A Tribute to the of

Most of the time I don’t have much difficulty settling on a story to cover for this ongoing feature, but this time around I was struggling a little bit. I had my latest birthday earlier this month and got piles of books, glorious books and already had a few on the nightstand pile, but they ended up being a bit bat-centric. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I seem to be in some sort of catch-up mode on some of the more modern (at least by my standards) classics like Year One, The Long Halloween and Hush. Add in The Batman Files, 75 Years of the Batman and The Joker, A Celebration of 75 years and you get an idea how I’ve been spending my reading time.

So, you’d think I’d be a little full of Batman, right? How can you ever get full of the Dark Knight? I finally settled on a Bronze Age piece that was touched on briefly in my last article for BACK ISSUE. It’s the Brave and the Bold #148 from March of 1979 (the house ad in the issue lists the sales date as December 28th, interestingly enough) where the World’s Greatest Detective is teamed up with Plastic Man in “The Night the Mob Stole Xmas!” Writer Bob Haney brings us the tale with art by Joe Staton and Jim Aparo, coloring by Jerry Serpe with editing by Paul Levitz. Cover art is also by Jim Aparo with colors by Tatanja Wood.

The gist of the story is that there is a massive “buttlegging” operation going on. The underworld is smuggling untaxed cigarettes into Gotham City and illegally profiting from them and Commissioner Gordon and Gotham’s finest are trying to bust it up. Batman decides to try to lend a hand as yuletide snow begins to fall in Gotham. Somehow he’s able to keep the Batmobile from slipping around on the roads while he tries to get some tips from his informers, but no one is talking. As he cruises by the “Lacey’s Department Store” he admires their famous “Xmas display.” (I went through the story and counted each reference to “Christmas” and each one to “Xmas.” Christmas won by 4 references, 14 to 10, but I still don’t understand the inconsistent references. Maybe I ought to check in with Joe Staton…)

Just then, as Bats drives down a side street he witnesses a child chasing a ball into the pathway of an oncoming cab, but a long, red arm snatches the boy out of harm’s way. It’s then that Batman recognizes his old friend Plastic Man, hidden behind a Santa suit and collecting for charity with his bell and kettle. Batman mentions that he’d not seen Plas since they were dealing with Ruby Ryder (no editor’s note, shame on you, Paul, but I’ll provide the issue references, which just so happens to be a prior Sage entry, and it’s issue #95 [Sage #326].)

Plastic Man replies that things have been going downhill ever since and he’s tired of working at cheap carnivals. The Dark Knight wishes his friend well and then continues his patrol, only to see that the display at Lacey’s has been stolen wholesale. Gordon is there with some uniforms and points out the truck tire tracks in the snow. The Mayor is also there and is going to declare a state of emergency. (For a Christmas display? Bob Haney strikes again…) In the spirit of overreaction, the Commissioner declares a “Condition Red! A dragnet over the entire city!

Our hero, meanwhile, notices that Plastic Man’s kettle is overturned and there’s a note in the snow with some directions to follow Route 90 south. Bats quickly brings the Whirly-Bat into play that just so happened to be in the trunk of the Batmobile. It isn’t long before he spots a convoy of suspicious looking trucks eavesdrops on the CB transmissions between the vehicles, which confirms his suspicions.

Ditching the mini-helicopter, Batman boards one of the trucks to find Plastic Man with the elements of the display and even some live reindeer. Plas recounts how he was finishing up for the day when he saw the robbery taking place, but he took a sap to the back of the skull (you’d have thought it would have bounced) and was also loaded aboard the 18-wheeler. He barely had the time and presence of mind to scrawl the clue in the snow for Batman to discover.

They then notice that there is tobacco aboard, indicating the “buttlegging” scam is also involved. When the rigs stop for fuel, the trailer is opened so they can feed the reindeer, but Batman bursts out to assail the crooks. After a brief, but fierce battle, Batman is knocked into a pool of oil beneath an oil changing station that is sucking him under. The gang departs, but Plastic Man snakes an arm down to rescue the World’s Greatest Detective.

After he cleans up, Plas fills the Caped Crusader in on the fact that he’s learned their ultimate destination: Conch Key, Florida. Soon they are on their way to the coral islet just off the coast of Florida.

It seems Big Jake Doyle is ailing and has invited rival “buttleggers” to his compound for a final Christmas party, and therefore Jake needed a few decorations. Inside, it seems that Doyle is carrying out an elaborate ruse, but before our teammates can do anything, they’re discovered and apprehended by Big Jake’s hired muscle security.

Soon we see Batman tied up to the massive Christmas tree and “Santa” (since they still haven’t discovered Plastic Man’s identity) in the sleigh, both as part of the display. Jake announces from his wheelchair that he has an early Christmas gift for the assembly and he instructs “Santa” to open the massive present.

Bursting forth are Doyle’s henchmen, blasting machine guns every which way. Plas decides it’s time for action and he expands his body to the size and configuration of a parade balloon to deflect the hot flying lead. Meanwhile, Batman has freed himself and the battle is on. In a confusing development, fake snow is suddenly flying, being dropped from a helicopter overhead. Plas deduces it’s all part of the atmosphere that Big Jake has ordered up for a white Christmas in the Sunshine State.

Taking advantage and using his shape-shifting abilities, Plas diverts the fake snow into the criminal element, burying them in the phony flakes.

The final job is to load up Gotham City’s Christmas display and get it back up north in time for the holiday. All the crooks including Big Jake himself are employed in the task and in the final panel Gotham City’s mayor is offering his thanks to the Gotham Guardian: “Batman, it’s a miracle! You cracked the buttlegging ring and saved the city’s holiday!” “Thanks, Mr. Mayor! You might say it’s really just a gift from Santa Claus!

So, all’s well that ends well in the big city and obviously I selected this one for its Christmas theme. I just wish it were a better story. Once again, Haney’s script is kind of tough to swallow and mediocre.

Ah, well, until they begin to recognize my brilliance and let me plot the stories…yeah, sure. At any rate, the webmaster and I bid each and every one of our reader’s Happy Holidays in whatever form you observe them and thank you for being along for the ride. My e-mailbox is always open: professor_the@hotmail.com.

The next edition of the Silver Age Sage will be here on New Year’s Day, so be sure to come back for more and until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2014 by B.D.S.

This feature was created on 05/01/00 and is maintained by



The Silver Lantern Site Menu + Map & Updates

HomeThe SageSage Archives1934-19551956
1967196819691970GL Data

All characters mentioned, artwork, logos and other visual depictions displayed, unless otherwise noted, are © by DC Comics. No infringement upon those rights is intended or should be inferred. Cover, interior and other artwork scans and vid-caps are used for identification purposes only. The mission of this non-profit site is to entertain and inform. It is in no way authorized or endorsed by DC Comics and/or its parent company. The Webmaster assumes no responsibility for the content or maintenance of external links.