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Batman 261
"The Mystery That Never Was!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND March - April, 1975

Story By Denny O'Neil

Art By Irv Novick & Dick Giordano

Edited By Julius Schwartz

On the splash page, The Masked Manhunter finds his wrists tied to a balloon and himself caught in the crosshairs, as Batman must solve -- "The Mystery That Never Was!"

The end of another day finds Bruce Wayne south of Gotham at a large industrial complex, where he is walking with his old friend -- Hal Hemingway. He's impressed by the layout of the place, while Hal is proud of the design of the factory's security complex, which he designed himself! The retired policeman now security guard is confident that nothing could enter without alarms sounding. As they turn, Bruce sees four men, and asks Hal if they're part of his crew, but he's never seen them before. Hal draws his gun, having hoped never to do so again, while Bruce goes for help. The millionaire playboy doesn't have to run too far, and as he ducks behind a toolshed, he soon emerges as The Batman!

The Darknight Detective watches as Hal routs the intruders, but one is sneaking up behind him, but Batman manages to knock him out. He joins Hal in pursuing the intruders behind the administration building, where Hemingway insists that they can't get through the rear fence. Seconds later, the hoods see The Masked Manhunter on their trail...

A left-handed punch stuns a hood into dropping his gun, and a right handed one causes the other crook to lose his sunglasses. With the one in the yard and these two taken care of, that leaves only one hood unaccounted for, and Batman can see him moving in the shadows ahead. As he begins to pursue the fourth man, he is struck from behind by someone wielding a lead pipe! When he revives, The Masked Manhunter is greeted by Tom Wilson, the plant manager.

Having heard the shots, Wilson came running, and is unaware what happened to the crooks and Hemingway. The plant manager does know that the safe has been broken into, and the plans for their new fasion reactor are gone! Batman listens as Wilson tells him that the competition would pay a pretty penny for the plans, but his eyes are on the gate, which the plant manager tells him was closed, yet no alarm sounded. The Darknight Detective is aware of the variation of The Locked Room Mystery, and since John Dickson Carr isn't there to solve it, he'll have to do it. Midnight finds The Batman in midtown Gotham, as he arrives via rooftop at the Knickerbocker Hotel. In one of the rooms, the tenant is on the phone, and agrees to the caller's order to find Hemingway and kill him.

Eddy hangs up the receiver, then turns and sees The Masked Manhunter standing there. He had recognized Eddy from the factory since he put him in prison before. Eddy swings a punch, but it is The Darknight Detective who connects, and tells him that by carrying a concealed weapon, he's broken parole. When questioned, Eddy insists that he was only hired to break into the factory, and his boss had a device which would turn off the alarm system. The caller said for him to meet at Lukey's Arcade, then go do the job on Hemingway.

In the hallway, Batman assures Eddy that if he's lying, he'll be placed into a deep, dark cell, while one of Eddy's buddies listens from behind a corner. Later that evening, Bruce tells Alfred how The Commissioner agreed to keep Eddy out of circulation while he takes his place. When Alfred asks if he believes that Hemingway is involved, Bruce doesn't want to believe it, but doesn't know why he ran, and he certainly could have disarmed the system he designed. Hal Hemingway was the best officer in Gotham, but time can change a man, and whatever time remains, The Batman must save him and his reputation. At Lukey's Arcade, the gang are pleased to see Eddy, and tell him that his favorite pinball machine is ready...

They are aware that it isn't Eddy they're watching play pinball, especially when they know that he never plays the machine. They have plans for the disguised detective, who'll find Hemingway for them -- and they'll collect the money for the job. In a short time, The Batman will be as blown away as his cover. When they ask "Eddy" if he has any ideas where Hemingway is, he tells them that the former policeman is part owner in an upstate motel. They leave Lukey's Arcade, with the gang complimenting "Eddy" on his detective work, and wondering if he shouldn't be on the right side of the law.

At the resort motel, they see a large balloon -- which is an advertisement of The Lonesome Pine Motel. "Eddy" and his cronies head for the end cabin, which has a light on, and "Eddy" is the one to kick in the door.

Hemingway is startled by the sudden intrusion, just as "Eddy" is slugged from behind, and the gang see his Bat-costume beneath his disguise. As one of the gang prepares to shoot him, another decides that it'll be more fun if he's awake, and has a better idea...

Hemingway charges them, but he too is slugged, and both men are bound. Outside, "Eddy's" wrists are tied to the giant balloon, which will be released into the air, where they'll shoot it at a sufficient height, and "Eddy" will be down in a hurry.

The line is cut and the balloon rises. "Eddy" begins to kick at the balloon, then pulls himself onto the balloon...

He bites into the balloon, with the gas carrying him towards the trees, and the gang getting ready to gun Batman down. As they fire, Hemingway rises, and leaps into their line of fire!

One gangster suggests that they go look for Batman, but the others agree to flee. In the woods, the disguised detective frees himself from the ropes, then The Masked Manhunter races to find his friend, then arrives in time to hear his last words. The Darknight Detective blames himself for his friend's death, and for being slugged from behind twice like an amateur. He owes Hal Hemingway... and it's a debt he's going to pay in full!

At dawn, an express train is making its way through the countryside, and aboard, the gang await their arrival in D.C. -- then South America! One gangster goes out for a smoke, but as he lights his cigarette, The Shadow of The Batman falls on him, and a blue-gloved fist knocks him out with an uppercut!

The other two are admiring the loot, but they are unaware that their next stop will be prison! He knew where the gangsters were going to receive their money, and he followed them from there. The Batman knows that they were decoys, and weren't supposed to steal anything from the factory -- just to be seen! One crook draws a gun, but is knocked out by The Masked Manhunter, who is in mid-run after the other hood...

The last gangster offers to confess, but tries to pull a fast one on Batman, who anticipates his next move, then delivers a left-handed knockout punch. When the train arrives at the next station, the police have arrived and see that the phone-tip was accurate -- however, the caller didn't mention how the crooks looked like they'd been struck by a truck! Hours later, in the suburbs, two business men savor the plans for the fasion-reactor, which they have just purchased...

They look up and see The Batman swinging down towards them! He is regards these two "upstanding citizens" as worse than the crooks they employ, and he is sickened by them, just as each one receives a kick on the chin! (Holy Three Strikes, Batman! Isn't that a kick in the head?) The Masked Manhunter picks up the plans and knows that normally, he wouldn't have bothered with them because they're a police matter! But this case was different! Near dawn in Gotham City finds a man savoring the money he received for selling the plans, and he is confident that the security system will keep him safe...

Tom Wilson is mistaken, for Batman has caught the crooks, including the headman -- him! The plant manager hired the gang to cover his own theft, then got them in by shutting off the alarm system. There never was a locked room mystery to solve! When Wilson tells him that Hemingway ran, The Darknight Detective knows that Hal did this because he saw Wilson slug Batman from behind. Confused, the former policeman went into hiding until he could decide what to do next. Wilson offers The Masked Manhunter half a million dollars for letting him go...

The money is slapped out of the plant manager's hands, and Tom Wilson gets on his knees -- fearful of The Batman's wraith. Although he'd like to obliged Wilson's fears, there's been too much violence already, and he tells the plant manager to call the police to turn himself in. As the day ends, The Masked Manhunter stands at the grave of Hal Hemingway, and whatever thoughts he has... are his own.

In "Robin Dies At Dawn!", The Boy Wonder was tied to a balloon, which was meant to seal his doom.

Hal Hemingway resembles Rod Steiger's character from "In The Heat of The Night."

Tom Wilson bears some resemblance to Julie Schwartz.

Eddy looks like a gruff version of Bruce Wayne, and his trademark is saying "Ye-ah, okay!"

The leader of the gangsters reminds me of the thug George Reeves played in "The Face And The Voice" episode of The Adventures of Superman.

In 1975, folks were at the movies and watching "Murder On The Orient Express."

This story shows that The Batman goes after crime, even when it's of the white collar variety.

Irv Novick and Dick Giordano give Batman that distinctive scowl, which lets the crook know that he's not going to get away with it, and if he seems to, it won't be for long. The capework is gorgeous, too.

My favorite moment in the story would have to be when The Masked Manhunter slaps the half a million dollars out of Tom Wilson's hand, and you see how pathetic the plant manager really is.

Denny O'Neil shows that criminals are really a superstitious,.cowardly lot, as well as being not too bright when the chance comes to dispose of Batman.

This Review Is Dedicated To Ken Rothstein

Steve Chung
"The Review That Never Was!"