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Batman 285
"The Mystery of Christmas Lost!"

Writer: David V. Reed
Romeo Tanghal
Frank Springer

The Darknight Detective is ensnared in Gotham's giant Christmas tree, and Dr. Tzin-Tzin hurls a dagger at him -- saying that by this act, Batman will remember him -- when he most wants to forget! The Masked Manhunter is a trained crimefighter -- a learned criminologist, but when his opponent is Dr. Tzin-Tzin: illusionist and practioner of black magic, the odds are severely in question!

In The Masked Manhunter's private archives, there is a portrait of Dr. Tzin-Tzin in his jail cell. He has been placed in a special cell, completely isolated from human contact. It is not under TV surveillance, for if Tzin-Tzin did look back at his jailers, they would be under his control! For the past week, the illusionist has been harnessing his powers via the lights and noises of his cell -- enough stimulation for his mind to gather the tsal or psychic energy for his magic! Tzin-Tzin notices an ant, which had entered through a crevice in his cell... Solenopsis Molesta -- the yellow-golden "thief" ant! (Holy Pym, Batman!) Since it is a living thing, the ant is susceptible to the reduced abilities of Dr. Tzin-Tzin, and is soon under his control!

The ant departs, but soon returns with an army of golden ants, with each member carrying out its own function. An hour later, the end result is reached, and Dr. Tzin-Tzin is free! The alarm is sounded and guards look up into the sky to see the sorceror floating on the stone piece of prison wall! The guards take aim with their riot guns, but then, they fire off a twenty-one gun salute for the departing Tzin-Tzin!

The Masked Manhunter comes in answer to The Commissioner's summons, and he sees a grisly greeting written on the prison wall by an army of ants! "Merry Christmas To The Batman And Gotham City," and as Gordon wonders how Tzin-Tzin was able to move a 300 lb stone block, The Darknight Detective correctly deduces the illusionist's method of escape. The Commissioner tells Batman to look at the wall again, and the ants have formed into a question mark! Knowing how Tzin-Tzin thinks, this means a threat, whose deadline will be on Christmas Day!

In Dr. Tzin-Tzin's secret aerie, the sorceror has begun The Rites of Dragpoi -- in which a dragon brings forth a magic dagger of the mind! The Elixir of Nepenthes will be Tzin-Tzin's gift for Gotham, and one drop will be for The Batman!

Nighttime in Gotham City finds The Batmobile on patrol, and holiday decorations on display. The Batman knows that in his previous battles with Tzin-Tzin, he has narrowly won victory, and if the odds were to change, the sorceror would be the victor. On the police band, the news that the tree-lighting ceremony has gone awry, with the tree on fire! Three minutes pass, and The Masked Manhunter arrives in time to see that contrary to the report, the tree is not on fire, nor is it of a flammable material! Looking up, The Batman sees a bear parting the branches with its claws!

Swinging upwards, The Darknight Detective lands a kick, but the bear regains its footing, and swipes at Batman, who is caught in the grip of the branches -- which have suddenly come to life!

The bear paces towards the trapped crimefighter, and from its maw, Dr. Tzin-Tzin greets Batman! Complimenting the detective on his courage, if not his intelligence, he disappears, then re-appears as an ornament! Taking physical form, the illusionist is convinced that this will be their final contest, and Tzin-Tzin intends to rob Gotham of something priceless and irreplacable... which can never be recovered -- because it only exists in the mind! From his robes, Tzin-Tzin produces an glistening object...

He gestures and it becomes a dagger, which Tzin-Tzin hurls at the captive crusader, and The Batman falls from the tree... clutching at his right shoulder! When he recovers, The Masked Manhunter sees that the dagger is gone, and his clothes are intact... with no wound!

By twilight on the following day, Bruce Wayne is brooding at his penthouse about the Christmas tree stunt and Tzin-Tzin's challenge. At five o'clock on Christmas Eve, Alfred expresses concern about Master Dick, but Bruce knows that his ward is coming from Hudson University with his girlfriend on the morrow. Alfred informs him that Dick had come a day early to do some last minute shopping before Lori arrives, and it has been hours since he called from The Gotham Airport! The doorbell rings, and Alfred answers, then calls for Batman to come see Master Dick! The teenager is unable to recall why he came to Gotham or that he was going to purchase a gift...

Batman isn't pleased with the joke, and Dick still can't remember why he came for a visit. The Darknight Detective sees that his ward is sober and serious, but can't keep his train of thought for long. (Holy Loco Motive, Batman!) As he turns to ask Alfred for his medical kit, Batman turns to see the faithful butler sorting the mail. Alfred greets Dick, as if this were the first time they've seen each other, and indeed, both men are not able to hold a coherent thought for long...

Christmas Eve in Gotham finds the city filled with traffic, dining rooms and night clubs are filled with people... but places of worship are unattended, and no Christmas decorations to be seen! The people seem out of sorts, and police headquarters doesn't answer. The whole city is unable to concentrate, and only Batman is immune... He recalls Tzin-Tzin's taunt and knows that the sorceror's plan is to rob Gotham of its Christmas! (Holy Grinch, Batman! He's a mean one!)

The Masked Manhunter realizes that the dagger was an innoculation of some sort, and then, he sees a manhole cover, with steam coming out of it, but the snow hasn't melted! Upon closer examination, he sees that some sort of vapor is coming through the manhole cover! Knowing that he is probably being watched, Batman sizes up the situation, while elsewhere, Dr. Tzin-Tzin prepares to meet his foe at the underground steam plant!

Ten minutes pass, and at The Gotham City Steam Company, Tzin-Tzin watches as Batman exits from the manhole, and greets him... with two sword-wielding demons at the ready! The Darknight Detective is moving as if he has lost his concentration, and Tzin-Tzin fears that he has been cheated of his victory! Figuring that the vapors were too much or the innoculation not enough for his foe to retain his senses, Tzin-Tzin dispatches his demons to escort Batman inside! The Elixir of Nepenthes hovers in mid-air...

The Batman leaps for it, having feigned confusion, and destroying the Elixir with his two fists! Dr. Tzin-Tzin commands his demons to attack, and The Masked Manhunter recalls that these are mere illusions, as his batrang soon proves... by slicing them to pieces... but the scimitars -- are real!

Since the scimitars are genuine, Batman takes them, but Tzin-Tzin has summoned more demons for the attack! Swiftly, The Darknight Detective cuts the steam pressure valve, and both Tzin-Tzin and his demons are caught in the onrushing steam bath! As the mists clear, the illusionist fears that he is dying, but Batman assures him that this is merely the illusion of death!

Christmas night has come and Bruce tells Dick and Alfred how Dr. Tzin-Tzin made two mistakes! He hadn't figured on the snowfall enabling Batman to find the steampipes, and the second mistake was thinking that upon emerging from the pipes, he would need more of the antidote. This enabled The Masked Manhunter to come within striking distance of the sinister sorceror. Dick admires Alfred handiwork with the tree trimming, and Bruce has them join him outside for The Carillon Concert from the cathedral. When Dick wonders if Bruce has any worries of Dr. Tzin-Tzin escaping, the millionaire playboy reminds him that the illusionist will have to regrow some skin, and the itching will keep him from concentrating on his escape! Dick is depressed that he missed out on Dr. Tzin-Tzin's re-appearance, and he still hasn't found a gift for Lori, but Bruce offers some pearls from his emergency gift cache! Dick knows that Lori will dig them,a nd Alfred knows that Christmas Day, 1976 will be very special, indeed, and as Dr. Tzin-Tzin told Batman, it is something infinitely precious and irreplaceable! (Holy CGC, Batman!)

The cover by Jim Aparo has Batman caught in Dr. Tzin-Tzin's paralyzing grip, as a bear-demon has come to destroy The Darknight Detective! (Holy Smokey, Batman! This is no pic-a-nic!)

Frank Springer has also drawn Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #10 ("Twas The Night Before Christmas).

During 1977, David V. Reed would present "Where Were You On The Night The Batman Was Killed?"

The most recent place where Dr. Tzin-Tzin was mentioned, but not seen was in JLA: The Nail, where The Flash is racing through such exotic places as Gorilla City, Kobra, and the secret hideout of Dr. Tzin-Tzin (misspelled in the book). Other than that, Dr. Tzin-Tzin had his own entry in Who's Who, drawn by Bill Sienkiewicz in 1985.

One of the most memorable stories is "The House That Haunted Batman!" This was Tzin-Tzin's second appearance, I believe.

In the letterspage, Christopher Phillip Juricich of Burlingame, CA writes:

"Dear Editor:

Paul Emrath's letter concerning the taming of the Batman's fury in recent months is perhaps founded to an appreciable degree. The Batman isn't quite the masked terror that he used to be when handled by other authors.

However despite this, perhaps there was a turn for the better in Batman #281's "Murder Comes In Black Boxes!" Very good, I must say. The story had so much going for it -- elements which should adorn all of The Batman's adventures.

To begin with, violence is perpetuated with a spicy ingredient of mystery and foreign agents. Introduce the lovely fiancee of one of the deceased -- a possible suspect! Yes, yes! Mystery -- the hallmark of The Batman! Follow-up action with a high-speed chase across the bridge in Batman's home environment. Then, at the houseboat, organized crime takes a hand, but the Caped Crusader, aware of their tactics, responds with equal professionalism and smashes them. Escape -- and we see Batman's disdain for the use of a gun. And then we're off to Budapest. More international intrigue! Disguised, the Gotham Goliath makes his way to... instant action! He's in an Iron Curtain country, proving that The Batman is everywhere and anywhere, pursuing justice. A missing nuclear scientist - action - escape - and capture?

There was so much in this tale that it was delightful. Perhaps some of The Batman's "evil eye" wasn't present, but so much else was. We can't expect everything! The Batman's gone through some changes, but always towards a better presentation."

Bob Rozakis replies: "As we hoped, read Emrath's letter in #281 sparked a bit of controversy among our readers - something we try for each time out! So, after you've perused the comments in this issue's lettercol, why not drop us a note on how YOU feel Batman should be handled: as the moody, mysterious shadow of the night or the more dynamic, forceful costumed crimebuster - or something else?"

On the opposite page, The Daily Planet's Direct Currents On Sale Week of Dec, 13th has Secret Society of Super-Villains #6 - Captain Cold! Captain Boomerang! Captain Stingaree! Together they make up "Captains Cataclysmic" and it's up to Captain Comet and Black Canary to stop them in this Bob Rozakis/Rick Buckler/Bob Layton tale. (Holy Advertising Answer Man, Batman! How could readers pass this up?) Seriously, an exciting and informative feature which made me want to see how the heroes would fare against the villains, under the guise of a late-breaking news story!

This is what I miss most about letters pages. Intelligent, well-thought out letters which spark the interests of fellow readers and editors, and an invitation to discuss such topics on the "Letters To The Batman!"

For myself, I feel that Batman should be the moody, mysterious shadow of the night, as well as being the dynamic, forceful crimefighting detective.

This reply is about twenty-five years too late, but I think Batman should be a hero, not be as bad as the criminals he faces. He should be human and reflect the best qualities of that condition. He can be fallible, but learns from his mistakes. He should be smarter than us, but not so as to become unbelievable.

He is, has been, and must be a hero. That is The Batman to me.

This Review Is Dedicated To Rich Goldberg And Chris Juricich

Steve Chung
"The Review of Christmas Lost!"