"This Murder Has Been Censored"
Story: Denny O'Neil
Art: Irv Novick & Murphy Anderson
Trying to get away from the "fearful" crime-rate of Gotham City, a vacationing Bruce Wayne is witness to a bizarre incident: it appears a man named Mickey Ryan commits suicide by leaping from the roof of Maidstone Manor, the resort that Wayne is residing at. Once he has a look at the body, however, Bruce detects a minuscule drop of blood behind the man's ear, a telltale sign that a pin has been stabbed into the victim's brain. The man's forehead is stamped with the word "censored" as well. The suicide is clearly anything but, in the eyes of Batman. The Dark Knight soon finds there isn't a dearth of suspects. Could it be the murdered man's partner, Bernie Wilson, for the obvious reasons? Or Dr. Cheever Ballard, whose reputation was destroyed by Ryan? Or Ryan's secretary, Dorry Pitkin, whose father's name was similarly smeared by the dead man? Or perhaps it's the local sheriff, who seems a tad bit too eager to jail Dr. Ballard for the homicide, despite Batman's belief that the doc is innocent? In the end, Batman gets his killer after a dangerous car chase.
PE: I had to keep looking at the credits to make sure this loser wasn't written by Frank Robbins. It doesn't get much more pedestrian than this. The art is dreadful as well, with Hawkman artist Murphy Anderson filling in for Novick's usual partner, Dick Giordano. Dick, you're very much missed here, my friend. While Batman is his usual muscular self, Bruce Wayne seems almost shrunken, with no meat on his bones. Good trick, that. How does a man lose his muscle as well as his cowl when he's altered his ego?
"Crime on My Hands!"
Story: Frank Robbins
Art: Don Heck & Murphy Anderson
Jason Bard is contacted by a potential client but, soon after, that client ends up at the P.I.'s feet, bullet hole in the head.
PE: Can you just see Jason Bard's file cabinet folders? One is labeled the "I Wake Up Dying" case. Not the name of the protagonist, but the title of the story. How lame is that? "Hmmm, what's a good name for this case? I got it... the 'One Day it Rained All Week' case" Should be easy, if Jason has a great memory, to find the folder in twenty years if he really needs it. As in the main Batman story, this short is riddled with "Of course, now I know the real identity of the killer" dialogue and captions asking us if we figured it out from what little we've been given. The obligatory final panel where Jason tells all to the pic of Barbara Gordon (which could very well rival Dorian Gray's for increasing ugliness) gets dopier with each installment. If Babs is smart, she's already arranged with her pop the restraining order on this loser. The only mystery to me is why I continue to read Jason Bard.
PE: A pleasant enough Christmas story, but if that climax hasn't been done before, it sure feels like it. Nice to see Novick reunited with Giordano. Thanks for coming back, Dick. Where did they get the names for these thugs? How could any respectable bio-terrorist go through life with the name Chimp Manners?
PE: This one's a lot better than the stories we've gotten lately. I liked the fact that Batman was investigating a big-time threat rather than some inconsequential prison break or stolen painting. We know The Dark Knight will put everything right but there's still a sense of danger right up to the climax. I'd still like some continuity but evidently that's not coming anytime soon.
"The Great Rip-Off Mystery!"
Story: Frank Robbins
Art: Bob Brown & Murphy Anderson
Batman investigates the murder of one of the members of a crew that robbed an armored car. When Bats opens up the attache the thug was carrying, he finds half of $1,000,000... literally. The gang has ripped the stacks of bills in half. Batman's mission is to find the other half.
PE: The stories that ran in Detective at the time followed a basic formula: introduce a mystery, add some background characters, and have Batman solve the crime through detection and clues that, ostensibly, the reader could sift through in the panels provided. 90% of the time these clues are inane or just not very evident. As a result of editor Schwartz's "hands off the rogue's gallery" rule with his writers, we're still being subjected to forgettable "villains" and supporting characters. The bad guys here will be forgotten by the next installment. The story itself isn't bad for a Frank Robbins script. Don't misunderstand me, it's not very good. It's a time-waster, nothing more. How we'll go from the bottom-of-the-barrel we're experiencing in this run to the iconic high we'll be witnessing very soon, all while under the same editor, is beyond me.
Jack: Another mediocre story. The “clues” are not very interesting, though I did like the blonde chick on the motorcycle catching the briefcase as it fell from the sky after the car blew up! Judging from the letters column, though, we must be a couple of old cranks, because fan after fan praises Frank Robbins to the sky.
"Suddenly... the Witness Vanished!"
Story: Elliot Maggin
Art: Murphy Anderson
Ray Palmer (aka The Atom) happens to be in a courtroom one day when Henry Norton disappears from the witness stand. Since his fiance, attorney Jean Loring, is defending Norton on a small time theft charge, Palmer feels the need to get involved. He swiftly transforms into The Atom and retraces Norton's steps up to his disappearance. Turns out Norton has traveled back through time to Chicago the day before the big fire of 1871.
PE: I was going to try to avoid any cracks about Marvel's Ant-Man but that's a tough row to hoe. It's hard to imagine two more worthless superheroes. Ant-Man uses his little insect friends for travel and back-up, The Atom hitches rides on leaves that happen to be floating on the wind and wears a costume which is "woven of fabric from a dwarf star." I have not one clue what the hell that means but writer Maggin must have taken it for granted that Detective readers were aware of The Atom's mythos because there aren't many clue-in captions along the way. Palmer's goofy scientist buddy, Professor Alpheus V. Hyatt, has created something called "The Time Pool" ("a spectrum of colors blending into a tiny area of pure white light... a tiny pool through which the oceans of the past are a moment away from one such as The Atom..."), a time travel portal that allows Norton to beam himself back to Chicago of 1871. From there, the story's a jumbled mess. Norton gets to Chicago, ostensibly to view microfilm and bet on horses (?), finds out he's to become a fatality of The Big Fire and freaks out. In trying to save Norton, The Atom, who has followed the goofball through time, accidentally starts the fire in Mrs. O'Leary's barn. Palmer can't save Norton from perishing but he puts a good effort into saving the microfilm of old newspapers! Please... Jack, describe it better than I did!
Jack: Jeepers, Mr. Kent, I thought this was a pretty cool story! Murphy Anderson was one of the classic DC artists and the Atom was one of the classic Silver Age characters. I could paraphrase what I just read on Wikipedia but you could look it up just as easily. Of interest is that the Atom's alter-ego, Ray Palmer, was named after the science fiction writer/editor, and the Golden Age Atom was actually Al Pratt, a 5'1" college student who was a good boxer and all-around tough guy, but who did not have the ability to shrink to tiny sizes like his Silver Age namesake.
PE: Um... you didn't explain the story. Do I need to go to Wikipedia for that?
Jack: There was a story?