Bat Signal

Issue 274 – “The Hermit of Mystery Island”

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Hi there everyone and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my Sisyphean task to read every issue of Detective Comics at random and with no context. And today we’re in for a real blast folks. I mean, just look at that cover. We’ve certainly learned by now that you can’t always trust the covers for these older issues, but I’m happy to report that things are just as insane as you’d expect from an issue called “The Hermit of Mystery Island.” That sounds like the creepiest Hardy Boys book ever. And look at the hermit! When I pulled this issue and looked at the cover I briefly got thrilled at the idea that Batman and Robin were going to be fighting Moses or something, but trust me, things are still going to be a lot of fun. We have hermits, curses, random generic gangsters, and of course, mystery islands. So let’s head out to Mystery Island and figure out why this hermit is so damn cranky.

The issue begins on a random unnamed island off the coast of Gotham city where a group of mobsters are meeting up, since it’s neutral territory. The gangsters have apparently worked together to rob a bank truck of a million dollars, and are getting ready to split the haul up and go their separate ways. However, Batman and Robin recently got a mysterious tip telling them where the gangsters were going to be meeting, so they land on the island shortly after the mobsters, and prepare to attack. After causing a landslide as a distraction the Dynamic Duo race down and start whaling on the surprised mobsters, getting ready to take them in. Which is when something gloriously weird happens. A hermit who lives on the island, and who is dressed in some sort of tunic, comes racing out of the woods carrying a shotgun, ready to kill everyone who dared step foot on his island and bring violence.

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The Hermit explains that he has magical powers, and then curses everyone involved. He tells Nails Lewin that a bell will toll his doom. Lew Gadge gets told that he’ll be defeated by an exotic animal. Joe Keno’s downfall will be brought about by a falling star. Ed Mapes’ life will end from an arrow. And Batman will never wear his costume again thanks to someone with a bird name. Everyone agrees that this Hermit is insane, but his shotgun does give them some pause. Batman tries to tell him that he’s just trying to arrest the goons, but the Hermit insists that he’ll only let them leave alive if Batman lets them leave first. So, not looking a gift horse in the mouth, the mobsters leave while Batman and Robin have to wait.

And immediately things get weird. Nails Lewin gets onto his boat, but something seems to be wrong with the controls, and he ends up crashing into a buoy, ringing its bell as his ship sinks down into the sea with him seemingly drowning. Which certainly shocks everyone, but they assume it’s just a coincidence, and Batman and Robin continue their task of tracking down the criminals. Which is helped when Batman and Robin get another mysterious call telling them that  that Lew Gadge is hiding out in a flower nursery. So Batman and Robin bust in on Gadge’s hideout, and the gangster flees into the night. But as he’s running he ends up slipping and smashing his head into a marble lion statue next to the library. Batman and Robin arrest Gadge, and notice that the lion statue kind of counts as an exotic animal. Batman still thinks it’s all bullshit, especially since he found marbles on the street that caused Gadge to slip, but it’s still pretty odd.

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So that’s two gangsters brought down by the Hermit’s curse, which gets the remaining gangsters and Robin very concerned. And they should be, because Batman gets another call from their mysterious helper, who tells them that Joe Keno is hiding out in an old movie studio. So Batman and Robin bust into this hideout and attack Keno and his goons, assaulting them with movie props. Keno starts to run away, but he’s stopped when a dummy of a famous celebrity falls from a catwalk and knocks him out. So he was stopped by a falling star. But Batman still isn’t buying any of this. And it’s not helped when they get another call telling them where Mapes is hiding out.

They head over to Mapes’ hideout and the man runs for his life, trying to get away from any sort of arrows. And as Batman is chasing they notice a billboard shaped like an arrow about to smash into Mapes’ car. Batman stops the arrow, but thinks he may have pieced everything together. So after dropping Mapes off the Dynamic Duo return to the Hermit’s island and find something shocking. Nails Lewin is alive and hanging out in the lighthouse, holding all of the money from the robbery. Turns out he faked all of this, pretended to drown, and was calling Batman to tell him the location of all of his colleagues. The Hermit is actually one of his employees, a dude named Hawk, and now Hawk and Nails are going to kill Batman and Robin and end the scam. But Batman is easily able to beat the two up, and save the day. But as they return to he Batcave Robin realizes something startling!

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This issue was a whole lot of fun. My mileage for issue revolving around Batman and Robin dealing with a rotating cast of generic mobsters, often times in the woods, can vary greatly, and this one was a hoot. I think the biggest draw is obviously the Hermit’s magical curse, even though it ended up being revealed to be bullshit. Any time Batman has to deal with a magic Hermit you know I’m going to be psyched. Especially when that lead to Batman and Robin taking down all of their ludicrous gangsters thanks to the rules of the curse. There’s not really a lot of detection, or any interesting character beats in this issue, but we have a goddamn Hermit curse, so deal with it.

“The Hermit of Mystery Island” was written by someone. Bill Finger maybe? It was penciled by Sheldon Moldoff and inked by Charles Paris though, in 1959.

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