Hello everyone and welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing project to read random issues of Detective Comics with little to no context. And folks, we have a fun one this week. For some reason the random number generator gods have really been giving me a lot of issues that revolve around a very particular genre of Batman comics that I didn’t really think existed. Issues where Batman has to deal with people pretending to be Batman. And I love it. It’s a very strange little subgenre of Detective Comics that have created some of my favorite entries of the series. So sit back and enjoy some truly bizarre comics.
The issue starts off with Batman returning to his home after a hard night patrolling the city and fighting crime. He walks up to his room, ready to relax and sleep after a rough evening. But that’s going to be made a little difficult when he finds that there’s a mysterious stranger waiting in his room. And, to make matters worse, the man seems to know that Bruce Wayne is Batman. The identity of the visitor is kept secret for most of the issue, so for now we just have to deal with the fact that Bruce is going to be talking to some random dude who was waiting in his room. But Bruce seems at ease with the man, so it’s nothing too bad. The two settle into Bruce’s room, order up some breakfast, and Bruce is requested to regain the stranger with the events of his night as Batman.
It all starts with Batman trailing a criminal named Benny the Rat, who is making a drop off to a local criminal named Danton. I’m not quite sure what it is that he’s dropping off, but it’s really just a McGuffin to keep things moving. Batman begins following around Danton, trying to keep a tail on him. And this runs into issues when Danton heads down into a subway. Batman realizes that he’s pretty conspicuous in his costume, so he changes into another one. That of Matches Malone. Now, we haven’t talked about Matches Malone before yet, but he’s great. It’s an alter-ego that Bruce Wayne created to go undercover in the criminal underworld. So Matches slips into the subway, and sits next to Danton, sizing him up. But something unexpected happens when the train passes through a dark tunnel. When the lights come back on Danton has put on a Batman costume.
The people on the subway are shocked to see “Batman” aboard the train, and just kind of move out of his way as he marches over to the compartment that the conductor is in. “Batman” gets into the compartment, and demands that the conductor slam on the breaks in between two stations so that he can disembark. This is obviously suspicious for the real Batman, who just tries to wait and figure out what’s going on. The conductor agrees to stop the train, and while the rest of the passengers are concerned with the fake Batman leaving, Bruce slips into his own costume and chases after the criminal. Batman chases after Denton, convinced that he’s heading to a place to drop off whatever he got from Benny the Rat. They both have to avoid the third rail, so they don’t get electrocuted, and Batman tries to intimidate Danton by throwing a Batarang around him. But Danton remains resilient, and begins fighting Batman with everything he has. Which of course leads to ruin.
Whoops! Well, Danton’s dead. But it was his fault, so I guess that makes it better. And once that revelation is made we cut back to Bruce and his mysterious breakfast guest, chatting in Bruce’s room. However, Bruce remained intrigued by the whole evening when he found that Danton didn’t have the goods that Benny the Rat gave to him. So he must have dropped them off to someone on the train. The mysterious guest seems to know who, and we even get a weird panel where the comic asks us if we’ve figured out who Danton gave the good to and if we’ve figured out who the mysterious breakfast guest is. Apparently this issue involved participation.
After the little question panel though we cut back to Batman’s story, as he finds that Danton is missing the goods. Batman realizes that clearly someone on the train has them, so he races after it. But Batman knows that there’s no way for him to get the train to stop, so he just has to just aboard it while it’s racing towards him. And as soon as he gets aboard the train, stunning the people who witnessed two Batmen leave the train and only one came back. And once that’s done he runs up to the conductor, and drags him out of his little compartment. Because obviously this was Danton’s accomplice. The guy tries to fight back, but c’mon, Batman whoops him pretty handily, solving the puzzle. We’re then back to Bruce’s room, where we finally learn the identity of his guest. It’s Carter Hall, the Hawkman! Apparently Hawkman has a backup story in this issue of Detective Comics that has something to do with this story, but let me tell you, I have no interest in reading or discussing whatever the hell Hawkman is up to. So let’s just call this one a day.
This issue is a whole lot of fun. Even though it does take a weird little turn where the comic basically turns to the reader and asks “have you solved the puzzle?” That’s super cheesy, although I’m kind of stunned I haven’t seen that used more often. But ignoring that, this issue is just a whole lot of fun. It’s another worthy addition to the weird world of comics about Batman dealing with villains dressing as Batman. Which, honestly, is probably a pretty decent strategy in Gotham. Batman can’t be everywhere at once, so if you’re gutsy enough to pretend to be Batman you probably could pull bullshit like this all the time. Plus, I’m thrilled that we’ve finally gotten out first introduction to Matches Malone, one of my absolute favorite weird aspects of Bruce Wayne’s war on crime. I can always do with more Matches Malone. And as ridiculous as the solution ended up being, I did like the weird gall that this issue had by introducing a mysterious companion to Bruce Wayne in the beginning and then not letting us know who he is until the very end. Although I can’t imagine what would make me be interested in seeing how Hawkman plays into things, but this story sure didn’t have it.
“Pick-Up on Gotham 2-4-6” was written by Bob Rozakis, penciled by John Calnan, Inked by Vince Coletta, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1977.
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