Bat Signal

Issue 440 – “Ghost Mountain Midnight!”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with essentially no context. And we’ve now reached the part of the year where I begin hoping that the random number gods will shine their light upon us and give us a properly spooky Halloween issue. And, while last year I lucked out with both an issue where Batman fought that Scarecrow, and one where he fought a goddamn vampire, it doesn’t seem like we’re getting that lucky this year. Maybe next week will get spookier. But, today get close. Because as you can see from that cover and the title of the issue, there are at least possibly some ghosts in this issue. Whether than pans out or not, we’ll get to later.

Today’s issue begins in Gotham’s ritzy Playhour Club, some sort of restaurant where your food is delivered to you by women in bikinis. And one of those such women is Sarah Beth Tull. Which is bad news, because as Sarah Beth is working two hillbilly’s come bursting into the club, with shotguns, and take her hostage. They clearly know Sarah Beth, and prepare to leave the club with her, threatening to take her “home.” And this obviously frightens the patrons of the Playhouse Club, including renowned playboy Bruce Wayne. Bruce sees Sarah Beth being kidnapped, and makes a lame excuse to his date before slipping out of the restaurant and into his Batman costume. Batman then swoops after the two hillbilly’s and scares the bajesus out of them.

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Batman then uses that fear to assault the hillbilly’s, jumping into their car and causing them to crash into a snow drift. He knocks out the two men, Aaron and Cletus, and then begins talking with Sarah Beth. She tells Batman that they’re her brothers, and they’re trying to take her back to her hometown because she’s been chosen for something. But, while Batman is distracted hearing the story one of the brothers sneaks up behind Batman, and smashes him over the head with the rifle. Batman is knocked out, and the brothers take Sarah Beth away. But Batman won’t give up. He overheard them mention a place called Ghost Mountain and Darkhill County, so when he gets back to the Batcave he and Alfred do some research, and find that Ghost Mountain is a community in the Appalachian Mountains.

Batman heads out to Darkhill County, and pretty quickly realizes that the people in the town have no interest in talking about the Tull family, most of the reacting like Batman asked about Castle Dracula in the Carpathian Mountains. But he eventually finds his way to the local sheriff, who is less than pleased to see the caped crusader. Sheriff Doppler is a rude man, covered in mud, and who has no interest in investigating the Tull’s. He explains that the Tull’s have liven on Ghost Mountain for generations, and they’re thought to be cursed. The people of the town give them a wide berth, and they live completely separate lives. However, the sheriff also wants no part in helping Batman. He’s had to traipse around the mountains all day looking for a still of contaminated moonshine, and he has no interest in dealing with the Tull’s too. So Batman has to head into the mountain on his own, only to find the Tull’s up to some nonsense.

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So, yeah, apparently the Tull’s believe that they’ve been cursed by an American Indian hex, and have been committing human sacrifices whenever this curse seems to flare up. And, after drawing lots they decided that Sarah Beth would be the next sacrifice whenever the curse returned. So, when one of Sarah Beth’s cousins died, seemingly from the curse, they sent Aaron and Cletus to bring Sarah Beth back to Ghost Mountain to sacrifice her. But Batman isn’t going to allow that to happen. He dives at the Tull’s, ready to save Sarah Beth. Granny Tull is alarmed by Batman’s appearance, but she orders her army of inbred progeny to attack him, while dragging Sarah Beth off to be tossed onto a bonfire. Batman’s then able to fight through all of the Tull’s, and goes to save Sarah Beth from the fire. Which is when the “curse” of Ghost Mountain appears.

And it’s a goddamn bear! It’s burnt and it’s scared, but it’s just a bear. Apparently this bear has been living on Ghost Mountain, and has been going around eating Tull’s for years, and because they were ignorant hill-folk they just assumed it was some mythical curse. So, once again, Batman begins to fight with the bear. He manages to scramble atop the bear, and then steers it into the fire, causing it to freak the hell out. The bear then dives off a cliff, and Batman sees it hide inside a cave. He starts to poke around in the cave, and finds something shocking. The still of contaminated moonshine that the sheriff was looking for, and the mud that was all over his boots. Turns out the sheriff found one of the Tull’s with the still and ended up accidentally killing him. And that was the one that they thought the curse killed. So it was all just an accident and a cover-up. But now Sarah Beth will be okay.

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As far as crazy issues of Detective Comics go, this one isn’t going to remain too memorable for me. I do enjoy stories when Batman has to leave Gotham City and go to unfamiliar places to fight crime, and having Batman head up into the Appalachian Mountains to fight an inbred family of hillbilly’s who fear an evil curse is certainly outside the norm of Gotham City. It’s just a shame that it’s a tad dull besides all of that. Seeing Batman fighting a bear will always be hilarious to me, but this issue just wasn’t interesting enough for a bear-fight to carry it. And I think a major problem was the ending. I’m still not sure I’ve figured it all out correctly, with who used the still, and how the bear was involved, but who knows, maybe I’m wrong. It’s just such a convoluted story for Batman saving a girl from her superstitious hillbilly brethren. Oh well, hopefully next week will be fun and spookier than the horror of moonshine and inbreeding.

 

“Ghost Mountain Midnight! “was written by Archie Goodwin, penciled by Sal Amendola, inked by Mike Giordano, and lettered by Ben Oda, 1974.

 

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