Thursday 6 May 2010

Detective Comics #450. The hit man and the house of wax.

Batman Detective Comics #450As I roam the streets of Sheffield, people tell me that, like a fine wine, I'm of a certain vintage.

And possibly should be kept locked in a cellar.

Well, like many people of that vintage, my first exposure to super heroes came through the old Adam West Batman shows, which, with me being about three at the time, I completely missed the irony of and took dreadfully seriously.

By the 1970s, DC Comics were taking Batman dreadfully seriously too, with as much of the old silliness removed as possible in a strip about a billionaire dressed as a bat.

By one point, the Batmobile, the Bat Plane, the Bat Copter, Wayne Manor, the Bat Cave and even Bat-Mite had been ditched in a blatant attempt to move the strip as far away from the TV show as possible.

This issue, Detective Comics #450, seems as a good an example of that as any, as we get a tale of a tycoon who wants to get his hands on Batman's mask and cape as a trophy. To do it, he hires the services of a hitman and a house of wax.

Detective Comics #450, Batman and the house of wax
As it turns out the whole thing's just a set-up to catch the hitman. Needless to say our hero does it with remarkable ease and a bit more blood splattering than I was used to. The story's quite neat and pulls a twist that I didn't see coming - possibly because, unless Batman's a Slitheen, it's physically impossible.

Admittedly, on recently re-reading this for the first time since the '70s, my tiny brain was somewhat confused by the twist and it took me a second reading to figure out what was actually going on.

This could be a failure on my part or it could be a confused bit of story telling. It's drawn by Walt Simonson in a dirtier, messier style than I was familiar with after years of Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, Irv Novick, Dick Dillin and Dick Giordano and, although it's not quite the Batman I was used to, it does feel oddly appealing and possibly hints at the grittier years to come for the dark knight detective.

Detective Comics #450, Batman and the house of wax, Wormwood
But Detective Comics was rarely just about Batman and so we get a back-up tale in which Robin the boy wonder's up against a man who snatches women's bags in car parks.

I don't want to demean the plight of women who get their bags snatched in car parks but it probably sums up Robin that this is the level of foe he's up against.

Even worse that he seems to be somewhat out of his depth against even that level of opponent.

It's a two part whodunit and, never having got the next issue, I don't know who the wrong-doer turns out to be. The finely honed senses that left me confused by the twist in the lead story tell me it's either the college treasurer or Chief McDonald and therefore I'll guess that it's actually Mrs Roberts the secretary.


Anonymous said...

The treasurer turned out to be the thief. When the police and Robin caught the parking lot bandit, he confessed to the purse snatchings, but denied committing the burglary. The treasurer had been seen at the office at or near the time it was robbed, and had claimed he was there to pick up some paperwork, but Robin realized that the secretary had the keys at the time.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for clearing up the mystery for me, Anon. :)

Rich Hopkins said...

Going through Batman: The Animated Series on HBO - never saw it all the first time. An episode today reminded me of the cover of this issue, which led to a search, leading here. Lo and behold, the episode seems loosely based on this actual comic. Very cool.