RETRO REVIEW: Batman # 181

It’s Friday, so that must mean it’s time for another RETRO REVIEW!  This week to recognize the third and final Dark Knight series movie, I’ve pulled out Batman # 181, cover dated June 1966, from D C Comics.  This is the issue that introduces Poison Ivy!  It features a nice cover drawn by the team of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson and features a full figure drawing of the new Poison Ivy character and a couple of head shots of Batman and Robin!  The cover copy proclaims that there is “Trouble between the Dynamic Duo” and posits that Poison Ivy is the cause of said trouble!

Batman # 181

Batman # 181

The story itself; “Beware Of … Poison Ivy” is written by Robert Kanigher, with pencil art by Sheldon Moldoff and inks by Joe Giella.  Though the splash page only lists the generic “Bob Kane”, but he clearly was not still doing Batman at the time.  This short twelve (12) page story starts out at the Gotham City Museum, where Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are attending a “Pop Art” show and looking over three larger than life paintings of the three most dangerous and beautiful women in the world!

A costumed woman appears and taunts the museum-goers saying that she is more beautiful and more dangerous, as her crimes have all been perfect, so that they haven’t even discovered the crimes!  Bruce Wayne takes her by the hand and tries to lead her to the police, but she uses a trick lipstick causing some reporter’s flash bulbs to explode, blinding the museum patrons, allowing her to make her escape.

Wayne quickly changes into his Batman togs and races outside, to be met with Poison Ivy’s gang of thugs.  Robin joins him and they defeat the crooks, but the delay allows Poison Ivy to allude capture!  Ivy decides that the way to become Public Enemy Number One is to eliminate her three rivals, so she sends letters to each of her fellow female crooks, while staring at a picture of Batman and Bruce Wayne, never suspecting that they are one in the same!

Ivy’s plan actually involves pitting her rivals against each other.  Plus she invites Batman  to her house to prove she is the most dangerous female criminal.  As the three female criminals, and their individual gangs, face off against each other, Batman and Robin parachute into the melee.  The three female crooks agree to a truce and charge Ivy, who tricks them into grabbing a booby-trapped crown, which shocks them unconscious!  In the meantime Batman and Robin have defeated the three gangs of henchmen.

Ivy offers Batman the chance to give up battling on the side of the law and joining her, to become the “Royal Couple of Crime”!  She kisses him to seal the deal, but her lipstick is drugging Batman, until Robin pulls him away from Ivy and she tries to flee by climbing up a wall to her home, like her namesake.  Batman regains his senses and knocks her down with a well thrown batarang!

He catches her and takes her to jail, where she is locked up behind bars.  But as they turn to go, she warns Batman, that “once you’ve caught Poison Ivy you’ll never get rid of it!”  Wow, that’s a lot of action for just twelve pages and it introduces a new Batman foe, who will one day be featured in a Hollywood Batman feature film!  And played by Uma Thurman, no less.

There is a second twelve page story this issue, as well, featuring Batman and the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City.  A pretty good “who-done-it” but I’ll let you discover it for yourself if you choose to seek out this issue!  It’s the first story that makes this issue worth adding to your collection.

One final note, there is a nice two page pin-up of Batman and Robin drawn by Infantino and Anderson, as the centerfold of this comic, suitable for removing and hanging up or even framing.  A nice sixties touch that you just don’t see any more.

Poison Ivy never reached the heights of the Joker in Batman’s rogues gallery, but over the years she has certainly had her moments, therefore I rate this comic as three (3) out of five (5) Batarangs!

About Greg Turner

Greg Turner (@gregturner16) is Back to the Past’s archivist and an auctioneer. He writes the columns “Fabulous Finds” and “Retro Reviews” on alternating weeks for the website and spins classic 45′s each week for Vinyl Tuesdays.

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