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Marv Wolfman

Batman: A Death in the Family

I’ve never been a fan of the morose Batman, but I recently read the excellent Three Jokers which is built upon this book that killed off Jason Todd who was the second Robin, and the trauma that Batgirl endured at the hand of the Joker in The Killing Joke. This book collects the six-chapter A Death in the Family and the five-chapter A Lonely Place of Dying that introduced Tim Drake as the third Robin.

This 1988 book was groundbreaking in that it killed Jason, and he truly didn’t return as the anti-hero Red Hood until 2005. On top of that, it was up to readers to decide if Jason would live or die within a three-week period in which they could make a 50-cent call to a 900 number. Alas, his character wasn’t as popular as Dick Grayson who was now Nightwing, and his death was sealed by a slim margin.

A Death in the Family

This storyline occurred in the later years of the Bronze Age of Comics, so it still had the superhero look of past decades, but more mature themes were being explored. Jason Todd is shown pushing boundaries, by being petulant and too violent, and Batman and Alfred feel he hadn’t properly grieved his parents before becoming the new Robin. When told he needs to take a break from crime-fighting, he heads back to his old neighborhood and a former neighbor gives him a box of belongings from his parents. He discovers a birth certificate that shows he had a different mother than he thought, so going off a few clues heads to the Middle East to figure out which of three women she could be. But in an improbable twist, both Batman and Joker are there too. This part of the story has not stood the test of time, for the era of the 80s with Reaganomics is mentioned and the Iranian Allatoyah is shown in a very uncomfortable plot point in the story. The woman who was his mother (now retconned I believe, and no longer viewed as his mother in his bio) is perfectly awful and lets Joker attack Jason after they have been reunited. Spoiler alert- he is killed- but everyone knows that. The concluding chapters bring in Superman and yet another improbable plot twist with the Joker.

A Lonely Place of Dying

Can Batman be any more emo than usual? Of course, he can! He is now taking bigger risks as he feels guilty over Jason’s death. Nightwing who is now part of the New Titans comes to help his former partner deal with new threats from Two-Face. We are introduced to a brilliant and earnest teen, Tim Drake, who has pieced together clues and figured out Batman and Nightwing’s secret identities. He convinces them that Batman still needs a Robin, and who better than him?

An afterword by writer Marv Wolfman was interesting and gave context to the story. The art and layouts were good but rather standard for the time period. Joker’s face was so exaggerated that it was distracting for me and hard to take him seriously as a villain. While this book hasn’t changed my opinion of Batman, I’m still glad I picked it up for it is considered a classic and fills in some gaps in my DC knowledge.

The Legion of Monsters

What better way to celebrate Halloween than with the 1975 first (and only) issue of The Legion of Monsters?

A few years ago I was at the Naperville Graham Crackers comic book store with my husband when I admired a fantastically kitschy painting of three monsters. My awesome husband then surprised me with the picture at my next birthday, and I proudly put it up in my living room every October. When I put up a photograph of the painting on my wall on Twitter, Graham Crackers noticed and told me that it was based off the classic Legion of Monsters cover and they sent over a copy to the DeKalb store for me.

Pulling out the musty magazine out of it’s plastic covering was a walk through another era and I loved it! There were four stories along with a letter from the editor, a monster movie update and gloriously dated ads.

The Frankenstein Monster: The Monster and the Masque  Story: Doug Moench Art: Val Mayerik, Dan Adkins & Pablo Marcos

Frankenstein is just lounging around some city alleys when he sees a beautiful women running by on her way to a Halloween party. Following her in, all the sexy revelers assume he is in costume and talk to him and offer him alcohol. Cynthia believes him to be the strong silent type and dances with him. But he is later fooled by her murderous husband and the murder is pinned on him. Well, Frankenstein won’t stand for that!

The Manphibian: Vengeance Crude Plot: Marc Wolfman Script: Tony Isabella Art: Dave Cockrum & Sam Grainger

A rip off of the Swamp Thing, two aliens emerge from an oil rig, after being trapped for eons. One is clearly the villian, having killed the other’s mate years ago, and he is bent on destruction. The other tries to save a woman who was at the wrong place at the wrong time, but both manphibians are hunted by the oil rig workers as well as the owner of the oil company. Both monsters escape, but the hunt is on…

The Flies Script: Gerry Conway Art & Plot: Paul Kirschner & Ralph Reese

A “freak” formally from a circus sideshow has taken up residence on the outskirts of a town. Some boys and men taunt him as he collects garbage to bring back to his shack where he cares for flies, and he finally snaps when one of the boys sneaks into his home and destroys his fly friends. When a police officer checks for the missing boy, he is horrified as to what Chuckles did for revenge. The art reminds me Mad magazine, for it is deliberately caricature like.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula: Death, Be Thou Proud! Writer: Roy Thomas Art: Dick Giordano

A long prologue covers previous chapters (found in other magazines) and then advances the story of Lucy as she was being converted into a vampire, and how Dr. Van Helsing and the men who loved her tried to save her. Appropriately Gothic looking, this story begged for more chapters.

In addition to the epic stories, the ads that skewed towards males are cringe worthy now. So many mail in advertisements, but they were that era’s pop-up ads that we have on our computers today. This was such a fun read, and I want to thank Graham Crackers for bringing it to my attention!

-Nancy

*I copied the magazine pictures from a review on Marvel University (scroll down quite a bit to find it).

 

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