Bat Signal

Issue 320 – “The Mummy Crime-Fighters”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every single issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And folks, we have an absolute fever dream of an issue to talk about today. I’ve gotten used to some of these older issues being incredibly insane, but I really don’t think I’ve ever discussed an issue this off the wall before. And, you maybe would think that it would be insane, what with that cover. We’ve discussed issues about Batman and Robin travelling back in time to ancient Egypt, so you’d think that maybe their little mummy cosplay would be something like that, right? Well, buckle up folks, because this issue is going to take a hard turn into the world of crazy-town, and it’s not going to look back.

The issue begins with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson driving through the vast wilderness outside Gotham City, returning to town after some sort of vacation, when they spot an alien space-craft crash landing in a ditch in the woods. Like I told you, this is where we’re starting! Bruce and Dick of course decide to go peek at this strange craft, and just dive right into it, since the door to the ship flew off during the crash. Unfortunately, there’s no dead aliens inside. Instead there’s a broken robot pilot staring at a strange pulsating green orb. So, they of course start poking that orb! They’re the World’s Greatest Detectives! And, unfortunately this results in the orb exploding and dousing Dick and Bruce in a strange green radiation. Which, doesn’t really seem to phase them that much. They just pile back into their car and continue into Gotham City, talking about how weird that was, when they realize that there actually was a consequence for spelunking in alien vehicles. They turned green!

 

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Well, if that’s the worst that comes from exploding alien technology, I guess they should count themselves lucky. And, what’s more, they do stop by a doctor and confirm that they aren’t actually dying of some crazy alien radiation poisoning, they just turned green. Unfortunately, there’s one big problem with them being green. It’s going to be pretty weird when they go fight crime and the green shows through. Not a huge problem for Batman, but Robin shows a shocking amount of skin. And, what’s worse, the two richest people in Gotham turning green has become a bit of a news story, so this has really become a problem for their secret identities. And, what’s worse, for some reason their strange green skin won’t keep paint on, so they can’t use makeup to stay hidden.

So, logically, they decide to call Commissioner Gordon and tell him that he should ask Batman and Robin to investigate the alien craft. So that the city will know that they turned green too? Of course not, instead they arrive there and start flashing incredibly bight lights on themselves so that when the police arrive it looks like they’re glowing from some terrible radiation that they then inform the police will kill anyone who gets close to them, while not killing themselves. And, of course, the police buy this. So, now Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are famously green, and Batman and Robin are terribly irradiated. Which means they’re going to have to find some new way to fight crime and hide their green skin. And they do that by hiding their supposedly irradiated skin under bandages. Hence the mummies.

 

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That’s right, Batman and Robin are now running around looking like mummies so that they can safely be wrapped up in radiation-proof bandages. Which, were a thing? I can’t imagine they were, but that’s the same logic as Larry Trainor in Doom Patrol, and it’s such a weirdly specific thing I assume it has to be based on something. But, regardless, Batman and Robin are able to continue fighting crime, and in the process they draw the attention of Vicki Vale, who is constantly trying to prove that Batman and Robin are Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson. And, she thinks that this prove it, figuring that the strange bandages should prove things. But, when she gets to the Manor and finds that they’re green, she for some reason decides that that clears them, even though it does exactly the opposite of that.

Batman and Robin then continue fighting crime, with an added bit of terror now that everyone is convinced they’ll get radiation poisoning if the Dynamic Duo strip their bandages. Unfortunately, it also proves to be a huge liability, because while fighting some goons in a factor Batman ends up getting tangled in his bandages, getting trapped so that the goons can get the drop on him. But, Robin decides to use the big guns and rip his bandages off, at the same time activating the weird little light rig that they used on the cops earlier, so that the goons think they’re about to get all the cancer in the world. And, in the process, Vicki Vale is able to get even more suspicious. Weirdly, the next day Vicki is out walking the streets of Gotham and she ends up seeing Batman and Robin rescuing people from a flaming building, sans bandages. They happily talk to Vicki, showing off their normal skin. Which means that Vicki now has to speed to Wayne Manor and see how they’re doing. But, much to her shock, she finds Bruce and Dick still green, thus proving that they aren’t Batman and Robin. Except for, you know, green paint.

 

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What in the hell is with this issue? Like, I legitimately don’t think I’ve ever read a story like this. There’s no real conflict in it, no villain they’re trying to best, no case to work. It’s just a story about Batman and Robin accidentally dying themselves green, and then doing everything they possibly can to hide that fact from the public, knowing that it would expose them. Which, is like a plot from a comedy, not Detective Comics. And yet? I kind of loved it. It’s completely absurd, and no choices make any sense, but it’s kind of an enjoyable little romp. Why would Bruce and Dick just explore an alien ship? Why did they not make a bigger deal about said ship? Why didn’t they just change their costumes? Why did they concoct the whole glowing skin thing? Why mummies? Why is Vicki Vale so insane? No idea. None of it makes sense, but in a kind of beautiful way.

 

“The Mummy Crime-Fighters” was written by Dave Wood, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, inked by Charles Paris, and edited by Jack Schiff, 1963.

 

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