Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume Two!

Batman Illustrated by Neal Adams Volume Two features some of the stuff Adams did on the character, and the centerpiece is Man-Bat who debuts in the four hundredth issue of Detective Comics and is featured in three stories in this collection. But also on hand are some of the most iconic covers Adams ever created for the Batman. 

Bob Haney joins up with Neal Adams to give us "You Can't Hide from a Deadman" in The Brave and the Bold #85. The story picks up where we left it in Strange Adventures when Deadman is compelled to try and kill Batman by order of the Society of Assassins and the Sensei. Batman and Deadman then requisition the body of Cleveland Brand (in a manner of speaking) and return to Nanda Parabat where they confront the Society again. This tale reminded me little bit of The Matix as Deadman is using body after body to try and fulfill his deadly mission against the Batman. 

"The Secret of the Waiting Graves" in Detective Comics #395 takes Bruce Wayne to Mexico where he's the guest of a wealthy, bizarre couple named Muertos who appear young and vibrant. As the Batman he works overtime to protect a government agent who has been sent to investigate the couple. Their secret of their vitality is a grisly one indeed as imagined by Denny O'Neil and Adams. This is the beginning of the Adams and O'Neil partnership which will transform the Batman into the truly scary Dark Knight we still enjoy today. 

"The Silent Night of Christmas" in Batman #219 has the Batman convinced to take some time off from his lifelong mission to protect Gotham and trust that the spirit of Christmas will take hold to protect the innocents for one night. This is a little tale for the holidays. Mike Friedrich wrote this charming seasonal tale. 

"Paint a Picture of Peril" pits the Batman against a wealthy recluse named Orson Payne who is stealing art which reminds him of his lost love Caterina. He drove her away when he was a young man with his possessiveness, and seeks her again through art. His madness finally overcomes him. Denny O'Neil wrote this homage to Citizen Kane

To celebrate the four hundredth issue of Detective Comics, Frank Robbins builds a story from an idea by Neal Adam which introduces the Man-Bat. Kirk Langstrom takes his formula for the very fist time and just in time to assist the Batman in rounding up the "Blackout Gang" who use high-tech to see in the darkness so they can rob and steal. It's as wild anniversary story and it's not over for this duo by a longshot. 

Frank Robbins and Neal Adams continue the saga of the Man-Bat in "Man or Bat", a story which sees Kirk Langstrom desperate to find a cure for his transformation. That search puts him in conflict with Batman again, who is trying to cure the unfortunate man himself. But Langstrom's transformation continues as he mutates into a true Man-Bat, with wings and all. The art by Adams and Dick Giordano is really maturing at a fantastic rate as the two consummate pros blend their styles to wonderful effect. 

When a film crew tries to tell the story of Enemy Ace, the company suffers strange and deadly accidents and even worse. Bruce Wayne is funding the film and that brings Batman into conflict with the villains who are working to stop the production. "Ghost Killer of the Skies" from Detective Comics #404 is a doozy as the Batman finds himself in a dogfight with a man who looks just like the Hammer of Hell. Does the true Baron Hans Von Hammer appear in this story? That's left a bit open in Denny O'Neil's yarn. The story is dedicated to Robert Kanigher and Joe Kubert and Adams and inker Dick Giordano even evoke Kurbert's unique style in some panels. 

Robbins and Adams bring their Man-Bat trilogy to a close in "The Bride of the Man-Bat!" in Detective Comics #407. Kirk Langstrom and his lover Francie are about to tie the knot when Batman steps in. There are some really good surprises in this yarn which has you wondering at times if Batman is doing the right thing. The Man-Bat uses masks of his old face to pass in society as best he can, and that reminds of Marvel's The Beast who used chemicals to effect a monstrous change in himself at about this same time. The rise of horror in comics is reaching its peak, as is evidenced by the next story. 

Denny O'Neil and Adams team up to give the world a very strange team-up in the pages of The Brave and the Bold #93. Batman enters The House of Mystery...sort of. What really happens is Batman is exhausted and he heads to Ireland for a break. He saves a young boy from drowning and that's just beginning as he ends up on a remote island where strange and even murderous things are about. Many inexplicable and possibly supernatural events assist the Batman in uncovering a deadly plot and saving the day. "Red Water, Crimson Death" is narrated by Cain the caretaker of the House of Mystery and only he seems to know what really happens. 

The creepiness continues in Detective Comics #408 where we get to share a grisly nightmare Batman suffers where he sees his partner Robin dies and even his own funeral. This is much more hoodoo is brought to the reader by Adams and writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman. 

A pernicious villain from the Batman's checkered past shows up to take credit for all this peculiar activity. 

"A Vow from the Grave" by O'Neil, Adams and Giordano wraps up the story portion of his collection and we get another tale inspired by classic horror, this time Freaks by Tod Browning. Batman chases a murderer into a remote area and meets a group of folks from the Carnival sideshow who have been abandoned. The strongman Goliath, the human skeleton Charlie Bones, the fat lady Maud and the seal boy Flippy all part of a deadly murder scheme. Detective Comics #410 is one of the first Neal Adams Batman stories I bought off the racks myself. 

There is a clear effort in these stories to pull Batman out of his comfortable Silver Age environment and cast him among some decidedly deadly shadows. His intellect is challenged by outright supernatural doings. He's no longer the cuddly hero from TV, that's for sure. The last cover in this second collection is for the story by Denny O'Neil and Bob Brown that introduces the world to the alluring Talia and her deadly father Ras Al Ghul. A wee bit more on them coming up. 

Tomorrow, more of the Batman by Neal Adams! 

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  1. Lovely covers. I notice that Detective Comics #405 has the same cover design as The Demon #2. I wonder if one artist 'swiped' the design from the other? (I'm too lazy to research which mag was published first.)

    1. The Adams cover pre-dates the Kirby effort on Demon by a few years. When this issue of Detective hit the stands, the King was busy making his switch from Marvel to DC. That said, I'm pretty sure he didn't swipe the cover.

  2. The supernatural stories remind me of an exchange in Batman Beyond:

    Bruce Wayne : These people believe anything they can't explain is magic.

    Terry McGinnis : Naturally, you don't believe in that kind of thing.

    Bruce Wayne : Of course I do. I've seen it all. Demons, witch boys, immortals, zombies. But this thing... I don't know. It just feels so... high school.

    1. There are more things in heaven and Earth Batman, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.