Bat Signal

Issue 278 – “The Man Who Became a Giant”

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Hello everyone, and welcome back for yet another exciting installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending mission to read every issue of Detective Comics ever published, in random order, and with basically no context. And, folks, today we get to do something that almost never happens. We get to talk about an issue of Batman that features and absolutely insane cover, and then a story that actually correlates to it. Which, I really wasn’t anticipating. Because, when my random number generator gave me this issue, and I first saw that cover, I had to assume that it was leading me astray. Because that is one of the more fantastic cover we’ve ever seen during this project. But, lo and behold, we actually get an entire story with Batman and Robin dealing with a quarrelsome giant wearing tighty-whiteys and a poorly fitting shirt. And it’s wild.

The issue begins by introducing us to a man named Steve Condon, and then throws us through a very accelerated couple days in his life. See, Steve is a scientist, and has become something of an expert in hormones, specifically those that increase human “vitality.” This has drawn the attention of a man known as Professor Simms, who invites Steve to work with him, combing their research. Which is great news to Steve. He begins working hard with Simms, while also also spending time with his fiancee Laura, because now that he has a good job they can get married soon. But, one hapless night as he and Laura are returning home after dinner, Steve starts to feel strange. His head gets woozy, and as he struggles to drive, he suddenly rips the steering wheel right off his car. This causes their car to go out of control, racing down the streets of Gotham, until they’re saved by Batman and Robin who use the Batmobile to slow them down. And, once they’re safely stopped, Steve starts talking to them about the weird thing that just happened, right as he begins to transform right before their eyes.

 

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This issue promised giants, and it is delivering on giant so quickly. So, yeah, Steve has suddenly become a giant monster, which means Batman has to race him to the hospital. And, once there, the doctors just kind of stand back and watch in horror as Steve continues to grow, topping out at around twelve feet tall, which is when they fit him with some stretchy clothes, basically just a shirt and diaper. Batman promises Steve that he’ll find a cure for him, and then he and Robin return to Wayne Manor and just go about their lives. Until they see a news broadcast about Steve, and realize that now all of Gotham knows about him. Which, of course leads to a sketchy circus promoter arriving at the hospital, attempting to convince Steve to join his freak show.

This causes Steve to fly into a rage, and he ends up fleeing from the hospital, deciding that he is now a freak, and unworthy of love. He begins a brief rampage in Gotham, ending up at some sort of lumbar yard, where Batman and Robin try to calm him down, but just end up getting tossed around for their troubles. Upon which Steve flees to the mountains to become a cryptid. Steve then spends a few days running around the woods, robbing random country stores, before Batman and Robin finally are able to track him down to the cave he’s living in. And, once they do that, they concoct an absolutely absurd plan. Which, seemingly takes the form of Batman also becoming a giant, so that he can show Steve how he’s taking it in stride, and he should too. Unfortunately, it all falls apart pretty quickly.

 

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Okay Batman, any plan that is foiled by a woodpecker probably could have used another draft or two. Steve is thrown into a rage when he realizes that Batman tried to trick him with massive balloons and ventriloquism, and attempts to smash the Dynamic Duo with rocks, until the flee into the woods. So, Steve seems pretty far gone. But, at his lowest moment, he encounters a random child in the woods, who is really impressed with his height. And, seeing someone react to him with respect instead of fear instantly makes Steve reassess this whole situation, and makes him decide to return to Gotham, seek out Professor Simms, and get himself fixed.

Unfortunately, it turns out that Professor Simms has kind of been behind this whole thing. Apparently he made a serum that turned people giant, and wanted to combine it with Steve’s formula to give them super strength, and used Steve as a guinea pig. So, when Steve returns the Professor convinces Steve to write down his formula, and then gasses him into unconsciousness. Simms then uses Steve’s formula to create a gang of super-powerful giants he plans to take Gotham over with. And, it just so happens that Batman and Robin show up, poking their noses into his business. So, the Professor has his giants kidnap Batman and Robin, and hold them in the same place as the knocked out Steve. The Dynamic Duo manage to free themselves using a car’s cigarette lighter, and manage to wake Steve up so that he can help fight giants with them. And, after a huge fight where Batman mainly just punches guy’s kneecaps, they defeat the giants, and force Professor Simms to make an antidote so that Steve can become a regular guy again.

 

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I don’t know, this issue is just kind of a hoot. It basically plays out like a fifties B-Movie that just so happens to feature Batman and Robin. There’s a lot of scientists talking about wildly inaccurate science, a man turning into a monster and fleeing from society and the woman he loves, and hiding out in the woods. But, the added spice of Batman and Robin, and of course an evil mad scientist who wants to become a crime kingpin, is what makes this story so special. Because it’s not enough to just have a story about a guy becoming a giant accidentally, we also have to weave it into a criminal conspiracy to gain control of Gotham’s criminal underbelly. It’s the kind of nonsense that I love from these old Batman stories, and this one is just full of it. I’m very nostalgic for a time when Batman could just deal with a guy accidentally turning himself into a cantankerous giant, instead of dealing with all the nonsense he deals with nowadays.

 

“The Man Who Became a Giant” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Sheldon Moldoff, inked by Charles Paris, and edited by Murray Boltinoff and George Kashdan, 1960.

 

 

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