A Tribute to the of
Welcome again to the feature that takes you back into the greatest era in comic books, our much-loved Silver Age. As world events grow grim and unemployment seems to be on the rise, this is a wonderful place to forget your cares for a while.
There have been a few milestones here just lately. I am pleased to report (for those of you who didn't notice on your own) that the Silver Age Sage recently rolled over the 10,000 hit milestone. The review you're currently perusing is also #70 in the ongoing series if you're enamored of nice, round numbers. That also means we'll soon be celebrating the 3 year anniversary of this feature. It's only the beginning folks, so do stick around.
As the Comics Code Authority began to tighten its grip, some of our writers had to change their ways. I recently read through Volume One of the Batman Archives, which chronicled the first many appearances of Batman in Detective Comics in the late 30's/early40's and the contrast between the original Dark Knight's evolution and in later years is startling. The Batman had no qualms about killing the bad guys or using a gun, for that matter in the formative years of his character's development. It was gritty, down and dirty; take out the trash sort of fare. Under the new constraints, though, that sort of thing just wouldn't fly any more, so you had the occasional camp and/or comedy relief sorts of stories. The Bizarro world was one result. Also, instead of dread fiends menacing the home city, world or galaxy of our heroes, you sometimes had just the annoyances. We'll check out a couple of those very annoyances now as we look at World's Finest Comics #113 from November of 1960 when not only do Superman and the Dynamic Duo of Batman and Robin team up, but it also contains the first meeting ever of two very similar characters: The magical imps from other dimensions known as Bat-Mite and Mr. Mxyzptlk. (I wonder how many times I'll be able to type that and maintain my sanity?)
The story crafted by writer Jerry Coleman and artists Dick Sprang & Sheldon Moldoff for editor Jack Schiff opens in Gotham City where a large mechanical robot, operated from within by two fedora-wearing hoods, is tearing into one of the downtown banks. Answering the summons of the famed Bat-signal, Batman and Robin arrive on the scene and try to stop the mechanical menace by way of melting the asphalt under its feet into a gooey quagmire. Unfortunately for them, this bit of hardware is also equipped with jet packs and it flies off into the atmosphere. As luck would have it, Clark Kent happens to be on assignment in Gotham and decides to lend an assist to his crime-fighting compadres. Superman soon lifts a large boulder and hurls it toward the robot, but before it can make contact, it abruptly transforms into a comic version of Superman. (Yeah, I know. It seems rather redundant, doesn't it?) The caricature of the Man of Steel falls to the pavement below and in the next instant Bat-Mite appears. As you can see from the cover by Curt Swan & Stan Kaye , Bat-Mite is a sort of miniature replica of his hero, Batman, save for the fact that his physique is not as developed and he wears little elfin shoes along with a sort of lightning bolt emblem on his chest. Bat-Mite explains his presence by stating that he wants to make sure Batman and Robin take care of the crime in Gotham and not Superman. The Man of Steel bristles a bit at this, but Batman suggests to his long-time ally that he just humor the imp for the time being. Soon the three crime fighters with one hanger-on are on their way to the Botanical Gardens where the robot is working its way down the boulevard with stolen booty in it's mechanical hands. Taking advantage of a nearby gargoyle's head on a scaffold, the Dynamic Duo swing into it with enough force to knock it into the robot, disabling the menace.
The next surreal occurrence has Superman and Bat-Mite witnessing the transformation of the trees in the botanical garden. The Dandelion, Tiger Lily, Dogwood and Pussy Willow now have their namesake animal heads growling and roaring. Superman removes them as Batman accuses Bat-Mite of the hijinks, but…he isn't the culprit. The next character to pop onto the scene is Mr. Mxyzptlk.
The two magic-wielding imps size each other up, exchange a couple of insults and then engage each other. Mxyzptlk strikes first by causing a billboard advertising pancake syrup to dump buckets of the sticky stuff onto Bat-Mite, who quickly counters by hurling it into the street. At this point, Superman decides to clean up the hazard in a most unusual way. Flipping upside down, the Man from Krypton uses his hair as a sort of orbital mop. Uh…sure. A couple of more spells are flung back and forth between the two pests until they decide they're at something of a standoff and they both pop back into oblivion to plot their next moves. Our caped crime busters decide to split up and try to tackle them separately, so Superman heads back to Metropolis, unaware that an astral Mxyzptlk is eavesdropping.
Later, the famed Batmobile is on patrol when Batman and Robin come upon a gigantic creature resembling a hairy, one-eyed walking octopus, only the tentacles are flamethrowers. Bat-Mite reappears to urge his heroes on. Mxyzptlk also shows up again and his thoughts reveal that he caused the menace to prove to Bat-Mite that "his" hero, Superman, is superior. When Batman and Robin don't respond to the terror as quickly as Bat-Mite would like, he magically hurls them toward the beast, anxious to see them spring into action. Fortunately for our heroes, Superman has been monitoring things and uses his super breath to blow them past the danger. He then K.O.'s the creature and hurls it into space, much to Mr. Mxyzptlk's delight. Gloating, the 5th dimension denizen tells Bat-Mite that he'll teach him not to pester Superman. Bat-Mite thinks to himself that he's not a pest, but settles on an idea. When Mxyzptlk uses his magic to create an erupting volcano, Bat-Mite promptly transforms it into a giant smoking pipe. Another spell causes a large Quonset hut to become a multi-legged creature, which Bat-Mite counters by transforming it into a butterfly. Meanwhile, our three heroes chortle at the battle, enraging Mr. Mxyzptlk until he vows to return at a later time with a better scheme. The triumphant Bat-Mite tells t hem that he decided to be a pest to Mxyzptlk to drive him away. Under their withering gaze, he sheepishly admits that "Well..er..of course, I was a little…uh...reckless…sending you to fight that creature with tentacles! Maybe I'd better go, too! But I'll be back again…helping you do your best feats!" Fade out Bat-Mite.
The relieved Titanic Trio hopes that when the imps do return it won't be at the same time and the story concludes.
The next tale, by Dave Wood (Words) and Lee Elias (Pictures), features Green Arrow and his sidekick, Speedy as they meet up with "The Amazing Miss Arrowette!"
The first couple of panels show a female archer, one Bonnie King, being crowned Miss Arrowette at a tournament. The story then fades to the home of Oliver Queen and his young ward Roy Harper when the arrow signal is seen. (Again with the Batman rip-offs…) The pair leap from the Arrowcar to intercept the getaway car of some jewel thieves when out of left field comes a powder-puff arrow, blinding the thugs until they smash into a nearby light pole. They attempt to flee on foot, but don't get far as Miss Arrowette next pulls a hairpin arrow, posting them to the wall by their coats. The battling bowmen then join the fray, taking out the last two gang members with boxing glove arrows. Speedy notes to GA that the female archer has disappeared. "…although I'm grateful to that bow-woman, I hope we've seen the last of her! This isn't a game for girls!" Ah, the sexist times.
The next day finds our heroes in action again and the lady archer also shows up as they are about to bag a couple of second story men. Unfortunately Miss Arrowette grabs the wrong shaft from her quiver and fires the lotion arrow, which stymies Green Arrow and Speedy, allowing the criminals to abduct them into their getaway truck. Trying to quickly make amends, Miss King fires her hair tint arrow (this lady is Avon's dream, huh?) at the trucks bumper in order to leave a trail. She manages to locate the huge empty oil tank where Green Arrow and Speedy have been imprisoned, but when she arrives the hapless would-be rescuer falls into the trap herself, saved from her fall by her kerchief arrow, which acts as a parachute.
Despite her unplanned incarceration, Green Arrow takes advantage of her bow and arrows and uses the needle and thread arrow to climb out. When the gang members show up to try to recapture the heroes, the Emerald Archer deploys Miss Arrowette's hair net arrow and justice is served.
In the final panels, Miss King acknowledges that crime fighting is not for girls like her and that she'll go back to the competition circuit. GA applauds her decision, but muses to Speedy that perhaps they haven't seen the last of the girl archer.
The final story in this magazine is a Tommy Tomorrow tale written by Jack Miller, illustrated by Jim Mooney, when the Planeteer from 2060 finds himself in 1960.
Tommy Tomorrow and Brent Wood are closing in on renegade scientist Professor Hader when they find him using his time machine to elude them into the past of 100 years ago. He vows to use his weapons to dominate the world of the past. Just before the professor goes poof he issues a warning that if they try to follow, the time machine is set to explode in an hour, effectively marooning them in time. Undaunted, Tomorrow follows and soon finds himself in the past.
In the next stunning instant, the police apprehend Tommy, accusing him of being an accomplice to the last man who suddenly materialized and used his pistol to do some damage to a few buildings. Hayden reasons that he only has to hole up for an hour to assure his permanent escape into 1960. Tommy tries to explain to the authorities that he's there to apprehend the scientist, but he ends up in the hoosegow. Using some handy electrode matches Tomorrow melts the cell wall to escape when a boy in a toy fire truck offers to help him find the wicked scientist. Quick as a wink he leads Tommy to the cellar where he saw Hader hole up. Tommy soon takes him into custody and with the help of the boy's toy fire engine, slips unnoticed past police until they reach the exact spot where the two arrived; the return point for the time machine to beam them back to the future. Thanking the young lad for his help, the Planeteer asks the boy's name. To his shock it's Tommy Tomorrow! The two men arrive back in 2060 just ahead of the machine's explosion and Tommy and Brent decide that his own great grandfather assisted Tomorrow. This closes the final story in this issue.
My assessment of this magazine could probably be summed up as "silly." Superman, Batman and Robin looked more like hapless oafs than heroes in their tale, though their presence was sort of secondary to the two imps, so I can almost forgive that. The old Green Arrow stories are too rife with Batman rip-offs and arrows that defy the laws of physics to allow me to get too wrapped up in them and while the Tommy Tomorrow story wasn't bad, it had one fatal flaw in my opinion. How can an hour that elapses in 2060 really affect 1960? It would seem to me that it would be difficult if not impossible to gauge the time you returned. Of course I realize I take the whole premise way too seriously when I go down that road, but after seeing splendid time travel stories over the years such as the all-time classic "City on the Edge of Forever" in the old Star Trek series, I'm spoiled.
So, overall, I dub this issue a 6. It holds a little interest due to the first ever meeting of Bat-Mite and Mxyzptlk and while I don't know for certain, I suspect Miss Arrowette showed up again later, too. Still, these stories were just softballs and didn't offer much to sink your teeth into.
By the way, I also have a more modern meeting of the two dimensional imps in a rib-tickling Elseworlds parody titled "World's Funnest Comics," wherein Mxyzptlk stalks Bat-Mite across time and space that ends up covering the entire DC Universe, ala "Crisis on Infinite Earths!" and they muck up everything in their path until the final giggling finale when they wink and agree to get together again soon to do it all over. Of further interest is the continual changing in artists as they pop into different worlds. It was pure parody and an absolute hoot; so if you run across it, do check out "Last Imp Standing!," by Evan Dorkin and friends.
With that, my friends, I wrap up this latest edition of the Sage and invite you to return in about two weeks when another resident of the Silver Age is explored. Thanks for visiting and feel free to e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Long live the Silver Age!
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