Bonus Book #5 – Detective Comics (1988)

Bonus Book #5 – Detective Comics (August, 1988)
“For the Love of Ivy”
Story – Lewis Klahr & Steve Piersall
Pencils – Dean Haspiel
Inks – Denis Rodier
Letters – Dan McKinnon
Colors – Dan Vozzo
Edits – Denny O’Neil

Ya know, it’s been awhile since we covered any Batman here at the blog.  I’m pretty sure the last two times were silent Christmas stories… which, it’s hard for me to even count as “stories”.  We’ve gotta be closing in on a year since we’ve covered a Bat-story wherein he actually talks!

This little tale was jammed into the staples of Detective Comics #589 (August, 1989).

We open with Batman swooping down by this fella who appears to have driven his car into a pole.  This dude, who Batman recognizes as Dore Warren, is quite disoriented… like, more disoriented than “just crashed his car” disoriented.  His face is also a bit blotchy.  Dore babbles about an auction… and about a Pamela.  Batman assumes this auction is the big Ford Estate Auction… and Pamela, well… he might know someone with that name.  Warren passes away moments later.

Batman figures it might behoove him to check in on that certain Pamela… and when he finds her, he discovers that she’s spending time with this goofball named Simon Buckley… a dude who voluntarily had his hands amputated and replaced with cybernetics.  Batman refers to him as “The Grip”.  Inside Isley’s abode, he demonstrates his great power… by destroying a valuable bust.

Batman makes his grand entrance… and it’s clear from the get-go that he is quite the unwelcome presence.  Buckley lunges toward him, however, the Bat’s able to sidestep the geek and even yank the floor out from under him for good measure.  He locks The Grip on the balcony so he and Ivy can catch up.

He asks about Dore Warren… and Ivy’s pretty casual about their relationship.  They had a little fun, what’s the harm in that?  He informs her that Dore’s dead… which, she doesn’t immediately believe.  We learn that Ivy’s been doing some “Fortune Shopping”, as in, getting wealthy people to sign over their life’s worth to her.  So far, so good… heck, she even got The Grip to sign his over!  So, once he kicks it, she’ll have like an extra eleven bucks in her purse!  Batman notices that Ivy is “caked with” make-up… then notices a strange blotchiness on her arms.  Hmm…

Finally, The Grip bursts through the French Doors… and, politely asks Batman to leave.  Batman ain’t lookin’ for any trouble (plus, he’s got some stuff he’s interested in following up on)… so, he excuses himself.  Pam teases Simon that he’s acting “jealous”… which, he doesn’t deny.  Asamattafact, he’s quite smitten with Ivy, and doesn’t like seeing her chat up other dudes… even those in Bat-Suits.  They get ready to attend that Ford Auction.  Oh by the way, Ivy also got that Ford fella to sign over his fortune before he croaked!

Batman beelines it to the Hospital to talk to a Doctor regarding the blotches… and, lemme tell ya, it’s a damn good thing he did!  Dr. O’Dell informs our man that Ivy’s ill.  Like, really ill.  Her immunity to poisons have broken down her natural immune system… so, in essence, she’s basically become toxic to herself.  Check this out… they’ve got a cure, but she’s always refused it.  Batman tells the Doc about the blotchys… and, ho boy… get this, if she’s blotchy, sayeth the Doc, she’s only got TWO HOURS left to live!  Wow, that’s quite a leap to make, innit?  Well, it’s enough for Batman to hop into gear, I tell ya what!

We join Pam and Simon at the Auction… with the former breaking away from the latter in order to “socialize”.  The Grip begrudgingly heads for the bar for a drink while his “date” goes and (literally) rubs herself on every wealthy fella in the place.

Batman makes his appearance, and informs Simon about Ivy’s current terminal condition.  Simon admits that he is in love with Isley, and does not want to see her die.  They’ve got to find her… but, they can’t touch her on account of her raging contagiousness.  It’s not long before Simon finds her… in a darkened corner, about to make out with some mustache.

The Grip confronts her about her condition… and reveals that he is in love with her.  Her response?  She breathes poison into his face, knocking him off his feet.  She gets no time to celebrate, however, as she’s kabonked in the head with a ‘rang just a second later.

Now, get this, The friggin’ Grip gets up… and starts to attack Batman for ‘ranging his woman!  He lifts the Bat over his head “Bane-Style” before settling for a bearhug.  Batman is able to free his hands, before delivering a pair of downward elbow-strikes which shatter Simon’s wrists!  Yeowch!

Batman chases Ivy… into a nearby sewer.  Although she’s only a few feet ahead of him, it’s as though he doesn’t have the foggiest idea where she is.

Dude, she’s right there.

Ivy tosses an “Ivy Bomb” at Batman, which entangles him in (assumedly poisonous) vines.

But, check this out, the vines almost immediately die!  Ya see, Ivy’s toxic condition has poisoned the sewer water… and killed the vine!  That’s the good news.  The bad news is, it looks like Batman’s been infected with the crud!

At this point, the reality of her situation appears to be setting in.  Ivy doesn’t wanna die… and asks if Batman will actually help her out.  Naturally, he does.

We wrap up with the Doc inoculating both Poison Ivy and Batman… and informing the latter that the former will be back to normal pretty quick.  Batman thinks to himself that, after such a trauma, Ivy will likely never be the same again.  Well, we’ll let time be the judge of that one, Bats…

This was pretty okay!  Really feels like any ol’ “month-filler” issue of Detective Comics.  Which is both good and bad, I suppose.  Good in that it isn’t of a lesser quality than any other fill-in… but bad in that it doesn’t really stand out.  If not for the fact that this story is coming to us in the form of a Bonus Book, I’m not sure I’d be able to place the thing in time.  Again, that’s a good and bad thing.  Timelessness is nothing to turn our noses up at in comics.

As a story… it’s got a beginning, middle, and end.  That’s good.  Sure, there might’ve been a few conveniences, and short-cuts taken, but c’mon, there’s only so much you can do with fourteen pages, right?  We could easily roll our eyes at “Ohmygod, she’s got two-hours to live!!!”, and while I kinda had a little fun with that during the synopsis, I can’t deny that it forced the story to move forward in a (relatively speaking) organic way.

Poison Ivy as a gold-digger… I mean, it works.  I’ve got no problem with a con-woman acting like a con-woman.  Crime is crime, after all.  Though, I should probably note in fairness, that she was just as surprised to learn that her touch could kill.  She only ever intended to make men sick.  We’re splitting hairs, certainly, but whattayagonnado?  Folks are mighty protective and proprietary over Ivy’s portrayal these days.

Let’s look at The Grip.  I’m surprised we’ve never seen this guy again.  Seems like a perfectly good “villain of the week/month” sort, who Batman can get a few “one and dones” out of.  Heck, just use the goofball as a “heater” for a higher-profile bad guy.  Beats just having a nameless crooked-nose goon standing next to Two-Face, right?  Moreover, I think the story of a dude who volunteered to have parts of his body removed and replaced might be worth exploring.  There’s definitely some damage there.

We’ve got two writers this time out… let’s first look at Lewis Klahr.  According to the DC Wiki, this story is his lone foray into the world of DC Comics.  Where he has gone on to be successful is in the world of film.  In his Bonus-Book-Bio (below), they mention a film he’d done called Her Fragrant Emulsion… which, outside of a rather haunting still image, I have not been able to find online.

Digging deeper into Klahr’s work reveals that he’s a rather prolific director… even to this day.  You can check out some of his work, including a pretty bizarre short film starring, of all characters, Jimmy Olsen at this blog.

If you’re interested (intrigued, bewildered, confused), here’s that Jimmy bit:

Pony Glass (1997)
‘Superman sidekick Jimmy Olsen is overrun with sexual delirium in this improbably expressive cut-out animation. Lewis Klahr mines the latent anxiety of his midcentury materials to entrancing effect, steering the hieroglyphs of comic books and advertising towards a roaring melodrama in three acts. Nostalgia has rarely seemed less innocent.’ 

Sexual delirium?  In our freckle-faced boy?

Sliding down the table, our second writer is Steve Piersall.  He, like Klahr, only wrote this one story.  Can’t find a whole heckuva lot about him on the ol’ internet… I suppose we might assume he found success elsewhere.  I will say, that he does come across as rather humble in his Bonus-Book-Bio… and that’s not me being sarcastic either.

Across the table sits our artist, and perhaps the first creator we’ve looked at whose name still pops up today in the industry, Dean Haspiel.  For DC Comics, he’s written some of the Cartoon Network books, and drawn a smattering of heroes you’ve heard of.  When I think of Haspiel, I usually think of American Splendor or The Fox from that semi-recent Archie superhero resurgence.  He’s very good, I enjoy his work a great deal.  He’s got some projects coming out through Image Comics right now.  If you’re interested, he also keeps a LiveJournal… that can somehow (as of this writing) post from… the future!

Overall, this was good.  It doesn’t try and reinvent the wheel… because not everything has to.  When people do that nowadays it usually consists of using a different person to occupy a familiar costume… or revealing to the world that Superman is actually Lazy Stunt… err, I mean “Clark Kent”.  A fine story… that future writers can either choose to use, or ignore.  At the end of the day, that’s really all we can ask for from corporately-owned serialized characters!

(Not the) Letters Page:

0 thoughts on “Bonus Book #5 – Detective Comics (1988)

  • Charlton Hero

    That Dean Haspiel artwork is the weirdest s*** I have ever seen on a Bat Book.

    • Haha, it reminded me a little bit of the Tim Sale stuff!

  • Nicholas Fenner

    Getting the rug pulled out from under you – that's next level bad guy luck. Getting some unknown "poison" disease from Pamela? That's one for a PSA comic! I appreciate the wrestling scene being the climax, what with it's arm smashing and body lifting. Top notch bonus book!

    • It was pretty good! I've gotta say, so far these Bonus Books (barring the Wonder Woman/Amazons thing) have been something of a pleasant surprise! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


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