A Tribute to the of

The ultimate creature of the night in the DC realm is most likely the Batman.  Additionally he tends to face off with some of the most macabre villains.  With a combination like that and Halloween nearly upon us it seems a good time to visit the Dark Knight in his self-titled magazine, specifically issue #195 from September of 1967 when he and Robin defend Gotham City from "The Spark-Spangled See-Through Man!"  That spooky cover comes courtesy of Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson.  Our writer is Gardner Fox.  In the interior art department we have Sheldon Moldoff on pencils, Joe Giella on inks and Gaspar Saladino with letters.  All this is under the watchful eye of Editor Julius Schwartz.

In the first few panels of the tale we're introduced to Ned Creegan, a small-time sneak thief who's received word that "old man Logan" has been purchasing jewels for some sort of laboratory experiment.  Once jimmying the lock, Creegan finds Logan observing a chamber suffused with purple light.  The hood knocks Logan out with a swift roundhouse right and then enters the chamber, which is lit via a ceiling panel filled with the jewels.  He also notes some animals in the chamber, but is more interested in his objective.

It isn't long before Ned is at his favorite fence, ready to unload his huge haul.  Unfortunately for him, someone else has shown an interest in Charley Rivets' operation and the two men are surprised by a visit from Batman and Robin.  Instantly the fisticuffs and acrobatics begin as the Caped Crimebusters bring down the two felons.  As the dust settles the Dynamic Duo are startled to note a weird transformation on Creegan's prone form.  The thief regains consciousness and desperately lashes out only to discover his flesh has gone completely transparent, leaving him looking like a walking skeleton.  He also carries a strange charge that short-circuits the nervous system of the Batman and Robin.  Ned walks over to a full-length mirror and exclaims that he's turned into a Halloween pasteboard.  Just then Robin revives long enough to again challenge the "Bag O' Bones."  Another highly charged right cross puts the Boy Wonder back down, though and then the Dark Knight, also revived, again tries to apprehend the walking nightmare.  His judo hold is ineffective, though, against the current coursing through his body and the jeering criminal downs the Masked Manhunter.  Creegan then decides he must find out what's happened to him and deduces it must have something to do with the purple light in the jewel room in Logan's laboratory.

Stealthily, the crook works his way back, taking advantage of the darkness until he re-enters the lab.  Logan is just reviving and wonders what happened when Ned demands to know what's happened to him.  Logan responds that he'd apparently been exposed to the radiation from the radiation chamber.  Creegan draws an automatic from his invisible clothing and insists he be restored to normal.  Logan snorts that Ned needs his services because only he can help him.  He goes on to explain that the chamber produces a special type of radiation that appears as a purple light.  He then offers Creegan a capsule that is an antidote for the purple radiation.  Logan continues that he's been experimenting for years, trying to uncover a cure for radiation poisoning.  If a person absorbs 1,000 roentgens of radioactivity in a 24-hour period, they die.  Any life inside a 20-mile radius of a nuclear bomb will be destroyed, but outside that range, he could feasibly save lives.

As Creegan is restored to normal, Logan cautions that the effect of the antidote is only temporary.  He continues to elaborate that if he can enjoy the breakthrough of a permanent cure; his discovery will be worth a billion dollars to either Russia or the U.S. (keeping in mind the good ol' Cold War.)  Logan gives Creegan his supply of white pills, promising he'll make more.  Ned says that he supposes when he reverts back to a Bag O' Bones he's to take the pill.  Logan confirms and also stresses the need for speed due to the fact that for every second he's in skeletal form a day of his life is forever lost.  Panicked, Creegan says he was in that shape for a good 20 minutes and planned to take advantage of the ability to rob at will.  Logan says that those 20 minutes cost him four years of life.  The thug again draws his weapon, but Logan reasserts that without him his pill supply will run out and he will die.  He offers Creegan an unlimited supply of pills in exchange for studying his reactions, which up to now had been done on animals.  He hopes to soon affect a permanent cure and sell it to the highest bidder.  Ned insists on a way to transform himself into his skeletal alter-ego and Logan produces purple pills with that characteristic.

Back at the pawn shop, Batman and Robin are regaining their wits and the World's Greatest Detective muses that perhaps the transparent criminal got his abilities through radiation exposure from the odd jewels, one of which was left behind.

Back at the batcave, the testing begins.  They soon discover the gem is coated in a special radiation that simulates a nuclear bomb.  Additionally it has static electric powers.  Another test, using ping pong balls suspended from a wooden dowel, confirms that the jewel has a strong static electricity charge, which repels them.  Robin doesn't understand where his mentor is going with this, but Batman soon explains and demonstrates his plan.  He queries his sidekick about rubbing a glass rod with silk.  Robin replies that he learned in physics that when this happens the glass receives a positive charge.  Conversely, when rubbing a hard rubber rod with fur, the rod receives a negative charge.  He then goes on to explain that like charges attract and opposite charges repel.  The crime fighters then lay plans to deal with their latest nemesis by preparing silk and fiberglass gloves and fur and hard rubber gloves respectively, so that whether Bag O' Bones contains a negative or positive charge, they'll be prepared.  Additionally the irradiated jewel will be attached to a special radar unit on the Batmobile for tracking purposes.

Two nights later, under cover of darkness, a familiar figure steals into the Gotham Mercantile Bank.  Despite his thorough casing of the joint, Creegan is discovered in the vault by security and is forced to consume a purple pill, transforming him back into the electrified skeleton.  He knocks the guard out and swiftly takes an antidote, estimating he couldn't have lost much more than a month of his life.

The Batmobile, on patrol in the south side of the city receives a call on the hot line phone (it seems only Maxwell Smart and Batman had cell phones back in the day) alerting them of the "living skeleton" robbing the bank, but it's located in the north side of town and they can't reach him in time.  The tracking jewel with its limited range wasn't any help in this case and they decide they'll have to be patient.

Three nights later, the tracking device gets a bead on Ned Creegan and the Batmobile pulls up in front of the city's Nature Museum.  Inside, Creegan is helping himself to some historical jewels, but when he spots Batman and Robin, he pops another purple pill and powers a pair of polar bear exhibits into the Dynamic Duo.  Robin swiftly rubs a negative charge into his glove and goes for a knockout blow, but it seems Bag O' Bones is negatively charged, so the Boy Wonder is rather violently repelled into a display of brass bells.

The World's Greatest Detective then makes his move, closing in on the macabre menace from behind, but to his surprise the attraction to his positively charged glove is so great that he finds himself all but fused to the crook.  Batman uses a sliding maneuver to free his hand and send Ned flying.  We also note that Creegan has lost his white pills in the scuffle while the Dark Knight rubs his glove to restore some of the static electric charge.  He lunges at his quarry, but Bag O' Bones retaliates with a double kick to the torso, shooting more damaging electricity into our hero.  Robin, desperate to help, grabs a chained length of the Indian temple bells he'd earlier collided with and throws them at the feet of the living skeleton, trying to ground his circuit, but Creegan scoops them up and slams them into Robin, the brass acting as a conductor.  Bag O' Bones then tries for the death blow by hefting a stone statue, but the Gotham Goliath has recovered and uses the non-conductive properties of the statue to buffer him from Ned as he piles into him again.  Soon Batman is able to use a nearby fallen statue for leverage and his charged glove to knock the villain out.  Now the two heroes ponder how to get a living thunderbolt to police headquarters.  Batman proposes using a nearby wooden mummy case, but Bag O' Bones is coming to and begs them to help him find his white pills.  He explains the situation, but the capsules are nowhere to be found.  Robin speculates they may have been crushed during the battle.  They deliver Creegan to headquarters and vow to get him more pills from Logan.  Soon they've arrived at his lab.  Logan is less than willing to cooperate, however, and activates the eerie purple light to transform four animals, an ape, a bird of prey, a dog and a wild cat into the same super-charged skeletal beasts to attack Batman and Robin.  The caped crimebusters quickly charge up their gloves and begin to defend themselves against this new but familiar threat.  As it turns out, each has drawn one negative and one positively charged creature, so after dispatching the one they can, the Dynamic Duo work together and manages to throw the oppositely charged creatures into each other, disabling them.

Now that the skeletal creatures are neutralized, Batman demands that Logan produce more antidote pills for Creegan.

Months roll by and the wheels of justice grind their way inexorably forward and we find ourselves watching a courtroom sentencing for Ned Creegan.  Batman, Robin and Logan are in attendance as well as the judge issues a sentence of 20 years to the erstwhile Bag O' Bones.  A despairing Creegan exclaims that he'll never make it after all the time he lost while in his skeletal form.  An argument breaks out as Ned accuses Logan of robbing him of his life by fighting Batman and Robin rather than giving them the life-saving pills.  Logan retorts that the thief got what he deserved for trying to steal his jewels.

In the final panel, Robin asks Batman what will become of Logan and he replies that he'll continue his experiments in the prison lab, but any discoveries will become the property of the United States.

As much as I admire the talent and amazing volume of work done by Gardner Fox, not every story was a home run.  This one contained some of his trademark elements, such as the science behind electrical charges and the teamwork between Batman and Robin in nabbing their quarry and working themselves out of sticky situations, but Ned Creegan struck me as sort of a two-bit hood with little imagination, accidentally coming into his abilities and trying with little success to really exploit them.  It almost seemed as if he was created with calculated obsolescence, too with the major Achilles heel of a shortened lifespan every time he used these newfound abilities.  I'm afraid I wasn't too impressed with Moldoff's artwork, either.  This will sound a little funny, I suppose, but it seemed very 2-dimensional and he seemed to have a little trouble with consistency.  Batman's chest emblem seemed to be a different size or proportion in each panel.  I didn't get into it much, either, but some of those dreaded cliché's were in the dialogue, too and you know how those drive me up the wall.  All told, the best part of this issue just might have been the cover and this one gets a 4 on my rating scale.

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