Monday, April 17, 2017
Detective Comics #367 (1967)
Detective Comics #367 (September, 1967)
"Where There's a Will--There's a Slay!"
"Enigma of the Elongated Evildoer!"
Writer - Gardner Fox
Artists - Carmine Infantino & Sid Greene
Cover Price: $0.12
Still in a Silver-Age kinda mood... let's check in with (at the time) new television stars, Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder!
We open with some exposition regarding a "murder-go-round" in which four men (including Bruce Wayne). In recent adventures, Batman and Robin have been able to save the lives of all but one... Bruce Wayne. It seems as though his time might just be up! We move into the story proper with a ruby being hurled through the window of Wayne Manor... rousing the two inhabitants, Dick Grayson and Alfred Pennyworth. Dick recognizes it as a piece from Bruce's collection... the Rajah Ruby!
Dick immediately believes that it might have something to do with the "round robin deaths" case they were working on last issue. An "unknown killer" sent Bruce a flaming letter to tell Commissioner Gordon to turn on a radio... a radio which would have, somehow, killed him!
At the same time, Commissioner Gordon received a flaming letter of his own, with instructions to ring the doorbell of John Kobler... who himself received incendiary instructions to call sports writer Fred Tinney. All four men were to be the instruments of each other's demise... if not for Batman and Robin's involvement!
The only remaining potential victim is... Bruce Wayne, and so Dick plays a hunch. He figures the ruby was stolen and hurled back in to facilitate Bruce accessing his wall safe. Dick sets up a barricade for he and Alfred to hide behind before unlocking the safe at a distance. Wouldn'tcha know it... it goes boom! Gotta wonder... if someone was able to break into Wayne Manor... and booby-trap a wall-safe, wouldn't it stand to reason that they might have found the giant cave downstairs? Thinking too hard... thinking too hard...
Anyhoo, Dick and Alfred head into the Batcave to see if maybe Bruce is hanging out. He's not... however, his crudely-written last will and testament is there! The will gives away both his and Dick's secret identities... and is apparently written in such a way where the words "round" and "robin" are conspicuous. Not that we'd know... but, we'll take Dick's word for it.
Also... the will bequeaths Dick Grayson with an inheritance of ten-dollars and sixty-six cents! Could that be a clue? Well, duh... of course it is. Ya see, the Battle of Hastings happened during the year... 1066! Doesn't take Dick long to deduce that Bruce is trying to convey to him that "Doc" Hastings is behind the craziness!
And so, Dick hops in the Batcopter to visit Wayne Foundation. As he lowers himself down via Batrope, he sees... Doc Hastings, disguised as an electrician! What luck!
Robin bursts through the window, and a fight is on... well, sorta. Dick comes across pretty uncoordinated here... the Doc easily swats him away. We get to see what Hastings has been up to... it looks as though Bruce Wayne is about to deliver an address to a crowd... his introductory speaker is shorter than him, which means Bruce will have to raise the microphone... at which time, he will die. Dick manages to get back to his feet and goes to pull the giant "on/off" switch to save him, at which time Hastings points his electronic gun...
Robin manages to pull the switch before being shot... however, is shot a split-second later. He lay on the floor of the studio, dying. Hastings takes this opportunity to booby trap the body of the boy wonder!
After Bruce delivers his speech, he discovers the body of his teen-age partner. It looks pretty grim... and then it becomes, well... kind of uncomfortable. Bruce uses his American Red Cross training to bring his ward back to land of the living. Dick wakes up, feeling as though there's something sticking him in his back. I promise I don't mean that like it sounds.
The thing sticking in Robin's back is... a live grenade! The only thing holding the plunger down is Robin's body. Bruce maneuvers the lad so he can remove the grenade without causing it to go boom.
Later on, Bruce follows up on a hunch... these old Batman stories are just full of hunches. He figures that the best way to find Doc Hastings is to head to the electric company to see who has the highest bill in Gotham. Stands to reason, right? He learns that the highest bill belongs to a Charles Steinmetz... a name Batman recognizes, as it belonged to an early twentieth-century electrical engineer. He knows that's the alias Hastings would use... and wouldn'tcha know it, he's right!
Batman bursts into the Hastings house... and a fight is on. Doc's laboratory is just riddled with death traps... and for a moment it looks as though he's gotten the better of Batman. That is, until Batman taps into his "fighting spirit"! Doc runs to a cliche bit of machinery... ya know the type, it's got light bulbs on it. Before Hastings can flip that switch, a batarang busts it up real good.
The story wraps up with the round-robin-foursome toasting their good fortune while Aunt Harriet cluelessly looks on.
Hey, we're not done yet... we've got ourselves a back-up strip! This one stars the Elongated Man, Ralph Dibney, who is currently enjoying a vacation in Nevada ski-country with his wife Sue. Well, that doesn't last all that long, because... mystery is afoot. A well-known gambler known as "Hundred Grand" Harry (he's called that because he always carries $100,000 with him... which, isn't terribly smart, if you ask me) was kayoed and robbed on the slopes! The getaway tracks look... a bit strange...
They figure that it's gotta be another stretchy fella behind the badness... Ralph tries to dispel that train of thought by demonstrating how a normal-sized individual might have done the ol' split-legged ski-tree trickeroo. It's really not ideal for someone trying for a quick getaway...
Back at the resort, Ralph is alerted that the thief is at it again... the Countess has lost her box of jewels! She didn't see anything, because the baddie used a gas pellet... but she figures it's gotta be a stretchy guy, because she claims that whoever did it was standing on the roof across the courtyard... over fifty feet away! Ralph proceeds to follow the footprints in the snow...
When he comes across a pair of goofs in jester masks mugging a blonde man. Ralph takes care of them quickly... and if I'm being honest, kinda brutally.
He heads over to the victim, who introduces himself as Banners, an inventor. From the art, it looks like he wasn't only mugged... but the baddies broke every bone in his body, or maybe he's got rickets... probably never eats his vegetables. Either way, dude looks a wreck!
Ralph turns the jesters in to the sheriff, then rejoins Sue at the masquerade ball. Before the evening ends... Banners crawls in, claiming that the stretch-bandit has just stolen the plans for his invention. Ralph checks out Banners' room... and is shown the getaway footfalls in the snow... about 15-20 feet apart. He heads out to investigate, and think. When he returns to the resort, Banners has already checked out. At this point, Ralph is somehow certain that Banners has been the baddie all along.
Ralph takes a shortcut down the mountain and heads Banners off at the pass. It's here that we learn that Banners was able to make it look as though everything was done by a "stretch bandit" by use of... a fishing rod. Ay yai yai. Ralph beats him up...
We wrap up with the resort guests getting their loot back... and a "long arm of the law" pun. This one was... pretty painful.
Okay... not gonna lie, I didn't enjoy either of these stories. In fact, they were both a bit tough to get through.
Let's start with the Batman story. Reading comics for all the years I have, I've grown accustomed to... convenient story-telling. This story, though... perhaps a bit too convenient. Everything just fell into place... and it kinda felt as though I was watching a slightly darker version of the "66" television show, which... is probably what they were going for. Darker... and overwritten!
It probably didn't help that this was a "part two"... which I really wasn't expecting. Maybe if I knew more about the "round robin" deal, I would have been more engaged... but, I kinda doubt it. I think this one was just kind of a dud. It happens from time to time, I guess.
The Elongated Man backup... dang. This one was a chore. Perhaps if I read it first I'd have appreciated it more, however... reading it immediately following that dud of a Batman story didn't do it any favors. It was a lot less fun than I thought a Silver-Age Ralph and Sue story would be, that much is for sure. It just felt painfully dull... and it refused to end.
Overall, not a whole lot to recommend here personally, though I can certainly see folks digging it. If you do decide you wanna check either of these stories out, they are available in SHOWCASE Presents Batman, Volume 3 and SHOWCASE Presents Elongated Man, Volume 1.