Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fifty Years Ago Today...

...Detective Comics #267, the first appearance of Bat-Mite, hit the newstands. Unfortunately, obligations outside of the realm of four color funny books disrupted Bat-Mite Month in recent weeks. So to make up for it, Bat-Mite Month will continue until the end of the week. For today, kick back with your favorite Bat-Mite story and celebrate fifty years of stories from Batman's biggest fan.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bat-Mite Merchandise

While Bat-Mite is one of the lesser known members of the Batman Family, that doesn't mean he's been forgotten. In a sea of Batman merchandise spanning clothes to statues to action figures and everything in between, there are a few items that feature his #1 fan.

First up are the "I Believe In Bat-Mite" promotional buttons. These were distributed to comic shops in 2000 along with a Mr. Mxyzptlk button to coincide with the release of the Superman & Batman: World's Funnest one shot. Both buttons were designed by the writer of that 64 page epic of brilliance, Evan Dorkin. In fact, the buttons were featured on the back of World's Funnest (with different art) as part of a fake ad for "The Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk Extra-Dimensional Imp-Formational Society". 

In another merchandising team up with Mr. Mxyzptlk, DC Direct released soft toys of the two imps. The Bat-Mite soft toy is 7 inches tall and has material on his hands that adhere to other soft toys or to his hips. A number of these are available on e-Bay, either for the original price of $15 or even a few dollars less. 

Bat-Mite went from 7 inches to 2 in another DC Direct release. This time, it's a must have for any fifties Batman fan. As part of their Silver Age line, DC Direct released a Bat-Girl and Batwoman action figure set sculpted by Karen Palinko. Not only was it a set of the female members of the Jack Schiff era Batman family, but it also came with a Bat-Mite figure and an Ace the Bat-Hound one as well. I recently won the Bat-Mite from this set off of eBay and it's a pretty nice sculpt; you've got your bent ear, lightning bolt chest symbol, and a little bit of costume hanging over the belt. Seems to be based more on the Dick Sprang design than the Sheldon Moldoff one. These sets can get pretty pricey on eBay; most eBay stores have them for $50 or higher. Every once in awhile one pops up for bidding in the $20 range, so keep your eyes out if you want to pick one up.

DC Direct's final Bat-Mite related release was probably the imp's finest: a hand painted, cold-cast porcelain statue. The 5 inch statue was sculpted by William Paquet and limited to 1,500 pieces. Much like the Silver Age Bat-Girl and Batwoman set, you can find the statue in an eBay store for $50, but a lot of them seem to be more in the $75 to $100 range. Also like the Silver Age Bat-Girl and Batwoman set, an auction for the statue sometimes pops up in the $20 range. I haven't picked one up yet due to the price, but one day I'll definitely add it to my comic shelf. 

The most recent item of Bat-Mite merchandise was a trading card from the VS System TCG. It was released in 2007, appropriately enough, as part of the World's Finest set. The art for the card was done by Ryan Sook, who has done a number of excellent covers and promotional images for DC Comics. The card comes in regular and foil versions and both can be picked up for just a couple of dollars. 

"Brave and The Bold" Bat-Mite News 2: Electric Boogaloo

In an interview with Newsarama, Diedrich Bader, who voices Batman on the "Batman: The Brave and The Bold" cartoon, revealed that the actor providing the voice for Bat-Mite in an upcoming episode is...Paul Ruebens.
One future episode will feature the latest incarnation of Bat-Mite, with Paul Ruebens voicing the role.

“He’s hilarious,” says Bader. “He’s so perfect as Bat-Mite. The fanboys of the show are just going to go out of their minds because we mess with reality in a way that just hasn’t been seen on our show. Both the script and the animation goes completely out there.”

According to informed sources, this episode features many other appearances by major players in the DC Animated Universe. As to who? The joke’s too good to waste. Suffice that they are names you will automatically recognize though.
I'm not sure how I feel about this casting. Right now all I can think about is a Bat-Mite sounding like Pee Wee Herman, but I really doubt that'll be the case. With Paul Dini writing the script and the quality of the show, I expect this to be excellent.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What's A Bat-Mite Month Without Bat-Mite Buttons?

Longtime readers of the blog will remember a post I made about winning a lot on eBay of the original "I Believe In Bat-Mite" buttons released by DC Comics. I got way more than I needed, so I made the offer to send one out to anyone who wanted one. I still have quite a few left, and since this is Bat-Mite Month, I'm throwing out the offer again. Simply e-mail me your address to the blog's e-mail and I'll send one of these nifty buttons your way. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"Bat-Mite's New York Adventure"

Issue: Detective Comics #482

Cover Date: Feb/Mar 1979

Writer: Bob H. Rozakis

Penciller: Michael Golden

Inker: Bob Smith

Cover Artists: Richard Buckler and Dick Giordano

Synopsis: One night at DC Comics' New York offices, artist and editor Al Milgrom is up late working to meet a deadline. He is working on illustrating an issue of Firestorm when suddenly he hears his typewriter clacking away. He turns to it to find "we want bat-mite!" typed onto a sheet and wonders who the wise guy is. He hears a noise outside and sees not only fireworks exploding to form "WE WANT BAT-MITE" in the sky, but also a crowded street shouting the same message. Bat-Mite then appears sitting on Al's telephone and Al, thinking this is probably what happens after you eat soda and pretzels for dinner, tells him that he can't talk right now as he has a deadline to meet. Bat-Mite says he can help with that and illustrates the Firestorm page in his own unique style. Al doesn't think his editor Jack Harris will like Bat-Mite's interpretation, so Bat-Mite poofs him into the office, in the middle of changing his daughter's diaper no less.

Bat-Mite tells him he can get back to the diaper changing once he says how much he likes the artwork, but when Jack says he doesn't like it, Bat-Mite sends him back anyway. Al asks Bat-Mite what he wants and he tells him that he wants his own feature in Batman Family. Al tells him they'd need a writer, so Bat-Mite teleports Bob Rozakis to the office. Bob asks if Bat-Mite is who he thinks he is and Al tells Bob to just bear with it as it's his hallucination to deal with. Al reminds Bat-Mite that they need an artist, inker, letterer, colorist, and production man to complete a feature, so Bat-Mite summons Michael Golden, Bob Smith, Milt Snapinn, Anthony Tollin, and Todd Klein. Things get rather crowded and loud, so Al calls everything to order and asks Bat-Mite if they promise to do a story about him for Batman Family, he'll leave them alone. Bat-Mite agrees, but tells them that if they don't do the feature, he'll be back with Mr. Mxyzptlk. Al, presumably anticipating a long night, asks if anyone wants to order a pizza.

Thoughts: Not much to comment on, as this story is very much in the same vein as the one page strip from Brave and The Bold #200. This one runs six pages and is a lot funnier, with several nice gags associated with the creators and their reactions to Bat-Mite tricks like a floating typewriter. Michael Golden's artwork is also quite nice, although he draws Bat-Mite more like a miniature Batman than the classic design of the Silver Age. Of course, a Bat-Mite feature never appeared in Batman Family, although one would think this story would have. As it turns out, it was supposed to run in Batman Family #23, but for whatever reason turned up in Detective Comics instead, albiet with the "Batman Family" subtitle.

This story has been reprinted in the Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (1988) TPB.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bat-Mite In World's Funnest

Now that I've covered World's Funnest itself, I'm going to focus a bit on Bat-Mite's potrayal in it. After all, this is Bat-Mite Month! Dorkin gets the Silver Age Bat-Mite to a T, as he corrects Superman when he calls him an elf and says he uses his magic to allow Batman and Robin to perform spectacular feats in the opening pages. For most of the issue, Bat-Mite is on the run from Mr. Mxyzptlk and tries to get the heroes of each universe he hides in to help him defeat Mr. Mxyzptlk. Mr. Mxyzptlk actually destroys Bat-Mite's home universe (which has a fraction for an Earth number), which causes Bat-Mite to exclaim, "What about my friends? My family? My mint-in-vault Batman memorabilia collection?" 

Now the Bat-Mite in here is fun loving most of the time, but gets a little violent in a few instances. The first is of course when he burns Superman with the miniature Red Sun using a giant magnifying glass, but can you really blame the little guy? He just saw his hero magic zapped right in front of him (plus he knows that he can restore the universe with the snap of a finger). The other one is a bit of a comment on the modern DC universe, as Bat-Mite arrives to find new, gritty heroes and a Batman who doesn't know him. He goes a little ballistic, zapping quite a few "phonies" before he destroys the universe (sound familiar?) And of course, Bat-Mite wins this game of chase with a bit of fast thinking and a Flash helmet. Overall, I'd say this a great interpretation of Bat-Mite in modern times that stays quite faithful to his Silver Age origins. 

Not only was Bat-Mite interpreted by the writer, but a number of artists added their own style to the imp, including...

Dave Gibbons

Mike Allred

Sheldon Moldoff

Stuart Immonen and Joe Giella

Frank Cho

Jaime Hernandez

Scott Shaw!

Stephan DeStefano

Jim Woodring

David Mazzucchelli

Jay Stephens

Bruce Timm

Frank Miller

Doug Mahnke

Phil Jimenez

Ty Templeton

Alex Ross (Anyone else find this one creepy?)

Check back tommorrow as we take a step back to the seventies and visit Bat-Mite's trip to New York.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

"Last Imp Standing!"

Issue: Superman and Batman: World's Funnest

Cover Date: 2000

Writer: Evan Dorkin

Interior Artists: A whole multiverse full!

Cover Artist: Brian Bolland

Synopsis: This hilarious send up to the DC Universe begins with a scene straight out of a Silver Age issue of World's Finest Comics. Superman, Batman, and Robin are taking Lex Luthor and The Joker to jail as Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and Perry White look on. Suddenly, the ropes holding the villains captive unravel by themselves and Luthor and The Joker make a break for it. Nearby plastic store mannequins come to life and are melted by Superman's heat vision to trap Luthor. A jump by Robin onto a giant bellows propels Batman into another of the mannequins, which falls on top of The Joker. Who is behind the odd escape of the two super criminals? Why, Bat-Mite of course!

No sooner does Bat-Mite appear on the scene then Mr. Mxyzptlk does as well, taking credit for bringing the mannequins to life to annoy Superman. The beginnings of a magical duel are hinted at, as Mr. Mxyzptlk brings a chicken on a billboard to life. Bat-Mite cooks the chicken with his magic, prompting laughter from the trio of heroes. Batman tries to calm the imps down, but this proves fatal for the Caped Crusader as Mr. Mxyzptlk accidently incinerates him with his magic! Superman tries to calm down an emotional Bat-Mite, when Bat-Mite turns on Superman for not sending Mr. Mxyzptlk away by making him say his name backwards. He takes out Superman by burning him with a red sun focused through a magnifying glass, to which Mr. Mxyzptlk replies by using a giant hole puncher on Robin.

Mr. Myzptlk continues his rampage with the Batman Family, the Superman Family, The Legion of Super-Pets, Lex Luthor and The Joker, the Justice League, and the Legion of Super-Heroes. He chases Bat-Mite across the planet, with the imps growing in size. The Spectre attempts to intervene, but Mr. Mxyzptlk crushes the Earth over his head. The imps then battle with galaxies until the entire universe is destroyed. But that's not the end of the story, as there are a number of alternate universes for Bat-Mite to hide in. What follows is a multiversal chase, from the universe of Earth 2 to the Super Friends universe to the universe of The Dark Knight Returns and a number of universes in between and beyond, with Mr. Mxyzptlk destroying each one. After the Kingdom Come universe explodes, there are none left, and it's the final battle, Bat-Mite versus Mr. Mxyzptlk. Mr. Mxyzptlk throws a Magic Bomb at Bat-Mite, which rebounds off of the Kingdom Come Flash helmet Bat-Mite rode out on and explodes in Mr. Mxyzptlk's face. Mr. Mxyzptlk at first looks enraged, but then breaks into laughter which Bat-Mite shares. The imps reset everything back to the way it was and agree to meet again next Tuesday.

Thoughts: We're at the point in Bat-Mite Month where we move away from the imp's classic Silver Age stories and look at how he's interpreted in modern times. This story bridges the gap, having been published in 2000, but beginning in the Silver Age. I should note that this story is an Elseworlds, and thus exists outside the restrictions of normal continuity. Usually in my synopses, I transcribe the entire story as they are rather old and the reprints are scattered across Annuals, 80 Page Giants, and trade paperbacks. I kept the majority of this issue out of my synopsis because it is fairly recent and is a book I want everyone to go and read for themselves because it is absolutely brilliant. Writing wise, it's one of the funniest comic books I've ever read. It's a slightly dark brand of humor that takes a few jabs here and there at the source material and every page has something for you to smile, chuckle, or laugh at. Art wise, this book is a treasure trove. Each universe visited has its own artist, in most cases one associated with that universe or time period of that universe. The DC animated universe pages are drawn in storyboard style by Bruce Timm, The Dark Knight Returns scene is drawn by Frank Miller, the Kingdom Come sequence is painted by Alex Ross, and the pages where Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite end up on Earth 2 are drawn and inked by Golden Age DC and Silver Age Batman artist Sheldon Moldoff.

He's still got it. This is a difficult story for me to comment on, as I could say something about every single page and this is a 64 page book. So I'm going to do a rundown of my top five favorite panels from it and hopefully you get a chuckle out of them like I did.






If you're a fan of DC Comics and haven't read World's Funnest, I highly recommend tracking down a copy. Every page will have you grinning and you get the ultimate Bat-Mite/Mr. Mxyzptlk showdown to boot.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

"The Incredible Team of Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk!"

Issue: World's Finest Comics #123

Cover Date: February 1962

Writer: Jerry Coleman

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Sheldon Moldoff

Cover Artist: Dick Dillin

Synopsis: One afternoon, a crime rocket lands next to a boat company on the outskirts of Gotham City. The owners of the company quickly call the police, who in turn call in Batman and Robin. Batman drops down via a parachute and begins to take care of the crooks, unaware that he's being watched by his #1 fan Bat-Mite. Two crooks catch Batman off guard, as Robin runs to his aid. At that same moment, Superman arrives (having been called by the Dynamic Duo en route supposedly) to help Batman and Robin, but is stopped by a kryptonite ray that is fired from the top of the crime rocket. While Superman prepares to throw a boulder at the crime rocket to damage the kryptonite ray, Mr. Mxyzptlk pops in from the 5th dimension to join the party. When Superman does throw his boulder, both Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk hurl their magic at it; Bat-Mite uses his to allow Batman and Robin to finish rounding up the crooks while Mr. Mxyzptlk uses his simply to annoy Superman.

The boulder transforms first into strange alien face, then into a purple creature with tubes across its back that spurt fire. Both Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk try to turn the creature back into a boulder, but both fail. It is then that the imps catch sight of each other and Batman catches sight of both of them. The creature allows the crooks to escape in their crime rocket, as the heroes are occupied with preventing it from reaching the factory. A lasso tied to a giant anchor, a deep hole dug by Superman, and even Superman's strength fail to deter the creature from its path. Meanwhile, Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk engage in a short magical duel, before realizing they're an equal match for each other. They decide to team up to get rid of the creature and attempt to cancel out the creature's fire with water from giant water faucets.

The faucets have the opposite effect, transforming the creature into a giant porcupine that fires explosive quills. While Superman destroys the giant faucets to prevent a flood, Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk fire their lightning bolts at the giant porcupine in another effort to make it disappear. This time, the creature turns into a three-legged magnet with a white, round head. Superman uses this transformation to the heroes' advantage, attracting the crime rocket back to Earth using the magnet creature. After Batman and Robin tie up the crooks, Batman comes with an idea to get rid of the creature. He has Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk create a duplicate of the magnet creature, which proves successful as the creatures absorb each other. Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk realize they have overstayed their welcomes and return to their home dimensions, but not before waving goodbye and promising to return someday soon.

Thoughts: I have a couple of problems with this story, but let me start with the positive. Right off the bat, the creatures in this story are really creative. The fire spewing one on the cover in particular. No discernable eyes, but a number of flame emitting tubes, including his tail. I got quite a chuckle out of it using its tubes to spray air to float over the Super-Hole. Also, how can you go wrong with a porcupine that launches exploding quills? The final creature takes the prize for the most bizarre, having legs at the prongs and the base, in addition to a ball shaped head resting in the "U" of the magnet. While the art still looks a little off compared to the Batman books, Dick Sprang's sense of design is still excellent. Also, it was nice to see Batman come up with the plan to defeat the creature. He is the world's greatest detective after all. Lastly, one fun fact: this issue has a full page ad for the second Batman Annual.

The main problem I have with the story is how it continues off of the first Bat-Mite/Mxyzptlk team up. At the end of that story, we saw Mr. Mxyzptlk swearing that he'd come up with a scheme to get his revenge on Bat-Mite. Going into this story, one would think that the next story would see Mr. Mxyzptlk coming up with his plan and put it into action. Instead, we see Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk engage in a magical duel for two panels and then agree to team up to defeat the creature. It's not even a begrudging one; Mr. Mxyzptlk is clearly happy to team up. I like the idea of the use of both imps' magic creating a creature they can't wish away, but the story could have been done in a way that kept the animosity between the two. It's even more strange that the two stories don't match up as both Bat-Mite/Mxyzptlk stories had the same writer. I had a few minor problems as well. First, how did these common crooks get a rocket, let alone a kryptonite ray? Usually when criminals show up they're of the common variety, but this gang clearly has connections. Also, how was Batman able to lift the rope connected to the giant anchor when they attempt to lasso the creature. Superman is part of the story; why not have him use his super strength? This is still a fun story, but a step down from the first team up of Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk.

This story has been reprinted in the Showcase Presents: World's Finest Vol. 2 TPB

Monday, March 9, 2009

"Bat-Mite Meets Mr. Mxyzptlk"

Issue: World's Finest Comics #113

Cover Date: November 1960

Writer: Jerry Coleman

Penciller: Dick Sprang

Inker: Sheldon Moldoff

Cover Artist: Curt Swan

Synopsis: The story begins with a giant robot breaking its way into the Gotham City Bank. Bullets don't make a dent in it, but the citizens of Gotham need not fear, for Batman and Robin soon arrive on the scene. Inside the robot, two gangsters laugh at the thought of the Dynamic Duo attempting to stop them. Batman and Robin hop atop a large fuel tank and generate a flame that melts the tar in the road around the robot. Unfortunately, the robot is equipped with jets that allow it to fly and escape the tar. Luckily, Superman is in town (on assignment as Clark Kent) and throws a large boulder in the direction of the robot to stop it. As the boulder flies past the Dynamic Duo, it suddenly turns into a disproportioned figure of Superman and falls into the street. Such a transfiguration can mean only one thing: Bat-Mite has come to pay his favorite hero a visit.

Batman asks the imp why he is pestering Superman and Bat-Mite replies that he wants to see the Dynamic Duo perform incredible feats, not the Man of Steel. Superman's super-hearing picks up the robot's rampage and Bat-Mite tells him that he'd better allow Batman and Robin to tackle the mechanical menace. He looks like he wants to throttle the little Mite, but Batman keeps the peace and persuades Superman to let him and Robin try to handle it. Handle it they do, as they topple a statue onto the robot, damaging it and knocking out the criminals inside. At the same time, Superman is being terrorized by trees that have the heads of their animal namesakes. The blame for this is put on Bat-Mite, but for once, he is not responsible for the magical goings on, as Superman's imp foe Mr. Mxyzptlk appears. The pair of imps have a conversation about what they use their powers for, culminating in Mr. Mxyzptlk telling Bat-Mite that he and he alone annoys Superman. Bat-Mite declares that he'll do as he pleases, kicking off a magical battle for the (Silver) ages.

Mr. Mxyzptlk turns maple syrup on a billboard into the real thing, covering Bat-Mite. Bat-Mite uses his magic to spray it off himself into the street, a mess that Superman cleans up by spinning at terrific speeds and using his head as a mop. Mr. Mxyzptlk then turns a series of smoke rings solid, constricting Bat-Mite with them. Bat-Mite turns the smoke rings into lightning, throwing them at Mr. Mxyzptlk. At a standstill, they both disappear to come up with a plan to outwit the other. Later, Batman and Robin are driving on the outskirts of Gotham when a one eyed monster appears, courtesy of Mr. Mxyzptlk. The Dynamic Duo look doomed, but Superman arrives to throw the monster into space. Mr. Mxyzptlk tells Bat-Mite that that will teach him to pester Superman. Bat-Mite has never thought of himself as a pest, but the comment gives him an idea.

Mr. Mxyzptlk's next trick is to create a real volcano, which Bat-Mite turns into a pipe, causing Batman, Robin, and Superman to laugh. Not to be made a fool of, Mr. Mxyzptlk gives an abandoned storage house creature legs, sending it walking. Bat-Mite notices it resembles a caterpillar and turns it into a butterfly, prompting more laughter from the trio of heroes. Angered by the laughter, Mr. Mxyzptlk returns to the 5th Dimension to come up with a plan to make Bat-Mite miserable. Bat-Mite pats himself on the back for coming up with the idea to pester Mr. Mxyzptlk, but changes his demeanor as Batman, Robin, and Superman surround him with their arms crossed. After Bat-Mite returns to his dimension, Batman hopes that he doesn't return too soon, to which Superman adds that he hopes Mr. Mxyzptlk doesn't return at the same time Bat-Mite does. "Brrr...what a pair they make!"

Thoughts: Here it is, the first meeting of the magical imps of the DC Universe. This story takes a bit to build up, but once the players are assembled, it's a heck of a show. Page after page of alternate dimensional magic, as Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk try to one up each other. The main distinction between to two is that Mr. Mxyzptlk uses his powers purely to annoy, while Bat-Mite uses his to help his hero, unintentionally annoying him. It's a nice twist for Bat-Mite to intentionally turn to the path of pestering to turn the tables on Mr. Mxyzptlk. Although Bat-Mite is quite a pest in this story before that, mostly due to him throwing Batman and Robin at a tentacle monster. As with most Bat-Mite stories, this one is chock full of DC Silver Age fun. One panel has Bat-Mite replying "Impossible!" looking right at the reader when Batman mentions to Superman he and Robin might not be able to stop the robot. Another one has a smiling Bat-Mite saying, "What do all caterpillars finally become?", flying at Batman and Robin who look hilariously surprised. The biggest gut buster however is the previously mentioned scene where Superman cleans up the syrup. Spinning around upside down, using his hair as a mop, wearing a look of intense concentration. Silver Age brilliance at its finest.

The penciller for this issue is Dick Sprang, with inks interestingly enough by Sheldon Moldoff. Dick Sprang's interpretation of Bat-Mite is great, rounder and more like a little man than an imp (which is what the Mite's been saying all along). In my original post, I said I might prefer Sprang's interpretation to Moldoff's. Looking at some Bat-Mite stories after I read this story, I gotta say Moldoff is still number one. While Sprang's art is quality as usual, something seems off about it. I don't know if it's Moldoff's inks, but there seems to be a noticeable difference between his work in World's Finest and that of the Batman titles. While the story's a blast, I do have a few quibbles with it. When Bat-Mite first appears, Robin makes a comment that seems to hint it's Bat-Mite, but when the imp appears, he acts surprised. Likely a case of mismatched word balloons. Also, I really doubt that the statue falling on the robot would only knock the criminals out. Other than those two points, this was a great first meeting of DC's premiere magical imps, and as Superman forshadowed, it wasn't the last.

This story has been reprinted in the World's Finest Comics Archives Vol. 3 HC and the Showcase Presents: World's Finest Vol. 2 TPB.

Friday, March 6, 2009

"The Bat-Mite Hero"

Issue: Batman #161

Cover Date: February 1964

Writer: ? (Presumably Bill Finger)

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: One day, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are watching a baseball game at Gotham Stadium. During the seventh inning stretch, the pair make their way to the concession stand and overhear a stick up happening in the cashier booth. One costume change later and the Dynamic Duo appear on the scene to apprehend the thieves. Unbeknownst to Batman and Robin, Bat-Mite has also been watching the game and sees the opportunity to start a baseball game of his own. As the thieves run onto the field, Bat-Mite creates a fence around the diamond out of baseball bats, forcing the thieves to run the bases. After Batman cuts them off at third base and knocks them out, he reprimands Bat-Mite for treating crime fighting like a game and tells him to find another hero.

Bat-Mite decides to take Batman's advice and sets out to make his own hero. He dresses the first person he meets in the costume of The Bat-Mite Hero, which is red with a cape and a Bat-Mite head chest emblem. The next day, Bat-Mite and his new hero attempt to show up Batman and Robin when they try to capture the Human Fly Bandits. Things do not go as planned as the Bat-Mite Hero loses his balance on a ledge after a Bat-Mite magic carpet ride. Batman saves Bat-Mite's Hero, the Human Fly Bandits are caught by the police, and Bat-Mite sets off to find a more athletic Hero than his hasty first choice. Bat-Mite finds such a hero in a wrestler named the Blond Bombshell. This Bat-Mite Hero proves to be more successful than the previous one, knocking out three crooks and taking them to the police in their car turned flying horse drawn chariot by Bat-Mite. This proves to do more harm than good as Batman and Robin had planned on following them to their hideout.

Bat-Mite is once again without a Hero, but Batman and Robin find a clue in the clay on one of the crook's shoes. That night, Bat-Mite is walking on the street when he's approached by a man named Frank Collins. Collins has a potential Hero candidate for Bat-Mite, who is a former Olympic champion, college graduate, and is now working as a private detective. Bat-Mite is impressed by Bill Strong's credentials and makes him the third Bat-Mite Hero. The next day finds Batman and Robin pursuing criminals at the Clean-All soap factory. Bat-Mite and his Hero are also present, with the Mite surrounding the criminals with a bubble and the Hero tossing them in a barrel like a basketball (the Hero even remarks that he won a decathlon medal in basketball). The Hero prepares to take the criminals to the police when Batman declares him an imposter. Bat-Mite at first trips up the Dynamic Duo, but after realizing the Hero released the criminals, he allows Batman and Robin to knock them out. Batman explains that the decathlon mention was the tip off, as there is no basketball event in a decathlon, and that Collins masterminded the robbery. Bat-Mite asks for Batman's forgiveness, and he grants it on the condition that Bat-Mite returns to his home dimension. He obliges, leaving with the words, "So long...for awhile...I'll be back!"

Thoughts: Week one of Bat-Mite month comes to a close, and Bat-Mite's final words couldn't be more apt. "The Bat-Mite Hero" was the final appearance of Bat-Mite in the Batman titles during the Silver Age. It was also the third to last Batman story in the Jack Schiff era before the "New Look" Batman made his debut. With the editorial change so close, I wouldn't be surprised if Bat-Mite's last words were intentional written to seve as his farewell, as the "New Look" movement did away with the Batman Family outside of Batman and Robin. It's also a somewhat fitting story for Bat-Mite's last. He spends the entire story trying to create his own hero, but in the end, he's still Batman's #1 fan.

Bat-Mite's first appearance in the story is particularly interesting as he is watching the baseball game before Batman and Robin appear, instead of popping up as soon as they begin crime fighting like he usually does. Bat-Mite's use of his magical powers are also some of the most fun in all his stories. A fence made of baseball bats, a car turned into a horse drawn chariot that can fly, and the guns of criminals being turned into water pistols. The chariot scene is my favorite in the issue, not because of the chariot, but because we see Batman and Robin flying their rarely seen Whirly Bats. Speaking of Batman and Robin, it was nice to see some classic detective work in the clay that fell off of the criminal's shoe. Of course, Robin knows it came from Gotham Canyon just by looking at it, but that's just how detective skills worked in the Silver Age. On one last interesting note, the splash page of "The Bat-Mite Hero" is identical to the issue's cover except for some changes in dialogue. Unfortunately, this story has not been reprinted, but if you can get a reader copy at a good price, I definitely recommend it. It's a fun and fitting final Silver Age story for one of the most famous members of the Jack Schiff era Batman family.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"The Bat-Mite Bandits"

Issue: Detective Comics #289

Cover Date: March 1961

Writer: Bill Finger (?)

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: The story begins with Bruce Wayne lounging in an exclusive Gotham club. After he leaves, a pair of his fellow club members comment on how they wish Bruce would find something he was interested in. If only they knew that later that night, Bruce would prepare to go on patrol as Batman, accompanied as usual by Robin. As the Dynamic Duo drive through the city in the Batmobile, Bat-Mite suddenly appears on the hood. Batman and Robin tell Bat-Mite that they know he means well, but that his help usually results in trouble for the pair, and ask that he return to his home dimension. Bat-Mite walks away dejected, but it is far from the end of his most recent trip.

The next night, Batman and Robin respond to a burglar alarm at the estate of John Stratton, a multi-millionaire who collects scale models of famous statues. The duo easily gain the upper hand against the trio of thieves who set off the alarm, but find their fortunes reversed when a sphinx statue suddenly comes to life. The source of the sphinx's sudden animation is of course Bat-Mite, who brings the statues to life to make the fight more exciting. After the thieves are freed and captured again several times, Bat-Mite enlarges a golden scabbard stolen by the thieves and flys off on it with them. As Bat-Mite always allows Batman and Robin to apprehend the criminals after his fun, the Dynamic Duo don't know what to think of this apparent turn to crime.

As it turns out, Bat-Mite was approached was approached by a criminal named Willy Wile after Batman and Robin asked him to go home. Willy tells Bat-Mite that he is making a film of Batman's exploits, with the profits going to Batman's favorite charities, and that if Bat-Mite uses his powers to create more interesting situations for his "actors", the movie will make more money. Wanting to help his idol, Bat-Mite agrees and unknowingly assists in several crimes he believes are staged. After a "scene" at a sports equipment building, the "Bat-Mite Bandits" make the newspapers, and Bat-Mite begins to have doubts. A viewing of the "film" thus far puts Bat-Mite at ease, and he leaves to return the return the sports items to normal size. Shortly after, the criminals discuss one last heist before they leave the country. That night, the Bat-Mite Bandits strike the Museum of Oriental Art, but this time, Bat-Mite helps the Dynamic Duo capture the crooks, including Willy Wile. As it turns out, Bat-Mite had gone back to run off a copy of the "film" and overheard the crooks' plans. After Bat-Mite explains everything to Batman, he forgives him, and Bat-Mite returns to his home dimension.

Thoughts: This story has a nice twist on the Bat-Mite formula. He still has the intention of helping his idol while having fun, but this time, he is unknowingly using his magical powers to assist the crooks he usually helps Batman bring to justice. And out of the many normal criminals Batman went up against in the 40s and 50s, Willy Wile's plan is pretty crafty. True, the quickness in which he forms the plan is kinda suspect, but still...pretending to make a film of which the profits would go to Batman's favorite charities? That's just downright villainous. And it's nice to see Bat-Mite grow wise to the whole scheme and give the criminals their comeuppance. Continuing on the continuity note from last post, this story was published after "Batwoman's Publicity Agent" and in it we see Bat-Mite mentioned in the newspapers, retaining his existence being public knowledge. And the kid crying while the news of the "Bat-Mite Bandits" is being hawked? Nice touch. The opening scene with Bruce is also a great way to show Bruce's efforts to keep him as far from being suspected as Batman as possible. Bat-Mite's magical powers are at the top of their game, bringing statues to life, giving flight to enlarged scabbards, and turning a giant baseball mitt into an obstacle for the Dynamic Duo. While Batman and Robin find his antics aggravating, fifties Batman fans will always see them as Bat-Mite does: just a lot of fun.

This story has not been reprinted.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"Batwoman's Publicity Agent"

Issue: Batman #133

Cover Date: August 1960

Writer: Bill Finger

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Sheldon Moldoff

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: Batman and Robin arrive at the Gotham Railroad Terminal in time to see Batwoman pushed over a balcony by a group of crooks. The Dynamic Duo are too far away to break her fall in time and fear for the worst, when suddenly she stops in mid air. She bounces off an information booth into the crooks, a feat which is photographed by a reporter. After the crooks are taken away by the police, the reporter asks Batwoman how she managed it. Batwoman explains that she felt an invisible force guiding her, which a voice claims credit for. That voice of course belongs to Bat-Mite, who explains to the reporter where he comes from and how he sometimes appears to help the Batman family fight crime.

Bat-Mite goes on to tell the group that since Batman has Robin to assist him, Bat-Mite is going to become Batwoman's partner. The reporter finds this to be a big story, but Batwoman isn't so sure about the idea. She reminds Bat-Mite of all the times he had "fun" that only resulted in trouble for the Batman Family. Bat-Mite promises to behave himself, Batwoman relents, and Batman and Robin tell her in unison that she'll be sorry. The next night, while Batman and Robin capture a pair of crooks robbing a camera company, Batwoman pursues a pair of crooks of her own to a mountain pass. They seem to escape on a monorail, but then Bat-Mite removes the tires on Batwoman's Bat-Cycle and gives her the balance to the monorail cable to the crooks. Bat-Mite helps Batwoman again the following night, knocking out a group of criminals with a supersized fist. After these cases, Robin believes that they were wrong about Bat-Mite's intentions, but Batman isn't so sure.

Batman's intuition proves accurate, as a kiss on the cheek for keeping his promise from Batwoman sends Bat-Mite head over heels in love. In order to prove his love, he decides to help her become the greatest crime fighter of all time. Finding a shoe left behind by member of a bank robbing gang, he enlists Ace The Bat-Hound to follow the scent to the gang's hideout. Bat-Mite tips off Batwoman, but no sooner does she arrive than so do the Dynamic Duo following their own lead. With Batman and Robin there too, the gang will be caught in no time at all, so Bat-Mite decides to prolong the fight by shrinking everyone. The Batman Family and the gang fight among and using now gigantic tools, until Bat-Mite knocks down the Family after accidently jumping on a fireplace bellows. The bank robbers make a break for the door, but are stopped in their tracks by the normal sized Ace The Bat-Hound. After Batman ties up the crooks and he, Robin, and Batwoman are returned to their normal size, Bat-Mite suddenly remembers it was time he went home. With a pop he returns to his home dimension, leaving Batwoman to wonder when they'll see him again.

Thoughts: Bat-Mite Month has officially begun and we're kicking off with one of my favorite Bat-Mite stories. There are a lot of things to like about this story, starting with the cover, which promises that almost the entire Batman Family will make an appearance in one of the issue's stories. When Bat-Mite first appears, Batman has a flashback to their first meeting in Detective Comics #267. This creates a sense of continuity, which was not as a prevelant in the Silver Age as it is today. The presence of the reporter also makes Bat-Mite's existence public knowledge, when up until this story, Batman had been explaining away Bat-Mite's magical feats. That's a lot of continuity for a ten page DC Silver Age story. It's nice to see so many members of the Batman Family together for a story, although Batwoman is not shown in the best light (getting pushed over a balcony by common criminals). Unfortunately, this is just a product of the times. The oddest moment in the story is Batman's threat to spank Bat-Mite after he returns to normal size. I guess when you think about it, what else would you be able to do to an imp from another dimension?

Of course the star of the issue is Bat-Mite. Bat-Mite's efforts to genuinely help instead of having his usual "fun" was a nice change of pace. Out of all his magical powers in this issue, the supersized fist is my favorite. You can just imagine the crooks not expecting much from the imp when suddenly his fist grows and they find themselves down for the count. The panel with Bat-Mite skipping, hearts surrounding his head after Batwoman's kiss is priceless. Of course, Bat-Mite returns to his usual "fun" ways of helping Batman. In this case, he ends up undoing his own fun, as the Bat-Hound he rode in on stops the crooks from leaving. With continuity nods, Bat-Mite skipping, and an attempt by the imp to go straight, this Bat-Mite story has it all.

This story has been reprinted in Batman Annual #7.