A Tribute to the of

Bill Finger, arguably the man who gave the majority of Batman’s identity to the character, left us on January 18, 1974, all but unknown. Thanks to the efforts of people like Mark Tyler Nobleman, Jerry Robinson, Lew Sayre Schwartz and “Robby Reed,” however, he is not forgotten and thanks in particular to Robby and his Dial B for Blog feature, we know what a significant influence the pulps and The Shadow in particular had on Mr. Finger and ultimately Batman.

I don’t know for certain whether it was intended irony or not, but toward the end of 1973, the Masked Manhunter met up with The Shadow in Batman #253, with a publication date of November, 1973. Check out that moody cover by Michael William Kaluta, who would go on to illustrate The Shadow in his own series for DC directly after this appearance. Interior credits for “Who Knows What Evil--?” include a script by Denny O’Neil, pencils by Irv Novick, inks by Dick Giordano and editing by Julius Schwartz. [Page scans can be seen here.]

The action commences immediately as the Dark Knight descends onto a moonlit scene where evil doers are unloading counterfeit cash from a rail car. Fisticuffs ensue and as usual the Batman is on top when one of the perpetrators is on the receiving end of a round from an automatic that knocks the pistol from his hand. The cowled crusader realizes he has an unseen ally, but soon finds things are a little strange as the thug he pursues disappears in a blind alley and then there is haunting laughter from an undiscernible source.

Batman collects some of the phony currency and heads home to the lab in the Batcave to try to unravel the case and find the kingpin. Mixed in with the bills is part of a map, discovered by Alfred and soon, for reasons this reader cannot fathom, Bruce Wayne is on his way to Tumbleweed Crossing, Arizona, as indicated on the map, via a bus. Having traveled by bus, I can tell you it’s not much fun and it sure isn’t very quick, especially if you start in Gotham City. Ah, well. Denny must have had his reasons.

Soon Bruce meets up with Bammy Stone, the proprietor of the hotel in this one horse town and gets checked in, but not before a group of hooligans in dune buggies come tearing down the main drag. Wayne slips into an alleyway to change into costume and soon knocks one of the drivers from his seat to question him. The punk is not too cooperative, and when he tries to swing on the Batman is made to pay the piper.

His colleagues stop to see what’s happening, but aren’t as belligerent and then give the World’s Greatest Detective the answers to his questions. They call themselves non-conformists who want to live peacefully in the desert away from civilization, but were offered the buggies and a grand to harass the town every Tuesday. Upon inspection, however, the payment is in counterfeit bills. This comes on the heels of Bruce’s discovery that a scientist is also lodged at the hotel to test the local water, which Bammy described as poisoned with “…gunk that runs down from the mountains.

Just then, some familiar laughter is heard by the Batman from behind the motel. He dashes toward it and finds nothing, but his thoughts ask, “Can it be him? Really him? No…he’s been gone for decades!

Later in the hotel dining room, Bruce is introduced to the other guest and scientist, Mr. Lamont Cranston. During the conversation, Wayne asks if the water could be used to make ink and Cranston confirms that it could. He then excuses himself and hits Bammy up for a Jeep so he can do some exploring. A little later, Bruce thinks to himself that the investigation is complete and he’ll soon have his counterfeiters.

A little later, dressed more appropriately, Batman takes off in the Jeep, still thinking. He has deduced that the gang is operating here because the water supply is perfect for making ink and his work in the Batcave had revealed that the ink on the bogus bills was a perfect match for genuine currency. Batman’s thoughts further reveal that the payment to the hooligans was a way to get them away from the ancient cliff dwellings where they’ve chosen to live and provide the counterfeiters with an ideal hide-out.

In the next tense moments, the Jeep is under assault by sniper fire and the Batman appears to be pinned down. Just then an old Autogyro, predecessor to the modern helicopter emerges and distracts the gunmen long enough for the Batman to put them on ice. The Dark Knight then calls to the aircraft, but is answered by a familiar laugh. Again his thoughts are full of wondering: “An old-fashioned plane…a super marksman…and a laugh like a…blizzard! Can they add up to…him?

Without time for further speculation, our hero heads for the ancient Indian cliff-dwellings and finds the counterfeiting operation, swiftly dispatching men left and right until the unexpected happens and the pressman blinds him with printer’s ink. The pressman dashes for the nearby airplane to make his escape and the Batman follows, but as the plane begins to take off, a dark figure in a flowing coat is caught in the landing lights, wielding twin, silver-plated automatics that are soon barking at the airplane, causing it to do an end-over and burst into flames.

The Gotham Goliath has cleared his vision at last, but didn’t see how things unfolded. When he gets to the hapless pilot, he seems delirious, babbling something about a long coat, a hat and staring holes into his skull. Batman is still hot on the case, though and is working his way back to the motel, where he expects to nab the boss of the operation.

Once inside the Tumbleweed Crossing motel, he does find him and it’s Bammy, who was busily snooping through Cranston’s notes to see what he might have learned. It seems Stone had discerned the possibilities of using the unique water for making ideal ink for counterfeiting and things took their natural course. He then pulls a pistol on Batman, but before he can do anything further, the lightbulb is shot out by someone outside the window. The Batman knocks Stone out and then crashes through the window to find out once and for all who has been lurking in the shadows, but he finds only that same haunting laughter and a note stuck to the building’s wall: “Batman, Should you care to renew our acquaintance, be at the Gotham freight yards tomorrow. I trust you can deduce the hour. Your faithful, Cranston.

Sure enough, in the dead of night at the freight yards of Gotham City, Batman comes face to face with The Shadow, who explains that it was indeed him who had been aiding the Dark Knight. When asked why he further elaborates: “I was curious! I wished to determine if you deserve your splendid reputation! I am happy to state you fulfilled my greatest expectations!” Batman says that while he’d never told anyone, The Shadow was his greatest inspiration and he’d be honored to shake his hand.

Then, a historic panel as two hands are grasped and Lamont Cranston says, “The honor is mine!” As he melts into the blackness, the Batman asks if he’ll come out of retirement, that the world needs him. The inevitable reply? “That…only The Shadow knows!

We are then told about the upcoming series featuring The Shadow on sale in mid-September.

I’ve long been curious about this meeting between two denizens of the darkness who mete out justice and was not disappointed in the least. One of the things that really made it for me was the art of the underrated Irv Novick with Dick Giordano on inks. I felt like was with old friends, having seen Irv’s work in my old favorite Joker series and many Flash tales. This era was in the sweet spot of my younger days and it was one of those magical times when I was truly transported back to being 11 years old. It doesn’t get much better. Add in some bonus features like a page of prose by Paul Levitz under the heading of “Behind the Scenes at the DC Comic World” covering both the history and new happenings with the Legion of Super-Heroes and information about being a comic fan and contact info for Phil Seuling and even Paul himself plugging his Comic Reader along with a nifty letter in the letters column from Bob Rozakis and it was just a great, great trip down memory lane for me. No rating, since we slid into the Bronze Age this time, but it’s a book well worth your time. Speaking of time, the webmaster and I will return the first of October with the next installment. Don’t’ forget to join us and if you’ve got something on your mind in the meanwhile, just drop a line: professor_the@hotmail.com.

Until then…

Long live the Silver Age!

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