"Cat Tale"
(Part 1 of 2)

(16 pages)

Cover pencils - Jim Aparo
Cover inks -
Jim Aparo

Story - Gerry Conway
Art -
Irv Novick
Inks - Sal Trapani
Colours -
Adrienne Roy
Lettering - Ben Oda
Editor -
Len Wein

Second feature - Green Arrow, "The High Tech Highwayman!" (7 pages)
Letters page - The Batcave (1 page)



Whilst leaving her office late at night Vicki Vale is attacked by an outraged Catwoman who is still livid with jealousy because Vicki is seeing Bruce Wayne, and she slashes away at her rival until the scene is virtually splattered with blood...

Somewhere in Gotham Selina Kyle awakes once more from a nightmare she has had for nights - with her as Catwoman viciously attacking Vicki Vale. Selina decides not to give up Bruce in real life just like that, and then calls Wayne Manor.

The absence of Bruce Wayne, however, leads Selina to believe that he is with Vicki, and Alfred is in no position to tell her the truth, i.e. that Bruce Wayne is out on duty as the Batman.

In that guise, Bruce Wayne has just caught up with a gang he has been trailing to an abandoned Gotham subway station. Evading massive gunshot fire, the Darknight Detective takes out the gang members one by one and frees their victim, a young woman taken as hostage.

Elsewhere, Vicki Vale awakens in her bed only to find Catwoman hovering over her, threatening and warning her for the second time after an initial phone call (which, as editor Len Wein reminds readers, happened two weeks earlier in real time, in Batman #354) to leave Bruce Wayne to her.

Still shaking after Catwoman has left, Vicki Vale nevertheless feels that these are more like cries for help than real threats, and decides that she must talk to Bruce about this soon.

And this is precisely what Vicki does - the next day she meets Bruce Wayne for lunch. He is somewhat disturbed by the Catwoman's moves but assures Vicki that she is the one close to his heart.
  Their subsequent kiss in public, however, does not go unnoticed by Catwoman, who swears that she will fight for what is hers... to the death...

(continued in Batman #355)


Even a long streak of excellent stories and issues comes to an end one day, and for writer Gerry Conway the dip came with Detective Comics #521. The story pitting Vicki Vale and Selina Kyle / Catwoman against each other in a tug of war over Bruce Wayne is both lacklustre and over the top at the same time - which makes for a highly unbalanced and contorted overall effect. On top of this, the Batman scenes appear almost as inserts, and his fight with what appears to be a street gang rather a bit heavy on firearms feels completely unmotivated and detached.

And as is so often the case, when things start to go wrong they usually do so on all levels. Conway might just have gotten away with his "cat tale" if the artwork would have pulled readers into the story. Unfortunately, the complete opposite was the case.
Irv Novick (1916 - 2004) had produced very solid and atmospheric runs on Batman in the late 1960s and 1970s, but his artwork for Detective Comics #521 looks and feels as if drawn on a string of very bad days. Indeed, there are so many things that just don't sit right with the art in this issue that probably even the best of stories would have been let down by it.

Being the first segment of a two part story this didn't bode well for the upcoming conclusion in Batman #355. But if Detective Comics #521 had been a negative surprise for readers (given the sustained high quality output from Conway over a whole string of previous issues), they would at least be more than pleasantly surprised by the conclusion to this "cat tale".

READ AT YOUR OWN RISK - Highly artificial and overinflated story which never gets off the ground, and the artwork - albeit by a great Batman artist from the1960s/1970s - leaves a lot to be desired.


Batman truly takes a back seat in Detective Comics #521 - not only in his own feature, where a crazed Catwoman takes center stage, but also on the cover, where he is present only through a Batsignal-like symbol on a wall in the background, whilst the limelight belongs to the new secondary feature: the Green Arrow.

Pushing out Bat-Girl as the regular backup feature in Detective Comics (a role she had first assumed in issue #400 in June 1970), Green Arrow would occupy this slot from Detective Comics #521 (December 1982) up until Detective Comics #567 (October 1986). When the end came for Green Arrow's run, the back-up feature itself was dropped from the pages of Detective Comics.

Created by Morton Weisinger and designed by George Papp, Green Arrow first appeared in More Fun Comics #73 in November 1941. Always a B list character of the DC Universe, the originally very Batmanesque archer was famously made into a vigilante with a social conscience by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams in the early 1970s when he co-starred with Green Lantern in their shared title.

The Green Arrow backup feature starts off on established maps: Oliver Queen (Green Arrow) is a newspaper journalist who turns into Green Arrow when the need so arises.

"The High Tech Highwayman" basically involves cybercrime and as such is no doubt a very early example of this form of law-breaking in comic books.

Unfortunately, as pointed out in a lengthy letter in Detective Comics #525, writer Joey Cavalieri and editor Len Wein got a couple of things wrong in that department, such as confusing and mixing up hardware and software at times. But fair enough - that probably wasn't detected by very many readers back in 1982...



Detective Comics #521 was published in three variants for the North American market: a newsstand edition (with barcode and price indication for the US, UK and Canada) a direct market edition (with no barcode), and a Canadian newsstand edition (with barcode and 75 Canadian cents price only).

A cover lacking Batman is an unlikely candidate for a foreign market reprint, and yet the Green Arrow cover of Detective Comics #521 was used for Super-Heróis #18, published in February 1984 by Agência Portuguesa de Revistas for the Portugese market and which included both the Batman and the Green Arrow features from Detective Comics #521. The Batman "cat tale" was also translated into German and published by Egmont Ehapa in Batman Taschenbuch #21 in 1984 for the German, Swiss and Austrian market, and by Semic in 1983 in Superserien #13 for Norwegian readers.

The Batman main feature has not been reprinted in a collected edition since its original publication.




"Lousy story (...) I demand Gerry Conway's removal as Batman's writer." (John Wells, Batavia, Iowa)

"The Green Arrow story (...) was abysmal." (Scott Gibson, Evergreen, Colorado)

(from the letters page of Detective Comics #525)


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uploaded to the web 11 March 2017