blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Detective Comics (1937) #463


The feature has art by Ernie Chan and Frank McLaughlin. Chan’s figure drawing is rough. Batman looks silly and uncomfortable, contorting his way through the story. Gerry Conway’s got the script credit, so when the mystery villain turns out to be a Punisher clone called the Black Spider… well, at least they got Conway to write it?

I’m assuming the Black Spider turns out to be a Black guy. Not because of the name, or at least not entirely because of the name; Black Spider rants about the superfly drug dealers who need a Black Spider to eat them up. He doesn’t want to fight Batman, who’s already injured, and can escape their first encounter.

The story starts with Batman interrupting a drug deal and getting shot in the shoulder. The injury will plague him the rest of the story—the fight with Black Spider and against other assorted thugs—and maybe it’s why he’s such a dick to his friends. When Commissioner Gordon shows up at the scene of the drug bust, after saving Batman from a pissed-off city official who wants to arrest him, Batman’s condescending to his old pal. Who even gets a thought balloon thinking about how shitty Batman’s being to him.

When Batman’s similarly shitty to Alfred, a few pages later, Alfred gets no thought balloon.

Not sure why Batman’s got to be a prick, but Conway’s fully invested in it.

After the big fight with Black Spider, Batman gets in more trouble with Gordon and the city official (Arthur Reeves, who I’m pretty sure recurs), then heads off to the cliffhanger.

If the art were good, it’d probably be fine. But the art’s not good, so it’s tiring. And it’s tiring at eleven pages.

The backup has good art—Mike Grell pencils, Terry Austin inks—and it’s better. Bob Rozakis scripts: it’s the Calculator out to get a college professor during a lecture. Luckily for that college professor, his good friend the Atom is in the audience and able to protect him from the Calculator. Except the Calculator knows the Atom’s weaknesses.

Just as writing, Rozakis’s exposition is only slightly better than Conway’s, but Rozakis isn’t writing a dick Batman and jive-talking thugs. Instead, he’s just doing an action bit about the Atom trying to save his friend, who gives a boring lecture. And the art’s real good; superior superhero action in only six pages.

The backup’s cliffhanger reveals next time the Calculator will be fighting Black Canary, so it’s a villain backup. Novel enough for the seventies.

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