Bat Signal

Issue 319 – “The Fantastic Dr. No-Face”

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Hi there everyone and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project wherein I’m reading every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with very little context. And I sure have stumbled upon an odd little story today for us to talk about. It’s yet another one of those weird late-Golden Age comics where we get a one-and-done villain who gains some sort of weird deformity and responds by running around the woods outside Gotham causing chaos. Which I’ve certainly gained an affection for. And, to make things more interesting we have the fact that we’re given a villain whose last name is Dent and has a face gimmick, while not being Two-Face. Oh, and apparently Gotham has a mountain with Batman’s face chiseled into it. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s jump on in.

The story begins as so many Batman stories from this era do, with a group of scientists attending a weird scientific demonstration in what appears to be the scientist’s house in the woods. In this case the scientist is a man named Dr. Paul Dent who has invented a device that he claims will be able to fix facial deformities, scars, and wrinkles. And as he prepares to demonstrate the ray on a chimpanzee something goes wrong and Dent is bathed in the device’s powers. Which appear to work far better than expected, because Dent now has no facial features, and it just completely smooth. This obviously causes him to snap, and he goes running off into the night, cackling like a mad man. Which, gets reported to Commissioner Gordon, who in turn calls up Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo suit up and head out to find Dent. And, rather quickly, they locate him in the Gotham Square where he’s just shooting his rifle at random billboards of people’s faces.

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Batman and Robin attempt to calm Dent down, and get him some help, but he doesn’t seem interested in that. And while Batman and Robin have to deal with a loose power cable threatening to electrocute some bystanders Dent’s able to escape. Which means they’re going to have to track down Dent again. Luckily, he makes that pretty easy, because the next day Dent shows up at the Gotham City Museum right as it opens, and continues his work of removing faces. He heads into a portrait gallery, gets out a flame-thrower, and starts destroying all of the portraits. Oh, and he’s calling himself Dr. No-Face now, like your average Gothamite would.

Batman and Robin arrive just as Dent is destroying the portraits, and they attempt to battle to insane doctor. Robin manages to snuff out he flamethrower using some water, which causes Dent to give up and flee. He managed to set up a trap, dropping a massive plaque down to block the path of Batman and Robin, letting him flee again. And he doesn’t stop there. Because Dr. No-Face begins a whole spree, destroying all sorts of faces. He shatters clock faces, breaks statues, and destroys some sort of mask store. And all the while Batman and Robin are on his trail, trying to figure out where he’s hiding out. They stop by Dent’s beach-side cabin, but he doesn’t appear to be there. Robin suggests looking in the mountains, but Batman dismisses that by explaining that Dent has a fear of heights. Hmmm. Foreshadowing. Anyway, Batman and Robin finally manage to track down Dr. No-Face again right as fleeing a jeweler with a famous emerald. Batman’s a little confused about this, until he figures out that No-Face is planning on tossing the emerald into a rock-pulverizer at a construction yard. They do manage to chase No-Face off, but not before he’s able to destroy the emerald, and deliver a threat.

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Interesting, Dr. No-Face has promised that he’s going to destroy Batman’s face. But what could that mean? Well, Batman assumes pretty much immediately that No-Face isn’t being literal, and that he instead is going to do something symbolic to destroy Batman’s face. Which obviously means he’s going to do something to the giant carving of Batman on Mt. Gotham. Yeah, for some reason Gotham has a giant monument to Batman outside of town. Which seems like a burn on Robin, but whatever. The Dynamic Duo race off to Mt. Gotham, and find Dr. No-Face using a sand-blaster to deface the giant face of Batman. The two begin grappling with No-Face, and eventually manage to capture him and bring him off the mountain. Which is when No-Face seems to break from his psychosis. He realizes that he’s done horrible things, and asks that Batman forgive and try to help him. Batman agrees, and they bring him back to Gotham.

However, when No-Face is dropped off at the jail while Batman goes to find a way to fix his face, we see that things aren’t exactly as they seem. This isn’t Dr. Dent. It’s actually a gangster named Magan who approached Dent to use his device to fix a distinguishing facial scar on himself. But the process worked too well, and it removed all of Magan’s facial features. He then had his men hide the real Dr. Dent so that Magan could pretend to be him and get away with his crimes. Well, except for the fact that Batman has figured all of this out. Yeah, Batman arrives and arrests Magan, and explains everything. Turns out Batman realized something fishy was going on when No-Face did the thing on Mt. Gotham, since Dent had a fear of heights. He then checked the finger prints and realized that it wasn’t Dent, and managed to match them to Magan. They then checked with Magan’s hideouts, and found the real Dent, and that priceless emerald from earlier. Yeah, it was all a scam. And now Magan is going to be arrested, after Batman fixes his face. .

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This issue is a whole lot of fun. As I said up top, I’ve grown quite fond of these weird stories from this era of the Golden Age where Batman and Robin have to deal with some random weirdo who either got deformed by science or found a magic artifact and just decided to go on a crazy rampage, but not quite inside Gotham City. Plus, this issue has the added bonus of having a weird character who has a face fixation while also being named Dent. And this is years after Harvey Dent was a character. Yeah, we end up finding that this wasn’t actually Dent, but whatever, it still counts. And it’s incredibly strange. But not as strange as Mount Batman! They didn’t really explain this giant carving of Batman, and just kind of take it for granted that the people of Gotham are so enamored with the costumed weirdo who beats up criminals that they carved his mask into a mountain. I kind of hope that this wasn’t from a previous issue that explained this more, and that they just dropped this bomb on us in this random issue, but who knows, maybe I’ll figure that out some day.

 

“The Fantastic Dr. No-Face” was written by Dave Wood, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1963.

 

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