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Batman 55
"The Bandit of The Bells!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND October-November, 1949

Story: Unknown Art: Unknown

(Originally Reviewed On 11/26/01)

The sound of bells are ringing in the ears of The Dynamic Duo, and for whom these bells begin to toll, as they must find... "The Bandit of The Bells!"

Ed Peale remembers his younger days, when an alarm clock would keep him from sleeping later, how the school bell echoed his tardiness, and as an adult, he would have to punch a time clock, whose ring was his taskmaster. One day, he decides to make bells obey him, and after reading up on them, he decides to become a criminal and call himself... The Gong! (Holy Barris, Batman! This guy makes Bane look plausible!) During his first crime, the ringing sounds of a fire engine... an ambulance... and a patrol car were used simultaneously to cover his first crime!

Forming a gang, his next crime of robbing a diamond cutter's office went off since he pressed every elevator starter's bell, and soon word of his crimes were frontpage news! (Holy J. Arthur, Batman! Where does this crook "Rank"? Behind The Human Eraser and The Monarch of Menace?) The Gong is soon ready for another "bell" crime, and the following day finds The Gong's gang disguised as a coast guard crew on patrol in Gotham City Harbor. Telling his men to find out what the right time was, one of them hails a nearby boat, and Millionaire Bruce Wayne tells them it's 8 Bells, which means nothing to the false sailor, who wants to know what the time is! Puzzled, Bruce tells him that it's 12 o'clock!

Dick Grayson can't figure how a coastguardsman wouldn't know what 8 Bells means, and Bruce knows that it's the first thing a new recruit would learn, meaning that the sailor is a fake, and The Dynamic Duo must get on the case! Nearby, a freighter moves, guided through the reefs by a series of buoys, but then, their jagged rock tears into the freighter's hull! The freighter captain and the first mate spot coastguard men and hail them, only to find out once they are on board, that they are The Gong and his gang, completing another "Bell" Crime! The next moment finds The Dynamic Duo swinging down on their bat-ropes, and into the path of the startled hoods!

The Gong leaps at Batman, while a fake sailor seeks to use a torch on The Boy Wonder, who punches him in his ample stomach! The ship throws The Dynamic Duo off-balance for a moment, and they are soon in the clutches of The Gong's men, who lower them to a buoy, then cut it loose! In order to survive, Batman and Robin must cling onto the buoy, which continues on a wild course, and lacking their ropes, there is no way for them to fasten themselves to the buoy, and as hours pass, they begin to lose their grip! Suddenly, Batman remembers that buoy lights can be seen from long distances since buoy lenses are powerful magnifiers, and seeks something to burn through the lens!

Hooking his legs on the iron rungs, Batman removes a sliver and spots the tanks of acetylene gas which keeps the buoy lights burning! Opening the hatch, a concentrated spot of sunlight heats the inflammable gas and soon, a flame reaches the air, one which is spotted by a nearby liner! At night, newspapers report The Dynamic Duo's rescue at sea, and in The Bat-Cave, The Dynamic Duo change to dry clothes, and Batman spots a piece of paper or cardboard in his glove! It is shaped like a tiny bell!

The Caped Crusader figures that it must have come from a railroad ticket, the "bell" having dropped into The Gong's coat when the conducter punched his ticket! Calling on a railroad dispatcher, Batman sees the punch list and sees that Conductor Morton's symbol matches the bell! The conductor is shown a sketch of The Gong, who would be difficult to forget, and who got off at the local stop of Hicksburg! (Holy Rand-McNally, Batman! I guess he didn't make it to Rich City or Taxville?) Within the bell tower of Hicksburg's town hall, The Gong proposes putting the bell on a swivel so that it doesn't wear out from constant ringing, to which the mayor agrees!

Once he is alone with his gang, The Gong knows that at one time, superstitious folk left gems and other valuables to a bell when it was being cast, believing that the rich tone would bring them luck! The Gong knows that the bell contains gold nuggets, but then, The Dynamic Duo swing in on their Bat-ropes, while The Gong and his men jump onto the bell, then slide down the tower itself, with The Caped Crusader falling off, and Robin leaping for his rescue!

Batman reaches Robin's ankles and is saved, while The Gong's gang shoot out The parked Batmobile's tires to delay pursuit! While The Dynamic Duo are replacing the tires, they are told that patrols have not spotted The Gong's truck, meaning that it is still in town! Batman asks if Hicksburg has a sound film with The City Hall bell chimes on it, and soon, The Caped Crusader records the sound and plans to track it down with an variable sonic oscillator! (Holy Rube Goldberg, Batman!)

Once The Boy Wonder returns with The Batplane, he uses the device on the town, with the sound waves being received by Batman, who finds the same pitch, but no bell at various locations, until they visit a tool repair building, where inside, The Gong's gang are busy melting down the bell, which doesn't begin to compare with the beads of perspiration going down The Gong, himself, upon seeing The Dynamic Duo!

When asked why he picked Hicksburg as a hideout, The Gong tells them that he enjoys the quiet, and the only bells being the town hall one, which he intended to steal! Since he hates the bells, he sought to make them serve him, and now no longer their slave, he is now their master! The Gong leaps through a nearby window, and once on the ground, he runs into an alley, where he is boxed in, and is using a gun to keep his pursuers at bay! When one of the police tells Batman that there's a shooting gallery behind the alley, The Caped Crusader intends to use a gun from the shooting gallery, and The Boy Wonder wonders if his mentor means to use it on The Gong?

He nods, then uses the gun on the gallery gong, where each bull'seye makes it clang...clang... clang! The Gong is soon driven mad by the sound, rushes out of the alley, and begs them to stop ringing the bell! Ed Peale is now in prison, where the clanging of the prison bell tells him and his fellow prisoners when to get in and out of their cells, and at Stately Wayne Manor, Dick wonders why The Gong thought he was a slave to the bells, and Bruce tells him that Peale never realized that bells ring for such events as weddings, for church, for peace, and that bells are the servants of man!

In an issue of Legends of The Dark Knight, Michael T. Gilbert paid homage to this type of Bat-story by having the main character be inspired by a lightbulb, and having been teased by his schoolmates for having a large forehead, the crook adopts it as his motif.

I first came across the name of The Gong in one of those Batman Limited Collector's Editions in the '70s, in a puzzle with Batman's Rogues' Gallery, done by Bob Rozakis, I believe.

The Dynamic Duo have also found themselves trapped by a buoy in the 1966 Batman movie with Adam West and Burt Ward. (Holy Porpoise, Batman!)

When looking at the names of the conductors, one of the names is that of Ned Herron, so perhaps it is Ed Herron who wrote this one?

In the Batman TV series, The Boy Wonder found himself tied to a giant bell clapper in the episode with Roddy McDowell as The Bookworm.

In his early days, The Golden Age Batman did carry a gun, then abandoned it.

Steve Chung
"The Review of The Bells!"