Bat Signal

Issue 352 – “Batman’s Crime-Hunt a Go-Go!”

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Hello 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 basically no context. And we have a very odd little story to discuss this week, folks. I’ve made it clear on this site that over the years I’ve become quite a fan of the Adam West Batman series that began in 1966, and this week we’re going to be talking about a comic that came from the same year. I was pretty curious to see what was going on in the world of Batman while that show was capturing the zeitgeist, curious to see if the comics of that time influenced the show, or if the show influenced the comics. And, while this issue certainly wasn’t what I was expecting, it sure was interesting!

The issue begins with Batman and Robin hopping into the Batmobile to begin their nightly patrol of Gotham City. But, while they driving around the streets of Gotham, Batman suddenly begins accelerating wildly, driving as if he’s responding to a call, even though Robin confirms that they didn’t get any notice from Commissioner Gordon about a crime. However, sure enough, the Dynamic Duo end up encountering a few gangsters who are robbing a jewelry store, so they leap from the Batmobile, slide over the gangster’s car like they’re the goddamn Dukes of Hazard, and beat the criminals up. It’s a job well done, but both Batman and Robin are a little confused about how it happened. They head back to the Batcave, and Batman guesses that he must have just had a lucky hunch. Although he immediately decides that that was bullshit, so who knows.

 

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Bruce decides to push this weird event out of his mind, but it doesn’t go very well. Because the next night he gets another bizarre hunch, and ends up driving himself and Robin straight to another crime, this time a couple of goons robbing the box office of a movie theater. It’s a pretty standard crime, and Batman and Robin are able to break it up pretty quickly, but it’s still incredibly strange that it’s the second time in two nights that Batman received these strange premonitions. They’re both quite perplexed by this sudden psychic ability Batman seems to have developed, but they’re also not looking a gift-horse in the mouth, figuring that if this makes their jobs easier they should be pleased.

And, sure enough, the next night arrives and Batman gets another hunch. He drives Robin across town, feeling that a crime is about to occur on a bridge. But, when they get there, nothing happens. They’re pretty dejected about this, but then get word that a bank has just been robbed, near where Batman first got the hunch. The thieves have completely gotten away, with over a million dollars no less, and there’s no clues. This really bothers Batman, especially the fact that the mysterious hunch came so close to the scene of the crime, and he and Robin begin getting suspicious. They hypothesize that some criminal has somehow found a way to influence Batman’s thoughts, and pointed him in the right direction twice only to trick them the third time. So, Batman and Robin figure that they’d go check out the area around the bank, seeing if they can find evidence of the mental influence. But, all they find is a very specific match atop the roof of one of the buildings. It’s from a club called the Black Cat, and Batman figures that the criminal may be associated with the club, and heads over that night as Bruce.

 

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Bruce and his date then enter the Black Cat, only to find that there’s a very strange bit of entertainment. A mentalist called Mr. Esper is there, reading people’s minds. Bruce quickly starts wondering if this person could be behind the strange hunches that have been beamed into his head. Bruce decides that he’s going to mess with the mentalist, after smugly explaining how mentalism is all a trick to his uninterested date. And, once he’s done mansplaining, Bruce offers to write something down for Esper to guess, knowing that it’s all a trick that Esper’s assistant helps him with. Bruce then gives Esper a string of numbers, and after stumbling over some of the numbers, he aces it.

The next day as Esper and his assistant are in their office, counting the haul from both their gig at the club and the bank robbery. They’re planning on fleeing Gotham that night, but before they can Batman and Robin come racing in to stop them. Robin takes care of the assistant, leaving Mr. Esper for Batman. The two start beating each other up, until Esper ends up whipping a gun out of his sleeve using a spring-loaded contraption. But, Batman’s able to defeat him through weaponized fifty-two pickup, and is able to suckerpunch Esper, ending his crime spree. The police arrive to arrest Esper, and we then get two solid pages of explaining what the hell has happened. Esper apparently used a miniature megaphone to project suggestions into Batman’s head, using subliminal influence, and tricked Batman into thinking he was getting psychic hunches. The number that Batman gave Esper was the amount he stole from the bank, and when he stumbled he knew Esper was behind it all.

 

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As I intimated up top, this story was not exactly what I was expecting. Especially with a title like the one we got. I was thinking we were going to get a very campy Batman story, one that lined up with the stuff going on in the Batman show. Instead we got an incredibly odd little story about Batman dealing with potential psychic assault. The whole mentalist thing is actually pretty fun, I just think that the central conceit, that Batman is getting subliminal messages from a tiny megaphone is a little strange. I like the concept of Batman being subliminally controlled, but the sonic whispers was just a bridge too far. Besides that though, it’s a pretty fun little issue of comics. It’s got a legitimate mystery, some real detective work, and plenty of silly action. Kind of everything I need from a random issue of Detective Comics. 

 

“Batman’s Crime-Hunt a Go-Go!” was written by John Broome, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, inked by Joe Giella, and lettered by Gaspar Saladino, 1966.

 

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