"The Merman Batman" (Batman #118, September 1958)

§ April 27th, 2004 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on "The Merman Batman" (Batman #118, September 1958)

(Thought I’d better do one of these before you all thought I was turning into the Southern California branch of AiT/Planetlar! You can find the cover for this Batman comic here.)

So Batman and Robin are searching Gotham City’s wharf district, looking for wanted criminal Vince Kenton who had been spotted in the area. Suddenly, Kenton and a couple of his villainous buddies dart out of nowhere, rushing for their car to make their escape. Batman flings a Batarang at Kenton, who dodges at the last moment, not noticing the Batarang neatly shearing in half a card he happens to be holding in his left hand. In his right hand is his gun, however, and startled by the Batarang, lets off a wild, and remarkably lucky, shot:

Freeing themselves from the netting, Batman and Robin discover that the crooks have made good their escape. While Robin picks up a clue (the piece of the card Kenton was holding), Batman decides to climb to the top of one of the warehouses to see if he can spot the getaway car. Apparently the roof wasn’t high enough, so Batman tries to shinny up the flagpole…not a good idea during the lightning storm that just started three panels ago:

Robin’s incredible observational skills continue as he witnesses Batman, unconscious, plunging in the river. The faithful ward dives in after Batman, searching the harbor bottom as best he can…until he realizes the inevitiable. Wiping a tear from his masked eye, he laments: “Batman…gone! I’ve lost the greatest friend I ever had? How — how can I tell Commisioner Gordon…the people of Gotham City?”

His sorrow is shortlived, as he suddenly receives a morse code signal on his belt radio…Batman is alive! Robin’s sorrow turns to confusion, though, as Batman relates some very strange instructions to his partner.

We find out what those instructions are in the very next panel, as Robin returns from the Batcave with a crane-truck and what looks like a giant fishtank…he lowers the tank into the water, and when he pulls the tank back up, Batman is inside, apparently capable of breathing inside the water-filled tank! Once on the ground, Batman explains:

Robin hauls Batman, tank and all, into the back of the truck and heads back to the Batcave (hopefully taking little-used side roads to spare Batman the embarrassment)…once there, they examine their one clue to Kenton’s whereabouts (the card, remember?).

Meanwhile, Kenton and his cronies are at a top floor office at the Marine Construction Corporation building (the source of the card), talking to a fellow named Carl Smarte about the location of the new hideout. Carl, who apparently works in the building (they’re surrounded by models of boats and aquariums marked “Designed by Carl Smarte”), is in cahoots with the crooks, and is about to reveal the new hideout (getting only a chance to say “do you know where Treasure Island is located?”) when he spots something up in the skylight. It’s Batman and Robin, who jump into the room…and Kenton reveals deductive capabilities equal to that of the Caped Crusaders:

In the ensuing struggle, Smarte smashes open Batman’s water-filled helmet with one of his boat models, leaving Batman to suffocate in the open air. The crooks blow the joint, believing that without any nearby water, Batman is doomed! Robin thinks fast, though, and sets off the room’s sprinkler system with a match. Water quickly, and quite alarmingly, fills the room to a depth of about 3 inches, saving Batman’s bacon:

Without explaining how he was able to open the door without letting all the water out, Robin returns with the spare helmet, and, using the “Treasure Island” clue they overheard, quickly track down where the crooks’ hideout is located. It’s in the bottom of a large tank at the new Gotham City aquarium Seaorama…after emptying the tank and opening the hatch, the criminals pile out of the hideout and once again tussle with the Dynamic Duo. And, again, Batman discovers that wearing a giant glass bowl on your head probably isn’t a good idea for someone in his profession:

Yes, Robin, something strange is happening…Batman’s a big ol’ faker, as he now apparently can breathe in the air just fine! After subduing the startled criminals, Batman and Robin go over the details:

Robin: “Gosh…you mean you felt yourself returning to normal, and couldn’t breathe in the water-filled helmet, Batman?”

Batman: “Right…so I took advantage of the situation by pretending to be suffocating in the air!”

So once again the day is saved by improbable science, spoon-fed clues, and plain old dumb luck!

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