Continuing John Wells’ history of the Calculator…
Hawkman’s deduction that Batman was the Calculator’s next target was evidently to have hinged on the order in which the villain had committed his robberies. Bob Rozakis explained in DETECTIVE COMICS #470‘s letter column that “based on a map showing the locations of Ivy Town, Star City, Midway City and Gotham that I had seen, I decided it would be logical for the Calculator to start at Ivy (up in the Boston area) and work his way down the Atlantic Coast. That was until (editor) Julie (Schwartz) pointed out that the map was wrong and that Midway was located on Lake Michigan — when it was too late to change the order.” [A few months later, Mark Gruenwald’s Justice League issue of AMAZING WORLD OF DC COMICS #14 complicated things further by placing Star City in Massachusetts and moving Ivy Town to Connecticut]
Several readers were convinced that the villain was striking at his targets alphabetically — a coincidence on Rozakis’ part — but Batman’s involvement nixed that theory. In the end, Hawkman may have based his conclusion on the fact that the Dark Knight was the only non-powered Justice Leaguer in the continental U.S. that the Calculator hadn’t faced.
In any event, Batman did indeed battle the Calculator at the opening of DETECTIVE #468. The Dark Knight prevented him from stealing a 17th century time capsule by knocking the villain out with one his own solid computer-generated weapons. Within hours, the computer bandit was free (“a water-main burst in police headquarters just as the Calculator was being booked”) and making his presence known in Central City. With The Flash involved in a case in the far future, the sextet of heroes who’d fought the Calculator before decided to bring him to justice.
Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. Green Arrow’s shafts were deflected, Hawkman lost control of his flight and anyone who tried to touch the villain met an impenetrable barrier. Even the Atom’s attempt at attacking while in the guise of Ray Palmer met with the failure. That special button, the Calculator informed them, had given him permanent immunity to each hero. They could defeat him once and only once. Any further attempts would meet with failure.
While the Justice Leaguers licked their wounds, the Calculator continued his Central City spree, determined to confront the Flash. Instead, he was lured to the city’s S.T.A.R. Labs facility by a false story planted by Batman. The clash of electronic calculation and human brain power climaxed when the computer crook tried to trap the Dark Knight in a computer-generated cage. In a heartbeat, the floor literally spun beneath him and the cell wound up around the bandit. Insisting that “I can’t trap MYSELF,” the Calculator punched desperately at his keypad until his LCD read “Overload” and buttons and sparks began flying.
Back at his penthouse, Batman explained to the Justice League that “I kept taunting him, anticipating HOW he’d try to stop me. The floor was rigged to spin 180 degrees and change our places when I triggered it with a switch in my utility belt. Repeating words like jail — lock up — behind bars — ‘inspired’ him into creating that cage — which became his prison cell for life. The only way to defeat the Calculator was to turn one of his own weapons against him.” The databank was closed.
BOBRO’S TRIVIA QUIZ
Concluding the four-part theme
33. Although it might not be his real name, what did Stretch always call Hero Hotline’s Coordinator?
34. Now, if Elmer is chasing Bugs and he hasn’t gone “stwaight” or turned “weft,” what has he done?
35. If you are policewoman Diane Meade, what detective might you be working with?
36. At the time of the 1964 Presidential election, Dell published comic book biographies of the two major candidates. One was Barry Goldwater; who was the other?
37. Acting as agents of G.O.O.D., who brought down industrialist Guano Cravat?
38. Verily, Mr. Magoo shared the title of the first five issues of his comic book with whom?
39. Egad, DC canceled what western star’s comic when sales were only 69% of the run?
40. Name the student and professor who shared Firestorm’s identity.
41. U.N.C.L.E. inspired what organization when the Blackhawks became secret agents?
42. Eat your Cheerios, send in the boxtop, and get what BobRo-written comic?
43. DC has had pairs of siblings working for them over the years; which brothers were an editor and the business manager?
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. The U.S.S. Mississippi was Commodore Matthew Perry’s flagship when he opened Japan to trade with the west in 1854.
2. The U.S.S. Arizona, sunk by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 is the only U.S. battleship still in commission, despite the fact that it is completely submerged.
3. The U.S.S. Missouri was the battleship on which Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945, ending World War II.
THE ART OF THE CALCULATOR
John Wells’ essay continues
Artwise, the Calculator series began in the hands of Mike Grell and Terry Austin, but the press of Grell’s duties on the revived GREEN LANTERN forced him to bow out after #s 463 and 464. Ernie Chan stepped in to pencil #465 before the assignment was handed to a relative novice named Marshall Rogers for the duration. Hired by art director Vince Colletta in 1976, he’d been assigned to a few back-up strips and happened to be available when the Calculator/Green Arrow story came around.
Rozakis and Schwartz were sold on Rogers’ striking design sense, enhanced all the more by Austin’s pristine inking. They argued that, since he’d illustrated the previous two chapters, he should be permitted to draw ‘TEC #468’s full-length conclusion with Batman. Incredibly, as Rogers recalled in a 1980 interview (THE COMICS JOURNAL #54), “the reception around DC wasn’t good. As a matter of fact, there was a possibility that it might not have seen press. Fortunately, the deadline was so close, they didn’t have the time to get someone else to do it.”
The writer and editor’s faith in Rogers and Austin’s moody, stylized Batman was rewarded once readers saw the story. “Battle of the Thinking Machines” created a sensation in fandom, exemplified by reader Rod McLaughlin’s comments in issue # 471’s letter column: “The Batman was as dark and mysterious as he should be, but he also managed to mesh perfectly into the super-scientific background of the Calculator.” The penciller and inker were quickly reassembled on the title for a celebrated run with writer Steve Englehart (#s 471-476) that was recently collected by DC in the STRANGE APPARITIONS trade paperback. The Calculator story that started it all, alas, has been out of print since 1976.
Next: The conclusion of John’s essay.
FROM THE EMAILBOX:
What ever happened to Animal Man?
— Joe Molloy (email@example.com)
What happened to Supreme? The last issue seems to be #6. Just when I discover
Alan Moore is writing it… it’s gone(?)
— Debby (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What is up with the KISS comic? Also, any word on the Star Wars Insider Magazine?
— karl (email@example.com)
What’s up with Awesome Entertainment?
— Florian Wentsch (AgeofDarkness@gmx.de)
Whatever happened to Fireman Press’Scud: The Disposable Assassin? It stopped at issue #20, leaving the storyline hanging. Will they ever complete the series?
— Jose Lopez (JLOPEZ1228@hotmail.com)
Comics series come and go, sometimes because sales are poor, sometimes because the creative team loses interest, and sometimes because of other, more individual reasons. Occasionally, almost out of the blue, a “lost” series will be revived with a new publisher or creative team. You can keep up to date the goings-on of the comics world right here at SBC by clicking on the Silver Bulletins section of the site.
I just want to thank you for listing which artists drew which characters in those DC calendars. It was bugging me for years and I could never track those calendars down to find out. Thank you!
— Frank Strysik (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Don’t leave us in suspense! For those of us who don’t have the 1978 calendar, can you tell us the clues? Or, at least, whodunnit?
— R David Francis (email@example.com)
The villain behind the year-long scheme was Lex Luthor. One of the clues: As a teenager, he had a “falling out” with the hero who became his enemy.
There’s a 10% discount waiting at Comics Unlimited for those folks whose questions got answered this week. Want to save some bucks and get the answers you need? Use the handy box in the column on the left.
The 43 men (actually, it’s only 42 men – Grover Cleveland holds two spots)
who have held the highest office in the land are the theme of this four-part
34. He turneD WIGHT
35. JOHN Jones
36. LYNDON B. Johnson
37. RICHARD Dragon and Ben Turner
38. GERALD McBoing-Boing
39. JIMMY Wakely
40. RONALD Raymond and Martin Stein
42. BILL and Ted’s Excellent Adventure
43. GEORGE and Bernard Kashdan
You don’t need a presidential order to check out the daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia.
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.