19 Sept 2008

Working The Boxes: DETECTIVE COMICS #571

In Working The Boxes we highlight any recent back issue purchases we've found buried in comic boxes or discovered on eBay that we think are worthy of further attention.
Matt C: There are a few creators I always have my eyes peeled for when searching through the back issue boxes: Kirby, obviously, John Byrne, at least up to the early 90s (after that, fuggedaboutit!), and Brit artistic genius, Alan Davis. Davis’ clean, hugely distinctive linework (Bryan Hitch had to learn somewhere!) is always a joy to behold, every panel bursting at the seams with ingenuity and energy.

The artist collaborated for a brief seven-issue stint with writer Mike W Barr on Detective Comics in the mid-1980s which seems to have taken many of its cues from the more fantastical and light-hearted Silver Age adventures of the Caped Crusader. I’ve not quite managed to get hold of a complete set, but #571 – with Batman and Robin battling the Scarecrow – is the most recent addition to my collection. Compared to the grit and darkness that followed, perhaps this take on Batman will seem a little too camp for some, especially when you’re confronted by panels like this:
Is this perhaps some kind of ironic riposte to all those who’ve made snide comments about the character’s supposedly questionable relationship with the Boy Wonder?! Because, honestly, I can’t believe no one involved in putting this book missed the blatant sexual innuendo! If the image of Robin spraying the Dark Knight wasn’t enough, it’s like they’ve decided to slap you round the face with it, having Bats utter, “That’s it, good and wet…”. What the hell?!

I wouldn’t be surprised if this panel is already over at Superdickery (haven’t spotted it there myself) but it definitely did provide a particularly humorous highpoint (intentional or otherwise) to an issue which really was a bit too cheesy, even for my tastes! Much as I love Davis’ art, I do think that, tonally, it’s not really the right fit for a Batman book – it’s just too colourful and lively, at least the way I perceive the character looking (in his “modern” incarnation as opposed to the kitsch approach of the 50s and 60s). This feeling is further cemented when you turn to page 27 to see a full page advert for the first collected editions of Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns (On a side note, it was a much better fit in Batman & The Outsiders, another Barr & Davis collaboration, where Batman is part of a larger cast rather than the central character).

If you spot this cheap, and you’re an Alan Davis fan, then grab yourself a copy because the art is still gorgeous and it kind of a fun read if you're in the right mood, but if your still reeling from the brilliance of The Dark Knight movie and feel the need to expand your Batman collection, it’s probably advisable you look elsewhere. Unless of course you enjoy seeing the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder in suggestive situations!

1 comment:

Ian said...

The Barr/Davis run were some of the 1st batman comics I bought from an actual comic shop, as opposed to the newsagents, waaay back when I originally got into comics in a big way. Cheers for the happy memories Matt, the panel where Batman knocks the Scarecrow out is still an all-time favourite of mine!