Bat Signal

Issue 342 – “The Midnight Raid of the Robin Gang!”

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Hi there folks, and welcome back to Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order, and with very little context. And we have a pretty silly little story to talk about today. I’ve noticed that we’re had a slew of stories already on Bat Signal that have revolved around other people being Batman. Be it a single person just wearing the costume, or perhaps even a whole crew of criminals thinking it’ll help out their chances of success if they dress like their cities most famous crimefighter. But, oddly enough, I haven’t come across a story where anyone was willing to impersonate Robin, the Boy Wonder. Until now. And not only are we getting one kid trying to scam people as Robin, we get a whole Robin Gang! Plus, things get downright after-school special in places. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s dive in.

The issue begins with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson hanging out in Wayne Manor one morning, eating breakfast and reading the newspaper. And while perusing the paper Dick comes across an article written by a prominent gossip columnist who seems to think the partnership between Batman and Robin is able to collapse. Dick reads the article aloud, which suggests that people have been noticing Robin getting in Batman’s way a lot lately, seemingly because the sidekick is fed up with being second-fiddle, and things are about to get heated. Dick and Bruce talk about this, and agree that it’s complete nonsense. But as Dick heads off to school Bruce can’t help but remember several times lately when Dick did seem to ignore his orders, and dive recklessly into fights. But before Bruce can mull this over any longer he gets a surprise call from Commissioner Gordon, who wants Batman to come over and chat about something.

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So yeah, Commissioner Gordon called Batman down to his office in the middle of the day to discuss the fact that he believes there’s some sort of Fagin-esque criminal in Gotham, convincing random youths to turn to crime. Gordon then admits that he really wanted Robin to be in this meeting, because he was hoping that Robin would be willing to go undercover and see if his “playmates” knew anything about the rash of child-related crimes going on. Batman promises Gordon that he’ll get Robin to help out in this investigation, and says that he’ll bring this mysterious criminal to justice.

Meanwhile, Dick is leaving school for the day, and he’s decided to stop by the house of a friend of his named Tom Willard. Tom apparently lives in the vast wilderness outside Gotham City, and he’s been missing from school the last couple of days. Dick is worried that he’s given up on school, and started a life of crime, unaware of the weird Fagin guy Gordon is worried about. But when Dick gets to Tom’s house he’s shocked to find a perfect Robin costume in Tom’s weird clubhouse. And when Tom arrives, Dick decides to press him on it. But Tom doesn’t think any of it’s weird, and offers to take Dick to the gang he’s in, and explain everything. Dick agrees, figuring he can save his friend in the process, and they head out to a weird wrestling gym in Gotham, where some colorful wrestlers are practicing for a big show the next day. This is all a front though, and Tom takes Dick up to the office of the man running the gang, Al Craig. And when they get up there Dick is shocked at what he finds.

 

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Yep, this Craig guy has assembled a whole gang of children, and is dressing them all as Robin. However, Craig isn’t too keen on telling this random new kid the whole plan, so he makes Dick wait in a closet while he orders all of the other Robins to go commit crimes all around Gotham at midnight, to cause confusion. Dick hears their plans through the closet, and he ends up fleeing the building, chasing after the other Robins. But, in the process, he doesn’t think to try to tell Batman what’s going on, so that night as Batman’s driving around he suddenly sees what he thinks is Robin robbing a jewelry store. He chases after the Robin, who promptly flees. Batman gives chase, and ends up on top of a roof, right as the real Robin is showing up. But when Robin swings down to help Batman he suddenly finds his vision acting up, and he ends up kicking Batman square in the head, and knocking him off the building, right as a news crew happens to be filming.

Batman manages to survive the fall with no injuries, and Robin quickly apologizes and fills him in on what’s going on. And, surprisingly, Batman just rolls with it and agrees to follow Robin back to the gym where all the other Robins are to stop Craig. Meanwhile the other Robins are at the gym, laughing at the news footage of Batman getting kicked, while Craig starts to get worried. And he’s right to be worried, because Batman and Robin are entering his building at that moment. He asks the two wrestlers from earlier to try and stop Batman, but they do a ludicrously bad job at this, and Batman quickly is able to sweep into the room, knock them out, and capture Craig. Craig is then arrested, I guess the bad Robins are too, and then the issue ends with the weirdest possible outcome. Turns out the reason Dick has been acting so weird lately is that he’s having vision problems, so after a quick trip to the optometrist everything is fixed, and Robin goes back to being perfect!

 

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This issue probably isn’t going to be too memorable, but it was pretty fun. I liked seeing such a Robin-heavy story, even though it was kind of silly how so many of the problems in this issue could have been solved by some simple communication. I assume Batman and Robin have some sort of walky-talky situation going where they could have filled each other in on their separate adventures, so that they didn’t have to collide so strangely, but whatever. I really like the idea of a weird Fagin character training a bunch of boys to become Robin-theives, and the fact that he also had professional wrestler henchmen as well was a nice touch. Unfortunately Craig himself was a pretty boring villain. But where the issue really entertained me were the silly after-school special moments tossed in. I really though we were going to get some moment where Dick had to teach the other Robin’s the importance of going to school and being good citizens, but instead we pivoted and had a whole final page about the importance of eye care, which was such a weird and hilarious way to explain Robin’s behavior throughout the issue.

 

“The Midnight Raid of the Robin Gang!” was written by John Broome, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Joe Giella, 1965.

 

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