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 basically no context. And we have a fun one to discuss this week! As you can see from the title and the cover we’re getting another tale involving my favorite little manifestation of toxic fandom, Bat-Mite! In case you’re unfamiliar with the character, Bat-Mite is a magical being from another dimension who has vast reality-warping powers, and uses them to come to the DC Universe and pal around with Batman. Unfortunately, this usually takes the form of Bat-Mite making Batman’s life more complicated, because Bat-Mite isn’t satisfied with whatever exploits Batman’s currently accomplishing. He’s an insane character, his stories are hands down the weirdest of this time period, and I love him.
This story begins with Bat-Mite appearing back in the DC Universe from whatever strange dimension he calls home. He’s appeared in a small, abandoned mining town somewhere in the vast wilderness outside Gotham City, and has decided to transform the town into the setting for Batman’s ultimate triumph. Which, in this case, means Bat-Mite is going to use his powers to turn to the town into a mishmash of nonsense. There’s a castle, a pirate ship on land, a giant statue of Kali, and a giant fountain. But, the setting also requires some villains. So, Batman waits until Batman and Robin just so happen to come near the strange little village that Bat-Mite has created, while chasing some goons. Bat-Mite ends up helping the goons escape the Dynamic Duo, pointing them in the direction of his strange little hideout. And, once they’re there, he uses his powers to give them strange powers, figuring that Batman just beating up some regular guys wouldn’t be exciting out. He then turns invisible so he can watch the action play out.
The three men end up getting powers based loosely on circus performers. There’s Strongman with his superhuman strength, Rubberman who is essentially just the Elongated Man, and the Human Cannonball who has the ability to run really fast and break things. And, as they get used to their strange new powers, Batman and Robin arrive on the scene, more than a little confused. But, before they can really figure out what’s going on, the fight begins! Batman and Robin fight against the three newly super-powered crooks, and it immediately gets wacky. They try to escape onto the pirate ship, but the three villains keep using their powers to catch up, making it clear that this isn’t going to be an easy fight.
However, when Strongman almost gets the drop on Batman, Bat-Mite uses his powers to transform the light-pole that he was going to use to brain Batman with into a large flower, making Batman realize what’s going on. Unfortunately, before he can appeal to Bat-Mite’s sense of reason, the little imp ends up smashing his own head against the pirate ship, while bouncing up and down in excitement, and knocks himself out. This ends up being a real problem, because when he come to he finds that he’s no longer invisible and unable to use his powers. The three villains realize that Bat-Mite is the source of their powers, and decide to kill him so he can’t turn them back to ordinary men. Batman and Robin obviously aren’t fans on this idea, so they grab the weird little imp and try to escape, jumping into the Batmobile. But, before they escape, the Human Cannonball ends up wrecking the Batmobile, and knocking out heroes unconscious. The villains then toss Batman, Robin, and Bat-Mite into a large pit, and start filling it with water so that the trio dies and they’re free to commit superhuman larceny in Gotham City. Luckily, Batman thinks fast on his feet!
Batman ends up throwing Bat-Mite out of the pit, and relying on him to stop the flow of water and rescue himself and Robin. And, surprisingly, Bat-Mite is competent enough to do so. He saves the Dynamic Duo, and the three of them get to work tracking down the super-crooks and stopping them. And, luckily, they aren’t being very subtle. They almost immediately hear about the Strongman trying to rob a large factor that builds commercial aircraft, and they race off to stop him. They find the large man trying to steal the payroll, and get into a brawl with him. Batman obviously realizes that he can’t best the Strongman in a contest of brawn, so starts jumping around, trying to tire the man out. And, eventually, he’s able to put his back up against a large sheet of foam rubber, and ducks out of the way just in time for Strongman’s fist to bounce back and knock himself out. One down!
Next up they head to the Natural History Museum, where the Rubberman is trying to steal a collection of black pearls. Batman and Robin try to beat up Rubberman, but find that he expertly dodges all of their attacks, even knocking little Bat-Mite around in the fight. Until Batman is able to trick the man, tossing off an uppercut while the Rubberman is standing in a doorframe, so that when he stretches up to dodge his fist, his head smashes into the frame. Two down!
Which means they just need to take down the Human Cannonball. And it turns out that before he got his strange powers, the Cannonball was an expert art thief, and it just so happens that a Rembrandt is being shipped into Gotham that night. So, the trio race off to the docks, just in time to see the Cannonball preparing to leap into the ship, sinking it. Batman thinks fast and tips over a barrel of oil, causing the Cannonball to skid onto a different boat. Unfortunately, this one is carrying explosives, and they figure that if the Cannonball reaches it, they’ll all die. But, at the last moment, the Cannonball turns back into his normal self, and the day is saved. Bat-Mite’s powers are back! But, before they can celebrate too much, he ends up admitting that his powers came back during the fight with Rubberman, and he didn’t just use them then to stop all the ensuing chaos. So, with Batman irritated with him as usual, Bat-Mite pops back out of the DC Universe, leaving the Dynamic Duo frustrated and confused.
I love Bat-Mite. He’s just such an insane character, especially for Batman, but every story I’ve ever read with him has been a delight. I still think it makes no sense that they ended up giving almost all of the DC heroes their own weird little imps after Mr. Mxyzptlk showed up, but there’s just something about Bat-Mite that I adore. As I’ve said in previous articles about his issues, he’s kind of become a strange personification of the idea of toxic fandom. He claims to love Batman, and has devoted his entire life to his exploits, but whenever he shows up he just imposes his will on the Caped Crusader, demanding that his adventures be more like what he wants. He’s really no different that trolls of Twitter who spend their days shrieking at comics creators, telling them how they should write their own stories. Except Bat-Mite has weird reality-shaping powers to back up his narcissism. There’s obviously no way that Bill Finger could have predicted how prescient Bat-Mite would become, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s one of the most interesting characters from this time period. Plus, he just makes fun stories. I mean, he turned three random villains into supervillains, mostly for a lark, and then had to help Batman and Robin track them down. It’s a fun, silly little idea that ends up working out great, giving the team the chance to work with some exceptionally strange visuals and ideas, and I think it was a huge success.
“Bat-Mite’s Super-Circus!” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1962.
Categories: Bat Signal