Monday, August 24, 2009

"Secrets of The Flying Bat-Cave!"

Issue: Detective Comics #317

Cover Date: July 1963

Writer: Unknown

Penciller: Sheldon Moldoff

Inker: Charles Paris

Cover Artist: Sheldon Moldoff

Synopsis: This story finds Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson once again descending the staircase to the Bat-Cave to change into their costumed alter egos. It is not in order to go out on patrol, however, but rather to prepare to leave for a police convention in Center City. Batman and Robin are attending to help publicize the event, and when Dick laments that they won't be able to show the police the equipment they have beyond what they carry on them, Bruce gets the idea to bring the Bat-Cave to the convention. Soon after, an improved model of the Flying Bat-Cave takes to the skies and begins making its way to Center City. The trip is given pause for a moment, when the Flying Bat-Cave's observational devices show two members of the Condor Gang leaving the Suburban Bank. The Flying Bat-Cave's electromagnet disarms the gang members and the Dynamic Duo subdue them with ease. After taking them to police headquarters, Batman and Robin continue their journey to the police convention, where Batman addresses the assembled officers and leads them on a tour of the Flying Bat-Cave.

That night, a car speeding through the streets ejects a piece of jewelry from its trunk after skidding. A young man comes across it and, after following the car to where it had stopped, attempts to arrest the men who are attempting to lock the trunk. Luckily, Batman and Robin come upon the scene in a compact Batmobile and send the men driving away. The Dynamic Duo pursue the car, but are stopped by a giant advertising sign toppled by a grenade. Returning to the young man, he tells them his name is Joe Arno, a one time hobo who is now a rookie on the police force. He suspects the piece of jewelry he found was stolen by the Condor Gang and that they're using Center City as their headquarters. One identification by the police in another city later, and Joe's suspicion is considered to be accurate. Elsewhere, the Condor Gang holds an emergency meeting where they make plans to get Batman and Robin out of their business once and for all.

The next day, while the Condor Gang makes a statement in the newspapers telling Batman and the police convention to clear out, the Dynamic Duo arrive at the Center City police headquarters to find that Joe did not show up for duty. Thinking he went to do some investigating on their own, Batman and Robin return to where they met him and decide to check out a boarded up store nearby. Inside they come across signs of a struggle, along with a bullet and two hobo signs drawn on a wall. After deciphering the signs on the wall, Batman, Robin, and a group of police officers drop from the Flying Bat-Cave onto the Condor Gang's hideout. They're able to rescue Joe, but two of the Gang disappear through a secret passage. The next day, special ceremonies are being held for a police fund when the Flying Bat-Cave apparently explodes over the crowd. A pair of handcuffs filled with an explosive were swapped with Joe's by the Condor Gang, who rush out to steal the fund. Suddenly, the Flying Bat-Cave appears, trapping most of the gang members in a giant metal hand while Joe captures the final gang member using a whirly-bat. Batman was able to discover the swapped handcuffs as they were lighter than normal handcuffs, sending a balloon of the Flying Bat-Cave in the real thing's place. The story ends with Joe being promoted to detective, later saying that the hero of the case was the Flying Bat-Cave.

Thoughts: The writer of this story unknown, but if I had to make a guess, I'd say it was written by Bill Finger. The giant advertising sign that blocks the Dynamic Duo's path is in line with Finger's tendency to include giant props in his stories. As for the story itself, I enjoyed it much more than the Flying Bat-Cave's first outing. The action scenes were more exciting, from the storming of the Condor Gang hideout by the Dynamic Duo and the police to the apprehending of the rest of the gang members with a giant metal hand and a whirly-bat (have I mentioned how awesome the whirly-bats are?). I also like the story of Joe Arno, going from a hobo to a rookie cop to a police detective. Speaking of Joe's hobo past, the fact that Batman and Robin have a guide to hobo signs in the Flying Bat-Cave proves that they leave no stone unturned when it comes to crime fighting. As for the Flying Bat-Cave, we get a much better look at it, including a galley, sleeping quarters, and mini-garage. The improvements must have been nation wide, considering how Batman is able to contact a random police station via television camera and screen. The Flying Bat-Cave is also equipped with steam valves to create camouflage, along with the balloon for faking out criminals. The use of the electromagnet is a nice touch, as it calls back to its use in the first appearance of the Flying Bat-Cave. Many of Batman's foes were normal gangsters, apart from Batman's Rogues Gallery, so it's nice to see a gang with a gimmick, like this one where many of the members wear condor masks.

Sheldon Moldoff provides some great art for this issue, starting with the cover. It was actually the cover that grabbed me to buy the issue in the first place, with the Dynamic Duo descending on a pair of helpless criminals on bat-wings. The scene on the cover is replicated in the issue, with the inclusion of parachute wearing police officers. Moldoff does a nice job of following up the first design of the Flying Bat-Cave, making only minor changes to it. The biggest change is actually in the coloring, with the originally blue Flying Bat-Cave now purple. Moldoff was also the perfect artist for the condor masks, considering his past run on Hawkman during the Golden Age. He also adds a touch seen in a character design for a pair of characters I'll touch on next week, with the condor masks having a "C" on the bottom feathers. The action scenes in the issue are given a suitable level of dynamism, from Batman and Robin sliding down the electromagnet's cable to the fight at the hideout. And, while I'm not an expert, I'm willing to bet that Moldoff knows his hobo signs.

At the beginning of the story, Batman mentions that maybe they will be using the Flying Bat-Cave more often. Unfortnately, this did not come to pass as the Flying Bat-Cave made only two appearances as far I know. Maybe one day a writer will look back into the past and bring the Flying Bat-Cave back to the skies.

This story has not been reprinted.


Anonymous said...

Whirly bats are indeed awesome.


highfivecomics said...

Ok, this is pretty much the best Bat-Blog ever. You're in my google reader now! :-D

Chris said...

Wow, thanks for the kind words about the blog. Now you've put me on the spot to keep the quality up. ;)