Retro Review: Detective Comics #267 (May 1959)

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Comics are a cyclical game.  From the very earliest days of the industry, stories and concepts have been recycled, reused and generally repurposed on a regular basis.  This explains why, for instance, Quality Comics’ Midnight was essentially The Spirit (and also why I laugh every time someone declares the latest incarnation of any given comic to be “the greatest ever”, but that’s another story.)  Superman had been plagued by other-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyzptlk since the mid-40s, the world’s greatest detective waited a few years before getting his own, presumably to make sure that the phenomenon was worth his time…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Detective Comics #267 awaits!

Detective267CoverDETECTIVE COMICS #267
Writer: Bill Finger/Jack Miller
Artist: Sheldon Moldoff/Joe Certa
Inker: Charles Paris/Joe Certa
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Jack Schiff
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $500.00

Previously in Detective Comics: The Batman, defender of Gotham City, started off influenced by the pulp heroes, dropping villains into acid and occasionally even packing heat.  By the 1950s, though, the bloom was off the superhero rose, and those few super-dupers whose books remained were forced to diversify.  Batman’s two-fisted dark avenger status slowly changed into that of a deputized member of the Gotham City police department, and his battles with racketeers were supplanted by science fiction influenced tales of other worlds (like the wonderful world of Zur En Arrh.)  At a time when the fighty-fighty of superheroes wasn’t in vogue (but *was* still under attack from parents’ groups and the illustrious Doctor Wertham), Batman made his mark doing something else.  Case in point, one morning, Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne are stunned to enter the Batcave and find their equipment has been messed with, and their utility belts left on the floor.  A voice calls out to apologize, leading the Dynamic Duo to find a strange, elfin visitor in their lair…

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Finding a gang of criminals in action (which seems to be a little bit unlikely, but y’know…  comics) Batman and Robin leap into action, using their superior skills to intercept Neely’s gang of thugs.  That’s when things get a little bit weird…

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Using the bridge’s rubbery surface as a trampoline, Batman leaps back and forth, inventing parkour as he takes out the gang one by one.  Once in custody, the disbelieving bandits wonder what happened, only to be fed a quick prevarication from Batman involving the inhalation of gases from a nearly chemical plant messing with their equilibrium and causing hallucinations.  (If he ever chose to use his powers for evil, Bats would be a shoo-in for Moriarty’s crown as greatest criminal mastermind of all time.)  The Caped Crusader then confronts his Number One Fan…

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The GCPD summons Batman to answer a burglar alarm at the expo hall, where an exhibition of giant hi-fi equipment (??) is being held.  The crooks nearly surrender without incident, but Bat-Mite uses his powers to make things more “interesting”, bringing the props to life, but the quick thinking superheroes collect the criminals, and give Bat-Mite an even more severe dressing-down, with Batman putting on his best “dad” voice to shut down Bat-Mite’s mischief.  When Batman receives a tip about the Yellow Glove Gang robbing a warehouse, Bat-Mite uses his powers to bring together more giant props, in the hopes of making Batman’s latest case super-exciting.  It works, up to a point… Detective2674

Unfortunately, his enthusiasm also allows the villains to escape (in a flying Viking longboat, no less), leaving Batman very unhappy in their wake.  Like so many fans before him, B-Mite gets to see another side of his idol, as Batman has finally had enough…

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What was it that Sigmund Freud said about dreams where you leap down out of your own pants?  Something about being in love with your mother or something, I’m certain, but either way, Batman and Robin make short work of the Yellow Glove Gang, who blame his unorthodox attack on a giant robot Batman, leaving only one loose end.

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Interestingly, Bat-Mite didn’t make very many return visits to the DCU, only showing up four or five more times before being erased from continuity by 1985′s ‘Crisis On Infinite Earths.’  Some would say this is a good thing, what with the whole fetishized ‘Batman-as-perfect-human-with-no-fantastic-elements’ interpretation of the character, but for me it was something of a shame, especially given how much I enjoyed the character’s cartoon adventures (voiced by Filmation founder Lou Scheimer, no less), and I joyously appreciated Grant Morrison’s return of Bat-Mite to continuity in somewhat more believable fashion a few years ago.  As for the rest of this ish, we get the usual puzzle corners and cartoon asides, but also an adventure of ‘Roy Raymond, TV Detective.’

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Also in this issue, albeit a bit further from the whole detective motif, comes an adventure of the Martian Manhunter, who has not yet adopted the stylized ‘J’onn J’onzz’ spelling, strangely enough…

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One thing I’ve discovered after reading many Silver Age Martian Manhunter adventures, his disappearance for the better part of a decade and a half is not surprising, as his early tales are a weird mishmash of crime comic, superhero and sci-fi, with powers appearing and disappearing as the plot requires.  Neither of the backup tales in this issue are the best example of their protagonists, leading to an issue that feels like it’s moving at half-speed.  Featuring lovely art from Shelly Moldoff in the first story, as well as one of the iconic Batman supporting characters in his first appearance, Detective Comics #267 is a mixed bag that settles out to be only slightly above Silver Age average, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall.  Even if you don’t care for his antics, you can understand why people keep bringing Bat-Mite back, and especially why they cast Pee-Wee Herman as his voice actor…