Thursday, April 11, 2024



If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you might recall I have been frequently pilloried as some one who hates Batman or who is jealous of the character’s success or any number of other crimes against the Darknight Detective. All of the above by low lives who fancy themselves comics journalists incapable of informed nuance in reporting the “news.”

Batman was my favorite comic-book character as a kid and remained so until I met Spider-Man and, later, created Black Lightning. What I hate is that DC Comics has turned the Caped Crusader into the Psycho Putz. While there have been definite moments of lightness since a Batman writer stumbled his way into a psychology book, the current Batman is more often framed by cruelty and unresolved trauma than heroism. He is manipulative and untrustworthy. Contrast this with “my” Batman who, after seeing justice done to the murdered of his parents, chose to continue being Batman to protect others from that kind of loss.  

I’m not so much jealous of Batman’s success as I am saddened that other terrific DC characters are ignored as DC pumps out almost as many Batman titles as Richie Rich had back in his glory years. It will take someone better at comics history and math to determine if Bats has surpassed Richie’s numbers.

The one thing the “journalists” sometime get right is that I hate Black Lightning being subservient to Batman. My Jefferson Pierce’s priorities are his family, his students and his community. He does not leave them all behind to be Batman’s sidekick.


I’ve been slowly working my way through Batman: The Silver Age Omnibus. This first volume collects Batman #101-116 and Detective Comics #233-257, spanning mid-1956 through mid-1958. Let’s get back into it.


Batman #105 (February 1957) has a cover drawn by Sheldon Moldoff and three stories by three different writers, all drawn by the team of Moldoff (pencils) and Charles Paris (inker). In Bill Finger’s “The Challenge of Batwoman,” a bored Kathy Kane wears her retired Batwoman outfit to a costume party. She stumbles into a caper by a gang of art thieves and their masked leader, a caper being foiled by Batman and Robin. Batman sprains his ankle, the crime boss gets amnesia, Batwoman thinks he’s Batman and decides she and Robin must train “Batman” so he can continue to function as a crime-fighter until his memory returns. The real Batman and Robin play along with this because they don’t want Batwoman to know about his injury for fear she would learn he’s Bruce Wayne. The criminal’s memory does return and he sets a trap for Batwoman and Robin. The real Bats disguising his injury and saves them. The 10-page story includes an end scene where Kathy berates Bruce for spraining his ankle while out “dancing.”

Ed Herron’s “The Second Boy Wonder” is one of those “teach someone a lesson” tales so prevalent in both Batman and Superman comics of the era. A “new” Boy Wonder takes Robin’s place, “fooling” Batman.When the duo returns to the Batcave, the kid reveals he is not the real Robin but someone who took an injured Robin’s place when the real Robin showed up at his door. He threatens to expose Batman’s secret identity if he’s not allowed to work with him. Of course, the new kid is the old kid. Robin is trying to prove he’s as much a master of disguise as Batman. Of course, from the moment the new Robin reveals his identity, both Batman and butler Alfred knew who it was. “Robin” walked through the Batcave in the dark to turn on the lights. Holy rookie mistake!

Arnold Drake’s “The Mysterious Bat-Missile” is the issue’s finale. In the Batcave, our heroes watch as the title vehicle comes through the floor of their secret lair. Operated by their thoughts, their new ride can pass through anything. Whoever sent it to them knows their identities. They put aside their concern to use the vehicle to track down a criminal on the run. The criminal lays low because of the Bat-Missile, but makes a break for it when he learns Batman is again using the much-slower Batmobile. Surprise. The heroes have disguised the Missile as their traditional vehicle. Next surprise? The Bat-Missile was sent to them for this one case by the Batman of the Future. He wanted to thank them for inspiring his career. They don’t get to keep it because this trip to their time was strictly a one-shot.


Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris pencilled and inked the cover of Detective Comics #240 [February 1947], The author of “The Outlaw Batman” is unknown. The story itself is penciled by Dick Sprang with inks by Paris.

In a complicated scheme, Batman is framed for a series of crimes by a detailed-oriented adversary. There are a great many twists in the 12-page story. Fortunately, the authorities never really believed Batman was guilty and rigged the trial to allow the Caped Crusader to draw out the real villain. The tale plays fair with the readers by showing us the key clue that allows Batman to figure out who had been framing him. I wish I knew who wrote this one, which I’d never read before, because it’s a good one.


Batman #106 [March 1957] has a cover by Sheldon Moldoff. That’s not unusual for the era, but what is unusual is that no writer has been identified for any of the three tales in the issue. I wonder if any or all of them were written by the same mysterious unknown author who penned “The Outlaw Batman” in Detective Comics #240.

Drawn by Dick Sprang and Stan Kaye, “Batman’s Secret Helper” has a clever concept. An escaped convict has vowed vengeance on the man who helped Batman and Robin capture him, but not even our heroes know the identity of their helper. Bats launches a TV show to honor those who have helped them, figuring it will draw the convict out into the open. Which is does. The twist? It was the convict’s own brother who saved the Dynamic Duo because he wanted to prevent the convict from murdering them. The convict sees the error of his ways and is now determined to finish his sentence and rejoin society as a law-abiding citizen.  

“Storm Over Gotham City” is another cool story. Gotham City is in the path of a hurricane. A mobster and his men are planning to loot the city dressed as disaster-fighters. Trying to stop them, Batman and Robin are distracted by hurricane-related emergencies. Our guys catch the crooks by using the hurricane against them. In this time of extreme climate disasters, this tale could be modernized into an exciting cautionary thriller. It was pencilled by Sprang with inks by Paris.

“The Puppet Batman” is the cover and final story in the issue. An outside force is controlling Batman into doing dangerous stunts and reveal his true identity. The connection between the two is shaky, as is the “mind-ray” the criminal is using. Each attempt involves a different criminal - an ex-lion tamer, an ex-artist and others - projecting their skills onto Batman. The ex-artist attempts to get Batman to paint a portrait of his real face, but Robin destroys the canvas in the nick of time. An art expert identifies the artist’s style, which allows Batman to catch the criminals and recover their ill-gotten loot. The mind-ray is destroyed. This story is the weak link of the issue, but had the kind of “oh, gosh” cover scene that
comics publishers presumed their readers loved. The tale was drawn by Moldoff and Paris.

Watch for more Silver Age Batman in future blogs.

© 2024 Tony Isabella

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