Wednesday, March 4, 2015

The Classics - Detective Comics #439

   With any comic series that's been around a long time (and Detective Comics has been around a very long time indeed), there are "sweet spots" where a special group of creators gathered and made magic.

   That was certainly the case for a short time in the mid-'70s, and the credit goes to one guy: editor Archie Goodwin.

   During his relatively short run on this comic he gathered some amazing talent - some famous (Neal Adams, Alex Toth), some not as well known - such as the artists on this issue's Batman story, Vin and Sal Amedola.

   They turn in an amazing work here, and it's a story that depends heavily on the visuals.

   That's intentional on the part of writer Steve Englehart (on his first job for DC, previewing his later amazing work on Batman when he switched over from Marvel in 1977).

   He provides a surprisingly emotional story, as Batman witnesses a terrible crime and sets out to bring the criminals to justice. Throughout the story, Batman never speaks - never has a thought balloon. He becomes the grim avenger, relentlessly hunting down the criminals in a series a stunning visual stunts (including one you will never forget).

    Then the final page turns the knife. I've read the story dozens of times, and the final page chokes me up every time. It's powerful, moving and cuts right to the heart of why Bruce Wayne became Batman. One of my all-time favorite comic book moments.

   But that was just the beginning for this issue - it also included several reprints: the Golden Age Hawkman, the Silver Age Atom, the Golden Age Dr. Fate, a Silver Age Batman story (with the Outsider), the Elongated Man (featuring Zatanna), and the Golden Age Kid Eternity.

   Then the whole thing wraps up with another chapter from Goodwin and newcomer Walt Simonson's groundbreaking Manhunter series.

   So it's a combination of top-flight "modern" stories and classic tales - 100 pages worth for 50 cents!

   It was a great time to be a fan of the Bat!

Grade: A





Mr. Brooks said...

When I was a kid DC's 100 Page Spectaculars (along with Marvel's Annuals, King-Size, and Giants) were my Holy Grails.

Before archives and masterworks the Specs were practically the only access to classic DC comics lore.

Talk about a lot of bang for your buck! Good times.

Chuck said...

So true! But it isn't always easy to dig up such princely sums - at least in the mid-'70s. ;-)

Chuck said...

Wasn't, that is.

Mr. Brooks said...

So true, so true. But when the funds were available there was many a good time to be had. I loved that every Spec had "extra" features. Hero Facts, history lessons, Bob Rozakis' Daily Planet, and more.

From the annual summer JLA/JSA team-ups to the Treasury Editions, no question the 70's was the best era collecting wise.

Dwayne said...

Those 100 pagers were how I learned about the history of the DCU - via the reprints. And the comment about that time for the Detective title were right on. I remember this issue well, as well as the Toth story, Death Flies the Haunted Skies! What a great title! An entire story in one issue. Imagine that. These books in the 70's are a huge part of what hooked me in as a lifetime fan. Glad to see it remembered here.