Friday, January 13, 2017

JULY 1963: BATMAN #158

Today’s bloggy thing continues my 136-part series on the comic books that hit the newsstands in the month of July 1963. That month was pivotal to my comic-book career because it was the month when Fantastic Four Annual #1 ignited my desire to write comics.

Batman #158 [September 1963] has a cover by Sheldon Moldoff, most prominent of the Bob Kane ghosts of the period. He also pencilled all three interior stories, which were inked by Charles Paris. At this point, we’re in the last issues of Jack Schiff’s editorship of the Batman titles. With the June 1964 issue, Julius Schwartz will launch the “new look” Batman.

The inside front cover hawks “the amazing MADE SIMPLE self-teaching encyclopedia” from Cadillac Publishing. The first volume costs one dollar plus “a few cents mailing charge.” Customers had ten days to decide if they wanted to keep the volume. They would then receive each of the remaining 24 volumes as they were a cost of $1.98 (plus a few cents for shipping) per book. In 2017 dollars, that would be $15.62 per volume. A quick eBay search found some of these volumes selling for as little as three dollars plus change.

“Ace - the Super Bat-Hound” (8.66 pages) was written by Dave Wood. The Grand Comics Database has this synopsis:

Bat-Mite shows up again to have some fun and decides to give Ace some super powers, which he uses to aid the Caped Crusaders. However, when Ace chases crooks into a cave, the mine fumes cause havoc with the dog's super powers, and he turns on the Dynamic Duo.


Oh, Bat-Mite, you’ve done it again! When Batman and Robin leave Ace in the Batcave because they don't think they need him on what should be a routine case, the poor pooch whimpers at being left out of the action. Bat-Mite shows up and Ace, unlike his human owners, is happy to see the inter-dimensional imp. The dog knocks over some chemicals in his delight.

Bat-Mite gives Ace super-powers. Batman and Robin get in trouble on account of they got cocky. Ace saves them. Not realizing Bat-Mite is behind Ace’s new abilities, Batman decides those spilled chemicals must have caused the change. Even though Ace has been around those same chemicals before. If I'm the Batman of 1963, my first guess whenever crazy stuff happens would be...Bat-Mite.

Ace joins the Dynamic Duo when they go after the criminals who got away the other night. But coal gas seepage in the mine where those crooks are hiding makes Ace retreat from them.

The crooks strike again the next night. Ace attacks them, but the criminals have figured out coal gas affects the super-pooch. A vial of the gas sends Ace after Batman and Robin instead.

To save his heroes, Bat-Mite reveals himself. He uses his powers to protect them from Ace and then undoes the effects of the coal gas by removing Ace’s powers.

Batman and Robin tell Bat-Mite they like their pet just as he is. Batman starts to scold Bat-Mite and the imp heads back to his own dimension. Shakespeare, this ain’t.


Poor Ace. The courageous dog is living full-time with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, but only appears occasionally. I wonder what he did the rest of the time.

This story, like the issue’s other two Batman adventures, has never been reprinted in the United States. Also like the other stories, the bottom third of its final page is a paid ad. The ad invites the reader to “try a tongue teaser” by saying “A green glass gas globe” five times in eight seconds without making a mistake. After that, said reader is invited to buy a tongue pleaser, namely, a delicious Tootsie Roll. According to the ad, it’s “America’s favorite candy.”

Warden Willis appears in a half-page gag by the ever-prolific Henry Boltinoff, who wrote and drew hundreds of these strips for various DC comic books. The warden is pleased with his idea of using a dog on night patrol, especially a dog trained in the K-9 Corps of the army. The punch line?

The dog was in a mechanized outfit. He won’t walk. The guard has to pull him around in a wagon.

The bottom half of the age is an ad and coupons for the Palisades Amusement Park in New Jersey.

The next page has two half-page ads for Giant Batman Annual #5 and Giant Superman Annual #7. The former features “The Strange Lives of Batman and Robin”; the latter celebrates the silver anniversary of Superman 1938-1963.

One more house ad before the next story. Batman tells readers they can get a two-year subscription to their favorite Dc comics at only ten cents per issue. The titles offered: Batman, World’s Finest, Detective Comics, Blackhawk, Superboy, Jimmy Olsen, Green Lantern, Tomahawk, Our Army at War and The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis. What Batman doesn’t tell readers is that the comics will arrived folded in half with a crease that will never go away.

“The Secret of the Impossible Perils” (7.66 pages) was written by Batman co-creator Bill Finger. The GCD synopsis:

Matt Carter returns from a jungle expedition and, although racked with fever, recounts stories of giant animals that he found including a dinosaur.


The main action for this story is in South America, but it begins in Gotham City as Ted Carter tries to convince the Explorer’s Club (of which Bruce Wayne is a member) that his father saw the strange things he said he saw. But, without proof, the club won’t elevate the still-hospitalized elder Carter to its inner circle.

Armed with part of a map his dad drew, Ted plans to travel to South America and prove his father’s claims. Bruce says he’s sure he can convince his friends Batman and Robin to go with Ted.

Take a moment here. Can you imagine the Batman of the last three or four decades taking a week off from Gotham City crime-fighting for such an expedition? Not a chance. Batman 2017 is too obsessed with his self-proclaimed guardianship of the city to ever consider such a thing. Yet, back in the 1950s and the early 1960s, Batman would often mix things up like this.

Matt Carter’s map has a giant moving head, a dinosaur, a partially-missing note to “beware of the great cat...” and something called the “valley of the golden city.”

Batman, Robin and Ted fly to South America in the Bat-Plane. With less than eight pages in this tale, they find the giant moving head on page three. It’s an ancient idol that can be moved by a set-up of pulleys and wheels.

A giant armadillo shows up on page four. It’s a regular armadillo who’s been turned into a giant after drinking from a pool of water containing freak chemicals. Batman figures this out by noticing the animal’s tracks leading to the pool are normal-sized, but the ones leading away from the pool are giant-sized. The “dinosaur” seen by Ted’s dad was just a common lizard. The effects of the pool water are only temporary.

The “great cat...” is actually “catapults” rigged by ancient Aztecs to topple giant stone statues on intruders. A trigger stone sends them falling at Batman and friends, but our heroes are too quick to be crushed.

The golden city? It’s a lost city with a bronze mirror set on the hills above it. When the mirror is in sunlight, it reflects golden rays on the city.

With the proof gathered by his son, a healed Matt Carter earns his spot on the inner circle of the Explorer’s Club. He recommends the same honor be bestowed on Batman, Robin and his son.


This story isn’t suspenseful, but it is inventive. Four mysteries solved in under eight pages. Not too shabby.

The bottom third of the final page is an ad for Tootsie Roll Pops. They came in six delicious flavors and the original assortment was chocolate, orange, raspberry, grape, cherry and lemon (discontinued but reintroduced 2015). The sixth flavor changes from time to time and the company offers dozens of other flavors in other assortment packages and as singles.

There’s a full-page ad for Task Force, America’s Most Exciting War Game. It came with two giant battlefields, a 88-piece task force and 375 red markers to record bombings. The cost is only one dollar plus twenty-five cents for postage and handling.

The single-page “Letters to the Bat-Cave” is next. Philip Miller of Gadsden, Alabama and Clarence Barkley, Portsmouth, Virginia praise recent issues. Miller wants to see more of the Penguin.

Thomas Thek of Oceanside, Long Island takes DC to task for a lack of clarity in two stories. DC’s stern response suggests he read the stories more carefully.

Dennis Bova of Ambridge, Pennsylvania wants to see more team-ups of villains. He suggests The Joker and Clayface, the Human Firefly and Mirror Man, and Mr. Polka-Dot and the Planet Master. DC responds to this with a plug for “The Great Clayface-Joker Feud,” scheduled to appear in Batman #159.

Both Pat Romanelli of Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania and Marti Kniest of Edmonds, Washington want to see more Batwoman and Bat-Girl. Joseph Mattarella of Valley Stream, New York wanted to know why Bat-Girl doesn’t wear gloves to prevent her from leaving her fingerprints at the scenes of crimes. The DC response promises more of the ladies and that Bat-Girl will start wearing gloves.

Wesley Machulis of Chicago praises some recent stories and asks for a preview of what’s coming. The DC response announces “Batman and Robin, the Mummy Crime-Fighters” for the October issue of Detective Comics; “The Return of the Terrible Trio” (Fox, Shark and Vulture) for the November issue; and “Superman’s Master” for World’s Finest Comics’ November issue. It also list two issues that are on sale: “The Batman Nobody Remembers” in the September World’s Finest and “The Fantastic Dr. No-Face” in the September Detective. Even back in 1963, I always wondered if such letters were actually written by editors. But I didn’t care. In those pre-Internet days, I was glad for any advance information on my favorite comic books.

Dave Wood returns with “Batman and Robin--Imposters” (7.66 pages), the third and final Batman adventure of the issue. Here’s the GCD synopsis:

The Caped Crusaders must deal with some criminals who are posing as them in public, and are getting away with it because the Batman impersonator actually has one of Batman's authentic utility belts that he stole.


“Batman” and “Robin” tell a jeweler that his store is about to be robbed, then allow the thieves to escape with the jewels. They tell the jeweler they plan to track the robbers and recover all of the loot they’ve stolen. However, the “Caped Crusaders” are actually a pair of actors/acrobats. Imagine the jeweler’s surprise and horror when, in front of the press, the real Batman and Robin tell him the other Caped Crusaders were imposters.

Despite the press alert about them, “Batman” and “Robin” tell the robbers they have all the angles figured. That very noon, in front of the police headquarters, they approach Commissioner Gordon and tell him a bank across town is about to be robbed. Gordon sends the entire police force to set up roadblocks.

The crooks rob a loan company. They are spotted by a beat cop, but the officer is directed away from the escaping robbers by “Batman” and “Robin.” The acrobatics of the imposters convince the officer that they are the real deal. The imposters tell the crooks this is the result of them training for months to pull off this deception.

That evening, the real Batman and Robin go on TV to ask the police and the public to double-check if they see them in action. In the Batmobile, Batman proclaims:

If we don’t solve this case fast, it may mean the end of our crime-fighting careers!

The imposters aren’t sure they can try another robbery. But one of the robbers says he could guarantee they could pull it off for one more job. He introduces them to “Bobo Cullen...the Heist Man!”

Bobo got his hands on one of Batman’s utility belts at an airport terminal. With a bat-flare illuminating the scene, a stray bullet from the criminals shattered an acid capsule in the belt. The acid ate through the belt fabric. Cullen got away while his companions were being captured.

Bobo wants a third of the take from the third and final job. But, as the deal is being struck, “Batman” triggers a smoke-bomb in the belt. It’s the real Batman and Robin...and they make short work of the three criminals.

At the airport, the bat-flare malfunctioned. To fix it, Batman had to remove his glove. Apparently, after he fixed and fired the bat-flare, he put his glove back on and the device back in the belt. His fingerprints were on the device, which is why he and Robin had to get the belt back or risk Batman’s identity being exposed...and the end of their crime-fighting careers.

“Batman” and “Robin” were actually the real Batman and Robin all along. Commissioner Gordon, the beat cop and the jeweler were all in on the scam. I’m guessing the loan company was also in on this double deception, though the story doesn’t state that explicitly. The Caped Crusaders get the utility belt back and net three wanted criminals as well.

This story is truly of its era. We see Batman working closely with the police to set up this scam. We see him and Robin operating in daytime, even holding press conferences. And, despite the utility belt being evidence in a crime, no one in authority had a problem with Batman getting it back. Simpler times, indeed.


An advertisement for Tootsie Roll Fudge, which only costs a penny, occupied the bottom third of the final page of the story. The rest of the interior pages, inside back cover and back cover were ads.

Half-page ads for “104 Kings Knights” and “150 Civil War Soldiers.” Full-page ads recruiting sellers for Christmas cards from Wallace Brown; a pitch from the American Body Building Club for a book on gaining “mighty muscles”; and the back cover’s “100 Toy Soldiers” for $1.25.

Rereading this issue for the first time in decades, I can see why DC would largely lose me to the more exciting Marvel super-heroes. At least until I figured out how to many enough money to buy lots of comics for all of the comics publishers. While there are clever bits in the stories and the Moldoff/Paris art, this isn’t much of an issue. Batman clearly needed a change.

Quick sidebar. I was supposed to write about another comic book in this installment of my “July 1963" series, only to discover that I didn’t have the comic book. When I ordered the missing issue years ago, I was sent the wrong issue and failed to notice the seller’s error. Fortunately, I have ordered another copy of the issue and it should arrive in plenty of time for the next installment of this ongoing series. Watch for it.

I'm taking a day off, but I’ll be back on Sunday with more stuff.

© 2017 Tony Isabella


  1. I noticed all three of the third page ads were for Tootsie Roll products. This may have been some sort of advertising promotion getting the product throughout the issue while in essence buying one ad page. I wonder if this was typical of DC comics of the era.

  2. Off the top of my head, I can't recall any other advertiser other than Tootsie Roll that did this. But that's just my sometimes faulty memory.

  3. this was comic the first batman comic i ever bought from the candy store.hooked me till today.