A Tribute to the of

It’s March, faithful readers and exciting things are afoot! The new Batman movie is officially out, for beginners. Furthermore, as I type this, while I’ve not yet seen The Batman (trust me, I will, very soon and almost certainly before this review hits the World Wide Web) I did recently visit the theater with my bride and during the opening trailers saw what DC has coming up this year, to include snippets from The Flash, Aquaman, Black Adam and to my great surprise, brief shots of Hawkman and…Doctor Fate. I was slack-jawed. I love those old Golden Age characters ever since being introduced to them in the legendary JLA/JSA crossover stories and to see Fate’s golden facemask on display was quite exciting to me.

Furthermore, in the shameless plug department, I have not one, but two pieces out in the publishing world now. If you’re able, please check out BACK ISSUE #133, the Starman issue where I have the lead feature about the Star-Spangled Kid’s history, speaking of Golden Age heroes. The other feature is my first piece for Hogan’s Alley, issue #23 containing my interview with someone else affiliated with the Golden Age, artist Bob Fujitani.

Finally, I saw a wonderful piece about Michael Uslan online. It’s long, but well worth your while! Among other things, Michael made mention of his all-time favorite Batman story, Night of the Stalker, from Detective Comics #439 (February-March 1974) with an on-sale date of November 29, 1973. While it’s just over the line into the Bronze Age, that’s never stopped me before, so why not give the story a look-see? The credits are plenty impressive, with Archie Goodwin in the editor’s chair, a cover by the dynamic duo (couldn’t resist) of Neal Adams and Dick Giordano with complementary coloring by Tatjana Wood and lettering by none other than the great Gaspar Saladino. (Hey! Doctor Fate is on the floating head lineup on the bottom of the cover, too.) The story itself was plotted by Vin Amendola and Sal Amendola with Steve Englehart scripting. Sal Amendola was also the penciler with inks by Dick Giordano and Sal doing background, coloring by Jerry Serpe and finally lettering by Morris Waldinger. The Grand Comic book database also include the intriguing notes that the story is based on an incident described by Neal Adams, which is also noted on the splash page. Here we go:

Evening is falling on Gotham City in November and Batman, Gotham’s guardian, is standing atop a building, waiting for the inevitable. Almost on cue, a bank robbery happens and tragically, the felon guns down a woman on the street with her husband and son. Moments later, his partner guns down the father. Naturally this is a huge trigger for the Dark Knight as he relives the night when he watched his own parents fall under the pistol of a robber on the streets of Gotham City.

Our hero plunges downward where the robber has just fired his weapon at a bank guard and proceeds to pummel the bad guy when he hears the getaway car squealing away. The Batman swiftly takes to the rooftops again to pursue the car. He lightly lands on its roof and holds tight as the vehicle makes its way outside the city.

Moments later, one of the gang inside the car happens to see the profile of the Batman’s shadow atop the vehicle. Squealing brakes attempt to dislodge any hitchhiker, but when they emerge from the car, they see no one, until they do. The dread figure is atop a nearby wall. Pistols fire, but there is no sign of the Batman (page 7). They stand still for 30 long seconds and then sprint back to the car, only to find the keys missing. Glancing over, they again spot the familiar figure, dangling, then dropping the keys and standing stock-still.

Despite the men being terrified by the scene unfolding before them, Cannon rushes the Caped Crusader. It appears that the bull rush worked as both Cannon and the Batman goes over the nearby cliff. The other goons flee after scooping up the keys, but soon we see that Batman and his unconscious attacker were spared by an extended tree root.

Back at the hideout, one of the remaining criminals is still nervous as that famous cat on the hot tin roof, while the other is more philosophical, that they now only have to divide the loot two ways. Then, however, the dread figure of the Batman bursts through the doorway triggering one of the thieves to throw himself through a nearby window and flee.

The pursuit leads to a nearby body of water and the first caption should sound very familiar to Batfans everywhere: “Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts!” Finding a shred of courage amidst the terror, the thug goes on the offensive, first throwing a right cross and then holding the caped crusader underwater in a chokehold. Seemingly, he is triumphant and shrieks that he succeeded where the Joker, Two-Face and others had failed, but then a gauntleted pair of hands emerge from the depths and drag the felon down before a powerful uppercut ends the premature victory celebration.

Now, the final member of the gang stands shakily holding a revolver on our hero, but the Dark Knight strides forward. He is about to deliver a haymaker when the sound of sirens stops him in his tracks and sends him on his way, melting into the shadows while the cowed and broken thief kneels in agonizing, paralyzing fear.

The final, powerful page to this splendid story tells it far better than I could, as the night gives way to dawn and a weary Batman is in his penthouse atop the Wayne Foundation Building, so I’ll replicate some of it: “As he lifts the cowl from his drawn face, his eyes automatically rise (to the portrait of Thomas and Martha Wayne) …and suddenly sorrow explodes within him. Time heals all wounds, they say—and in truth, Bruce Wayne long ago learned to live with the agonizing fact of his parents’ demise. But when he thinks of the boy crime left sobbing on the street at dusk—and the other boy crime left sobbing before the Batman’s vengeance hours later—he remembers a third boy crime left sobbing so many years ago, and in this gray-lit, lonely tower, for this single moment in infinity…he is that boy again.”

A superb choice, Michael Uslan. I cannot believe I’m reading it for the first time, especially since I adored those 100-page Detective Comics anthologies and have collected most of them. I’m glad for the opportunity. Those 14 pages really pack a punch.

Well, folks, that’s a wrap, but never fear. We’ll be back with another offering on March 15th and hope it will be worth your while. Until then, don’t be shy. If you have a question, comment or request, just fire off a message to: professor_the@hotmail.com.


Long live the Silver Age!

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