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Batman 75
"Outlaw Town, U.S.A.!"

(originally posted April 12, 2002)
Script: David V. Reed
Art: Dick Sprang and Charles Paris

Batman and Robin, in the Mayor's office, recoil in shock! Behind a placard marked "Mayor" is a man grinning large as he holds a gun on them and says, "I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay in our little town, BATMAN! We've got a nice spot picked out for you--THE CEMETERY!" Also sitting at the table behind cards including "Sheriff" and "District Attorney" are similar looking guys...scarred, eyepatched, wearing hats indoors, smoking, even...! Looks grim!

Little panels introduce this odd town of Silver Vein. In a classified ad, a store touts its specialties, loaded dice and marked cards! The Grand Hotel, which like everything else dates to the 1890s, hosts long-term guests on the lam from the law, including the Jenko Brothers, just in from Gotham City. The jail is boarded shut; an effigy of Batman is strung from the tree outside. Otherwise, the restaurants, theatres and saloon in this town of 2,000 are thriving. As the barman explains to a newcomer, the place had been

a ghost town for sixty years when some of "the boys" got the idea of taking it over and making it into an outlaw sanctuary. It seems there's an old statute on the books that provided for self-government in the mining towns, putting them beyond state jurisdiction. "They're tryin' to change the laws now--but we've got legal tricks that'll hold 'em up for years!" Ah--lobbyists!

Meanwhile, back East in Gotham, Bruce and Dick are dressed for the dinner they're just finishing before heading downstairs to the Batcave's crime lab.

Bruce raises a test tube that confirms the identification of the hair they found under a dead policeman's fingernails: it came from Phil Jenko! Dick chimes in that their job is to bring in the Jenko Brothers, fast!... just as a flashing red light alerts them to a Bat-Signal from the Commissioner. Soon, they burst into Gordon's office and learn he's just received a tip that

the Jenko Brothers are headed for Outlaw Town. Grimly, Gordon warns Batman that in order to catch those cop-killers he'll be on his own in a town where he'll be a marked man. Without hesitation, Batman agrees that he and Robin will take the job.

That night, Matt, Phil and Carl Jenko find they're not very popular. Word on the grapevine is that Batman is on the way, and this puts everyone in town on the spot. But Matt in his snap-brim hat shoots back that it's Batman who will be on the spot as soon as he sets foot in the town. "This is our BIG BREAK!" He then eggs them on to rig every inch of the town so that they can be rid of Batman for good, and his audience is very responsive.

A few days later, as the Dynamic Duo catch sight of the town over the flat landscape, the denizens also see the Batmobile's approach. The crooks cackle over how sweet it will be once they have Batman for a hostage, for as long as they hold him his safety can be used as a threat against all other law enforcers. As the Batmobile glides over the deserted main street, Robin is wary but Batman heads for the jail so they can set up headquarters. But, as he makes a turn, a roll of barbed wire springs out to block their way! Batman swerves away but it happens again! They'll have to proceed on foot. Checking their belt radios, they find the whole frequency range is jammed. The transmission aerials are in sight, so Batman throws a Batarang to knock them down but it bounces away. Robin notices a mesh of nearly-invisible wire

stretching from all the rooftops, protecting the aerials, which would make their silken ropes useless as well. As the lawmen pry open the jail doors and windows, a couple of toughs call out to them to beat it while they still can! Batman assures Robin that "This building was once the seat of the law around here--and WE'RE GOING TO PUT THAT SEAT BACK INTO PLACE!" What, like a toilet seat?

Inside the jailhouse, Robin is taken by the antique rolltop desk, loaded with old .45 ammunition and old-fashioned wax matches, while Batman counts the few jail cells but figures they'll do. Soon, the Duo have checked over the town and end up in the saloon, having found no trace of the Jenkos. Batman notices a tray the waiter has carried in from the rear entrance, containing three sets of used dishes. Could the food have been brought to the Jenko Brothers? Maybe--and there's a smudge of printers' ink on one of the cups! Better check the newspaper office!

At that moment, one of the locals slides a stein of beer down the plank, drenching Batman, while three others rush him! Instantly, Batman and Robin jump up and onto the chandeliers and throw a barrage of pointed crystal pendants at their attackers. "Nothing like glass to make a crook go GLASSY-EYED!" Another leap lands the Duo behind the bar, where they open wide the spigots on the beer barrels and the pressurized brew sends their attackers skidding! The battle rages all over the saloon, but as the Duo race for the doors, Robin slips on a wet patch. As Batman hesitates, both lawmen are subdued and hustled over to the jail. Since Batman is of no use as a hostage if his identity is revealed (?!??), they leave the mask in place. Stripping the Duo of their utility belts, the thugs return to their high-living ways at the hotel.

Batman muses that the desk contains all the gunpowder they need to blow open the cell, then proceeds to unwind one of the cell's bedsprings. Unerringly, he guides this salvaged steel wire across the room to the desk drawer, pulls it open, then drags it to the cell. A flick of one of those old wax matches finishes the job, and the Duo head for the newspaper office.

Within minutes, they surprise the Jenko Brothers, who are loading their suitcases onto a stagecoach in hopes of making a getaway! Matt Jenko flees while the Duo make short work of his two brothers. The other thugs figure this is a Jenko problem and make tracks back to the nearby buildings. As the Duo pull their captives to the jail, a thug comes to the window and announces that Matt Jenko is waiting for Batman at the saloon. Leaving Robin in charge, Batman trudges the lonely road to the showdown. But, unlike duels of the past, this time it's a killer with loaded pistols against an unarmed Batman! The minutes creep by, then Jenko sees the familiar form approaching from outside the swinging doors. "I'm COMING IN, Jenko" Throw away your guns!" So he does. The end.

Just kidding! Jenko then pulls his guns and fires at the doors, sending splinters flying as, behind them, BATMAN CRUMPLES! At the same moment, Matt Jenko is jumped from behind by... BATMAN! Jenko had been shooting at that dummy which had been hung outside the jail, controlled like a marionette by Batman as he stood on the saloon's roof. "VENTRILOQUISM did the rest!" Soon, Batman and Robin, chests puffed out, walk unmolested as they drag Matt Jenko to the jail. "Crooks are the most UN-NOBLE people in the world--as long as they feel safe, they'll forget their friends." Robin agrees that the other thugs are hiding behind closed doors, waiting for them to leave.

A few days later, in the Commissioner's office, Gordon expresses regrets. "What a shame, BATMAN! Just two days ago a law was passed enabling the National Guard to clean out OUTLAW TOWN! To think of the danger I exposed you to!" Grinning like a true hero, Batman replies, "No matter, Commissioner! It was a job we WANTED to do, and I'm glad the Army's taking over! Because Robin and I were going back to do that job--and it would have taken us a little longer!" The end!

While the Commissioner warned Batman of the dangers ahead, he placed a fatherly arm around the shoulders of the much-younger crimefighter. The oft-repeated analysis of Gordon as a father figure suddenly seems spot-on.

By its very nature, the Bat-Signal is most effective after dark, and it's always Gordon who uses it. So, either by choice or lack of influence, Gordon is the night commissioner in a town that never sleeps. D'you suppose the day guy has any idea how the office is run after he clocks out?...not that it matters in the world of 1950s Batman and Robin, of course. On the other hand, maybe Gordon is just clocking in unimaginable hours of overtime, or else Gotham is in a Daylight Savings Time zone unique to itself.

Public Service Announcement: "Superboy talks about The Holiday Spirit!" A bunch of kids, boys and girls, are gathered in Superboy's Workshop and chatter about things they hope to get for Christmas as well as for Hanukkah.

By their round faces and clothes I'd say they're about 10 years old, and Superboy looks a well-built 14: all within the target audience. The wrap-up focuses on Pete, the poor kid, who's thrilled 'cause his mother's getting out of the hospital in time for Christmas. Superboy congratulates them all on realizing that it's the family, not the gifts, that are the true meaning of the Holidays. Script: Jack Schiff. Art: Win Mortimer.

Advertisement: Wildroot Cream-Oil Hair Tonic, "Your Hair's Best Friend!" "Low as 29 cents, plus tax."

Advertisement: Baker's 4-in-1 instant Cocoa Mix, featuring a magic trick!

...and a Little Pete funny strip by the late Henry Boltinoff rounds out the first third of this issue.

Tom Orzechowski.