Monday, June 14, 2010

Batman #162

The penultimate issue of the Jack Schiff era, this comic symbolizes many of the problems that plagued the Batman series for most of the Silver Age. Obviously the cover is a tribute to (or swipe of) the finale of King Kong.

As the story begins, Batman encounters two robbers who seem more like animals than humans:

The pair escape when the ape-looking one grabs a lamppost out of the ground and wraps it around Batman and Robin.

We learn the secret of the animal-like humans here:

When this second pair of monsters attacks, Batman follows them in the Whirly-Bat. He tracks them down to the canyon where the crooks have their hideout, but:

As you can probably guess, it transforms him into the creature shown on the cover. Robin tries to protect him here:

Of course the real likelihood of fighter jet pilots actually hearing him (with their canopies closed, no less) is nil.

Batwoman tames him with tears and fruit, and he helps her and Robin catch the next set of monsters. They let one of the beasts go free, with Ace, the Bat-Hound tailing it back to the canyon. At first things look grim there, with the crooks freeing a rhino and a tiger, which look likely to make short work out of Batwoman and Robin. But Batman arrives as well, and kayos the other two beasts, after which Robin turns Batman back to normal with the ray.

Comments: Although the weird transformation bit is one of my least favorite plot devices, I have to admit I enjoyed this story more than expected. Part of it was seeing the devotion that both Robin and Batwoman have towards Batman, and their horror at seeing him turned into a monster:

That's very nice characterization.

The backup story features Robin's New Secret Identity. We learn in the opening that Robin shaves points, not to make money from gamblers, but to keep from looking too good:

We can see that Dick chafes a bit at being unable to show his true abilities. Later, he realizes that there is a way. He disguises himself as someone different and gets into a pickup game where he performs like Michael Jordan's more athletic brother. But late in the game, he's stunned and loses his memory. As he walks around trying to remember who he is, he comes upon Batman saving a woman from a fire. But her baby's still in the house, so Dick (disguised) chips in with a spectacular rescue:

Later, when Batman returns home and discovers that Dick has still not returned, he realizes the red-headed youth he had encountered earlier is his ward. As he hurries back to Gotham City, he spies some gangsters and the Boy Wonder, so he kills two birds with one stone:

Comments: A nice, little story with terrific characterization for Robin.


Anonymous said...

I think you mean the anti-penultimate issue of the Jack Schiff era (next to next to last) as Julius Schwartz's revamp began two issues from now in BATMAN #164, but that's a minor quibble. Excellent look at the kind of Batman comic that just wasn't selling well anymore, and the reasons why. It indeed took a "New
Look" to turn this character around
and begin to make him the icon he is today!

Sam Kujava

Jared - Blog into Mystery said...

I picked this comic up a couple of years ago, and I just couldn't get past the fact that Batman's transformation suddenly gave his boots toes.

Daniel Graves said...

Ultima = last
Penultima = last but one (second to last)
Antepenultima = last but two (third from last) (note: not "anti" but "ante")
okay, I'll shut up now.
Fr. Dan

Pat said...

This is the next to last Jack Schiff issue and thus the penultimate.

I am not impressed with the New Look issues, as I have talked about in the past. I generally agree with you about the quality of the Schiff era, however.

Schwartz was certainly an improvement as editor, but the stories and art were not upgraded significantly until the later 1960s, particularly after Kane was bought out in 1968. That's the resurrection that Schwartz deserves credit for, not the New Look.