Bat Signal

Issue 251 – “The Alien Batman”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project wherein I’m trying to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And we have something very special to talk about today, folks. It’s been a while since we’ve discussed one of the weirdest types of Batman stories here on the site, and the Random Number Generator Gods have smiled upon us today. Because we get to talk about and weird world of 1950’s sci-fi Batman stories! It’s been quite a while since we’ve seen a story from this incredibly odd period of comics, so in case you’re unaware, the 1950’s were a strange time for comic books superheroes. Post-War people really weren’t sure what to do with these larger than life heroes, and DC finally seemed to strike gold when they started introducing new, more sci-fi versions of the characters they’d established in the Golden Age. Gone were the characters powered by magic and in were the characters who got their powers from science, aliens, or anything else you might see in a drive-in movie. But, that left Batman the odd-man out. He can’t really fly around and fight aliens. So, they brought the aliens to Batman! Especially in this story, as you can tell from the cover.

The story begins in Gotham City Airport where two air-traffic control men are looking at radar and noticing a large ship of some kind of landing in the outskirts of Gotham. They assume isn’t smugglers or something, and call up the police, who agree with that assessment. So, several police officers, including Commissioner Gordon, hop in a car and drive off to the field where the ship has landed, catching the attention of photojournalist Vicki Vale in the process. The group then arrive at the field, and find a large alien spaceship instead of smugglers. And, to make matters even stranger, they see two aliens talking in the field, and one of them appears to be dressed as Batman. Vicki is able to get a picture of the aliens, and when the flash goes off they start to panic. The one dressed as Batman flees into the woods, and the other one gets into the ship and flies off, leaving everyone with one burning question. Is Batman an alien?

 

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And, to get to the bottom of that story, they call Batman into the station and show him the picture. He’s obviously a little confused about this all, but knows that he  can’t just take his mask off and show them he’s not an alien, because then everyone would know his identity. So, he offers a weird alternative. He lets a doctor come and test his blood, showing that he’s human. Which doesn’t work! The tests come back showing some strange elements in Batman’s blood, further pointing to the idea that he’s an alien. And, spurred on by those results, everyone around Batman starts remembering times that he did weird things that maybe could point to his extraterrestrial nature. Including a random beat cop who remembers a time he saw Batman save a man from some live electrical wires, not realizing Batman just had rubber insulation in his costume to save himself from the current.

Batman and Robin then head to Batcave to talk. They realize that Batman’s blood sample must have been tampered with, and decide that someone is out there in Gotham specifically trying to mess with him. And he’s right! Apparently there’s a special effects wiz named Brand Ballard who has concocted this whole plan to turn the public against Batman. He and his partner were the “aliens” and they made a specially designed helicopter to be the alien craft. They then give word to the local mob bosses that the public will soon start distrusting Batman, making it easier to extort them since they won’t go running to him for help. Which works rather well. Batman and Robin travel all around Gotham, trying to get leads, and people just get scared of them, and remember weird things they’ve done in the past.

 

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Eventually though, Batman and Robin finally figure out roughly what’s going on. They learn about the rise in scams and “protection rackets” going on in Gotham, and figure out that someone has planned this whole hoax just to discredit Batman. So, they start stalking some local criminals, and track down a pair of shake-down artists. Batman then leaps into their hideout, takes off his mask, and reveals his alien face. The gangsters become terrified, thinking that Ballard’s hoax was actually real. But, as you might have guessed, Batman has just created a fake mask to wear based off of Ballard’s alien disguise, tricking the idiot criminals of Gotham City. And, in the process, he learns about Ballard, and after some cursory research, figures out who Brand Ballard is, and where he’s hiding out.

So, Batman and Robin arrive at the farmhouse where Ballard and his partner are hiding out with their fake spaceship, and they get ready to fight. Along the way they got the attention of Commissioner Gordon who followed the Dynamic Duo to the farm with a bunch of cops, just in time to see the supposedly alien Batman beat up Ballard and his henchman. The two then explain everything to the police, and Batman shows them how the spaceship is actually just a modified helicopter, explaining everything. Batman even somehow figures out how Ballard managed to fake the blood test, which seems a little spurious, but whatever, I’m not the world’s greatest detective.

 

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So, yeah, this issue is a little bit of a tease. It didn’t actually revolve around some aliens showing up in Gotham City, just a couple of assholes who put on alien costumes and tricked the rubes of Gotham. Which is a shame, because we’ve definitely talked about stories so far during this project that featured for real aliens showing up to mess with Batman and Robin, which is kind of what I was hoping would happen this week. But, as it stands, this is still a pretty fun little issue. Primarily because we get some insight into the people of Gotham City, who spend each day wondering how Batman could possibly be so amazing. All issue people were spending time thinking about some insane thing they saw Batman do, and realize that it makes more sense if Batman were an alien. Because he’s just that amazing. And I kind of love that. Batman’s amazing at everything he attempts to do, to the point where he shouldn’t even be a human.

 

“The Alien Batman” was written by Edmond Hamilton, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, and inked by Charles Paris, 1958.

 

 

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