Bat Signal

Issue 461 – “Bruce Wayne… Bait in a Bat-Trap”

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Hello everyone and welcome to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics at random, with very little context. And normally that last bit doesn’t matter a whole lot. The older issues of Detective Comics were very light on continuity, often having one-and-done stories that didn’t require multiple issues. And even if I do happen to randomly draw an issue that was either the second part of a story, or the first part of a larger one, I can usually piece together what’s going on. Batman probably wins. But every now and then I happen to get an issue that appears to be part of a larger story, and that remains basically incomprehensible. And while you may think that that would be a tad frustrating, I actually have acquired a fondness with these baffling little stories, trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. And today we have one such issue. Because I have to assume that there was something before this issue that set the framework, and I know that things continue in the next one, so what we have here is the second act. And it’s a very bizarre one at that. So buckle up and I’ll try to explain what the hell was going on in this issue.

The issue begins exactly like you’d expect an issue of Detective Comics to. With a bunch of goons tossing the limp body of Bruce Wayne out of a moving vehicle and onto the steps of the police station. Commissioner Gordon and Alfred come racing out of the station, recognize Bruce’s clothes, and then stand there as Bruce explodes. Luckily this was just a dummy, sent as a signal to the police that Bruce Wayne has been kidnapped, and they mean business. So that’s confusing. And to make matters worse we see that Gordon has summoned Batman, and the Caped Crusader has arrived. Batman then explains everything that we just saw, which is a tad redundant, and then races off to find “Bruce Wayne.” But obviously that’s not what he’s going to do, since he is Bruce Wayne, so instead we get a flashback to the previous night where an assailant broke into Wayne’s penthouse and knocked him out. And who was this assailant?

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Yep! A goddamn pirate! Now, this is the part of the issue that makes me think that there was something before this one. Because I have no idea who this pirate is, beyond the name Captain Stingaree, and I don’t know what his deal is. Other than what Batman’s about to tell us. Apparently this pirate is convinced that Batman is actually a group of triplets, the Courtney triplets, who have trained since birth to become crimefighters while funded by Bruce Wayne. I am not sure why this pirate believes this, but that’s what we’re going with. So he’s decided to kidnap Bruce Wayne to try and put a stop to it all. But, Captain Stingaree obviously didn’t know that Bruce Wayne was far more capable than he looks, so Bruce was able to escape his confines, change into Batman, and get to the police station.

But now it’s time to track down Stinagree and put an end to his nonsense. And Batman’s first step is to return to the place where Bruce Wayne was being held, now that he has his Batman equipment. So Batman heads back down to the sewer that he was being held in, and starts poking around for clues. Which doesn’t go super well, because as soon as he’s down in the sewers a wall caves in, cutting off his access to where he had been kept, and a special surprise from Captain Stingaree arrives to try and kill Batman. A flood of rats.

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Batman manages to narrowly escape the rats, getting up into a higher tunnel. He then gives chase, running toward a presumed exit. But when he gets into the new tunnel a second trap triggers, and several waves of water begin crashing through the tunnel, threatening to drown Batman. He struggles to get a hold of an oxygen mask, but it’s easier said than done. And to make matters even more difficult Captain Stingaree arrives, in a wet-suit, ready to do battle with Batman.

The Caped Crusader and Captain Stingaree then grapple underwater, fighting as well as they can being completely submerged under sewer water. The two manage to trade several blows between themselves, until Batman pulls off Stingaree’s oxygen mask as well. The two men then pass out, an are swept out to a bay outside of Gotham. Unfortunately, Stingaree is the first to wake up, and he drags off the unconscious body of Batman. But don’t worry, things are going to become much crazier. Because we see that at the same time that Stingaree is carrying the body away, Bruce Wayne has arrived at the police station to make it clear that he is longer kidnapped. And, to make things even crazier, we see that Stingaree has brought Batman back to a hideout, and unmasked him as one of the Courtney triplets. What?

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Yeah, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on with this issue. But it’s kind of delightfully insane. I have no idea who Captain Stingaree is, and kind of have to assume that he was only in this story. Which is a shame, because this guy is a hardcore pirate, eye-patch and all, and he was a lot of fun. But the thing that intrigues me most about Captain Stingaree is his absolutely insane idea that Batman is actually a trio of siblings who are bankrolled by Bruce Wayne. I have no clue how he came to this conclusion, but the actual contents of this issue make things very confusing. Because that sure as hell is a man named Robert Courtney wearing the cape and cowl at the end of the issue, and it looks like the Captain has already abducted another Courtney. So unless Bruce Wayne was wearing a Robert Courtney mask under his cowl the whole issue, I’m not quite sure what’s going on. But the odds that I’ll figure this out any time soon are rather slim, so I’ll just leave this story as it is, and assume that Batman will win in the end.

 

“Bruce Wayne…Bait in a Bat-Trap” was written by Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan, penciled by Ernie Chan, and inked by Frank McLaughlin, 1976.

 

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Holy puns, Batman!

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