Posts tagged ‘Dick Sprang’

Detective 265 – Batman’s first case


Batman’s first case is revealed in Detective 265 (March 1959), in a story by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang.


Batman and robin encounter the Clock, a foe with a with a garish costume and a thing about clocks, and Batman realizes that he recognizes the man from his very first night out in costume.


The story briefly recaps Batman’s origin, and then details his first night out.  He stops a thief, but falls for his plea for help.  Batman shows a little nervousness in the scene, and thinks about his new rope, which was, indeed, the first piece in his arsenal.


Batman catches up to the man, and captures him.  He spends his years in prison brooding over his vengeance, and the concept of time, and clocks.


So when he gets released, he goes after Batman as a costumed villain.  Ultimately, he falls prey to the giant gears of the machine he is trying to rob.

Although this story remained canon all the way up to Crisis, the Clock failed to grab the imagination of later writers, and was never really shown again, aside from flashbacks to this story.

Detective 226 – When Batman was Robin, and Martian Manhunter fixes a baseball game


The origin of the Robin costume, and the training of young Bruce Wayne, are both addressed in the Edmond Hamilton/Dick Sprang story in Detective 226 (Dec. 55).


Bruce Wayne receives a package with a Robin costume in it, and spends much of the story explaining it to Dick.  Bruce had decided he needed professional training, and approached Harvey Harris, the most renowned detective alive.  Wanting to keep his identity a secret, Bruce created the Robin costume for himself.


So as Harris trains Bruce, he is also trying to solve the riddle of his identity, and the two of them are working to stop criminals at the same time.


The package also contain a letter, which we come back to at the end of the story.  Harvey has died, and the package was sent as part of his will.  He had picked up on subtle clues (seen throughout the story) and deduced Bruce’s identity as a child, but kept it secret, cause he’s such a nice guy.


J’onn gets involved with gamblers wagering on sports in this story.


Throughout this, and most of his early stories, J’onn is almost always shown in human form, with an aura of his Martian self added when he is using his powers.  J’onn learns of gamblers insisting a pitcher throw a game, and decides to make sure his team does not lose.


This involves using his powers to affect the players and the ball, effectively throwing the game for the side the gamblers were wagering on.  After this, he rounds up the gamblers.  But, you know, he actively controlled the results of the baseball game!

I guess this can sort of be excused by his unfamiliarity with Earth ways, although he knew it was important enough for people to bet on.

Detective 224 – Is Batman a robot?, and Captain Compass ends


Terrible cover for Detective 224 (Oct. 55), but the story itself is kind of fun.


Bill Finger and Dick Sprang are behind this tale, in which hoods mistake some metal body armour Batman is wearing as proof that Batman is really a robot, and the rumour spreads through the underworld.


Batman decides to exploit this, and builds an actual Batman robot.  It’s not so much designed to fight crime, as to be an elaborate homing beacon, as he counts on criminals grabbing the robot and taking it to their base.


After the crooks start using the robot, which they grabbed, as Batman expected, in their robberies, Batman turns the tables on them again, entering the robot body to take the crooks by surprise.  It’s almost a sitcom.


Captain Compass has his final tale in this issue, written by Otto Binder.


It seems his long career on the seas has finally got to him, as Mark Compass begins giving dangerous and unpredictable orders, and generally behaving like a tyrant.  His crew mutinies against him.


But in fact the whole thing was an elaborate scam to find out which of the crew members were really working for a rival shipping line.  The faithful crew were in on the scheme, and the fake mutiny.

As with Mysto, Captain Compass returns in Detective 500, still plying his trade, so we must assume that he continued his maritime mysteries until then.


Detective 222 – The Great Batman Swindle, and Roy Raymond meets a man who slept for 200 years


A striking cover, and a great story, in Detective 222 (Aug. 55), by Bill Finger and Dick Sprang.


Wealthy and athletic Ned Judson receives an invitation to join the secret Brotherhood of the Batman.  They explain to him that Batman is really a group of people, with a variety of specialized skills, working together.  Judson has been chosen as the newest member, and is thrilled with the prospect.


It’s a clever scam, and they go all out with it, setting up phony crimes and having him stop them in Batman uniform.  Meanwhile they charge him for the various accessories, and soak him for all he’s worth.  Batman gets wind of this, when they see a fake crime, and he introduces himself to Judson as Batman number one, the one who gets to work with Robin, and they begin super-secret training.


So unwittingly Judson helps Batman bring down the mob that had conned him, and Batman makes Judson not feel like a complete ass for falling for it.  Kudos all around.

This story was retold as a Black Orchid tale in the mid-70s.


Roy Raymond meets a modern day Rip Van Winkle in this story by Jack Miller, with Ruben Moreira art.


The man tells a story of meeting little men and then falling asleep, waking up in the present.  It’s a decent story, but the main reason I included it is Roy’s method of catching the con artist.


Roy offers the man a ballpoint pen, and he takes it and writes with it.  But no one pre-20th century would guess there was ink inside a pen already.

Roy used this exact same trick on a man claiming to be Benjamin Franklin in an issue a year or so earlier, and I know he uses it at least once more.  It’s his go-to test.

Detective 216 – The Batman of the Future fights crime in the present


Brane Taylor, the Batman of the Future, makes his third and final appearance in Detective 216 (Feb. 55), in a story by Edmond Hamilton and Dick Sprang.


While his previous two appearances took place in his own time period, this story brings Brane to the present, as Bruce Wayne gets a broken arm in front of Vicki Vale, and he needs someone else to be Batman while he recovers.


Vicki gets suspicious anyway, because Brane treats her completely differently then Bruce does, being openly flirtatious.  To Robin’s dismay, he also keeps using futuristic devices, which Robin is forced to explain or cover up.


The previous issue’s story is unquestionably that of the Earth-1 Batman, because of the later appearances of the foreign heroes in it, but this story must be the Earth-2 Batman, because of his past relationship with Brane Taylor.  The dividing point between the two Batmans is very difficult to draw.


Detective 212 – Batman battles giant puppets, and Mysto ends


Over the years, Batman faced a number of villains who went by the name of Puppet Master, or used puppets in their crimes,  but the one in Detective 213 (Oct. 54) is my favourite, just because his puppets are the largest.


Bill Finger and Dick Sprang created this story, in which puppeteers Jonathan Bard is so determined to win a puppeteer competition that he sabotages his rival’s puppets.  Booted out of the contest, he turns to a life of crime, as many puppeteers do.


And above are the giant puppets that he uses>  Got to be impressed, though it’s difficult to figure out how he could be manipulating these from above.  He captures Batman and Robin, intending to turn them into puppets, but fails.


Mysto makes his final appearance in this issue.


After having to do an emergency landing out in the country, he discovers a town in which the residents have become prey to a group of carnys and their fixed games.


Mysto uses his sleight of hand skills to outwit their games and expose them to the people.  The gang catches Mysto and tries to kill him, but he gets free and rounds them up.

Mysto’s series ends, as the comic decreases its page count.  Of the three back-up series, this was undoubtedly the most difficult to come up with stories for, which is likely why it was the one dropped.  Mysto returns in Detective 500, so clearly he does not retire.  I expect he simply took his act on the road, so to speak, and travelled the world using his abilities to solve crimes.

Detective 211 – Batman vs Catwoman on a tropical island, and Mysto impersonates an escape artist


Catwoman returns in Detective 211 (Sept. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton and Dick Sprang that marks her final appearance until 1966.


She has a Cat-plane in this story,a deadly device capable of shredding the Batplane, although the end result is that both planes crash on a tropical island.


On the island, Catwoman’s gang repeatedly try to kill Batman and Robin, but she goes out of her way to save them.


In the end, that means actually working with the heroes she had tried to capture, using her control of the cats on the island to begin a stampede that takes out her gang.

She escapes at the end of the story, and is not seen again for over a decade.  Again, this was due to the repressive nature of the time.  A hero could not have a romance with a villain, so Catwoman had to go away.  It’s shocking to realize that Catwoman’s next appearance was on the tv series, and it was only the success of that which brought the character back into the comics.


Another good Mysto story in this issue, centring on an escape trick which keeps taking the lives of those who attempt it.


Mysto fears for the life of the next man to try the escape, so he knocks him out and takes his place.


I really like the way the art conveys the cramped, immobile situation inside the jar, as the close-ups build the tension.  Mysto figures out that the jar releases a gas that messes up coordination, and covers the jet, allowing him to escape.

Detective 185 – Batman’s utility belt


The cover of Detective 185 (July 1952) asks, what is the secret of Batman’s utility belt?  The story by David V Reed and Dick Sprang answers that – his secret identity is inside.


While he doesn’t go so far as to sew labels into it, Batman does create a disc with his name and address.  Incidentally, this is one of the extremely rare times Wayne Manor is given a specific address, 224 Park Drive.


Batman puts the disc in the belt and, wouldn’t you know it, loses the belt on the very next adventure.


A young boy finds it, but not the hidden disc.  He replaces the useful stuff with twigs and rocks, and then loses it as well.  It passes to a beggar and a rich man, before Batman finally gets on its track.  But so do some hoods who have learned it’s secret as well!


Batman tricks them with a second belt, and his identity is saved.

Not bad for a story about a belt.

Detective 184 – The Firefly debuts, and an earthquake machine


Garfield Lynns debuts in Detective 184 (June 1952), a decent villain with a weak name and a terrible costume, as the Firefly.


The story introduces us to Lynns, a special effects expert with a taste for the destructive and an overweening arrogance.  He causes a huge fire in a theatre, and winds up on the run.


His rationale for choosing the name Firefly is pretty lame.  Lame enough to make you wish for almost anything else, and the costume, designed by Dick Sprang, is no big plus.


That’s a shame as his “powers” are fairly impressive, with an extensive control of light effects.  Aside from the explosion at the beginning, there is no element of Lynns being an arsonist.

It takes a long time for this character to return against Batman, and his next outing, against the Creeper, took until the mid-70s to happen.


A man with a machine that can create meteorological events is the focus of this instalment of Impossible But True, with art by Ruben Moreira.  He seeks vengeance on a town for not believing in him, and is more than happy to demonstrate the machine’s abilities to Roy Raymond.


Raymond keeps giving simple scientific explanations for the machine’s effects, until finally the man declares he will cause an earthquake.


The earthquake turns out to be an underground explosion, from associates of the man blowing a bank vault.  It was all an elaborate piece of misdirection.  But Roy Raymond was too smart for them!

Detective 180 – The Joker gets rich


Detective 180 (Feb. 52) gives an unusual story to the Joker, courtesy of David V. Reed and Dick Sprang.


The Joker winds up inheriting a fortune in this story, and goes on a spending spree.  But the joke is on him, as it turns out the money is counterfeit.  When the taxman comes calling, the Joker winds up having to go back to crime to save face.


A genuinely enjoyable Joker story, and there hasn’t been one in a while.

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