Posts tagged ‘Matt Hagen’

Action 443 – Superman saves the Justice League


Maggin, Swan and Blaisdel give Superman a big line up of allies and enemies in Action 443 (Jan. 75).


The story opens in a very disorienting way, with Superman as a nebbishy newscaster, picked on by Steve Lombard and rejected by Lois Lane.


While Clark Kent is the one leaping into heroic action against Queen Bee and her drones.


Queen Bee is leading a host of villains against the Justice League of America.  Most of them are regularly appearing big names – Chronos, Sinestro, Ocean Mchroaster, Grodd and Brainiac.  Matt Hagen makes his first appearance in over a decade as Clayface.  Merlyn and the Harpy are both newcomers. Harpy, the villain assigned to Black Canary, had appeared in Green Lantern, while Merlyn, who would go on to become a regular Green Arrow enemy, had only debuted recently in Justice League of America.


The assembled villains had already triumphed over the rest of the Justice League, and in flashback we see them taking down Batman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Aquaman, Black Canary, Elongated Man, Aquaman, Atom and Red Tornado.  At this point, Wonder Woman and Hawkman were not members of the JLA.


Superman has used a Kandorian machine to reverse people’s perceptions of Superman and Clark Kent, simply to puzzle the villains.  They bring him aboard their ship, which is what he wants.  As he struggles with Grodd and Clayface, his heat vision pierces the capsule the Flash is being held in, and the Flash exploits this, and frees himself, and the rest of the League.


A lot of characters.  The story is fun, but I cannot honestly say it makes the most of its cast.


Detective 606 – the return of Robin?


Detective 606 (Early Oct. 89) contains the penultimate chapter of the Mudpack, by Grant, Breyfogle and Mitchell.


Payne is out robbing another bank, and the real Batman shows up this time. He is taken aback when Robin shows up.  This is the first mention in the pages of Detective of the death of Jason Todd. It happened almost a year earlier, in the pages of Batman.  Even though Batman quickly realizes that it is Sondra Fuller impersonating Robin, it still throws him enough that the Clayfaces are able to get the better of him, and they capture him.


Karlo plans to drive Batman crazy, and straps him to a chair in the theatre.  He forces Batman to watch his old horror films, but Sondra uses Looker’s psychic powers to make the terrors personal.


The real Looker arrives in Gotham, and also finds a disbelieving Kitch and accepting Gordon.


With Payne sleeping, Karlo drugs Sondra, and then reveals his true plan, to steal their powers for himself.  He takes blood from both of them, which also brings in Matt Hagen in a way, as Payne had used Hagen’s blood to give himself his powers as well.  It’s quite the Clayface cocktail.


The other two Clayfaces awaken to discover that Karlo has abandoned them, but in the best twist of the story, the two find  the love and acceptance they had long been seeking in each other.  I just love the heart shaped panel.

The story concludes next issue.


Detective 604 – The Mudpack begins


Alan Grant, Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell launch one of my favourite stories from this era, the Mudpack, in Detective 604 (Early Sept. 89).  It was preceded by an issue of Secret Origins devoted to the four Clayfaces, setting up the story.


The tale opens in Arkham Asylum, as Preston Payne breaks up with his mannequin, Helena.  The argument becomes heated, and he knocks off the dummy’s head, which sends him into a frantic madness, and he bursts out of his cell, killing the guards.


We then catch up with Basil Karlo, recently returned to Gotham, with the remains of Matt Hagen.  He finds an old theatre overrun with street kids, who attempt to mug him, which does not not go well for the boys.


Karlo theorizes that he can revive Matt Hagen, and adds some water to his clay, forming a small body, but it fails. Sure glad he tried, though, it’s a great scene.  Funny, and yet conveying the madness so well.


Batman investigates the breakout, and sees what appears to be his former ally from the Outsiders, Looker, visiting Preston Payne on the tapes.


Cutting back to Karlo, we discover that this was really Sondra Fuller, Lady Clay, impersonating Looker, and using her powers to keep Payne docile.  Karlo is the brains and motivator behind this gathering of the Clayfaces, and he announces their goal of killing Batman.

The story continues in the next issue.

Detective Annual 2 – Batman vs the Klan


Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn script the second Detective Comics Annual, while Val Semekis and Michael Bair provide the art.  The story deals with young Bruce Wayne training under famed detective Harvey Harris, ground that was covered decades ago (and in the previous blog) in the story in which Bruce dresses up in the Robin costume.


This story is much darker than the earlier one, and dispenses with the Robin costume. Instead, Bruce and Harvey deal with Klan murders in a small town in the deep south.


Their investigation is not welcome, as one might expect.


There are buried secrets, and even the Klan element is a bit of a distraction, not that the racism in the town is any less prevalent or deadly because of that.


And though Bruce and Harvey do take down a gun toting Klan killer, Bruce realizes that there are unexplained factors to the story, and that more is going on.


The solution, presented in secret by Bruce to the mastermind of the situation, is sick and sad, with the Klan murders simply a cover to hide that the killer had black ancestry.  There is a time lapse at the end of the story, and we see that Batman came back to the town every year, to confront the man with his deeds.

All in all, much better than I was expecting it to be.


The issue concludes with some “Who’s Who” entries on Batman villains.  Kevin Maguire’s take on the Joker is certainly interesting, if not scary.


I remember being saddened when I saw this drawing of Catwoman.  Her appearance is based on that from Batman: Year One, and was the first indication that her old classic costume was now a thing of the past.


Two-Face, the Riddler, the Penguin, the Scarecrow, as well as Ra’s Al Ghul and Talia, round out the entries, all villains one might expect to see highlighted.  But a two page spread by Norm Breyfogle is also devoted to the four Clayfaces: Basil Karlo, Matt Hagen, Preston Payne and Sondra Fuller, in conjunction with the Mudpack storyline.


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