Bat Signal

Issue 119 – “The Case of the Famous Foes”

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Hey folks, welcome back to Bat Signal, and the grand tradition of absurd old Detective Comics covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the story inside. Because sadly I do not have a story for your this week where Batman and Robin beat up two thugs for daring to throw snowballs at snoweffigy’s of the Dynamic Duo.Because that would be amazing, and too beautiful for this world. But while I don’t have a story about winter hijinks, I do have an absolutely insane story that had me laughing almost the entire time I read it. Which doesn’t happen often with the stories inside these comics with crazy covers. Usually the cover promises something more insane than the book then actually follows up on, like that cover that had Batman and Robin fighting pirates. But this time? Guys, the story is even more bonkers than Batman and Robin fighting two guys for snow-crimes.

And right from the first panel we realize that this is going to be something special, because the story opens up in a private sanitarium full of people who are convinced they’re famous people. Particularly we have three men who believe that they’re George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. And they just aren’t insane and believe that they’re famous statesmen, they also dress like them and happen to look like them. Which obviously results in a criminal who is hiding out as a guard coming up with a great idea. He’s going to pretend to be Marquis de Lafayette and convince the three men that there are evil threats to their nation outside the hospital, and that they need to help him escape and “save” people, by robbing them.

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So the trio head to Washington DC and begin robbing innocent bystanders who are shocked to see what they assume are ghosts of famous leaders. They even go one step farther by having Lincoln rob people at the Lincoln Memorial and George Washington rob people at the Washington Monument. And after a night of these insane robberies, the police realize that something insane is going on, and that they aren’t qualified to solve such a ridiculous crime. So they put a call into a place that is, and ask Commissioner Gordon to send them Batman and Robin.  Since apparently Gotham is “nearby” Washington DC.

The Dynamic Duo then get in their Batplan and fly over to DC to start figuring out the case. After a little sight-seeing, which is hilarious. They run by the White House and the Smithsonian before noticing that there’s a mysterious light flashing in the famous museum. So they break into the Smithsonian and are shocked to find Ben Franklin casing the joint. And he’s just as confused by their appearance as they are of his. But he’s in luck, because the rest of his gang shows up and start to attack Batman and Robin. And while fighting with the fake leaders, “Lafayette” makes a mistake that clues Batman in on what’s going on.

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Yep, he knows who Batman is, unlike the other three, so clearly isn’t suffering from the same delusion that they are. And after a brief tussle with the gang, they manage to escape Batman and Robin’s clutches, running off in to the night. But things are going to get weirder, because next day numerous people spot Washington, Franklin, and Lincoln going around town and trying to help people. Hell, Lincoln somehow gets on the floor of Congress to give a speech. So clearly they aren’t the criminal masterminds of the operation.

But to prove that idea Batman decides to give them a test, by putting an ad in the paper calling Benjamin Franklin out about the whole “kite experiment.” And apparently Benjamin Franklin can’t let a slight like that go unquestioned, so he ends up showing up at the top of the Capitol building, in the middle of a lighting storm, to prove the newspaper ad wrong. Just as Batman and Robin were hoping. The show up on the rooftop as well, and start to explain to Franklin what’s going on, and he helps them out by mentioning that he usually lives in a sanitarium. But while this is going on “Lafayette” spots Batman and Robin, and has his two Presidents follow him up to the roof to fight Batman and Robin. But this time things don’t go that well, and Batman’s able to easily beat up the criminal and expose his true identity to the poor crazy people. They’re shocked that Lafayette was lying to them, but agree to head back to their sanitarium and live their normal lives while the criminal is put in prison.

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What a goofy little story. There really wasn’t much to it, and most of it was full of silly gags where we see the trio of loonies running around DC messing with people. Which is pretty great. I don’t even really know what else there is to say about this issue. It’s just hilarious. I know I’ve heard of this type of thing, people being deluded into thinking they’re Jesus or Napoleon, and it was so crazy to have someone get a gang of these people together to commit history related crimes. That’s just nuts. I guess that’s kind of what King Tut in the 60s TV show did, but this was even sillier, mainly because they straight up had a crazy man who thought he was Abraham Lincoln speak during Congress, and people just thought he was a ghost. Great works.

“The Case of the Famous Foes” was written by Bill Finger and penciled by Dick Sprang, 1947.

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