely what happens to our heroes directly following their summoning to the dinner table! Batman plummets down, down, down into a vat of quicksand, but still manages to somehow crawl out just in time to partake of a sumptuous repast! Yum! Yes, it's true--they're getting mighty suspicious of their host by now (them being detectives and all), but he pleads both ignorance and innocence, and gosh, with no solid evidence, the fellas decide to accept his word--for now. Besides, crimefighting is one tough gig and they're totally starved--and boy, the food is mighty good!
Subsequently, all sorts of bad things happen to our Gotham emigrees--suits of armor collapse on them, thugs attack them, and finally, they discover a mysterious man in a trenchcoat stalking them! As events become more and more baffling to one and all, it's suddenly revealed that the castle's host is in fact the cousin of the very man the American costumed heroes are after, and--ah HA!--it was HE who was behind all that wild wall-to-wall danger! Well, with the story drawing to it's inevitable conclusion, Batman and Robin handily overcome their prey, listen to nearly as wordy an explanation of the proceeding events as I've kindly bestowed upon you--including the whereabouts of some hidden gold that, um, I forgot to tell you about--and after all that, THEN free the captive family of the good cousin, which, of course, was how the bad cousin managed to keep any sort leverage over the stellar fellow. And, gang, that's pretty much it.
Doesn't sound like a whole lot, I'll admit, but the way Infantino's magic pencil drew the richly atmospheric setting so convincingly managed to kick this tale up a half-dozen notches on the Bat-meter. The scene on page four wherein the two visitors languidly relax in one of the castle's most lavishly decorated rooms, waiting patiently for dinner to be served, is particularly memorable in capturing a rare glimpse of two larger-than-life characters in repose. This "New Look" was only a few months old at this juncture, and I was completely dazzled by the approach being taken by Carmine and crew.
Because of that, and for this one special story as much as anything else ever published featuring the Caped Crusader in artistic alliance with Infantino, Carmine has always been--and will always be--my favorite Batman artist. One could make the case that several others--most prominently, Mr. Adams again--have superseded what Infantino accomplished with the feature. They wouldn't be wrong, but I did say "favorite", not "best". No one can ever say, when dealing with artistic endeavors, definitively who is the "best" at something, but there's no arguing with a person's firm belief as to who their "favorite" might be. All one can hope to do is attempt to make a good case while explaining their choice, and I'd like to think that, over these last few entries, I've managed to make my case for Carmine. Besides, all those other fabulously talented illustrators may never've had themselves an opportunity to put their distinctive stamp on the Dark Knight if Infantino hadn't come along first and made Gotham safe for cartoonists who weren't accustomed to cribbing from Chester Gould...
No, it just didn't get any better than this. Unfortunately. The thrill of this fresh new approach slowly began to wear off, and the ever-hopeful expectation that things would only improve as the months wore on sadly weren't met. The quality leveled off, but happily, a worthy level was maintained for well over a year. Every two months, DC would gift us with yet another Infantino gem, but trouble loomed on the horizon--the successful "New Look" had unknowingly set in motion events that would lead directly to the dreaded "Camp Era" by making the once-laughable idea for a Batman television program look attractive....
As we all know, the show was made, it became a surprise sensation across the nation, and all too soon, the tail was wagging the dog, as the entire "New Look" crew found themselves in the untenable position of having to adopt the intentionally silly approach to the character made ever so popular by Adam West and his band of co-conspirators. My beloved "New Look", you see, didn't end with a whimper or a bang, but was instead swallowed up whole by the detestable "Camp" craze...
...and with the restless Infantino ascending the corporate ladder and leaving the drawing board behind (save for a multitude of rough cover designs done for others to finish), THAT'S when a certain Mister Neal Adams becomes VERY important to the trajectory of Batman's career. Through no fault of Julie, Carmine, Shelly, and their stable of writers, the Caped Crusader needed rescuing AGAIN, and this time, folks, it was Neal's turn...
But THAT'S a story meant to accompany another cover another time. For now, we have one final look at the still reasonably new "New Look" coming up next...
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