DETECTIVE COMICS #330 August 1964
Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella original artists
|Editor Schwartz had a little trick that he did. Actually, a lot of the editors at DC utilized this approach back during the dawn of the Silver Age, but Julie seemed to do it with far more panache than most. Simply put, he'd have the cover to the latest issue of whatever drawn--or at least planned--before word one of the accompanying script had even been typed. Generally, following through and completing this often puzzling task fell to either John Broome or Gardner Fox, though Bill Finger and France Herron both produced their share of Batman stories for Schwartz as well. What we have here, folks, is a very obvious "cart before the horse" cover scene. And a cheery one as well, eh?...|
|"The Fallen Idol Of Gotham City!"
was just another in a long-line of cover
come-ons from the fine folks at National
cynically attempting to woo prospective patrons
into their fold by degrading, denigrating,
and demeaning their many so-called superstars
of that supposedly kinder and gentler era.
It happened month in and month out all across
the DC line, from Aquaman to Wonder Woman.
Sure, you usually need to put your title
guy in a bit of jeopardy in order to interest
the border-line buyer, but do you REALLY
have to strip him of his dignity by randomly
ripping his proud uniform, all the while
saddling him with a facial expression that
appears to be about two seconds from devolving
into baby-like bawling?? Is that anyway to
treat a fine fellow like Batman, I ask you?
Seems like there were SOME aspects of this
"New Look" that weren't so new
As for the story itself, well. People in Gotham City are suddenly and for no discernible reason being overtaken by savage homicidal urges--but this being a 1964 DC comic, no one actually gets killed, please understand. But, y'know, they COULD'VE. When Batman himself is met with the same fierce inexplicable hostility, the Dynamic Duo later reason out that there must've been something triggering these explosive emotions in the water at the small restaurant they'd just eaten at (again with the eating!?!..), their dining motivated as much by the fact that the eatery in question was located near the epicenter where all the previous attacks had taken place and less by actual hunger. But since young Dick, good boy that he is, had milk with his meal, and not the water-based coffee of his older companion, he was immune from the effects of...WHAT??..
Why, "a top-secret chemical weapon that the U.S. Army developed but would never use (because) the effect is too inhuman", of course! That's how a high-ranking officer explains things to (or lies to, if you'd prefer the paranoid slant) our two heroes at the end of this case. It seems a spy ring was intent on selling said formula to some of our foreign enemies--the kind that, again according to our military liaison, "have no such scruples"--and were using the restaurants clientele to not only test their wares on, but to demonstrate the chemicals' nasty possibilities to their potential buyers. Of course, the Caped Crusaders put the kibosh on THAT idea, and the story ends happily with Batman receiving a special citation from the President of the United States (delivered by in absentia by Gotham's Mayor--perhaps LBJ was off protecting Superman's secret identity at the time?...), followed by a blanket apology made in the name of all of Gotham for beating up on their champion, shredding his custom-made outfit, and mostly, for nearly making him burst out crying like a Bat-baby!! No prob, replies the ever-classy Bats, the audience applauds lustily, and boom--we're done!
Not a bad story, and not a bad solution to the task of matching that cover to the inside scenario. Spy themes were big at the time, so why not involve the Gotham Guardians in this juicy ripe genre? And, y'know, the art by Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella is pretty darn decent this time around. Okay, the action sequences continue to look awkward at best, but the many quieter panels, those with the characters mostly just talking, maybe doing some walking--THOSE are nicely done. Giella uses some effective shading and shadowing tricks to add some atmosphere to the generally static proceedings. Hey, it's still way better than an overnight stay as a captive in an alien zoo, lemme tell ya!?!...
A few words about the "New Look" DETECTIVE COMICS new back-up feature, "The Elongated Man". Inasmuch as you've put up with me endlessly oohing and ahhing over the work of penciller Carmine Infantino when his turn came up for his bi-monthly shot at the lead feature, you might well expect a similar enthusiasm from me regarding this all-Infantino filler series, but you'd be wrong. Call me a philistine, but I've never much liked Carmine's scratchy inks. Oh, I realize the man himself considers his complete art-jobs to be the purest expression of his talent, and he peppered his autobiography with sidebar testimonials from some of the greatest comics artists of this generation rallying to the notion that Infantino on the inks is the ONLY way to truly appreciate this great man, but, sorry, I'm not buying it. I'm not saying they're WRONG, mind you--I'm just saying it didn't work for me. His bold blacks and razor-thin lines combined to give the appearance of hastily finished art, with little thought given as to how it would ultimately print, always a prime consideration given the medium's less than stellar production values in those earlier days. Call me a comics geek rather than a true artiste if you will, but on this topic, I side with the fan-boys who prefer the addition of Giella or Murphy Anderson to the equation. (But NOT Sid Greene--which is a whole 'nother rant!...) The Elongated Man didn't have the calming influence of a competent outside inker, and in my eyes, anyway, suffered for it...
Besides that there was the not-so-minor-matter of the character's costumes extremely drab color scheme. Inasmuch as the stretchable Ralph Dibny debuted as a recurring, sometime-partner of the brightly bedecked crimson clad Flash, it made total sense to outfit this secondary star in shades of light lavender and dark blue, but on his own, without the necessary shock of scarlet provided by the speedster, even his full head of bright orange hair wasn't enough to enliven the mostly monotone hues found draping his escapades. And did I mention the whole derivative aspect? Not only did the Elongated Man follow in the flexible footsteps of the classic Plastic Man, but the leader of the competition's Fantastic Four, Reed Richards, also shared this apparently not uncommon ability--and for gosh sakes, even Jimmy Olsen's occasionally moonlighted as the aptly monikered Elastic Lad, when you stop and think about it!...
Not that the feature was without it's charms. The married Ralph and Sue Dibny had this whole happy-go-lucky Nick and Nora Charles sleuthing vibe going on, and the lightheartedness of the scripts were a welcome departure from the standard solemn-faced fare of the day. Still, 10 pages a month didn't allow for any great epic tales to be produced. Now, when he teamed up with the book's star, Batman, for a book length adventure or two, THAT was a whole different tub of stew--but not one that'll concern us today, as it turns out. Maybe sometime soon (or, to be entirely truthful with you, maybe not...)
Yeah, that's about it. Time to turn our attentions elsewhere for a bit. For now, gang, that's our last look at the "New Look"...
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