Bat Signal

Issue 306 – “The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces

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Hello everyone, and welcome back for another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project where I’m trying to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order, and with very little context. And we have a very okay issue to talk about today! It’s nothing special, but still a pretty fun little example of 60s Batman comics. Which is a bit of a shame, because you’d think with a cover like that the issue would be a pretty special and fun little story. I mean, look at those invisible robots and that bargain basement Billy Quizzboy we have up there! That looks like it should lead to a really fun time! But instead it’s just kind of a fine comic. Which I know is a ringing endorsement, but hey, they can’t all be winners. Let’s dive in!

The story begins at the Gotham City Historical Society, where the members are proudly displaying the design of their new massive headquarters. And, to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new headquarters, they’ve decided to do something rather bizarre. They’re going to find the descendants of famous historical Gotham citizens, and have them reenact what their famous ancestors did in front of crowds. I have no idea who would want to see such a thing, but whatever, Gotham is a weird place. You have to do something to fill the time between clown attacks. Anyway, of course Bruce Wayne is invited to participate in this weird little display, and he proudly accepts. But he’s not first. No, first up is a Gothamite whose ancestor once saved an Indian village from a tiger attack. So they have this guy dress up like his ancestor, and have a tame tiger wander around a fake Indian village. And, since this is Gotham, disaster strikes.

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Yeah, some stranger was able to sneak onto the set of this weird reenactment, and is able to just shoot a dart into the tiger’s side. And what does that dart do? Why it’s a growth serum of course, which causes the previously tame tiger to become a feral giant in a matter of seconds. So, of course, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson quickly sneak off, get into their superhero tights, and spring into action. They’re then able to trap the tiger, by using a crane, and manage to snare it until the serum wears off and the tiger returns to normal size. A scientist then runs some tests on the tiger, but they’re unable to figure out where the serum came from. The organizers of the event suggest stopping everything, but Bruce insists on going through with his reenactment, in the hopes of drawing out the criminal.

So, the next day Bruce Wayne gets ready to reenact his ancestor. And it’s incredibly strange. Turns out that in medieval times Lancelot Wayne died while jumping from a bridge in a makeshift bat costume that he thought would let him fly. A tad on the nose, but whatever. Bruce gets on the bat costume and gets ready to jump off the bridge, when a mysterious boat arrives, and starts firing lightning bolts up at the famous billionaire. Bruce manages to dodge the lightning boats, and lands in the ocean, where he quickly changes into his Batman costume. He stashes the other Bat costume on a buoy, and chases off the criminals, but not before overhearing that they work for some sort of Professor. And who is this Professor?

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A Professor named Arnold Hugo was apparently so mad that the historical society snubbed him on this stupid project that he invented a machine to increase his own intelligence. And it worked, but also turned him into a deformed weirdo with heightened paranoia and rage. You know, classic supervillain stuff. Hugo then began tormenting the ancestor reenactments, but he’s quite mad that Batman is getting all the press around his attacks. So, to take care of that, Hugo invents some flying and invisible robots which swoop down on Batman and Robin at the next ancestor event, and kidnap them. The Dynamic Duo are taken to Hugo’s island, where they’re shocked to find the identity of the man who has been tormenting them. Hugo then enacts a shockingly complicated plan where Batman and Robin are place in cages and then suspended over a chasm that will eventually drop them.

Hugo then leaves them be, and moves onto the next phase of his insane plan. Because it turns out he has another invention, one while will affect gravitational fields and create a second moon. He figures that this will impress the folks at the historical society, and doesn’t think about the amount of chaos it would cause the planet. Hugo brings his device out into a crowd of people, and they all quickly start panicking. Luckily Batman and Robin then arrive, riding those flying robots from earlier. Hugo is pretty flabbergasted by this, but after Batman deactivates Hugo’s machine, he’s more than happy to explain what happened. And it’s just kind of nonsense. Just some MacGyver bullshit where Batman unravels his sock and uses a spring from a pen to make a fishing hook to pull his cage toward a toolbox. It’s ridiculous, but whatever. Hugo is captured, and Batman saved the day.

 

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Yeah, this wasn’t the greatest issue of Detective Comics I’ve ever read, but it’s also not the worst. It’s just kind of serviceable. It’s very representative of this era of the comic, where Batman and Robin didn’t often fight their classic rogue’s gallery, and instead just dealt with some weird freak of the week villains who got powers and were vanquished in one story. Which obviously means that the villains are never particularily interesting. They often had some good gimmicks, but they were largely just half-baked ideas. Such as out Professor Hugo. He was really just a super scientist, and his weird big head didn’t even really play into his character at all, so I’m not sure why he had it. But, beyond him, this issue is just weird. I mean, Gotham has some event where people reenact things their more famous ancestors do? Who would care about that? And then there’s the fact that Bruce Wayne apparently had an ancestor who dressed up as a bat? That’s just downright silly.

 

“The Wizard of 1,000 Menaces” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1962.

 

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