Batman Family Reunion #486 – Skeletons, Sea Devils, and Stamp Collections!

This month, join Shawn, Paul, and special guest (and first-time podcaster) Dan Dougherty at Wayne Family Gardens!  We discover whether Maxie Zeus really has god-like powers and how the Sea Devils connect to the Human Target!  We get the return of ads to Detective Comics, and see Alfred take on a home invasion at the Wayne penthouse!  The Scarecrow comes by Hudson U to strike fear into Robin, while Batgirl faces Killer Moth!  Stop on by and enjoy the conversation and the apple pie!

This month's Bat Family History links for George Tuska:

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28 responses to “Batman Family Reunion #486 – Skeletons, Sea Devils, and Stamp Collections!

  1. “Maybe Alfred is John Steed in witness relocation…” I understood that reference, Uncle Shawn! While looking for a Marvel’s Avengers movie BluRay a few months ago, I came across my Dad’s DVD box set of The Avengers: The Emma Peel Megaset, and I have been watching a few episodes a week since and am still watching them now. The show is fun and quite funny, though a lot of the scenes do seem to lag compared to shows today (which sometimes go too fast, IMO). What was also fun was seeing a young Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Gough from the 1989 Batman movie) playing two different over-the-top villains on the show. Great stuff.

    I first encountered Killer Moth in the Teen Titans cartoon, where he looked like a half-man/half-moth monster, and I was intrigued by the comic book version when you covered Batman Family #15, where I saw that Killer Moth was… wearing his mask in a jail cell? They really don’t allow that… unless… that was his actual face?

    So I Googled Killer Moth’s appearances in DC Comics and then went through Dad’s longboxes to read the stories…

    And I discovered that Killer Moth did start his costumed career in Batman #63 as a “crime protector” who studied Batman’s methods (that were publicly known) in order to aid crooks in the same way Batman would aid the police.

    He was once a crook who served his time in prison, and stashed enough stolen loot from his earlier crimes to set himself up as a millionaire named Cameron Van Cleer. He hired people to construct a cave under his mansion, as well as build a Moth Mobile and likely his other devices — and promptly killed those people when they were done in order to maintain his secret (just like in this Batgirl story).

    Killer Moth gave a bunch of Gotham crooks a flashlight that was actually a handheld infrared “moth signal” which he could see with special lenses, instructing them to shine it in the sky to summon him if they run into trouble during a crime.

    Oh, and Killer Moth had his own sidekick too… a gun!

    Back then, Killer Moth charged two-thirds of the stolen loot for his “crime protection” services. So in this Batgirl story he marked down his fee to one half — likely to drum up some new business.

    Oh, and the mask wasn’t his real face (panel from the second Killer Moth story in Batman #64)…

    I didn’t find the “bare feet in the jail cell” scene in Detective #486 confusing. The story set up that Killer Moth hired the shoemaker father to create shoes with a hollow compartment. Killer Moth would then place his signal device in this compartment and give the shoes to crooks to wear during their crimes so they can signal Killer Moth when they need help (replacing the bulky and obviously outdated Moth Signal flashlight…). I’d like to think the crooks had to click their heels together three times to summon him…

    Killer Moth killed the shoemaker so he couldn’t be tied to his operations (though using his alias of Van Cleer to hire him still made the connection… D’oh!). So Batgirl figured out about the signal shoes and had them taken away from the Bolton gang members arrested on page 6 so: (1) they couldn’t call Killer Moth to break them out of jail, and (2) Batgirl can wear the shoes with her disguise to pretend to be another Bolton Gang member summoning Killer Moth in her sting operation on pages 7-8.

    But I can understand how some readers may be confused, Uncle Shawn. Maybe DC Comics will release a 12-issue miniseries called “Crisis on Infinite Brannock Devices” to make it more comprehensible…

    (Sorry, Uncle Shawn, I couldn’t resist…)

    1. When we started the Batman Family Reunion I knew that we would be providing delicious food for all of our Bat Cousins –
      I DIDN’T know that we would be providing rich, detailed histories of the creators AND characters!
      THANK YOU Professor Isamu!

  2. Back in the day when this one hit my mailbox, I remember enjoying it – in part because of the use of three costumed villains (Maxie Zeus, Killer Moth and Scarecrow). I always enjoyed Bat-tales when they featured the wild members of the rogues gallery.

    I was not a huge George Tuska fan in the main comics themselves, but I very much did enjoy the World’s Greatest Superheroes comic strip and its Superman follow-up. I clipped every one of those strips from the morning newspaper that my grandmother got and had them in my collection for many years (sadly now gone). I did make a collage years later from the color Sunday strips though. My father managed to save it when my parents moved from my childhood home and presented it to me framed as a Christmas present in the late 90’s. I still have that hanging on the wall in my man-cave today.

  3. I like the idea of a “Moth Signal”, but it probably would have been easier and cheaper just to hang a sweater out the window.

    Shawn’s talk about Dollar Comics (which could be a drinking game, but it would lead to alcohol poisoning before you ever get to feedback) makes me wish DC had taken one of their horror anthologies–Unexpected, House of Mystery, House of Secrets, which all basically featured the same content–and devoted it to their “mystery” superheroes. How cool would a dollar comic starring Swamp Thing, The Phantom Stranger, Black Orchid, The Demon, and Madame Xanadu have been???

    George Tuska was one of those great golden age artists who did superb work but then got assigned fill-ins on superhero titles that were not his forte. He kept getting slotted in on JLA for Chuck Patton (Three Tomahawks) and I really hated it. Which, ultimately, wasn’t fair to him, since he excelled at comics, just not the genres that were in favor at the time.

  4. I REALLY like maxie Zues!
    Think about how rare it is in superhero stories for what should be a delusion to actually BE a delusion! usually he’d develop powers or somthing but he’s just crazy

  5. Hey old chums this is cousin Bucky and Jeremy is injured his leg that sinister fiend plow boy caught with country boy splash yes he’s also a pro wrestler on the weekends with name like that how could he not . So I brought my earth 2 counter part Rocky Star wind ring announcer and figure photographer for my YouTube channel Bucky749 and sometimes know as the masked muskrat v.5 . We brought country bbq chicken tacos with mango salsa

  6. Hello Bat-Family Cousins:

    I brought a pack of Slim Jims to the party. Because sometimes you need some gluten free protein late at night while wandering the dark streets of Gotham when the only thing open are the shops that sell individual cigarettes.

    Batman undressing while in a battle unlocked this core memory: I had an old comic in my collection, whose cover fell off long before it was ever passed down to me by my older brothers, which featured Clark Kent being attacked by a robot. But, for reasons I never found out, Clark Kent didn’t have any of his Superman powers until every last piece of Clark Kent clothes were removed. (And it took at least a full page. He should take disrobing lessons from Batman.) An image of bloody knuckles (of course drawn by Curt Swan and most likely inked by Murphy Anderson) is embedded in my brain. Does anyone remember the issue or what was going on?

    Another great episode!

    1. Yes. That scene was in Superman #296: “Who Took the Super Out of Superman?”

      An alien enemy (who posed as Clark Kent’s neighbor) treated Clark Kent’s entire wardrobe with an unearthly chemical that counteracted yellow sun rays, pretty much negating Superman’s powers while he wore them.

      The entire story is from Superman #296-299.

  7. Still listening, but I wanted to get this thought out. Re; Batman being mean to Alfred. Denny could ocassionaly have Batman get snippy with his “family”. In the classic “Night of the Reaper” from Batman #237, at one point in the story, he tells Robin “Don’t be stupid, kid!”. This has stood out to me since I read the story reprinted in that classic Batman Family issue of Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest. Denny’s 70s Batman had a bit of Clint Eastwood/Dirty Harry in him, snipping at those around him if he thought they were being…well, dense.

    Edited to add: Robert J. Smith beat me to the punch with the Reaper story bit!

    1. Great spotlight on George Tuska, Paul! I’m more of a Tuska guy than a Don Heck guy, but by the time I was encountering him, he was a journeyman comics artist. It wasn’t until I started reading comics history that I read many creators, such as Carmine Infantino and Peter (Thunderbolt) Morisi praise him as a huge inspiration to them. His work on Captain America over Jack Kirby’s layouts in the 60s popped up on screen in the Marvel Super Heroes cartoon (with VERY limited animation), and I particularly remember the Greymoor Castle saga he drew. Tuska always gave characters big “uni-teeth” veneers (see Alfred stroking his chin on page 2). If it was a bad guy, they’d often have a big chip out of the middle! That and the splayed bodies always stood out. I’ve grown to appreciate his art more as I’ve gotten older.

      Looks like that bonker Wonder Woman Hostess ad was drawn by Curt Swan, who did do most of the DC Hostess output.

      Fun episode! Welcome to podcasting, Dan!

      One more addendum! Corgi actually made a diecast Mothmobile about a decade ago!
      Corgi Mothmobile

      1. It corners like it’s on r–well, actually it doesn’t corner. Not at all. It slowly lists to port or starboard, like the leviathan ships it resembles.

  8. Another highly enjoyable episode!

    Hearing the anecdote about George Tuska punching Bob Powell reminded me: The incident is depicted in Will Eisner’s graphic novel “The Dreamer,” a memoir about the early days of the comics industry with the names slightly changed. The George Tuska character is named “Gar Tooth”…not sure whether that’s simply wordplay on “tusk” and “tooth,” or whether it’s a reference to the trademark “Tuska teeth” he was known for drawing. The Bob Powell counterpart was named “Bo Bowers,” and the other studio employees include “Lew Sharp” (Lou Fine), “Jack King” (Jack Kirby, of course), and the father-and-daughter artist/writer team “Armand and Andrea Budd” (Alex Blum and Toni Blum–it took me a moment to figure out that Eisner was doing a bit of botanical punning on “bud” and “bloom”).

  9. The Detective Comics #486 cover is pretty good, but I miss the days when the Dollar Comic foregrounded Robin and Batgirl. Hey ho. That woman’s head in the Dick Giordano image is totally a Joe Staton head – what’s going on?

    I’ve never heard of proofreading backwards, Shawn… are you having us on? I’ve proofread thousands of pages, but never backwards.

    I’m with Shawn, I was always hugely disappointed if an anniversary issue of Brave and Bold or DC Comics Presents turned out to be basically just another issue of World’s Finest, with Batman and Superman together rather than someone I’ve never seen previously.

    Shawn, you don’t have to restrict yourself to bald superheroes and villains for cosplay – you could also do people with hats. Just imagine how awesome you would look as Sargon the Sorcerer with a lovely yellow bejewelled turban

    I agree, Time Warp has perhaps the best logo ever. Unsurprisingly, it’s by the great Todd Klein. Shame the book lasted just five issues – let’s do the Time warp again.

    Sea Devils in the Human Target, well, at least that adds a single point of interest. I tell a lie, we got another skeleton. Editor Paul Levitz should have latched onto the skeleton bit and given us dem bones in every story this issue. And how wonderful to have a Don Heck fan on the show in the shape of Dan. The next issue blurb is intriguing, I can’t wait to read the Scotland-set ‘The Things That Go Bump in the Night Contract’ in the following issue, Detective Comics #487… Oh, hang on. I looked through the following issues to the end of the Dollar Comics period and the story never shows up. I wonder if it’s in a DC drawer somewhere.

    Regarding the Batgirl story, why were those victims needing someone to fight their corner – whatever happened to Bruce Wayne’s Victims Inc project?

    I admit it, I’m one of the unsigned letter writers in this issues letter column – may I be on the show?

    That Wonder Woman Hostess ad sounds about as good as any Hostess ad. And I wouldn’t worry if those pies are still floating in space after 45 years – they’ll taste just as good as they ever did.

    I enjoyed the respectful tribute to George Tuska,I always liked his stuff, even his Legion.

    Thanks for reading out my feedback. In my comments, ‘the student is definitely, positively dead’ isn’t a Monty Python reference, it’s from Kander and Ebb’s musical Curtains, the song The Woman’s Dead. I saw that in New York with David Hyde Pierce, Debra Monk and Edward Hibbert, they were so good I assumed they’d trained on top soap opera Secret Hearts

    And I pointed out a quote in the Robin story in which a cop had yelled, due to a lettering error, ‘Viola, instant clue’. VIOLA. But it was read out by Shawn as ‘Voila’ ie what it should have been in the first place. So you missed my, er, hilarious gag, ‘I reckon his mind is out of tune’.

    Also, ‘…Denny lame’ was a brilliant chance for some Beatles, you know, Penny Lane – but I guess I am too subtle! Thats me all over.

    My reference around previous Batman Family guest Terry in a gold suit was the song Makin’ It, the theme song to the Seventies sitcom Makin’ It. You’re so young!

    When I said Jason Bard wasn’t ‘half lazy’, that’s not a reference to anything. If we say someone isn’t half something, that means they’re wholly something. Do you not use the expression in the US? Sorry!

    The British Avengers was ITV all the way, not the BBC!

    Catch you later!

      1. That’s right, ABC was one of the early independent TV companies that supplied the ITV network, it wound up as part of Thames.

  10. Impressive podcast most impressive. This is a cool cover. The skeleton just falling at Bats feet. And his look of shock. The inside cover well splash page looks great too. I call it the interior cover since this was still at the time ware less scruples news stand owners would ship the cover back to DC for the money but still sell the book. This does its job with Bats getting tgat great pose and Max with his close up.

    The skull and skeletons in the Fire works well to in a story telling way. The skeleton falling out the sky definitely adds to it. The plan is not bad. Sadly this and the Bat Man cartoon were the only times I recall Max being a threat. The Outsiders comic ware he gave folks powers as new Olympians was cool, but to me the art hurt that. Still as a story it helped Max.

    Though I think Bats had left the team by then. As had Alan Davis as the artist. And long since Jim Aparo left. So the art was… fine , but not at those levels. Any way. Hey it’s the joker of course he’s gonna ham up his Cameo. Just be lucky he didn’t do card tricks or juggle in the background. Heck Peter Cushing did a bit of business in the background when he was an extra.

    So why not Joe Kure? Also the Lawyer Max is talking to is stealing his gimmick with the loud purple suit. And bringing more notice to himself with the white tie. He’s lucky Joker didn’t show him the pencil trick. Yeah that laundry place is nasty. It’s definitely a front.

    He’s making his money off it’s the chemicals and probably other stuff he does for Max’s gang. And probably other gangs. Thus why the pineapple going off means little to him, though jeez that woman is focused on her clothes. Not the look of em, but getting them washed. Also I see no mask when Bats pulls off the wig. Was he walking around with the wig just over his cowl?

    No one questioned why the waiter is masked? Just no? This a regular thing in Gothem? Waters in masks? The escape but was cool with the car. And descent wrap up. Though I wonder what Max does in part 2? Next

    The Human Target. There is a full face scuba mask that’s close to this. And that’s just from a guggle search. Not a 1 for 1. So some artists license was taken, but close enough. Sharks normally don’t attack humans. Unless they mistake you for a fish. And yeah his attack would probably work. Since their bones are all cartilage. Save teeth. Though in the news that seems to have changed recently. With more shark attacks.

    Ah the dead body Oy. Ah Bat Girl and the Moth. It’s well Typical. Ah geez the green shirt guy with the orange vest. Why just why? Then in the Alfred story… oy orange shirt and green jacket. The. Next to the guy with the orange hat and purple jacket. And tiling his hat cause he think he looks dapper. No butter cup.even with the goatee this man is captain tacky.

    This is weird since I remember even peer Crissis this version of Al still being MI 6. Or at lest a war hero and having a daughter with a French resistance fighter. During WW 2. And here or very soon she becomes part of the Bats cast. At one point she helps bats with Dead Shot.

    This was around the time Vick Val was still Bruce’s girl friend. And right as Jason became Robin or right before it. So seeing to bit thugs pushing Al around just is a bit, meh. Does not compute. Maybe Alfred Begal, but Penny Worth? I don’t get it. Since I remember Al taking Begils place as a relative and Penny worth not wanting to be a butler till Begal or his dad begging him to take up the family line of work.

    Next. Shawn is slipping no mention of how great Dick’s legs look on the first page?such an over sight. As for Scare Crow waring sneakers heck I’m wondering why they all don’t? I mean their thing to escape an Athletic level athlete. Weather it’s Bruce or Dick. Heck I agree with Pat Say jack’s Robin bit. When Pat had a talk show. And the Robin actor guy wore sneakers since their easer to run down crooks than the Peter Pan booties.

    So why they don’t all find some that match there looks is beyond me… ok maybe not Penguin, Joker or Ras since it destroys their look. Still, if your cat woman why the high heel boots? Trying to Rob a place in those. Oy. How ya gonna scale a wall in stiletto heels? I get you get use to them, but hon please. After a caper and being chased by Her boy toy bats. Her feet must Hurt.

    I know you can get use to such foot ware. I can walk around a comic convention all day in chunky heels, but still. That line of work in a purple spandex outfit and heels. With a whip. The sweat levels in the hot times of New York weather alone. Then the shift to Oy levers of cold. And the mask with the hair hanging out of it. I’m all for fashion and looking your best. But, Oy vah . Some of these outfits.
    A good pair of sneakers isn’t a bad idea.

    The man’s dressed as a scare crow. Like he’s worried about fashion, though he probably should. But, still. Him and the mad hater should get better shoes. Look at bats he added army boot type bottoms to his boots. Now they make since. Look even Harley switched to tennis shoes. From the fancy short boots she wore to start with.

    See two folks that got the memo. You can keep a theme and be practical. Now some of her newer stuff was just why? But, at first she got the right start. Anyway, yeah blowing up a grave to get some one out. I mean you have to have the charges at the right amount. To much and go bye bye. But no more silly than the bride punching her way out of a grave and the 6 ft of dirt. Or when Bruce punched his way out or Spider man when Kraven barred him.

    Well maybe since he can lift 10 tons. So Pete may have a more believability. Who knows ? Still how long was he in there? Ware did Peter get the air? It’s long enough for Kaven to have the weird spider diet. Dressing as Spider Man and beating crocks and Verman . Then ending it all.

    So how much air was in that costume. And Peter has his full face mask on at the time. Weird .
    Anyway,can’t wait for the next podcast.

  11. Good February, Bat-cousins! Shawn, I’m starting to find your lack of 70s and 80s music knowledge disturbing. Okay, maybe “Snowblind” isn’t one of Styx’s better known songs, but you haven’t heard “Empty Garden?” Elton John wrote it after the death of his friend; you have heard of John Lennon, right?

    Batman – “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC

    DC made an interesting decision to alternate the storylines. Two issues with Maxie Zeus, then the League, now back to Maxie, and next issue the League again. That doesn’t make it easy to collect into a trade paperback.

    Okay, I’m from the south. Grew up in northwest Georgia, have a few friends and family that would be considered “country”. I’m not sure if I should be offended by or lauigh at Plowboy. It’s like a mobster movie with Jethro from “Beverly Hillbillies”. “Forget it, Jethro; it’s Hooterville.”

    I don’t know who digitized the color on DC Universe Infinite for this issue, but a lot of the purple wardrobe showed up as pinkish, and the Joker’s hair is blue.

    Human Target – “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys

    I don’t have the original issue – was there an editor’s note somewhere saying who Dane Dorrance was? I get the feeling at the time I knew he and Judy were older existing characters. The Sea Devils last appeared in Showcase #100 over a year before this, but that would have been the only time I had seen them.

    Batgirl – “Runaway” by Bon Jovi

    Why did Donny hitchhike? I’ve driven that DC-Baltimore-Philly-NJ-NY stretch where Gotham is supposed to be. Google Maps says DC to Newark is 216 miles, or 3 hours 47 minutes. It may seem farther because of all the major metro areas. Why not take a bus or the train? Faster than hitchhiking, cheaper than flying, and on the train he might have struck up a conversation with a then Senator/future US President commuting from Delaware.

    At least Donny did the smart thing by going to his congresswoman for help, because she is also, you know, the daughter of the Gotham police commissioner. Oh, and Batgirl.

    Alfred – “You Can Call Me Al” by Paul Simon

    Yay, an Alfred story!! It was surprises like this that made the title fun.

    On page 4, Alfred had such a refined way to say “well, you didn’t ask if I could open the safe.”

    “Gold ingots”?? Does he think Bruce Wayne is a Bond villain? Or a Senator from New Jersey?

    Robin – “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult

    One thing I’ve noticed about Schaffenberger’s depiction of Robin — he’s inconsistent with the domino mask. Most times we see the typical white eyes, but then we get a close up like page 10 panel 4 where we see Robin’s eyes (and even a little of the skin around them).

    Another thought about that bed – seems odd that someone with claustrophobia would have a canopy bed.

    Did Crane get his Reynard suit from the same place as the head diamond dealer from last issue?

    Fun episode, guys! Now, to get to work on that Youtube playlist for Shawn’s music education.

  12. Hey, Bat Cousins, I brought a thousand boxes of Fruit Stripe gum. And can I interest either of you in my pyramid scheme, uh, I mean a subscription to GRIT? Tell your friends.

    I’m starting to side with Shawn on these box covers. The solid color block really diminishes the impact of the art. This cover would be way better as a full image with some dramatic word balloons about air travel safety, or don’t eat the chili, or something.

    This era of Batman reminds me of a wealthy Jack Reacher, minus the killing, of course… well, except Plowboy and his friends… A tough guy with a good heart going through town, beating the crap out of bad guys and throwing in a few quips. No aliens or magic. Just good old fashioned detective work and broken bones. A few solid moments: Batman Scooby-Doo-ing his waiter mask off with the long-eared cowl underneath. And the Joker strolling thru Arkham with no speaking lines. Glad they let him keep his hair gel in prison.

    Solid Human Target story. My life goal is to sport that white leisure suit/open shirt on my next family vacation. I just have to figure out how to convince my wife. I appreciate this story continuing the issue’s theme of fully clothed skeletons. And yes, that’s how you stun a shark, kids.

    What’s it gonna take for Batgirl to get some respect? Another story with Don Heck art and Killer Moth as the villain? Hey, DC, why not just have Vince Colletta pour sugar in her gas tank? Give Batgirl her due! Speaking of gas tanks, I will admit I liked Killer Moth’s ride. Though, if I was Killer Moth, I’d keep it away from Sensei’s parking garage. That Allstate bill would be crazy high to fix a bunch of sword and throwing star scratches. Finally, give little Donny’s some respect. He shakes off his dad’s murder to hitchhike to DC so he can play off Barbara’s sympathy and stay at her apartment. It doesn’t work, but I respect his game. He’ll have to settle for giving Barbara a dainty hand wave goodbye. Seriously, look at his hand on the last panel.

    Not much to say about the Alfred story, except why does Bruce have a sexy portrait of his mom hiding a wall safe?

    In the Robin story, I was disappointed the buried guy wasn’t a clothed skeleton. Stick to the theme, Jack C Harris! And I know real estate comes cheap in Gotham, but that massive bedroom with a canopy bed and a crown on top… come on, man, now I’m rooting for Scarecrow.

    Well, gotta go, I left my fabric softener and hand grenade back at the dry cleaners. I better go get it before something bad happens.

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