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Batman 191
"The Day Batman Sold Out!"

Cover: Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson

"The Day Batman Sold Out!"
Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Batman stands before a TV camera, his head bowed, and announces, "Certain circumstances have arisen which compel me--by their grim nature--to give up my career as a crime-fighter!" Nearby, a nervous Commissioner Gordon tells a reporter, "I am stunned--overwhelmed! I know no more about this than you do!"

The story opens as Batman storms a subterranean atomic power reactor, startling the bald-headed operator. The perp, Ira Radon, has been behind some radioactive isotope robberies, and considers himself on the verge of becoming the greatest criminal in the world! Radon swings a metal claw and arm and yells, "If it means killing you--to protect all the years I've invested studying the art of radioactive criminality--so be it!" Lifting him overhead, Batman retorts, "You've got to do better than that! Or do you think you can wriggle out of my KATA GURUMA JUDO HOLD?" But, as Radon is thrown against the reactor door, he screams, "Aaagghh! I neglected to lock the door and I'm falling into the reactor chamber! Wh-what'll become of m-me...?" Batman leaps for the generator's switch as Radon screams, "I'll pay you back for this, Batman! As you have done to me, so will I do to you! An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!" Batman thinks, "I never meant to fling him through that door, but he would never believe that!"

For weeks afterward, Radon's bandage-covered self rests, and he schemes. "The radiation dose changed my that if I should ever steal again, the radioactivity in my body--which I can never lose--will prove FATAL! Because of my expert knowledge of radiation--I know that the very act of STEALING would cause a reaction in my glandular and nervous systems--which my body could not tolerate! I'll pay Batman back--in his own coin! What he's done to me, I'll do to him! Because I must retire as a THIEF--I'll force him to retire as a CRIME-FIGHTER!" Radon soon escapes from the prison hospital.

And so, some months later, some reporters and a camera crew are called to Gordon's private office to witness the scene from the splash page. Batman goes on to say, "Tomorrow at high noon in Gotham Square I will hold an auction to divest myself of everything connected with my career!" To the many questions that follow, he replies simply that his statement stands as read. A few hours later, as Dick Grayson returns home from school, he is shocked to learn of the announcement by reading a newspaper headline! He runs back to the manor (no chauffeur service for schoolkids--rich or otherwise--in the late `60s!) and bursts into the library, where Bruce is doing paperwork and Alfred stands at the ready. "Bruce--I'm hurt! Why didn't you tell me about this phony retirement?" Bruce says again that his statement speaks for itself, and suggests Dick go upstairs and study. Dick, teary-eyed, looks to Alfred, who can only shrug.

The auction gets bids in the thousands for a Batarang, the Hot-Line Phone and so on, including the costume Batman is wearing at that moment!...all items to be redeemed the following day at the Wayne Foundation, with proceeds going (of course) to "the general welfare" of Gotham City. As the auction ends, Batman waves goodbye from the back of the departing moving van! "Farewell! I'll never forget you you--or Gotham City..." We see Penguin and Joker in their cells, both lamenting the loss of such a worthy foe.

Meanwhile, inside the van, Bruce pulls off his uniform while thinking, "If the world only knew the truth--which I dare not reveal!" The story then cuts back to a time when he was following two jewel thieves and had just hurled his last Batarang. "It's happening again!" A light beam suddenly flashed, spotlighting the Batarang. Later, in the Batcave, as he examined his Bat-weapons as usual, he was surprised to find that the Batarang was radioactive! Thinking back, he recalled that every darn one of the Bat-gimmicks, while in use, had been similarly, momentarily, illuminated! As he shines a "detection light" on the Batmobile, radioactive handwriting becomes visible over the entire car! In short, it informs him that indeed, all the anti-crime weapons are contaminated, and that he is, too! He is to auction off all the Bat-stuff in full public view and abandon the Batman role, and not resume the crusade in any other guise, as eventually he would show the same MO, and Radon will recognize him. Radon will then intensify the radiation, killing him! So, Batman muses, there's nothing to do but bow out of the picture! He then to applies make up and a wig so that, when he exits the van on a lonely street corner, no chance passerby would recognize Bruce Wayne.

The next day, at Wayne Foundation, a disguised Bruce hands over $10,000 cash for the Batarang, thinking, "I `sold' that Batarang to myself by pointing to an imaginary person in the crowd!" Meanwhile, the escaped and unbandaged Radon reads of the auction and has to wonder who bought all the goodies at such high prices. He soon determines that all but one of the Bat-objects were bought by agents for the Wayne Foundation, and that they will be displayed in its museum! The buyer of that Batarang intrigues Radon, though: why would someone spend so much money on the thing? So, that night, Radon treks to the buyer's house on the outskirts of Gotham to find out why he bought it, what he intends to do with it. Entering the darkened house, Radon sees the Batarang hanging on the wall...and is startled by heavy footfalls! He's approached by a man-shaped figure coated in clay, who informs Radon that he's now a prisoner! Radon defies the figure, who'd obviously lured him there as a trap, and bathes him in the light of a lantern he's carrying: "I never gave Batman the death-dose of radiation--but I'll give it to YOU! In three seconds you'll be dead!" But, the clay giant moves through the lethal light and swats Radon backward over a desk, causing him to drop the lantern onto the desk! Radon is now within an easy reach of that Batarang, though, and he grabs it, threatening to throw it and shatter the protective clay. But, the advancing figure grabs Radon in a familiar judo grip: it's Batman! Radon pulls the Radiation Intensifier gadget from his pocket, but the Batman lunges forward and smashes it. Grabbing the nearby fireplace shovel, Radon runs at the clay-encrusted Batman...and into the beam of that radiation lantern that's propped on the desk, which kills him instantly! Nothing left to do but call the Commissioner and set up another press conference at the Wayne Foundation. There, a smiling Batman explains the need to lie to the good people of Gotham, and ask their forgiveness. All that Ira Radon stuff is old news, apparently. Time to move on.

Later, he explains to Robin and Alfred that he would have liked to confide in them. But, he knew that if Radon's plan had worked, Robin would have gone after the killer, and Batman didn't want him to suffer the same fate. And, in the deep science moment, Batman explains that he covered himself in clay because, when it's heated to 2372 degrees Fahrenheit, it locks in radioactivity, and thus acted as a shield against Radon's lethal blast. (What, he baked himself in clay at 2372 degrees F?!) And, of course, he removed the radiation from the Bat-objects before putting them up for auction. "Eventually, I'll have the radiation removed form my body too." Good idea! Then, Batman suggests he and Robin go out on patrol, words the Boy Wonder thought he'd never hear again. The end!

Interlude: house ad with obnoxious campy sound effects: 80-Page Giant Superboy #138: Superboy and Krypto's most terrific battles! Twenty-five cents!

The letter column carries three letters, all disapproving of the new campy style.

Story two: "Alfred's Mystery Menu!"
Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella

"Through the rain-splattered streets of Gotham City sloshes the Batmobile on its nightly patrol..." Robin is getting anxious, as they're finding no sign of criminals...or of Alfred! Batman acknowledges that he too is worried about their butler's mysterious disappearance. On the dashboard, the bat-radar screen suddenly registers unexpected movement inside the Specialty Foods Shoppe. Inside, the Duo discovers three thieves, lifting not cash, but carefully chosen merchandise! The thieves are quickly taken down. At dawn, Batman and Robin drive back into the Batcave, still wondering after Alfred and beginning to fear the worst.

Meanwhile, miles away, Alfred watches the dawn, amazed that it's only a day since he was abducted. The limo brought him to Duke Kelsey, the newest inductee to the Millionaire Mobster Club! Kelsey wants to throw a banquet to mark the occasion, and so acquired a manservant in the same way he acquired his millions. Thinking quickly, Alfred agrees, realizing that his only hope of salvation is to "prepare a 'message menu'--and trust to their quick wits to fathom it!" Soon, he presents Kelsey with a list of the ingredients he'll need, and Kelsey sends his boys out to steal the goods, just as Alfred had anticipated. Grinning broadly, Kelsey slaps Alfred on the back, assuring him he'll be well taken care of when it's over. This causes Alfred to break out in a sweat, as he knows it signals his doom: he will not be allowed to live after seeing the faces of the other millionaire criminals. Soon, two thugs enter the room, carrying bags of groceries... "everything except fer that appetizer stuff!" Alfred feels some apprehension, as the appetizer list contained an integral part of his clue.

Later the same day, Bruce reads detailed accounts of robberies at various food stores the previous night. "Holy cryptogram," spouts Dick, as they realize that Alfred always manages to send them some sort of message regarding his whereabouts. Bruce then picks the lock and cracks the safe in Alfred's private pantry. With luck, the ingredients lists on the closely guarded recipes will give our boys the jump on the thieves. They quickly realize that, by thwarting the theft of the appetizers, the items were returned to their shelves and not catalogued along with the other robberies! However, enough gourmand specifics are on record as to give the Duo a general location. Then, out back of the Specialty Foods Shoppe, Batman finds the thieves' grocery list amid the previous day's floor sweepings! They now have a street name and address in the suspected district!

Soon, the Duo burst into the banquet room. In a scene reeking with TV choreography and lousy puns, they and Alfred take out the banquet party. Back home again, Alfred serves dinner to Bruce, Dick and Aunt Harriet. The end.

House ads: Detective 269(?), depicting Batman about to unmask before a blindfolded Batgirl! And, Justice League of America #53, with Batman featured prominently, as the gang is attacked by their own weapons, particularly the utility belt. Finally, Showcase #68 featuring the Maniaks, who were modeled on the Monkees, by way of Carnaby Street. (Weak.)

Letters to the Batcave-Extra carries a couple more complaints about the title's new style, with requests for the return of some of the old villains. Also, Tom Fagan writes about the year's Hallowe'en festivities in Rutland, Vermont.

We can assume that the lead story was written to fit the mawkish cover. This gimmick did produce some memorable covers, but it could leave the writers in tough situations. In this case, Fox did a fine job in making the auction a story centerpiece, and he even reasonably explained why Dick and Alfred were so out of the loop as to be in tears.

The story is festooned with the overblown sound effects, by Schwartz stalwart Gaspar Saladino. New readers, brought in by the Batman TV show, were presumably expecting them, while old readers seem to have been repelled. Simek and Rosen did them better at Marvel. Someone is going to have to determine if Marvel's emphasis on big sound effects was concurrent with, or predated, the show. It may just be that Marvel's manic style was the root cause of it all.

Shelly's art for these "New Look" stories was much removed from his exaggerated approach in the previous decade. Truth to tell, I preferred it the old way. The writing under Schwartz wasn't so much a step forward as a step back to the early/mid `50s, before the space aliens, and the writing and art on those holds up just fine. The new staid and serious style didn't suit the strange world of Batman nearly as well.

Tom Orzechowski