Detective Comics #506 (September, 1981)
“Who Dies for the Manikin?”
Writer – Gerry Conway
Pencils – Don Newton
Inks – Steve Mitchell
Letters – Ben Oda
Colors – Adrienne Roy
Edits – Dick Giordano
Cover Price: $0.50
I’ve been a little cranky lately… maybe I’m just starting to crack up? Anyhoo, rather than sticking with “current year” stuff, I’m going to run back to yesteryear to discuss something that hopefully won’t cause me to question my fandom!
It’s weird… for the first three 3-4 years of this blog’s existence, the criticism that kept popping up was that I was a blind “DC fanboy”… I was too forgiving of them, I made excuses for them, I praised things that weren’t worthy. Well, I think I can safely say that ship has finally sailed…
We open ten-months ago on an overpass of the Gotham River Parkway. A flaming car goes careening through a partition, and plummets down onto the street below. Batman swoops in to survey the damage. He manages to tear the white-hot door open, and retrieve the still-living driver. Upon setting her down to get a better look, it is clear that she is beyond badly burned. The rubberneckers that have gathered beg Batman to cover her mangled body.
The woman is loaded into an ambulance, and will most likely survive the ordeal. Then, the Fire Marshall shows up and chats Batman up while he’s tinkering under the hood. Our man discovers fragments of a bomb… so, it looks as though this vehicle’s inferno-end was premeditated. But why?
Before we get an answer, we’re zipped back to the “present”. Bruce is doing some dumbbell curls, and watching a news program… featuring a few stuffed-shirts talking smack about the Bat. One of these geeks is running for Mayor, and puts the blame squarely on Commissioner Gordon, who he’ll demand a resignation from when he wins the election. Some nice “subplot bubbling” here! Almost forgot that writers used to actually think so far ahead!
Bruce hits the shower, then goes clubbing to keep up his playboy facade. Worth noting, he and his date decide to party at Studio-52. 52? There’s that number again! Ya know, one of these days I’m going to try and compile a list of all of the pre-52 “52” mentions. I wonder if it’s just a bit of confirmation bias, where the number “52” just stands out to me… or, if this “number fetish” was always there!
Anyhoo, inside, Bruce and his gal get comfortable. Bruce notices a bizarre woman enter the scene, and beeline it over to the famous designer Kevin Clane (oy). She confirms he is who she thinks he is… then, clutches him by the throat and hoists him out of his seat! Bruce, uncharacteristically (hey, he’s not in costume), attempts to intervene, only to be swatted away!
She continues to grip Mr. Clane’s throat… before ultimately snapping it! She dumps the body to the floor, and nonchalantly exits the club.
Bruce ducks out of the place to change clothes. He is quick enough to confront the “femme fatale” before she can split the scene. He attempts to abduct the killer, but gets socked in the mush for his troubles.
She then… removes her fleshy disguise, revealing herself to be (as if the cover didn’t already tell us)… not unlike a living manikin! I’m getting weird Shaye Saint John vibes here! She pummels the befuddled Bat for a bit, before this fella in a cap wrangles her into her car… leaving her “human suit” behind.
Batman collects her clothes, and decides to check in with his favorite fashionista… Catwoman. He gives Selina her outfit, and asks is she’s seen this style of dress before. In fact, she has… the only difference is the fact that the Manikin’s jacket had it’s designer’s label removed. She reveals an identical jacket in her closet… with a “Hoston” label sewn in.
And so, fearing he might be the Manikin’s next target, Batman decides to check in with Mr. Hoston. The hoity designer dismisses Batman’s concerns… which, we in the biz call “famous last words”. No sooner does he p’shaw the deal than a firebomb is launched into his office! This goof seems to be more worried about his fabrics than his life… but, Batman is able to get him back “on task”.
Batman wraps Hoston in his cape and bursts through a glass door into the “showroom” to escape the inferno. Unfortunately, the entire building has been locked down with magnetic locks… so, at this point… it looks as though they won’t be getting out.
Now, this showroom is full of sharply-dressed mannequins. As Batman weaves through ’em… he hears the familiar voice of… the Manikin. He knows one of these “dolls” is actually her… but which? This is a very well done and wildly creepy scene.
Batman finds one mannequin that stands out… and, sure it’s his baddie, he lunges at it. Wrong-o, Bats. After knocking the actual doll to the floor, another wallops him with a weighted golf-club!
This is, of course, the Manikin! She and Batman fight… while smoke and flame fills the showroom. Under a thick layer of black smoke, the warriors strike at one another. From the sooty facade, exits a single figure… the Manikin… and she now has her sights on Hoston.
Y’ever find a back issue in a, like, really grimy bin? Like a longbox that probably hasn’t been gone through in years… and, you find this book you wanna buy, you pick it up… and, you can feel decades worth of “grit” on it? That’s this issue for me. Every single page of this thing feels like it has a thin layer of sawdust coating it… I feel like I could shake this thing by the staples, and build a sizable sandcastle with all the “grit” that falls out. In fact, I’ve had to wash my hands a half dozen times up to this point, because it just felt so gross. Was the story worth the gritty struggle?
Well, yeah! I had a really good time with this one! It was an excellent issue! Creepy story, formidable foe… subplots… awesome art. I mean, what more could ya ask for? Really can’t say enough good about it! I tell ya what, the bit with Batman walking among the mannequins might be one of the best designed/directed/drawn scenes I’ve seen in comics in quite some time! The tension was real… and, you know I’m not one for “live-action” (or even animated) adaptations… but, this is one scene I’d love to see “come alive”.
Actually, my only “complaint” would be that I don’t think I own the next issue! Hopefully once the world returns to normal, I can track it down so we can finish this one up!
I mentioned that our Manikin gave me Shaye Saint John vibes. If you’re unaware of who/what “Shaye” is… well, Google at your own risk, it can be the stuff of “nightmare fuel”. Very creepy stuff… that I ain’t gonna link to! “Shaye” was the star of some experimental short-films (called “Triggers”) created by a fella named Eric Fournier. The story has to do with a fashion model who was in a horrible car accident, which cost her most of her limbs. After “recovering”, she put herself back together with mannequin parts. It might be even weirder than it sounds. In fact, over the past decade-plus, a lot of folks would refer to these films as “dark/deep-web” stuff. It’s not anything quite that sinister, but it’s easy to see why people felt that way. If you’re interested, info on Shaye/Eric is pretty easy to find online, there are a bunch of vids on YouTube (including the episode of Unboxed, Watched, and Reviewed where I learned about it!). Last I heard the “official site” is bogged down with malware, so whatever you do, don’t click on that one.
Oh, worth noting, there was a Batgirl back-up included in this one, but I decided not to include it. Gave it a flip-thru, figure maybe one’a these days I’ll pop it in as an “Action-Plus”.