Friday, November 23, 2012

Random Comic Book Splash Page: Tim Trench

Tim Trench is an obscure footnote in the legacy of DC Comics. Denny O’Neil, best known for his groundbreaking work as a writer on GREEN LANTERN and a writer and editor on BATMAN and DETECTIVE COMICS, introduced Trench in a 1968 issue of WONDER WOMAN--#179, to be exact, which also premiered the book’s new logo.

Trench was just a shadowy figure in #179, but took a major supporting role in #180, when the St. Louis private eye teamed up with Wonder Woman and her elderly Chinese companion I Ching to battle the sinister Doctor Cyber. The four-part series, which was penciled by Mike Sekowsky and inked by Dick Giordano, ended in #182 with Cyber making a slick getaway and Trench revealed as a traitor. He was last seen flying off in a helicopter (on page 1!) with a booty of gems, leaving Wonder Woman and I Ching to face Cyber’s wrath.

Undoubtedly, this was the decision of Sekowsky, who took over WONDER WOMAN’s editing duties on #182 and installed himself as the book’s writer too. Either he had a different concept of the storyline’s conclusion or just hated the Trench character, but Sekowsky ditched Trench as quickly as he could.

Leap ahead seven years to DETECTIVE COMICS #460, cover-dated June 1976. With the main story—Batman taking on Captain Stingaree—taking up a mere eleven (!) pages, editor Julius Schwartz turned to O’Neil for a six-page backup. Reaching into his memory bank, O’Neil penned “The Cold-Fire Caper!” as Tim Trench’s first solo story.

“Cold-Fire Caper” makes no mention of Trench’s betrayal of Wonder Woman or the stolen gems, and readers could be forgiven for assuming he was a new character. Working out of an office above a repertory theater in St. Louis that runs old Bogart movies, Trench tumbles into a succinct mystery involving a ruby, a femme fatale, a mobster named Lippy Louie, and a couple of punchups and gun battles.

O’Neil brought back Trench one issue later. In DETECTIVE COMICS #461’s “The Moneybag Caper!”, Trench found more or less the same type of trouble, this time agreeing to bodyguard a mobster named Big Willy Cline. As with “Cold-Fire Caper,” the art was handled by penciler Pablo Marcos and inker Al Milgrom, neither of which turn in their best work.

Maybe Schwartz or the readers didn’t like Tim Trench, because when DETECTIVE COMICS #462 came out, the private eye was gone, and the Elongated Man was solving mysteries in his place (the Batman lead story was still only eleven pages). It could also have been that DETECTIVE COMICS already had a private detective, Jason Bard, appearing occasionally, and why did it need another one? 

And that, to date, has pretty much been it for Tim Trench. Two six-page adventures and a four-issue (really three) supporting role in WONDER WOMAN. He did get his own entry in WHO’S WHO: THE DEFINITIVE DIRECTORY OF THE DC UNIVERSE #24, where he was nicely drawn by Sandy Plunkett and P. Craig Russell (of Marvel’s amazing Killraven series in AMAZING ADVENTURES). He showed up as something of a joke in a 1996 SWAMP THING and was killed off in Week 18’s issue of 52 in 2006.

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