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Detective 276
"The Return of Bat-Mite"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND February 1960
by Bill Finger, Sheldon Moldoff and Charles Paris

Batwoman riding the Bat-Cycle leads the way, followed by Batman and Robin in the Batmobile. Bat-Mite hovers over Batwoman's shoulder. He appears to be sitting on her cape as it flaps in the wind. She has one of those bright "Pepsodent" smiles that nobody in the House of Bat is allowed to wear any more. But stoic Batman warns Robin of ominous doings once Bat-Mite starts "helping" Batwoman.

On the splash Batwoman asks Robin "What's going on here?" and well she might, as Batman as just used a pair of giant tweezers as a springboard to launch himself into the air after three crooks who are riding a giant postage stamp like a magic carpet. Batman's giant penny looms in the background although they're not in the Bat Cave. And Bat-Mite does cartwheels in the air. "OBOYOBOYOBOY! What Fun!"

OK, the stamps and the coin are because Batman, Robin and Batwoman are chasing the Hobby Robbers. Batman figures they'll be attacking the Coliseum's rare stamps and coins exhibit. (And since I've never seen an eight foot tall penny, I would guess they would be pretty rare.) Batwoman goes to the Gotham Library to guard an exhibit of rare books. (Batman figures the books are worthless because they haven't been slabbed.)

"Flailing fists hammer their targets until..." Bill Finger often think hands move of their own volition. It would be a short fight but the giant coin suddenly cuts the Dynamic Duo off and a giant postage stamp scoops up the gangsters and carries them out of Batman's reach. Batman jumps to the immediate conclusion that Bat-Mite must be around, then jumps on the giant tweezers and launches himself into space. Amazed by the antics of the "Acro-Batman" (another unique Finger touch) the gang immediately surrenders. Then Batman attempts to convince the crooks they were hypnotized and hadn't really gone flying in the air at all.

After the police have carted the gang away, Batman summons Bat-Mite to show himself and proceeds to dress him down. "Crime Fighting is serious business!" he scowls. (See, Batman was always a grump. Nowadays he's a legendary grump.)

Rebuffed by Batman, Bat-Mite decides to play Batwoman a visit in her secret lair. (Does every home in Gotham City have a cave in the basement?) Bat-Mite lays on the soft soap and soon Batwoman is putty in his hands. Batman, the close mouthed loner that he is, has never bothered to warn Batwoman about the little imp.

She soon finds out however. After she has quickly subdued the gang the Hobby Robber has sent to steal a famous musical instrument collection (it only takes her two panels) Bat-Mite decides to liven things up a little. He uses a bass fiddle as a crossbow and tangles Batwoman up, but Batwoman catches up to the gang when they climb a pipe organ to reach the skylight. A few well-placed notes and soon they're bouncing a beat on a giant bass drum trampoline! Batwoman too, now turns on Bat-Mite and the little scamp is beginning to feel extremely unappreciated. But back at the Bat Cave, the Mite of Mischief overhears a secret plan that the Bat boys don't plan to share with their lady friend. Quickly returning to Batwoman's Lair, he spills the beans and he and KK are bosom buddies again!

A good thing, too, because Batman's plan backfires and he and Robin are caught. The Hobby Robber trusses them up, dumps them in his swimming pool and attacks them with his model battleship collection. The radio controlled boats, unlike the ones at your local amusement park, fire real ammunition!

When Batwoman breaks up that piece de resistance, though, the Hobby Robber falls back on a real full-sized machine gun, only to have Bat-Mite launch an army of toy soldiers in response! For once Batman is grateful for the Imp of Imposition's help. Batwoman even plants a big kiss on him, which causes an embarrassed Bat-Mite to scamper off to his home dimension. (Where is that anyway?)

13 pages of dizzying wonderment, strange happenings, weird settings, and acro-batic action. Pretty satisfying read, I think.

So what did I think as an eight-year-old? Well, I had been reading Batman for about a year at this point, so I already knew who Batman, Robin, and Batwoman were. Bat-Mite was a new character. I wasn't to read his first appearance until it was reprinted in an Annual some time later. I had read about Mr. Mxyzptlk however, and even as an eight-year-old, I knew a rip off when I saw it. Bat-Mite never quite jelled for me. His on-again off-again sometime menace didn't really impress me. I don't think he really came into his own until he and Mxy "teamed up" in World's Finest sometime later on. The thing I like most about Batman at the time was the weird art, the strange looking villains (The Hobby Robber was a grossly over weight fellow with pig ears. I think he escaped from a Carl Barks story.), the giant props which appeared in almost every story, and the incredible collection of minutiae that Batman spouted at the drop of a clue. I have no idea how many of the facts the Caped Crusader whipped out were true and how many Finger and Company made up at the spur of the moment. But I believed all of them.

Next up was Roy Raymond in "The Great Space Hoax" by Jack Miller and Ruben Moreira (signed!- How come Moreira got to sign his stuff when nobody else did?) Roy Raymond is the host of the fabulous TV show, "Impossible, But True". Why it's called that, I don't know, because he spent the entire 10-year length of his series exposing every one of them as a hoax. He's so convinced every body is a liar he must be related to Terry Thirteen in some way.

So- he and his lovely assistant Karen are both being flown away in a space ship in the splash panel, and her knee jerk reaction is that it must be a rear screen projection. Roy wants to know what's the point of such "obvious" special effects. (I think I sat behind these two at the Spider-Man movie.)

The story starts when a bald headed man approaches Roy at the end of his show and challenges him to expose the hoax he's going to present him with. Roy thinks this is a refreshing switch and he and Karen accompany the man off into the deep woods where they find a space ship. Inside the three are immediately whisked into space and soon land on a alien planet. Karen is convinced it's a movie set but Roy suddenly whirls and rips the bald guy's mask off. Jinkies! He's a REAL alien!!!!!! He's really upset that Roy has seen through his trick, and thus an aerial space chase ensues that could be really exciting if the story had been more than 6 pages long. It all turns out that the people on this alien planet watch Roy's show every week and this guy had a bet he could fool Roy. It seems sore losers are universal though. The aliens apologize and send Roy back to Earth so that they can continue to watch his fabulous show.

I could never stand Roy. Usually I didn't bother to read him at all. Ruben Moreira's art never really moved me either. Not sure why, as I drooled over Leonard Starr's work in On Stage and the styles are almost identical. Perhaps it just worked better in black and white.

Rounding out the book was "The Crimes of John Jones," by Jack Miller and Joe Certa.

"The Martian Marvel amazingly reverses his manhunting role as he joins the underworld!"

When Detective John Jones spots "Big Boy" Benson and his bad boys breaking a bank he "undergoes a startling transformation" (meaning he turns green and bald and starts running around in his underwear. - Manhunter's and Hawkman's barechested approach to crime fighting never appealed to me. I had to wear a coat when reading their adventures.) The Sleuth from Space pursues the crooks at a speed that makes him invisible and quickly up ends their vehicle dumping them out on the street. ("Yipes!") Then he abruptly sits down in a daze. The criminals theorize a cosmic cloud passing between Earth and Mars has given the Manhunter amnesia, so they try to convince him he's part of their gang. Soon ol' JJ is moving train tracks for them, so they can commit train robberies in peace. He even reveals his "Earth identity" to them. (Why do they assume he has one I wonder?) To top everything, he steals an ocean liner for them! They can't think of anything else to do with it, so they bring it to Big Boy's secret hideout, where JJ promptly arrests the gang leader. The cosmic cloud has moved and his memory is restored. Or was it all a trap to catch the gang leader all along? The Sleuth from Space isn't spilling the beans.

Oh- and that picture they took of his "Earth Identity"? "Ridiculous", says the Manhunter, "If I had amnesia, how would I remember what my Earth guise looked like?"

6 pages over and out. This was probably the first Manhunter story I ever read. Not sure what I thought of him. I sort of liked his quirky weirdness, but his ability to just yank super powers out of nowhere irked me and I could tell even then that fire was a stupid weakness. I liked Certa's art though. He made J'Onzz float through the air as if he didn't care whether he was touching the ground or not. Ghostly and ethereal, nothing like him anywhere (until Marvel came up with the Vision- and the Spectre was revived years later). I never really thought of him as being a Superman clone. His main problem was that he never seemed to develop a supporting cast or a roster of villains- two things that are really necessary to make a strip successful.

So of the two books that I owned for a very short time in 1960, my impulse purchases with money that was supposed to go for a school insurance policy, the Detective was definitely the better selection. The Batman of that era suited me just fine. It never occurred to me that he needed a new look. He probably needed to pay more attention to that Batwoman though.