Bat Signal

Issue 355 – “Hate of the Hooded Hangman!”

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Hey everyone, and welcome back for another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing quest to read every issue of Detective Comics in random order and with basically no context. And boy, do I have a wacky issue to share with you all today! We’re taking a trip back to the Silver Age today, the time period when comics were possibly at their most wacky, to talk about a time when Batman had to deal with the strangest, most mysterious type of people in the world. Professional wrestlers! That’s right, Batman’s going to tussle with a masked wrestler this week. So buckle up, because things are going to be getting really weird today. But, if you’ve ever wanted to see Batman cockily challenge a wrestler to a fight for honor, I’ve got you covered today.

The issue begins by establishing that Gotham is currently fascinated with the exploits of a very successful and mysterious wrestler known as the Hooded Hangman. He’s a total heel, and his whole gimmick is that no one knows who he is. Every night wrestlers challenge him with the understanding that if they win they get to unmask the Hangman. But, every night, he wins. On this night he’s sparring against a wrestler who calls himself the Arizona Apache, which allows the people of Gotham to yell some racist crap at the ring. And, two of those Gothamites are Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, who apparently just go watch wrestling on their nights off, which is kind of hilarious. They get really invested in the mystery of the Hooded Hangman’s identity, but unfortunately they don’t receive an answer. The Hangman is able to beat the Arizona Apache, using some shady techniques, and gets to continue his undefeated and masked reign. Everyone’s pretty saddened by this, especially Dick, who floats the idea that Batman and he should investigate the mystery and just totally narc on this guy. And, Batman’s kind of into it.

 

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However, Bruce does put forward the caveat that they should only puzzle out the Hangman’s identity in their spare time, not when they’re working. And, speaking of working, Robin is having to sit out their patrol that night, because he’s behind on schoolwork. So, Batman hits the streets of Gotham solo that night, looking for some crimes to stop. And, in the process, he hears a burglar alarm going off, and speeds over to see what’s going on. And what he finds is a little shocking. It appears that the Hooded Hangman is fleeing the scene of the robbery. Batman’s dealt with enough masked criminals to be wary of this, so he charges in, assuming that the Hangman is responsible. The Hangman proclaims his innocence, but also doesn’t want to deal with Batman. So, the two start fighting, and the Hangman actually gains the upper-hand pretty quickly. He knocks Batman out, and is about to pull his mask off when he hears a police siren, and flees the scene.

The next morning Bruce fills Dick in on the events of the previous evening, and they agree that it’s certainly strange. But, it gets stranger. Because Bruce then learns that the Hangman actually had nothing to do with the robbery. The police have found the guilty party, and the Hangman apparently was just an innocent bystander. But Bruce is still curious about the way the man reacted, and decides to go out that night to specifically find the Hooded Hangman. And, he’s in luck! Because almost as soon as he sets out that night he hears a voice calling out for help, and sure enough finds the Hooded Hangman. The man claims to have also heard the voice, and is wanting to help, but Batman doesn’t trust him, and tries to arrest him again. And, we know how that works. Not well! The Hooded Hangman beats Batman up again, and then flees through a door, which he locks behind him, foiling the World’s Greatest Detective.

 

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The next morning Bruce fills Dick in one his latest humiliation, and they continue to ponder about the identity of the Hooded Hangman. Batman’s now convinced that there actually wasn’t anyone in danger the previous night, and that it was just the Hangman screwing with him. They just don’t understand why. And, they figure the only way they’re going to figure this out is if they solve the identity of the Hangman. And, as luck would have it, as they speak Bruce realizes he recognizes the voice of the Hangman. It’s from a local news-anchor who is reporting on the television, Telman Davies. Bruce is sure that it’s the same man, and even confirms that he has a bruise in the same spot Bruce punched the night before. So, they know the Hangman’s identity, now they just need to figure out how to bring him to justice. And they have a wacky idea.

That night Bruce suits up in his Batman costume, and heads downtown to the same arena where the Hangman has been wrestling. He walks right up to the ring, and sits down on a chair, just waiting for the Hangman to notice him. And, when he does, the Hangman realizes that Batman’s here for a fight. But, the Hangman doesn’t want to do it in front of everyone, for some reason. So, the two head up to the roof of the arena, and start beating each other up. And, as usual, the Hangman gets the upper-hand, and knocks Batman to the ground. He then pulls off Batman’s mask, and reveals his identity to the crowd of people. And it’s Telman Davies! This throws the Hangman off, since he’s actually Telman Davies, and in that moment of confusion Batman knocks the man out, and pulls his mask off. The gathered masses are very confused. Batman then flees, and we learn that the whole reason for this was because Davies wanted to become a masked villain, and wanted Batman out of his way. But, now that Davies has been unmasked, he’s been fired from his job, and has sworn to get revenge on Batman. So, not exactly a great job, Batman.

 

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This story is so incredibly strange. And I love it. The idea of Batman getting involved in the world of professional wrestling is fantastic on its own, but to then have a wrestler have a frankly baffling vendetta against the Caped Crusader manages to push this story into the realm of the absolutely delightful. It makes no sense why the Hooded Hangman really felt the need to take Batman out in such a strange way, but it’s really enjoyable. So’s the fact that Batman, a guy who has been trained by the greatest fighters in the world, can so easily be bested by a TV anchor who is also secretly a wrestler. Batman needs a refund from the League of Assassins. It’s not an overly great story, and it doesn’t really feature any satisfying detection, but Batman gets into a feud with a wrestling heel, so that’s fun.

 

“Hate of the Hooded Hangman” was written by John Broome, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, inked by Joe Giella, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino, 1966.

 

 

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