Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Month of... Batman's Got a Gun, Day 29: I know that I must pass this test / So, just pull the trigger

If the purpose of a comic cover — and whatta cover! — is to get you to pick it up to see how and why the events are occurring like that...well, for Tec #426...mission accomplished.

Cover of Detective Comics #426 (August 1972), pencils and inks by Mike Kaluta, letters by Gaspar Saladino

OH NO! Shortly, the Batman will take gum in hand and...wait, what's so dangerous about that? I mean, maybe if the gum has aspertame in it, and he's chewin' a whole pack at once, and he tries to blow a bubble and it gets all over his cowl and then...oh, wait, it says gun. ........... Never mind.

Well, at least the front cover suicide letter by Batman doesn't suffer from the splash page problem of Batman writing around his own thumb, one of my pet peeves with notes shown in comics. Whoa, Batman's sweating like a Gotham waiter there, isn't he? Somebody turn up the AC. And, turn up the action, because it's a Batman story written and drawn by one of my favorite artists, Mr. Frank Robbins!

Splash page of "Killer's Roulette!" in Detective Comics #426 (August 1972); script, pencils and inks by Frank Robbins; letters by Ben Oda

The Dark Knight is pursuing the mysterious trail of a series of suicides among some of Gotham's elite. What could possibly drive to minds to such madness and despair? Besides, of course, the sheer dread of living in Gotham City? Here, the Batman shows off his quicksilver mind (as opposed to Quicksilver showing off his Batman mind): even tho' he doesn't use 'em, Batman knows enough of about guns to make some startling deductions. Also: he can add: 1+5=6! Bravo, Batman!

Batman digs leaning casually while he thinks.

Another "thing" I love about Batman stories from this period: the Ellery Queen-esque "Match Wits with Batman" challenge of a fair-play mystery, which tells the reader that you've seen everything the Batman has, can you draw the same conclusions? Hmmm, let's see. From this picture I deduce that each victim was D.O.A. Also: Batman has some pretty cool bat-shaped orange Post-It™ notes that he labels his evidence with.

I also miss the schmoozing Batman of the seventies: all business, sure, but he's got connections everywhere, from bartenders to alley urchins to streetwalkers to gossip columnists. Dig the jogged lettering Oda uses in Batman's first balloon to indicate he's almost sing-songing the words "Gingie-Baby." "Gingie-Baby," was, as we all know, was a huge hit for Helen Reddy in 1974.

Anyway, he follows the trail to dastardly villain (and part-time Miguelito Loveless cosplayer) Conway Treach, who challenges Prom Suit Bruce Wayne™ (action figure now on sale) to a thrilling round of Russian Roulette! It's the most dangerous game! Well, it's more dangerous than Gnip Gnop, but less dangerous than Jarts.

Bruce is himself pretend to be Hazard...John T. Hazard, which is a cool enough name that he certainly ought to use this multiple identity as often as "Matches" Malone. Which is why Mr. Jubilation T. Cornpone Conway Susan Treach offers to wager his car against his own suicide death! Good thing he didn't recognize him as Bruce Wayne! The wager would have been less attractive then, since Bruce already has so many cars Alfred has to park them vertically.

"I'm not too handy with these things," confesses "John T. Hazard" (we'll take a slight pause to play first four notes of the Bond theme after that), but here's a lesson in gun safety from Riverboat T. Plantationowner Conway Treach: don't do anything he does. And may I just say I love the way Frank Robbins draws hands? Take a lesson from Frank, everybody! And by "everybody" I mean "Rob Liefeld."

The following three panels are absolutely sequential, following one after the other, altho' to be fair, there's a page break between panels two and three. Even so: just how fast is Bruce at completely changing to his Batman costume? A few seconds? like, wow, man. Because that even includes his Bat-boxers and his Bat-athletic socks. And where did he put those crazy green Foster Grantesque sunglasses? Answer: you don't want to know.

We don't actually see the suicide note Batman writes on the cover and splash page, but here's where he pens it, while holding a gun in his left hand. Even making out a grocery list, Batman does it dangerously!

Accompanied by tense and grim expressions and the deafening noise of a gun barrel going "WHIRRRRRRRR" as it spins like a deadly carousel, Batman and Robert E. Southshallriseagain...oh heck, even Batman can't remember the guy's name, opting for the almost grimly literal epithet "sport." Still, coulda been worse: Bats coulda called him "bro."

Got any questions why I love me some Frank Robbins? Evidence A: this stylized page which turns the barrels of the gun into comic panels. Didn't see that one coming, did you, Scott McCloud? Adding a bullet with each round of spins, the odds are getting shorter and short as Batman's potential lifespan! BWAH-HA-HA-HA!

But hey! Of course! Batman has observed Treach (with his little bat-eyes) and knew the trick to prevent the rigged gun from firing, then substituted a clever little snare of his own!

Yes, it all goes to prove that in the game of Rock/Paper/Scissors...paper beats gun! And so does Batman! Ta da! Play us off, Rihanna!


Dave said...

I thought it said "gub."

Blam said...

Aha! This story must take place on Earth-B! Why? Batman has a yellow circle around his chest, yet he visits the Jaded Café-Society rather than the Jaded Café-League! Where's my No-Prize, Mr. Bridwell?!? (Seriously, though: I dig this era of Batman comics too, for the reasons you cite.)

Blam said...

PS: Don'tcha know what comic strip Frank Robins created, Bully-pal?

Blam said...

Er... Robbins, sorry...