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for Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Detective Comics 327

Detective Comics #327 [May, 1964] launched a "New Look for Batman and Robin" under the editorship of Julius Schwartz with this cover by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella. Though most of my comics are in storage, those DC Showcase volumes featuring Batman and the Elongated Man allowed me to reread the stories that appeared in that issue for today's column.

This "new look" seems pretty tame when compared to the various reboots and revamps of the past couple decades, but the work holds up well on rereading. John Broome's "The Mystery of the Menacing Mask" is a sophisticated tale of crime and urban blight with classy art by Infantino and Giella.

Two factions of Gotham citizenry are vying to determine what will become of the colorful Gotham Village part of the city. One group wants it leveled and rebuilt, ostensibly to reduce crime in the area. The other wants to preserve its cultural and historical importance. Bruce Wayne is co-chairman of the latter.

This is not the Batman who, in recent years, would routinely battle a dozen thugs and lay them all out. He's a more realistic Caped Crusader than the present-day version and, while his action scenes may not be as wild, he's brave, smart, and trustworthy. I like this Batman a lot.

When this story was first published, readers were up in arms because Batman used a gun dropped by one of the village criminals to hold the gang until the police arrived to arrest them. But it's absurd to think the sight of a gun would drive Batman into a rage except under the most emotional circumstances or that he wouldn't use one in this case.

"Sophisticated" may seem like an odd word to use to describe a comic-book story written in 1964 for a younger audience than the target market of today, but "Menacing Mask" strikes me as far more interesting and intelligent than many current DC super-hero stories with their brutality and cheap sex. I think today's writers could learn something from it.

The Elongated Man began his run in Detective with "Ten Miles To Nowhere" by Gardner Fox and Infantino (pencils and inks). It's a delightful story in so many ways...from Ralph Dibny's dismay at not being recognized as the "famous" Elongated Man to the energy and humor of the action scenes to Ralph's wacky solution to his PR problem. It's sheer fun from start to finish.

Batman has been a regular part of the TOT opening rotation for some time now with the emphasis being mostly on his pre-"New Look" comics. But the Showcase volumes have piqued my interest in the early Schwartz tenure, so I'll probably be sticking to those issues for the immediate future.

Watch for more 1960s Batman fun in upcoming TOTs.

I'll be back on Friday with a full-sized TOT.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

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