Monday, April 3, 2017

Wild, Wild West 2: Or Why I Don't Write for a Living

Assuming the first film did alright, let's talk sequels. The cast is more or less the same unless noted.

1879-time has moved more or less normal. President Grant has given way to President Rutherford B. Hayes (James Brolin). Hayes wants to clear some of the deadwood out from the Secret Service, which suites agents James West and Artemus Gordon just fine. West wants to retire out west, while Gordon has been eyeing a return to the stage.

There's just one last mission. West is tasked to captured the rogue Mexican agent Rita Escobar. Escobar has gone crazy, apparently, and according to intelligence is looking to do in several world leaders.

West and Gordon don't believe it, but orders are orders. Besides, better for her if they take her in rather than some hotshot Pinkerton agent, right?

They catch her trying to slip into the French embassy with a satchel of dynamite. She swears there is a good reason though, just as the aforementioned Pinkertons show up. West gets suspicious when the dozen or so agents open fire with Gatling guns instead of trying to arrest her.

Now on the run, Rita explains what she was doing. She was placed undercover in the traveling circus of  Count Carlos Mario Vincenzo Robespierre Manzeppi (Maury Chaykin). The Count's circus is actually a front for a ring of assassins. The Count is also rumored to be a sorcerer. Rita swears that last one isn't a rumor.

What the Count has done has killed the heads of various states and replaced them with magically created doubles. Rita has a list and dozen hired killers on her tail.

Naturally West and Gordon aren't going to let this slide. Can they stop the Count in time? 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Jimmy McCoy

Real name: Jimmy McCoy
A.K.A.: Red
First Appearance: Batman I#4 (Winter 1940)
Abilities: Gangster
Weapons: guns
Quotes: "I'm not going to jail anymore! You're a little too late!"
Worst Act: Being labeled public enemy#1 must have warranted something
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

We spend most the story on Jimmy McCoy and his rise from low level punk to gang lord. A series of pranks ends with him going to reform school, which only teaches Jimmy how to be better crook, but only to extent. His next caper gets him a year in prison, which teaches him more, but he gets picked up on tax evasion next.

Out after ten years, Jimmy wants to retake the streets. The problem is that while he was away, crime continued. "Big" Costello has moved into Jimmy's old rackets and taken most of his old gang. Jimmy aims to settle the score and make himself the big man once again.

Pretty good, although Batman and Robin come across as more extras than anything else. This particular yarn could just as easily been told in any 'Crime Does Not Pay' mags that were sold at the time.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Blackbeard

Real name: Thatch
First Appearance: Batman I#4 (Winter 1940)
Abilities: Pirate captain
Weapons: guns, saber
Quotes: "Ho-ho What a prize catch this is!"
Worst Act: Piracy
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

A fairly weak character and story. A pirate shows up and attacks a yacht, robbing the people and holding them hostage. Batman and Robin show up, they fight, and Blackbeard is exposed as a run of the mill gangster.

Which begs the question of why go to all the trouble? He and his men are dressed as your stereotypical pirates (cutlasses and all), but he makes no effort to pass himself as the legendary Blackbeard. If his goal was pure robbery, why bother with the dress up?

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: Big Boy Daniels

Real name: Daniels
First Appearance: Batman I#3 (Fall 1940)
Abilities: Gang ringleader
Weapons: guns
Quotes: "So, you ratted to the Batman, eh 'Pockets'! I'll teach ya to double cross me!"
Worst Act: Murder
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

Another Robin feature. While Gotham is plagued by yet another gang, Batman discovers this one uses kids as a members. Sending Robin undercover ferrets out the big man-Big Boy Daniels.

Daniels is fairly plain. He's yet another gangster, and the kids as criminals bit isn't even a year old. Repeating storylines isn't unique to comics

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: The Ugliest Man in the Wolrd

Real name: Carlson
A.K.A.: Larry Larrimore
First Appearance: Batman I#3 (Fall 1940)
Abilities: Chemical master
Weapons: chemical cocktails of unknown ingredients
Quotes: "So, my face is ugly to you!"
Worst Act: Murder
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

An interesting villain. While we've seen villains inspired by popular media (Joker, Catwoman), the Ugliest Man in the World seems to predate the 1946 Rondo Hatton vehicle the Brute Man.

 Bruce Wayne is meeting with businessman Larrimore and his partner when one of them drops dead, his face horribly distorted. From there a wave of riots hits Gotham City, the mob of disfigured people being by the titular man. When a doctor named Ekhart (who shares a similar name to the doctor who said be the best doctor in the world in 1942's Detective Comics#66) claims to be able to treat the victims of the mob.

Captured at the group's lair, we learn that Larrimore is in fact Carlson. It seems that some years ago in collage Carlson was participating in a fraternity hazing when he was injected with an unknown amount of chemicals, twisting his features horribly. Shunned by friends and dumped by his fiancé, Carlson went underground, building an army of similarly distorted people to destroy all things deemed beautiful.

Not a terrible story and a fairly compelling villain. A pity this was his only appearance.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: The Puppet Master

Real name: None
A.K.A.: none
First Appearance: Batman I#3 (Fall 1940)
Abilities:  Hypnosis
Weapons: drugs
Quotes: "Soon Dr. Craig will become a mere slave-a human puppet!"
Worst Act: Theft
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

This particular yarn begins with Dr. Craig being the victim of a seeming accident, yet later he later steals his top secret formula and hands it over to a gang. Only with the intervention of Batman is the formula saved.

It seems the slight wound enables the Puppet Master to place the victim under an extreme state of suggestion, which is a problem as Batman himself was scratched. Can Robin stop his partner from committing unstoppable crimes?

Not a terrible villain, although his 'leftover peasant costume from a high school play' leaves something to be desired. The idea of hypnotizing people and forcing them to commit crimes would be better used by the Mad Hatter some time later.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Bring on the Bad Guys: King of the Giants

Real name: None
A.K.A.: none
First Appearance: Detective Comics I#44 (October 1940)
Abilities:  Giants
Weapons: Giant sized everything
Quotes: "Pepper! Oh my eyes!"
Worst Act: Being a cop-out
Created by: Bill Finger (writer) and Bob Kane (artist-credited), Jerry Robinson/George Roussos(inks)

I suppose one can forgive a copout. Batman had only been around for little over a year at this point, but the 'it was all a dream' was getting a little old even by 1940.

Basically Robin is reading a book on dwarves and giants. He starts to nod off when Batman arrives and whisks him off to a mad scientist who sends the two of them into the fourth dimension. Captured by a giant, they end up in a massive war between the giants and the dwarves. It looks like curtains for the caped crusaders when Robin wakes up.

Not the best yarn, but I suppose that can be forgiven given the time period.