Howdy everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with very little context. And we have a very fun and very silly story to discuss today, folks. I mean, look at that cover! We’ve obviously learned the hard way by this point that the covers of Detective Comics can often be a crapshoot when it comes to validity, but I’m glad to tell you that the above scene more or less actually occurs in this issue. And it’s nuts. I’m always on board for stories so weird that they decide to toss an exclamation point into the title, and this one certainly earns that drama. I’m sure you’re wondering why Batman is leaving Gotham city in tatters, so let’s get right down to it!
The issue begins with a rather bland little accountant named Edgar Peters walking through the streets of Gotham, returning to his office after a lunch. And, as he’s walking he begins to notice something odd. People keep bumping into him, and giving him shitty looks. He’s not sure what to make of it, and it eventually begins escalating when several strangers begin yelling at him, telling Edgar that they hate him and trying to physically attack him. He runs past the attackers, and ends up almost getting hit by some cars that are swerving off the road to hit him. Edgar’s able to just barely escape death, and is brought to a hospital where doctors are flummoxed. Especially because this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There’s apparently been a rash of random Gotham citizens being attacked on the street for no reason, and that obviously draws the attention of Batman and Robin. They start investigating, and Batman finds a very strange correlation between the victims.
Yeah, it turns out that these people who have been randomly attacked all went to the same restaurant for lunch. So, they decide to investigate this Golden Roost restaurant, and head on over as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, out for a little lunch. They get to the restaurant, and find that it’s extremely normal. They have a decent meal, and seem at a loss for how this connection applies. But, before they can really puzzle over it, Bruce notices that the Bat Signal has been lit, and he runs to a payphone to call Commissioner Gordon and see what’s going on.
It turns out that a couple of criminals that Batman and Robin have been looking for have just been spotted in a suburb outside Gotham City, so Bruce and Dick give up on their investigation of the Golden Roost and head out to fight crime. They put on their costumes and head out to the suburb. They aren’t quite sure where the criminals are going to be hiding, but luckily they just start randomly firing their guns out of an apartment complex at Batman, drawing their attention pretty easily. So, the Dynamic Duo start attacking the criminals, when something odd happens. All of the sudden Robin stops fighting the criminals, and attacks Batman. And he’s not the only one. The entire population of the apartment complex comes flooding out and starts beating up Batman, leaving him a battered wreck. He then shambled away from the crowd, to a neighboring community.
When Batman gets there he finds that the people have no interest in harming him, and he deduces that whatever has happened has worn off. And this is confirmed when he meets back up with Robin, who has no memory of the attack. Batman starts thinking about this, and remembers that the coffee at the Golden Roost had a strange taste to it, and thinks that that may be the key. So, posing as a food inspector, Bruce heads back to the Golden Roost and begins investigating their kitchen. He starts looking for the distinctive smell that the coffee has, and eventually finds it emitting from from one of the waiters. So, Bruce flags the waiter, and has Robin (who is posing as a paperboy) follow him. And, sure enough, he does something suspicious.
The waiter heads into an art gallery, and quickly walks into a back room, which draws Batman and Robin’s attention. And when they see two suspicious operatives also enter the back room, they know something is up. So, they storm inside, and discover that the two men are Russian spies who are buying some mysterious pills from the waiter, who promises them that he’s experimented with them, and they’re legitimate. Batman and Robin start fighting with the spies and the waiter, and are quickly able to beat them all up. They even get to use some art supplies to beat up the criminals, which is probably a bonus for them. And, after dealing with the spies, they bring the pills and the information to the government. The FBI informs them that these pills were created by the US government, and they induce intense hatred towards whoever ingests them. The FBI promises they would never have used these pills, but clearly the spies stole them and the waiter tested them on the patrons of the Golden Roost. So, with the pills returned, Batman is lauded as a hero by the mayor of Gotham, and he gets to forget why the FBI had rage-inducing pills.
What an incredibly strange issue of comics. But, one that I really found my self having a great time with. It’s the kind of story that I find myself hoping to come across during this project, one that’s full of good old fashioned detection work. I love seeing a story where Batman and Robin come across a legitimate mystery and then start puzzling out the answer, following leads, and earning the title of the World’s Greatest Detective. Yeah, the whole concept of the hate-pills is completely ridiculous, but it’s also the type of gimmick that I could see a regular Batman rogue pulling off. If the Scarecrow can inspire fear in people I guess I can buy hate-inducing pills. What I kind of can’t buy is the idea that the government would make hate-pills and then not plan on using them. I mean, if you know anything about the incredibly shady shit that the American government has created, and then tested on its own citizens you can kind of get the feeling that they’re rushing Batman out the door and giving him a medal so that he won’t stick his nose into the weird trials that they’re probably still doing with these pills. But, that’s getting a tad beside the point. All that really matters is that this is a really fun issue of Detective Comics with some solid detection in it, and that’s something to celebrate.
“The Fallen Idol of Gotham City!” was written by John Broome, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Joe Giella, 1964.
Categories: Bat Signal