Bat Signal

Issue 146 – “Three’s a Crime”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every single issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with essentially no context. And folks, I make fun of the covers of these Golden Age comics quite a bit. They very often have absurd images that have next to nothing to do with the actual contents of the story. Just weird little tableau’s that are meant to inspire people to spend their hard earned dimes on the little stories. And, let me tell you, I’m not quite sure that seeing Batman and Robin being pelted with the number 3 by a nondescript man in a suit is going to be earning that dime. But rest assured, the story is just as strange and baffling.

The issue begins by introducing us to Carl C Cave, a man living in Gotham City who is obsessed with the number 3. His name has three initials, all of which are the third letter in the alphabet, plus he was born on the third day of the third month. So, he takes that theme and decides to start basing some horse race bets off of it. And, it pays off, quite well. He ends up making a bundle on by betting on the third horse in the third race of the day, and decides to parlay that windfall into a night on an illegal gambling boat that’s anchored outside of Gotham. Cave then begins winning hand over fist with roulette, until suddenly things are ruined when Batman and Robin show up to narc on everything. They threaten to arrest everyone on the ship, since it’s an illegal gambling operation, but they’re informed that the ship is three miles off the coast of Gotham, which is out of their jurisdiction. And, since the number three was involved, Cave makes an absolutely insane leap of logic to think that he’s immune to law if the number three is involved, meaning he should become a master criminal. Which, is some monumentally specious logic.

 

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Cave gets two criminals, completing his little three theme, and begins his life of crime. And the first thing they’re going to do is rob a pawn shop that just so happens to have three golden orbs on its sign. So, they break into the place in the middle of the night, and carefully replace the three orbs with glass replicas, full of knockout gas, so that when the police, and the Dynamic Duo, arrives to stop them they can drop the orbs and scare everyone off. Well, everyone but Batman and Robin, who run straight through the knockout gas, following the criminals  into the store. Luckily, cave is ready with a giant triangle, which he wraps around Batman and Robin before on of his goons just smashes a big stick on their heads, knocking them out, and letting them flee back to their base.

And, just like that, the Numbers crime gang has begun their reign of terror. They begin pulling off a series of crimes related to the number three, all while Batman and Robin are hard at work trying to figure out how to stop them. They both caught a site of Cave during the first heist, and have built a sketch of his face, but he’s not coming up in any of their records. So, they decide to change things up, and look for the fence that they must have used for the stolen goods. And, thankfully, only one man in Gotham seems to fit the bill for the type of fence that they’re looking for. So, Batman abducts the man, and places him in a fake boat inside the Batcave where they make the man think that he’s being sailed out to sea unless he tells them where the Numbers gang is. And, weirdly that worked.

 

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The fence tells Batman that Numbers has been living in a hotel in town, so they race to the hotel only to hear that Numbers has recently left the building, after having updated his watch off of the hotel’s clock. And, since the fence mentioned that their next heist involved a train, they race off to the tracks. And, thankfully, even though it’s almost three o’clock Batman knows that they’re in luck, because apparently hotels near trainyards always keep their clocks three minutes fast, so Cave is too early. Whatever you say, Batman! He and Robin race to the train tracks, and sure enough find Cave and his Numbers gang getting ready to rob a mail train. But, the villains are able to escape, and lead Batman and Robin on a high-speed chase, which is cut short when they drive by a school, since it’s 3 o’clock, and children are getting out, meaning Batman could potentially hit them with the Batmobile, causing him to cut short.

The villains then head to their next hide-out, which is an abandoned coal mine. Unfortunately, this is a bridge too far for his goons, and they promptly abandon Cave, along with most of the loot. He’s left with nothing but a valise full of cash, which he decides he’s going to have to stash, outside of the mine for some reason. Which is a shame, because when he drops the valise off a some sort of…baggage claim store…the clerk recognizes the picture that Batman and Robin have distributed. He calls the Dynamic Duo, and they find the valise full of cash, along with three blind mice. And, because Batman obviously knows that mice are only born blind in coal mines, he knows exactly where they are. The Dynamic Duo then head to the very coal mine that Cave is hiding out in. He attempts to flee from the crimefighters, running down a path labelled three. Unfortunately, it turns out that that path just winds right back to where Batman and Robin were, where they’re able to capture him. We also learn that that path was actually labelled 8, because this magical three power actually was real? I don’t know.

 

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This is just an incredibly strange issue. But, I feel like to its detriment, which isn’t that common of a thing here on Bat Signal. Over the years I’ve developed a bit of a love of these weird old Golden Age comics, full of Batman and Robin facing off against weird forgettable one-and-done villains in incredibly formulaic adventures. But, this one is just a little too lackluster for my tastes. Legend has it that famed Batman writer Bill Finger used to have a book full of gimmicks, where he’d just come up with weird ideas for the various villains that Batman could face up against. And, I just don’t think that “likes the number three” is that strong of a villain trait. Hell, even Two-Face has a more fun obsession with a number. And that villain really ends up hamstringing an otherwise goofy plot. I mean, all of the three nonsense, the blind coal mine rats, the valise storage business, it’s all just a little too dumb. And, I can usually handle a lot of dumb in my Batman comics.

 

“Three’s a Crime” was written by Bill Finger, penciled and inked by Dick Sprang, and edited by Jack Schiff, 1949.

 

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