Bat Signal

Issue 147 – “Tiger Shark!”

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Hi there everyone and welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read random issues of Detective Comics with no context. And you know what, there are some weeks when I kind of feel like I don’t want to read some weird issue of Batman. Just not in the mood to look back on the weirder adventures of the Caped Crusader. But then I fired up the random number generator and look at the issue that the gods have fated me to read, and I see something so ridiculous that my interest gets piqued. I mean, look at that cover. Batman and Robin are going to do battle on the open-seas with some weird Venture Bros. rejects. They’re using some sort of little boat-shoes and there’s a man in a tiger-print wet-suit. That’s some top-notch goofiness right there, folks. By now I’ve learned that you can’t always trust the covers of these comics, because they often just feature little tableau that the artist thought was cool, and that have next to nothing to do with the actual plot of the issue. But it turns out that this time there was no need to worry, because this issue sure does feature Batman fighting a gang of underwater thieves. And it’s a hell of a good time. Let’s do this thing!

The issue starts off with the news spreading around Gotham City that Batman and Robin have died at sea, buried under 1,500 feet of ocean. So that’s a hell of a start. We jump around Gotham at that point, seeing Commissioner Gordon sadly turn off the Bat Signal, a group of criminals celebrating the death of the hated heroes, and a group of masked criminals congratulating themselves in their underwater base for having killed Batman and Robin. But what the hell is going on? Why, we’re about the find out, because basically the rest of this story is a flashback , all starting with Batman and Robin hanging out in the Batcave trophy room, trying to figure out which trophy they want to donate to some organization called the Voyager Club. But their inventory session is cut short when they get an alert that Gordon has turned on the Bat Signal, and they rush off to find out what’s going on. Turns out there a group of thieves working in Gotham led by a mysterious man called Tiger Shark, and they’ve been committing all sorts of water related crimes. Gordon tells them where Tiger Shark has been spotted, and Batman and Robin rush off to stop them. They find the criminals escaping the land, using their little inflatable shoes to reach their getaway submarine, when something unexpected happens.

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Damn straight the Batmobile has some sort of buoyant system that lets it drive on water! Why wouldn’t it? Anyway, Batman chases the goons across the water, and runs into the Tiger Shark’s submarine. Batman hops out of the Batmobile and tries to beat up the goons, but Tiger Shark starts to submerge the submarine and he has to bail off and get back to the Batmobile, or else get caught in the suction and dragged down to his death. So they didn’t manage to catch Tiger Shark, but now they’re mad and aren’t going to let anything stand in their way. Well, anything except the Voyager Club. The Dynamic Duo take a break from tracking down Tiger Shark and instead head over to the Club, which appears to just be people who do extreme activities and try to one up each other. There’s a guy who has brought a boulder back from Mount Everest and a guy who brought a bottle on a space-flight and has it vacuum-sealed. There’s also a famed oceanographer named Gaige who Batman asks for help. But not before declaring that he’s going to bring Tiger Shark’s mask for the collection.

After the meeting Batman and Robin ask Dr. Gaige if he would be willing to come back to the Batcave with them and help them create some technology to defeat Tiger Shark. Gaige is willing, and after a quick blindfolding he gets into the Batmobile and is rushed off to the Batcave. The Duo and Gaige then spend a couple days crafting a Bat-themed submarine, which they obviously decide to call the Sub-Batmarine. What? Well, I guess they’re experts at crime-fighting, not branding. Once the Sub-Batmarine is completed the two then head out to find Tiger Shark and his gang. And when they hear about a ship full of diamonds arriving at Gotham, they figure that they may know Tiger Shark’s next target. The Duo then head to the ship, and stow away waiting for Tiger Shark to make his move. Which he does by swimming up to the hull of the ship and cutting their way in with acetylene torches. Once they cut themselves in Batman and Robin race down to fight them, also in respirators. This of course leads to Batman and Robin getting in an underwater fight with the Tiger Shark gang, who happen to be wielding their torches like weapons. Robin manages to knock one of the thugs out before taking his torch and engaging in some fencing. But things take a turn when Batman is seemingly hurt, and the rest of the goons escape. But Batman has a trick up his sleeve.

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Yeah, Batman pretended to get knocked out so that Tiger Shark and the rest of the gang would leave, letting Batman slip a little radio/tracking device into the dude’s shoe. So now they can listen in on Tiger Shark’s plans and track them down when the time comes. But they’re going to need to wait a bit for that, so Batman and Robin head back to town and go ask Dr. Gaige to borrow some more of his gear. They get set up with a salvage ship and a bathysphere and head out to the location of Tiger Shark’s underwater base that they’ve established with the tracking device. And once they get above the lair the Dynamic Duo hops into the bathysphere and lower down in the depth. Which is when they find Tiger Shark’s base, a sunken pirate ship that they’ve made air-tight. So Batman and Robin start bringing their bathysphere closer to the base, which is when they get caught by some sort of lobster-shaped sentry that cuts the link of the bathysphere. Batman and Robin are thus cut-off from their supply of oxygen and their method of escape. The two are presumed dead, and news spread around the city, bringing us to the beginning.

But Batman and Robin obviously aren’t actually dead. They aren’t in good shape, but they aren’t dead. They’re running out of oxygen, but Batman’s able to use the claws of the bathysphere to slowly drag themselves toward the anchor of the salvage ship. They then painstakingly climb the chain, finally getting themselves out of the water and into safety. And once they’re free Batman decides it’s finally time to take down Tiger Shark. He and Robin continue to listen in on Tiger Shark’s plans, since they still haven’t found the radio, and they get into the Sub-Batmarine and chase off after Tiger Shark’s men. They find them robbing a barge, but Tiger Shark doesn’t seem that concerned, knowing that the Sub-Batmarine isn’t fast enough to catch them. Hmm, I wonder why that is. But unfortunately for Tiger Shark, Batman made some modifications to the Sub-Batmarine, including a massive net-gun that captures all of Tiger Shark’s gang. The Dynamic Duo then drag them to the surface, and have a Scooby Doo moment of unmasking Tiger Shark, proving him to be Dr. Gaige. Shocker. But at least Batman makes good on his promise to bring the mask of Tiger Shark to the Voyager Club.

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I had a whole lot of fun with this issue. I’ve really come to appreciate and love these older Batman stories with flavor-of-the-week villains who don’t really make that much of an impression, but still fulfill the basic formula of a Batman story. I mean, technically Tiger Shark could have returned. We have a weird villain who happens to be a scientist who has an all-encompassing obsession with something specific and who commits crimes based on that obsession. That’s the basic definition of most of Batman’s villains. A mad scientist who loves the ocean and who has created a criminal organization to commit sea-crime is a pretty solid pitch for a Batman villain. I don’t know for sure that Tiger Shark never returned, but I have to assume that he was a one-hit-wonder, but he’s still a lot of fun. This whole issue was a lot of fun. It’s fairly obvious who Tiger Shark is, basically as soon as they meet Dr. Gaige, but the issue was still enjoyable despite it’s lackluster mystery. Plus I’m always down for an issue of Detective Comics that ends with Batman and Robin pulling the mask off a bad guy who would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling vigilantes.

“Tiger Shark!” was written by…someone. Bill Finger? Penciled by Dick Sprang and inked by Charles Paris, 1949.

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