A Tribute to the of

I cannot believe I failed to mention last time that this edition of the Silver Age Sage marks year 21! Maybe due to the fact that we hit edition #500 recently, it seems a tad anti-climactic, and of course hitting the two decade mark this time last year was a pretty big deal, but regardless, happy anniversary to this feature and as always, hearty thanks to the webmaster for making the Silver Lantern the destination spot for all who appreciate DC’s Silver Age!

Just for fun, I decided to select a classic issue of World’s Finest Comics to spotlight. Issue #169 with a publication date of September 1967 and an on-sale date of July 25th of that year, features not just our usual Batman and Superman team-up, but also includes Batgirl and Supergirl in, what else, but “The Supergirl-Batgirl Plot!” The story is by Cary Bates. Artwork comes courtesy of the great team of Curt Swan and George Klein, both cover and interiors, with Ira Schnapp on cover lettering and Joe Letterese on interior lettering and finally Mort Wesinger editing with an assist (and probably more than that) from E. Nelson Bridwell.

As you can see from the cover, the world’s finest team seems to be washed up while their female counterparts appear to be enjoying their misery. Gee, this smacks of many an old Jimmy Olsen story. Let’s open the issue up and see what gives.

That well-laid out splash page shows the two heroines on the landlines taking credit for leaving Superman powerless and Batman with nothing to his name but a beaten-up Batmobile, leaving Supergirl and Batgirl as the premiere costumed crimefighters.

The tale takes off with the Girl of Steel out on patrol when she encounters a giant, gaseous hand that she cannot affect. It, on the other (ahem) hand, is able to grip her in its clutches and it seems to be made up of something brutally cold.

Just when things start to look bad, Batgirl shows up on what appears to be a bat-scooter and tries to aid Supergirl with a chemical bomb from her bat-purse, er, weapons bag. Unfortunately, the effort fails, and now the dominoed dare-doll is also in the hand’s unrelenting grasp. Then, Supergirl tries one more strategy, using her x-ray vision on the residual chemicals to try and cause a reaction. Success! The hand dissipates and the pair of heroines enjoy not only their freedom, but a landmark first meeting.

Later in the day, Superman, Batman and Robin are being honored with a time capsule with a twist. The artifacts about the greatest heroes of 1967 are being placed into an orbiting satellite that will return to earth in 500 years. Elsewhere, a jealous Linda (Supergirl) Danvers and Barbara (Batgirl) Gordon happen to be watching the broadcast in their respective locations of Stanhope College and the Gotham City Library, where Babs is librarian. Each come to the same conclusion: They are tired of being in the shadow of their male counterparts and something needs to be done.

The next day, Superman is on hand at the dedication of the Atlas Building in Metropolis and in a super-twist, he’s installing the cornerstone, made from some kind of space metal as the last step in construction. However, as he puts the massive block into place, the building begins to collapse, causing mayhem with the onlookers. As our hero tries to take off and save the day, he suddenly realizes he cannot fly, but just then Supergirl arrives and puts things right.

As Superman and Supergirl fly away together later, the Man of Tomorrow wonders aloud how things could have gone the way they did. Supergirl asks the rhetorical “Who knows?” but her thoughts reveal that she does indeed know, as she caused it, but her cousin will remain in the dark.

Shifting scenes to Gotham City, specifically at the Fair of the Future, the Dynamic Duo confronts a criminal named Briggs atop a building that contains an atomic reactor. When he’s rushed by the Boy Wonder, Briggs dodges out of the way and threatens to throw Robin into the reactor. Batman decides quickly on an unorthodox method when he drops to his knees and literally begs the felon not to harm his partner. Scoffing, Briggs tosses Robin into the opening, but then Batgirl appears above in a sky-ride and gets a life-rope onto the young caped crusader.

Not content with just the save, Batgirl then uses some judo moves to take down Briggs. After he’s been hauled away by the authorities, Robin asks Batman what the deal was with the begging routine and Batman can only say that he was compelled into the position and hasn’t the faintest clue. In a familiar routine, Batgirl’s thoughts reveal that she was the source of the temporary neutralization of Batman and that there will be more to come.

Harsh, ladies.

So, the guys gather in the batcave to discuss recent events and compare notes. It seems that things keep going awry while the women are picking up the slack. Batman even speculates that Supergirl and Batgirl could conceivably be to blame. Elsewhere those same women are having a confab of their own and plotting “…step two of operation take-over!

Back in the batcave, Superman is having a hard time reconciling his own cousin turning against him, while Batman observes that they don’t even know Batgirl’s true identity. They part ways and resume patrols, vowing to be even more vigilant than usual.

Later, Batman and Robin are at the secret tunnel entrance to the batcave only to find that it seems to be gone. They enter through the house on foot and things only get worse. The cave has been emptied of all its contents.

Similar shenanigans in the arctic and Superman witnesses his cousin flying off with his entire fortress of solitude, ending part I with some high drama.

Part II, “Clash of the Super-teams!” has Superman confronting Supergirl, who coolly informs Kal that it’s her property and wishing him happy landings as his ability to fly abruptly fails him. After a few hours, the batplane, which fortuitously had been concealed on a runway outside the batcave, is flying over the arctic when the Dynamic Duo spot Superman lying unconscious on the frozen surface where the fortress used to be. They go to their pal’s aid and learn what happened, in turn sharing the story of the robbed batcave as they board the plane to head back to Metropolis.

The next day, the plot thickens yet again when Batman and Robin are trussing up a gang of hoodlums and Robin goes out to the batplane to summon Commissioner Gordon. When he doesn’t return, his partner checks on him, only to discover both the plane and Robin have vanished. The only clue is a bat-compact on the ground, presumably containing bat-makeup. Batgirl has struck again.

And just when things couldn’t get much weirder, Batman spots a familiar blue and red clad figure thumbing for a ride along the road. He pulls the batmobile over and offers his friend a ride. Superman explains that his Clark Kent clothing normally concealed in a pouch in his cape have disappeared, presumably taken by Supergirl while the Metropolis Marvel was out cold and without any money on him, he was reduced to walking and hitchhiking. Noting his growing beard, Superman states that in his powerless condition, it’s the natural result. Batman doffs his cowl only to discover that he no longer looks like Bruce Wayne. “We’ve both lost our secret identities! But how?

The pair continues onward into the night, searching in vain for some kind of clue when the famed batmobile blows a tire. Exclaiming that the tires on his rig are blowout-proof, it doesn’t keep him from losing control and crumpling the fender on a power pole. The cover scene is revisited as Superman labors over a hand pump while Batman discovers the spare is also flat.

Just then, Supergirl and Batgirl reveal themselves from their hiding spot behind a fence and the Girl of Steel taunts her cousin, challenging him to catch her. He says he’s powerless, but she responds that they’re restored and he’s even clean shaven again. Off she flies into space with Superman on her tail. She hurls a meteor his way and courtesy of x-ray vision, he sees it contains green Kryptonite, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting the Maid of Might.

Acting quickly, the Man of Tomorrow uses another meteor to knock the green K away from himself. It ends up grazing Supergirl’s head and knocking her unconscious. This allows Superman to investigate further, and he discovers that she’s wearing a mask and wig, hiding the identity of Black Flame, a villainess from the bottle city of Kandor.

Back in Gotham City, Batman has his own problems with Batgirl. They have a short altercation until the World’s Greatest Detective deploys a batarang, complete with batrope and trusses up Batgirl. Once he removes her cowl it is none other than Selina Kyle, better known to bat-fans around the world at Catwoman.

Back in the batcave, the pair of femme fatales are back in their standard uniforms and are being questioned. Superman states that Black Flame lost her powers permanently when Supergirl last battled her and exposed her to gold Kryptonite. She replies that she’d restored them with a special serum she’d created, following that up with some handy enlarging spray after emerging from the bottle encasing the shrunken Kandor. Apparently, the serum didn’t grant her the same invulnerability as Supergirl, but did make her immune to Kryptonite. Her other secret weapon was a brain command ring on her finger that allowed her to manipulate the Man of Steel’s thought processes where he believed he’d lost his powers and caused the illusion of Batman’s changed facial features. Selina chimes in that her new variety of catnip triggered Batman’s cowardice in the early part of the adventure.

The next question is, where are the genuine Supergirl and Batgirl? Batman briefly explains that he knows that the real Batgirl’s eyes are blue while Catwoman’s are green, so she cannot secretly be Batgirl.

The World’s Finest team are led to another cave where the women are bound to chairs, with Supergirl’s fetters made of green Kryptonite. As Batman approaches them, they are suddenly dissolved under a red set of beams. All is not lost, however, when Supergirl touches down with Batgirl and explains that they were only dummies that she’d hit with her heat vision and that they’d been imprisoned in another dimension. It seems their battle with the cloud hand ended up sending them dimension hopping, allowing impersonators to take their place.

Supergirl then demonstrates with a rock that the restrained dummies were actually bait to a trap that would have taken Batman to another dimension as well. Her powers had allowed the heroines to return in the nick of time.

And now, the final plot twist as the fine figures of Black Flame and Catwoman give way to a couple of familiar characters, Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite, who’d apparently had a wager over whether Batman, Bat-Mite’s idol, would fall for the other imp’s trap. Bat-Mite claims victory, but Mxyzptlk argues that it was Batgirl and Supergirl who saved the day, so Bat-Mite must pay off with a dimensional check in the amount of 100 magic units.

Bat-Mite agrees and scratches out the check, noting that he signed it with his real name. Mxyzptlk is surprised that the signature reads “Kltpzyxm” and then realizes he’s been duped into speaking his own name backward, sending him back to his dimension, where he’ll be stuck for at least 90 days and cannot cause more mischief on Earth.

Just before Bat-Mite makes his own exit, he elaborates that he’d gone along with the bet simply as a way to try to get the other imp back to his own dimension and that things will be completely restored, the fortress, the batcave contents, and Robin himself, once he’s popped back to his own home. As Bat-Mite pops out, Batman cannot resist channeling his absent partner: “As Robin might say, that kind of fun Mite drive us batty!

Silly? Goofy? Oh, you betcha. Kinda fun, though, no? And often, that’s what these old Silver Age gems were all about. Just an innocent little romp down Nostalgia Way, teaming up a few of our favorite heroic characters and throwing in familiar locales and some comedy relief at the end. Much like a bag of favorite candy, though, I wouldn’t want a steady diet. Okay, folks, that makes the latest installment and as always, you can have a say in the next one, or make your feelings known about this or anything else Silver Age related. Just head to my email address and express yourself: professor_the@hotmail.com.

The next review will be here in mid-May, so don’t forget to join us then.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!

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