A Tribute to the of

Let it never be said that the webmaster is not a full-fledged comic book historian in his own right. All you have to do is look around the site to see all the many things he’s researched and provided for the world to see. He’s the one who first alerted me to the notion of the different “ages,” especially the Silver Age that we try to document here, along with house ads and the other ephemera that is so enjoyable to research and discover.

In that vein, he sent me a note recently about the “new look Batman,” that we first looked at way back in Sage #7 when we took a peek at Detective Comics #327. As it happens, that landmark issue was not the first appearance of the new look Batman. With a little *ahem* detective work, my best buddy found this:

The “new look” Batman first appeared in the interior art of World's Finest #141-May, 1964 issue; on sale 3/12/64. Detective Comics #327-May, 1964 issue; on sale 3/26/64. Green Lantern #29-June, 1964 issue; on sale 4/9/64. [one panel cameo; "old look."] Batman #164-June, 1964 issue; on sale 4/16/64. Justice League of America #28-June, 1964 issue; on sale 4/30/64. The Brave and the Bold #54-July, 1964 issue; on sale 4/30/64. [two panel cameo; "old look."]

So, contrary to what we thought we knew, the numbers do not lie. While Detective #327 was rolled out with some fanfare, the other bat-titles were close behind, or, in the case of WF #141, a couple of weeks ahead of the game.

In honor of this little discovery, what say we take a peek at that very issue for this edition of the Silver Age Sage? World’s Finest #141 had a publication date of May, 1964 and this was the first issue edited by Mort Weisinger, following the long tenure of Jack Schiff. The cover credits include Curt Swan and George Klein, who also did the interior work, along with Ira Schnapp lettering (and possibly the most boring logo in the DC stable at the time). “The Olsen-Robin Team versus ‘The Superman-Batman Team!’” was written by Edmond Hamilton. There’s also a note at the Grand Comics Database that Weisinger also instituted a policy of using reprints for the backup stories. The cover story of Lois Lane #29 [11/61] was the first "Surprise Feature." [Original splash page and reprint version.]

Things kick off at that great metropolitan newspaper where a Dr. Dannifer has showed up with the 4-C Predictor machine that can tell the future. (4-C, Foresee, get it?) He is dismissed as a nut, but in order to humor him and get him out of the newsroom, Jimmy Olsen offers to check it out if the doctor doesn’t mind leaving the machine behind.

Olsen checks it out, just for fun and the contraption, operation similar to a stock ticker, spits out predictions based on questions and is correct two for two. Then, the big question is posed: What will be the next big Superman-Batman story? The chilling answer? Jimmy and Robin will die.

Superman and Batman decide to check things out, but when Supes’ X-ray vision hits the machine, it dissolves into nothingness. They try to dismiss the prediction, but their young friends cannot stop thinking about it and it begins to interfere with their lives, so their senior partners agree to have them fly off in a helicopter to the uninhabited Stone Island, where they can regroup for a while without fear.

As they take off, however, Olsen tells Robin that their plan seems to be coming together. Once they arrive, they bury some lead-lined caskets that will thwart Superman’s X-ray vision and each send a distress call to their respective partners while they hide (page 8 the first good look at the "new look" Batman). The World’s Finest team seems to believe the note written by the “murderer” telling them that Olsen and Robin have been killed, and if they can stand it, feel free to check it out for themselves. Unwilling to stomach such a sight, the pair of heroes take off in separate directions to seek out some justice, closing part I.

The Vengeance of Superman and Batman!” opens with the pair meeting up to compare notes, but both have come up empty. Each takes a trip down memory lane of some of their greatest adventures together. In a segue sequence, once again aboard the whirly-bird, Jimmy and Robin are doing the same, recalling the important part of their lives the heroes serve. Feeling guilty, they briefly ponder telling them that they’re alive and well, but then they remember the reason for the hoax in the first place.

It seems Robin had come to visit Jimmy in his apartment to demonstrate a new monitor he’d devised that could help Superman see through lead. Testing it on some of Jimmy’s souvenirs, they accidentally became privy to a conversation between two men who were plotting to kidnap the youths to blackmail Superman and Batman and they’ve developed an invisibility device.

Rushing outside to try and follow them, they instantly lose them to the “de-visor” invisibility gimmicks. Going back inside, they discover they’d left the door to Jimmy’s apartment open and a couple of his trophies, along with the monitor are gone. Assuming it was an opportunity theft, they decide the only way to protect their friends and elude capture is to fake their own deaths. They enlist the help of Professor Potter to pose as Dr. Dannifer and to make some predictions that will be easy to fulfill.

Flying the chopper to a remote mountain between Gotham City and Metropolis, the duo set up shop in an abandoned observatory and soon get a radar outfit going to monitor for any sign of the hoods who seek them.

After a few days they spot the raiders, apparently pulling a caper in Gotham City. Using Robin’s belt radio and disguising his voice, Jimmy alerts Batman, who in turn signals the Man of Steel. Superman and Batman close in on the invisible helicopter and crooks that have landed atop Gotham Bank, but allow them to leave so they can follow at a discreet distance, using Superman’s super-senses. As the Olsen-Robin team monitor things from afar, they can tell what’s happening and decide to do their own part in the chase, quietly following the World’s Finest Team.

Landing at their hideout, the crooks turn off the “de-visors” only to be quickly tackled by Superman. Just then a physicist is brought out of a locked room by Batman and he was the man who created the de-visors. He’d come to this remote location due to radiation poisoning he’d sustained, to both isolate himself and to create inventions to aid mankind before his death. Superman assures him after a quick examination that he can cure his radiation sickness.

Things wrap up on the last page when the Olsen-Robin team decides to surprise Superman and Batman by appearing at the island when they go to recover the coffins. However, once they’re unearthed, full figures of each youth are in the caskets. Emerging from their hiding place, they are dumbfounded, when the heroes explain that they’d noticed, via Superman’s microscopic vision, that Jimmy’s fingerprints were on both boxes, so they must be alive. They’d placed wax likenesses of Jimmy and Robin in the coffins to pull a little gag of their own and the story ends with Robin and Jimmy placing the wax figures on display in the newly dubbed aerie where they’d set up a secret HQ.

These old Silver Age World’s Finest stories tended to be good clean fun and kind of on the softball side, particularly when involving Jimmy Olsen or Robin. Edmond Hamilton left enough clues to where it wasn’t a complete surprise how things were going, but there was still enough tension to make it an enjoyable yarn. I rate it a 6 on the 10-point scale, and a tip of the hat to the webmaster for alerting me to the significance of the story. And now, dear readers, you know, too.

Thanks for spending a little of your valuable time with us here at the Silver Lantern, where we promise more silver mining to come throughout 2018. There are a few milestones coming up this year, as the webmaster has demonstrated on the home page, so stay tuned. In the interim, any communications should be directed to: professor_the@hotmail.com.

See you the 1st of February and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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