A Tribute to the of

I'm a December baby, so I get a double shot during that month between my birthday, which is thankfully early in the month and Christmas. I was the happy recipient of a pile of great reading material and I've been working my way through it, enjoying myself all the way.

One book I received that I was slightly hesitant about was "Batman in the Fifties." Hmmm. Not exactly the Caped Crusader's greatest era, though some of it is really enjoyable. As it turned out, I got a real bang out of it. Michael Uslan, who I'm sure all my readers are aware of, does a great introduction and the stories spotlighted are good, solid samples of the decade that often saw Batman in some goofy situations, but also had things like teaming with Superman, the introduction of specialized batarangs and delving into the utility belt and adding new members to the "Batman family", like Ace the Bat Hound, Batwoman and Bat-Mite. I hasten to add that my friend, the late Lew Sayre Schwartz, was active during this era, too, and I appreciated his work a great deal and still treasure the commission he did for me and the copy of Batman Annuals #1 that he inscribed to me.

So I went to the bat-shelf, er, bookshelf and pulled down one of the few 50's Batman stories I have access to (thanks to the webmaster) and thought I'd feature that for this edition of the Silver Age Sage.

Detective Comics #239 with a publication date of January, 1957 features a great wash tone cover courtesy of Jack Adler with Shelly Moldoff on pencils. Shelly also does the interior pencils, inked by Charles Paris, but the writer of "Batman's Robot Twin!" is a mystery. The Grand Comics Database states that Whitney Ellsworth is the credited editor, but in actuality Jack Schiff took care of that task.

The story begins with a fateful meeting between Professor Carden and Dr. Dall, the former having invented a robot twin that is designed to function as a repository for anyone's knowledge and personality. Dall suggests that it could be used for evil, so he suggests putting it in Batman's care so that it can receive a transfer of his brain wave pattern ensuring it will obey the commands of Batman and never fall into the wrong hands.

Once the transfer is complete and a duplicate costume placed on the robot to complete the effect, Batman is cautioned that it can be undone by a strong electric shock. Just then, the Dynamic Duo are called away to deal with an emergency at a construction site. When they return from the mission, they find a dazed Professor Carden who reports that Dall slugged him and took away the robot twin.

Back at Dall's lair, he and some henchmen have altered the robot to obey Dall's orders, but the robot resists revealing Batman's true identity. Failing that, they send the robot after his "twin."

Batman has anticipated this and has set up a booby trap for the robot with some wires in a web at the entrance of the bat-cave connected to some high voltage.

Unfortunately, the twin, armed with Batman's intellect and personality, has anticipated the trap and entered the cave from the other entrance. Then the two combatants go at it, neither able to get the upper hand as Batman is virtually fighting himself, so each maneuver is countered with ease until the robot finally gets the upper hand through sheer robotic strength. Batman is finally able to outsmart the robot by shouting his secret identity before the twin can take him out of the mansion. Seeing as how the robot shares Batman's strong desire to preserve his secret, he departs before anything can jeopardize it.

Reporting his failure to Dall, the robot is assured he'll get another chance and meanwhile, they have a job to pull. Going to a diamond cutting company under cover of darkness, Dall relies on the robot's knowledge of the alarm system to thwart it. Fortunately Batman and Robin happen along and Batman activates an alarm manually. Dall takes advantage of the proximity of Batman and orders the robot to apprehend him.

Robin separates from his partner to chase down Dall and the gang in the Batmobile while Batman leads the robot on a merry chase, trying to outwit him with rooftop maneuvers that the heavier twin shouldn't be able to accomplish, but through clever improvisation, the automaton does just that until our hero is backed up against some high voltage lines. He warns the robot, but the twin smells a bluff, citing Batman's ability to touch the wires and plunges ahead.

Switching scenes to the gang's hideout, the bogus Batman reports success to Dall and leads him to a panel truck holding the prone form of the Batman. Once inside, the door is slammed shut and the crooks realize they've been outfoxed by Batman in a metal mask. He further explains that he'd been wearing a rubber insulated suit, allowing him to trick the twin into shocking Batman's knowledge right out of his robotic brain.

And in 12 pages, that's a wrap with the Batman having successfully defeated "himself."

Detective was still a true anthology book at this point in history and the book also contains a 6-page Roy Raymond, TV Detective tale along with a 6-page John Jones Manhunter from Mars adventure. I was also tickled to note a house ad for the debut of the Challengers of the Unknown in Showcase #6.

A great little story and some good value for your dime and I'll rate it at a 7 on the 10-point scale. Batman in the Fifties is also worth your time if you're at all interested in the history of the Caped Crusader.

It is always our pleasure to host you here at The Silver Lantern and we strive to be your source for Silver Age goodness from DC's greatest era along with whatever else may tweak our interest. Comments and feedback are always appreciated, so don't be shy. Fire them off to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

As is our custom, the next edition of this feature will hit this same URL in approximately two weeks, so do come back and until then...

Long live the Silver Age!

2000-2012 by B.D.S.

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