The Bat, the Chinese Super-Man, a big planet and Hamlet!

My Silver Age reread at Atomic Junkshop includes Batman, of course. I’ve blogged about the New Look of 1964 and the changes it brought to Batman and Detective Comics (including Carmine Infantino’s art, as on the cover here). That prompted me to pick up TwoMorrow’s THE BATCAVE COMPANION: An Examination of the New Look (1964-1969) and Bronze Age (1970-1979 Batman and Detective Comics by Michael Eury and even though I’m familiar with a lot of the material I found it worth purchasing. The book mixes straight interviews with barticles covering Batman’s rise to number one after the TV show and Robin’s brief string of “relevant” ripped-from-the-headlines solo stories.

Among the interesting details are that Neal Adams really admired Bob Haney (Adams’ first Bat-work was illustrating Haney’s Brave and the Bold stories) and was completely baffled why “Secret of the Waiting Graves’ — Adams’ first story with Denny O’Neil — became such a hit.There’s lots about what a scam artist Bob Kane was when it came to taking credit for someone else’s work, Mike Barr (of Batman and the Outsiders) on mystery-solving clubs (as background to the Silver Age Mystery Analysts of Gotham City) and one article on Poison Ivy answering a question I had of why they created her rather than using Catwoman (she comes off very much a Selina knockoff in her first appearance). As usual with this sort of reference book, well worth it if this topic is in your wheelhouse.

THE NEW SUPER-MAN: Equilibrium and THE NEW SUPER-MAN AND THE JUSTICE LEAGUE OF CHINA by (primarily Gene Luen Yang and Brent Peeples continue the series from the Coming to America TPB.  Kong Kenan has to deal with the previous volume’s reveal about his parentage; battle the usual assortment of menaces; resist a crackdown by the government-backed Green Lantern Corps of China; battle I Ching’s evil twin (I do like the origin for that villain); and help a North Korean defector with super-powers of his own. Great fun.

Jack Vance’s THE BIG PLANET is a 1950s adventure that feels like Vance is warming up to the superior stories he did later in the same vein. Big Planet is a distant planet so ginormous that all manner of Earth fringe groups, minorities, races and cults have found a home there (reminding me of Mack Reynolds’ Section G); Earth allows this but doesn’t intervene or help. Now, however, a Big Planet wannabe emperor is purchasing off-world weapons and tech in return for the one thing Big Planet has a surplus of, people. An Earth commission arrives to stop the trafficking but the emperor’s agent sabotages their ship, sending it crashing 40,000 miles from the lone Earth enclave.

Getting from Point A to B through a variety of strange and hostile cultures while ferreting out the traitor provides the plot. Most of the settings, however, aren’t as colorful as later Vance books and some have not aged well — evil Roma, black colonists turned cannibal. The characters are flat and the women flatter, though the sexism isn’t as bad as some later books. I did enjoy it even so.

HAMLET was a local production of the play “that’s full of cliches” (I’d forgotten how many of the lines have worked its way into our regular language) that marks the first time I’ve seen it onstage; this stood out for a mostly black cast and a black woman as Hamlet himself (which an actor friend says is quite trendy now). I liked this more than TYG did, particularly the spare set (see below) and staging (having the old king’s grave become a platform that elevates Claudius and Gertrude when they first appear) Overall not first-ranked Hamlet but a good one. “I know a hawk from a handsaw.”#SFWApro. Covers by Infantino and Adams, all rights remain with current holders.



Filed under Comics, Reading

2 responses to “The Bat, the Chinese Super-Man, a big planet and Hamlet!

  1. Mary Kuhner

    It’s really a problem for _Hamlet_ that disjointed bits of it *are* so famous. The effect is distracting.

    In a bit of irony, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival production I saw cut the line “that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead” because apparently it distracted audiences familiar with the Stoppard play.

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