A Tribute to the of






Apparently the marketing blitz for the upcoming Batman movie is starting to kick into gear.  I noted some Hot Wheels based on Batman at the store recently.  Each set of two contained a version of the Batmobile and a vehicle from a well-known villain like the Riddler and Penguin.  I'll admit I was tempted, but I discovered something cooler still and so I now am the proud owner of this little baby!   Despite the fact that it's referred to as the 40's model Batmobile, though, I couldn't find a match for it in another of my favorite possessions, Batman Archives, Volume I (serialized and signed by Bob Kane, no less.)  So, I did some more digging through the issues I have on hand and while I found a few similar versions, particularly with the large bat wing on the back, none was quite the same.  I did, however, find a good depiction on an old cover that was part of a collage of a later cover.  I don't know how well you'll be able to see it in the scan of the issue I've decided to review this time, but just below and to the right of the bat emblem on the cover of Batman #200 is a duplicate of Batman #47 and it's just about a dead ringer, though Batman #20 is better yet.  So, pardon my circuitous route, but the subject of this Silver Age review is Batman #200 from March of 1968; the copy in my collection carries a date stamp of Jan. 17, 1968. Cover by Neal Adams, this was his first rendering of Batman & Robin. The story by Mike Friedrich is entitled "The Man Who Radiated Fear!" Artwork by Chic Stone and Joe Giella. Edited by Julius Schwartz.  The nemesis for this adventure is none other than the dreaded Scarecrow.

The Scarecrow, in fact, is the first figure we see as the story opens in some farmland to the west of Gotham City in the darkness of a winter night.  The Felon of Fright is being confronted by another dark figure of the night, the Batman and the Scarecrow is trembling helplessly with terror until he produces a pill with the antidote.  The figure then drops his cowl to reveal a phony Batman who laughs that he's out-scared the Scarecrow.  The villain replies that the experiment was a success and they later join the rest of the gang in a barn where the explanation is made.  The Scarecrow has created a fear radiating pill that causes a psycho-chemical reaction on those around the person who takes it, rendering them all but helpless.  Plans are then laid to use this new weapon on Batman. 

Several nights later, the Scarecrow and his gang are waiting in a van along Gotham's jewelry row, just as they have the previous three nights, waiting for the arrival of Batman.  Soon the gang's lookout reports that the Batmobile is on the way.  The members scatter and when the Dynamic Duo arrives it appears a robbery is taking place.  Our heroes leap into action, dispatching bad guys with haymaker punches when they pause and then begin to cower.  The malevolent Scarecrow then makes his presence known and the caped crime busters literally collapse from fright. The Scarecrow leaves, satisfied that his enemies are neutralized.  When they regain consciousness a short while later, the pair are still trembling, but somehow manage to maneuver the Batmobile back to the Batcave where the faithful Alfred greets them.  Soon Bruce and Dick are recounting what happened to their butler and they are still extremely shaken.  Alfred determines that he must try to help, so he recounts a familiar story:  "Many years ago, Dr. Thomas Wayne, his wife Martha, and their young son were walking home from a movie when…  We then see the mugging of the Wayne's, resulting in Dr. Wayne being shot by the hoodlum and Martha succumbing to heart failure while young Bruce witnessed it all.  Something about the young kid's accusing eyes made the killer retreat!  He simply disappeared!  Soon after, the young boy made a manful promise…"  "I swear I'll dedicate my life and inheritance to bringing your killer to justice…and fighting all criminals!  I swear it!"  The years passed as the boy prepared for his chosen career!  He mastered scientific criminal investigation!  He trained his body to such physical and athletic perfection that he could perform any daredevil feat…  Then one day he was ready for his new role!  "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so I must wear a disguise that will strike terror in their hearts!  I must be a creature of the night, like a…a…"  And as if in answer, a winged creature flew in through the open window!  "A bat!  That's it!  It's like an omen!  I shall become a bat!"  Thus was born this weird figure of the shadows…this dark avenger of evil…Batman!"  Alfred then continues, directing his commentary toward Dick, reminding him of the death of his parents during their trapeze act at the circus and the realization that it was at the hands of criminals demanding protection money from the owner of the circus.  Batman then took the young man under his tutelage and helped mold him into a partner, Robin, who had also pledged to fight crime as a memorial to his lost parents (as seen in Detective Comics #38). 

The short history lesson has its desired effect and the resolve of the Dynamic Duo is restored.  Inspired, the pair takes to the gym for a vigorous workout prior to hitting the mean streets of Gotham once more. 

Flipping the page, we see a depiction of the original Bat-Man with this message for the readers:  "This is the first page of the very first Batman story—published in Detective Comics #27, May, 1939."

We now rejoin our heroes as they begin their hunt for the Scarecrow.  During their patrol, they spot a robbery at a rare book store, being led by none other than the Joker.  They take him into custody and discover something of more than passing interest.  Two red straws are in his hair, indicating the calling card of the Scarecrow. 

A change of scene and the pair is bursting out of an armored car toward a startled Killer Moth.  "Batman and Robin?!"  "We're sure not Sugar and Spike!"  After putting the criminal down, they once again spot straws, four this time and white in color. 

The busy night continues as the Dynamic Duo chase down a fleeing Penguin.  The Birdman Bandit brandishes his umbrella, but to his surprise it merely spews forth 5 blue straws. 

Meanwhile, back at the Scarecrow's lair, the gang bides their time while reading up on the exploits of their foes.  The Scarecrow remains confident that they will not be able to face him again. 

We then join Batman and Robin in the famed Batcave where they're examining the red, white and blue straws and pondering their significance.

Another neck-breaking segue takes us to Flagg Furriers, an elite fur company where the Scarecrow and his henchmen are breaking in to find Batman and Robin waiting for them.  The ferocious fight leaves the gang all but incapacitated while the Scarecrow flees to a lower level where he reveals a row of mirrors projecting his image six times over, which seems to be enough to break through the defenses of our heroes, once again leaving them helpless.

When Batman and Robin regain their senses, they find they're in an insidious trap.  Both are seated with a row of automatic pistols rigged to fire at them if the strings attached to the triggers and the wrists of the Caped Crusaders are moved in the slightest.  The Scarecrow and his henchmen are watching from above, taunting the crime fighters.  Acting as one, however, the pair swings into action, bending forward, then flipping clear of the bullets' trajectory.  They then take out the gang members.  Finally, a familiar scene as Batman pursues the fleeing Scarecrow.  "I've finally caught up with you, Scarecrow!  I'm taking you in!"  This phrase has the unexpected result of reducing the Titan of Terror to a quivering mass of nerves.  It just so happened that was the exact phrase uttered by his assistant during the initial testing of the fear pill and it triggered the same response, rendering him helpless.

The final panels fill in the last of the story as Batman and Robin again meet up with Alfred in the Batcave trophy room.  The manservant asks about the significance of the straws.  "They were the clues that tipped us off to the Scarecrow's fur store robbery!  The red, white and blue colors suggested the colors of the flag and the numbers gave us the address—245 Flagg Street!  They were a double clue!  The numbers 2 and 4 also gave us the date, February 4th—while the 5 meant the time, 5 o'clock!  And once we knew the time and place—the stage was set to upstage the villain of the  drama—the Scarecrow!"           

This issue had some things to offer, despite a couple of glaring shortcomings, mainly in the art department.  The art was, to be quite blunt, often sloppy and in many cases badly out of proportion.  Now I'll concede that I liked the way characters and scenes were sometimes drawn outside the limits of the panels, taking a page from Andru and Esposito, but it didn't exactly improve the overall quality.  I found the storyline to be a little weak.  There just wasn't a lot to get excited about.  There was some camp, too, though not as much as I've seen in other stories.  As to the good stuff, there was an impressive showing from Batman's rogue's gallery.  The Scarecrow, Killer Moth, Joker and Penguin were all sighted briefly, right before apprehension.  I appreciated Alfred's recap of the origin of the Dark Knight and the reprint of page 1 of Detective Comics #27 was a nice touch as well.  A fair effort was made to mark the 200th issue of Batman, but I think a better job was done on Superman #200, which I reviewed here almost four years ago.  I'll give this one a rating of 6.    

Questions or comments?  You know how to reach me.  The address is professor_the@hotmail.com.  Drop me a line any time and meanwhile I'll keep working on new reviews for your reading pleasure roughly every two weeks.

Until next time…

Long live the Silver Age!



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