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Batman 176
"The Joker's Utility Belt!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND (80 Page Giant #17) December, 1965

Story: Bill Finger (?) Art: Dick Sprang (?)

(Originally Reviewed On 03/29/02)

The utility belt is an essential component in the arsenal of The Dynamic Duo in their crusade against crime! But... what happens when The Clown Prince of Crime creates a utility belt for his own use? Well don't just stand there -- read the review of "The Joker's Utility Belt!" On the splash page, Batman and Robin are encircled within a giant version of The Joker's Utility Belt, its lethal contents springing out at them like Jack In The Boxes.

Nighttime in Gotham City, with the sound of laughter reverberating throughout The Museum of Modern Art, specifically The Comedians Hall of Fame wing, where The Joker and his henchmen prepare to steal the new jewel collection as payment for not including him among the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Will Rogers, and Charlie Chaplin. At the display, The Dynamic Duo spring upon The Joker's men, while The Clown Prince of Crime backs towards a giant painting, which is jarred from the wall, and crashes down onto The Caped Crusader! Batman and Robin are seized by The Joker's men, and are to be taken to the hideout, where The Harlequin of Hate plans to toy with them!

The Dynamic Duo are led at gunpoint through the museum, but Batman tells The Boy Wonder that they've overlooked the fact that they're wearing their utility belts, from which he'll use the gas pellets, while Robin gets ready with the nose filters. In one swift motion, the gas downs The Joker's men, while The Clown Prince of Crime flees the scene of the crime. With the henchmen in custody, Batman regrets that they didn't get The Joker, but Robin is sure that The Harlequin of Hate is upset about the utility belt. At the hideout, The Joker is furious about being bested by the utility belt, when one of his men points out that The Caped Crusader has an edge with it. Seized by a wicked idea, The Joker decides to make his own utility belt to best Batman! The following day has one of the henchmen asking his boss how it's going, when The Joker tells him that the utility belt is almost finished, then offers the thug a cigar...

The thug is startled by the exploding cigar, while The Joker points out that while The Caped Crusader uses scientific devices to fight crime, The Clown Prince of Crime will use jokes and trick novelties! Seeing the items on the table, the thug asks what the cork will be for, and The Joker states that the cork is the most important component in the utility belt, and with it, it will prove to be The Dynamic Duo's undoing! Time passes, and when The Joker meets with two rival crime bosses, who pull out guns on him, and are going to take him for everything he has. The Clown Prince of Crime is searched for weapons, while the other crimelord laughs and points out that since The Joker has more loot than anywhere in Gotham, they'll rob him, and not have to worry about Batman and Robin! Unseen by the crime bosses, The Joker reaches for his utility belt and removes a pair of pills, which he lights, and soon, the two men are frightened by the sight of snakes, that they drop their guns, while The Joker rings for his henchmen. It is now The Joker's turn to laugh, for his utility belt is truly a boon, while one of his men admires the trick snakes which came out of the small pills stored in the belt.

The next night at Stately Wayne Manor, millionaire Bruce Wayne and his youthful ward, Dick Grayson are admiring a model of the pride of the Wayne Steamship line, and the S.S. Gotham will be christened next month by Batman and Robin. In the night sky, The Bat-Signal shines, and both Bruce and Dick know that The Joker must be the reason for the summons. Soon, The Batmobile speeds for Police Headquarters, where Commissioner Gordon tells them that The Joker has robbed the box office at the Civic Opera. Backstage at the opera, The Joker is surrounded by police and guards, who must have figured that he couldn't have resisted the opera, "Pagliacci!" As The Joker and his men are about to be handcuffed, The Harlequin of Hate reaches for his utility belt...

The policeman is stunned by The Joker's joy buzzer, while being punched in the face with the clown's other hand! The Joker and his henchmen take their leave, admiring the joy buzzer which shocked the cops! At the opera house, Batman and Robin listen as the startled cop tells them that The Joker wasn't wearing the buzzer when they were about to cuff him, and figures that he must have pulled it out of somewhere. The Caped Crusader knows that The Clown Prince of Crime has a new angle, which they'll be seeing more of. (Holy Last Laugh, Batman!) At the hideout, one of the henchmen asks The Joker about what else there is in the utility belt, and he takes them upstairs, where there's a diagram: joy buzzer, snake pellets, sneezing powder capsules, itching powder capsules, water squirting police badge with bulb and nose attached, false cigarette pack, with jumping jack mechanism, exploding cigarettes, eyepiece which leaves a black eye, Mexican Jumping Beans, flower pellets which burst into bloom, playing cards, and small cork!

The henchmen admit that the utility belt is well-equipped, but wonder how that will beat Batman and Robin. Time passes and The Joker makes use of the gimmicks in the utility belt, such as the sneezing powder used on the dogs of Millionaire Bronson, the water squirting police badge on an unsuspecting rookie, and The Mexican Jumping Beans on a drum, so that the cops will investigate the orchestra pit, while he is miles away! The Gotham Gazette has artist renderings of both utility belts worn by Batman and The Joker, and in the Bat-Cave, Robin uses a microscope to examine the jumping bean for clues, while Batman reads about Professor J.J. Laughwell's return from an African expedition with a priceless collection of native masks. The Caped Crusader figures that the name would serve as inspiration for The Joker.

At Professor Laughwell's studio, The Dynamic Duo charge The Joker and his men, with Batman and The Clown Prince of Crime in a clench, but The Joker manages to escape The Caped Crusader's grasp, and flees. Telling Robin to wait, Batman prepares to toss a gas pellet from his utility belt, which he does, but instead of gas, the pellets burst into flowers, to the amusement of The Joker! When Batman hurls his smoke pellets, flags with the words, "Poor Batman!", "Hurrah For The Joker!", "Phooey On Batman And Robin" fall to the ground.

The Joker races for a dark corner, and when Batman reaches for his flashlight, a jack-in-the-box is released instead! Both he and Robin realize that The Joker slipped a replica of his utility belt over the real one in the struggle. Although they were made to look foolish, The Dynamic Duo managed to foil a Joker crime. The day comes for The Joker's cork to prove to be Batman and Robin's downfall. The Joker knows that all he has to do is to catch The Caped Crusader off-balance, especially with the cork in the champagne bottle which Batman will use to launch The S.S. Gotham on the morrow! In The Gotham Steamship Company, the switch is made, and the bottle is re-sealed with wax.

The following day finds the ceremonies about to begin, but Batman notices something funny... He asks Robin to note that the color of wax on the bottle hasn't faded from the 1936 champagne, and The Caped Crusader knows that paraffin wax is known to discolor with age... meaning that the bottle has been tampered with. Robin gets another bottle, and as they prepare to christen the ship, The Joker is disappointed that his plans may have failed. The ship is christened by Batman, but a woman also choses to christen the ship, but with The Joker's bottle! The attendees are struck down by the powerful gas, and The Joker's henchmen take The Dynamic Duo from the scene...

At the hideout, The Joker has won the battle of the utility belts, and The Dynamic Duo are to be placed on a conveyor belt, which leads to a flaming fireplace in the Joker's image! Robin is placed on the belt, and Batman is forced to watch as The Boy Wonder runs, but suddenly eyes the motor and The Joker's utility belt. Slipping his hand inside it, Batman seizes some snake pellets, then shoots them towards the motor, and the trick snakes foul up the motor's gears! Robin leaps off the conveyor belt, while The Joker shouts that Batman has grabbed his belt!

The Joker is blinded by the eyepiece, the henchmen succumb to both sneezing and itching powder, while Robin uses the squirting badge filled with motor oil to further blind The Clown Prince of Crime. The Caped Crusader removes the conveyor belt, then binds the baddies with it. The Joker winces as Batman uses a flower pellet to complete the display of the captured crooks, and insuring that The Harlequin of Hate will place first in the prison flower show at the state penitentiary. The Boy Wonder points out that he's glad that The Joker came up with a utility belt! After all, if he didn't, they wouldn't have caught him! In Commissioner Gordon's office, Batman turns over The Joker, who is fed up with belts and wishes to forget about them. The Commissioner regrets that The Clown Prince of Crime feels this way, for he has recommended The Joker to be the foreman at the belt factory in prison because he has much experience in that area, and the still-blinded Joker with the enormous flower in his hair realizes the irony of The Commissioner's parting joke.

This story was adapted for the 1960's Batman TV Show. A faithful adaptation, as in the case of Mr. Freeze and The Mad Hatter, at that!

To me, The Joker story is about the chase and the match of wits between The Clown Prince of Crime and The Caped Crusader, with The Joker seeking to humiliate The Dynamic Duo before doing them in.

The Joker has a cheshire cat grin as he finishes the creation of his utility belt.

"Batman And Robin"... "The Dynamic Duo" I like the sound of it and miss the fact that we don't see much of it in the current day.

The diagram of The Joker's utility belt is much appreciated, and I believe a diagram of Batman's utility belt was featured in a 1970's Limited Collector's Edition book.

Batman's detective skills are impressive, as he and Robin are able to see that the wax on the bottle has been tampered with.

The Joker ends up getting a taste of his utility belt, or perhaps since he'll keep losing to The Caped Crusader, he should re-title it, "The Joker's Futility Belt."

I enjoy this period and type of Batman story, where he is a detective and is able to figure out the patterns of those larger-than-life villains in his rogues gallery.

I deplore those stories where it is implied that Bruce Wayne is crazy for dressing up as a bat and fighting crime or as it is currently written, waging a losing war on crime, that such a man would be a control freak, treat his friends and allies as tools to be discarded as he sees fit. A loner who drives all of those near him away.

My first exposure to Batman was the TV show, then the 100 Page Spectaculars in the '70s.

I love The Caped Crusader and regard him as the ideal hero, who is there for the citizens of his city, even being duly-deputized by the police.

The Dark Knight, or rather some stories which have followed that, would seem to have him treat people as badly as he would those who are a superstitiously and cowardly lot.

It would be like seeing The Lone Ranger shoot people or Roy Rogers cheating on Dale Evans, Robin Hood being a crook, and Zorro being a front for a bored aristocrat who seeks to amuse himself by harming others.

I'm sorry, but I tend to pick up back issues more than the new stuff. It's probably that I'm stubborn and have no stomach or patience for new things. In fairness, there are a lot of fine artists and writers doing their best to make sure that there's plenty of Batman each month for readers to check out, but in general, I'm not one of them.

I miss The Caped Crusader

He is my hero.

This Review Is Dedicated To Bob Buethe and Ken Rothstein

Steve Chung
"The Review's Utility Belt"

P.S.: The above was reviewed last year during Batman/Bruce Wayne: Murderer/Fugitive/et al. Since then, I've come to enjoy the Legends of The Dark Knight arc, "Blink," by Dwayne McDuffie, Val Semeiks, and Dan Green. The creative team has reunited for "Don't Blink," which is currently running through LOTDK, with writer McDuffie injecting much humor and irony for readers who wonder what it's like to be a guy who dresses up like a Bat and who drives a cool car. It appeals to the eight-year old I was when I went trick or treating as Batman, as well as watching the '60s series in syndication, and the '70s Filmation cartoon. McDuffie, Semeiks, and Green have made The Darknight Detective "cool" again, and for me, it's been too long since I really enjoyed a Bat-story.

Last year at Sequential Tart, Corrina Lavitt wrote a beautiful article (what she refers to as a "rant", but since I agree with her, I wouldn't call it that...) about the Bruce Wayne/Batman: Murderer/Fugitive storyline, and proceeded to shoot at the premise with more holes than writer Greg Rucka placed into the back of character of Vesper Fairchild. In reading this review, I hope that Corrina sees that ranting is in the eye of the beholder.

Tim O'Shea was kind enough to run my review at his Streams of Babbling Column, as well as skillfully editing my various misspellings and punctuations. (Holy Julie Schwartz, Batman! A guy can't ask for a better editor!)

This Re-Review Is Also Dedicated to Corrina Lavitt and Tim O'Shea (SAR's Dynamic Duo)

Steve Chung