Batman, an escape artist and an athletic lesbian: graphic novels

The ninth volume of the Golden Age Batman Omnibus continues much as before, though the mediocre SF stories that so many fans hate about the 1950s are on full display (“Valley of the Giant Bees” is particularly weak). However we have several of the clever criminal schemes I blogged about at Atomic Junkshop and the returns of both Catwoman and Two-Face to active duty in the Rogue’s Gallery. Selina Kyle, however, would only have a couple more appearances in the 1950s — her last battle with Batman before the late 1960s should be out in Vol. 10 — and Two-Face wouldn’t return until 1971. The Comics Code has been given the blame (Catwoman too sexy a Ba Girl, Two-Face too close to a horror character) but DC was very cautious about not offending the anti-comics activists even when it was within the code.

In any event, this was overall a great one to read. There should be about one more after which they switch to a series of Silver Age omnibuses (the first one comes out this year).

THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF JANUS STARK by Tom Tully and Francisco Solano Lopez was a British comic strip set in the Victorian Age. Stark is an orphan with an uncannily rubbery body; after escaping from a cruel orphanage he learns the secrets of lockpicking from cunning old Blind Largo, then uses his skills and his amazing body (if this were DC or Marvel, he’d be a mutant) to become a star of the music halls, astonishing everyone with his impossible escapes. His real passion, though, is justice. Using his skills he helps punish the cruel and powerful while bringing aid to the poor and downtrodden.

This is the first volume of Stark’s exploits and entertaining, but it settles quickly into formula. We have a couple of “criminal frames Stark who must clear his name” plots and two involving Stark being forced to free a criminal from prison. Unlike some of the adventurers of the day, his stories are all one or two episodes long (British comics were weekly anthologies) which limits the range of plots. Still, I look forward to getting V2 eventually.

Alison Bechdel’s THE SECRET OF SUPERHUMAN STRENGTH is way more engaging than it has any right to be, given it’s the story of her lifelong obsession with physical fitness, even in the days when women weren’t supposed to want six-pack abs. This covers her experiences with gurus (like me, she watched TV fitness dude Jack LaLaine in the mornings before school) and her experiences with running, yoga, skiing and weight lifting. All of which interweaves with her love life and her career, from her career-making strip Dykes to Watch Out For through her career-redefining Fun Home. While Are You My Mother? didn’t work as well as Bechdel’s other books, Superhuman Strength is a winner.

#SFWApro. Cover image for Batman by J. Winslow Mortimer, other covers by Bechdel, all rights remain with current holders.

2 Comments

Filed under Comics, Reading

2 responses to “Batman, an escape artist and an athletic lesbian: graphic novels

  1. Pingback: Reincarnation, debt, Home and more: books read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: Reincarnation, debt, crime and more: books read | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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