A Tribute to the of

Sheldon “Shelly” Moldoff would have been 95 on April 14th. It’s hard to believe he’d already been gone a little over 3 years and even more remarkable to consider his body of work, including that one-page feature in Action Comics #1. To honor Bob Kane’s most prolific “ghost,” I thought we’d take a look at another Silver Age Batman story, just a couple of issues prior to the recent Riddler tale [Sage #358], though interestingly between the two, specifically in issue #170, the cover logo changed. It’s Batman #169 with a publication date of February, 1965, featuring another classic villain in his second Silver Age appearance, it’s the Penguin in “Partners in Plunder!” The cover (and the other credits are about identical to #171) is by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson. Shelly Moldoff did interior pencils with my pal Joe Giella on inks. Julie Schwartz is our editor with the wonderful Gaspar Saladino on letters and France Herron with the script.

The Penguin is freshly out of the hoosegow and is trying to come up with a truly spectacular crime, but is coming up with bupkis when he is suddenly inspired and announces that Batman will not only select his crime, but blueprint it.

The next day at a grand opening at the local jewelry store, people are being presented with complimentary umbrellas that will qualify them for a prize. When they enter the store, however, at the stroke of 10:00, the bumbershoots open and begin to shoot out smoke and lightning. Batman is summoned, but before he and Robin can get to the jewelry store, they get a call on their Batmobile’s radio that another gent was spotted handing out free umbrellas at the bank at precisely 10:15. Once again, the Penguin’s parasols activate and begin to fly around in the air as if jet propelled. Batman and Robin deal with them, but don’t understand the plot behind it all.

Meanwhile, outside, still more gimmick umbrellas are rolling through the street, linked at the handles, like some sort of juggernaut. Finally, a massive bumbershoot falls from the sky, obliterating an entire intersection. While none do any harm, the Dynamic Duo is convinced it’s the work of the Foul Fowl and are on their way to get to the bottom of things.

The Penguin, at his umbrella shop, is anticipating their arrival in one minute, noting the time is 10:05. (Huh?) He also switches his monocle from his right to his left eye. (Huh?) Part I ends on that confusion.

Part II has our heroes at the shop, confronting their old foe, but the Penguin claims innocence, that just because his umbrellas had been sold doesn’t make him responsible for what happens with them later. Citing a lack of evidence, the Caped Crimebusters concede the point and depart, with Robin remarking that the bird had his monocle in the wrong eye.

Back at the umbrella shop, one of the Penguin’s henchmen asks about the monocle and Oswald says simply that he did it as a distraction, to keep his foe guessing. That night, the Dynamic Duo spot what seems to be the Aurora Borealis, but it turns out to be a sparkler umbrella suspended by a multicolored one, slowly coming to rest. The World’s Greatest Detective looks them over, discovering nothing too amiss, but begins to speculate that perhaps it’s a clue that the Penguin plans to take the bejeweled meteorite that’s in town on display. Little does he know, he’s being monitored via a tiny transmitter in the parachute umbrella and a jubilant Penguin announces that the Dark Knight has just told him what to steal and soon he’ll explain the method.

As predicted, Robin asks how the felon could pull it off with all the security measures in place and Batman lays out a scenario, which the Penguin will adopt, but with his own twist on things. He instructs one gang member to grab the Penguin Magnet and they’re on their way.

Since Batman predicted the caper would take place on the building’s roof, he and Robin lie in wait and the Penguin and his gang members soon land courtesy of parachute umbrellas. As the partners try to do an apprehension, they’re suddenly pulled forward by an unseen force. It seems the Penguin Magnet had been deployed across the street and since the metal buckles in each hero’s belt had been “treated” by magnetic force in the Aurora Borealis umbrellas; they’re being drawn inexorably via powerful magnetism. Soon they’re literally stuck to the wall of the other building where some of the Penguin’s gang looks on with mirth.

Batman pulls off a distraction, however and he and the Boy Wonder swiftly remove their belts and fight their way back to the museum’s roof. The Penguin takes off in his jet-propelled bumbershoot with the bejeweled meteorite in his clutches, but the Caped Crusaders mount two other umbrellas and begin pursuit.

Swiftly gaining on their quarry, the Penguin realizes the weight of the huge bauble is slowing him down, so he ditches it, but not before Robin snares him with a rope while Batman retrieves the meteorite. The Penguin is jailed, but takes some small satisfaction that his opponents are still puzzled with the monocle switch.

Joe Giella was a great inker for Shelly’s pencils, which were sometimes a bit on the stiff side, but I can’t say much for France Herrons script. This one lacked something and I still think the timing thing that I mentioned above was a significant gaffe, which surprises me as Julie Schwartz was usually on top of such things.

With that in mind I’ll give this Batman tale a 5 on the ol’ 10-point rating scale. Kinda mediocre overall, though it was kind of fun to see the Penguin in action, such as it is. He always struck me as more of a caricature villain than a real threat.

We miss you, Shelly Moldoff, but a snappy salute to you for all you’ve done for these four-color wonders that we so love.

The next edition of the Silver Age Sage, available on the 1st of May will mark our 15-year anniversary! I’m still trying to decide how to mark it, but meanwhile, you can reach me any time you like with whatever is on your mind at: professor_the@hotmail.com

See you then, and…

Long live the Silver Age!

© 2000-2015 by B.D.S.

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