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.


Bruce said...


What's the (?) after Bill Finger's name specify? Is there no author listed just "Created by Bob Kane" or are you guessing at something?

Pat said...

The ? comes from the GCD entry on this issue. Apparently the folks over there have not completely nailed down that Finger was the author of this piece. It's pretty obvious that he wrote it, but they go by things like pay records, etc.

Chris said...

Yep,Pat's exactly right. I was pretty sure Bill Finger wrote the story, but I checked the GCD just to be sure.

Bruce said...

Thanks for the details. By GCD I assume you mean Gas Chromotography by Distillation.

Chris said...

Heh, not quite. It's the Grand Comic Book Database:

Bruce said...

Oh. Very cool place. And what a URL!