Bat Signal

Issue 358 – “The Circle of Terror!”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and will very little context. And, today is a special entry into Bat Signal, because this is the hundredth issue of Detective Comics that I’ve discussed. It’s a pretty momentous occasion. And one that’s kind of undermined by the fact that today we’ll be discussing an incredibly forgettable story featuring Batman squaring off against a supervillain whose whole gimmick is that he makes people dizzy. That, and an obsession with Op Art, something that I had to look up because I just assumed that the writer, John Broome, didn’t quite understand what Pop Art was. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get into the issue and talk about this cartwheeling supervillain.

The issue starts off at the end of a heist with two crooks exiting an antique store with a collection of rare coins. And they’re accompanied by their boss, a man calling himself Spellbinder, the man in that heinous outfit up on the cover. Spellbinder and his goons are running from the scene of the crime, only to run straight into Batman and Robin who are out on their nightly patrols. Batman and Robin jump out of the Batmobile and easily knock out the two goons, leaving only Spellbinder. Batman assumes that this will make for a simple fight, until Spellbinder start cartwheeling around the Dynamic Duo. Batman and Robin are pretty confused by this tactic, but the bizarre pattern of Spellbinder’s costume ends up creating a hypnotic effect, and Batman is instantly put in a trance. And, before he knows what hit him, he suddenly finds himself looking over a famous clock-tower in Gotham, which is being used as a hide-out for some thieves.

 

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Batman doesn’t really think much of this bizarre series of events, and just leaps over to the clock tower and begins fighting a group of criminals who just kind of materialize out of nowhere. Batman does his best to beat up the criminals, but nothing he does seems to work, and none of his punches land, so the criminals quickly overpower him, and prepare to throw him off of the clock tower. And, while he’s having this fantasy we see that Batman is just standing in the street, paralyzed with fear while Robin is dealing with Spellbinder and his men. Robin’s pretty worried about Batman acting this way, and goes to grab his partner’s shoulders. Which was a bad call, because Batman is still in his fantasy, and when Robin grabs him he falls off the clock tower and begins to fall to his death. But, Batman wakes up before he hits the ground, and finds himself sprawled out on the street. He’s rather confused by this, and so is Robin, especially since Spellbinder and his men have fled while Robin had to deal with Batman.

The next day the Dynamic Duo head over to a police doctor, just to get Batman checked out. He tells them that it was just hypnotism, but that there are some cases of people dying in hypnotic states. So, Batman and Robin need to be extra-careful when dealing with Spellbinder in the future. But, they also have to stop him. Batman then decides that there’s only two fences in town that could possibly buy the coins, so he goes to one and Robin goes to the other. And, as luck would have it, Batman ends up going to the fence that Spellbinder and his men are at. The finish selling the coins, and then walk outside only to run into Batman. But, Spellbinder has another trick up his sleeve, and he pulls out a small pinwheel that instantly hypnotizes Batman again. And, this time, he’s thrown into an incredibly exciting predicament.

 

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Batman finds himself landing his Batcopter onto a train in order to fight with some gangsters. He finds the gangsters waiting for him, and they immediately start to do battle while the train hurdles down the tracks. Unfortunately, when they’re on a bridge they manage to toss Batman off the train, forcing him to plummet down into a whirlpool. Batman’s spun around rapidly until Robin finds him just spinning in circles in the street, and drags him out of the fantasy. And Batman’s not pleased. This is twice that such a lame villain has gotten the best of Batman, and he’s not going to take it anymore. Unfortunately, they still haven’t really come up with a way to stop Spellbinder, so Batman’s just hoping that he won’t fall victim to the hypnotism again.

The next night though, Spellbinder decides it’s time to take down Batman once and for all. So, he fires a giant firework into the skies of Gotham, signaling Batman and Robin right to his location. But, when the Dynamic Duo arrive another firework is launched, and it begins to spin in a rhythmic manner that puts Batman into yet another trance. This time he’s at a circus being attacked by sideshow performers who are getting ready to beat Batman up and toss him in some sort of spinning cylinder. But, as Batman takes stock of this hallucination, he makes a realization. Each vision has had something spinning clockwise. The clock, the whirlpool, and now this cylinder. So, Batman runs away from the carnival people and pulls on a lever that changes the direction of the spinning cylinder. And, for whatever reason, this brings Batman out of the hallucination easily, and he and Robin are able to immediately take down Spellbinder and his men, since he’s not exactly a formidable foe. They arrest the men, Batman tosses out some completely superfluous backstory for Spellbinder, and we end on a goofy gag involving Alfred and Aunt Harriet. The End!

 

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Well, there we go. The hundredth installment of Bat Signal! And boy was it kind of a letdown. I never want to fudge this project and actively pick which issue I’ll be discussing each week, but I do kind of feel like maybe I could have made an exception for the hundredth comic. Because boy is this one just a bunch of nothing. Spellbinder is an utterly ridiculous villain, and one that just reeks of being a rejected premise from Bill Finger’s infamous gimmick book, and the whole idea of having Batman continuously tossed into ridiculous hypnotic visions got a tad silly. Honestly, the visions themselves were kind of fun, but having Batman somehow get hypnotized three times in the course of one single story got tedious. I guess when I’m reading about Batman and hypnotism I at least expect them to travel through time as a result. Oh well, here’s to the next hundred issues!

 

“The Circle of Terror!” was written by John Broome, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, inked by Joe Giella, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino, 1966.

 

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Yikes

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