Tuesday, August 12, 2014

BATMAN LEADS AN INTERESTING LIFE - THE MAN WHO FEARED METAL

Cue the Charlie Brown music.

If you were ever wondering what it would take to get Batman to wear one of those veterinary cones they give to injured dogs to keep ‘em from biting at their stitches, I’ve got your answer for you – but I’m afraid it’s gonna take a lot of preparation.

In Detective Comics vol.1 No.163 (September 1950), Batman and Robin find themselves on the trail of “Slippery Jim” Elgin, the so-called “Man of 1,000 Faces” and winner of Gotham City’s “Worst Criminal Pseudonym” awards for 1946, 1948 and honorable mention 1949. Chasing the appearance-changing crook past what appears to be a suburban experimental laboratory inside a gated community, both the dynamic duo and Slippery Jim’s entire gang are caught when the front of the lab explodes, showering all involved with debris. Enh, it happens.  

Batman and Robin check out their "Sexy Slippery Jim
Disguise Of The Month" calendar.

Don't look at July 15, Robin.
Slippery Jim comes out of it the worst – for one thing, he’s no longer slippery! Blew the slippery right off him, poor guy. More problematic, though, is that a sliver of highly magnetized metal has lodged itself in Jim’s brain, and will kill him if it’s moved so much as half an inch. Getting closer than then feet to any sizable piece of metal will do the crook in, including but not limited to handsaws, dental fillings (which aren’t magnetic, I don’t think, or I hope not anyway, except in cases of hilarity) or collapsible top hats (spoiler: He dies after donning a collapsible top hat. Let that be his epitaph).

Slippery Jim creates an anti-magnetic helmet, some sort of completely non-metal piece of electronics which creates a field wherein magnetism stops working. I’ve already looked up a few scientific things for this article, so I didn’t feel like checking if there was some sort of plastic machine that cancels magnetism, but if there is color me impressed that a crook whose primary gimmick was makeup and fake beards invented it. It doesn’t matter anyway, because he loses the helmet almost immediately and has to fall back on plan B: Make Batman wear a nitroglycerine dinner plate as a bow tie.

Capturing Batman and Robin, Slippery Jim’s men force the Caped Crusader to don a plastic ring, packed with explosives, around his neck. Rigging the collar with the same metal-sensitive trigger which threatens Slippery Jim’s life, the dang thing will BLOW UP if Batman tries to remove it, gets too close to metal, or tries to approach Robin in his cage of iron bars. Little known fact: Same rules were in effect in the frilled ruffs of the Elizabethan era. Shakespeare actually died from getting his neck too close to a lead pitcher.

In the end, Batman is able to switch out the high explosive collar for a duplicate which he apparently happened to have handy, and which is filled with knockout gas. This allows him to effect possibly my favorite panel in the history of Batman, which is the panel where his head explodes. Let that stand as my epitaph.

"For the kicks, Robin!"

The Dark Knight Detective managed to remove his booby-trapped necktie by slipping wax paper between his neck and the inside of the collar, and then using hydrofluoric acid to eat away at the metal clasps. Apparently hydrofluoric acid doesn’t eat through wax – I even Googled it, and they’re right, it doesn’t eat through mineral wax! Congrats old school Batman writers! You got one thing not completely berserkly wrong about science. For once.

2 comments:

cup king said...

Do you know if Pow-Wow Smith - Indian Lawman did any radio commercials to drum up business?

cup king said...

Those Slippery Jim disguises look like the worst Village People tribute act, EVER!

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