Monday, November 30, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1949 Chapters 4-6

Continuing the recap of the second Batman serial, Batman and Robin from 1949 starring Robert Lowery and John Duncan. Last week, I mentioned there should be a drinking game. Let's try it, shall we?

Okay, so, Batman and Robin, The Drinking Game. Drink whenever Professor Hammil sits in his magic chair. Drink whenever Batman and Robin speculate about the Wizard's identity. Drink whenever a building or street is given a completely generic name. Drink whenever they reuse a set. Drink whenever one of the thugs asks where the submarine's going. Drink whenever Batman adjusts his mask. Drink whenever the characters completely forget whatever they were doing in the previous scene. Drink whenever there's a totally outrageous coincidence that's necessary to advance the plot. Drink whenever Batman (or Robin) screw up their own plan. Drink whenever the chapter title has nothing to do with the episode in question.

Okay, where were we? Oh, yeah, Chapter 4, "Batman Trapped." The Wizard's thugs had stolen the special detonators for the X-90 and Batman was chasing them. During a fistfight, Batman gets zapped with the crazylegs ray and dances off a cliff. As the chapter opens, Batman lands in a tree. Meanwhile Robin tries to steal the bad guys' truck, but is caught and knocked out. They throw Robin in the back of the truck and drive off.

Batman climbs the cliff.

Whoa, turns out Robin's playing possum. He gets up, twists the knob on a spout connected to a barrel of chemicals (marked Solox), leaving a black trail of toxicity for Batman to follow. First cotton bales, now sludge. What the hell kind of delivery truck is this?

Batman climbs the cliff.

The thugs turn off onto a dirt road and drive up to an isolated cabin. Robin chooses this moment to spring into action, throwing off the thugs and running away. They chase after him.

Batman climbs the cliff.

Robin hides in a tree to evade his pursuers, then runs back toward the cabin.

Batman finally gets to the top of the cliff and adjusts his mask. Drink! He jumps in his Mercury and drives off.

Two of the thugs keep searching while the other two return to the cabin. Robin listens outside the door as the men say the Wizard is due to visit shortly. Robin sneaks through the door, which luckily has a little curtained partition to hide the front door from the rest of the room, so they don't see him come in.

Batman follows the trail of sludge. The cabin goes dark and the Wizard appears in a doorway like before. He demands that Morton, the inventor of X-90, tell him the formula for using his super-explosive to power machinery. Wait, I thought the remote-control machine was powered by diamonds? Morton refuses.

Batman pulls to a stop on the dirt road near the cabin, gets out and adjusts his mask. Drink!

The Wizard starts to do his blinky-eye hypnosis again when he suddenly notices (in the darkened room, mind you) Robin's shoes poking out from under the curtains. He alerts the thugs, who whip the curtain back to reveal... Robin's shoes. Robin is outside, running for the truck in his stocking feet. And the reason for taking off his shoes was what, exactly? To let them know he was watching?

As Batman drives toward the cabin, Robin adopts the strategy of running laps around the truck with the thugs in pursuit (maybe hoping they'll turn to butter?). Not a good strategy, BTW.

Batman arrives just in time, and the thugs flee inside. They escape through a secret panel as Batman and Robin enter to find an unconscous Morton. The Wizard appears in the doorway again and pulls a pistol. Batman brings an ashtray to the gunfight, throws it and shatters the Wizard into a million pieces! He was just an image on a big TV screen before Batman smashed it like he was Wii Bowling (so what the hell was the point of the gun?). TV really does make you violent!

Bruce and Dick take some time to review. Since they have no leads, they adopt the advanced investigative technique of listening to Barry Brown's broadcast. And I might add (in a purely heterosexual manner) that I think Dick's wardrobe is stylin' in this serial. Want that shirt.

Brown states that Morton is recuperating at City Hospital. Drink! Bruce and Dick speculate that Barry Brown might be the Wizard. Drink! Whoa, getting a little woozy.

At the hospital, Commissioner Gordon waits with Vicki Vale to question Morton when Bruce and Dick arrive. Then a thug comes in disguised as an orderly carrying water in a cut glass decanter. Fancy hospital. He plants a radio transmitter, so they can hear everything said in the room.

The thugs listen outside as Morton tells the location of his formula. But Bruce hears the noise as the radio transmitter shuts down, so he knows the Wizard's men are ahead of them. He and Robin race to the location of the formula, where they fight the Wizard's thugs. Batman is knocked into an electrical panel and falls in a shower of sparks.

Hey, wait a second. Checking the title, I see that Batman was never trapped. Drink!

In Chapter 5, "Robin Rescues Batman," we find out that Batman didn't really get electrocuted. While Robin helps Batman to his feet, the thugs escape with the secret formula by stretching a ladder to the window of the building next door and crawling across it. The police arrive to search the building and turn Vicki Vale away. So she looks across the street and sees the robbers getting into their car. Instead of telling the cops about it, she just runs over and takes a picture. Cause, you know, cops are kind of useless.

At that moment, more cops arrive as Batman and Robin run out of the building. Vicki points them after the escaping car (like, great timing, Vick). The cops give chase, but the Wizard fools them with a remote controlled car. Meanwhile, the crooks discuss retrieving the picture. Turns out, their getaway driver Jimmy (the pilot from Chapter 1) is Vicki Vale's brother! Co-yay! Drink!

Jimmy calls Vicki to tell her he needs the negative and the prints. She agrees to meet him, but drops by and tells Bruce the story first. When Vicki shows up at the rendezvous, thugs try to grab the negative. Batman and Robin appear to help, but the negative ends up being burned. Batman collects the remains and, in the Batcave, uses a special chemical mist to restore the image. He checks his "rogue's gallery" to identify the other men in the photo.

Meanwhile, Professor Hammil uses his special chair. Drinky-poo! Meanwhile, Batman and Robin speculate that Hammil is the Wizard. Drink again! I love this game! And I love you, man! You're the best!

Jimmy calls Vicki again to tell her he's leaving town. Vicki uses her reporter connections to have the call traced. It came from the Harbor Club on Seaside Avenue. Drink! Whoa, starting not to love this game so much.

Batman and Robin head for the Harbor Club as well, having identified it as the hangout of one of the men in the photo. Yippee-ki-co-yay, motherfucker. Drink! Thugs kidnap Vicki and try to spirit her onto a boat, but Batman appears on the docks. Head thug Nolan pulls a pistol and shoots. Batman hides behind some handy gasoline barrels. Nolan shoots twice, taking careful aim both times. And both times, he misses by a good two feet to the left. He needs to get his sights checked. Meanwhile, his shots have sent gasoline spewing into the water. Vicki gest (whoops, meant 'gets' - too many drinks) thrown in and Batman jumps in to save her. Thugs set the water on fire!

Title check! Robin didn't really rescue Batman from anything. Drink! Dude, serious buzz going.

In Chapter 6, "Target--Robin!," Batman and Vicki climb out of the burning water without any difficulty. Man, the "deathtraps" in this serial are really lame. The thugs turn to shoot them, but Robin activates a siren, and the thugs flee.

Now comes the new Batman's Chuck White moment. Batman decides to disguise himself as the thug htey (whoops, too many drinks - meant to say, "htey"--that is, "htey"--you know what, fuck it) captured at the waterfront. He does this by putting a big bandage on his head. He doesn't look any different than he did as Bruce Wayne, but Robin tells us that he looks like the crook's "twin brother." I think Robin's been playing the drinking game along with me. Batman's plan is to pose as captured criminal Mac Lacey and be taken straight to the Wizard's hideout.

He goes to the Harobr Club, where the rest of the gang is waiting. Now keep in mind, he looks exactly like Bruce Wayne with a big bandage on his head. But everybody there (who presumably know Mac) believes he's Mac.

They make a plan to head for Hideout B. Along the way, Bruce lights a smoke-bomb cigarette which he tosses out hte window to show Robin which way he went.

They go to the cabin, where Jimmy tells htem the Wizard wants them to listen to Barry Brown's broadcast. Barry Brown announces that Mac Lacey is being held by the police. So who's this guy with the big freaking bandage on his head?

As head thug Nolan threatens Bruce, Robin steals a page form hte first serial to flahs the Batsignal on the wall.

Notice how the scallops in the bat's wings go the other way? Batman needs quality control.

Nolan and Jimmy run outside to find Robin, while a third thug holds Bruce at gunpoint. The thugs grab Robin and bring him in. Nolan tells Bruce he can join the gang if he kills Robin. "That's a deal," says Bruce, a little too eagerly. He shoots Robin in the belt buckle (which stops the bullet) then shoots out hte light nad he and Robin escape.

The thugs call the Wizard, who tells Nolan that he's to be killed and replaced. Nolan doesn't even try to argue; he's as tired of this serial as I am. Also, no alligators. God, I miss Prince-Doctor Daka. Also, the Wizard has talked to Mac in jial and is setting up a trap.

Meanwhile, Batman and Robin speculate that Barry Brown might be the Wizard. Drink! God, no, please. I'll be good. Don't make me drink again.

The Batsignal appears, and Batman stops at a pay phone to call the Commissioner. Gordon says that Mac Lacye talked. There's going to be anotehr robbery on the waterfront, on Marine Street. Shit! Drink. You know, if tou tilt your head, it looks like the 60's. And the room, it kind of spins.

Sorry, passed out for a while. I'm back.

Batman and Robin spot some thugs outside a building and pursue them inside. They end up trapped in a room that is filling with deadly CO2 fog (seriously, the sign says CO2 gas)! They're doomed!

Oh, and since Batman did have to target Robin when he shot him, the title sort-of fits. No drink. Thank God.

You can read the recap for chapters 1-3 here.

Read the recap of chapters 7-10 here.

And finally, the recap of chapters 11-15 is here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Out of the Vault- Evangeline Special Number One

So okay, light Vault this week, but at least it's something. The flux of independent publishers in the 80's sent many books scrambling to different publishers. One such was Evangeline, written by Chuck Dixon and drawn by Judith Hunt and Ricardo Villagran. Evangeline had originally appeared as a black-and-white feature in Comico's Primer, which also featured the first appearance of Matt Wagner's Grendel.

When Comico made the switch to color, it published two issues of Evangeline in color before cancelling the book. In 1986, the rights were picked up by Lodestone Publishing, which republished the two Comico issues under one cover as Evangeline Special Number One.

The story opens with a truck traveling across the barren wasteland of Mars. It pulls up to a sort-of future truck stop, and a beautiful woman gets out. She walks into the truck stop, where a couple of guys are playing a video game. She checks one guy's face against a picture she's carrying. It matches, so she kills him.

Turns out, Evangeline is traveling across Mars, hunting down the men who razed a Catholic orphanage several years before. The men raped the nuns, killed the children and burned the building to the ground. Soon enough, Evangeline tracks down another of the men in a casino.

Finally, she learns that the men were acting on orders of a corporate executive. She seduces the executive, and once she has him alone, poisons his drink. And finally we learn Evangeline's secret: she's not a survivor of the orphanage massacre out for revenge. She's a nun. A nun secret agent.

In the second adventure, she's on board a cargo ship, the City of Pennsylvania, posing as a contessa, bound for some other planet on a secret mission.

The other men around the table with her, however, are hijackers. They take over the ship and jump it to a nearby planet, where a derelict warship floats in orbit. One of the hijackers was the captain of that ship ten years previously and left a huge load of gems on board.

Problem is, the crew he left in cryostasis have somehow revived and are waiting for him when he returns. There's a savage fight that destroys both the warship and the cargo ship. The hijacker and a couple of his boys manage to escape in a lifeboat, while Evangeline and a thief named Jonny Six follow in a second one. They descend toward the planet below, which shows signs of large lifeforms on its surface.

Alas, Lodestone Publishing never came out with another issue. Evangeline was picked up the next year by First Comics, which was better anyway. You can see from the panels reproduced here that the printing had several problems with colors bleeding into one another. The First Comics were better printed on higher quality paper.

I thought the series was pretty good, although I lost interest after several issues. The action was well-plotted and written; this was some of Chuck Dixon's earliest published work, but he showed the affinity for action-adventure he has continued in the years since. But the character of Evangeline was fairly cold, like Clint Eastwood's Man With No Name, only with tits. And the art, though it showed flashes of inspiration, never really broke through and grabbed me. And as the series hit its fourth issue, the art team started rotating and never was able to find firm footing, so by the 8th issue, I quit. I don't know how long it ran after I gave up on it, but I don't think it was very long.

Two postscripts:

Number one, original artist Judith Hunt has, along with Ben Dixon, released her first two Evangeline stories as a webcomic here. There were apparently plans to release new stories by Hunt at some point in the future, but the webcomic cuts off in the middle of the first First issue, and the last entry in Dixon's blog about the Evangeline project was on July 20, so it may be dead again. However, if you're interested in reading the original Evangeline stories mentioned here, you can do so at the link.

Second, even though I wasn't a huge fan of the comic, it did apparently make an impression on me. When I went through Basic Training in 1992, our drill sergeants made us name our rifles. I named mine Evangeline.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanks But No Thanks

There was no Thanksgiving post yesterday, because everything I'm thankful for right now is of the "thankful it's not worse" variety. Thankful that my separation from my wife has not been a knock-down, dragged-out screamfest of soul-killing, bank-draining hate, but simply a mellow desert of loneliness and unrequited desire. Thankful that the Biggest Mistake of My Life (TM) didn't get me killed, but only ripped-off, broke, indebted and depressed. Thankful that after four months of complete unemployment, I am now privileged to haul heavy boxes part-time for minimum wage and go broke more slowly.

That being said, it wasn't a bad Thanksgiving. I dropped by The Wife's celebration in the early afternoon to see my daughter, thinking they wouldn't be eating yet, but they were, so I had a small nosh. Then I went home to fix up some risotto mix I've had sitting in the cupboard for a while that I keep forgetting to fix and took it to another get-together, dubbed "Thanks for Nothing" by the hosts, wherein several of us who've had tough years gathered to wish this year over, in the vain hope that next year might actually be better while trying not to think of the myriad ways it could get worse. It was a nice time, with much good conversation.

Oh yeah, and you know what else I'm thankful for?

Corinne Bohrer's cleavage.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Big Game Wednesday

So since I've been revisiting my gaming roots, I guess I might as well inflict it on you here. One of my proudest and yet most humbling moments in game-mastering was when I decided to run a Justice, Inc. game set in the 30's. I had a vague idea to run a game where the players had to stop a master villain, head of a conspiratorial secret society, from assembling a mystic regalia formed by some of the most legendary of legendary artifacts, including the Holy Grail and the Heilegelance and a bit of the stone from the Kaaba.

I ran the first session where I got the players together. They were all in Times Square on New Year's Eve, when they noticed a guy running for his life through the crowd, pursued by shadowy figures. Our heroes intervened in a pretty exciting sequence, but were (of course) too late to keep the guy from being killed. But they were intrigued by the odd dress and weapons of the assailants, and one of the player-characters was a private detective, so he decided to search the body of the victim for clues.

I said, "You found this," and tossed this out on the table.

It's a matchbook for a place called the Block and Tackle Club, sloppy and not entirely functional, which means that it contains real matches...

But the striking strip is just printed on.

I got the idea from a gaming supplement I bought in preparation for the game, a Call of Cthulhu supplement titled "Masks of Nyarlathotep." The back cover promoted it as containing books for New York, London, Egypt, Kenya and Shanghai. I took that to mean sourcebooks that might be applicable to other campaigns, but was mistaken, so I was disappointed on that score.

On the other hand, the thing I really loved about the game materials was that they contained several prop handouts for players. News clippings with random newspaper ads printed on the back so as to look like something clipped from a real newspaper. Handwritten notes. Business cards. And a matchbox you could cut out and assemble.

Thus my matchbook idea. The concept was better than the execution. At the time, all I had was an old original Mac (the kind with the tiny B&W screen built in) and an Imagewriter dot-matrix printer. So I had to print the matchbook in shades of grey. I disassembled a real book of matches and took all the dimensions from the unfolded cover (I may have actually held the matchbook cover up to the monitor and used MacPaint to trace around it, since it was supposedly true WYSIWYG).

I drew up the matchbook design, with a thick black line for the striking strip. I wanted to include an illustrated logo, but had no internet and no clip art and didn't feel confident trying to do that myself. I should have added an address, but didn't think of it, I guess. I did add the words, "Close Cover Before Striking" to the bottom front edge, but the printer couldn't handle the small type and made it totally illegible. I printed the design on thin cardstock I'd salvaged from somewhere, wrapped it around the bundle of matches I'd taken from the other matchbook, and stapled the thing together. Inside, I wrote my clue, to meet a man named "Mariner" at 8 p.m. on January 2nd. The players figured it out, although in retrospect I probably should have written "1/2" rather than "1-2."

It was simple and easy, and yet very effective. I loved the looks on the guys' faces when I tossed that thing out on the table. They made the meet, talked to Mariner, learned about the conspiracy and planned a trip to Switzerland to try to stop the villain's next move. The players had fun and I was quite proud of myself.

Which made what happened next even worse. There was never another gaming session. I had a vague idea of what the players were supposed to accomplish in Switzerland, but I was so taken with the idea of prop gaming that I decided I had to have a cool object to present them with when they got there. And I couldn't think of one. Nor could I think where to send them after that. I knew generally what I wanted to happen, but no specifics. So the game died without a second session ever being played. In retrospect, I shouldn't have let my excitement about the matchbook spur me into launching the game before I was sufficiently prepared.

Live and learn.

I was reminded of the matchbook recently while visiting the friends with whom I'm playing the game in which Smeaton is a character. There was a letter lying on a shelf, a handwritten letter warning of danger and dire consequences, though from what, I couldn't say. That's because the "from what" part had been burned away. I was fascinated by it, and immediately recognized it as a gaming prop. I discussed the letter with naamah-darling, told her about my matchbook prop, and then she pointed me at this awesome site which depicts all sorts of cool ideas and step-by-step instructions for how to make some of your own props.

So now I'm itching to make some more stuff. I have an idea I'm developing, which started out as just a way to customize my humidor along lines I discussed before, but is developing into something more. I'll let you know if it ever develops into more than just a daydream.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1949

Yeah, I know. Frazier's got no time for Out of the Vault, but this he's got time for?

Yes, sadly. Continuing our exhaustive and exhausting review of Batman in the movies, we move on to "Batman and Robin," the 1949 Columbia serial. Coming six years after the first, and four years after the end of the war, 1949's "Batman and Robin" is a completely different experience than 1943's "Batman." For one thing, it's more boring. I'm not sure if I'll be going into such detail as I did for the first serial--this one is awfully repetitive--but then again, the fun is all in the details. It's a predicament. What shall I do?

Roll the credits! Batman and Robin (Robert Lowery and John Duncan) appear to be trapped by titles and looking around for a way out of this crappy serial.

They don't find it, alas, for 15 chapters. The theme music is an improvement, though, strident and martial, as befits Batman's war on crime.

Chapter one, "Batman Takes Over," opens with a stock footage montage depicting said war, and even includes a couple of brief shots from the first serial of Batman and Robin fighting thugs in a burning factory. Meanwhile, the narration is talking about these "glamorous figures" who "vanish as suddenly as they appear." That's right, "glamorous figures." Man, they're not giving us any time to settle in before hitting us with the ghey, huh?

But at least the Batcave's more modern this time. Also, Robin as played by John Duncan is a lot older than the previous Robin or his comic-book counterpart. He's more like a grad student/teaching assistant than a teen sidekick. Plus his costume has a dark cape and tights this time around, more like the modern incarnation of Robin than the bare-legged, yellow-caped look of the 40's comics. And check out those guns.

So does this mean the thugs might actually pay attention to Robin this time around? Don't hold your breath.

Some fans prefer this serial to the first one, not just for the lack of racism (other than I guess the passive racism that everybody in Gotham is white - at least nobody goes around yelling, "A Jap!") but for the fact that this just feels more lke the Batman they're familiar with. Like Commissioner Gordon and the Batsignal(!)...

Which Gordon uses to summon Batman after thugs steal a special "remote control" device that can control any moving vehicle (except the Batmobile, because there's still no Batmobile in evidence, but more on that later). The thugs stole the machine using the same armored car as in the 1943 serial.

The new...

The old...

The Columbia prop department apparently wasn't exactly rolling in dough if they couldn't buy a new armored car in six years, eh?

While investigating the robbery, Batman meets Professor Hammil, the wheelchair-bound jerk who invented the device, only to have it taken away by the Electronic Research Council before it was stolen. As a result, Hammil has no love for the men investigating. "Whoever stole it probably has more brains than all of you!" he says. Batman immediately finds Hammil suspicious. Also, the machine apparently uses diamonds to function somehow, so Batman orders Gordon to be on the lookout for diamond robberies.

Later, Hammil seems to confirm Batman's suspicions when he sends his butler away and locks himself in his living room so he can use a special electronic chair to restore himself to youthful vigor and regain the use of his legs.

He exits through a secret panel in his fireplace. I so want one of those. And by, "one of those," I mean a fireplace. And a secret panel. I want both of those. So maybe I should have said, "I so want one each of those." Except I wouldn't turn down more than one secret panel. I mean, the more, the merrier, right?

Where was I (other than not walking through a secret panel in my non-existent giant fireplace)?

Oh yeah. Moments later, we see the Wizard, Masked Man of Mystery, meeting with his henchmen in his secret cave. Cool, a real comic-book-style villain rather than some weak Japanese saboteur. The Wizard is a no-nonsense type of villain. When one of his henchmen apologizes after messing with the machine, the Wizard says, "Being sorry is stupid!" I miss Prince-Doctor Tito Daka already. It's going to be a long 15 chapters with this guy.

The Wizard sends his men out to steal some diamonds to fuel his machine, and by amazing coincidence, Bruce Wayne just happens to be driving by with Vicki Vale and Dick Grayson when the crooks blow the safe. Vicki, the Lois Lane of Gotham City, has Bruce stop the car so she can get out and take some pictures of the robbery. Bruce jumps into the back seat, where his Batman outfit has been conveniently left, apparently unnoticed by Vicki Vale as they were tooling around town. Batman and Robin catch a couple of the thugs and recover the diamonds, but some of the henchmen get away.

The henchmen ride a remote-controled submarine to the Wizard's secret cave, where they show up empty-handed. The Wizard plans to rob a diamond shipment on a plane the next day. Later that afternoon, radio broadcaster Barry Brown mentions the Wizard's plan on his newscast, so Batman decides to pilot the plane. How did Barry Brown know about the plan? Could he be...The Wizard?

The next day, Batman and Robin are sitting in the cabin of the cargo plane when Robin looks over his shoulder at the back wall of the cockpit and says, "We're being followed." But actually, he's right. The Wizard's men are in another plane, pursuing them. Batman hits the throttle and the cargo plane begins to pull away (cargo planes being built for speed after all), so the henchman puts in a call to the Wizard, who uses the remote control to bring the plane down.

The thugs get out and hold Batman and Robin at gunpoint before taking the diamonds (which are in a pouch small enough to be tucked into Batman's utility belt--they needed a cargo plane for that?). Instead of shooting the Dynamic Duo, they just order them back into the plane, which the Wizard then remotely blows up.

But of course, in chapter two, "Tunnel of Terror," we see that Batman and Robin escape just before the plane blows up. And here we get our first really obvious evidence of the one main comment everybody makes who has ever written about the serial: Batman can't see for shit out of his mask.

It's otherwise not a terrible costume. The cape and cowl look like felt, while the gloves appear to be suede work gloves with extensions added for gauntlets. But Robert Lowery's always having to hold his head back and look down his nose at things, while cowl adjustments are also a frequent feature of the fight scenes.

Anyway, somehow Batman and Robin manage to run around and get into the gangsters' plane before the thugs themselves do. During the flight, Batman sneaks out and switches the packet of diamonds in the thug's pocket for a duplicate packet he just happens to be carrying. When the plane lands, the thugs head for the hidden entrance to the submarine grotto while Batman jumps the airplane's mechanics. Batman and Robin follow the path the crooks took, but all they discover is the Lone Cypress.

I'm pretty sure this shot was taken on 17 Mile Drive in Monterey, California. I used to live close by when I attended Defense Language Institute in 1993.

The Wizard discovers that the packet of "diamonds" is actually a packet of pebbles that also contains a calling card with the symbol of the bat! Meanwhile, as Batman and Robin are driving home in an apparently stolen car (its not the same Mercury they drive throughout the rest of the serial, and they were stranded by the Wizard's plane in the last scene), they hear a scream coming from Professor Hammil's place, which Batman notes is strangely near the place where the thugs disappeared.

The scream came from Vicki Vale, whose foot is caught in a man-trap installed outside the window of Professor Hammil's house. That Professor Hammil really loves his privacy. Also, what a coincidence that they just happened to be passing by at that moment. But there will be a whole hell of a lot of those coming up, so many that I may need a special shorthand just to keep calling them out, because "coincidence" has too many letters. How about Co-yay?

So Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are on their way to meet Barry Brown, the newscaster who predicted the diamond robbery, when they just happen to see private detective Dunne leaving Brown's apartment. Co-yay! Already! Suspicious, they follow Dunne while listening to Brown's broadcast. Brown reports that the Wizard is going to rob a shipment from a train that afternoon, and Dunne just happens to be pulling into a trainyard at that moment. Proof! Bruce follows Dunne and loses him, but sees two more men fleeing at that very moment. Co-yay! Bruce finds a beaten-up railroad employee, who tells him that the thugs are after a shipment of X-90 explosive.

The Wizard uses his remote control device to slow the train down so his thugs can climb aboard (why doesn't he just stop it? because then there wouldn't be a cool fight aboard a moving train, numbnuts). Then Batman leaps from his car to the train and the fight is on! But the train is approaching a tunnel fast! A Tunnel... of Terror! Also, this is the first example of the serial trying to build tension by intimating that Robin's going to have to go it alone from here on. The original serial also did this trick to an extent, showing only footage of Robin in the previews when it seemed as if Batman alone had been killed. "Batman and Robin" ups the ante a bit by also using Robin's name in the title of the next chapter.

In chapter three, "Robin's Wild Ride," we see that the tunnel wasn't really all that terrifying after all. Neither Batman nor the three thugs are hurt in the least bit by the tunnel transit. Anti-climax! Climaxicus Interruptus! Meanwhile, a fourth thug following in the car (the Mike Collins of the gangster world) radios the Wizard that Batman is on the train. The Wizard stops the train, and the thugs force the conductor to give them the (obviously empty) box of X-90. Then Batman jumps in. Fistfight! The fourth thug arrives, followed quickly by Robin. And BTW, Batman's Mercury has some kind of bad shocks or something, because the front end bounces violently whenever it comes to a sudden stop.

The thugs win the fight, but once again decide not to shoot anyone despite waving their pistols around. They run for it and take off in their big Lincoln with Batman and Robin in hot pursuit. It's Lincoln vs. Mercury! Irony! But the Wizard uses his remote control to burn out Batman's engine, so the thugs get away.

Back at the Wizard's secret cave, the head thug gloats over how they got away with the X-90. But the Wizard wipes the smile off his face when he asks about "the other box," the one with the detonators. The Wizard needs those detonators! OMG, who knew the Wizard was actually Hans Gruber?

Turns out, the inventor of X-90, Professor Morton, is staying at the Stafford Hotel, according to Barry Brown. Bruce Wayne speculates that private dectective Dunne is giving Brown his tips, and that Brown may also be the Wizard, passing instructions to his men through his broadcasts.

Meanwhile, Vicki Vale is at the Stafford Hotel, looking for Morton. We learn that she is with "Picture Magazine." Not the newspaper. Not even a news magazine like Time or something. Picture Magazine, the generic equivalent of Life or Look, I guess. This lack of imagination in naming things is also something that's going to persist throughout the rest of the serial. You could do a drinking game. Really.

Thugs appear to grab Morton. Vicki disarms one with a swipe of her camera strap, then stands still and lets herself be grabbed. Most futile gesture ever. The thugs take Morton to an isolated cabin, where the Wizard appears in a doorway and hypnotizes him with his blinky eyes.

Morton says the detonators are at the Electronic Research Plant (see what I mean about unimaginative names?), the same place the remote control device was stolen from. Hey, we can re-use a location! Meanwhile, Vicki escapes from the closet where she's been locked and goes to see Bruce. She tells him that Morton was kidnapped. And just then, Alfred spots something in the sky.

The novelty had worn off Alfred by this time, so he doesn't get much play this time around, especially now that Robin's old enough to drive. So Bruce excuses himself to "take his vitamins" and visits the Batcave, where Dick Grayson is working on some kind of science experiment. Maybe Batman assigns homework.

Anyway, Professor Hammil just happens to visit the Electronic Research offices just as the robbery happens (could his be the mysterious hand that hits the switch to open Vault 10?). Crooks arrive in a truck that is supposed to be bringing some kind of shipment for the Electronic Research plant. They take the detonators, escaping on a road that is wet, then dry within seconds. Batman and Robin give chase. The crooks try to stop them by throwing out what appear to be bales of cotton. What the hell kind of delivery were they supposed to be bringing to the Electronic Research Plant?

Anyway, Batman avoids the cottonbale slalom, then stops the car, knowing somehow that the crooks have stopped their truck just around the bend. He climbs the rocks, then jumps down on the crooks, who are not setting up an ambush, but just lighting up cigarettes. Smokus Breakus Interruptus! Fistfight! Batman's winning, so the head thug grabs a crowbar from the truck, intending to club Batman from behind. But Batman turns around....

So the thug turns tail and runs ("Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot").

Batman grabs the crowbar away from him, and the Wizard zaps it with his remote control machine, causing it to levitate and make Batman do a silly dance!

I'm guessing the idea was to make it look like Batman's being pulled backwards without him actually taking a step. Too bad the Moonwalk hadn't been invented yet. That would have been bad-ass. Oh yeah, Batman falls off a cliff!

Next Week: Batman Trapped!

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn't Robin supposed to take a "Wild Ride?" What's up with that?

Read the recap of chapters 4-6 here.

Read the recap of chapters 7-10 here.

And finally, the recap of chapters 11-15 is here.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Introducing Dougal Smeaton

Just an excuse to post another GIMP experiment, really. This was assembled from several photos scrounged off the internet here and there, then painstakingly pieced together to make a vintage-looking photo.

Click the image for a better look.

Dougal Smeaton is my Scottish engineer, a giant of a man who believes in steam and not magic, even though he keeps company with a witch and an empath. He comes from a family of whisky makers, so he's been around boilers all his life. His name is a tribute to John Smeaton, the Glasgow baggage handler who became famous for intervening in the terrorist bombing attempt on Glasgow International Airport (however, in a cool bit of serendipity, there also happens to be a noted civil engineer of the same name from the 18th Century-perhaps an ancestor?). I'm thinking of using this guy in a story sometime.

The body was a British soldier's portrait taken in the 1870's. The face was of a player from Hibernian FC, a Scottish football team, in the 1880's. I combined those into one person, pasted into an old photo of an empty factory, and added in some steam boilers. Every object I added had to have an extra layer to change the angle of the lighting, a fairly simple effect that doesn't work perfectly, but well enough, and a shadow as well. I did a bit more fussing with the lighting on Dougal than on the boilers, and it shows. Then I added a layer of damage on top, and another subtle iris effect on top of that to tie everything together. If you look closely, you can see the seams, but it looks pretty good at first glance, I think.

(ETA: Looking at the photo further, I realized that the lighting and shadow on the big boiler was really poorly done, so I fiddled with it and futzed around with the lighting on Dougal more and replaced it here. There are still some little details that nag at me, but I think this is as good as I can get this one, so I'm going to move on now.)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What The Eff, David Blaine?

So first I give up on Big Video Wednesday, and now there's no Out of the Vault? What the Eff?

It's no biggie. I'm just finally doing some cleaning up around here, and of course, before you can make it clean, you've got to make it dirtier, so there's junk piled up all over my scanner.

I wrote a while back about the gaming campaign that I was in that ended recently, and as we've started up a new one with some new members, I've been waxing nostalgic about my old miniatures. And with all the sorting through old boxes, I finally found them: some Call of Cthulhu and Elfquest minis that I painted years ago. I've been afraid to open the box, because they've been sitting out in a back room that was not climate controlled at all, so I fear damage. But I plan to unveil them with the group on Monday, and if they're not in too bad shape, I may inflict them on you here.

I wonder if they would bring in any money on eBay? Something to think about.

Friday, November 20, 2009

5 Year Plans and Checkpoints

This is going be a very long dip into self-pity and navel gazing, so you'll probably want to skip it. But I feel the need to share this with somebody, and strangely, it's easier to just throw it out here where the whole world can see it, but pretend that nobody will read it, rather than try to talk about this face-to-face with someone.

Every now and then, I get it in my head to try to do something about my life. And one piece of advice I have run into several times in self-development books is to envision the life you want 5 years hence, write it down and then take the steps necessary to get there.

It never seems to work out that way with me, though. Let's look back at my life in 5 year increments, shall we?

45 years ago I was 2 years old and still living with both parents, barely aware of the world around me.

40 years ago, I was 7, and my parents had divorced. I was in second grade, Mrs. Anderson's class, and shuttling to my dad's house on weekends.

35 years ago, I was 12 years old and attending Gethsemane Lutheran School, a tiny parochial school that had around 100 students in grades K-8. My eighth grade class numbered 10 students.

30 years ago, I was 17 and a senior in high school at Heritage Hall, one of the best private schools in Oklahoma City. I was a National Merit Finalist looking at attending film school at USC (just like George Lucas!), talented and semi-popular and seemed destined for a mighty fine future.

25 years ago, I was 22 and had dropped out of one of the most exclusive programs in one of the best universities in the country. I had just moved back home to Oklahoma after failing to find a decent job in Los Angeles. I was down but not out. I intended to keep working on my screenplays and get into the movie business eventually, and in the meantime, I was thinking about applying for a job at the local newspaper.

20 years ago, I was 27 and waiting tables at Bennigan's after having gotten and lost a sweet job at the paper reviewing movies. I was dating a very special girl long distance and just about to change my life completely a month later by quitting my job, moving to Tulsa and proposing to her.

15 years ago, I was 32, married and serving in Korea as a Korean Linguist/Voice Interceptor. I was cursing the day I was so stupid as to enlist in the Army as a 30-year-old man, but in my two years in the Army, I had gotten into pretty decent physical shape and and was making better money than I had since I'd gotten married. I planned to use my G.I. Bill money to go back to school and finish my degree, finally start the life I'd always wanted. And thanks to Army medical benefits, my wife and I were thinking about starting a family as well.

10 years ago, I was 37 and working at T.V. Guide as a supervisor. I had gone back to school long enough to get an Associate's Degree, but had not been able to find a good Bachelor's program that I a) wanted to study, and b) could take at night while working a full-time job, and c) could afford. Earlier that year, my first daughter had died, and it had affected me deeply. Over the summer, I had made a last half-hearted attempt at breaking into screenwriting, but it went nowhere. I finally had to admit that even if I could beat the very long odds against me becoming a professional screenwriter, I did not want to become the person I would have to be to succeed at it. So I was following a friend's advice and working on a novel, based on my experiences in the Army. I hated my job, my marriage was in trouble, and I was having an affair with a woman I knew on-line. And my wife was pregnant with our second child.

5 years ago, I was 42 and working at Fox 23, where I had started working after leaving TV Guide. I had intended to get my foot in the door by working in Master Control, then move to the production side, but it never happened. My marriage was in the toilet, but I hoped that if I just gave my wife some space, she'd come around. I had published Blue Falcon through iUniverse and was attending a local writers group to see if I could actually finally succeed with the writing thing.

Now I'm 47. I'm still legally married, but I haven't lived with my wife for a year-and-a-half. I'm working part-time as a stocker at Target for minimum wage after being unemployed for months. I'm broke and deeply in debt after making the Biggest Mistake of My Life back in February. My life is in shambles, and my body aches all the time thanks to the kind of work I'm doing. I still have no degree and no good job prospects. I have failed at everything I've ever done. But I have a clever daughter, and I'm in the process of revising a book, probably the best I've written so far.

The thing is, if you had asked me at any one of those 5-year checkpoints what my five-year plan was, what kind of life I envisioned for myself 5 years later, I would have been wrong every single time. And not just wrong, but way wrong. My life has never gone the way I intended or planned (and that's not all bad--there have been some very good times in my life as well--they just came in the between years, is all). And that's mostly my fault. But I can't see how to change that now.

I could sit down today and envision a beautiful life for myself five years hence--reconciled with my wife, successful author, financially comfortable--but I have no idea how to get there. So much of it depends on other people, really. Nor do I apparently have the ability to stick to that type of plan long enough to get results. The only thing I can say for almost sure about my future is that I can't extrapolate it from the way my life is now.

And right now, that's the only thing that keeps me going. Because the life I would extrapolate from my present situation is pretty bleak. So I can only hope that the next checkpoint will be better.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1943 Wrap-Up

So before diving back in to another serial right away, I thought I'd give a few observations about the 1943 Batman serial, just to wrap up.

Number one, as I noted, it bears little resemblance to the Batman of the comics. No murdered parents (I found at least one comment on-line that this was due to the Hays Office - Batman could not be a vigilante, but had to be shown working under government orders and with the government's tacit approval), no Joker, no Batmobile, no Commissioner Gordon. Interestingly enough, though, it turns out that Linda Page had been Batman's girlfriend in the comics. As E. Nelson Bridwell describes her in his introduction to Batman: From the 30's to the 70's, Linda Page was "a society girl who turned to nursing to be of some service to the world." Which seems to describe the Linda in the serial.

But then again, maybe the writers' research on the character came from one or two issues of the comics purchased off the newsstand. Batman's origin might not have been mentioned in those few stories, and Gordon might not have appeared either. Although Gordon was in the very first Batman story, he doesn't seem to be a fixture in the other early Batman stories I have.

Alfred gets a lot of play in the serial, though, and that's interesting, because Alfred had just been introduced in the comics that same year, in a story which described him as a would-be actor and amateur-criminologist-turned-butler (due to a promise extracted by his father, Bruce's father's butler, on his deathbed).

And in the serial, Alfred does a lot more than serve tea and exhort Batman to eat soup or whatever. He chaffeurs Bruce Wayne (and often Batman as well), he dons disguises to fool crooks (like an actor), he reads detective stories (like an amateur criminologist) and even throws himself into a couple of fights, even though he's frightened and inept. He saves Batman's life in chapter three and his quick thinking (quicker than Robin's) enables Batman and Robin to escape the police at the end. Alfred is pretty heroic, when you come right down to it.

And Bridwell's introduction mentioned above clued me in to something pretty cool. As little as it seems to follow the Batman mythos, the "Batman" serial might have had one lasting effect on the comics. You see, this was what Alfred looked like when he was first introduced in the comic in 1943 (the year this serial was produced).

Here's William Austin as Alfred in the serial.

And here's Alfred as he is known and loved in the comics today.

Other than that, though, there are moments when the serial gets the feel of Batman right. Lewis Wilson plays a pretty good Bruce Wayne, and his square jaw enables him to occasionally make even that silly devil-horned costume look good.

He does a pretty good job with Chuck White, too, given how badly those chapters are written. In the comics, Batman would occasionally disguise himself as a crook to infiltrate a den of thieves, but in the serial, Batman seems to enjoy playing Chuck so much that he continues to invent excuses to don the disguise. It's like Batman secretly wants to be a crook or something.

Denny O'Neil would do the same thing with Batman during the 70's when he introduced the recurring character of Matches Malone, a low-life thug who had a thing for lighting matches with his thumbnail, played by Batman in disguise, of course.

Most of the action scenes with Batman take place at night, with Batman skulking around on rooftops. And shots like this moment when Batman leaps out of the smoke to attack a couple of thugs...

Or this moment when he trips on a light in Daka's secret tunnel...

have a dramatic feel to them. It has the dark feeling of the early 40's Batman to it, in other words, at least in places.

Which is not to say that it's good or well-written. There are some good lines here and there, and the requisite number of suspenseful situations and thrilling escapes. I especially like the way that Daka begins to assume that there are several Bat-Men after Batman's death has been confirmed to him so many times.

But major story elements are abandoned left and right. After Batman uses the captured ray gun on the armored car, he never uses it again, even though it would be an awesome tool to have on hand. Likewise, when he gets hold of one of the zombie headpieces, he does nothing with it. And worst of all, after the thugs finally get the radium they need, we see Daka with his nearly finished Atom Disintegrator in chapter 13 AND NEVER HEAR ABOUT IT AGAIN. We've been told since chapter 1 that this is the ultimate goal of his master plan, AND HE NEVER EVEN TRIES TO USE IT IN THE LAST TWO CHAPTERS! Major disappointment.

Well, we can hope that the Batman's next appearance, in 1949's "Batman and Robin," will maintain the first serial's strengths while improving on its weaknesses, can't we?

Don't bet on it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Out of the Vault - ESPers

So in July 1986, at about the same time as Alan Moore's Watchmen was being published, Eclipse Comics put out an interesting little miniseries titled ESPers. It featured people with superpowers, but more grounded in the real world. Their powers were explained away as various manifestations of ESP, and they fought terrorists and mafiosi and such. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

In issue 1 (of a four-part miniseries), James Hudnall (writer of Battle to the Death) and David Lloyd (artist of Alan Moore's V For Vendetta) introduced us to rich American businessman Arthur Williams and his daughter Linda. Arthur is kidnapped by terrorists in Beirut (which he totally anticipates), and his daughter Linda moves heaven and earth to find him.

Literally. Turns out, both father and daughter are ESPers, people with special mental powers. Linda's power is a form of electronic telepathy. She mentally infiltrates the CIA's computers at Langley searching for information on her father's captors. She can't find any, but she does find mention of several other ESPers like herself. So she decides to recruit her own A-Team to bring her father back. And like the X-Men and/or Captain Planet's Planeteers, her team is composed of people from around the world.

Simon Ashley is a black pyrokinetic from Kingston, Jamaica, mon. William Silent Bear is an Amerindian mechanic/telekinetic from North Dakota. Maria Rivas is an Argentinian journalist who can project force-fields and teleport. Jiro Yabuki is a Japanese high school student who can shoot lightning.

And then there's Ian McVicar, the spy/art smuggler with limited time-shifting abilities who is recruited tolead the team. His name is a brilliant combination of Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond) and John McVicar, the British crook-gone-straight whose life story was turned into a movie starring Roger Daltrey of The Who. Oh, and he looks a little like Sean Connery.

Linda and McVicar recruit the other ESPers for the mission, where we learn just how deadly McVicar is.

David Lloyd's art is just stylized enough to make it interesting, but otherwise grounded in a reality that keeps it from ever being as spectacular as your average Marvel/DC superbattle. Witness this telekinetic execution by the bad guy...

Superpowered, yet somehow mundane. And that was my problem with ESPers in the 80's, I think. I was intrigued by the series, but it never really seemed to take off for me. Somebody must have liked it, though, because by issue four, the cover no longer bore the "No x of 4" logo and instead said "Now a Continuing Series."

Artist David Lloyd left after issue four and was replaced by John Burns, former artist of Modesty Blaise, who brought a retro sensibility to the book. The color stylization brought to mind 60's paperback covers.

I stopped buying the comic after one Burns issue. And yet, looking at it now, I wonder why. Because in the intervening years, my tastes have shifted, and now I really dig what Burns was doing. I may have to look up those back issues and see how things turned out.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

No More Big Video For Now

You may have noticed that this is the second week in which I didn't have a Big Video Wednesday. I'm kind of getting burned out on them; after all, I'm already digging through video and posting stills for Movie Monday, so Big Video Wednesday just feels like more of the same.

And in my defense, I was kind of distracted by that expedition to the Amazon I took, which didn't turn out exactly the way I had hoped. What expedition, you ask? Well, look for yourself.

Being a shrunken head sucks, frankly. Oh, an if you mouse over the head, you can play with it, but please don't. It makes me dizzy. Hey, I said, don't. Seriously. Stop it.

Corinne Bohrer sympathizes.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Movie Monday - Batman, 1943 Chapters 11-15

This is it, the final recap of the original "Batman" serial from 1943. Don't get too cocky, though, because we still have 15 chapters of "Batman and Robin" to do after this.

Last week in chapter 10, Batman died in a fiery car crash off a cliff. Except of course that as chapter 11, "A Nipponese Trap," opens, we see Batman jump out of the COCKADOODIE CAR!!!! just before it goes over.

Meanwhile, the thugs gloat over Batman's death and run off to fetch the radium, completely ignoring the unconscious Robin at their feet. Robin gets up, groggy, and runs back to Bruce Wayne's car with Alfred and together they fetch Bruce and head back to the Bat-Cave.

The thugs deliver the radium to Daka, who gloats that now he can build the full-size Atom Disintegrator, a weapon "more destructive than anything Man ever dreamed of." Remember that this was two years before Hiroshima, and the idea of a single bomb that could level an entire city was pure science-fiction to most of the general public.

Back at Wayne Manor, Robin eats a banana while Bruce does his make-up. You'll notice I haven't made any gay jokes this entire time, because in this serial, they're just too easy. Even though the gang now knows that Chuck White is not a dependable recruit, Marshall has never met Chuck White, so Bruce figures White can coax more information out of him. He has himself arrested and thrown into a cell next to Marshall, then tells about how he broke into a house and found a weird cave full of bats and stuff. Marshall asks if he can find the house again, and White says sure. So Marshall tells him where to go with that information if he gets out first.

Alfred and Dick go to a bail bondsman to free Chuck White. Shortly afterward, Daka gets a call that Chuck White is in jail. Daka, suspecting that White works for Batman, sends his own men to bail White out, and when White emerges, they crash into his cab with a big delivery truck. They drive off, chuckling that they've killed him "for sure."

And true to form, next scene, we see Chuck White getting out of the hospital with a bandage on his ribs, but apparently suffering no pain at all. Batman goes to a phone and calls Dick and Alfred to come meet him at the hospital, while the thugs report to Daka that White is dead.

Batman, still in his Chuck White disguise, changes into his batsuit as he directs Alfred to the address Marshall gave him. It's a cabin on a rural road. Batman and Robin bust into the place and fight the thugs, and finally win one, mainly because Robin picks up a dropped pistol and holds it on the crooks. Now Robin's packing heat! What kind of twisted universe is this?

But then Batman gets distacted by a shiny object, and the thugs overpower Robin despite the gun, and both of them are knocked out. The thugs debate whether to kill Batman right away or take him alive to Daka, but first, they unmask him. It's Chuck White!

Meanwhile Robin, COMPLETELY IGNORED YET AGAIN, runs to the next room and summons police on the thugs' shortwave radio. The thugs set a bomb to blow up the cabin, but before the last one leaves, Batman jumps up and fights with him. Robin comes in to help and they knock the guy out, then turn to run. KABOOM!

In chapter 12, "Embers of Evil," we see them dive through a trapdoor in the floor before the bomb goes off. They emerge outside the fence, near their car.

Daka receives a report that Batman is dead yet again, and that he was Chuck White. Daka is glad to hear the news, but worries that Chuck was just one member of a large force of Batmen (Bat-Force Forever!), so he decides to use Linda Page to bait a trap and see if he can lure another one out of hiding. Daka also learns that Marshall is still alive and in jail, so he sends Bernie from the Sphinx Club to deliver Marshall a pack of very special cigarettes.

Why not just call them "Deadly Poison Brand?" And why have a picture of the Sphinx if the brand is Medusa? The next day, Bruce sees Bernie leave the police station as he is entering. Captain Arnold has called Bruce in to see if Marshall is one of the men he saw earlier (remember Bruce checking mug shots in chapter 7?). Marshall is dead inside his cell, but Bruce identifies him anyway. Bruce finds a half-smoked cigarette on the floor and makes off with it.

Meanwhile, as Linda is leaving work, she sees a car drive by with her uncle as a passenger. She jumps in her own car and follows it to the Ajax Metal Works, where she is kidnapped. Other members of the gang spread clues to lead Batman to the factory, if he's still alive, that is.

Bruce determines that the cigarette was poisoned and calls Captain Arnold as Batman to tell him about the cigarettes and Bernie's involvement. And just in time, too, because Captain Arnold apparently routinely helps himself to the personal effects of dead prisoners and was just about to light up one of those Medusa cigarettes himself.

Next Bruce tries to track down Linda and goes to the Ajax Metal Works. Switching to Batman, he and Robin sneak into the basement. Batman sets off a smoke bomb to lure the crooks into his own trap. When they come down, Batman and Robin attack from the smoke!

In the fight, a cigarette (not a Medusa?) is dropped onto oily rags and a real fire starts. Batman sends Robin to call the fire department while he searches for Linda. The fire spreads, and he is crushed under flaming debris.

But no! In chapter 13, "Eight Steps Down," the wreckage narrowly misses Batman, and he manages to escape the big stock footage montage of flaming building and firemen that ensues. He calls Captain Arnold to ask about Bernie, but the captain says that when they raided the place, no one there knew any Bernie. So Batman visits the abandoned club himself, and quickly finds a secret room where Bernie is holed up.

Meanwhile Daka, happily working on his Atom Disintegrator model, gets a report that yet another Batman has been killed.

He's whittling them down! So he's in a good mood when Linda Page arrives, and we get this exchange.

Daka: Welcome to my humble abode, Miss Page.

Linda: A Jap!

Daka: Please to say, 'Nipponese.' That is the courteous way of addressing one of the future rulers of the world.

See, he's evil, but polite.

It must be noted at this point that Shirley Patterson, playing Linda Page, is rocking the Big Wall O'Hair.

Martin Warren, Zombie Uncle, gets an illustration of just how big that hair is when she buries her face in his neck and pokes him in the eye with her hair.

Batman and Robin, having no clues to work from, go back to the house where Daka looked out from the painting. After a bit of searching, they find the secret passage (somehow--we see them looking for it in one scene and walking through it the next). They come to the dead-end that is the back-door to Daka's secret HQ. Batman sends Robin for a crowbar while he searches for another secret door. He steps on a switch in the floor and Daka is signaled that someone is in the tunnel.

He turns on a monitor and sees Batman. But he has the place riddled with traps, so he moves to a bank of wall switches. Linda shouts a warning at the TV, but Batman somehow doesn't hear it. Daka berates her for being stupid, then takes a moment to savor his victory before giggling and throwing a switch. Batman falls into a pit! With walls that close in! And big knives embedded in the walls! While Daka is turning Linda into an electrozombie! Awesome!

In chapter 14, "The Executioner Strikes," Robin gets back with the crowbar just in time! He opens up the pit door and Batman uses the crowbar to wedge the walls apart long enough to escape. They decide to grab some sounding equipment to test the walls and find the secret entrance.

In Daka's lab, Linda is now an electrozombie (without screaming once, Ken Colton). And to compound the horror, the zombie headpiece completely flattens her wall of hair.

Daka goes to the pit to gloat over Batman's dead body, but finds him gone. "The Batman must be a magician or a devil," he exclaims, then blows up the mines he has planted in the tunnel, collapsing it completely. A few minutes after Daka blows the mines, Roin blows his lines as he and Batman investigate the wreckage. They decide to check city blueprints of the entire neighborhood to see if they can find another way into the secret heaquarters.

When they get back to their car, thugs see Robin getting into the car (but they don't see Batman for some reason, who just appears in the car without running to it). They follow the car and stop it, but by that time, Bruce has changed into civvies. He has Dick hide, and talks to the thugs, who admit they must have been mistaken. Stupid, stupid thugs. As they drive away, Bruce changes back into Batman and chases them down. Big fistfight, with even Alfred throwing down! Batman wins, finally.

He takes the thugs back to the Batcave where he has Bernie tied up. But before he can question them, Alfred calls down with news of a mysterious note from Linda, asking Bruce to meet her at a certain address. It's a trap (whose purpose is unknown, because the scene that sets it up was apparently cut out or something), but Batman decides to spring it.

He goes into the building alone, telling Robin he'll call on his "Batman radio" if he needs help (in a belated nod to the comics--up to now, they've just called it a pocket radio). He finds Zombie Linda sitting in a chair, unresponsive. Thugs club Batman from behind and they toss him into a crate (figuring that since he's so strong, Daka will want him as a zombie). They haul the crate back to Daka's headquarters, where Daka has the zombies throw it into the alligator pit (it lands on one of them, pissing him off righteously). Screams! (oh, and by the way, I get a kick from this scene every time, because the two zombies are named Warren and Brown, and every time Daka gives them an order, he prefaces it with, "Warren, Brown"--so happens I know a guy named Warren Brown).

And finally here we are at the last chapter, chapter 15, "The Doom of the Rising Sun." Turns out, Batman used his "Batman radio" to send a Morse code signal to Robin, who freed him from the crate. They knocked out the thug guarding it and put him in the crate in Batman's place. Then they followed the truck to the Cave of Horrors. Batman and Robin sneak in with Alfred's help and defeat the caveman guard. Then they hide while the Cave of Horror gate attendant rings the doorbell and places his ring against the sensor.

So if you're Batman, what do you do next? Call the police? Use some scientific gadget to defeat the secret lock and sneak inside? Or walk up and ring the Evil Doorbell and use your batshaped ring to warn everyone inside of who you are?

Daka tells the boy band that this is their last chance. He sends them out to take Batman alive. Batman and Robin fight a bunch of them at once and finally win one (in continuity news, Robin's gloves jump on and off during the fight). Batman leaves Robin to tie them up while he goes in to find Linda. He is grabbed by zombies Pat and George and brought to the secret lab, where Daka plans to turn him into a zombie. What does Batman finally say when he meets the criminal mastermind he's been fighting for 15 chapters? You got it. "A Jap!"

So Daka has Batman strapped in the zombie chair and takes a few minutes to gloat over his victory, COMPLETELY FORGETTING ABOUT ROBIN YET AGAIN. The zombie guards ignore Robin as he walks by, also. No wonder Dick Grayson ended up with a complex.

So it ends up being Robin who captures Daka by lassoing him from behind. He frees Batman, who forces Daka to help him de-zombify Linda (and as Batman removes his gloves, it looks as if he's weaing a wedding ring--is Linda just his little floozy on the side? ).

The big Wall o' Hair is saved!

But Daka escapes his bonds and threatens Linda with a knife! He backs toward the door, planning to escape. Batman tells Robin to push the button that closes the outside door, but Robin pushes the wrong button and drops Daka into the alligator pit.

Got that? Robin captured the villain and then killed him. Batman did nothing and gets title billing.

There's a quick wrap-up as Alfred shows up with the police. Captain Arnold wants to arrest Batman, but Alfred sneaks over to the button panel and figures it out instantly, opening another secret door to distract the cops, then opening the alligator pit to keep them from pursuing our heroes as they make their escape. Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson show up moments later, and nobody makes the connection. I can sort of understand them not making the connection between Bruce and Batman, since everybody seems completely convinced by his half-assed fop act.

But nobody ever notices that both Robin and Dick Grayson have exactly the same crazy mess of hair, even when seeing them mere moments apart?


(You can read the summary of the first two chapters here)

(Read a summary of chapters 3-6 here)

(Read a summary of chapters 7-10 here)