Monday, May 27, 2024

Batman in the 1960s Issue 23: September/ October 1963


The Caped Crusader in the 1960s
by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

Detective Comics #319

"The Fantastic Dr. No-Face"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

While demonstrating his brand new super-duper Rejuvenation Ray for a group of scientists, Dr. Harvey Paul Dent accidentally gets a blast of the ray and loses every feature on his face. He is now "The Fantastic Dr. No-Face"! Since Gotham scientists who become victims of their own research usually transform into thieves, murderers, or candy store robbers, Dr. Dent follows the logical next step: he begins torching famous art showcasing facial features.

Of course, Batman and Robin won't be sitting idly by while this Two-Face False-Face No-Face destroys Gotham's most treasured artifacts, so they hit the ground running, attempting to interfere with the madman's plan for destruction. Alas, all their hard work is for naught as the crazed eraser-head manages to escape time after time until, finally, the Caped Crusaders slap the cuffs on after Dent takes aim at Mount Gotham and its famous Batman bust.

But, unknown to the Dynamic Duo, this was Dr. No-Face's plan the entire time, to be arrested and let off on a "temporary insanity" plea (as opposed to pleading guilty and serving "hard time" in Gotham's penal system). That's because... Dr. No-Face is, in reality... criminal mastermind, Bart Magan! You see, Magan wanted Dr. Dent to erase a nasty scar on his forehead so the cops wouldn't be able to identify him, but Dent refused. So Magan, who took a little science in middle school, performs the ceremony himself (see the first paragraph for more details) and... no more scar!

Batman is way too smart to let Magan pull off his dastardly plan. Since the real Dr. Dent is afraid of heights, Bats had been more than a little suspicious when No-Face was high atop Mount Gotham and ran the criminal's fingerprints back in Gordon's office. Now Magan can only sit in his cell and await the plastic surgeon who might be able to bring back his face. 

I thought this was a pretty good little adventure, with lots of action and a couple decent twists. I'd love to know how Dent breathes, eats, and sees, since there are no holes on his face. No-Face has the same surname as Two-Face; just a coincidence or...? Are there any bankers, bakers, shoe repairmen, or tradesmen in Gotham? They all seem to be unknown geniuses working on some fabulous invention to better mankind. Do they all live in a development? Genius Acres? That's a story I'd read.-Peter

Jack-Dr. No was released in the U.S. on May 8, 1963, and this comic came out on July 25, so it's safe to say DC was capitalizing on the popularity of the new James Bond movie as well as looking back to Hitchcock's North By Northwest with the big granite face of Batman carved into Mt. Gotham. The twist about two thirds of the way through was a good one but the story then devolved into a talk fest till the end.

Batman #158

"Ace--the Super Bat-Hound"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"The Secret of the Impossible Perils"
Story by Bill Finger
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

"Batman and Robin--Impostors"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

The Bat-Signal summons the Dynamic Duo to the Gotham Ice Company, where the Logan Gang has been hiding out since robbing the Diamond-Mart last week. Batman and Robin are getting the better of two gang members when Bat-Hound suddenly appears, flying through the air and saving them from dangerous machinery with his bare teeth. Ace then uses his new super-powers to prevent the hoods from escaping!

Back at Stately Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick wonder what's gotten into their faithful pooch, unaware that our favorite inter-dimensional imp, Bat-Mite, is back and decided to give Bat-Hound super-powers just to see what would happen. The Bat-Signal interrupts dinner and this time, Batman and Robin hang on to "Ace--the Super Bat-Hound" as he flies to the Dalton Mines, where a hold-up has just taken place. At first, Ace is helpful, but some gas fumes in the mine cause Bat-Hound to let the crooks escape.

The next day, Batman and Robin report to the Egyptian Import Company, where they encounter the same hoods who got away at the mine. Bat-Hound starts to round them up, but one of the crooks produces a vial of gas, and when Ace sniffs it, he turns on the Dynamic Duo. Bat-Mite sees that things are not going as planned, realizes the problem, and removes Bat-Hound's super-powers, causing the dog again to be an enemy of crime. The crooks are vanquished and Bat-Mite pops back to his own dimension.

Dave Wood delivers yet another terrible Bat-Mite story and Moldoff and Paris are uninspired by the insipid plot. Have I mentioned how much I'm looking forward to the New Look Batman in 1964? One thing that puzzles me is how Ace puts on his mask when no one is around to help him.

Matt Carter tells the Gotham Explorer's Club about his father's discovery of a lost golden city in South America but, without proof, Matt's father will never be admitted to the club's inner circle. Fellow club member Bruce Wayne tells Matt that his friends Batman and Robin will go to South America to help Matt find proof. Matt shows the Dynamic Duo a map that his father drew, depicting the Valley of the Golden City and some of its notable features, including the giant moving head, a dinosaur, and the great cat. What is "The Secret of the Impossible Perils"?

After a quick flight to the South American jungle by Bat-Plane, the trio locate the giant head, which isn't moving. Batman sends Robin off to look for firewood to cook lunch and Matt and Batman are set upon by natives dressed like ancient Aztecs. Suddenly, the giant head begins to move and to breathe fire; the natives flee in fear and Robin emerges from behind the head, having discovered a system of hidden pulleys and wheels that allow it to move. The next peril to be faced is a giant armadillo that looks like a dinosaur; after fending it off, the trio discover a pool of water that makes any creature who drinks from it into a temporary giant.

Finally, Batman, Robin, and Matt find the lost city, but it's made of stone, not gold--until the sun reflects off of a bronze mirror and gives the stones a golden hue. Back in Gotham City, Matt's father is welcomed into the club's inner circle, now that Matt and his pals have proved his claims.

Bill Finger provides a straightforward narrative in this one, though the "perils" don't seem very perilous. It's awfully nice of Bruce and Dick to help Matt and I can only imagine the number of robberies that must have taken place in Gotham while the crime-fighters were away.

Early one evening, Batman and Robin rush into a swank jewelry store, where they and staff take cover and watch as thieves pilfer the jewels. Batman tells the store owner that it's part of a plan to smash an underworld jewel syndicate, but it turns out that the Dynamic Duo were impersonators and the jewels are gone. A pair of crooks known as Spence and Li'l Red are "Batman and Robin--Impostors"!

Newspaper headlines alert the citizens of Gotham to be on the lookout for the fake crime-fighters, but Spence and Li'l Red manage to trick the cops and help their gangster friends pull off a bank robbery. The hoods plan one more big job and show the fake Dynamic Duo the real utility belt that Batman dropped by accident last week when he and Robin were battling an airport terminal heist. The fake Batman triggers a smoke bomb capsule in the utility belt and he and Robin overpower the crooks.

It turns out that there was no fake Dynamic Duo--Batman and Robin were pretending to be Spence and Li'l Red in order to recover the utility belt.

Holy cow, Batman will go to any lengths to get back his property! The best part of this elaborate masquerade is that Batman wears a blond wig as Spence and Robin wears a red wig and Li'l Red. Robin then has to put a brown wig over the red wig when he's impersonating Robin! This wasn't a good issue of Batman, but the next issue looks like a humdinger!-Jack

Peter- I usually complain that shorter yarns do not allow the writer room to invest in character development and concoct clever plot twists, but when the guest stars are Bat-Mite and faux-Caped Crusaders, I say "let's hear it for shorter yarns!" The most ridiculous, and therefore most fun, of the three mini-adventures this issue is easily "The Secret of the Impossible Perils!" It not only spotlights Robin's incredible intellect and quick judgment skills, but also raises the question: just what outstanding exploit did Bruce Wayne perform that he could actually admit before a panel of peers? That he took the subway to Wayne Enterprises one morning and stopped at Starbuck's for a Venti Frappuccino without being accosted by bums on the street? Seriously. And is that Gordon on the panel or has Moldoff exhausted his quota of three different character profiles in one issue?

Detective Comics #320

"Batman and Robin--the Mummy Crime-Fighters"
Story by Dave Wood
Art by Sheldon Moldoff & Charles Paris

While out enjoying a country drive, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson stumble on yet another UFO crash. Since the hatch has conveniently popped open, the pair enter the capsule and find its pilot, an automaton, out of commission. Just then, a green gizmo atop the control panel starts clicking and then explodes in a terrifying ball of green light. Both awestruck individuals are bathed in the emerald glow and discover while driving home that their skin has turned pea green!

Realizing that this transformation might hinder crime-fighting and allow their worst enemies to guess their true identities, Bruce and Dick stage an elaborate ruse for the Gotham police at the sight of the spaceship crash. The duo use the "special effect lighting" stored within their utility belts to give off the appearance that they are shining bright yellow. Batman tells Gordon that he fears he and Robin might be dangerous to others and that the Duo must head back to the Bat-Cave to do some research. Gordon mumbles something about "damned UFOs and their space diseases" and heads back to his office. 

The Crow gang, however, react in glee to that afternoon's Gotham Gazette headline of "Batman and Robin Out of Action!" and head right over to the Gotham Light Co. (rather than, I don't know, a bank) to pull off a heist. Heading out of the building with dozens of LED light bulbs, the gang is terrified by the sight of two mummies swooping in on ropes (attached to???) to break up their party. "It's Batman and Robin! Wrapped like mummies!" says one brilliant henchman, as they pack into their getaway car. Despite the disadvantage of bandaging, Batman and Robin nab the bad guys and hand them over to the cops. On the sidelines, a very suspicious Vicki Vale wonders if it's just a coincidence that Bruce and Dick are green and the Dynamic Duo are playing dress-up.

Determined to get to the bottom of the mystery, Vicki heads over to Stately Wayne Manor to grill her would-be beau but is stymied when Bruce explains that he and Robin are green while the Caped Crusaders are glowing yellow! The facts are out there for those with eyes big enough to see. Vicki admits the billionaire has a point and heads back to the office to work on some other headline grabber ("Does Liz Know About the Night That Burton Turned Into a Monster?"). That night, Batman and Robin have to quash yet another odd heist (this one at a steel factory) and Bats gets into serious trouble. Just as the bad guys are about to erase Batman from the world, Robin gets one of his bright ideas and unrolls his facial bandage, screaming "I'm radioactive! I'm radioactive!" The thieves get away, but the boys live to fight another day.

That next day, Vicki Vale is on hand for a four-alarm fire where B&R, sans bandages, save a bunch of hopheads who accidentally set their mattress on fire while smoking crack. [Huh?--Jack] She sees the heroes are back to normal and jumps into her sports car, destination: Stately Wayne Manor! She bursts in the door, shoves Alfred aside, and demands to see his boss. Bruce and Dick are enjoying a quiet day, reading the paper in front of the fire, when Ms. Vale races into the room, unhinged. Seeing that the boys are still green (and therefore can't be Batman and Robin), she harumphs and exits stage left. Later, downstairs in the Bat-Cave, Dick and Bruce laugh while cleaning off their green make-up. 

Not that these Batman adventures are intricately plotted, but "The Mummy Crime-Fighters!" seems to be more disjointed and random than usual. It's obvious that Gotham has become the go-to city on Earth for spaceships to land but, seriously, the almost qui s'en soucie attitude of Gordon and his non-existent police force is laughable. No perimeters around the crash site, no scientists, not even a "Yeah, This Area Might Be Contaminated--Who Knows?" sign.  And the World's Greatest Detective is more worried that his green skin might put a damper on his night gig than if his exposure to an unknown deep space virus might infect the rest of the world. Well, they did put on bandages, I guess!

For all her reputation, the matronly Vicki Vale seems to be the stupidest journalist on the planet (at least until Rupert Murdoch begins selecting new piggies from his sty a decade later), propping up her chin with a No. 2 and looking skyward while pondering 2 + 2 = giraffe. She's brainy enough to be the only one in Gotham who suspects Bruce Wayne might be Batman, but then constantly second-guesses herself over the stupidest things: "Well, yeah, dreamy Bruce might be the Dark Knight, but how can that be when he's still got green skin? There's no way that's make-up!"-Peter

Jack-This one would've fit right in with "The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin" theme in the last Batman annual! Is wrapping yourself from head to toe in bandages really the best way to hide green skin? How about tights and a long-sleeved shirt and a mask for the Boy Wonder?

Next Week...
Nature Strikes Back!

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