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Detective Comics 251
"The Alien Batman


Cover by Sheldon Moldoff and Stan Kaye?
Story by Ed Hamilton?, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris

Somewhat before my time as a comic book reader but the cover is so striking that I just had to comment on it. We're knee deep in the "Batman vs. the Aliens" era here, an era which I alone appear to contend is part of the Silver Age of Comics. So the sight of Vicki Vale (the original Lois Lane) snapping photos of Batman meeting a bat- eared alien should be pretty standard. But when Batman whips off his cowl and reveals that it's actually incredibly form fitting to his own alien head- Whoa!!

In fact the alien Batman's ears are about as large as Bob Kane used to draw them in the early early forties. Sheldon Moldoff had never given Batman ears this big before- nor had he ever drawn them as more than little triangles- the fancy spade-shapes with the sharp points were added by Charles Paris to make Moldoff's are look more like Dick Sprang.

Inside, the splash shows the follow-up scene when Vicki gives the picture to Commissioner Gordon. Batman scratches his chin, ears much smaller, but just as pointy.

The actual story starts on page 2 at the Gotham City Airport. Radar detects an unauthorized landing. The tower contacts the police, Gordon himself decides to handle it, and snoop-of-the decade Vicki Vale follows along. Police searchlights reveal the alien space ship just as the bat-headed Batman unmasks. The space ship takes off again before the stunned law enforcers can act. There's nothing left to do but summon the Caped Crusaders to the Commissioner's office for some Truth or Consequences. Stunned, Batman denies everything. Robin sagely points out that he doesn't have pointy ears. Batman refuses to take off his mask but does submit to a blood test- which proves conclusively that he's NOT human!

Another police mentions feats that Batman has done that no ordinary human could do like being struck by lightning with no injury. But Batman still insists it's all a hoax.

Meanwhile, on page 6 two criminals whip off their alien disguises and reveal the flying saucer is really a disguised helicopter. So now the readers are in on the secret, but what's the point of all this? (Besides explaining a nifty comic book cover, I mean.)

Vicki reminisces about an old case in which Batman appeared to be able to read minds. And Commissioner Gordon theorizes that Batman might have the power of mind over matter. And Batman is finding increasingly difficult to do his job because citizens are afraid of him and refuse to speak to him (Hm, are you listening Denny O'Neil?)

But Batman still insists on tracking some racketeers who are collecting protection money. And when he confronts the gang boss, who taunts Batman that no one believe his testimony anymore- Batman whips off his cowl to prove he really IS an alien!!!?!!! Shocked, the criminals give up instantly and blab on their friends too, convinced they've been set up by a crook who knew Batman was an alien all along. Swiftly Batman rounds up the whole gang and finds the fake space ship, thus putting him in the clear with the Commissioner. But Vicki is unapologetic about having considered Batman to be super- human. Still they all smile those Pepsodent smiles in the last panel and probably go back to the Batcave for some milk and cookies.

Following this is an add for the Kings of Comedy, Phil Silvers, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis and Jackie Gleason, part of an era when DC thought there was money in licensing Hollywood properties. Management ideas change after 1961, or perhaps we would have seen DC titles like Gomer Pyle, Andy Griffith and Dick Van Dyke.

Roy Raymond comes next, facing down "The Human Parrot". "Gracious Roy that parrot speaks English as well as we do- and he isn't even an American!" exclaims the ever-credulous Karen (does she have a last name, I wonder?).

The story starts when someone steals the diamond from the head of a South American tribal idol which will bring down a curse on the village. The chief is really upset because the same thing seems to happen every month, and giant diamonds are getting harder to come by!

Roy Raymond, who just happens to be in their neighborhood volunteers to help. The tribe blames it on Hatikah and his parrot Pongo. Only Pongo could fly up that high to steal the diamond. But Hatikah denies it. He loves Pongo like a son and would never train him to steal. Besides with his parrot's command of English and his skill at arithmetic there's more money to be made in American vaudeville than he could ever fence those stupid diamonds for.

But Roy figure it would be much easier for the guy who puts the diamond in the idol in the first place to simply replace the diamonds with ice and keep the real ones for himself.

As for how Pongo does all this incredible things? How does the man from "Impossible But True" expose that hoax? He doesn't. He just offers him a spot on his show.

John Jones, Manhunter from Mars decides to disguise himself as an evil crime lord and becomes "Alias Mr. Zero"! When a gang leader uses several different gangs to commit robberies, the Chief and Jones figure the only way to smoke him out is to set up a rival gang leader. So Jones becomes Mr. Zero, but only the Martian Manhunter can actually steal the look from the real gangs right during the robberies themselves.

First, Jones just steals the crooks getaway truck, complete with the loot. After that it gets tricky. He uses super breath to abscond with a collection of rare oriental rugs and then he uses magnetic vision (!) to steal a collection of rare armor. So impressed is the boss that he invites Mr. Zero to visit him to talk about joining forces.

Jones is impressed too. He's all set to arrest the gang leader, when a henchman shows up with a lighted candle! But Jones uses his supersonic voice to break a pitcher of water, and put out the candle. After that a few well placed Biffs and Ssocks and the case is wrapped up.

As many have surmised, the Martian Manhunter seems capable of summoning up whatever power is necessary to move the plot forward. About the only powers you never see him use in these early stories are super-strength and flying. So much for him being a Superman clone.

Presumably the Jones and Raymond stories are by Jack Miller. The Batman story I have no credits for. It might possibly be by Ed Hamilton, who bowed out writing for Superman and Batman about this time, but soon would be writing the early Space Ranger adventures.

Like most DC's of the time, the whole book is clever but empty. The puzzles aren't solved- they just unravel. The stories don't reach a climax, they just stop. The best of the lot is the Batman, which deals with fear and paranoia and the speed with which rumors can spread and expand. In the nineties it would have been a 12 part series or a hardcover graphic novel.