Posts tagged ‘John Wagner’

Detective Annual 5 – Commissioner Gordon gets Eclipsed

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Detective Annual 5 is part of the Eclipso: The Darkness Within crossover running through the DC annuals in 1992.  Alan Grant, John Wagner, Tom Mandrake, Jan Duursema and Rick Magyar are the creative team on this issue, which launches a storyline that runs through the various Batman annuals.

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The Ventriloquist has been released from prison, and re-opened his old club, claiming to be going straight.

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Batman is busy, stopping a robbery of ancient Egyptian artifacts. One of the pieces has a number of black diamonds hanging from it,one of which comes loose, and winds up in Batman’s possession.  He brings it to police headquarters, where he winds up meeting with Bruce Gordon, who explains about Eclipso, and the diamonds’ power to either possess someone, or have them evoke an Eclipso.

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The Ventriloquist has bugged all the tables in his club, so that he listen on the conversations of the hoodlums who dine there, and learns that the Joker’s men are waiting for their boss to lead them to a huge stash of money.

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So the Ventriloquist and Scarface have their men grab the Joker first, forcing him to take them to his hideout, in a toy factory.

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Commissioner Gordon hears of the Joker’s breakout, and his suppressed anger at the Joker’s shooting of Barbara causes him to evoke an Eclipso.  Curiously, the diamond almost seems to draw Gordon to it.

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Powered by Gordon’s anger, the Eclipso demon makes a beeline for the Joker, which also leads the police in the right direction.  The Ventriloquist and Scarface are less then pleased with all the attention.

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Batman and Gordon struggle with the Eclipso, while the Ventriloquist finds himself surrounded by the police, and surrenders.

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Together, Batman and Gordon manage to take down the Eclipso demon, but the Joker used the distraction to get away.

The story continues in the Robin annual.

 

Detective 597 – Batman rewinds the tape

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Grant, Wagner, Barreto and Mitchell conclude their story about videotaping violence in Detective 597 (Feb. 89).

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It’s a satisfactory ending, as Batman finds not only the maker of the tapes, but the crowds who get off watching them, and force them to see the injured people whose pain they have enjoyed.  Whether that actually would affect them is another question.

Not much to say about this one, but it’s the second part of the story that introduces Kitch (even though he doesn’t appear in this one), so I had to include it.

Detective 596 – Lieutenant Kitch debuts

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Alan Grant and John Wagner script Detective 596 (Jan. 89), while Eduardo Barreto and Steve Mitchell provide the art.

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The story deals with a video store owner who makes tapes of people fighting and hurting each other.  It’s an ok tale, but not one that I would have included, except that this issue introduces Lt. Kitch of the Gotham police force.

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Kitch is not the focus of the story, his role is limited to helping Batman track down the maker of the videotapes, but it does mark the beginning of really creating characters out of the Gotham police.  Up to now there had only been Commissioner Gordon, and more recently Harvey Bullock.

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At the end of the story, as Batman is being beaten and videotaped, the meta-gene bomb explodes, causing the “negative image.”  Although this is not technically an Invasion! crossover, I do like the inclusion of the bomb scene, showing that the events in this story were taking place at the same time.

 

Detective 595 – Batman battles invading aliens, and Mr. Freeze invades S.T.A.R. Labs

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Alan Grant and John Wagner are joined by Irv Novick and Steve Mitchell for Batman’s Invasion! crossover, in Detective 595 (Holiday 1988).

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Maxwell Lord contacts Batman after the alien invasion begins, but Batman begs off, insisting he must deal with the crime in Gotham.  But then Batman discovers Durlan shape-shifters running guns into the city.  They make the mistake of using cuban cigar crating for their guns, unaware of the US embargo.

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Batman defeats the Durlans and then heads down to Havana, where he takes on Thanagarian flyers.

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And big, nasty Khund warriors.

Considering that Batman was, largely, out of his league in the Invasion! storyline, this crossover gave him a chance to show his stuff against three of the major alien races involved.

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This issue also contains a Bonus Book, by Jeff O’Hare, Roderick Delgado and Jerry Acerno.

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It’s a really straightforward Mr. Freeze story.  He escapes from Arkham and heads to S.T.A.R. Labs, to steal a big diamond they have, to power his freeze gun.

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He captures and tries to kill Batman, who escapes and captures him.  Same old same old.

Detective 594 – Batman meets Joe Potato

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Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle introduce a new supporting character for Batman in Detective 594 (Winter 1988), the private detective Joe Potato.

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The story itself deals with an executive who has been driven mad through his addiction to Ecstasy, and who is seeking out those he feels responsible and killing them.  Potato has been hired to stop him, and is one step ahead of Batman when they first run into each other – Potato suspecting that the car the kids have been given is likely dangerous.  And, indeed, it explodes.  Batman at first thinks Joe is on the side of the killer, but the exploding car makes him realize that more is going on.

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Frankly, the story is not the greatest, and perhaps it would have been better to use a fictional drug, or at least one that is more frequently associated with violence.  But Joe Potato does look great, in that he looks horrible and suits the world of Gotham.

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He would never become a major player in the Batman universe, but Joe Potato would pop up again a few times, always in stories by Grant and Breyfogle, I believe.  The drawback to him is that Harvey Bullock is already around, and simply too similar.

Detective 593 – Batman vs Cornelius Stirk

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Grant, Wagner and Breyfogle conclude the introduction of Cornelius Stirk in Detective 593 (Dec. 88),with Steve Mitchell joining on the inks.

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So in the previous issue, we learned that Stirk intentionally terrorizes his victims,then cuts out their hearts after killing them.  What does he do with the hearts? Well, cannibalism is certainly implied by these panels.

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And confirmed when Batman comes along.  Fear causes certain chemicals to race through the bloodstream, and those are what Stirk desires in his stew.  The story does not mention this, but apparently there was a widely held belief that animal meat tastes better if the animal is in fear when it is killed, because of the blood saturating the meat.  That belief seems to be essentially the same as Stirk’s.

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When Batman finally does catch up to the villain, Stirk uses his abilities to confuse Batman, who winds up attacking a policemen instead of the killer, and gets taken down by Stirk.

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The final act of the tale, while having great art, is just the tiniest bit of a let-down.  Stirk has bound Batman, and is using his mental powers to penetrate Batman’s mind to seek out what makes him scared.  It feels like I am reading a Scarecrow story all of a sudden.

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And of course, no one can manipulate Batman’s sense of fear.  It’s just a matter of time till he breaks free and takes down Stirk.

Cornelius Stirk would return quite a few times over the next couple of years.

 

Detective 592 – Cornelius Stirk debuts

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Alan Grant, John Wagner and Norm Breyfogle introduce another new villain in Detective 592 (Nov. 88), Cornelius Stirk,

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He makes a notable first appearance, abruptly shifting from looking like a homeless man pushing a cart, to looking like Jesus.  Possibly because of the unusual light effects around the head, it seems clear that he is not shape-shifting, but causing people to see him as someone else.

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He dumps a body, which is found without its heart.  Batman spends much of the story learning what he can fromthe autopsy, and slowly creating and narrowing a list of suspects.  As this goes on, we see Stirk, looking like Abraham Lincoln, taking another victim.

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Batman works his way through a list of violent, psychotic offenders who were recently released.  He doesn’t find Stirk right away, as he stumbles across other crimes committed by others on the list.

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Towards the end of the issue we get to clearly see what Stirk really looks like, and though it’s not explained in any detail until the next issue, once again it is apparent that his transformations do not really occur, and his power is to alter people’s perceptions of him.

Stirk intentionally terrorizes his victims before killing them, though the reason is not clear until the following issue.

 

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