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The ’80s Revisited: Detective Comics #572

detective_comics_0572The Doomsday Book

By: Mike W. Barr
Colored by: Adrienne Roy
Edited by: Denny O’Neil
Cover: Michael William Kaluta
Published by: DC Comics
Cover Date: March 1987
Cover Price: $1.25

Chapter One:
Artist: Alan Davis
Letterer: John Workman

Chapter Two
Artists: Terry Beatty & Dick Giordano
Letters: Todd Klein
Colors: Carl Gafford

Chapter Three
Arists: Carmine Infantino, Al Vey
Letterer: Todd Klein
Colorist: Carl Gafford

Chapter Four
Artist: E.R. Cruz
Letterer: Romeo Francisco

Centerpiece
Dick Sprang

Chapter Five
Artists: Alan Davis, Paul Neary
Letterer: John Workman

dick_sprang_remembers_detective_572

I’m finding that I’m a bit of a sucker for ’80s anniversary issues. Especially ones like this, where it’s not some round number of an issue, not a bunch of variant covers, not a relaunch or renumbering, not even the culmination of some huge story that’s overly self-aware of numbering. This seems–essentially–to be a nice, hefty, done-in-one full-length self-contained adventure…and it’s not at all hard to see where this could (by present-day standards) be dragged out as some six-issue mini-series (at least) if not multiple 2-3 issues mini-series or such.

But of course that would fly in the face of an anniversary ISSUE. In this case, celebrating 50 years of the title, not Batman himself, though the caped crusader has a definite role in the issue!

What we get here is an extra-sized issue with story elements on multiple fronts, allowing multiple art teams to work on the title, as well as the writer to flex and work with different characters that aren’t strictly Batman or his immediate Bat-group. This issue is from a time much closer to the title’s historical format with multiple characters sharing the title…even though Batman’s been the most prominent character, a number of other characters "came up" through the title, not necessarily related specifically to Batman or stories involving Batman himself.

I’ve been aware of Barr‘s work for a long time…and while I’ve come to know him as the writer of Batman: Year Two, and Camelot 3000, and Batman and the Outsiders and whatnot…I most associate him with Mantra, one of my favorite Ultraverse titles growing up in the ’90s. That a creator of a character I thoroughly enjoyed there also has such a history with Batman has been icing on the cake, so to speak.

I’ve primarily read Detective Comics from #604-onward…very much after the "anthology" format was basically jettisoned and it’s been just another Batman title. So while aware of its history, I haven’t actually read much of that history…at least not while of any age to truly appreciate it (I know I’ve read a number of issues from Grandpa’s collection, back in my earliest comic days, but that was a quarter-century ago!).

Slam Bradley finds himself with a client who’s under the gun–literally. Though Batman and Robin intervene for the moment, there’s more to the situation–and story–and he’s determined to figure it out. What he doesn’t count on is learning of a couple names with prominent ties to the past: Watson…and Moriarty. The Elongated Man–Ralph Dibny–gets involved, with a personal encounter with the villain at hand, confirming what Slam Bradley had learned. We then jump to "the past," and a tale of Sherlock Holmes…fitting to the continuity of this issue’s story, while being simply a new Sherlock Holmes story, and certainly celebrating the title Detective Comics.  The various branches of the overall story converge and we get back to Batman and Robin being on the page as all the characters come together…including a rather surprising (to the characters) figure, one that I had actually come to think would not be present in quite the way they turned out to be.

This issue is just over 30 years old, but I still step around stuff a bit. Consider this your spoiler warning.

After this line, I get into "spoilers," as I would if this had not been a three-decade old back-issue.

Batman meets a significantly-aged Sherlock Holmes here. As this was published in 1987, along with being the 50th anniversary of Detective Comics, it was the 100th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes. And with a mention of living conditions and such, and just HOW old the character looks at the end of this issue…it may have been a bit of a stretch to consider a man would live to be over 120 years old (if he was already an adult in adventures in 1887). Of course, 30 years later, this is no longer plausible in the slightest…at least to me. So it "dates" the issue, but in a good way…and it was a pleasant surprise to find that the cover was not JUST a case of being some thematic team-up where both characters appear in the course of the issue but don’t directly interact…we actually get to see Batman meet THE Sherlock Holmes. (Though I’m not gonna get into the meta-stuff of characters recognizing the STORIES but then having the story-accurate character showing up in their midst as a "real guy").

Though there were multiple art teams for the issue, with them being split up across different chapters (instead of several pages here, several there) it really served the story, and kept things from seeming choppy or such. Batman didn’t seem to be in much of the issue, but where he was, he seemed "’80s-accurate" to me; and the other characters (that I’m less familiar with, particularly from this time frame) all work and don’t stand out as contradictory to whatever I do know about them. The cover led me to believe (in conjunction with something I’d read in the past) that the focus of the issue might’ve been a Batman/Sherlock Holmes team-up/adventure. I was initially disappointed, as I thought when I bought the issue that it’d be a team-up. As the issue went on, it took on more a sense of reality, history, and "legacy" that I found intriguing…such that it was simply a treat to have the aged Holmes show up at the end as he did.

There’s a nice "center spread" by Dick Sprang that makes for a good touch, and far out-beats contemporary practices where it would have been a variant cover or a couple of variant covers. It’s just a nice double-page art piece showcasing Sprang‘s take on the characters.

I believe I paid $6 for this issue, against its $1.25 cover price. By contemporary comics’ standards, this was well worth that price and then some. For time it took to read, it more than out-matched contemporary comics, at the "inflated" or "priced back issue" dollar I paid for it. This would absolutely be worth getting out of a bargain bin…and I have no problem with having paid a slightly more "premium" price for it as an actual, priced back issue and not something from a bargain bin. This stands alone as a singular, strong issue, and other than knowing that the characters exist, you don’t really need to know any present-day (at the time) continuity to enjoy this issue; FROM this issue, I would not be able to tell you myself offhand what was going on in issues immediately before or immediately after this issue.

Highly recommended!

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The Weekend Haul – Weekend of June 9-11

Over the weekend, I wound up getting quite a bit of stuff! Granted, some of it was ordered and arrived over the weekend, but still much more than a usual weekend might be!

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I stopped by Comic Heaven looking for Trial of the Flash issues, with no luck on those. but I did score an anniversary issue of Detective Comics that I think I may have heard of but don’t think I’ve ever read.

Then I found several books more than 50% off in bargain bins I hadn’t realized had been "restocked." (One actually may have been on a bargain shelf display, come to think of it). These, plus a booster pack of Star Wars: Destiny (a dice and cards game) where I got a rather pricey rare card (or "legendary" in game terms) cost me LESS than what the Black Vortex would have cost at cover price!

And it’s kinda hard to believe that there are 75 issues of Savage Dragon across just three of these Savage Dragon Archives paperbacks. (They’re basically like Marvel‘s Essential or DC‘s Showcase volumes–phonebook-sized black and white reprints of series). I remember (among other issues prior) getting Savage Dragon #75 as a new issue and being astounded at how long Larsen kept the result of that issue going at the time. And I’m quite interested in snagging the other Archives volumes as well.

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Then, I took a friend across town to Carol & John’s, where we were unfortunate enough to be there during Winston‘s nap-time. Being cat people, though, we totally understood not waking the kitty!

I snagged the new Marvel Comics Digest starring Spider-Man, and picked up Bane: Conquest #2 which I’d missed/not seen prior (oops!).

At a Books-A-Million, I snagged a Spidey treasury edition…for $3.97 and jumped on it (hey, 5 Marvel issues’ content for a whopping $3.97–cheaper even than a single issue–is a price point I’m willing to sample something at!)

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Also at the Books-A-Million, I found a copy of the (I believe out of print) Gambit Classic vol. 1 for a mere $6.97–seven issues’ content for barely $1 each, and did I mention that I’m pretty sure this volume is out of print? I think its contents are somewhat duplicated in other stuff, but the ’90s fan in me was ecstatic to find this for the price (though I’ll probably pay at least triple this for the second volume if I ever come across it or hunt it down).

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And rounding things out, I’d put an order in with InStockTrades for a few books, sliding I think just a few cents over the minimum threshold for free shipping. And though the box arrived with a hefty dent and outright HOLE in its side from the mail system…since InStockTrades (UNLIKE Amazon) ACTUALLY USES GOOD PACKING PRACTICES, my books were UNHARMED. Additionally, because of actually being packed well, they arrived in new condition, as ordered–something Amazon flat-out REFUSES to do!

Next is to try to hold back a bit, though there are a number of other books and such that I want. It’s just kinda sad when a random visit to a couple comic shops and a bookstore (and an online order) yield better deals and more plentifully so (that interest me, anyway) than a convention.

We’ll see what this week’s new releases hold, and if/when I get another chance to sit down for some major, marathon reading!

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