Friday, September 06, 2019

Poison Ivy's First Appearance and things that are much more important than that.

Inspired by Mike Sterling of Progressive Ruin (for who would NOT be?!), I decided to actually read Batman #181 (1966) with the first appearance of Poison Ivy.

No, I'd say whoever drew those approximations of scowls on their faces in the cause.

Poison Ivy, from the get-go, is presented as a femme fatale, out to conquer Batman not only professionally but romantically as well.  

Nowadays those would be photos of Kate Kane and Batwoman.

Uncharacteristically, Batman semi-falls for it.

Bob Haney? Is that you in there? Come out of there, we can tell it's you!

Why would Batman pine after "the bad girl", like he's some high school girl swooning over the rebellious greaser on a motorbike?  It's pat and childish and sexist. How can a comic book be pat and childish and sexist? 

It simply makes no sense. After all, as we all know from having seen Batman: The Musical, criminals are "a superstitious, cowardly lot".  Who wants to date someone superstitious and cowardly?  And, being Batman aside, he's Bruce Wayne, a handsome and intelligent billionaire (or in those days 'multimillionaire'); why would he waste time on someone who is not just a crook but who is tragically vain, petty, and manipulative?

I mean, it's not like Vicki Vale wasn't available. Very.

I have always thought portraying Batman this way was ridiculous, even when they tried to do it in the Golden Age with Catwoman.

Admit it: you miss the Golden Age Batman, too.

Speaking of Catwoman, where the heck is she and why isn't this her story?  What motivated the creators to craft a new villain to occupy almost exactly the same villainous niche in Batman's mythosphere? Was it a case of 'more is more', 'copy whatever seems work', or 'Sony still has the rights to Catwoman'?  

More likely it was one of those deadline-motivated situations, where someone has been tasked to come up with a new character in five minutes to meet a deadline and, wildly looking around themselves or using word-association, they cobbled something together based on the first thing that crosses their eye or mind.

If you are going to try to convince me that never happened...
just save your breath.

Anyway,  Poison Ivy has none of the plant-themed, ecological focus that we are accustomed to nowadays.   She was called Poison Ivy not because she was plant-themed but just because she was toxic and clingy.

With a very strange concept of how spelling works.

Poison Ivy is, frankly, the least interesting thing is this story. She has a few gimmicks like chloroform perfume, electrified crowns (don't ask) and lipstick that makes cameras explode (please just don't ask) and she can climb walls (a cutesy ivy-based schtick that was never seen again).  Mostly she just tries to prove that she is "the No.1 Woman World Public Enemy", which, apparently, used to be a thing.

And her hideout sucked. Where's the thematic decor? Where's the big window casting shadows? Where's the PACING ROOM?!

And she lustfully mooned over Batman:

Nothing says "he-man" better than getting badly pummeled by a small mid-century advertising firm.

For me, it's the REST of the stuff in the story that's interesting.  Like World Public Enemies 1, 2, and 3.

I love these gals, who are long overdue for a true comeback.

Like Scooter, DC's own teen Austin Powers:
Cynthia must be a lesbian; 
how else could she resist Scooter's obvious charms?

Like this abjectly mortifying poetic house ad from Go-Go Checks Era DC:

It actually scans pretty well.

Like this painfully insensitive and goofy Egg Fu promo:

Whenever I feel bad about the current state of comics, 
I'm just going to look at this ad. Then again, in those days it only took two issues to suffer through Egg Fu, whereas now it would take a two-year arc with Ramifications Through The DCU.

Like this hilarious letter column commentary:

"Gosh, Batman, I'm stumped! It's almost as if someone else were doing the drawing and Mr. Kane were just... adding his own name to it instead!"

But, even with all that, I'll always think of this issue primarily as "the one where Batman falls down an open elevator shaft."

Well, yes, Batman, you really COULD have waited, and it would have been less embarrassing for everyone involved.

"I am vengeance! I am the ni-yaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

(Editor's note: snarky comment courtesy of reader Josh R. of Great Falls, Virginia!)

You mean, "because he's blind as a bat"?

Before Alfred became a snarker, there was Robin.


Anonymous said...

If Gypo-Bax ever comes to the positive matter universe, none of those earth-women stand a chance.

Scipio said...

Nice reference; he's a GALACTIC public enemy, though.

John C said...

It's a shame that DC Universe only has reprints of a lot of these issues, like this one, which doesn't preserve the ads or letter columns. It'd also be nice if their comic-reader interface weren't so erratic, but whatever...
Anyway, you just know that one of the journalists was definitely going to call her "Poise and Eye V." until she corrected him. But what's the deal with Robin looking longingly into Batman's eyes from behind him? And why is his amazing snark completely wrecked by that nonsensical "joke" at the end ("catching poison ivy," which I'm pretty sure isn't a thing) he feels is funny enough to laugh at himself!?
The Ostrander (Mark Shaw) Manhunter series would sort of tinker with this idea many years later, but one of the things I like about this story is the idea that the comics aren't showing us everything that happens, and that there's a whole mess of important costumed criminals that we never hear about, like these three gals. Ivy's plan to, all of the crooks to show up at her place to rub each other out is also really interesting and seems like it should've gotten more focus than a couple of panels, as is the fact that she's been at this a while and is only just waking up to the fact that nobody generally knows what you do for a living unless you tell them or screw up.
And there's Batman thinking that running around blindly was going to solve any problem. And there's the utterly bizarre digression about Robin's libido. Those are just icing on the cake.

Dave said...

The way you feel about World Public Enemies 1, 2, and 3? Is how I feel about Egg-Fu.

Redforce said...

Is Poison Ivy modern version a product of syncretism, or just evolution to find her niche?

Syncretism - yes, Mr. Garling, I have been paying attention in class.

cybrid said...

On a separate odd note, the Eraser is a reverse satire, a "serious" imitation of a strictly humorous character: Rubberhead from "The Great Piggy Bank Robbery" (1946):

"I'm gonna r-r-r-r-rub you out, see?! R-r-r-r-r-r-rub you out!"


Scipio said...

Redforce, go to the head of the class! But in this case it's not syncretism. Syncretism would if, say, she had been on Batman'66 and were more focused on plants, and then those two versions merged later. This was more of a direct evolution. Ivy stayed a femme fatale with a light dusting of "ivy theme" until about 1982, when she (courtesy of Gerry Conway and Doug Moench) took a big leap and start turning people in tree monsters and cooking up junior swamp things to do her bidding. I'm pretty sure her overt ecological bent, however, was the innovation of the BTAS version. As was the case with a number of lesser developed villains, the comic book version start to syncretically imitate the better developed version of themselves in BTAS (such as Mister Freeze and the Mad Hatter).

Bryan L said...

I can't explain it, but I always get a bizarre feeling of happiness when i see old Infantino artwork, like that cover to Batman 181. Dunno, it just makes me feel like a kid again.

Anonymous said...

Can you do a review of Nocenti's "Batman & Poison Ivy: Cast Shadows"? It is a good example of an Ivy I like.