Wednesday 20 June 2012

Batman #255. Neal Adams - Moon of the Wolf.

Batman #255, Moon of the Wolf, a werewolf leaps at Batman who is chained in a building site, Neal Adams art
Penicillin, Nuclear fission and space flight are all bums. When it comes to innovation, they may think they're Billy Big-Potatoes but we all know that the greatest invention of the 20th Century was the DC 100-page comic.

And the first 100 page comic I ever had was Batman #255.

As it turned out, it was no ordinary 100 page comic, for it contained both a werewolf and the work of the man Stan Lee once notoriously failed to dub, “Nefarious Neal Adams.”

Admittedly, the presence of a werewolf made a bigger impact on me as a child than did the presence of Adams. The truth is, as a youngster, I tended to see Batman artists of the era as interchangeable, with me somehow lacking any ability to distinguish between the likes of Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, Dick Dillin, Irv Novick or anyone else who got to draw the cowled crusader. In fact, the only Batman artist who stood out as distinctive for me at the time was Jim Aparo.

Batman #255, Batman chained on a building site as a werewolf prepares to attack, art by Neal Adams
That was my problem but, in this tale, Batman has an even bigger one.


Because there's a werewolf loose on the streets of Gotham.

Not being one to hang around, Bats soon leaps into action by getting witlessly knocked out before waking to find himself chained to a building site.

And he's not alone - because the werewolf's there.

And he's after blood.

Batman #255, Milo lurks evilly as Anthony Lupus enters his lab, art by Neal Adams
This is all because Bruce Wayne's friend Anthony Lupus has been turned into a man-beast by the diabolical potions of a mad scientist called Milo who's out for revenge on Batman for past indiscretions.

Happily, Milo gets his comeuppance.

Not so happily, Batman almost gets his - until he's saved by the sort of luck that those of us who live in the real world never experience.

Obviously the first thing anyone's going to talk about with an issue like this is Neal Adams' art and it's ironic that it made no impression on me at the time because - his blink-and-you'll-miss-it stint on Killraven aside - it's now probably my favourite art-job I've seen by him.

Batman #255, Batman smashes in through the apartment window of a young woman, and boots a werewolf in the face, art by Neal Adams
While never having had any doubts about Adams' technical ability, my main problem with him at times has been his tendency to distort human figures as though they're made of purest rubber. Here, there's a noticeable lack of such rubberyness and it's all the better for it.

If Adams' artwork's redoubtable, you do fear you can't say the same about our hero's detective skills. He's on the lookout for a werewolf but doesn't seem to draw a connection when he's invited to the home of a man called Lupus.

Batman #255, Batman watches in horror as a werewolf is hit by lightning, Neal Adams art
The tale's not exactly thick on characterisation but it's compelling and has a nice epilogue. Plus it's always good to see Batman up against vaguely supernatural menaces, even if they've been created by science.

Another thing that strikes me is it's a full-length tale. One of the quirks of the 100 page comics is that their greater length meant the new tales at the beginning of each issue always felt shorter than they actually were, meaning you didn't necessarily appreciate them as much as you would've done if they'd been in a normal-length comic.

Then again, I didn't necessarily appreciate Neal Adams as much as I should've done either, so maybe I'm just naturally under-appreciative.


Kid said...

Don't think I've seen this tale - must look out for it.

You're doing a fair bit of posting this weather. Got the garden sorted then?

Steve W. said...

The garden's a complete mess. Hopefully I can get it sorted over the weekend.

The reason for all this posting is I wanted to get the costume posts out of the way as soon as possible, so I could put the horror of them behind me and forget they ever happened, and I wanted to get this post in before tomorrow, when I'll be too busy doing my Top of the Pops review to do a post on here.

Dougie said...

I have this comic on my "to blog" list, coincidentally. I only bought it a couple of weeks ago.

Anonymous said...

Professor Milo had previously appeared in Detective #247 and Batman #112 in 1957 (both were reprinted in Batman Annual #3), and he returned in Batman #326-327 in 1980. The werewolf turned up again in Detective # 505 (1981). I guess it was supposed to be the same villain each time, unless Gotham City just had a lot of mad scientists named Milo.

Anonymous said...

I remember this comic from when I was a kid. My friends wouldn't let me read there *bagged* comics but they had a shoddy copy of this issue which I dripped hobnobs over on a weekly basis. Probably what started my horror comic obsession now I think about it.


Gey Blabby said...

Adams' last Batman story, if I remember correctly, and a good one to finish with. The layout of page 4 is pure Adams, and as good as anything he ever did; the close-up of Batman's head with the moon behind is excellent.
The only problem with this issue is that it seems to have been badly printed; I've seen several copies of it through the years, and they all suffer from the same problem.

Steve W. said...

Gey, you're right. It did strike me, reading it before posting, that the printing was a bit fuzzy, and I had to sharpen up the images before posting them on here.

Sadly, the two-tone colouration of the werewolf also adds to the lack of clarity.

Anonymous said...

man, this was one of my faves as as kid. not to sound superior but even as a kid i could tell neal was something special. i believe because of him the batman started to return to the darker kind of hero he was before all that lame crap they did to him with the tv series. thanks so much for posting this. martin thurston

Anonymous said...

My three favourite Batman artists are Adams, Aparo and Norvick. Between them they redefined Batman and turned him into the creature of the night.

Anonymous said...

I just loved that comic when I first bought it as an 11 year old ( I must have read it so often in the years following as its falling apart)I was already an Adams fan by then having read a few of his other Batman books and having a copy of his Green Lantern/Green Arrow at the time - the next 10 years made me a borderline fanatic on his work. This book wasn't that good apart from the Cardy/Adams cover and the Adams main strip as for me, it had some really bland back=-up reprints = McScotty

O. Douglas Jennings said...

This comic had a powerful impact on me as well back in the day. Werewolves were particularly frightening to me as a child and when I saw this cover on the comicbook rack at our grocery store, I was hooked. Years later, at a comic con in Chicago, inker Giordano signed my copy (which I have since lost). I asked him if he remembered how he felt when he worked on it. I imagined he must have been as thrilled to work on it as I was to read it. I can't remember his answer but he was gracious even though, looking back, I can tell he thought it was an odd question. Although I'm sure he enjoyed his job, inking over Adam's work must have been routine for him. They were an amazing team, nonetheless.

dbutler16 said...

Is it just me, or does Milo look like Shemp/Guy Gardner? By the way, if your last name is Lupus, I think you have a very good chance of becoming a werewolf. This story is good Halloween reading, anyway, plus Neal Adams had really hit his stride on the Batman comics by this point.

Steve W. said...

D, he does indeed look like he should be in the Three Stooges. I'd love to know why it was decided to draw him that way.

Anonymous said...

This story is now in Batman Illustrated By Neal Adams Volume 3.
Funny when I first read this I thought it was Werewolf By Night then remember this was DC. He wore the same green pants as Marvel's Werewolf By Night.
- Jez

Brian David Schwartz said...

About your "rubbery" comment, Steve... I didn't have that experience reading comics with Adams' art - - his figures usually looked a little stiff to me.

That said, I remember a comment a reader made in Wrightson-Wein's Swamp Thing (1972) concerning their werewolf in issue #4, that Berni(e) would show Neal "how it's done".

Here, in Batman #255, Neal presents a similar battle with a different aesthetic than Berni provided. We can feel (feel) Neal's werewolf punched, kicked, thrown, heh, as even Batman's blows are sometimes blocked before the werewolf strikes. Neal was familiar with boxing and the martial arts, so that's what we got here.

Berni's werewolf was especially creepy and less-than-human, but Neal's was still somewhat human, uh, even superhuman, so a different sensibility - - just to add to the appreciation and admiration.


Steve W. said...

Hi, Brian. I agree, sometimes his figures could be a little stiff. I did feel that to be especially the case in his work on the X-Men. So, basically, for me, he alternated between stiff and rubbery. I'm sure Neal would be delighted with my assessment of his work.

Anyway, that aside, his work is clearly beautiful and has a level of sophistication that was a rarity at the time.

Anonymous said...

I have two of these one graded the other I purchased at Atlantic supermarket in Jones hill road
Still my all time fave

Steve W. said...

It's certainly a stylish read. And the fact the book had a load of other stories in it, as well, makes it all the more appealing.