Wednesday, November 2, 2016


This is the DC Universe version of Pumpkin Chuckin'

Here we are, November, the month during the end of which Americans celebrate their Thanksgiving. Why, it’s the perfect time to relay the tale of the time Batman and Superman went back to pilgrim times and Batman got accused of being a witch and then they both fought in the Revolutionary War because history isn’t the strongest point among comic book writers. Or, rather, it WOULD be the perfect time had I not been something of an idiot and written that very thing all the way back at the beginning of the year or thereabouts. I clearly need one of those one-year planners.

Or just let them die under the coal...
Instead, let’s enjoy another time travel jaunt featuring Batman and Superman and, for bonus points in the lightning round, Batman’s irresponsibly employed sidekick Robin AND which ALSO sees Batman getting tied to a stake at one point. If this keeps happening, the guy’s gonna start to enjoy it.

Wayyy back in World’s Finest Comics vol.1 No.132 (March 1963, “Batman and Robin, Medieval* Bandits”), Batman and Robin go missing from modern day Gotham City by way of a time travel expedition gone wrong. They used to do this all the time, travelling into the past with the assistance of Batman’s scientist pal Dr.Carter Nichols and his ability to send people through time using hypnosis. This is perfectly on-brand for the Caped Crusader whose famous oath – “Criminals are scattered throughout time and I must adopt a disguise which I’ll use as I get hypnotized in a weirdo’s basement laboratory” (Detective Comics vol.1 No.27) – presaged these very same adventures.

In this instance, Batman and Robin fail to return from one of their expeditions through the time barrier and, fearing the worst, Dr.Nichols puts out an alert on the radio for Superman’s assistance. In a story which thrives on moments as much as it does on the whole narrative, this VERY FIRST PANEL of the comic gives us one of the most memorable; hearing the broadcast over the office radio at the Daily Planet, Clark reacts by visibly shaking all over like a one-man earthquake, in full view of Lois Lane. If your goal is to hide your identity, try not responding immediately when someone goes “Hey Superman!”

Clark, you roaring imbecile.
Dr.Nichols explains that the Dynamic Duo are well-overdue in returning from Renaissance* Italy, and asks Superman to bring them a “Time Box” which will immediately return them to the present. Then Superman flies through time to do that. Why he can’t just fly back through time with Batman and Robin, I dunno, but more to the point it seems kind of dicky to just fly through the time barrier when you’re standing right in front of a guy who’s dedicated his life to inventing time travel. “I’ve endured poverty, loneliness, and the mockery of my peers, Superman, but if I can just prove that even limited range time travel is possible then it will all be w-“ “EXCUSE ME! (flies to the age of dinosaurs) HI I’M BACK”

In Renaissance* Italy, Batman and Robin are tied to stakes and are in danger of being executed by a giant robot that looks like a Gladiator. The robot is operated from the inside by two very small men (therefore making it more of a pocket-sized Jaeger, I suppose), wielding a giant robot trident, and maybe probably it would have been easier to just stab Batman and Robin with a knife. I mean, the time saved in robot maintenance alone would more than make up for any knife-sharpening expense.

Whoever invented those tiny men, tho, that's the real genius.

Superman frees his pals and then sees them off to the woods, where Batman muses about how he maybe ought to retire and tend to his race horses, then disappears with a big group of bandits. Of these two clues, it’s the race horses that makes Superman suspicious. HE RAN OFF WITH BANDITS, SUPERMAN. BATMAN HATES CRIME. BANDITS MAKE CRIME. This is easy math. You don’t need horses.

"By the way, Robin, did I mention..."
But Superman remembers that Bruce Wayne doesn’t own any racehorses, and thereby deduces that this is a fake crime-type Batman. Hey Superman, maybe Batman just bought those racehorses. Maybe he was excited about them and couldn’t find an organic way to slide them into the conversation, but really wanted you to know about them. Maybe he just wanted to share.

What turns out to be the real case is that two modern-day crooks – Denny Kale and Shorty Biggs (A character I’m sure I’ve seen before in some Batman comics, because I distinctly remember a short bald man wearing a Robin costume, and I don’t just mean the guy I identified at my trial) coldcock Batman and Robin in the present, steal a time machine Batman happened to have in his pocket, and … and disguise themselves as Batman and Robin in order to rob the Medicis. Hold on, let me check my notes. That can’t be right.

From the way they look like they're dancing, I'm
assuming it's aerosolized MDMA.
The wrap-up to the story involves Batman and Robin joining Superman in the past to fight Renaissance* bandits (they paint AND steal!) and the two guys who dressed up as them. Along the way, Kale has the bandits’ alchemist change a tiny pebble of kryptonite which he brought to the past into a HUGE BOULDER of kryptonite and Superman is now dead, sorry. By the way, if they had an alchemist, WHY STEAL ANYTHING? Just make a small piece of gold big like he did with the kryptonite, jesus, do I have to think of everything?

The World’s Finest team defeat the balding baddies and, fortunately, also manage to give them amnesia along the way. “Accidentally,” as it were, “fortuitously.” That’s the official story. Maybe they just beat them until they got brain damage, that’s my take on it.

The final panel of the adventure shows Batman using Professor Nichols’ time-box to travel back to the present day, Superman included, which is nice and all but Superman CAN fly through time, you know? That he doesn’t do it here just makes it more insulting that he did it right in front of Nichols in the first place. Anyway, it’s nice that Batman can get back to the racehorses that I’m sure he actually has and which are probably quite nice, thank you.

I forgot to mention that Batman invents a DaVinci-inspired Bat-Glider, which should have been my thesis statement.
*For certain definitions of "Medieval" and "Renaissance"


wordsmith said...

C.J.M., thanks for a fun review; now here's something to cheer you up, since I believe you, too, are a sensible American voter--I bought your book earlier this year and really enjoyed it, and just re-read it yesterday, tho' I believe this essay convulsed me more than your book did, but that's okay, because I'm going to buy your next book, too.

Calamity Jon said...

Well that does cheer me up, thanks!

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