blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Detective Comics (1937) #466


The feature has Ernie Chan and Vince Colletta art and all the visual failings such a pairing promises. But the story’s… oddly… good?

A Silver Age Batman villain—The Signalman—returns for a bunch of themed heists. What makes it interesting is how well Signalman does against Bats. Len Wein writes; Signalman has a lot of bravado speeches, which work. Batman has a lot of descriptive speeches, which do not. Though when Batman’s just got thought balloons, it’s a little better. Especially after Signalman gets the upper hand.

It might just be the Silver Age feel of the story. While Chan’s pencils are still bad, they’re not failing to realize some brooding, dark knight detective Batman; they’re failing to realize Batman stopping a panic at the ballpark. There’s no heavy lifting to the art.

And Signalman’s outfit is ridiculous, so having a better artist on it wouldn’t do any good. The resolution’s disappointing, but it’s an entertaining enough read on the way there. Signalman’s just a colorful villain. He talks a decent amount of good smack.

It’s a totally fine feature against some considerable odds.

The backup’s more of the Calculator series from writer Bob Rozakis. This time he’s got Green Arrow fighting the Calculator, with Elongated Man along as cloying sidekick, and Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin on the art.

I was expecting quite a bit more from Rogers and Austin, but it’s either just okay, visually confusing, or downright bad. Not like, Chan and Colletta bad, but “someone else drew these faces on these heads, and you can tell” bad. The visually confusing parts come with the Calculator’s attack on Green Arrow (also at a ballpark, which they mention in the feature); Calculator is shooting baseball bats out of his head at Green Arrow, who’s breaking those baseball bats with baseball bats.

Rogers does a lousy job staging the superhero action. Though Rozakis’s script doesn’t explain Calculator’s plan at all, just having a plan. It’s bewildering, tiring, and disappointing. The only reason I was reading Detective this early was for Rogers’s backup; I wanted to get the whole story. Silly me.

I probably would’ve bet cash money against ever saying I liked an Ernie Chan and Vince Colletta story than a Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin, but here we are. The only star, obviously, is Wein. He knows how to write that Signalman story and does it well.

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