Bat Signal

Issue 388 – “Public Luna-Tic Number One!”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing mission to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order, with very little context. And we have a fascinating little issue today. Because this issue, seemingly designed to capitalize on the impending Apollo 11 moon landing, is all about Batman, Robin, and the Joker dealing with moon-related crimes! Yep, this issue came out a month before the landing, and we get to see all sorts of moon-shenanigans. Oh, and because they decided that they came up with a brilliant pun in “Public Luna-Tic Number One” they of course throw it at us every goddamn chance they get, basically reaching the levels of insanity as a Penguin issue. Plus, look at that cover. The Joker is going to make Batman and Robin he first dead people on the moon! What’s not to love about that?

The issue starts off with Batman and Robin driving around the streets of Gotham, searching for a mysterious criminal that Gotham City has dubbed “Public Luna-Tic Number One,” because all of their crimes are related to the moon. However, it seems like no one has gotten a good look at this criminal, which is insane. But what’s even more insane is the idea that Batman and Robin think that it’s the Joker, which means that people have been witnessing crimes all around town but aren’t sure if it was the Joker or not. He’s kind of recognizable. Anyway, the two are driving around looking for leads when they happen to see some people breaking into the planetarium. Which is probably a good place to check for moon-crimes. The Dynamic Duo follow the criminals into the planetarium and find the Joker preparing to rob it. Batman and Robin begin fighting Joker’s goons, when the Joker decides to get away after blinding the Dynamic Duo with the Zeiss Machine.

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Batman and Robin are very dazed after being bombarded by the machine’s light, and when they come to they find that the Joker is gone, and he’s tagged the Batmobile as an added burn. But at least they have confirmation that Joker is this moon criminal. However, he got away, so there’s nothing left for them to do for a bit. We then cut to a few days later when Bruce Wayne is attending a scientific demonstration for a Dr. Doomer. He’s asked Bruce to attend the demonstration to empress him as a representative of Wayne Enterprises, and has also invited several military men as well. Because he’s apparently invented a machine that can temporarily remove gravity from a radius around the machine. He has everyone belt themselves to their chairs and he turns the machine on. Only for it to do nothing. Dr. Doomer is very upset about this, and while he and Bruce look at the device they find that it’s been replaced with a fake one, featuring some obvious hints that Joker was the person to steal it.

So now Joker has taken a device that can replicate moon-level gravity, so he’s obviously sticking with this weird moon-shtick. And how are they going to use it? Well, Joker and his goons have decided to bring the device to Gotham’s Grand Central Station, so they can turn it on in the terminal. Some guards try to stop them, but the device works wonders and sends the guards flying up to the roof while Joker’s goons start robbing the place. Unfortunately Batman and Robin have found out about the crime, and so they arrive at the Station and are quickly swept up into the gravity. Which is when Joker turns the machine off, dropping them down onto the ground, and knocking them both unconscious. Which is a bummer, because when they come to they realize that the Joker has kidnapped them, and things have become very strange.

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Well that’s less than ideal. Batman and Robin have just woken up after being knocked unconscious and they find themselves in personalized space suits, seemingly on the moon. Not exactly a good thing. Because apparently Joker has the ability to send people to the moon on a whim. Batman and Robin are both pretty wary about this whole thing, especially when they see a giant hologram of the Joker’s head arrive to taunt them. He explains that he’s grown bored with being the greatest criminal on Earth, so now that humanity is about to visit the moon he wants to make sure he’s become the greatest criminal on the moon as well. I guess it’s important for people to have goals.

Robin briefly considers the fact that they aren’t on the moon, since his voice wouldn’t carry on the moon, because of the lack of air, but Joker explains that he’s talking to them through their radios. He then awaits the shadow of the Earth to pass over the Dynamic Duo, freezing them to death. However, Batman’s sure that this is all bullshit, so he and Robin ignore Joker and chase into the shadow itself. Which is when they find the Joker and his goons hiding in a cave, using Doomer’s machine to fake the low gravity. Batman and Robin then beat up Joker and his goons, take Doomer’s device, and return back to Gotham City.

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This issue is a whole lot of fun. Although, I think it’s super weird that they had the Joker changing his gimmick and becoming obsessed with the moon for an issue. I mean, I know it’s all because of Apollo 11, but you’d think that maybe they would have invented one of those one-off villains to be the new moon guy. Regardless of that quibble though, this is a very fun issue. I’m always a fan of a less-murdery Joker, and getting an issue from 1969 is right on the precipice of where that’ll be less likely. Seeing the Joker buy a bunch of random stuff that will then help him convince Batman that he’s been transported to the moon for a prank, while also crafting a Batman-themed space suit, is fantastic. Really the only thing that could have been more fun would have been if they actually did go to the moon. Which you’d think wouldn’t have been a big deal, since Batman went to space a whole lot in the 50’s.

 

“Public Luna-Tic Number One!” was written by John Broome, penciled by Bob Brown, and inked by Joe Giella, 1969.

 

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