A Study in Bronze: Empty Graves and Empty Nests

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(Hey, I said I’d try to get this out on Monday nights.)

First, we must define our terms.

The Bronze Age of Comics is said to generally fall between 1970 to about 1985-1986, depending on when you want to pinpoint the era’s end. It’s an incredibly vague description, really; more than likely thought up well after the fact of the time period going into full swing. Unlike the Golden, Silver and Modern Ages, there’s no real massive flashpoint for the beginning of the Bronze Age. There is, in my humble opinion, a point of no return for the whole era, but that’s still down the road. For now, let’s ask ourselves a question: why am I starting my mad little quest through the Bronze Age in 1969?

For one, my blog, my rules. For another, it gives me a chance to touch on the early appearances of some notable figures of the Bronze Age, both real and fictional. The former is what interests us right now, for our subject for today is Detective Comics #395 (cover dated Jan. 1970), the first appearance of the O’Neil/Adams team.

Note: Allow me to explain the discrepancy. Cover dates for comics generally put the date as two to three months after the comic is initially published, so a book with the cover date of May 2017 would more than likely have come out around February or March. From my research (i.e. Wikipedia) DC was on a two month discrepancy at the time, so the issue we’re talking about today probably came out sometime between October or November.

For those of you who have no idea who I’m talking about, Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams were a comic book writer/editor and comic book artist respectively. To say that both these men would have a transformative and, dare I say, a possibly profound effect on DC’s output in the Bronze Age would be a gross understatement. But let’s cross those bridges later; right now, my dear friends, we must focus on the story at hand, “The Secret of the Waiting Graves!”

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I love this panel

The story we get is a rather simple one, but effective and entertaining nonetheless. Our villains are a married couple named Juan and Dolores Muerto, and they’re throwing a fabulous little soirée in a graveyard at their Mexican estate (they must be related to the Addams family), with every socialite in the western hemisphere invited. They use the party is actually a front to eliminate one Pedro Valdes, an undercover cop investigating the two*. Batman is there as millionaire playboy Bruce Wayne, naturally (and dressed in one of the Third Doctor’s suits), and manages to save Pedro from the Muerto’s assassination attempts, the first of which involves setting up a late night hot air balloon race and sending trained falcons to rupture the balloon and make poor Pedro fall to his doom**.

After the second assassination attempt (which goes the more sober route of having a sniper shoot at the poor bastard) the Muertos take Pedro to an abandoned monastery and reveal why the birth years on their graves peg both Juan and Dolores to having been born in the mid-nineteenth century: there’s a special breed of flower that grown in the monastery that can confer immortality…at the cost of the person’s own sanity. Pedro tries to arrest the two, Dolores knocks Pedro out with a judo chop to the back of the neck, and Batman shows up to try and do a slightly more competent job with capturing these two. Sadly, he steps into the flowers, and faster than you can say Timothy Leary, the Dark Knight finds his mind going through a pink-hued hellscape.

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Bat Drug Trip #386

The Muertos tie up the two and sick their pet falcons on them, because when you have killer birds, it’s a waste not to use them to eliminate your enemies. Bruce powers through, thanks to sheer willpower and the falcon’s attack snapping his mind back to reality. He escapes his bonds, gets Valdes and himself the hell out of dodge, and uses a torch Juan dropped to burn the Muerto’s stash. (I guess Pedro was a narc.)

Not wanting to see their ticket to immortality turn to ash, Dolores rushes to stop the blaze, Juan following after her. Juan starts giving a speech about how excitement causes the years to come back rapidly, which to me seems like an excuse to give the World’s Greatest Detective an out of committing accidental manslaughter. The Muertos age to death and ironically fall into their own graves and we’re done.

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What I find most fascinating it how much this story seems to represent the early encroachment of the Bronze Age. The story, from my very limited perspective, seems to fit in with the style of the time, but the two men involved help give it a unique flavor. O’Neil’s writing is melodramatic, yes, but it’s the good kind of melodramatic; never going too over the top and engaging the reader. The Muertos, while thinly sketched as characters, are nevertheless compelling one-off antagonists. And I can’t help but think of this a precursor to what O’Neil will eventually introduce with Ra’s Al Ghul, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Adams’ art is probably the highlight of this story to me. He’s already got his version of the Bat down (probably helped by the covers for Detective Comics he did before this) and the expressions he gives people are just so dynamic…yet, still somehow human. Every panel seems to have a sort of raw energy to it. Like, look at this shot of Valdes’ face when his balloon is attacked by the killer hawks:

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You can just see the terror in the guy’s eyes, can’t ya?

Detective 395 also has a story Robin story written by the then current main writer on the book, Frank Robbins. The yarn, “Drop Out…or Drop Dead!” is the second part of a story Robbins started in Det. 394, where the no-longer-a-Boy Wonder is caught in a scheme to discredit the university he’s attending by framing the police for police brutality against student protesters***. Dick figures out that the cops are phony and that the plan’s being led by a bunch of criminals wanting to get back at the cops. Dick, of course, foils the plan (after getting knocked out, kidnapped, changing into Robin while trapped in an empty silo, accidentally helping the phony cops plans by beating the stuffing out of the protesters, getting knocked out again, escaping, changing back into Dick and crashing one of the fake police cars into the one the fake pigs are driving) and gives a quite bland speech that somehow solves the unrest.

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And everyone in the crowd immediately thought Grayson was an undercover cop for the rest of the year.

On its own, “Drop Out…or Drop Dead!” is an average story at best with some pretty good Gil Kane art. Compared to “The Secret of the Waiting Graves!” this just feels stale. I don’t mean that as an insult to either Robbins or Kane; I’m sure both were incredibly talented and professional cats. But neither of these men seems to be working at their full potential with this story…which, given it’s a backup story; I can’t really blame ‘em.

So the Bronze Age tentatively crawls forward; not fully replacing the old order but making its coming known. I hope you enjoyed this first entry and come back when we have another. And to those who think I haven’t talked about Denny and Neal enough, don’t worry; this isn’t the last O’Neil/Adams joint we’ll be covering.

*The investigation was started when la policía realized that there was a couple named Muerto running around and, having some degree of awareness of what universe they live in, immediately figured they were evil.
**Don’t ask me why the balloon race/killer falcons plan was their first assassination idea.
***This just makes me wonder what Robbins thought when the Kent State shootings happened months later. Yeah, I know that was the Ohio National Guard, but I still wonder.

A Study in Bronze: Introduction

I need to get back on track.

Allow me to explain myself a bit: I started the Obsessive Geek Blog mostly to start fresh with this whole blogging hobby. My first blog, One Man’s Obsession(s), was something I kept up for years but never was able to get a stable readership for. That’s entirely my fault; I let the blog fall by the wayside for various reasons (writer’s block, disinterest, procrastination, ect). So when I discovered that my page view figures for OMO(s) were being goosed up by some anonymous Russian spam site, I decided it was time to move on to green pastures.

But it seems all I’ve done is trade procrastinating on one hosting site for another. As of this writing, I haven’t posted anything regularly on the Obsessive Geek Blog since December of last year. That’s just pure, unadulterated laziness, right there; Sloth of the highest accord. We must do better, Jordan. We must do better.

And I thought, in my eternal solitude, that a project was just the thing I needed. Yes, a project. Something to keep me focused. Something that can keep my typing fingers going and my passions alight.

So, what do I do? Another marathon month, like I did last October? No, I need a project without a definite end date; a good, long undertaking.

I need, I need…..

Then suddenly, a week or so ago, a truly unique feeling came over me. An intoxicating siren call I had not heard in years, pulling me towards what I believe now is my ultimate destiny. I wanted to read a Batman story. Not just any Batman story. I wanted to read….

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And the Dark Knight provided.

….and my eyes opened. An idea, great and powerful, took hold of my brain. It refuses to let go, no matter my procrastinating nature.

And so, without further ado, I bring to you

 

A Study in Bronze:

A Very Informal Survey of Comic Books

From 1969-1986

 

Now, I’m sure you all have some question as to what the hell I’m doing. As such, I’m going to be an incredibly presumptuous jackass and do a little Q and A for you, theoretical reader.

  • So, why are you doing this?

As I stated earlier, I first and foremost want to give myself a project to get myself back on track with my blog. I’ve basically ignored the poor thing for months and I don’t want to spend another minute just doing nothing with it.

Second, I just find the Bronze Age of Comics fascinating. It, from my perspective, seemed like the most fluid, for lack of a better term, of the pre-Crisis comic books periods: socially conscious, yes, but not married to the violent spasms towards “realism” and “maturity” that still crop up to this day. Being a time period that lasted for the better portion of two decades, it changed as the culture, changed, while still retaining its own identity. Not to mention that there are some damn good stories going on in that time period.

Third is nostalgia. Not for the ’70s, of course; I was born on May 4th, 1990. But I did watch an astonishing amount of cartoons growing up in the ‘90s, and those cartoons were, to varying degrees, influenced by this particular time period of comic book history than anything that cropped in the Dark Age. I remember reading Amazing Spider-Man #121 and #122, known as “The Night Gwen Stacy Died”, and “The Green Goblin’s Last Stand” respectively, and getting this funny feeling that melodramatic dialogue and tone felt familiar somehow. Surprise, surprise, I find that the same type of melodramatic delivery was used in the ‘90s Spider-Man cartoon show

That’ not all, of course; there was also the much venerated Batman: The Animated Series, which hued more to the tone of Bronze Age than anything happening to the Dark Knight in the ‘90s, be it in his comics or his live action blockbusters. Hell, B:TAS straight up adapted several Bronze Age stories, including The Laughing Fish (which sprinkled together bits of its titular comics tale with the earlier published “Joker’s Five Way Revenge”), one of my favorite episodes of the series.

And it goes without saying that without Claremont’s run the X-Men would not be the powerhouse franchise it is/was. So I have engendered a sort of affection for the time period, even if I didn’t live through it myself.

  • What Will You Be Covering?

Generally, I’ll be covering comic books published from the late 1970s to around 1986 from the “Big Two”, DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I will do this until

A: I feel satisfied in my coverage of the time period

Or

B: I drive myself hopelessly insane in this undertaking.

And that doesn’t mean I’ll only be covering mainstream American comics exclusively. Hell, I won’t even be covering comic books exclusively: other comic related media that became popular or warped the public perception of certain characters will be covered as well (i.e. yes, Superman: the Movie is going to be a subject of my informal analysis at one point).

  • When will these posts come out?

When they’re done; I’m not even going to pretend that I can keep up to a schedule while blogging. I will try, repeat, try to get one post out every Monday night, but I make no promises.

  • Will you be covering everything issue by issue?

To quote Will Smith in mid to late 90s’: oh hell no! Sometimes we’ll be doing an issue by issue analysis, and others I’ll be giving brief summaries. Have to at least try to keep my sanity.

  • Where Will You Begin?

We will begin Detective Comics #395; when Denny O’Neil began his writing duties for the World’s Greatest Detective.

  • Where Will You End?

I believe I’ll end with the Punisher’s five issue limited series.

So stay tuned, nerds and nerdettes, the best is yet to come

Twelve Days of OGBmas: The (Very, Very Late) End

Three days late and three dollars short, OGBmas comes to an end.

So how was everybody’s separate Christmases? Probably better than mine, since I spent it with a bad case of the flu. I’m not just talking about a normal bug either; this was a “kick your ass for the next 24 hours” kind of flu, where you’re essentially wrenching  and dry heaving by the end of it. I missed Christmas dinner at my Grandmother’s house, but the miracle of FaceTime helped me to at least make an appearance via IPhone to say hi to Merry Christmas to my Mom’s side of the family (my dad’s side had come to my parent’s house for Christmas Eve).

The Next two days I simply avoided this post, mostly thanks to work, going to see Rogue One and playing Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask.  I had planned on a six-day supplemental series relating all post towards Kwanza, but I kind of missed any opportunity for that.

I don’t really have anything else to say or give you, so I’ll leave you with this:

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Twelve Days of OGBmas: Christmas at Ground Zero

So here I was, trying to figure out the what to post for this day of OGBmas, when I remembered this little gem from our soon-to-be POTUS, the Narcissistic Orange:

 

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Revealing that he is Satan himself would be less frightening

Ah, a  call for nuclear proliferation. Nothing says Christmas cheer like a future leader of your country doesn’t understand that the planet’s got enough of the damn things to kill the human race several times over.

 

Throughout this season, I’ve tried to let the whole mess that is American politics in 2016 not get me down too much. Now, I’m coming more and more to the conclusion that save for Fearless Dumbass getting impeached, we’re not going to see Christmas 2017, let alone survive to 2020.

But, not to leave thing on a completely negative note, I give to you some words of comfort from the great Tom Lehrer.

Twelve Days of OGBmas: Last Minute Action

And now, in my quest to give you content for before the holidays really take up my attention, I’d like t give my dear fans (all 1/2 of you) a little gift: a list of possible things you could get the action junkie in your life. To make is easy, I’ll limit it to films you can more than likely find in a Best Buy or Wal-Mart. So enough of this introductory jibber jabber, let’s get crackin’.

the-raid      First, let’s start with something familiar. You remember my review of The Raid 2? If you do, you hopefully bought and bought copies for at least three friends. If not, thin about getting them The Raid: Redemption (aka The Raid: Subtitle That Makes No Sense). If you’ve got people who crave a little more hard-hitting brutality in their action films, look no further than this Gareth Evans masterpiece. Plus, it stars the guys from Kanjiclub for Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Find it, buy it, and bug J.J. Abrams to give Evans as much money as he needs to make The Raids 3 and any other movie Evans wants to make for the rest of his life.

 

If you can’t find that, Dredd Dredd.pngshould work as a damn good stocking stuffer. It has a similar set up to The Raid (i.e. cops trapped in a slum where practically everyone is trying to kill them), but it does enough different (and the films produced so close to each other)that I don’t have to call it a ripoff. The action is vibrant and memorable , and the characters are actually stronger than its Indonesian cousin. Karl Urban is the perfect Judge Dredd throughout, Olivia Thirlby is a compelling rookie Judge Anderson, and Lean Headey is perfectly vicious as Ma-Ma. Pick this up now and rage against the fact that we’re probably never getting a Dredd 2.

Way of the Dragon.jpgAKA, The One Where Bruce Lee Kills Chuck Norris. Really, you could more than likely get any movie starring the Dragon and you’d make the action junkie in you life happy, but I’m recommending The Way of the Dragon because it’s the only one I’ve seen in full. Written and directed by Lee, the entire film sometimes feels like it’s an excuse for Bruce and his entourage to vacation in Rome for a week or two. But the story is halfway solid and the action, when it gets going, is….oh come on, it’s Bruce Lee for God’s sake! Of course you’d love to see it! Plus, it has Lee killing Chuck Norris. Who doesn’t want to see that?

Okay, I promise, no more o the list post for OGBmas. Unless I get really busy.

Twelve Days of OGBmas: Blow Your Mind

This Christmas season, give yourself one of the greatest gifts of all….

 

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Nothing says the Happy Holidays like a Roaring Rampage of Revenge!

 

…a viewing of Death Promise.

No, seriously. Watch this movie right now. Even unriffed, it is a thing of cheap beauty; an exploitation film trying to tick all the boxes of what was popular in the drive-in during those long ago lost years of the mid to late ’70s,  and doing so without even the slightest hint that they know a thing about filmmaking. That the action scenes are halfway competent and the actors  do the best job they can (which isn’t saying much) really give this thing a king of charm. Yes, I know it has a Rifftrax (which I will be getting soon) but please see this unriffed first. As the theme songs goes, it’s gonna blow your mind.

P.S. Does anyone know who did the poster? It looks like Neal Adams drew it.

Twelve Days of OGBmas: Impossible Christmas List Addendum

You know, one of these day’s I’m going to have to get into the Play Arts Kai line. The figures they make can only be described over-designed, busy works of art. I mean look at Bushido Batman here.

batmnpakIt’s Batman! As a samurai! How bloody cool is that! too bad the price point makes it too rich for my blood.

Price: $199.99 ( Big Bad Toy Store) $149.99 (MH Toyshop)

 

 

Twelve Days of OGBmas: Here We Come A Wrasslin’

Hey, do you remember that time Miz was WWE Champion?

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It was AAAAAAAAAaalright

Well I do, because he became champ around the same time I started watching wrestling on a regular basis. And  I have always remembered one segment on Raw back when he was holding the most prestigious title in wrestling sports entertainment.

It all started innocently enough. The Miz was coming out on the Raw after TLC 2010 to address the masses. He was working the crowd getting some decent heel heat, when….

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Urge to watch, falling….

The image you see above is Alex Riley, Michael Mizanin’s then sidekick. He came out calling himself the Ghost of Christmas Past (despite being dressed as Jacob Marley), and went on to castigate Miz over his actions three weeks earlier, during his first title defense. You see, The Miz used his belt to knock down Jerry The King Lawler, a wrestling legend and then sixty-one year old man, for the title. Yes, they had Miz go up against a guy old enough to be his father during his first ever title defense. As you can see, WWE had some incredible faith in the guy.

But after the clip and Miz smugly bragging about his victory over a guy eligible for AARP membership, Michael Cole comes out.

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…Falling…

He’s the ghost of Christmas Present (one who dresses like Scrooge, to further compound the costume/character discrepancy) and proceeds to be one of the most annoying things in early ’10s WWE. Had it all ended there, this opening segment would have been annoying,but bearable.

And then….

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….And we’ve hit rock bottom. How did I keep watching WWE back then?

Look, during Miz’s title win, a camera cut to a little kid looking incredibly pissed about it. The image became a meme, and WWE creative got wind of it, and decided to rip off Conan O’Brien’s Clutch Cargo bits.It all ends with the Miz doing his catchphrase of “I’m AAAAAAAAAAwesome!” and it’s done.

Watching this again, after all the years ans seeing the Miz evolve his character, I can only say WWE should be glad they don’t have any serious competition anymore. Watch it here if you feel like annoying yourself.

Twelve Days of OGBmas: Holly Jolly Homicidal Maniac

Hey, do you or a loved one like Batman: The Animated Series ? Do you want to own a figurine that looks only slightly less creepy than the Elf on the Shelf?  Then wait no more!

 

 

Behold, the Joker as he was depicted in the B:TAS episode “Christmas with the Joker”! Thrill at its bone white face, beady eyes, and toothy grin worthy of a great white shark. Add the red sweater-over-green sweater combo, and you have the perfect festive plaything for your children to re-enact their favorite yuletide kidnappings and attempted murders.

Only $23.99! (plus shipping and handling)