Bat Signal

Issue 213 -“The Mysterious Mirror-Man!”

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Hello 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 we’re heading back to the 1950’s this week folks, and you know what that means! Another incredibly forgettable issue with a one-note villain who probably sprung from Bill Finger’s infamous “gimmick book,” without much thought put into him! Gotta love these types of issues. And, to really hammer how quintessentially how pre-Silver Age this comic is, we also get a story about someone really trying their hardest to figure out who Batman really is while succumbing to their insane criminal gimmicks. We’re checking off a lot of boxes this week folks, so let’s see if “The Mysterious Mirror Man!” is really all he’s cracked up to be. Mirror puns!

The issue begins, incredibly briefly, with Batman and Robin meeting a newspaper publisher named Mr. Weldon at a charity event for delinquent children where Batman agrees to write a special Op-Ed piece in exchange for a massive donation to the charity. This doesn’t matter until the end of the story though, so we immediately shift our focus to Gotham’s State Penetentary where a new inmate named Floyd Ventris is being brought into the medical clinic for a routine examination before being sent to his cell. And, in the process of the examination, Ventris ends up breaking a mirror in the room. He helps the doctor clean up the shards of glass, and slips one of them into his pocket, hoping to use it later. But, not as a shank or anything. No, he has something far more complicated in mind. Because that night Ventris is able to break out of prison, and when the guards in a watchtower focus a spotlight on him he’s able to use the shard to reflect the light back and blind them. Ventris succeeds in escaping the prison, and decides that since he owes his escape to mirrors, he’ll devote his life to them. You know, like a normal Gotham criminal.

 

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Ventris has now decided to call himself Mirror Man, and commit crimes that revolve around mirrors. A perfectly natural thing for a person to do. And, to introduce himself to the criminal world of Gotham, he’s devised an insane plan. Mirror Man has apparently invented some sort of mirror-based x-ray device that he plans on using on Batman so he can learn his secret identity and then extort him. It does seem to work, so their next step is to plan a crime that will lure Batman out into the open. And, sticking with the mirror theme, Mirror Man ends up setting up a giant mirror next to an outdoor carnival ice rink, melting it and ruining the days of all of the patrons.

Batman and Robin spot the disaster at the rink, while flying around in the Batplane, and divert their course to save the day. Thinking fast Batman releases a cloud of smog from the plane, which ends up blocking the light of the mirror, saving the day. He and Robin then swoop down and start fighting with Mirror Man and his goons, until Mirror Man takes the opportunity to flee into the carnival next to the skate rink. Batman gives chase, and ends up following Mirror Man into a house of mirrors, where Batman instantly gets discombobulated. Mirror Man then pulls out his special device, and prepares to reveal Batman’s identity, until Robin comes bumbling in and ruin is. Mirror Man then flees, hoping to prepare another scheme. So, Batman and Robin get to work researching a possible next crime for Mirror Man to commit, and since Gotham City is the craziest place on Earth, they find the most logical option.

 

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Apparently a very expensive and rare mirror was being sent to Gotham’s observatory, and the Mirror Man has come to steal it. Batman and Robin arrive just as the men are leaving with the mirror, and give chase, resulting in Mirror Man releasing the giant mirror so that it rolls away. Robin chases the mirror down, saving it from shattering, and Batman continues to race after them, before seeing a pair of headlight bear down on him. He swerves off the road, only to find that it was actually a cleverly placed mirror reflecting his own lights. Mirror Man and his goons then spring into action, and start beating him up, before using the special device to snag a picture of Bruce Wayne. Bruce spots the trick though, and realizes that Mirror Man is going to try and extort him, and plots some revenge.

The next day Mirror Man announces to his goons that Batman is actually Bruce Wayne. And they laugh in his face. Because it just so happens that Batman used his Op-Ed to talk about how ridiculous it is that some people think he’s Bruce Wayne. Not at all suspicious! So, to regain his dignity, Mirror Man decides to publicly shame Batman by planning another heist, this time at a televised event where some Gotham glass artisans are creating the world’s largest mirror. Batman of course swoops in to stop Mirror Man, and he uses his device to reveal his face before the televised crowd. And, oddly enough, the face that the device creates is a weird monstrosity. Mirror Master is very confused, and Batman is quickly able to knock him out. We then learn that Batman built some insane mirror-mask that he wore under his real mask all to trick Mirror Man.

 

 

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This issue really isn’t anything special, but it’s a decent example of what this era of comics was producing. I’ve talked about this before, but the possibly apocryphal story is that long-time Batman writer Bill Finger kept a book of weird gimmicks that he felt would make for fun and goofy villains. Most of them were used once and then never again, and were instantly forgotten to the sands of time. Which isn’t exactly what happened to Mirror Man, since he popped up a handful more times, but he might as well be. He’s just a boring little character, and he made for a somewhat boring story. It’s always amusing to see how utterly insane Gotham City is, and how many bizarre things that they toss into the city to make the gimmicks work, like having three separate mirror-based events in a week, but it doesn’t really change the fact that not much happens in it. It’s surprising to say, but his guy is no Mirror Master.

 

 

“The Mysterious Mirror Man!” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1954.

 

 

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