Bat Signal

Issue 291 – “The Creature From the Bat-Cave”

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Hey, after last week’s 90’s style broodiness and faux-realism with all the paralyzation and whatnot, let’s pivot to the exact opposite side of the spectrum and check out some sci-fi goofiness! It’s been a while since we’ve gotten issue from this incredibly odd period of Detective Comics where Batman and Robin were still doing their traditional capering about in the vast wilderness outside Gotham City, but with aliens thrown in. It’s really weird. I know that sci-fi stories were big at the time, and people weren’t really caring about dudes in tights beating the bejesus out of each other, but I still think it’s so incredibly strange that they just kept having Batman run into aliens. Superman makes sense. The dude’s an alien and can easily just pop into space to tussle with extraterrestrial threats. Batman’s just a guy. So aliens have to come to him with a shocking regularity. It’s just odd. And here’s an incredibly strange example, because it turns out this alien has been on Earth for millions of years, just waiting to fight the Dynamic Duo.

The issue starts off with Bruce and Dick hanging out in the Bat Cave, getting ready to hit the town and patrol. But as soon as they get their costumes on they hear a crazy crashing sound somewhere in the Bat Cave that Batman deduces to be a rock-slide. So they run through the many chambers of the Bat Cave, because the place is massive in this story, and come across an area that has freshly had a rock-slide. And the slide has uncovered a large red space-ship, which Batman claims must have been trapped here for eons. And right on time the capsule opens up and a giant, hairy, green cycloptic aliens pops out and is immediately pissed. It chases Batman and Robin through the Bat Cave until they get to the trophy room, and it ends up throwing that hilarious giant penny that they keep there at them. And while they’re dazed from the giant penny, the creature manages to escape the Bat Cave through an “emergency exit” and is free to roam Gotham.

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So Batman and Robin head to the police station to report the insane incident to Commissioner Gordon and a “noted” scientist named Heims. And right after they fill the two men in on the alien they get a report that it’s been spotted out at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere. So they go with the police to the little restaurant and see the monster approach it, while a little disc on its belt starts to glow brightly. And when it gets to the restaurant the alien smashes it to pieces, and starts digging underneath where it once stood. But Batman’s not going to let this go unpunished, and jumps in a goddamn bulldozer to hit the alien with.  Unfortunately the big cyclops eye can fire some sort of heat-ray, and it cut the bulldozer in half. And in the confusion the creature has fled, leaving just that giant hole.

But pretty quickly they get a call saying that the monster is now attacking an oil field, so Batman, Robin, and the cops follow it there. But things don’t play out much better this time, and the creature just rips a bunch of tanks apart, digs another big hole, and vanishes again, all while it’s little belt is glowing like crazy. So, with no other leads, Batman and Robin head back to the Bat Cave to investigate the creatures little ship. And what they find is a helmet that seems to be attached to a computer. So Batman obviously just puts the helmet on, and gets everything explained to him. Apparently a group of intelligent aliens on the fifth planet of the solar system occasionally would like to send out nine batches of crystals, one for every other planet, and then would send these giant stupid monsters called Rukk’s out to find the crystals, and the alien whose Rukk got back first won. So this monster that’s causing so much problems is just on a scavengers hunt.

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Batman also learns that the Rukk is extremely dangerous (no shit) and that it’s little glowing belt is like a metal detector for the crystals. Oh, and the ship also has a second belt which can locate the Rukk, and a weapon that can destroy it. So Batman and Robin grab the belt and the weapon, and head right over to that scientist from earlier’s office. For some reason. They fill the dude in on the plan, which is overheard by some janitor. And this is where things get weird. Because the janitor decides that he should go tell some mobster about the plan, and they decide that if they can follow the Rakk, it’ll eventually go back to it’s ship, which is in the  Bat Cave, and the gangsters can then learn the identity of Batman. So now the mob’s involved.

But they aren’t that good at their jobs, because they just storm into some sort of foundry where the Rakk is finding the next crystal, and Batman and Robin are stalking it. The mobsters then attack Batman and Robin, and have a huge fight that ends with Batman accidentally destroying the only weapon that can kill the Rakk. The mobsters spill the bean on their plan, and Batman and Robin ditch them to go find the final crystal. Which just so happens to be under a hospital. So Batman gets down to the basement and starts digging, while Robin hops in some insane little helicopter and starts pestering the Rakk. But in the end Batman finds the crystal, brings it to the Rakk, and it wanders off to find it’s ship, while the janitor from earlier follows. Unfortunately for him Batman and Robin have already moved the ship from the Bat Cave, and stuck it in some random field, so the guy can’t learn where the Bat Cave is. Sucker. Oh, and Batman also deduces that the aliens that sent the Rakk came from some mythical fifth planet that was in between Mars and Jupiter, that has now been destroyed, so the Rakk is heading back to a planet that doesn’t exist, and he’ll die when he gets there. Ha ha?

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This issue had a lot of potential to be really fun, but it fell pretty short for me. As weird as I find the idea of Batman being thrown into sci-fi settings, the idea of him and Robin dealing with a giant 50s B-Movie style shambling monster is pretty fun. But the issue didn’t really embrace that, and instead just got stranger and stranger with the sudden appearance of the scavenger hunt idea and the mobsters trying to find the Bat Cave. There was just a little too much going on. If it was just Batman and Robin dealing with some horrible monster that they didn’t understand this could have been fun. Although the issue does have the fun trope that I enjoy so much from these early episodes where it’s just Batman and Robin running around in the woods with some random nameless gangsters, just one step behind everything. Just with some added monster spice.

“The Creature From the Bat-Cave” was written by Bill Finger and drawn by Sheldon Moldoff, 1961.

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