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Batman, Robin, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson and Henry Kissinger’s doppelganger request the pleasure of your company – Detective Comics #357

February 24, 2012

This is yet another of the countless imposter stories that have cluttered up the comic book landscape over the years. “You’re Deathstroke? But I’m Deathstroke!” You know the drill. Though it may get tired, it’s still an effective way to pique interest, and it does in this instance. Decades after publication, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson sitting across from their costumed alter-egos got me to open up this issue’s cover. You go with what works, you know?

There was a Flash version of the trope presented here not too long ago. That one also featured the art of Carmine Infantino, who’s always a welcome addition to any party. Again: Stick with what works. The script here comes from John Broome, with inks from Joe Giella — the “Plus 2” on this party invite. And how do we get to the “Huh?” cover? Well, it all starts when Bruce and Dick are invited to be panelists (for inexplicable reasons — I can see wealthy industrialist Wayne as having things to say, but who in their right mind gives a crap about some doofus kid’s opinions) on what has to be THE MOST BORING SHOW IN THE HISTORY OF TELEVISION:

It makes The McLaughlin Group seem like 24. (The host, William B. Williams, looks like the bastard love-child of the aforementioned Mr. Kissinger and Phil Silvers of Sgt. Bilko fame.)

The program has at least two viewers, dim-witted hoods left behind while others go out on a caper, and whose lumpy skulls would be a phrenologist’s dream study:

The guy with the dark hair reminds me of a sweaty, sexually aroused Hector Hammond. Believe me, I wish he didn’t.

They get the bright idea to sneak down to the studio, drop some handy gas down a ventilation shaft (they have it just hanging around their ratty apartment), knocking everyone out and kidnapping Batman and Robin. Which they do, leading to some remorse on the part the show’s host:

Quite the eye for talent.

The hoods, now that they have the Dynamic Duo, and not having thought through Stage 2 of their master plan, are perplexed as to what to do with them. They unmask the still unconscious pair, but, of course, have no idea who they are (or that they’re frat boy fakers). They get the bright idea to let them wake up and go home, and they (the hoods) will follow them back to wherever the Batcave is. The kids go back to a frat house, which doesn’t seem at all remarkable to these knuckle-heads. Then their crime boss gets wind of this whole thing, has an apoplectic “YOU DIDN’T KILL THEM?” fit (he’s the Moe to their Larry and Curly), and has them take him to the “lair” so that he can finish the job. They find the boys doing what fraternity brothers have been doing from time immemorial — yes, sitting in their underwear, eating sandwiches:

When I was in college fraternities were more about having sex with goats and group vomiting, but I suppose things change.

By this time Bruce and Dick have gotten away from the studio and, as Batman and Robin, have gone to the frat house themselves to follow up on the kidnapping. They arrive just in time to prevent the mistaken assassination, with Robin handling the boneheads and Batman tackling the head idiot with flagpole gymnastics:

I think Chris Farley pulled a similar high-risk maneuver (with a palm tree) in Beverly Hills Ninja. Great minds…

The final coup de grâce comes when these two combatants crash into a research facility, one with a convenient wind tunnel. I can think of no better artist than Infantino to illustrate the resulting chicanery:

When you incorporate a wind tunnel into your final blow, you have earned — earned — a KAZOWIE. (Look at the stiff, parallel to the ground body of the hood, and Batman stepping into his final blow — really, who would be better than Infantino at this? This sequence was made for him.)

All is well, and the scheduled television unmasking can finally go off without a hitch, with Dick stating/thinking the obvious:

Yeah. Thanks. Never would have got that on my own.

This is standard Silver Age fare, but I have to think — though I certainly have a Carmine-centric bias — that the wind-aided KO elevates this issue above many others. The image of the ugly con launching backwards like a human bullet is good for a laugh. (The frat boys dining in their boxers is funny as well, though for other reasons.) The “unmasking” angle? Whatever. In this case, it’s a means to a goofy end.

This comic was reprinted in one of the cheap, dreadful black and white Showcase trades (Showcase Presents: Batman Vol. 2). If there’s any justice in the world, someday we’ll get some shiny, full color love for this era. THE BATMAN WIND TUNNEL PUNCH DEMANDS IT.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. m lewis redford permalink
    February 25, 2012 6:52 pm

    Infantino highlights …

  2. bluekatt permalink
    November 9, 2012 6:49 am

    i dont mind the : dreadfull cheap black and white ” reprints in the essential and show case volumes
    they are cheap and provide you with ample amounts of comics for the lowest price possible and you can actually read a lot of these classics without coughing up an arm and a leg

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