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 traps...it'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.


joe bloke said...

this is a great Batman issue. one of my faves. didn't these guys also turn up in the more up-to-date The Batman cartoon, too?

Chris said...

They did indeed. I didn't watch it, but I believe their villain identities were a result of genetic mutation.

Chris said...

The trio was just on an episode of Batman: The Brave & The Bold". They appear as martial artists who studied with Bruce (Bat) and (Bronze) Tiger.

Core Drill Bits said...

I believe their villain identities were a result of genetic mutation..