Bat Signal

Issue 243 – “Batman the Giant!”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back for the last Bat Signal of 2016, my ongoing project to read random issues of Detective Comics. As always, I just used a random number generator to find what issue I was going to pull today, and it just so happened that I was lucky enough to pull an absolutely fabulous issue. I was hoping that I was going to get to end the year with a fun and goofy issue of Detective Comics, and we sure got that. I mean, just check out that cover. I know that some of the issues from the fifties and earlier can be a little misleading, and I’ve already covered an issue that seemed to taunt me with the possibility of a giant Batman destroying Gotham. But unlike that issue, this isn’t a bait and switch. We legitimately get to see a gigantic Batman. But, honestly? Things get so much crazier in this issue that you can even imagine. That’s enough preamble though, let’s dive on into some glorious Silver Age nonsense.

Things start off with Batman, Robin, Commissioner Gordon,  and some random cops joining a scientist called Dr. Greggson in his laboratory. They’re there to witness his latest invention, which he believes will have important ramifications to the criminal world of Gotham, and thus they should be aware. Dr. Greggson has created two devices which use “cosmic electricity” to either expand or contract matter. He’s called them the Maximizer and the Minimizer, and he demonstrates their power by taking Commissioner Gordon’ diamond ring and turning the diamond into the size of a basketball. Which really blows everyone’s mind. So much so that they don’t notice a criminal named Jay Vanney come in. Vanney has apparently heard of the inventions, and he’s here to steal it. Which he does quite easily. But Batman waits until Vanney has grabbed the Minimizer before lunging at the criminal and grappling with him. Unfortunately as Batman is tussling with Vanney, the Maximizer gets turned on, and bathes Batman with the energy. And in the confusion caused by Batman getting hit with the Maximizer Vanney is able to slip away. Which seems pretty easy, because Batman and the other people in the room are having to deal with the fact that Batman is started to grow at a rapid rate.

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Batman doesn’t want to wait for explanations though, so he just starts chasing after Vanney, hoping to catch the criminal. However Batman doesn’t appear to be noticing the fact that he just keeps growing, at least until he follows Vanney into a subway station, and ends up becoming too large to fit in the cramped confines. So he drags himself out of the station, and ends up stabilizing at around 30 feet tall, which isn’t exactly helpful. Robin catches up with him, and the two go back to Dr. Greggson, asking him to fix Batman. Which he can’t do. Apparently his inventions run on some exotic material, and he doesn’t have enough to make another Minimizer. So he gives Batman the Maximizer and the giant diamond they made, and wishes him the best in his endeavors

So Batman and Robin begin heading back home to Wayne Manor, doing their best to avoid the massive crowds that are gathering to gawk at the giant Caped Crusader. Commissioner Gordon even has to get a fleet of fire trucks to follow Batman around so that they can break up the crowds of people. But after he gets out of Gotham everything seems to be okay, and they make their way back to the Batcave. Which Batman is luckily able to get into by crawling down the path that the Batmobile usually takes. And once inside he’s able to sit in the main hangar of the Batcave while gorging on a pile of food that Alfred brings him.

Robin then talks with Batman, and tells him that they need to figure out how to shrink Batman down as soon as possible, otherwise people will realize that Bruce Wayne hasn’t been seen for as long as Batman’s been giant, and someone will piece it together. But they also agree that Batman shouldn’t be running around town crushing people, so Robin heads out on his own to find Vanney. However, almost as soon as Robin leaves Batman gets a notification that the Bat Signal has been turned on, and he decides to leave the cave and head downtown to figure out what’s going on. Gordon is a little peeved that Batman came, endangering the citizen of Gotham, but he still lets him track down a group of criminals who are trying to escape Gotham by yacht, letting him chase after the. But Batman knows that this isn’t going to help in the long run, so he decides to go to the Gotham Bridge and stand atop it like the goddamn Colossus of Rhodes, waiting for Vanney to try and flee the city.

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Batman continues to just stand there, looking at all the cars that pass below him until he recognizes Vanney’s car. And Vanney recognizes him too! As soon as he sees the giant Batman he peels out and tries to drive away as fast as he can. So Batman begins chasing after Vanney, until his massive weight causes the bridge to start falling apart, which is when Batman decides that it’s not worth it. He stops chasing Vanney, and has a chat with Commissioner Gordon, who politely asks Batman to leave Gotham City and not come back until he’s no longer gigantic. So Batman sadly walks out of Gotham, back to the Batcave where he can plan his next move.

Batman and Robin meet down in the Batcave for a while, and end up brainstorming an idea. They end up deciding that it’s no use trying to track down Vanney, and instead figure that they should create a trap with the Maximizer to draw him out of hiding. And that’s where things get goofy. Because we next see Batman hammering out some sheet of steel before heading out to the fields outside Gotham. He just stand there, looming menacingly for a while, until Vanney notices him and decides to do something insane. He gets a little biplane, and flies at Batman, hoping to pull a King Kong and shoot the giant from the plane and then steal the Maximizer off his corpse. And it seems to go really well. He shoots Batman a whole bunch, and the Caped Crusader collapses into a giant heap. But when Vanney comes down to loot the corpse, he notices the steel shining through Batman’s costume, and realizes that Batman’s made himself bullet-proof.

So Vanney tries to run away, only to have Batman do the only thing he can, and blast Vanney with the Maximizer too, so that they’re both gigantic and cumbersome. And thus begins a straight-up Kaiju fight in the middle of this issue of Detective Comics. The two begin slugging it out, while Vanney begins to gain the upper hand. Mainly due to the fact that Batman is covered in a suit of steel, and isn’t exactly graceful. Robin then comes to the rescue, barreling down on the two giant in the Batmobile. But Batman doesn’t want Vanney to crush Robin, so he rolls that giant diamond from earlier like a bowling ball, distracting the thug. And when that’s accomplished Batman just jumps on Vanney, holding him down while Robin is able to get his hands on the Minimizer and shrink both of them back down to normal size. So Vanney is arrested, and Dr. Greggson reveals that the continued use of the machines has worn out their charges, and are thus useless. So Batman and Robin decide to take the decides and stick them in their trophy room, instead of letting Dr. Greggson maybe try to find an alternative power source.

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I absolutely adored this issue. Right off the bat I realized that this issue wasn’t teasing me with the prospect of giant Batman, and it delivered. I’ve obtained a serious soft-spot for goofy old issues of Detective Comics where it’s primarily just Batman and Robin on the track of some random gangster as they chase him around Gotham, always being one step behind. And this issue took that trope and added a truly ridiculous gimmick. The idea of Batman becoming so big that he’s a safety hazard, and has to stay outside of Gotham’s city limits is so crazy and hilarious, and I loved every second of it. But then things get even crazier when Vanney starts to attack Batman with a plane, leading to a brawl between two gigantic monsters. It’s just so crazy and wonderful. There’s not a whole lot of detection going on in this issue, but the sheer absurdity of it more than makes up for that minor defect.

“Batman the Giant!” was written by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by Dick Sprang, and inked by Charles Paris, 1957.

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