Bat Signal

Issue 339 – “Batman Battles the Living Beast-Bomb!”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing mission to randomly read every issue of Detective Comics with no context. And we’re in for a real treat today folks. I mean, look at that cover. By now we’ve honestly learned that you can’t always trust the covers of Detective Comics, because they often try to trick you. But let me tell you, when you see a cover featuring Batman having to lift up a gorilla wearing a suicide-vest while Robin proclaims that Gotham will be destroyed if he drops him, you know you’re in for something special. And trust me, this issue delivers on that madness. And then some. There’s not a whole lot to this issue, but if you’re looking for plenty of scenes featuring Batman fighting an evil-genius gorilla, you’ll be satisfied!

The issue starts off by telling us that Gotham has recently been caught up in a crime spree from a mysterious individual who seems to have superhuman powers. The criminal is able to rip the vaults off of banks, leap over buildings, and has super speed. Everyone is quite baffled, until a scrawny little ginger guy named Walter Hewitt shows up at a police precinct, turning himself in for the crimes. Everyone thinks he’s ridiculous, but they do agree to lock him up in a cell and call Batman, as he requests. But while they’re waiting for Batman and Robin to show up Hewitt decides to tell them what’s going on. Apparently he used to be mocked as a child because he was incredibly unathletic. So he decided to focus on science, and became fascinated with bionics. The issue has no idea what bionics are, and decides that this is science that can give humans animal characteristics. He builds some device that can give him various animal abilities. He takes the speed of a cheetah, the jumping ability of a kangaroo, the hearing of a dog, and the sight of an eagle. But his final quest is to get the strength of a gorilla. He manages to buy one, and then something odd happens.

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Yeah, so something happened during the process and now Hewitt does have the strength of a gorilla, but the gorilla also now has his intelligence. And some sort of telepathic control over Hewitt. So when the gorilla realizes this, he obviously decides that it’s time for him to start using Hewitt as his pawn to lash out at the world of man for all the injustices he’s been dealt in life. He then sent Hewitt out on the crime spree, and Hewitt’s tale is finished. We see that he’s still in the jail cell, and that he’s able to avoid the gorilla’s mind-control when it’s asleep. Unfortunately, the gorilla has just woken up, and Hewitt falls under the gorilla’s control once more, ripping open the cell and marching out of the precinct.

Which is right when Batman and Robin show up. They’re more than a little confused about the scrawny little man tearing his way out of a police precinct, but they see all sorts of weird stuff in their day to day lives, and just spring into action. Batman and Robin begin fighting with Hewitt, who easily deflects all of their blows and gets ready to flee from them. Robin ends up getting knocked unconscious, and Batman has to deal with Hewitt on his own. Luckily Batman is master of judo, and uses his skills to grab Hewitt by the ankles and swing him around until he can smash his head against a brick wall. Hewitt is then taken out of commission, and Batman has the police hold him, and keep him under anesthetic so that he can’t wake up and get taken control of. However, this is also noticed by the gorilla.

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The gorilla, Karmak, has decided that it wants Batman as it’s newest slave. And to do that it’s going to have to draw Batman out. So Karmak begins wandering around Gotham, making sure lots of people see a random gorilla walking by. He then starts breaking into a jewelry store which finally draws Batman’s attention. Robin is unfortunately busy that night with a pep-rally, so Batman’s on his own. He chases Karmak into the store and the two begin fighting. It’s a pretty vicious fight, what with Karmak’s gorilla-strength. But it finally comes to a head when Karmak gets Batman in the perfect position, and hits a hidden button. Turns out he scoped this place out, and installed Hewitt’s bionic machine. So Batman is bathed in Karmak’s radiation, and Karmak gains Batman’s intelligence, and gets a sway over Batman just like he had on Hewitt. So Karmak wins! He then sends Batman on his way.

Batman returns to the jail, and learns something promising. Hewitt has lost the radiation that let Karmak control him, which means Batman too will lose it after a couple days. So Batman and Robin begin waiting out Karmak, planning for their battle while Karmak begins a crime-wave while using Batman’s skills and knowledge. Then, when the day the radiation wears off arrives, Batman springs into action. He soaks his gloves in anesthetic, hoping to get an upper-hand on Karmak, and then goes to find the gorilla. Unfortunately Karmak has decided to up the stakes, and has arrived with a bomb strapped around him. He says that he’ll destroy Gotham if Batman doesn’t submit to being controlled again, and explains that he’s the only one who can defuse it. Batman and Karnak then begin fighting each other. Batman’s anesthetic punches manage to knock Karmak out. However, when Karmak slumps down his bomb begins to tick faster. Batman then realizes that if Karmak isn’t touching the ground the bomb starts to malfunction. For some reason. So Batman picks up the gorilla, and holds him off the ground for as long as he can. It takes a while, but Batman finally fails, dropping the gorilla on the ground. Luckily he did it long enough, and Karmak’s bomb deactivated. Gotham is safe! And because Hewitt admittedly did something amazing, Batman decides to give him a grant to continue his research for non-evil purposes.

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This is a gloriously dumb issue of Detective Comics. It’s not a particularly interesting one, and certainly doesn’t feature any sort of detection, but c’mon, it’s an issue about Batman fighting an evil psychic gorilla. How can you not love that? And he isn’t even related to Gorilla Grodd! It’s a completely different psychic gorilla! I also love that they clearly had no idea what bionic were, and just decided that it meant becoming some sort of Manimal. It’s a shame that Hewitt never showed back up, because you would think that Batman knowing a mad scientist who can give people superpowers could come in handy. There’s not a whole lot to this issue, but sometimes all you need is Batman fighting an evil bomb-wielding gorilla.

“Batman Battles the Living Beast-Bomb!” was written by Gardner Fox, penciled by Carmine Infantino, and inked by Joe Giella, 1965.

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