|Posted: 03 May 2020 at 2:48pm | IP Logged | 9
Long write up here:
Finished the Conway / Colan / Newton run on Batman and Detective, and I have to say I'm still impressed and these stories still hold up nearly 40 years later.
I'd say this was really the first time I had seen a very big Marvel approach to an established DC character (I know we had NTT and to a degree Conway had done the same on Wonder Woman, but this is far different).
Instead of the self contained stories, Conway gives us ongoing subplots, more developed characters, and, yes for a superhero comic a bit more of an "outside your own window feel". I know Englehart, Wein and Wolfman had done this to an extent, but Conway builds a huge scope of story and characters over his run.
Conway takes a lot of the threads from the Englehart / Rogers / Austin run and riffs on them while staying true to the spirit of them. He brings back Rupert Thorne only to have haunted by a smoke and mirrors ghost of Hugo Strange, and has Deadshot out to fulfil a contract on Bruce Wayne.
Things also develop in the run. Commissioner Gordon gets fired, Batman moved the Batcave back to Wayne Manor, Catwoman and Vicki Vale provide romantic interests, and Jason Todd becomes Robin. Okay some of these are illusions of change and the status quo does re-assert, but it is good fun for the ride.
Conway utilises the Rogues Gallery very effectively with some great Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy stories that benefit from the art of Newton, Colan and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.
One of the best stories is the 6 parter featuring the return of the Monk and Dala where Batman is converted in to a vampire (he gets better), and the work of Gene Colan is in its element here.
All the supporting cast get better developed especially Alfred and Jim Gordon, and Gotham City and its politics and corruption are brought to the fore.
If the series has a weak point it is when Conway tries to create his own villains. I find that very few writers can create villians that stick for Batman, and this is no exception here.
We get The Snowman who is a bargain Mister Freeze, and has the origin that he is the product of his mother having sex with a Yeti!! The Sportsman who kills athletes because he wasn't good at sports as a kid and his father forced him to inject steroids. Colonel Blimp who wants revenge on the Navy for closing a project of his father's down in the 50s with an armed zeppelin.
One villain that did work was Killer Croc who plays the major antagonist role in Conway's final arc which culminates in the anniversary special in Detective # 526 where all the established rogues team up to kill Batman before Croc gets that pleasure.
Jason Todd is a Dick Grayson clone and his origin is a riff on Dick's. That said the character is more likeable here than he became after Crisis.
The art by Newton, Colan, Novick and guest artists like Dan Jurgens, Curt Swan and Jose Luis Garcia Lopez is outstanding.
The Newton and Colan work has a real haunting quality to it that suits the stories well.
I'd say that if you can, try and read these issues. Gerry Conway can be a hit-and-miss writer for me. When he's good he's good: Spider-Man, Firestorm, JLA and Cinder and Ashe. And, fortunately, his Batman run is very good. I'd say it might be his best comics work even surpassing his two Spider-Man stints.