Posts tagged ‘Otto Binder’

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 213 – Mirror Man debuts, and Captain Compass visits the future


Floyd Ventris, the Mirror Man, was intended to be a major villain for Batman, when he was introduced by Bill Finger and Sheldon Moldoff in Detective 213 (Nov. 54).


Some broken glass facilitates his escape from prison, and he adopts the guise of Mirror Man, building himself a blindingly bright lair and recruiting a mob.  He also must have some extensive scientific background, as he creates himself a number of mirror devices and weapons.


He uses one of these to be able to see through Batman’s mask, and recognizes him as Bruce Wayne, though Batman also realizes what has happened.


Batman attempts to cover his ass, having a story printed about all the times Bruce Wayne was accused of being Batman, and all the ways it was disproved.  This frustrates Mirror Man, as his own crew refuse to believe him.


And, as Batman intended, this goads Mirror Man into rash action, as he attempts to show the television audience what his x-ray mirror reveals.  Batman is one step ahead, having created a reflective under-mask.

So Mirror Man heads to prison, but still knows Batman is Bruce Wayne.  This makes him the only villain who knew Batman’s identity (and didn’t die at the end of the story), and yet it was nine years until his next appearance, in the pages of Batman.

Between these, the character of Mirror Master was introduced in the Flash.  Sam Scudder’s story also begins with some accidentally damaged glass in prison, moving on to the creation of mirror weaponry, and this villain far outshone Mirror Man.


Otto Binder sends Captain Compass on quite a ride in this story.  Mark had just finished an undercover mission, and was still in disguise, when villainous Doc Tyde uses an atomic gun, which results in both of them being hurled far into the future.


They wind up in a world without ships of any kind, where huge bridges span the oceans.  And no one fishes, I guess.  Doc Tyde convinces the police of that era that Compass is in disguise because he is a bad guy, and Mark gets hauled away.


But Compass merely accesses the historical records, which are astoundingly complete for the far future, and proves his identity, and they return to the present.

Detective 203 – Catwoman returns to crime, Captain Compass begins, and Mysto debuts


Catwoman returns to crime in Detective 203 (Jan. 54), in a story by Edmond Hamilton, with art by Sheldon Moldoff.


In the pages of Batman, Catwoman had recovered her memory of being Selina Kyle, and given up her life of crime.  This story sees her return, for no really good reason.  It is therefor considered the first appearance of the Earth-1 Catwoman, as the Earth-2 version served her sentence and then married Bruce Wayne.


She has a new Cat-car and Catacombs, and embarks on a cat-themed crime spree.  Batman stops her thefts, but she escapes at the end.


Captain Compass had debuted in Star-Spangled Comics, and then moved to World’s Finest.  In this issue, he finds a berth in Detective, in a story by Otto Binder.


Captain Mark Compass travels the various waters of the world, solving nautical crimes.  In this story, he deals with a sea-going showboat that is being used as an escape route for a criminal.


Another hero with little to no backstory or supporting cast, just a themed name.


Mysto, the Magician Detective, makes his debut here, in a story that details how young pilot Rick Carter became the magical hero.


Rick’s plane crashes in the Himilayas, and he is taken in and healed by an old man.


The man teaches him the secret of eastern magic, and then dies, as they always do.


Rick, now calling himself Mysto, returns to the US and begins a life of stage magic and crime fighting.

Detective 150 – Batman fights a ghost, Robotman fights Robotcrook, and the Boy Commandos end


A generic cover on Detective 150 (Aug. 49), which makes me wonder why Batman and Robin chose to shoot the rope so close to the Batsignal.  Batman is going to get blinded in another step.


The ghost of an executed gangster starts appearing around Gotham, creating panic in the underworld, in this story with art by Dick Sprang.


A renowned ghost buster, Paul Visio, joins Batman in the case, but has no luck proving the ghost a fake.


But that’s because Visio is the one behind the fraud, an attempt to take over Gotham’s gangs by scaring them into submission.


Otto Binder pits Robotman against a similar foe in this story.


Robotcrook is exactly what he sounds like, but he is controlled from afar, rather than having an implanted brain.


Robotman manages to hold off his rival, and find the controller, Gimmick Gus.


The Boy Commandos end their run in Detective Comics with a heck of a trip, with Curt Swan handling the art.


To fulfill the conditions of a will and gain a fortune for charity, Rip and the boys have to travel around the world without duplicating a means of transportation.  It does make for an entertaining little story, with plenty of interesting visuals.


Although their series ends here, their own book continues, as does their series in World’s Finest Comics.

Detective 143 – Batman vs the Pied Piper, Robotman vs the Baffler


In Detective 143 (Jan. 49) Batman and Robin go up against the Pied Piper, a one-shot villain who uses pipes as the theme for his crimes, but does not lure rats, or children.


Bill Finger wrote the story, in which the arrogant villain toys with Batman, running a pipe shop and almost openly flaunting his connection to the thefts.


The climax takes place on a giant, functioning, pipe organ.  I always love it when Batman fights his enemies on giant, working props.

This Pied Piper never returns, and has no connection to the later Flash villain.


Robotman faces the Baffler in this Otto Binder tale.


The Baffler is an inventor, who has created a number of devices to use against Robotman if he intervenes in his crimes, which is good, because that’s exactly what happens.  Rocket roller skates get the Baffler and his men away the first time.


The Baffler also has an impressive buzz saw to cut through Robotman’s legs. Robotman simply attached the wheels to the stumps and captures the Baffler.

Detective 140 – The Riddler debuts, and Robotman finds his double


The Riddler debuts in Detective 140 (Oct. 48), in a story by Bill Finger, with art by Dick Sprang.


The story opens with the background of Edward Nigma, a child willing to cheat in order to show he was smarter than everyone else.  After a brief career as a carny, he decides to turn to crime.


Having a costume is apparently mandatory for criminals.


The Riddler begins by taking over an electronic billboard, leaving clues to his upcoming crime as a crossword puzzle.


At his worst, the Riddler can come off as a lame version of the Joker, but this story shows a lot more energy and spark than any of the Joker stories from the past few years.  The puzzle trap above looks great, and Batman way of deducing how to undo is is simple, but clever.


The story even has a great last panel, with the question mark symbol floating in the water, teasing the reader (and Batman) with whether Nigma lived or died.

The Riddler returns just a couple of issues later.  And this story was adapted for the 60s tv show.


Otto Binder scripts this tale, in which Robotman, in his guise as Paul Dennis, is mistaken for another man who looks just like him.  Although the story fails to pursue this direction, the lookalike must be the man who posed for the mask that Robotman wears.


The man is a banker, and a really clumsy one, as he dropped thousands of dollars into a lake.  Oops!  Robotman attempts to retrieve it, but can`t.


So the rest of the tale is Robotman using his attachable body parts to do a variety of odd jobs quickly and earn back the missing money.


Detective 138 – The Joker`s invisible crimes, and Robotman begins


I have to commend the cover of Detective 138 (Aug. 48).  It depicts the central villain of the Batman and Robin story, yet conceals that this is the Joker.  Once the viewer knows who it is, it is easy to spot the shape of the hair, and the tails on the jacket, which confirm his identity.


On the other side, the actual tale, by Bill Finger, with Dick Sprang art, is definitely lacking.  It begins well, as the Joker confronts a scientist who has developed an invisibility formula, and steals it.


But an invisible Joker is just an invisible thief.  The Joker had been so neutered that if you remove the visual of him, there is no character left.


The conclusion of the story works well, though.  Batman takes the formula himself, removing the Joker`s advantage, and takes him down.


Robotman begins in this issue, his series moving over from Star-Spangled Comics.  Otto Binder crafts a good introductory tale, as Robert Crane`s robotic form is torn apart.


The parts are gathered together in a lab by a scientist who finds the blueprints for Robotman concealed in the body`s heel, and the story recaps his origin.  Robert Crane gets shot, and his friend puts Crane`s brain into a robot body he had already constructed.  Robotman has a plastic face he wears, pretending to be Paul Dennis.


His body gets re-assembled, and Robotman takes down the villain who thought he had destroyed him.

Adventure 355 – The Adult Legion vs the Legion of Super-Villains, plus Insect Queen


As with many of Jim Shooter’s stories from this period, the first half of the two-parter had introductions and set-up, while the second half, in Adventure 355 (April 1967) has the bulk of the action, again rendered by Curt Swan.


The Legion of Super-Villains bring two members into their team for this, Beauty Blaze and Echo.  Neither would really return, although Echo made a cameo in a Legion story from the 90s, and in the 80s Flare joined the Fatal Five, a woman with powers identical to Beauty Blaze.


They divide and fight, along the usual lines: Lightning Lad against Lightning Lord, Cosmic King against Element Lad, and Saturn Girl against Saturn Queen.


Beauty Blaze us quickly bested by Polar Boy, and Echo falls to Cosmic Boy.

But it turns out that the villains the Legion were fighting were all illusions, and the real group is holding Brainiac 5 hostage below the sea.


In the end, the day is saved by two masked figures who reveal themselves to be descendants of Mr Mxyzpylk and Lex Luthor, who join the Legion.  Neither of these characters ever appeared again, and though I enjoyed the story as a child, the ending does feel weak.


There is a second story in this issue, which sees Lana Lang attempt to join the Legion in her Insect Queen identity.  It’s Curt Swan art again, but the story is by Otto Binder.


She gets rejected because her powers come from her bio-ring, rather than being innate, but she gets to accompany them on a mission anyway.  Dream Girl warns her that she has seen disaster for Lana if she takes on the form of a moth, which of course happens eventually.


After briefly losing her bio-ring, it is returned by Superboy, who “didn’t know” he had it in his cape.  Right.

But as she saved Shrinking Violet and Sueprboy during the course of the adventure, she is rewarded with honourary membership, and does make a couple more appearances with the team.

Adventure 289 – Does Pa Kent really gain super-powers again? And Bizarro hunts for heroes


Oh, no, is it yet another story where Pa Kent gets powers?  Nope, it just seems to be.  Otto Binder does a great job decoying the reader with this tale, in Adventure 289 (Oct 61)


Clark, and the reader, are lead to believe that Pa Kent has gained powers as the result of exposure to an alien gem, and with two such stories in the last few years, no one was likely to be surprised, or question it.

Pa Kent adopts the identity of Super-Dad, and acts quite obnoxiously towards Clark.  But then, not so different from how Pa Kent behaved in the story where he became Strongman.


Ok, maybe throwing a lead bucket onto Superboy’s head is a bit much, but it almost feels like it’s being played for laughs.  Things get serious though, when Clark discovers his father stockpiling kryptonite in order to kill him.  Would Pa Kent really do this?


No, he wouldn’t.  This is Jax-Ur, an escapee from the Phantom Zone, making his first appearance.  We learn that he was sentenced to the Zone for destroying an inhabited moon of Krypton, and Superboy sends him back there at story’s end.

This is a good tale, almost a great one, except for the revelation of how Superboy figured out Pa Kent was not Pa Kent.





Bizarro goes time-travelling in this little romp by Jerry Siegel.  He promises the citizens of Bizarro World that he will find real heroes from the past that they can feature on tv on their world, and heads in search of the Abominable Snowman, Frankenstein’s monster and the Devil.

In each case, it is Bizarro himself who is assumed by people in that time period to be the monster he is seeking.


He winds up in the prehistoric era, and runs into Titano, who he calls Tiny. and returns to Bizarrow World to tell them all about the great hero he found.


He is accused to ripping off King Kong for his story about Tiny, which makes Bizarro World cheer him, for hoaxing them all.

Bizarro logic, what can you do?


Adventure 288 – Superboy vs Dev-Em, and Bizarro Lois gains powers



Dev-Em shows himself to be a far more cruel and manipulative foe than anyone else Superboy has faced.  He projects Superboy into the Phantom Zone, then disguises himself as the hero and does all he can to ruin his name.


He behaves atrociously to Ma and Pa Kent. and goes on a destructive rampage through Smallville.


Once he is convinced that everyone has turned against Superboy, he simply frees him from the Phantom Zone, leaving poor Kal to face the repercussions of Dev-Em’s actions, and takes off into the future.


I’m really of two minds about the resolution to this tale.  Otto Binder seems to find an easy out, as red kryptonite is blamed for Superboy’s behaviour.  On the other hand, perhaps the intended message was that if a person always acts nobly and selflessly, a temporary aberration can be overlooked.




Jerry Siegel has a lot of fun with the Bizarro tale in this issue, as Kltpzyxm (the Bizarro Myzptlk) gives Bizarro Lois super-powers.  Bizarro then spends the story trying to prove that Bizarro Lois is really Stupor-Woman, in a wacky variation of the standard Superman/Lois Lane plot.


The real Mr Mxyzptlk shows up at the end of the story, removing Bizarro Lois’ powers and causing everyone on Bizarro World to forget everything.  Cause what’s a story without memory loss, right?  How many issues have ended with this ploy now?  I forget.

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