A Tribute to the of

As I type this, Comic Con has come to an end for another year. As you might expect, I kinda try to keep my thumb on the pulse out there, even though I continue to staunchly entrench myself in our beloved Silver Age. It didn’t sound like there were any major bombshells dropped, though I cannot imagine what would qualify as such for me. Apparently there was more footage regarding the upcoming Ben Affleck Batman and of course the lovely Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, but beyond that, not a heck of a lot.

I think one of the things that have puzzled me for a long time is the notion that Batman and Superman aren’t colleagues or pals or what have you. What is it with this Superman vs. Batman nonsense? It used to be they were literally the World’s Finest team, but it seems that Batman’s evolution over the years have led to a cynical, suspicious, non-team player. I find it sort of sad. Maybe Frank Miller is to blame…

Thankfully, I have plenty of material on the shelves that hearken back to what I consider a happier time, even though there was occasionally the cover that made you wonder, such as this one, from World’s Finest Comics #155 with a published date of February, 1966. That Curt Swan rendered cover with inks by George Klein certainly makes it appear grim for the Caped Crusader, particularly with that teaser text, “Exit Batman—Enter Nightman!” Sounds a lot like Stan Lee dialogue, eh? Mort Weisinger, assisted by E. Nelson Bridwell edited the Edmond Hamilton scripted “The 1,000th Exploit of Superman and Batman!” Interior art is also courtesy of Swan and Klein.

The story starts out with the realization by cub reporter Jimmy Olsen that the unbeatable team of Batman and Superman have just completed their 999th case, so he proposes to editor Perry White that the Daily Planet prepare to mark their historic 1,000th case. Perry warms to the idea and plans are laid

A cooperative effort is made between Metropolis and Gotham City to do the recognition and the heroes are fed a line of baloney about a law enforcement exhibit, featuring a mockup of both the Fortress of Solitude and the Batcave. At the event, however, they soon discover what it’s really about as law enforcement officials from the international community arrive to honor the greatest lawmen of all time. Each come bearing gifts, but Batman begins to act a little strangely, finally admitting that he feels undeserving and that another lawman should be honored in his stead, namely Nightman.

The Caped Crusader explains that his Bat-Eye, a flying camera and surveillance device had captured on film the exploits of the mysterious Nightman, who contacted Superman from Gotham City. Thinking it was his old partner, Superman is surprised to discover another costumed hero in Gotham with a uniform somewhat reminiscent of an owl.

Soon Nightman has deduced with stellar detective skills the location of some stolen jewels. Interestingly, no one knows this stranger’s identity and he’s taken the additional precaution of wearing a lead-lined mask, foiling Superman’s X-ray vision.

Superman proposes that Batman use his own detective skills to discover who Nightman really is, but the dejected Dark Knight questions how he can do so if Nightman had succeeded where Batman had failed? Just the same, he accepts the challenge and soon he and Robin are off in the Batmobile, ending part I.

Part II “The Incredible Identity of Nightman!” opens with the World’s Greatest Detective using what he has on hand, including a shot of Nightman from the Bat Eye. He deduces from a highly magnified close-up that Nightman has pores, indicating he isn’t a robot, dark stubble which shows he has dark hair, and that he’s roughly the height of Superman among other clues. Using the good ol’ Bat-computer, a few potential identities are produced.

Unfortunately, before he can make much progress, an exhausted Batman hits the hay and while he slumbers, Nightman again assists Superman in cracking another case. The Bat Eye has again documented what had transpired and Batman is more determined than ever to redeem himself.

Lead after lead, however, comes up dry and Robin himself decides to tail Nightman. Finally, it’s time for the inevitable showdown as Nightman arrives at the trophy hall of the Superman-Batman team where the two heroes are waiting with the international lawmen, including Commissioner Gordon.

Nightman arrives and a fight is on, with the winner receiving the right to be Superman’s partner. After a valiant struggle, Batman lies defeated, but Superman declares that it isn’t the real Nightman and removes his cowl to reveal a robot. As Batman rises he explains it was his Batman robot and that he’d learned Nightman’s identity and therefore programmed the phony Nightman to stage this fight. Huh?

As it turns out, the World’s Greatest Detective hadn’t lost his chops and had deduced that Nightman, after eliminating the initial candidates could only be…Batman! He only showed up when our hero was asleep and he suspected he’d been under hypnosis. Superman confirms his friend’s theory, further explaining that he was the hypnotist and fills in the rest of the blanks.

The Last Son of Krypton had in mind a special observation of his own for their 1,000th case and could think of nothing more fitting than a seemingly impossible mystery to crack: How Batman could track down himself. He placed post hypnotic suggestions that allowed Batman to create a new persona and even a new uniform.

In the end, Superman presents his crime-fighting partner with the Nightman costume as a souvenir and proof of his prowess in solving their 1,000th case.

This wasn’t the most sophisticated story I’d ever read, even though I’ve long admired Edmond Hamilton’s work. Still, it’s the classic Superman/Batman team that I know and love and that’s worth something in and of itself. I’ll give this one a 6 on the 10-point rating scale.

Do join us again, dear readers, as we continue to research and pay tribute to the greatest era in DC Comics’ history, the immortal Silver Age. Don’t forget to express yourself at my handy e-mail: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you next time with a new review and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2014 by B.D.S.

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