Bat Signal

Issue 197 – “The League Against Batman”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my seemingly never-ended quest to read every single issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And, we have a very goofy issue to talk about today folks. Does it actually feature Batman and Robin gleefully pelting a random gangster with a bunch of toy Batmobiles? Well, sadly, no, this is yet another issue of Detective Comics where the cover is little more than a tease to buy the issue, not really any sort of real indication of what’s going to be inside. But, it still leads to a pretty fun little story featuring some wonderfully weird nonsense.

The issue begins in some sort of Batman-themed novelty store, chock full of memorabilia featuring the Dynamic Duo. And, invading that den of geekery is a bunch of costumed criminals, including a man in a hood who makes it very clear that his names the Wrecker, and he hates Batman. He and his men take out sledgehammers and start tearing the place apart, destroying as much property as possible before fleeing into the night. And, this was just the opening salvo in a new war on the Dark Knight, because the next day the Wrecker and his men go racing into a television studio so that they can get on live television, so he can announce his staggering hatred of Batman, and his desire to destroy anything and anyone propagating Batman’s myth. All because he apparently is the sibling of three brothers who were executed thanks to Batman capturing them.

 

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Batman and Robin hear the word about the Wrecker’s personal war on them, and decide to start investigating. Which, weirdly takes them to the television studio, where they’re shocked he’s already gone. So, they instead go visit Commissioner Gordon who has been crafting a list of the various people and things that obsess over Batman and Robin. They then take that list, and begin trying to figure out who could possibly have had three brothers that were executed thanks to them. And, weirdly, they come up with two possibilities, Skip Denton and Cal Flint. But, before they can begin looking into these two men they get a call that a local author named Dwight Forrow who has recently written a book about Batman and Robin has gotten a threatening letter, seemingly from the Wrecker.

Batman and Robin promise Forrow that they’ll find the Wrecker before he gets attacked, and they head off to follow up their next lead. Because the letter that Forrow was sent used a cut-up newspaper article about a local sculptor who is currently making a giant bronze statue of Batman and Robin. So, the Dynamic Duo race down to the sculptor’s workshop, and find the Wrecker and his men destroying everything with their sledgehammers again. But, when they see the Dynamic Duo they flee, so Batman gives chase, scaling one of the statues to try and follow them. Unfortunately, the goons get ready to drop one of the massive statues onto the sculptor, so Batman gives up his chase to rescue the man, resulting in them getting captured by the Wrecker and his men. They are then placed in a giant kiln to be killed.

 

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Batman and Robin are able to escape from the giant kiln after using an internal thermostat to turn the heat down so they aren’t roasted alive, and then use the coils to launch giant hunks of bronze at the door to free themselves. You know, like you do. But, while they’re busy escaping giant ovens, things aren’t going well for Forrow. He has convinced his police bodyguards to go golfing at a country club with him and his brother, and in the process they get mugged by the Wrecker and his men, who then take Forrow away, seemingly to kill him. Everyone is pretty furious at the cops for letting their guards down, but they do get a bit of confirmation on the identity of the Wrecker. Because it turns out that one of their possible suspects for the Wrecker just so happens to work at the country club that Forrow had been golfing at.

Batman and Robin then begin looking for Skip Denton, who they think is actually the Wrecker, all while the Wrecker continues his spree of anti-Batman crimes. Eventually though Batman gets a hunch, after seeing that a man who has previously made Batman and Robin movies is in town filming some sort of sci-fi flick. So, the Duo head down to the movie studio, and check out his new film, which features a functioning rocket ship for some reason. But, while Batman and Robin are investigating they end up getting jumped by the Wrecker and his men, who were dressed up in space-suits. The Wrecker’s henchmen then drag Batman and Robin and toss them onto the rocketship and blast them into space. But, as you might have guessed, this isn’t actually what happened. Apparently Batman and Robin were able to switch places with some of the goons, and are thus able to get the jump on Wrecker. But before Batman can arrest him, he gets cracked on the head by a falling beam, and the dastardly Wrecker gets away. However, this doesn’t end up mattering, because Batman was secretly filming that encounter, and got the proof he needed to find out who the Wrecker actually is. And, in a shocking turn of events, it’s actually Dwight Forrow. Because he did this whole thing, planned this elaborate Wrecker thing just to justify his fake death so he can get an insurance payout and flee to Mexico with his brother. Which, is so elaborate that we get to have another issue ending with detailed charts!

 

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This is a generally fine issue of comics. I really do like the idea of a weird villain deciding to swear a vendetta against Batman and Robin, and then going on a crime spree specifically to destroy their reputation. It’s a great idea, and one I haven’t seen done before. But, there’s certainly one strange element to the comic that really drags down for me, because I kind of can’t believe that the Random Number Generator Gods have decided to punish me by giving me two issues in a row that have to end with a wall of text while Batman explains to Robin and the reader what in the world happened. I mean, I guess this plan of Forrow’s makes sense, albeit in an incredibly elaborate and needlessly round-about way, and maybe it didn’t require a freaking PowerPoint to explain. Or, hey, maybe cut out the whole sculptor plot and give that revelation room to breathe? I don’t know, it certainly seems like Batman writers at the time had to jam as much plot as humanely possible into these simple twelve pages, so I guess you can’t sacrifice insane set-pieces to make a sensible plot. But, whatever, it’s a fine issue. Nothing overly special, just a standard unit of Batman comic.

 

“The League Against Batman” was written by David Vern Reed, penciled by Dick Sprang, inked by Charles Paris, and edited by Jack Schiff, 1953.

 

 

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