Bats and Witches: this week’s reading

Along with cutting into the work week, setting up all those bookcases cut into my reading time as well. Plus some of my reading was Doc Savage pulps which will get their own post next week.

Surprisingly BATMAN: The Golden Age Omnibus Volume 7 by Bill Finger, Dick Sprang and multiple others (which I finished this past week after reading for several months) doesn’t accelerate the steady shift into the 1950s style that I noticed in Volume 5 and 6. Even though it ends in 1951, it doesn’t show an uptick in SF stories, and doesn’t add many new gimmick villains. The new bad guys are Killer Moth (despite his dumb name he has a neat concept, becoming an anti-Batman who protects crooks from the police, for a price) and Deadshot, a rival crimefighter who plans to kill and replace Batman, then use his role to secretly run the underworld.We see a lot of Joker and Penguin stories, including the Joker’s origin (the Red Hood cover above). There’s not much Catwoman and while we do get an origin for her, it involved her going straight for a while, then going back to crime and finally vanishing for a decade (Tim Hanley suggests that a sexy, whip-wielding Bad Girl was too edge for DC after the Comics Code was established). One of the high points is “The Joker’s Comedy of Errors” in which (as Brian Cronin recounts) the Joker gets upset when Gotham City makes fun of his boner — sure, it’s in the sense of “dumb mistake” but the jokes just write themselves.

We see a great many human interest stories, ordinary (but cunning) criminals, deranged madmen and baffling mysteries. While YMMV is always the rule for something 70 years old, this has become my favorite era of Batman. I look forward to V8.

THE HERALD OF DAY: The Boar King’s Honor, Book One by Nancy Northcott opens well as Miranda, a witch in Restoration England, watches helplessly as an innocent woman is hung for witchcraft. A dream leads Miranda to send a summoning (quite eerily done) to Richard, a nobleman and wizard who takes her off to London for training and introductions to “Gifted” society. At which point the book slowed to a crawl: while weird stuff is happening (time itself is changing, with freak events as a side effect) we spend way too long on Miranda’s personal-growth arc and it’s pretty generic, as is the magic itself and the Council of Wizards (you could plug them into a contemporary fantasy without much change). While I like a lotof the historical detail, the story just didn’t hold me and the villain is a two-dimensional Voldemort/Magneto type (homo superior shall rule!).

#SFWApro. Art by Lew Sayre Schwartz (top and middle), Dick Sprang at bottom. All rights remain with current holder).

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