Monday, December 22, 2008

"The Winged Bat-People"

Issue: Batman #116

Cover Date: June 1958

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: The planes of Gotham's weather bureau are unable to analyze the eye of a hurrican due to too much turbulence, but luckily, the city has a crime fighter with a plane tough enough to get the job done. When Batman activates the Bat-Plane's reserve jets to battle the fierce winds, he and Robin are surprisingly transported to another dimension. They barely have time to realize what has happened when they are captured by Romanesque soldiers, the leader of which mentioning that they were warned of an attack by "the Bat-People". Batman and Robin are taken before the soldiers' Queen for sentencing, where we find out that the Queen's minister Arko had warned of the Bat-People attack. While the Queen sees Batman and Robin as proof that rumors of Arko being a traitor were false, his thought balloon reveals that his report was a false one. Before Batman and Robin can be taken to the dungeons, the castle is attacked by the aforementioned Bat-People.

The Bat-People are taken down by Batman's batarang, his left hook, and the Bat-Plane's engine. Batman gains the Queen's trust and proposes they, along with Robin and Arko, journey to the Bat-People's territory. Arko declines, saying he has state business, so the soldier who had captured the Dynamic Duo goes in his place. While flying over the chasm that seperates the two territories in the Bat-Plane, they are attacked by a flaming net courtesy of the Bat-People, confirming that Arko was a traitor. They return to find that Arko has taken over the palace, but he and his allies are no match for Batman and Robin. Upon capture, Arko reveals that the Bat-People are on their way to launch a full scale attack. Batman is unafraid of the attack, having deduced that the chasm seperating the two territories contained a coal vein; a coal vein that is now producing updrafts of hot air due to the flaming net. Batman and Robin set the vein aflame using the jets from their Bat-Plane, producing an explosion that propels them back to their dimension.

Thoughts: One of the notable aspects of Batman in the fifties is the amount of story output. While Detective Comics always contained one Batman story, the number of stories in the Batman title changed throughout it's publication. There were usually four stories during the forties, three during the fifties, and two during the early sixties. By the time Batmania hit in '66, Batman was down to the single, full length story of a standard comic book. While the fifties tales were only 8 to 12 pages, it's amazing how much story was packed into each, especially compared to the current trend of decompression. While some stories could have used a few more pages, most of them were able to tell a solid, interesting story in the space given. And with 36 Batman stories being published each year by 1954 (not counting World's Finest), who can complain about a clunker here and there?

"The Winged Bat-People" is undoubtably a late fifties story, with its use of strange creatures and alternate dimensions. With what we know now of the DC universe, I like to think of this dimension as one of the infinite earths prior to the Crisis, where Batman is instead a race of Bat-People. There were several touches to this story that made me chuckle, one of them being that the Bat-Plane was able to break the sound barrier "at a speed ten times greater than was ever thought possible" and travel to alternate dimensions. I actually wish this concept had become the Professor Carter Nichols of the late fifties, with Batman and Robin using the Bat-Plane to travel to other alternate dimensions. The ending of the story is patricularly great, with Dick mentioning to Bruce that the Queen likely thinks they're dead. When Bruce says it is for the best and Dick inquires why, Bruce responds that if she still thought Batman was alive, the Queen would pine for him and never marry the soldier who was infatuated with her. There you have it: Bruce Wayne isn't the mask, Batman is. (And to Bill Finger's credit, the Queen-Soldier romance wasn't random; there are two panels in the story that do imply it).

There are fun moments and good action in this story, but as always, there are also a few questions. Can four normal soldiers haul the Bat-Plane across a desert? Where is the catapult on the Bat-Plane that allows Batman to leap over the castle walls during the coup? How bad a ruler is the Queen if her palace minister can stage a coup in an afternoon? And if said minister can stage a coup in an afternoon, why would he tell his enemies to launch a full-scale attack on the castle? And how does the palace minister communicate with these winged creatures anyhow? While it does raise a lot of questions and is an example of a fifties story suffering a bit from the low page count, it is still worth seeking out for a zany Batman yarn.

This story has been reprinted in Eighty Page Giant #12.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Batman: The Black Casebook TPB Confirmed

Back in October, I blogged about a rumor that DC would be releasing a trade paperback collecting the fifties stories that inspired Grant Morrison's current run on Batman. DC Comics recently unveiled their list of collected editions coming out in May and June of 2009 and underneath June was this solicitation:

Batman: The Black Casebook TP
Writers: France Herron, Edmond Hamilton, Bill Finger
Artists: Dick Sprang, Charles Paris, Sheldon Moldoff, Stan Kaye
Collects: Stories from Batman #113, 134, 156, and 162, Detective Comics #215, 235, and 267, and World's Finest Comics #89.
$17.99 US 144 pages

That's right, more fifties reprints are on the way! As the stories tie-in to Morrison's run, here are my guesses on which stories will be collected:

Batman #113: "Batman -- The Superman of Planet X!"
Batman #134: "Batman's Secret Enemy"
Batman #156: "Robin Dies At Dawn!"
Batman #162: "The Batman Creature!"
Detective Comics #215: "The Batmen of All Nations"
Detective Comics #235: "The First Batman"
Detective Comics #267: "Batman Meets Bat-Mite"
World's Finest Comics #89: "The Club of Heroes!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

"City Without Guns"

Issue: Detective Comics #196

Cover Date: June 1953

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Winslow Mortimer

Synopsis: The story opens with gang boss Frank Lumardi escaping from the Gotham police via a speedboat. One month later, Bruce and Dick arrive in London, with Bruce hoping to study the crime fighting methods of Scotland Yard. Meeting up with Inspector Deggers, Bruce learns of Scotland Yard's no gun policy and sees that on a wall of crime fighter portraits, Batman and Robin's has been ripped from its frame. Deggers is unwilling to divulge any information concerning the portrait and soon departs when an alarm sounds in Leicester Square. Batman and Robin are quick to follow Deggers, discovering that the alarm was sounded due to the theft of an apparently important briefcase. The thieves turn out to be a gang led by Lumardi, who escape when Batman has to prevent a bus struck by a stray bullet from crashing.

Batman and Robin meet up with Deggers, who informs them that the stolen briefcase contained 8,000 pounds (roughly $20,000). While mulling over what to do next without a Batcave, the Dynamic Duo run into Chester Gleek, England's #1 Batman and Robin fan. Lightly dismissing him at first, Chester insists he shows them his laboratory, which turns out to be exactly like the Batcave. After Robin reads a crime file on Lumardi, Chester leads Batman and Robin (passing a portrait of the Duo) to his garage, which houses a replica of the Batmobile. Using their knowledge of Lumardi's love of horse racing, Batman and Robin track down his gang, but the imitation Batmobile is no match for gunfire. Borrowing a horse, the Duo duke it out with the gang at a wax museum, but lose them due to the Pickwick Bicycle Club riding by.

Batman and Robin return to Scotland Yard to confer with Deggers. The defacing of a statue of Isis appears to indicate Lumardi's next crime, but Batman cannot deduce what it might mean. Then Deggers makes a comment about the upper part of the Thames river being referred to as Isis and Batman is able to draw a connection. That night, Lumardi's gang breaks into a Captain Percy's ship on the Thames, which holds an old treasure chest. Batman and Robin were prepared for the gang, subduing all of them except for Lumardi. After a battle with Lumardi in the Oxford belltower, Lumardi stops cold as three riflemen aim in his direction. The trio turns out to be a campus drill team, with Lumardi ironically being apprehended by guns in a city without them. But what of the portrait of Batman and Robin missing from Scotland Yard? It turns out the portrait was originally donated by Chester Gleek, then stolen by him when he saw it hanging beside such "inferior" detectives such as Sherlock Holmes.

Thoughts: If there was one thing Batman did a lot of in the forties and fifties, it was travel. Whether it was traveling through time thanks to Professor Carter Nichols, around the world, or into outer space, Batman and Robin fought injustice wherever (and whenever) it may be. In fact, there were two giant issues published chronicling the Dynamic Duo's travels. The first, Eighty Page Giant #12 from July of 1965, focused on Batman and Robin's travels to strange worlds. The second, Batman #223 from July/August of 1970, focused on adventures spanning the globe. Both contain a number of fun, fifties Batman cases that take Batman out of his normal environment of Gotham City.

"City Without Guns" is one such story, taking Batman across the pond to merry old England. The background mystery of Batman and Robin's missing portrait is a nice supplement to the Lumardi case. Chester Gleek is a fun, fanboy character, although I have to wonder how he was able to replicate a loose version of the Batcave, including the crime file (I fully admit that a previously published story involving the Batcave, a la "The Batman Dime Museum" from 1955, might clear that up). Lumardi being foiled by the drill club in the end was a clever bit on Bill Finger's part. Dick Sprang, as always, provides classic Batman artwork. My favorite panel in the story is that of Batman after Lumardi sets the bells in the bell tower off; the "Bongs" of different sizes and colors surrounding Batman were quite effective. The only flaw in an otherwise classic fifties story is Bruce Wayne possessing a letter of introduction from Commissioner Gordon for Deggers. It wouldn't take much detective work to connect the newly arrived Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to Batman and Robin swinging around London.

*Special thanks to David Morefield for the blog's awesome new banner.

This story has been reprinted in Batman #223, a 64 page giant issue.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Break

Apologies for the lack of posts for the past couple of weeks. I've been extremely busy and getting ready to travel for Thanksgiving. I'll be back to blogging next week with stories of cities without guns and winged bat-people. Until then, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Previews - February 2009

The current issue of Previews hit stores today, and while it may not be in stores until April 2009 and I already posted about it last Monday, the DC Comics Classics Library: Batman - The Annuals HC has been solicited. Three classic annuals filled with classic fifties Batman stories in a nice hardcover collection. Whether you order one now or one in April, pick one up because the stronger the sales, the more likely we'll see a volume two and other fifties Batman collections.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Written by Bill Finger, Edmond Hamilton and others
Art by Lew Sayre Schwartz, Dick Sprang and others
Composite cover by Curt Swan and others
Some of the greatest Batman tales ever are collected in this new hardcover! Reprinting the classic BATMAN ANNUALs #1-3 from 1961 and 1962, this can’t-miss collection reveals the secrets of the Batcave, the Bat-Signal and more!
Advance-solicited; on sale April 22 • 256 pg, FC, $39.99 US

Nuff. Said.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

"The Interplanetary Batman"

Issue: Batman #128

Cover Date: December 1959

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Sheldon Moldoff

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: Batman and Robin are driving on a country road when they hear a cry for help coming from some bushes. Driving in their direction, Batman and Robin are surprised to discover that it was an alien calling for their assistance. A group of another species of alien attack the alien that had called out to the Dynamic Duo and Batman and Robin defend him. One of the aliens uses a space gun to paralyze Batman, Robin, and the alien they were protecting, and reveals that the alien is really Kraak, a notorious space pirate. Batman and Robin are taken along with Kraak to the aliens' prison planet, Ergon, and thrown in a cell. Robin tells the alien jailer that he and Batman are innocent, but his pleas fall on deaf ears.

Batman and Robin get into a scuffle with Kraak before they are taken away for questioning. Batman and Robin later return to the cell, crestfallen that their statements of innocence were not believed. Kraak tells them that the only way they could escape is through the Forest of Peril, which is so perilous that it is not guarded. After Batman reveals he has the means to escape, Kraak offers a share of his loot in exchange for an alliance and Batman and Robin agree. After escaping from their cell via acid from Batman's utility belt, the trio make their way through the Forest of Peril. They encounter the police's robot trackers and alien creatures including a swamp amoeba and a ram-beast, but survive to make it to a space cruiser. After landing on Kraak's asteroid hideout, Batman and Robin are ambushed by some of Kraak's men. In true villain fashion, Kraak never intended to help the Dynamic Duo. They hold Kraak and his men off until the Ergon police arrive, as Batman and Robin had earned their trust and been purposefully allowed them to escape so that they could lead the police to Kraak's hideout.

Thoughts: This is another one of those fifties tales that must've made a kid's imagination go wild. You've got Batman fighting crime in outer space...all sorts of crazy aliens and's purely a story that is meant to entertain. While it does take place on a far off world, we still see Batman using his intellect to solve problems he encounters. Kraak tells him of two space plants, melons filled with honey and pods filled with pepper. Batman uses this knowledge to his advantage, using the honey from the melons to attract bugs that stop the robot trackers and pocketing some pepper pods to fend off Kraak's henchmen later on. This is a nice touch that reminds the reader that while Batman may be out of his element, he's as resourceful as ever. While Batman uses his brains, he also uses his brawn, resulting in my favorite line from the issue: "You may be strong Kraak, but you don't know a thing about judo!". Another of my favorite aspects about the story is the cover; the expression on the alien's face cracks me up for some reason. "The Interplanetary Batman" is a quick read, but is also a lot of fun and represents what the fifties era Batman was all about.

This story has been reprinted in Eighty Page Giant #12 and the Batman in The Fifties TPB.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Original Batman Pages By Sheldon Moldoff

This week, Heritage Auction Galleries are going to auctioning off a number of Batman items by Dick Sprang and Sheldon Moldoff on eBay. Most of them are cover recreations and commissions, but there are also three original art pages by Sheldon Moldoff that are going to be up for auction.

Splash Page from Batman #144, 1961

Pg. 2, Batman #154, 1963

Pg. 12, Detective Comics #352, 1966

You can check out the rest of the Sheldon Moldoff items here and the Dick Sprang items here.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"The Fox, The Shark, and The Vulture"

Issue: Detective Comics #253

Cover Date: March 1958

Writer: Dave Wood

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: On a plane taking off from Gotham City Airport carrying historical artifacts, a hand pops out of a hidden panel on a lifesize globe. Gas pallets are tossed, knocking out a pair of guards, and the Vulture emerges from the globe. He begins stealing the plane's cargo, but is interrupted when another guard passes by the cargo hold's door. Attaching parachutes to himself and his loot, the Vulture makes his escape from the plane while the robbery is reported. Back in Gotham City, the Bat Signal shines in the sky and the Dynamic Duo respond. After hearing the police report, they deduce that the Terrible Trio has struck again and split up: Batman takes off in the Bat-Plane while Robin drives the Batmobile. While flying the direction where the Vulture was last seen, Batman recalls a previous encounter he and Robin had with the Terrible Trio. The Trio had used a drill machine to get into Gotham Bank's underground vault. While pursuing the Trio through an underground tunnel and would have been taken out by a bomb if they hadn't ducked into a pair of drainage pipes.

Batman comes across the Vulture and the Fox (who came to the location via his drill machine) running towards the bag of loot. Batman flys faster and faster around a giant glass bottle on top of a nearby building until it shatters. Thinking it's the army, the Vulture and the Fox leave the loot behind and escape in their drill machine. Batman and Robin track the machine in the Batmobile using their "Sonic Range Finder", stopping at the shoreline. They dive into the ocean equipped with aqua lungs and find the drill machine going into an eel machine built by the Shark. When Batman and Robin approach the eel machine, the Shark sends out an electric shock that paralyzes the Dynamic Duo. Only by pulling their aqua lung inflation switches were they able to come up to the surface and save themselves from a watery doom. Back at Gordon's office, Batman looks for a pattern in the Trio's crimes and after recalling the Shark's crime being the first, deduces that the next robbery to be committed will be by a machine of the Shark's design. Batman studies the list of incoming ships and after determining the Trio's next target, comes up with a surprise for them.

At the Trio's lighthouse hideout, the Fox and Vulture note that they have the cargo plans, but not the means to claim the cargo for themselves. The Shark reassures them that he has a plan and retires to complete his next machine. The next day, the Shark's new machine is revealed to be one in the shape of a pilot fish that attaches to the ships hull via a sucker and creates an airtight airlock. They burn a hole in the hull and bring the cargo of Egyptian artifacts through the airlock into their ship. Upon returning to their lair, they find that the sarcophaguses they stole contain not mummies, but Batman and Robin wrapped head to toe in bandages. Batman and Robin knock out the Shark and deal with several of the Trio's traps. They stand off with the Fox and the Vulture at the top of the lighthouse, where the Vulture is about to attack them with his robot vultures. Batman hits the lighthouse control board with a batarang, plunging it into darkness, and Batman and Robin take down the remaining members of the Trio.

Thoughts: Before reading this story, my only experience with the Terrible Trio had been their universally panned episode from Batman The Animated Series. Their animated incarnations were a trio of arrogant, wealthy, unlikeable frat boys who stole because they were bored. The original comic book version of the Trio is leaps and bounds ahead of them. They're a trio of criminals each adept at a certain means of committing a crime, which is a pretty clever reason to team up. The Frat Trio broke into the homes of the rich with a grappling hook, while the original Trio had giant drilling, eel, and pilot fish machines to rob banks and steal precious historical artifacts. The comic book Trio also has a swingin' lighthouse hideout. On the top level is the Vulture's "nest", the next level is a kitchen, the third is the Fox's "den", and the bottom level is the Shark's "cave" which also has an entrance to the ocean. The best part about the diagram of the Trio's lair in the story is that the Vulture's "nest" shows him playing with a model airplane.

The Batman stories during the fifties were aimed fully at kids and this story fits the bill perfectly. You've got giant machines, Bat gadgets, Batman and Robin disguised as mummies, hideout's the kind of story a kid would have an absolute blast reading. Looking at it through more critical eyes, a few questions leap out at you. Why did the Vulture and the Fox think the army was after them? Did they think they were really that terrible? How did Batman know the exact ship the Trio were going to hit? And after the Trio's raid, there's a giant gaping hole in the ship. Gordon was on the ship and we see him at the end of the story, so everyone must have survived, but how? Overall, this is one of those fifties stories that is a lot of fun if you have your suspension of disbelief firmly in place.

This story has been reprinted in Batman #176, an 80 Page Giant issue.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Added To The Collection: World's Finest Comics #180

The latest addition to my comic collection is a VG+ copy of World's Finest Comics #180. While it isn't from the fifties, the Batman story reprinted within is: "The Batmen of All Nations" from Detective Comics #215. This is a Batman story I've always wanted to read, now even more so with the Batmen of All Nations' appearance during Grant Morrison's Batman run. I didn't think I'd be able to read it for a long time as it's quite pricey and until last week, had never been reprinted as far as I knew. I was surprised to find while surfing Comic Book DB that it had in fact been reprinted in an issue of World's Finest Comics, which I quickly ordered off eBay. I already have this week's reviews planned, but you can definitely expect a review of the story next week. Now if they'd only reprint "The Bat-Ape"...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Defining The "Fifties Era"

Several times in the blog I've used the term "fifties era" or "fifties period", but I haven't exactly defined what I mean by that. When I refer to the "fifties era", I am referring to the Batman comics published from cover date January 1950 to May 1964. Now some are probably wondering why the timeframe doesn't end with December 1959. The reason is that the science fiction tone and expanded Batman family prevalent during the later half of the 1950s continued into the 1960s until cover date June 1964 when the "New Look" Batman was introduced. 

The "New Look" Batman was new Batman editor Julius Schwartz's effort to revitalize and modernize the Batman comics for the 1960s. In the space of one issue, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, and the rest of the Batman family introduced in the late 1950s were gone from the books. The stories shifted from science fiction to those that emphasized Batman's detective skills. The art of the stories was also modernized, with Carmine Infantino on Detective Comics and veteran Batman artist Sheldon Moldoff's pencils on Batman slicked up by Joe Giella. You can see clearly see the shift by comparing the covers of the Batman comics cover dated May 1964 with the covers of the Batman comics cover dated June 1964.

I tend to think of it as Batman having two Silver Ages. There's the Silver Age Batman from the late fifties to early sixties with the science fiction tone and expanded Batman family and then there's the Silver Age Batman from the late sixties with the "New Look" revamp and the stories that reflect the camp tone of the 1960s television show. So if I blog about a Batman story from the sixties, it will be one from the first Silver Age Batman had and not from his second, "New Look" Silver Age.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"The Crazy Crime Clown!"

Issue: Batman #74

Cover Date: December/January 1952/1953

Writer: Alvin Schwartz

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Win Mortimer

Synopsis: One evening on the way to an opera, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson see a woman getting grabbed and disappearing into the dense fog filling the night. The laughter that follows tells Bruce and Dick that The Joker has struck and they run after him. Using the cover of the fog to change into Batman and Robin, the Dynamic Duo come upon the woman, who has fainted and is missing her jewels. The fact that the woman's jewels is curious in that it's common knowledge that due to financial hardship, her jewels are fake. The Joker continues to rob worthless objects, stealing wooden coins painted gold from a bank and cutting out a Mona Lisa from a billboard. Batman and Robin are bewildered by the nature of The Joker's crimes and become even more so when The Joker is arrested at police headquarters trying to deposit his worthless items as if he were at a bank! At Joker's trial, a psychologist's report convinces the judge to sentence The Joker to an insane asylum, which gives Batman an idea as to why The Joker has been committing such crazy crimes.

As it turns out, a bank clerk who can't remember where he hid the $1,000,000 he embezzled is at the same asylum The Joker as been sentenced to. The reason for The Joker's crimes now made clear, Batman goes undercover as a mind reader to expose The Joker's plan. At the insane asylum he meets a number of delusional individuals, including men who think they're Isaac Newton, Christopher Columbus, and even Batman. Though "Minos" is able to flip a man who believes himself to be a prize wrestler over his head, The Joker is not convinced of his mind reading abilities. The Joker's view is changed when "Minos" is able to read the bank clerk's mind and discover the hiding place of the embezzled money (in actuality, the location where Robin is lying in wait to capture The Joker). The Joker whispers to "Minos" that he plans on breaking out the night and he is welcome to join him, causing Batman to think he has The Joker trapped. The tables are turned on Batman however, when The Joker knocks him out, puts him in a straight jacket, locks him in a padded room that's filling with water (via a hose), and reveals to him that he knew something was fishy because the clerk had revealed the location of the hidden money in his sleep the night before. He even has the Batman costume that was hidden under Bruce's mind reader disguise.

As The Joker makes his escape down the asylum wall, he hears someone mentioning to Batman that he can still catch The Joker if he hurries. Confused, The Joker returns to the room and finds none other than Bruce Wayne (Bruce having discarded his mind reader outfit in the water). The Joker thinks he's actually crazy until he sees the ventilator and realizes Bruce called down it to fool him. He then makes the next logical conclusion and shouts in triumph that he has discovered Batman's identity, when Batman looks in through the room's window! He leaps at Bruce, who pointed out he must be the fake Batman, as The Joker starts to lose his head. Robin swings through the window and knocks out The Joker, who after the two Batmen is happy to be taken into custody. Batman then jumps at Robin having not called for him and Bruce tells him to watch out. Later in in the office of the director of the insane asylum, it's revealed that Joker's removal of Batman's utility belt sent a distress signal to Robin and Bruce's yell down the ventilator attracted the inmate who believed he was Batman. The story ends with the Batman inmate cured due to a collison with The Joker (he has no memory of Batman's identity) and The Joker revealing the location of the embezzled money to prove to himself that he was sane after seeing two Batmen.

Thoughts: The first item of note is the characterization of The Joker. In his earliest appearances, you would expect for there to be a few bodies by the end of a Joker story. As time passed however (and by the mid 1950's, due to the Comics Code Authority) The Joker drifted further and further away from his murderous plans and instead committed to ones with a commical gimmick. In this story we see him steal worthless objects to be deemed insane so that he can discover the location of some hidden money. While a thought out plan, it's much less sinister than his earliest capers that usually involved poisoning people with Joker toxin. For example, when a policeman catches Joker stealing the wooden coins, The Joker stops him with quick drying plastic. If The Joker from the forties had been caught, the policeman wouldn't have lived long enough to recount his story.

There are a number of good parts in the story. When trying to deduce the motive behind The Joker's crimes, we see that part of the trophy collection within the Batcave is made up of trophies of past Joker crimes that Batman and Robin can study for a connection. Bruce's disguise as "Minos The Mind Reader" is a nice instance of Batman's detective skills coming into play. And of course, the mind games Bruce plays with The Joker concerning whose identity is whose which get even better when the fake Batman joins in. While there are a lot of fun moments, there are also several flaws in the story, all of which concern Batman in his disguise. One has to wonder why The Joker wouldn't question how a mind reader can flip a man with the stature of a wrestler with his feet. That should have been the moment that raises the red flag that "Minos" wasn't who he said he was. Instead, Bruce's phony location of the hidden money is what causes The Joker to become suspicious. This would be a logical connection to make, except for the fact that since Bruce is posing as a new member to the asylum, The Joker should just brush him off as another delusional inmate. Finally, if The Joker removed the Batman costume from under Bruce's mind reader disguise, wouldn't he also remove the makeup and turban?

As always, Dick Sprang provides some excellent artwork. His Joker is rather distinct, with the cheeks pushed out so far that when The Joker smiles they form a triangle with his chin. He draws a great Joker grin too, along with his other facial expressions ranging from surprise to confusion to full on crazy. In my opinion, the best and most hilarious moment in the story is not even in the story itself, it's the opening splash page. The scene is a beach. In the background we see Batman and Robin with looks of surprise on their faces. In front of them, a crying child weeps to the Dynamic Duo, "Baw! The Joker stole my mud-pies Batman!". In the foreground we see The Joker, sitting in the sand, crazy grin on his face, making mud-pies and exclaiming, "Mud-pies! Hundreds of mud-pies! And they're all mine! Ha-Ha-Ha-Ha!". Sprang executes it perfectly and it's absolutely hilarious. On a final art note, it's interesting that a story in the issue other than The Joker story was chosen as the subject for the cover.

This story has been reprinted in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told (1988) TPB and HC and the Stacked Deck HC.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"The Rainbow Batman"

Issue: Detective Comics #241

Cover Date: March 1957

Writer: Edmond Hamilton

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Stan Kaye

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: Dick Grayson is casually walking down a sidewalk when he hears someone yell that a group of thieves are getting away. Dick contemplates changing into Robin, but has no time to when the thieves' getaway car speeds towards a young girl crossing the street. Dick rushes to the young girl and gets the both of them out of the way, but bangs his left elbow on a lamp post in the process. A doctor arrives on the scene and informs Dick that his arm isn't broken, but he will have to lay off it for a week. Later at Wayne Manor, Bruce and Dick watch a news report about the robbery that includes a piece about Dick's heroic act. Dick tells Bruce that he saw the thieves' faces and would be able to identify them, however a search of their crime files turns up nothing. As the stolen item was a camera, Bruce deduces that the thieves must be planning a larger crime at an event that will attract media attention. He and Dick plan to attend such events with Dick keeping a watchful eye out for the thieves.

In carrying out their search, the public is puzzled as each event sees Batman wear a differently colored Batman costume. During a parade, Batman wears a red costume. While saving a block from the threat of an explosives truck aflame, he wears a light blue costume. Batman steals the thunder of a movie star and a set of valuable jems when he appears at those events wearing gold and orange costumes respectively, causing the public to think that is Batman's reason for his colorful costumes. It appears the thieves have caught on to Batman's plan when Batman has to save a launched ship and when Batman is shot while attending a sharpshooting contest. That last one was really Batman's fault as he was wearing a costume with a bullseye on it (don't worry, he was wearing a steel vest underneath).

After the last event, the story cuts to the thieves being pursued by the Dynamic Duo where we find out that they will really be striking at a money show to snatch up $1,000,000. The next day at the money show, Batman arrives wearing a costume that is truly a rainbow costume. As soon as one of the thieves walks in, Robin identifies him and Batman gives him a red left hook. Batman finds a gas mask on his person and realizes that the stolen camera is booby trapped with gas. Sure enough, the stolen camera is found with tear gas inside it and Batman and Robin take down the other two thieves. Back at the Batcave, the reason for Batman's colorful costumes is revealed: to prevent the connection between Dick unable to use his left arm and Robin unable to use his left arm, Batman wore brilliantly colored costumes to focus all attention on himself and allow Robin to freely search the crowd for the gang of thieves.

Thoughts: Ah..."The Rainbow Batman". There is quite possibly no other Batman story that has caused so much laughter from so many people based on the cover alone. Due to Batman's costume being colored a lightish red instead of the darker red everyone is accustomed to, it is automatically assumed that Batman is wearing pink. A closer inspection of the cover shows that Batman clearly states that he is wearing a red costume. So please, although it may look like Batman is wearing pink on the cover, remind yourself the next time you see it that Batman is wearing the color red. I'm just kidding, that cover is one of, if not the, funniest Batman images ever published and should cause you to chuckle everytime you see it.

In all seriousness (well, as serious as you can get when talking about Batman's fifties adventures), this is a fifties Batman story with a bizarre gimmick that actually makes sense by the end. If Batman is seen in public without Robin or Robin doesn't leap to action like he normally does, the conclusion could be drawn that he and Dick Grayson are one in the same. Batman appearing during the day, at public events, in colorful costumes would certainly draw attention to himself and prevent suspicion around Robin when he doesn't display his usual acrobatics. Along with having a hilarious cover, the story itself has a number of hilarious moments involving Batman's costumes. The patchwork rainbow costume at the end of the story is hilarious in itself, but the panel where Batman punches the thief in the face makes it gold. Speaking of gold, Batman's gold costume causes him to be yelled at by a movie star because the attendees at her arrival in Gotham are more interested in his costume than her. The best moment in the story by far is Batman wearing a costume with a bullseye on it to a sharpshooting contest. To borrow a phrase associated with DC's rival, "nuff said".

As far as the art is concerned, there is an element that stands out in a positive way and one that stands out in a negative one. Starting with the positive first, the opening splash page to the story is a great one. The splash page shows a large, perplexed looking Robin in the center with smaller images of Batman in his various costumes around him performing actions such as swinging on a bat rope and upcutting a criminal. This is an effective splash page in that it sets up the mystery element of the story and shows the reader the various costumes that Batman will be seen wearing throughout. There is one major mistake in the art though. Obviously, Robin can't be seen in public with a sling, so he is usually drawn with his left arm at his side. However, Robin is seen driving the Batmobile in several panels using both hands, where the turning of the steering wheel is sure to cause stress on the arm he was told not to use for at least a week. Other than that, the art is quite solid.

In the end, "The Rainbow Batman" is more than a story with a cover featuring Batman in a hilarious costume, it's a story with twelve pages of Batman in hilarious costumes.

This story has been reprinted in Batman #182, an 80 Page Giant issue.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Bevy of Bat-Mite Buttons

The name of the blog comes from a promotional button released by DC in 2000. For the past couple months I tried to get my hands on one, but never could as when it did turn up on eBay, it was part of a larger set that cost more than I was willing to spend. Finally I saw someone selling a set of 28 of the buttons for $9. One buy it now and a few days of shipping later and I am now the owner of 28 "I Believe In Bat-Mite" buttons. Now I obviously don't need 28 buttons, so my hope is that as readership of the blog grows, I can send out some of my extra buttons to other fifties Batman fans. If you'd like to become a "Bat-Mite Believer", send your snail mail address to

Friday, October 31, 2008

Batman: The Black Casebook TPB Coming Soon?

The Collected Editions blog is reporting that fall 2009 will see the release of a trade paperback entitled Batman: The Black Casebook. As this will be coming out after the Batman: R.I.P. HC, it's likely that this will be a collection of the Golden Age and Silver Age stories that were brought back into continuity during Grant Morrison's initial Batman run. It'll be nice to have all those stories in one volume and new collections of fifties stories are always a good thing. The only downside of this news is that it'll probably be a year until the trade ships, which is curious because one would think that DC would release it around the same time as the "R.I.P." collection. Once I get the last part of "R.I.P." I plan on doing a review of Morrison's first run on Batman, noting the fifties stories that Morrison referenced throughout.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

"Rip Van Batman"

Issue: Batman #119

Cover Date: October 1958

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Curt Swan

Synopsis: The story opens with Batman and Robin on the trail of a criminal, Al Hackett. Narrowing down his potential hiding places to two locations, Batman and Robin split up. While investigating his lodge, Batman is exposed to an aroma emanating from an exotic plant in Hackett's greenhouse. Batman stumbles from the greenhouse and rolls down a slope, landing beside a pond. Time passes and Batman awakes feeling groggy and stiff. Thinking he'll feel better if he splashes some water on his face, Batman leans over the pond and sees a wrinkled and bearded face looking back at him, coming to the conclsion that he's been asleep for many years.

Batman makes his way to Gotham city and finds it to be quite different from the Gotham he remembers, with more skyscrapers and flying cars. After a pair of kids laugh at Batman for being an "old timer in a Batman suit", they point out to him the real Batman, who Bruce realizes is an older Dick Grayson who has a ward of his own fighting as Robin the Boy Wonder. After seeing Dick and his ward defeat a group of criminals, Batman runs up to him glad to see a familiar face, but Dick also dismisses him as an old timer in a Batman costume. Batman attempts to prove he's the original by meeting Dick at Wayne Manor, but finds it and the Bat Cave in ruins. He then tries to talk to Commissioner Gordon, but discovers that he's been retired and living in Hawaii for ten years. Batman walks past a statue erected in his honor, lamenting that everything from the life he knew is gone.

While passing by a planetarium, Batman overhears criminals talking about stealing jewels that were found on the moon. Seeing that Dick and the future Robin have been tied up, Batman attempts to get the jump on the criminals, but is too stiff in his old age to perform his usual acrobatics. Batman is tied up, but using a flashlight from his utility belt and a moon scorpion, he is able to scare away the criminals. He then breaks a microscope lens in his utility belt to free himself, Dick, and the future Robin from their bonds. After this display, Dick is convinced that the old Batman is indeed the real Batman and the trio team up to take down the crooks. After the criminals are rounded up, Batman feels faint and finds himself being shaken awake by Robin. It turns out that the plant's aroma did have an effect on Batman, but instead of causing him to sleep for decades, they made him hallucinate that he was Rip Van Batman.

Thoughts: Imaginary stories were all the rage in the Silver Age and this story follows in a similar vein. It's interesting to see what the future might have been without Bruce. In this case, Dick has taken on the mantle of Batman and presumably taken in a ward in the same state Dick was when Bruce took him in. It's never stated how far into the future the story takes place, but when you have flying cars and jewels and scorpions on the moon, time isn't an issue. Ah, the fifties.

My favorite scene in the story is probably when Batman first saw the future Dick Grayson in action as Batman. His comments of "Give him the old right hook!" and "It makes me feel wonderful to see Dick carrying on the old tradition!" really drive home the father/son relationship between Bruce and Dick and conveys how proud Bruce is of him. That makes the subsequent scenes all the sadder: Dick not believing Bruce is who he says he is, Batman seeing the state the manor and cave are in, Batman discovering Commissioner Gordon retired...this is not the usually sunny Batman the fifties is known for.

Sheldon Moldoff provides some fine fifities Batman art in this story. I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of Mr. Moldoff's art, but I quite like it. His art, along with Dick Sprang's, are as much the fifties Batman as the aliens and Bat-Hounds are. Regardless of your preference for his art, you have to give him and his frequent inkers Stan Kaye and Charles Paris credit for the amount of art they produced. It seems you can't run into a Batman comic after a certain point in the fifties and not see his art in at least one story, some times all three in the Batman title. His bearded Batman is an amusing image throughout the story and has to make you crack a smile at least once.

Overall, this is a fun imaginary story worth checking out for some nice father/son moments, a more serious fifties Batman, and Batman sporting a beard.

This story was reprinted in Batman Annual #5.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Previews - January 2009

Each month when the new issue of Previews comes out, I'll be posting any solicitations relevant to the 1950s Batman. This issue's item is not directly related, but does feature an appearance by one of the most notable characters to debut during that period, this blog's namesake Bat-Mite. He'll be appearing in Super Friends, which is part of the Johnny DC line and aimed at young children. I never thought I'd be picking up an issue, but I'll buy anything that features Bat-Mite hi-jinks. Mr. Mxyzptlk will also be making an appearance, so we might see a call-back to their encounters in World's Finest. 

Super Friends #11
Written by Sholly Fisch
Art by Chynna Clugston
Cover by J. Bone 

Batman's got a fan club! But it's a mischievous fan club of one known as Bat-Mite, and he just can't stand the other Super Friends saving the day alongside Batman. Will the caped crusader be forced to fly solo from now on? Not if Mr. Mxyzptlk can help it!
On sale January 14, 32pg, FC, $2.50 US

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

"The Batmobile of 1950"

Issue: Detective Comics #156

Cover Date: February 1950

Writer: Joe Samachson

Penciller and Cover Artist: Dick Sprang

Inker: Stan Kaye

Synopsis: While attending a party, Bruce Wayne sees a group of criminals leaving a nearby mansion. Volunteering to be part of a magician's disappearing act, Bruce escapes from the party (and his boring date) via the cabinet's false back. After changing into Batman, Bruce contacts Dick and tells him to change into Robin and bring the Batmobile to his location. Batman and Robin pursue the criminals, only to plumet to the river below after a bridge they're driving on is destroyed by dynamite planted by the crooks. Robin makes it through without a scratch, but the Batmobile is totalled and Batman's left leg is injured, confining him to crutches.

Batman isn't fazed by the news of the Batmobile, as he has been planning to build a new, more advanced Batmobile. While the underworld laughs at Batman's injury, Robin begins building the new Batmobile from Batman's plans while Batman directs him from a chair (he is injured after all). One night after an unsuccessful attempt at solo crimefighting, Robin returns to find the Batmobile finished and ready to roll. Batman and Robin get right to work, driving to the crime scene from earlier that night and obtaining a map left behind.

Using the miniature crime lab in the back of the Batmobile, Robin locates the gang's hideout and sneaks into it when he and Batman arrive. Batman is able to see what Robin sees via a televison camera on his chest. Robin gets surrounded and Batman bursts through the wall to rescue him, allowing the criminals a head start. They try to evade Batman and Robin through the same bridge trap, but the "rocket tubes" on the new Batmobile allow the Dynamic Duo to evade the gap in the bridge. Batman and Robin continue their pursuit and take an alternate route to get ahead of the criminal gang. They create a smokescreen and underneath it knock out the gang and bring them in. The story ends with the revelation that Batman had been able to walk for a few days now, but kept playing invaild to see if the Batmobile would be able fill in for him if needed.

Thoughts: As this story is from the beginning of the fifties, it does not feature the aliens and strange happenings that would become trademark of the fifties era Batman. A huge leap in logic needs to be taken however when it comes to the first bridge sequence. From the height they fell and their lack of superpowers, Batman and Robin probably shouldn't have survived the fall, with Robin hitting the water and Batman hitting dry land in the Batmobile. Suspending disbelief, the story is a lot of fun and a good introduction to the 1950's Batmobile.

The revelation that Batman has been secretly back to full health is all the funnier when combined with the title page at the beginning of the story. One panel shows the criminals laughing at newstories of the Caped Crusader's bum leg, while the opposite panel sees Batman reading the newspaper and chuckling to himself while Robin works on the Batmobile. One thinks that Batman must have been kicking back and chuckling to himself, secretly able to lend a hand, while Robin worked at building the Batmobile.

The best sequence of the story is probably the one where Robin attempts to apprehend the criminals on his own. First there's the panel where Robin is beaten back by a bag of flour one of the crooks had brought along in anticipation of Robin making an appearance. Then there's the scene where Robin attempts to pursue the criminals in a pitiful Jalopy with a flag declaring "My Kingdom For A Horse!", all the while getting laughed at by the people on the sidewalk. You have to feel sorry for the Boy Wonder, caught off guard by a bag of flour and forced to endure everyone's laughter due to his temporary transportation. We see a number of the new Batmobile's features in the story, from the miniature crime lab to the miniature video camera and televison to the miniature Bat Signal. Compact was the name of the crime fighting game in 1950, with the Batmobile being converted into pretty much a miniature Bat Cave on wheels.

Dick Sprang provides some classic Golden Age artwork, from the grinning faces of gloating gangsters to the design of the new Batmobile itself, investigation to action scenes, his art is solid. An interesting Easter Egg is that in the panel where Dick gets the call from Batman, he's reading an issue of Action Comics. The only minor quibble I have with the art are the one panel side views of Bruce and Dick. While distinctly Sprang, they just don't look quite right.

This story has been reprinted in the Batman In The Fifties TPB and in DC 100 Page Super Spectacular DC-14.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Where To Find Fifties Era Batman Stories

One of my hopes for this blog is to not only give more exposure to a fun and dismissed period of Batman's history, but to interest others in checking out these stories. In this post, I'm going to give a rundown of three formats where fifties Batman stories can be found.

Trade Paperbacks

Unfortunately, while most of Batman's Golden Age stories have been reprinted in Archive and Chronicle format and his "New Look" Silver Age tales are being reprinted in Showcase format, DC has not engaged in an ongoing reprint program for fifties Batman stories. However, as part of their Batman In The... series, DC has printed a trade collecting sixteen stories spanning the entire fifties period. This is a perfect collection for those interested in checking out what the fifties era of Batman was like. The volume contains the first appearances of Ace The Bat-Hound, Batwoman, and Bat-Mite, the story "The Man Behind The Red Hood" (which provided the basis for Alan Moore's "The Killing Joke"), and "Batman...The Superman of Planet X!" (which features Zur En Arrh and the Bat Radia, both of which factor into Grant Morrison's current run on Batman), among other stories featuring classic foes and aliens. Fans of the Joker who want to see what the Clown Prince of Crime was like in the fifties can find a number of fifties Joker stories in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told collection from 1988. This trade is not to be confused with the more recent volume which has 192 pages as opposed to the 288 in the 1988 collection. The Batman In The Fifties trade retails for $19.99 and should be available. The 1988 Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told collection is out of print, but a number of them are usually available on eBay.

Annuals and 80 Page Giants

During the 1960s, DC began releasing Annuals for several of their titles collecting 80 pages worth of previously published material. Seven annuals for the Batman title were published, each one with a certain theme. DC also launched an Eighty Page Giant title which ran for 15 issues, of which issues 5, 12, and 15 contained reprinted Batman stories. After their Annuals and Eighty Page Giant series, DC began publishing "80 Page Giant" reprint issues within several of their titles, which would eventually shrink to 64 pages. The Annual and "80 Page Giant" issues of Batman contain mostly reprints of stories from the fifties, with a few from the forties here and there. These are great ways to pick up a bunch of fifties era stories, along with newspaper strip reprints, fan letters from the sixties, and that unbeatable old comics smell. If you're fine with a lower grade reader copy, the annuals and "80 Page Giants" can be picked up on eBay in the GD-VG range for $12 to $25, depending on how old the Giant is. More information on DC's "80 Page Giants" can be found at

Single Issues

Of course there is always the option to pick up the original issues. As they're from the 1950s, the issues are a bit expensive, but if condition is no object issues from the latter fifties can be picked up in GD condition at a reasonable price. If you're going to go the original issue route, you may want to pick up issues of Batman, as those contained three Batman stories (toward the end of the fifties era, two) as opposed to one story in an issue of Detective Comics (along with other stories, most notably Martian Manhunter).

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Welcome to the I Believe In Bat-Mite blog! This blog will feature reviews of stories from the fifties era of Batman comics, which is notorious among Batman fans for its more lighthearted and science fiction bent as opposed to the dark tone associated with the character. Sure, Batman smiles a lot and the Joker is more likely to whip out his own utility belt than a crowbar, but I get a real kick out of the tales from this era. A lot of the stories are just plain comic book fun and the art from this period has a vibe that just pops. I plan on reviewing two stories a week, posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Next week, the fifties fun begins.

Zur En Arrh!