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The above is not a complete list of Batman stories. Rather, it consists of my picks of the best tales in the magazines, the ones I enjoyed reading, and recommend to others.

Batman

Batman was created in 1939, and is still going strong today!

The Origin Tales

The Origin of the Batman (1948). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Bob Kane. Batman finds Joe Chill, the man responsible for his parents' murder. This story retells the origin of Batman; it also extends that origin tale to look at the later life of Joe Chill, and Batman's attempt to bring him to justice. Batman functions as a genuine detective in this tale, who uses strategies to go after the crook, attack his organization, and set traps for him.

The art of this tale is exceptionally vivid. Bob Kane's drawing skills have improved greatly since his 1930's Batman tales. He excels at a depiction of a paddleboat steamship. Kane also does a good job with the numerous police in this tale.

The First Batman (1956). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Batman discovers that his father once appeared as Batman; he also tracks down Lew Moxon, a man involved in his parents' murder. This tale builds on earlier Batman origin stories; Finger shows real ingenuity in extending the Batman origin in not just one, but two different directions.

This is a good story, but it is not quite as overwhelmingly vivid as the first tale.

To Kill a Legend (1981). Writer: Alan Brennert. Art: Dick Giordano. Batman goes into a parallel universe, where he strives to prevent the murder of his parents. This is a well constructed worlds of if tale. One consequence of this approach: to turn what were small characters with fixed roles in the saga into members of a Batman mythos. For example, the story of the murder of Batman's parents has always been a fixed, and necessarily brief, episode in the Batman stories. Batman's parents are glimpsed while they are being gunned down; the petty crook who killed them is little more than his name, Joe Chill. The world of if approach suddenly turns these fixed glimpses into active, continuing characters in Batman's universe. We see both Batman's parents and Joe Chill in the days leading up to the killing. Each is acting in character, behaving according to their predefined personalities, and yet doing new things we have never seen them doing before. This is precisely how members of a mythos behave and function. Furthermore, the tale is constructed out of this background behavior and personalities of the characters; this is exactly how stories are built in comics that are based on a mythos and a universe that recurs from tale to tale. It is as if Brennart has flicked a switch, and we are suddenly in a Batman universe based on a common mythos, one in which fixed characters are animated and brought to life.

This story is directly based on Bill Finger's earlier Batman origin tales. It re-uses characters from them and extends their story ideas. Together with them, it forms a trilogy of classic stories dealing with Batman's origin. All three of these tales are available in The Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told (1988). Brennart is remarkably successful at preserving a consistent origin for Batman.

Paperchase (1981). Writer: Alan Brennert. Art: Jim Aparo. Batman teams with the Creeper, to track down a paper-themed killer, in a story that also looks at "family values" broadcasters.

Early Stories

Batman versus the Vampire (Detective Comics #31-32, 1939). Writer: Gardner Fox. Art: Bob Kane. Batman tries to rescue his fiancee, Julie Madison, from the clutches of a combined vampire-werewolf villain known as The Monk. It has been commonplace to compare early comics, especially Batman, to film noir. This story shows what a mistake this is. It resembles 1930's B-movie thrillers, horror movies and serials, NOT film noir. This is not surprising, when one looks at the chronology. Although there are some precursors in the work of Fritz Lang, Hollywood first began producing film noir in quantity in 1941. This is precisely after the main burst of Golden Age super-hero creation in 1938 - 1941. One can itemize some similarities in this tale to 1930's thrillers: its hero and heroine are well to do members of Society, in the 1930's movie tradition. They are not hard-boiled members of a mob world, as in film noir. There is no sign of political or social corruption, or of social alienation - all common themes in film noir. The villain, the Monk, is a mysterious masked personage, like those of countless 1930's B-movie serials and thrillers. There is lots of slinking around in the dark at sinister yet elegant upper crust locations, also familiar from 1930's B-mysteries and horror films.

Knights of Knavery (Batman #25, October-November 1944). Writer: Don Cameron. Art: Jerry Robinson. The Penguin and the Joker team up for the first time. This story is very uninspired. However, some features of the writing are interesting. Don Cameron was a prolific scriptwriter of Batman and Superman tales during the 1940's and early 1950's (up to 1952). The narration of this tale bears a strong resemblance to the campy narrations of the Batman TV show. The characters in the story are often referred to by ingenious euphemisms: the Joker and the Penguin are called "twins in transgression", for instance. This sort of thing goes on and on, until the reader of the tale is tempted to giggle. Often times the portentous phrases are awfully alliterative. Furthermore, the narrator is constantly indulging in high flying rhetoric about fate, and wondering where all this is going to end. All of this is strongly reminiscent of the Batman TV show.

Before I read this tale, it never occurred to me that the Batman TV show's style might be derived from a single author. I had always assumed that Batman was satirizing "old time stories" or some other generalized "comic book entity". But here we find a story by Cameron having all these features, features that are not found in the old tales written by Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, Edmond Hamilton, or other DC scriptwriters. It is possible that the Batman TV show is spoofing the style of a particular author, Don Cameron. By the way, it is doubtful if the TV show intended to single Cameron out, as a known person. The old Batman comics were anonymous. Someone probably just found some of Cameron's purple prose, and realized its comic potential for satire.

There are other features to Cameron's narration that recall the Batman TV show. The narrator is much more personal than the narrators of much fiction, comic book or otherwise. At one point, he refers to a "vaguely familiar" character lurking on the street. This means that the narrator himself finds the character vaguely familiar. The narrator is sharing his own emotions and cognitive reactions to things. All of a sudden, the narrator then recognizes the character as the Penguin. It is as if the narrator is an active viewer of the story, not an omniscient device designed to aid in exposition. The Batman TV show often pushed this sort of narration to an absurd extreme.

Cameron's tale is completely lacking in the horror found in other early Batman tales. Instead, it mixes light hearted detection with comedy. The Penguin in the tale is especially well characterized.

The Blaze (1945). Writer: Mort Weisinger. Art: Dick Sprang. The Blaze, a criminal who uses fire and smoke, organizes all of the mobsters in Gotham City into one large super-mob. When he edited the Superman family of comics during the Silver Age, Mort Weisinger explicitly kept tales of organized crime out of its pages. But during the Golden Age, he occasionally wrote such scripts himself. The tale shows affection shown by Batman and Robin, and the concern they have when each other is hurt. Friendship will be a major theme of Weisinger's Superman family tales, between Superman and Jimmy Olsen, and Superboy and Pete Ross.

Dick Sprang's art is notable for its tuxedoed mobsters. They look like arrogant members of the upper class. One panel shows them seated around a large hall in a mansion, lounging in easy chairs and smoking big cigars. The effect is of an English Men's Club. The spiffy mobsters are clearly enjoying their impersonation of the upper crust of their day.

Alfred, Private Detective (1945). Writer: Don Cameron. Art: Dick Sprang. After taking a correspondence course in detection, Alfred the butler sets up as a private detective in another city to impress Batman and Robin with his skills. Comic tales about correspondence school detectives have a long history in prose mystery fiction. Usually they manage to make a complete hash of things, and Alfred's misadventure here is no exception. Apparently this tradition was started by humorist Ellis Parker Butler's story collection, Philo Gubb, Correspondence School Detective (1918). Louis Joseph Vance, creator of the gentleman thief the Lone Wolf, weighed in with "Old Man Menace" (1927). Percival Wilde's gem "P. Moran, Shadow" (1943) appeared just two years before Alfred's saga. These are all American writers. Buster Keaton is studying to be a detective at the start of his film comedy Sherlock, Jr. (1924).

The Joker's Journal (1953). Art: Bob Kane. Based on a cover by: Win Mortimer. The Joker starts a newspaper for criminals.

Radio Station C-R-I-M-E (1953). Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Based on a cover by: Win Mortimer. A radio station warns crooks of police activity; Batman and Robin have to track down its source. Well constructed mystery tale. At first glance, this sounds like one of the media spoofs popular in 1953, in which crooks ape popular media institutions. But the tone of this tale is very different. It is a serious, well plotted mystery story. Its idea might have been inspired by the spoof tales, but its execution and approach are very different. The story also sticks closely to its main, central idea, instead of the scattershot satire of most of the spoof tales.

Throughout the tale, Batman and the reader learn more and more about the operation of the radio station. Finally, Batman solves the trickiest, most hidden mystery of its operation, near the end of the story. The subject of the mystery is more "how does the radio operate", rather than the "who done it" of the traditional prose mystery story.

The story explicitly points out the role reversal implicit in the plot: police use radio heavily in their work; here crooks are doing the same. The mirror image symmetry that is built up makes an interesting plot pattern.

The story has elements similar to Anthony Mann's film He Walked By Night (1948). The identity of the criminal and his background and skills is similar in both works. The comic story also has the detailed focus on the police and their operation found in that film. The main plot of the comic book tale is original, however.

Bill Finger Joker Tales

Batman vs. The Joker (Batman #1, Spring 1940). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Bob Kane. The first appearance of The Joker: The Joker threatens to kill a series of prominent men at midnight, which he promptly does, despite intensive police protection of the victims. Each victim develops the Joker's horrible menacing leer. This story has Bill Finger's tradition construction of a series of mysteries. Each threat to kill a prominent man is a separate episode in the story. In each case the mystery is if and how the Joker is going to do it, despite all of the police's precautions. The Joker succeeds over and over again. The reader learns immediately after each death how the Joker did it. The Joker's methods are surprisingly variable: Finger comes up with a new technique for each killing, different from the last. This means that although the final appearance of each crime is the same - a man murdered at midnight - the causes are all different.

The plot of the story has several precedents. The suspense plot of a threat to kill a man at an announced time despite police protection is found in Edgar Wallace's novel The Four Just Men (1905). Roland West's silent film The Bat (1926) opens with a similar criminal challenge about a midnight crime. The mad killer in James Whale's film The Invisible Man (1935) makes similar threats. As is well-known, The Bat is probably the origin of both the idea of a bat-suited character, and of the visual appearance of the Bat-Signal; it is a film that probably played a profound role in the creation of Batman: please see the article on West for more details. Once again, the roots of early Batman tales are in 1920's and 1930's thrillers and horror material, not in film noir, as is often erroneously claimed by modern critics. Similarly, the Joker's horrible grimace derives from the silent film The Man Who Laughs (1927): see Brian Augustyn's biography of Jerry Robinson in The Greatest Joker Stories Ever Told (1988).

Even in this first tale, the Joker impersonates an authority figure, the Chief of Police, to commit one of his crimes. This plot device will become a Finger specialty over the years. Here it has its comic touches; later stories will expand on it in all seriousness.

The Case of the Joker's Crime Circus (1941). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Bob Kane. The Joker's small circus gives performances at the homes of the wealthy, while secretly casing them for robberies. Already in this early story Finger has transformed the Joker from a murderer into a ring leader of a gang of crooks committing thefts. This is the role he will maintain over the next thirty years, until Denny O'Neill revived the serial killer persona in "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (1973): a big step down for the character.

At the end of this story Batman explores the Joker's "haunted" mansion. These scenes derive from a whole movie tradition of fake haunted houses, complete with sliding panels, trapped doors, masked killers, fake ghosts and so forth. Such 1920's silent films as The Cat and the Canary (1927) pioneered this tradition.

The Sound Effect Crimes (Detective Comics #149, July 1949). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Dick Sprang. The Joker uses sound effects to scare and delude the public at various events, making them believe that bad things are happening, allowing him to commit crimes. The tale is consistent with Finger traditions. First, it deals with hoaxes. As usual in Finger, the hoaxes are very sneaky and quite convincing. Here, as in some other Finger stories, the hoaxes are used to manipulate public opinion. Secondly, it keeps to Finger's approach of having the Joker be a high tech criminal, using ingenious devices to commit his crimes. The later stages of the story, in which Batman and Robin try to interfere with the Joker's hoaxes, and keep the public from believing in his illusions, also show some ingenuity. These sections too have the theme of the mechanics of influencing public opinion, albeit more benignly.

The Man Behind the Red Hood (1951). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Lew Schwartz. Batman becomes a criminology professor at a college, where he has his students investigate the still unsolved mystery of a criminal who wore a shiny red hood. This sf mystery uses similar approaches to Edmond Hamilton's later 1950's puzzlers. There is a person whose secret identity the reader is challenged to guess. There is much about science in the tale, and many ingenious plot developments based in scientific knowledge. There is an especial interest in chemistry, a subject that DC writers always found fascinating. This tale has a sort of "box within a box" construction. The heroes will solve one mystery, then another will spring up that they'll solve, and then another, and so on. The ultimate effect is quite ingenious.

Noteworthy at this early date is the non-stereotyped Chinese character, Paul Wong, who appears as one of Batman's criminology students.

The Joker's Utility Belt (1952). Writer: Bill Finger?. Art: Dick Sprang. The Joker develops his own utility belt, in imitation of Batman's. The Joker is one of the most high tech characters in comics, or in popular art in general. He is always coming up with ingenious new devices to commit his acts. This aspect of him was not captured in film or TV versions of the character, but it is very well developed in the comic book stories. Despite the fact that his personality is nightmarishly absurd, his devotion to invention is serious, intelligent and imaginative.

The Crimes of Batman (1952). Writer: Bill Finger?. Art: Lew Schwartz. The Joker captures Robin, and tries to force Batman to take up a life of crime. The Joker is always trying to get at Batman through Robin. Partly this is because he realizes that this is Batman's point of vulnerability.

Already, by the early 1950's, we are with a Batman who seems close to the Silver Age Batman. The character, his environment, and the basic ethos of the series all seem fixed in an approach that will be preserved until the New Look of 1964. This tale also has the "series of challenges" approach that will often be found in Silver Age Superman family tales: the bad guy or events challenge the hero in some way, he comes up with an ingenious response, the bad guy challenges him again in a similar way, he responds again cleverly, and so on. As in many Superman family stories, there are three challenge and response cycles in this tale.

The Joker Jury (1964). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. The Joker does a series of crimes involving Gotham City's government divisions; he also puts a captured Batman on trial in front of a courtroom full of Jokers. The Joker uses large machines in this story to dominate Batman. He also uses the machinery of the law. The idea of a Joker police force, complete with officers whose face has been made up to resemble the Joker's, is especially striking. Not only are these men in uniform, but even their faces all look identical. Once again, Finger shows people impersonating authority figures.

Clayface

The Challenge of Clay-Face (1961). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. The Origin of Clay-Face, a villain who can change his body into any shape. (There was an earlier villain during the early 1940's Golden Age named Clayface; this was his Silver Age version.) Finger had early written non-series stories about shape-changing villains, notably "The Thing from 40,000 A.D." (Superman #87, 1953) and "The Contest of Heroes" (World's Finest #74, January-February 1955). These tales in turn influenced Edmond Hamilton, who wrote both non-series stories, and eventually created the noble shape-changing animal Proty: see the discussion in the article on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Finger also wrote his own series stories, the Clayface tales, working them into the Batman mythos. It is consistent with both men's literary personalities that Finger created a villain, whereas Hamilton a good guy, with similar powers.

This apparently simple, straightforward tale shows good construction. Finger shows us every step of Clayface's acquiring and learning to use his powers. Each step is logical and follows naturally from what has gone before. Batman shows good deductive skills in this tale, where he figures out many aspects of Clay-Face's powers, reasoning them out from clues in Clayface's behavior. Finger also vividly shows Clayface's feelings at each new step in his adventures.

The Great Clayface - Joker Feud (1963). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. The Joker and Clayface have a rivalry to see who is the greatest villain. This story shows great plot ingenuity. It is one of the Batman tales that is closest in approach to the Silver Age Superman family stories in its plotting technique. The ingenious plot developments have a formal relationship to that of mystery fiction. Each section here comes to some surprising but logical conclusion, similar to the solution to a formal puzzle plot mystery. Finger creates his mysteries in succession, one after the other. Each one helps drive the plot forward, and lays the ground for the next mystery in the tale. This "serial construction of mysteries" seems like one of Bill Finger's basic approaches to writing. One sees it here, within a single tale. But it also is used in series of tales, such as Finger's stories of the Origin of the Batman. Each one of these stories is used as the foundation for the next, allowing for plot developments that expand upon the plots of the previous work.

Other Bill Finger Tales

The Great Batman Swindle (1955). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Dick Sprang. Based on a cover by: Win Mortimer. Crooks launch a scheme to persuade rich men that there is more than one Batman, and that they can join the team. Typical Finger hoax tale, loaded with ingenious plausible detail. As in many Finger hoax tales, the crooks impersonate authority figures, here Batman himself. In the second half the real Batman interferes with the crooks' scheme; these sections also have a wealth of plot. The wealthy yachtsman Ned Judson who is conned into being an aspiring Batman turns out to be an unexpectedly decent guy. This story anticipates the Green Arrow tale "The Decoy Archer" (Adventure #223, April 1956), in which he trains another man to be a substitute Green Arrow. Both tales have a heavy focus on what being a substitute hero might be like, and how it might affect a person's attitude. Finger proves unusually concerned here with the psychological well being of a man innocently caught up in one of his story hoaxes.

The Gotham City Safari (1957). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Batman and Robin solve a murder mystery at a game preserve that recreates India, Africa and Mexico's Mayan areas. This story is a little mystery in the Hamilton tradition. There is a good deal of interesting animal lore in this tale. This sort of background information is typical of Batman detective stories, which tend to take place in some unusual location.

The Creatures That Stalked Batman (1960). Writer: Bill Finger?. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Based on a cover by: Sheldon Moldoff. Batman is tracked in Gotham City by a robot and an alien animal. Intriguing mix of science fiction and detection, in which everything works well. The story takes place in Batman and Robin's familiar home base, and includes conventional crooks along the way, as well as the alien visitors. This gives it the feel partly of a Batman detective story, and partly sf. There are few or no horror elements here: the feel throughout is detection, with Batman and Robin using all of the detective prowess.

Like many Finger stories, this one involves a series of linked mini-mysteries. Batman and Robin solve each one in turn, then move on to the next one. Some of the mysteries are science fictional (how do the two creatures communicate) and others involve traditional detective work (tracking down the identity of a crook). Batman and Robin perform good logical detective work throughout. The detective plot keeps interacting with our growing understanding of the sf situation: the solution of each mini-mystery usually reveals more of the sf. The entire detective-sf plot is well constructed.

There is one of Finger's hoaxes here, performed by a human crook. It leads to cascading plot effects throughout the tale, and is only gradually unraveled, as part of the series of mini-mysteries. This use of a hoax to fuel the construction of mystery plots is perhaps slightly atypical for Finger, but very welcome.

Sheldon Moldoff does a good job with his police portraits (p3).

Edmond Hamilton's 1950's Work

The Lord of Batmanor (1953). Writer: Edmond Hamilton, based on a plot by Leigh Brackett. Art: Dick Sprang. Based on a cover by: Win Mortimer. Batman solves the mystery of a treasure in a Scottish castle that has been lost for nearly four hundred years. As the tale itself points out, Batman only rarely solved mysteries around the world, outside of the U.S. This tale is loaded with Scots local color. It also has some intriguing historical flashbacks.

Leigh Brackett was the wife of Edmond Hamilton, in addition to being a prestigious mystery writer, science fiction author and screenwriter in her own right. Her contribution undoubtedly helped the richness and detail of this fine mystery. Everything in the story is a lot of fun. As is typical of Hamilton stories, grotesqueness is avoided, and all of the plot elements are pleasant. There is humor, adventure, mystery and glamour in abundance here.

Sprang has some beautiful aerial views, showing the layout of roads, the castle, and a nearby Scots village. Sprang also does a good job with the wisps of fog that permeate some outdoor scenes, making them into beautiful compositions.

The Jungle Cat-Queen (1954). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. Batman tracks Catwoman to a tropical island, where she and her large cats battle Batman. This story combines the plot of Richard Connell's prose thriller "The Most Dangerous Game" (1924), with that of every jungle adventure movie you've ever seen. Hamilton shows ingenuity of a sort by finding a way to combine all of this material so smoothly and gracefully. Just about everybody would enjoy this tale.

Hamilton later wrote several tales with somewhat similar plots. The Legion of Super-Heroes get hunted down, like Batman here, in "The Doom of the Legion" (1963). So do Superman and Jimmy Olsen in "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor" (1963).

The waterfall is a spectacular element of this story. Dick Sprang provides several aerial views of the falls. These are both beautiful, and fascinatingly schematic. One can see every rock, every twist and turn of the river. It is like looking at a map of a ride at Disneyland. Comic books often include diagrams and diagram like pictures in their illustrations. These multi-media features greatly add to reader enjoyment. One notes that Hamilton sometimes used waterfalls in his tales: see "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" (1958).

The Map of Mystery (1955). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. An archaeologist stores information about an Inca ruin in Peru on a map; Batman and Robin help his friends at the Exploration Club in Gotham City track it down after he is attacked. This tale shows us every conceivable kind of map, including a factory where they are manufactured. Hamilton was fascinated by maps, and they occur in many of his stories. Frequently they are gigantic, room-sized or larger, as they are in this tale. The tale's two locations recall those of Hamilton's classic "The Menace of the Green Nebula" (Strange Adventures #1, August-September 1950). In that story, space explorers went out to other planets for the first time, then returned to Earth, where they put the planet's location in a giant map room, containing 3 dimensional images of the stars and planets. Here, the archaeologists explore remote countries, then return to the Exploration Club in Gotham City, which also has a Map Room with giant maps. It also recalls the Reference Room and its globes in Hamilton's Legion of Super-Heroes tale, "The Evil Hand of the Luck Lords; The Secret of the Luck Lords" (Adventure #343, April 1966)

This tale has only two suspects. Still, it is a Golden Age style whodunit, with a clue pointing to the guilty party.

Mystery of the Sky Museum (1955). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Batman and Robin investigate an attack on the director of the Sky Museum, a huge outdoor complex that stores early flying machines. The flying devices in this tale are fascinating, and show much research and information on his part. The tales climax takes place inside a Zeppelin, and I learned much about these machines I never knew. Hamilton also wrote "The Patent Planet" (Mystery in Space #30, February-March 1956), a futuristic mystery tale that takes place on a world wide museum that is the repository for models of inventions used for patents. Both of the mysteries are set amid huge collections of machines. Like Hamilton's map tales, their locales are repositories of scientific information. Hamilton's fascination with newspaper settings also echoes this theme, of tales set in information-oriented areas.

This is another Hamilton whodunit. Here there is a larger range of suspects.

The Superman - Batman Team

The Mightiest Team in the World (Superman #76, July-August 1952). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. The first pairing of Superman and Batman. While on an ocean cruise, Superman and Batman team up to catch a jewel thief. I have mixed feelings about this good natured, inoffensive tale. Hamilton shows considerable imagination by teaming up Superman and Batman. Yet the story as a whole falls flat: it is mainly a mixture of crime solving and action scenes, all pretty routine.

The best parts of the tale concern the heroes' secret identities. The story shows how they are accidentally revealed to each other, when Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are forced to share a cabin on ship. The whole situation here seems like a model for the later Superboy-Pete Ross relationship, in Robert Bernstein's "Pete Ross' Super-Secret" (Superboy #90, July 1961). Pete Ross and Superboy are a non-super powered character and a superhero who become best friends, just like Batman and Superman. Pete Ross learns Superboy's secret identity by accident, just like Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent do in this tale. The circumstances are similar: in both stories, the protagonists' share sleeping quarters together, in both the heroes try to secretly change into their identities in the dark, in both a sudden flash of light illuminates everything, and gives the secret away. There are important differences, however: Batman and Superman learn each other's secret identities, but in the Superboy story, only Pete Ross learns Superboy's secret. Also, both Batman and Superman know right away that the other knows, while Superboy never learns that Pete Ross knows his secret.

Also creative at the end of the story, is the way Superman and Batman help preserve each other's secret identities. This is the first of many such events, which will stretch through the Silver Age and beyond. These scenes also anticipate the Pete Ross series: Pete will devote much of his efforts to preserving Superboy's secret identity, often in ways that build on Hamilton's methods here.

I never saw this story as a kid. I always assumed that Batman and Superman first became friends, then revealed to each other their secret identities as an act of trust. However, this tale shows the exact reverse: Superman and Batman were strangers, when an accident revealed their secret identities to each other.

Batman - Double For Superman (1954). Writer: Alvin Schwartz. Art: Curt Swan. The first of the regular team-ups in World's Finest Comics: Superman and Batman exchange secret identities, to baffle Lois Lane. Once again, I have mixed feelings about this story. Alvin Schwartz had the very good idea of regularly teaming up Batman and Robin. He deserves credit for this. Also, the story has the ingenious idea of having the two heroes swap identities. Once again, however, the actual execution of the story is not as good.

This tale is a direct sequel to "The Mightiest Team in the World" (1952). It opens with a recap of key events from the earlier tale. Also, the characterizations of Superman, Batman and their relationship are directly based on the earlier story. This shows an admirable concern with continuity in the mid-1950's DC comics world.

Some of the imagery in this tale is superb. Particularly impressive: the panel on page 11 showing Batman holding the unconscious Superman in his arms. Each is dressed in the other's costume, according to the switched identity plot of the story. The image emphasizes brotherhood and compassion. The switched costumes help deepen the meaning of the image, and the relationship between the two men. Also noteworthy is the panel on the upper right corner of page 12, showing them starting to switch costumes back again.

During the 1950's there were a series of tales in which other people assumed the roles of Batman and Robin. Batman's identity is somewhat more fluid than most characters in fiction. All one has to do is put on a Batman suit, and presto, one essentially is Batman. The cowl hides your face, so anyone wearing a Batman costume looks just like Batman. And Batman's other main characteristic is his detective skill. Anyone having a good brain and a flair for detective work is essentially behaving just like the "real" Batman. In fact, it is hard to say that such a person is not really Batman: they seem to be fulfilling the Batman role just as much as anyone else could. All of this is very different from Superman: you could put on a Superman suit, and without his powers you would just be a pathetic mortal wearing somebody else's costume.

When Superman puts on Batman's costume here, the effect is not so much that Superman is impersonating Batman. Instead, it seems as if Superman is becoming Batman, at least temporarily.

Fort Crime (1954). Writer: Alvin Schwartz. Art: Curt Swan. Clark Kent is among the hostages taken by escaped cons to a fortress run by criminals. A story like this one reminds one overwhelmingly of the Silver Age to come. Partly this is the art: it is an early work of Curt Swan's, who would become a definitive illustrator of many Superman family titles. Swan's work has the "realistic" quality that would be prized in the Silver Age, after all the sketchy, schematic and even often downright crude art that appears in so many Golden Age stories. The plot also is very Silver Age-ish: it deals ingeniously with Superman's secret identity.

Batman and Superman, Swamis Inc. (World's Finest #73, November-December 1954). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. To lure in a crime kingpin, Superman uses his powers to make it look as if the fortune teller Batman is impersonating can really foretell the future. This is a common kind of plot in the Superman family - to make someone look as if they really have super powers - and it is not especially creative here. Two aspects of the story are more interesting. The story opens with a joke Batman plays on Superman, one that is based on his knowing Superman's secret identity. Such jokes reoccur regularly in later tales, for example, at the opening of Otto Binder's "The Legion of Super-Heroes" (1958). The scenes in Hamilton's tale recall the fortune teller chapter of Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre (1848).

Secondly, the story establishes an interesting feature of Batman and Superman's relationship: that Batman thinks it is his job to challenge Superman, shake him up, and generally add mystery and spice to his life and keep him from going into a rut. Clearly Batman thinks this is funny, but it is also an emotionally important component of the teaming for both men. Later stories written by Hamilton will show Batman watching over Superman, trying to protect him from harm. Superman does not have anyone else like this in his life. He tends to be the protector of Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane, although sometimes they return the favor.

When Gotham City Challenged Metropolis (1955). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. As part of a contest for the location of an electronics show, Superman and Batman switch cities, and agree that whoever performs more super-deeds will get the show. Delightful story that is one of the sunniest of the Superman-Batman tales. Both Gotham City and Metropolis come alive in this story. They are typical of the way Hamilton often viewed cities as his protagonists. The fact that all the deeds in the contest are specified to be "civic" also contributes to this theme.

Hamilton often looks at the interesting things that happen when people take on roles and locations usually owned by others. Here Superman and Batman take on each other's roles as protectors of Metropolis and Gotham City.

When Superman's Identity is Exposed (1955). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. When an unknown person keeps posting public messages identifying Superman as Clark Kent, Superman asks Batman and Robin to solve the mystery. Well constructed mystery tale. This is the first of Hamilton's mystery tales among the Superman-Batman team-ups.

Superman's secret identity is regularly threatened in the team-up tales, but Batman's rarely is. This might reflect the two heroes' worlds: Lois Lane, Lana Lang and bad guys are always trying to find out Superman's identity in his solo stories, while Batman is much less frequently targeted in his. However, there might be emotional factors, as well. Batman is often the protector of Superman in the stories. Superman will be threatened, either by Kryptonite or by the loss of his secret identity, and Batman will step in to help and to guard him from harm.

During the 1950's Batman was not viewed as the Dark Knight. Instead, he was most frequently characterized as "The World's Greatest Detective". This means several things. For one thing, Batman was a master of disguise. He could make himself up to look like anyone. Nearly all the Superman team-ups have a key scene in the plot with a disguised Batman. Although Batman has no super-powers, his ability to impersonate anybody serves as their equivalent in the stories' construction. Secondly, Batman was often shown picking up traces of clues. He was always tracking people through tire prints, footprints and other trails. Thirdly, Batman was a master of scientific detection. The stories are full of ingenious machines used by Batman and Robin to solve crimes. All three of these approaches recall pre-1915 images of detectives. The disguise recalls Sherlock Holmes, while the scientific devices the tales of Arthur B. Reeve and others of the Scientific School.

Once again, high-technology appears in this tale. Perforated paper tapes are used to control a teletype sign on a building. This anticipates the paper punch cards of "The 10,000 Secrets of Batman" (1956). Such devices are fascinating, and they were clearly part of the Batman mythos.

The Super-Newspaper of Gotham City (1956). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. To help save the financially troubled newspaper, the Gotham Gazette, Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne go to work there as reporters. The richly comic newspaper sequences are the main appeal of this delightful tale. Hamilton treats a newspaper like the Gotham Gazette as a great institution. There is an educational aspect: The young readers of the tale are learning about an important part of American culture. They can learn a lot here about a newspaper, how it operates, and about the great tradition of publishing and reporting. Hamilton had written an earlier tale dealing with a threat to close down the Daily Planet, "The End of the Planet!" (Superman #79, November-December 1952). Its initial premise is similar to the current tale, but the plot is developed in different ways.

The threatened newspaper combines two of Hamilton's interests. One is the community. Hamilton's stories often have collective protagonists, such as a city or town. Here the newspaper and its employees, all the people who are working together to save the paper, form one of Hamilton's community "heroes". The other Hamilton subject is the socially constructive outsider: people who have been rejected by the mainstream of society, but who still want to make a contribution. The newspaper here is precisely such a Hamilton reject. It is full of idealistic people who want to stay in business, who want to carry on the paper's great contribution. They persevere and struggle, even though they are not getting any encouragement from society at large. The newspaper here anticipates another one of Hamilton's threatened institutions: "The Legion of Substitute Heroes" (Adventure #306, March 1963).

The natural personalities of each of Hamilton's regulars come into play when they attempt to help the Gotham Gazette. At first, Hamilton uses this for some gentle humor. But gradually we see how each personality manages to make a contribution is its own way. Just as in Hamilton's Legion tales each hero uses his own super-power, here each character uses their own personality traits.

Hamilton liked to put people in unfamiliar roles. He wrote many tales in which people shuffled their roles around, often taking on the careers usually associated with other characters in the story. Here Lois gets Perry's profession, and Bruce Wayne gets Clark Kent's.

Hamilton's early-Superman and Batman team ups often seem strangely "modern". They seem to anticipate the Silver Age tales to come. It is not clear why this is so. In some ways, these stories involve, in miniature, the concept of a "mythos". They incorporate every stray character, gadget and plot situation of both the Batman and Superman worlds, combining them to build stories.

The True History of Superman and Batman (World's Finest #81, March-April 1956). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. A history professor from the future demands that Batman and Superman redo their deeds so that they match the description in his history book! This tale has some shared imagery with other Hamilton stories of the era. The professor keeping a detailed record of the heroes' deeds recalls Reese Kearns in "Superman's First Exploit" (Superman #106, July 1956). The scene where Batman and Robin climb among the planets in a planetarium's model of the solar system recalls the giant hero of "Search for a Lost World" (Strange Adventures #67, April 1956) encountering small looking planets and suns. This is one of many scenes in comic books set in museums. Today we are used to see large, high quality color photographs of nature, astronomy and archaeology in books, magazines and on the Internet. But in the 1950's, and for two hundred years before, the main source of such information was in museums. Museums were a medium mixing static visual images and printed text, like the comics themselves, and they were the main place where the public could interface with the world outside daily life. It is not surprising that many comics creators had such an affinity for museums.

The Case of the Mother Goose Mystery (World's Finest #83, July-August 1956). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Dick Sprang. Batman and Superman stumble into a strange series of events modeled on nursery rhymes. This story follows similar plot ideas as G.K. Chesterton's "The Tremendous Adventures of Major Brown" (1903). Finger does a good job of preserving the feel of a night of adventure, when anything can happen in the city streets, a feeling found in both Chesterton and his chief influence, Robert Louis Stevenson's The New Arabian Nights (1878). He also shows originality in making the adventures tailored to specific heroes, in this case Batman and Superman, and not the generic adventurer of Chesterton's original. Finger follows through on the logical consequences of his approach.

The Super Mystery of Metropolis (1956). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. Superman disappears from Metropolis, when he is blackmailed by a crook who knows his secret identity. Despite the title of the story, this is not a mystery in the formal sense: Metropolis is mystified when Superman disappears, but the reader and Superman are not, and there is no puzzle for the reader to solve.

Much of this story is a flashback, dealing with how Superman's secret identity was detected when he was a boy in Smallville. Hamilton's tale is one of a long line of Superman family stories dealing with a non-super-powered observer who uses detective work to deduce Superman's secret identity. The year before, Otto Binder's "The Betrayal of Superman" (Jimmy Olsen #8, October 1955) covered similar ground.

This tale has a recurring Hamilton subject: someone who watches the hero, recording his every deed. These figures seem mysterious and menacing, but they are not necessarily evil. The boy who tracks Superboy in this tale recalls Professor Reese Kearns in "Superman's First Exploit" (Superman #106, July 1956), a tale that appeared just before "The Super Mystery of Metropolis".

The Super-Show of Gotham City (1957). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Splash panel: Jim Mooney. Lois Lane tries to solve the mystery of who is sabotaging the public exhibition of their greatest cases that Batman and Superman are putting on for charity. This is in the tradition of other Hamilton mystery stories; like them, it comes to a surprising and ingenious conclusion with its revelation of the saboteur. The story is in the tradition of Hamilton's earlier "When Superman's Identity is Exposed" (1955).

Superman's and Batman's Greatest Foes (1957). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. The first teaming of the Joker and Lex Luthor. Hamilton showed a lot of interest in Lex Luthor over the years, but very little in the Joker. What especially interested him in Luthor was first, his scientific genius, and second, situations in which Luthor reformed or seemed to reform, and started taking part in normal life. Here Luthor uses his inventive skills to open a robot factory, an interesting sf concept.

Bruce Wayne uses his business connections to obtain information in this tale, almost like a sleuth going undercover. Hamilton never forgot that Bruce Wayne was a prominent businessman, and often showed him in that role.

The Dynamic Trio (1957). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Batman and Robin take on a masked third partner, Mysteryman, to track down a ring that smuggles crooks. This story is closely linked in plot and imagery to a later Hamilton scripted tale, "The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" (1958). Mysteryman anticipates Superman's new partner Powerman in that tale, who is also a masked crime fighter with a mysterious identity. The proposed solutions in both stories are related. The sandblasting here recalls the Kryptonite gun in "Origin", and so does the circular shield Batman uses. There is also much about disguised machinery in both tales.

The Origin of the Superman-Batman Team (1958). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. Superman threatens to replace Batman as his partner by Powerman, while flashbacks tell the story of how Superman and Batman first teamed up. This is a very good story, but it shows little continuity with Hamilton's earlier origin of the pair, "The Mightiest Team in the World" (1952). Nor does it relate to "The Super Mystery of Metropolis" (1956), which also in some ways can be considered an origin for the duo. Hamilton just liked writing origin tales, I guess! However, this is the best of the three of them.

This tale shows an interest in architecture by Hamilton. In addition to the windmill scene, one of the highlights of the tale, we also have the lead cornices, and the silicon walls.

Sprang shows a real flair for aerial shots in this story. Many of these shots involve views of buildings, another Sprang specialty.

The Caveman From Krypton (1959). Writer: Bill Finger. Art: Dick Sprang. A caveman from prehistoric Krypton arrives on Earth, where he develops super powers. Logically constructed sf tale that rings many plot twists out of its central idea.

Finger often constructed his stories around hoaxes. Here there is not one central big hoax. Instead, there are three separate small hoaxes, each leading to new plot turns. Some of these hoaxes are sinister; one by Superman toward the end is benevolent.

The look at prehistoric Krypton here never became incorporated in the Superman mythos as a whole. Partly this might be because it appeared in a magazine not edited by Mort Weisinger, the keeper of the Superman mythos. Perhaps more importantly, the Superman mythos always presented Krypton as a planet of far advanced civilization. Looking at Krypton's prehistoric caveman past did not keep to this spirit.

The Olsen-Robin Team Versus "The Superman-Batman Team" (1964). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Robin and Jimmy Olsen deceive Batman and Superman by faking their deaths, in order to solve a crime case. Jimmy is Superman's best friend, just as Robin is Batman's. The story emphasizes the symmetry between the two teams. Jimmy Olsen will make frequent appearances in the Hamilton-Swan-Weisinger Superman-Batman team-ups of the next two years. He becomes as much of a series regular as Robin. The four men will often function as a group, analogous to Hamilton's other main series at the time, the Legion of Super-Heroes. Jimmy and Robin are the protagonists of this tale; Hamilton will frequently introduce protagonists in these stories other than Superman and Batman.

This story includes flashbacks to previous cases. At least two of these are to tales written by Hamilton: "The Last Days of Superman" (Superman #156, October 1962) and "Superman in Kandor" (Superman #158, January 1963). Both of these are three part, book length stories.

Hamilton would go on to create a mediocre, if inoffensive, sequel to this story: "The New Terrific Team" (#147, February 1965). After this point, there would be fewer World's Finest tales emphasizing Jimmy Olsen. Both stories involve Robin and Jimmy forming a team of crime fighters that rival Batman and Superman.

This is the first story in World's Finest under new editor Mort Weisinger. Mort Weisinger became the editor of World's Finest Comics during the same Spring 1964 shakeup that saw the rest of the Batman comic books assigned to editor Julius Schwartz. Schwartz promptly introduced the New Look for Batman. Previously, World's Finest, along with all the other Batman titles, had long been the domain of editor Jack Schiff. Weisinger's world had been the Superman family of comic books, which he kept on editing, merely adding World's Finest to them. Since World's Finest specialized in joint appearances of Superman and Batman, there was a certain logic to this choice. Weisinger treated World's Finest as one more part of his Superman universe. He immediately moved to incorporate its tales into the Superman mythos, the highly elaborate and evolved set of science fiction ideas that included Kandor, the Phantom Zone, Krypton, the Legion of Super-Heroes and many other characters and concepts. Inevitably, this means that the World's Finest story elements of the Weisinger years often lean heavily on ideas previously introduced as part of Superman's environment.

Weisinger loved the idea of a mythos, and he also looked for elements in Batman's background that could form a mythos for him. He found such characters as Batwoman (Kathy Kane), as well as the Bat Signal, the Bat Cave, the Bat Plane, Ace the Bathound and so on. These were all featured prominently every chance Weisinger and Hamilton could get. Readers noted the appearance of these characters on the letters page of the magazine, always a Weisinger way of highlighting editorial policy.

The Composite Superman (1964). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Batman and Superman fight the Composite Superman, a super-being who looks like a half Batman, half Superman figure, and who has all of the powers of the members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Hamilton was also scripting most of the stories of the Legion during this period, and this tale is closely related to them. Hamilton often wrote stories in which one person took on the role of another. Here the Composite Superman repeatedly takes on the abilities and behavior of different members of the Legion, becoming invisible like the Invisible Kid, telepathic like Saturn Girl, etc. All of these powers and personas are explicitly set forth in the story. It is interesting that the powers are not restricted to Legionnaires of one gender: the Composite Superman takes on the abilities of both male and female members of the Legion. Hamilton's Legion stories were always extremely non-sexist, treating both male and female Legionnaires in identical fashion.

Hamilton often constructed his Legion stories so that each member of the Legion in turn did a small solo feat, using their special powers. "The Composite Superman" has a similar construction, with the Composite Superman performing different feats using the powers of different Legionnaires in turn. This gives the tale a feel very close to Hamilton's Legion stories.

The Duplicator Machine here is one of Hamilton's interesting sf concepts. It somewhat recalls the miniature duplicating device in John Broome's "The Man Who Stole Central City" (Flash #116, November 1960). In general, "The Composite Superman" has elements that recall Flash tales. The villain here gets a complete biography, showing how he got his powers and turned to a life of crime; this is similar to the villains in many of Broome's Flash stories. Such villains are atypical of both Hamilton and the Superman mythos as a whole; they have a distinctly Broome like feel. The influence can work both ways: The plot element about Superman getting Joe Meach a job at the Superman museum seems like a dark echo of a similar plot twist in Broome's "Gangster Masquerade" (Flash #154, August 1965). Broome's tale is happy and light, while its Batman predecessor is much grimmer in tone.

The Composite Superman is unusual among Hamilton's outsiders in that he is not an idealistic person. Instead, he simply wants to use his talents to get vengeance on Superman. The story repeatedly emphasizes that he is much more powerful than Superman. Swan also draws him most imposingly.

Curt Swan's art emphasizes the extreme machismo of the Composite Superman. Both in his uniform, and in his secret identity of Joe Meach, he is one of Swan's heavily muscled grown men. Joe Meach is unusual among such Swan muscle men in that he is not a crook wearing a sharp suit, but a lower class man in a white T shirt. His social powerlessness is a major theme of the story.

Swan also includes a terrific portrait (p2) showing Batman in his uniform, but not wearing his cowl. This composite portrait of Bruce Wayne's head and Batman's body echoes the theme of the Composite Superman, who is half Batman, half Superman. The Batman portrait is one of Swan's most dynamic and muscular images of Batman.

Curt Swan's cover presumably created the visual appearance and powers of the Composite Superman, with Hamilton writing the tale around it.

Prison for Heroes (1964). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Superman becomes a prisoner in an interplanetary prison for super-heroes, while Batman is hypnotized into being its super-tough warden.

Like "The Composite Superman", this story recalls the Legion tales Hamilton was then scripting. The other occupants of the prison are a series of unjustly imprisoned super-heroes from various planets; they have numerous, distinct super-powers and personalities, just like members of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

Hamilton wrote a number of tales in which the Legionnaires were imprisoned. See his last Legion story, the two-part "The Super-Stalag of Space; The Test of Brainiac 5" (Adventure #344, May 1966) and its continuation "The Execution of Matter-Eater Lad; Duo Damsel's Double Play" (Adventure #345, June 1966). This Legion story has a sadistic warden, a high tech prison on an isolated planet, and various ingenious schemes by its innocently imprisoned super-hero inmates, just like "Prison for Heroes".

Like other Legion stories that Hamilton wrote, this creates a whole group of sympathetic super-heroes, a band which is distinct from the Legion. One difference between this and a Legion story is that it is taking place in the 20th Century.

The Game of Secret Identities (1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. As a challenge, Batman tries to discover Superman's secret identity; then Superman tries to discover Batman's. Delightful story that is full of plot inventiveness.

There is no mystery to this tale - the reader knows the secret identities of both heroes all along - but there is plenty of fascinating detective work. The detection here tends to emphasize scientific and technological devices. Although the story is largely set on modern day Earth, it is highly science fictional in feel, with many unusual high tech devices employed by both Superman and Batman in their quests. The approach resembles Hamilton's earlier "The Super-Batwoman" (1957), in which Batwoman uses super-powers in sf ways to try to discover the secret identities of Superman and Batman. In both tales, the heroes challenge someone else to try to discover their secret identity; both stories use sf approaches to their detection. Both tales have original detection concepts however, and Hamilton comes up with all new specific approaches in this second tale.

Hamilton includes many references here to sf concepts introduced in earlier Hamilton stories. These include the Bat-Eye in Hamilton's "The 1,001 Inventions of Batman" (Batman #109, August 1957).

This story is probably related to the Challenge tales that had appeared a year previously in the Superman family magazines, such as "Hellene of Troy" (Lois Lane #48, April 1964) and "The Boy Who Replaced Clark Kent" (Superboy #112, April 1964). In those stories, Superman or Superboy had taken on a new secret identity, and challenged Lana Lang or Lois Lane to uncover it. This story is different, in that Superman and Batman are trying to find out each other's actual identity.

Hamilton introduces many echoes between the first and second halves of the story. These help give the tale unity of tone, as well as being fun to read about. There are also plot twists in the second half that build on events of the first half of the story.

Hamilton intensively looks at the brain waves of Superman and other Kryptonians here. This helps root Superman in Kryptonian biology. Alien beings in Hamilton, whether intelligent or animals, typically have biological roots. Many Hamilton stories look at how the aliens evolved. This story does not involve evolution. But it does ground Superman in biological concepts. Aliens are not created arbitrarily in Hamilton. They are usually part of a logical order, whether evolutionary or biological, that gives them a background and raison d'être.

Even the machines in this tale do not come about arbitrarily. Hamilton constructs back-stories for them, showing why they were created. These back-stories stress function: the tasks the machines are initially designed to perform. Hamilton's looks at how living beings evolved also tend to center on function.

The Infinite Evolutions of Superman and Batman (1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. A Kryptonian machine devolves Superman into a cave man, and Batman into a highly evolved, big brained man of the future. Nicely done science fiction story. Hamilton had long been interested in evolution. His prose sf story, "The Man Who Evolved" (Wonder Stories, April 1931), is the apparent source for the many comic book tales about people who evolve into big brained futuristic men. He also wrote a prose sf story about reversing the course of evolution: "Devolution" (Amazing Stories, December 1936). This is precisely what happens to Superman in this tale.

Several of his comic book stories had looked at evolution of animals, as well. See his Legion story "The Super-Tests of the Super-Pets; The Pet of a Thousand Faces" (Adventure #322, July 1964), which considered the evolution of Proteans. "The Infinite Evolutions of Superman and Batman" includes a look at Kryptonian animals, just like his Nightwing and Flamebird tale "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor" (Jimmy Olsen #69, June 1963). The prehistoric Kryptonian animals in "The Dynamic Duo of Kandor" are quite large; in "The Infinite Evolutions" Hamilton includes real life large animals from Earth's prehistoric past. A story like this is designed to be educational: it is clearly intended to give young readers an entertaining, informative glimpse into man's prehistoric past. The cave era sections of this tale recall museum dioramas of the period, showing large extinct animals, cave people lighting fires, and so on. The comics medium is quite close to that of museum displays, and quite a few of Hamilton's stories echo museum exhibits.

Just as Hamilton actually sent his heroes to a parallel universe in his quasi-Imaginary "Superman and Batman -- Outlaws" (1965), so here does he send his evolved and devolved characters to their respective worlds. Here, the highly evolved Batman travels to the future, and caveman Superman goes back to the era of cave people. This is the only Superman family tale dealing with evolution machines in which this happens. It gives a richer structure to Hamilton's story.

Swan includes some good portraits. Perry White is depicted as one of Swan's handsome men of distinction here, one of the powerful, imposing men Swan often drew in grown up roles (p2). This a bit classier portrayal than Perry sometimes got. There is also a good portrait of Bruce Wayne (p8). The future city is shown in a spectacular aerial view (Part 2, p4). One of the buildings in the foreground shows Swan's interest in Modernist buildings that are also curved, like the real life United Nations building in New York.

The Colossal Kids (World's Finest #152, September 1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by: Curt Swan. Superman and Batman try to solve the mystery of the origin of Force Boy and Speed Boy, two super-powered kids. One of Hamilton's "mysteries of identity", and a fairly minor one. Swan includes a really cool Kryptonian green and black costume for one of the Kandorian teachers in the lab (p8).

The 1,000th Exploit of Superman and Batman (1966). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. While Superman and Batman are working on their 1,000th case together, Batman's place as Superman's partner is usurped by a mysterious masked hero, Nightman.

Batman spends much of the tale trying to track down Nightman's true identity. This story is one of a series of Hamilton mysteries, in which both the detective and the reader try to figure out the identity of a masked super-hero. These tales form Hamilton's most ingenious set of mysteries. All of them have completely different solutions.

The Federation of Bizarro Idiots (1966). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. A Bizarro-Batman is created, and he teams up with the original Bizarro duplicate of Superman to raise comic havoc on Earth, including freeing the Joker from prison. The origin of Bizarro-Batman.

Hamilton's two late tales, "The Federation of Bizarro Idiots" and "The Three Bottles of Danger", extend the mythos of the Superman family. Although it is very late in the Silver Age, Hamilton was still in there, trying to innovate within the mythos. This story gives a full treatment to the possibilities of a Bizarro-Batman. Like most of the Bizarro tales over the years, it combines comic surrealism, with a logical look at the sf plot possibilities of the Bizarros.

During the 1960's, Mad Magazine referred to its staff as "the usual gang of idiots", and the Three Stooges were hugely popular on TV in reruns. So humor about people who behaved foolishly was very big. The Bizarros were explicitly in this tradition, with Weisinger comparing them to Mad in his letter columns.

The finale of this story has one of Hamilton's more interesting plot ideas. Although apparently simple, it reflects many of Hamilton's approaches. Hamilton was fascinated by role reversals. Bizarro is always coming to Superman's home planet and raising havoc by imposing his own logic on it; here Superman reverses the process. Also, Hamilton often wrote stories about heroes who acted in opposition to society. Here, Superman and Batman are in opposition to a planet full of people.

The story also brings back Batman's old girl friend, photographer Vicki Vale. As the tale points out, this is her first comic book appearance for a long time. Hamilton made an effect to include as much of Batman's old mythos as possible.

Curt Swan includes a good portrait of Bruce Wayne in a tux. Wayne was always depicted by Swan as a handsome, elegantly dressed man of distinction.

The Three Bottles of Danger (1966). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Batman and Superman discover three more bottled cities, resembling Kandor. The idea of further developments in the mythos of Brainiac and his shrinking and bottling of cities is a good one. It is pleasant to see the mythos being extended at this late date. If Hamilton had not retired from comics writing in 1966, one suspects he would have created some sequels to this tale. Hamilton had previously extended the mythos of Brainiac in "The Team of Luthor and Brainiac" (Superman #167, February 1964). It is clearly a subject that appealed to him. The extremely science fictional nature of the Brainiac-Kandor story perhaps gave it an affinity with science fiction writer Hamilton.

Hamilton makes sure his characters explore all three bottled cities. The three cities, all from different planets, resemble the many alien worlds visited by the Legion of Super-Heroes in Hamilton's tales. Hamilton was uninhibited about sending his characters off to other worlds, and did so regularly, far more than any other Silver Age comics writer. Like many of the planets visited by the Legion, the environments here tend to be quite menacing. The story also recalls Hamilton's Nightwing and Flamebird tales, in which Superman coped as an ordinary mortal with dangerous events in Kandor.

Curt Swan includes one of his outstanding Kryptonian cityscapes (p3). The spherical building incased in a grid is beautiful. Also in Swan traditions: two towers with curved, overhanging tops. Swan frequently included such overarching roofs when depicting futuristic architecture. The two towers show pleasing variety. One is square, and covered with one square top with a big gap between it an the tower top; the other is rectangular, with three tops with short gaps between them.

The Cape and Cowl Crooks (1966). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Mysteriously masked villains appear, Anti-Superman and Anti-Batman, and Batman and Superman must fight them and try to solve the mystery of their identity. This is one of many mysteries Hamilton wrote over the years involving mysterious beings. It is pleasant, but not as ingenious as Hamilton's classics in this mode. It is easy to guess the origin and identity of the two villains, while Hamilton's best mysteries have jaw-dropping surprises in their solutions. Still, it is a nice story, and a creditable finale for Hamilton's years of work on Batman and Superman team-ups.

The story has many references to the Superman mythos. The planet Lexor, invented by Hamilton, is referred to, and Superman spends Krypton Day in Kandor. It also marks the first visit of Commissioner Gordon to the Fortress of Solitude. Hamilton's mid-1960's Superman-Batman tales often involve Batman in elements of the Superman mythos, often for the first time.

Imaginary Tales

Batman, Son of Krypton (1964). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. When Bruce Wayne experiences childhood memories of Krypton, he begins to wonder if he really came from that planet.

Hamilton liked to include Kryptonian lore in his stories, and this tale is especially rich in cultural information about old Krypton. The depiction of Krypton's history and culture shows Hamilton and Weisinger's commitment to pacifist ideals and belief in social progress. It is one of the best looks at Krypton in Hamilton's work. Hamilton makes explicit here that Kryptonian society is democratic. This is an important truth.

This look at Krypton's history also explains (in part) how Kryptonian society evolved. Just as alien beings are not created out of whole cloth by Hamilton, but rather typically take part in an evolutionary framework, so is Hamilton reminding us that Kryptonian society also evolved.

The story refers to the Krypton Memorial customs, first introduced in Jerry Siegel's "The One Minute of Doom" (Superman #150, January 1962).

This story continues Hamilton's urging of intelligent skepticism about received ideas. Here both Superman and the professor have deeply held beliefs. By the end of the tale, both realize that their ideas have been completely wrong. Hamilton is urging readers to have some intelligent doubt about their own preconceptions. Both Superman and the professor are totally convinced at first that their ideas are 100% true; both eventually see that what they believed is false. Other Hamilton tales link this skepticism to social commentary: often times, the hero of a Hamilton story expresses ideas that are in conflict with his society's popular beliefs, and is persecuted and treated as an outsider by society for it. This outsider's beliefs often turn out to be correct. Both this tale and Hamilton's other work are intended as object lessons for readers, showing them how received ideas can be wrong.

This story is related in technique to Imaginary tales, although it is not strictly speaking an Imaginary story. Like Imaginary tales, this creates a whole alternate life history for Bruce Wayne. This history is internally consistent, and full of detail. It also uses Hamilton's favorite technique for constructing Imaginary tale plots: have one character assume a role and a life history similar to another. Here, Bruce Wayne gets a possible Kryptonian life history similar to Superman's real story. Unlike genuine Imaginary stories, however, this tale takes place in the real world of the Superman mythos. It treats the conjectured alternate life history of Bruce Wayne as one more plot element in a "real" Superman family tale. So the Imaginary elements are embedded in an "actual" story. This is an ingenious construction.

Also innovative here: the way the Imaginary elements are set forth. Most Imaginary tales tell their stories in a straightforward, linear, chronological manner. Here, however, Batman only uncovers his possible alternate history through detective work. He gradually reconstructs the alternate history story, in the manner traditional in mystery tales. Various pieces of the puzzle gradually emerge. Eventually, when put all together, they form a complete possible alternative life for Bruce Wayne. This a-chronological approach is quite unusual in the Superman comics.

Swan's art is quite vivid here in expressing the moods and feelings Batman experiences during his search. Finding out unexpected truths about one's childhood is an eerie and somewhat emotionally strange experience. Swan conveys these feelings quite powerfully. He often isolates Batman from backgrounds. This suggests that Batman is alone with his feelings; that he and his consciousness are isolated islands of reason and understanding in a dark and mysterious world.

The first half of this tale is richer than the second. It has the most important Kryptonian imagery. It also concentrates most on Batman's possible alternative life. However, the second half has merit; it too has some interesting mystery and detective elements.

Superman and Batman -- Outlaws (1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Superman and Batman visit a parallel universe, whose Superman and Batman have spent their lives as super-crooks, not heroes.

Although this story is not an actual Imaginary story, it is very close to them. We see an entire parallel Earth, in which Superman and Batman both became crooks. We see new life histories created for the characters.

What is different from an official Imaginary tale is that the events of the story are all supposed to be real.

Superman comics occasionally went to parallel worlds or universes. Otto Binder took Superman to a parallel planet in "The "Superman" from Outer Space" (Action #265, June 1960), and Leo Dorfman sent Lois Lane to a parallel universe in "The Girl Who Mourned for Superman" (Lois Lane #43, August 1963). However, both Lois and Superman mainly served as observers in these tales. They were stand-ins for the reader, neutral observers who saw everything on the parallel worlds, but who did not otherwise participate much in the plot. By contrast, Batman and Superman get involved in an actual story in this parallel universe, one that actual includes their "other", crooked counterparts. This gives the tale a whole new structure that is missing in most other Imaginary stories in the Superman family comics.

The story resembles Hamilton's Imaginary tale "Clark Kent's Brother" (Superman #175, February 1965) in that many human characters from Superman's life on Earth get involved. These are people who have shared Superman and Batman's human life. "Clark Kent's Brother" was published just one month before this story. Both tales also creates some role reversals, always a perennial Hamilton theme.

The story also resembles Hamilton's tales of the planet Lexor, in showing a world in which Lex Luthor is a publicly revered force for good. This concept seemed to intrigue Hamilton.

The Clash of Cape and Cowl (World's Finest #153, November 1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan, and a cover idea and plot by Cary Bates. This Imaginary tale looks at what Batman's life might have been like, if he had blamed Superman for the murders of his parents. This is apparently the first official Imaginary tale to feature Batman in the lead role. Imaginary tales were a standard feature in Mort Weisinger's Superman stories, and it was inevitable that he would introduce them eventually, after he took over the editorship of World's Finest in 1964. The basic idea here, a life long feud between Batman and Superman, is a clever one. This idea is already present in Curt Swan's cover. However, the tale Hamilton wrote around it is fairly predictable. Hamilton's story is most inventive in its brief Robin episode, showing an alternative relationship between them in this Imaginary history.

This story is in the tradition of Otto Binder's pioneering "Superman's Other Life" (Superman #132 October 1959), showing an alternative life history for major characters in the Superman mythos. Among the many Imaginary tales to appear in Superman family magazines, this one is closest in treatment and feel to Hamilton's "Clark Kent's Brother" (Superman #175, February 1965). Like "Clark Kent's Brother", it looks at an alternative life history for non-super friends of Superman on Earth. Just as Pete Ross became a bitter enemy of Superman in that story, so does Batman become a bitter enemy of Superman in this tale. These are two of Superman's closest real life friends. Both men spend much time brooding over wrongs allegedly done to them. In this they also recall Hamilton's Composite Superman, who also brooded obsessively over humiliations Superman had done to him. Hamilton's Legionnaires also sometimes developed obsessions that separated them from the people around them. All of these characters become quite melancholy. They seem to be in their own private worlds, alienated from the rest of humanity.

Swan includes a notable portrait showing the teen-age Bruce Wayne crying after the murder of his parents (p3).

The Sons of Batman and Superman (1965). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Imaginary Tale looking at a possible future time when Batman has married Kathy Kane (Batwoman), Superman has married Lois Lane, and both have young sons who carry on their tradition. This Imaginary story is full of charm. It is light hearted and full of humor. Jerry Siegel had written a series of Imaginary tales in Lois Lane, which examined a possible future marriage between Superman and Lois: see his "Mr. and Mrs. Clark (Superman) Kent" (Lois Lane #19, August 1960) and its sequels. This story extends the concept, showing Bruce Wayne also marrying Kathy Kane. Its look at the young sons of its heroes also recalls Hamilton's "The Three Generations of Superman" (Action #327, August 1965), an Imaginary tale which teams Superman with his young grandson.

The story is notable for its feminist themes. Both Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent have forbidden their wives to carry on their careers after their marriage, and both women rather unwillingly sacrifice their careers for the opportunity of marriage, although it is clear that both women would like to have both marriage and their job. Such demands were quite common in the 1960's United States, before the rise of the Woman's Lib movement. This aspect of the story plays out quite entertainingly. Hamilton here is looking at one of the key social issues of the day, one that would soon erupt with major force in real life. Both Lois Lane and Kathy Kane are exemplars of Hamilton's idealistic, gifted outsiders, people who have been silenced by social mores, but who are looking for ways to practice their skills and make a contribution.

The Abominable Brats (World's Finest #157, May 1966). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Curt Swan. Based on a cover by Curt Swan. Sequel to "The Sons of Batman and Superman", in which the now teenage sons of Batman and Robin seemingly become a pair of prank playing juvenile delinquents. The plot developments in the story are pretty predictable, especially to anyone who has read previous issues of the magazine. However, the tale has charm. The splash panel states that the tale was written in response to numerous reader letters asking for a sequel.

The first story's near-future world looked much like the present day. However Swan depicts Metropolis as a futuristic, high tech city, one in which people pilot hover-craft through the air, instead of riding cars on the ground. This city's architecture is also futuristic as well. It is fun to see Metropolis become such a high tech place.

High Tech Stories

Untold Tales of the Bat-Signal (1950). Writer: ?. Art: Lew Schwartz. Anthology of vignettes showing how the Bat-Signal saved lives; also shows the technology of the Bat-Signal. During 1958 - 1959 the Superman family will develop a series of "Untold Tales". These are full length stories, each showing some previously undiscussed cornerstone in the creation of the Superman mythos. This story shows some features ancestral to the Superman series, including the title "Untold Tales", and a look back on the origin of a Batman mythos component, the Bat-Signal. However, there are some differences. Most of the vignettes here deal not with the creation of Batman's mythos, but rather are little independent adventure stories, each focusing on some ingenious use of the Bat-Signal.

The story opens with a newspaper editor dreaming the Bat-Signal series up, and assigning it to a crime reporter on the paper. Such editor-writer pairs would be frequent in DC books, both the sf comics and the Superman family. They can be seen as stand-ins for the editors and writers of the DC magazines themselves. There is a bit of humor here: the editor is seen as something of a nebbish, although he's a nice guy, while the writer is seen as a handsome and heroic figure. Perhaps this is just a writer's point of view! Such framing devices were not unheard of in Hollywood films. This story has a structure very similar to Orson Welles' Citizen Kane (1941), where a reporter goes around interviewing various witnesses, while we see their stories in flashback. Similar structures were used in Robert Siodmak's The Killers (1946), with Edmond O'Brien's insurance investigator interviewing a stream of witnesses, each with their own flashback tale. The ace crime reporter in this comic book story, Dave Purdy, is dressed like a film noir tough guy, with suit, overcoat and hat. The editor wrestles with the difficulty of coming up with something new about Batman; this is probably similar to the difficulties real life DC editors had in coming up with new ideas for Batman tales.

The Birth of Batplane II (Batman #61, October-November 1950). Writer: ?. Art: Dick Sprang. When crooks steal the original Batplane, Batman creates a vastly improved successor, Batplane II. This story has much in common with a virtually contemporary story, "Untold Tales of the Bat-Signal" (1950). Both focus on details of a well established piece of Batman technology. Both contain diagrams, showing high tech details of their construction. Both show technological improvements being made to original versions of the tools. The diagrams in both stories are so similar, that it is hard not to regard them as creations of the same mind.

The Strange Costumes of Batman (1950). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. About various high tech costumes worn by Batman, each matched to a specific case. Many of the costumes vary noticeably in color, but otherwise tend to look just like Batman's main costume. This tale is pleasant, but pretty minor. As in later tales of Batman's inventions, Hamilton works in a small mystery puzzle for the reader to solve. The tale is notable for a very early appearance of an electron microscope in the Bat-Cave - it is startling to see this real life invention in a comic book. The depictions of panic that sweep over Metropolis when Batman is incapacitated are also notable. They are in the Hamilton tradition of having a whole community being a protagonist in his tales. As usual, the individuals here, Batman and Robin, are operating somewhat at cross purposes to the masses of people.

Sprang's art in this tale shows good examples of his three landscape specialties: aerial shots, urban buildings, and water. The dock side scene anticipates some of his water landscapes in "The Jungle Cat-Queen" (1954); it has a similar schematic quality, showing a detailed landscape. Many of Sprang's panels here are filled with billowing clouds: smoke, clouds, fog or poison gas. These clouds play a constructive role in Sprang's compositions. The stalactites in the Bat-Cave also tend to form similar elements in Sprang's compositions.

This story clearly laid the groundwork for Bill Finger's "The Joker's Crime Costumes" (Batman #63, February-March 1951); that tale shows some of Batman's costumes here in its first panel. Hamilton and Finger have literary personalities that are nearly opposite: Hamilton is idealistic and heroic, whereas Finger is perverse and oriented towards his villains. Hamilton's work shows a refreshing lack of kinkiness compared to Finger's.

The Thousand and One Escapes of Batman and Robin (1955). Writer: ?. Art: Sheldon Moldoff. Anthology piece showing five escapes Batman and Robin made from villainous traps. This structure has a framing device similar to "Untold Tales of the Bat-Signal" (1950). Robin narrates four of the traps in flashback, while the framing story concludes with its own escape from a trap. Robin was a frequent flashback narrator in the Batman stories. He knows all of Batman's secrets, yet he is not the hero of the stories. He can serve as sort of a Watson figure, recounting the hero's deeds. This story is also constructed as a set of mini-mysteries: the reader is challenged in each episode to figure out how Batman will escape.

When this story was reprinted in the Giant Batman Annual #1 (1961), its title was changed to "Thrilling Escapes of Batman and Robin". This new title might be more accurate - the story describes 5 escapes, not 1,001 - but it does not convey the tale's links to the story of Scheherazade and the 1001 Nights. Like the heroine of that tale, Robin is telling a series of stories within a frame story, and also like that heroine, he is fighting for his life by the cleverness of his storytelling. There will be similar references to Scheherazade in Otto Binder's "The Super-Tales of Lana Lang" (Superboy #60, October 1957), including a similarly structured frame device..

The 10, 000 Secrets of Batman / Batman's Electronic Crime-File (1956). Writer: ?. Art: Dick Sprang. When the Bat-Cave is featured on a live television show, thieves steal a microfilm copy of Batman's huge crime computer data base. Fascinating story with a look at an early use of computer technology. Batman's data base (a phrase not used in the story) is stored on punch cards, and he uses a large Hollerith machine to sort them and make queries. Such machines and their use by the police had long since been featured in crime films, such as Anthony Mann's He Walks By Night (1948) and William Keighley's The Street With No Name (1948). As in Mann's movie, the cards have a great deal of information on criminals, and Batman can use them to make queries about the probable perpetrators of a given crime. (Keighley's film shows the FBI using cards to identify fingerprints, something not discussed in the Batman tale.) Batman also has a great deal of information about Gotham City, including its architectural features, underground passages and security previsions and their weaknesses. All of this reminds one more of the 1990's, when massive government data bases started piling up showing city wide maps.

The live TV show, "Man to Man", is very similar to a famous real life TV interview show of the era, Person to Person. This was typical of the DC writers of the 1950's. They tended to incorporate actual TV shows into their stories, under pseudonyms. The idea seems to be, "what would happen if Batman appeared on Person to Person, or Superboy on To Tell the Truth?" - Superboy appears on a clone of that real life TV game show in Otto Binder's "The Three Secret Identities of Superboy" (Superboy #67, September 1958), where it is called "Unmask the Truth". These are questions that both the writers and presumably the readers of the comic books would want to know. Person to Person always interviewed its celebrity guests in their own homes, so it is natural here for the show to move into the Bat-Cave. Each of these TV shows had its own distinctive rules of operation, and these rules are incorporated into the plots of the comic book stories.

The 1,001 Inventions of Batman / The Amazing Inventions of Batman (1957). Writer: Edmond Hamilton. Art: Dick Sprang. This story describes four different high tech inventions of Batman, and describes the cases that prompted them. There is a good fit between the cases and the inventions: Hamilton shows craftsmanship and ingenuity on the logical relationships between the two. There are some small elements of sf mystery here: the reader is shown the invention first, then Hamilton reveals the mystery of how it was used. There is also another mystery over-arching the whole story: which of Batman's invention's was stolen by a criminal, and how did they do it? Hamilton wrote other tales about Batman's inventions, presumably because Hamilton was a major sf writer, whose creativity ran in this direction.

The New Look

The Secret War of the Phantom General (1965). Writer: John Broome. Art: Carmine Infantino. Batman and Robin team with Elongated Man to go after a Nazi general who is planning Gotham City crimes as military operations, in this three part story. As in many of Broome's tales, the life story of a character is woven into the plot: in this case the general. As usual on Broome, we see the evolution of the character towards the extreme position he eventually occupies in the tale.

Infantino's art stays strong here. Both he and Broome created the Elongated Man, in the pages of The Flash, so they are on home turf here. Elongated Man, like the Flash himself, occupies a certain sociological niche. Both are relentlessly middle class. Elongated Man is shown here in white dress shirt and tie, the typical clothes of the white collar man of his day. He looks extremely elegant in his clothes. Yet there is no attempt to make him look wealthy or upper crust. This attitude is more typical of the sixties confidence in the middle class, than in the eighties attempt to look like a figure of wealth and power. Barry Allen, the Flash's police scientist alter ego, is also consistently drawn by Infantino to look middle class but elegant.

A memorable note: during a flashback sequence, the writer of the story addresses the reader directly. We see Infantino's portraits of John Broome, seated at his typewriter. This is a wonderful moment. It memorializes what was a major collaboration between the two men, stretching over many years, in The Flash as well as in the Batman "New Look" era. On the wall behind Broome is a bulletin board with a black and white photograph, hand written notes, etc. This is typical of Infantino's use of multi-media. We also see a number of books, including Edgar Pangborn's Davy and Harlan Ellison's Paingod - presumably these are homages to these writers.

The Joker's Happy Victims (1966). Writer: E. Nelson Bridwell. Art: Carmine Infantino. The Joker's theft victims enjoy his crimes so much they refuse to prosecute. This little tale is very well made. It has a logical plot: Batman and Robin have to investigate the latest peculiar series of crimes by the Joker. There is a bit of a mystery in stories like this: both Batman and the reader are challenged to figure it all out.

The Goodwin Years

Death Flies the Haunted Sky (1974). Writer: Archie Goodwin. Art: Alex Toth. Batman solves a mystery involving World War I era planes. Goodwin's stories tend to be genuine mystery tales. Usually they have a villain whose identity is hidden, and whom the reader is challenged to guess. Also, the villain is not who one thinks it is, and the motives for the crimes quite different from what one thought.

This story has spectacular art by Alex Toth. It is apparently his only Batman tale.

A New Mythos

The Deadshot Ricochet (1977). Writer: Steve Englehart. Art: Marshall Rogers. Deadshot, a playboy turned gunman, breaks out of jail and returns to Gotham City. The basic premise of this delightful story is: it would be fun to be Batman. This is not a radical idea, but after years of grimth, it seems charmingly breezy. Steve Englehart includes many homages to the past. He reuses obscure but interesting characters from distant past issues - one going back to 1939! There are also tributes to some of the great DC writers and editors. The recurrent Batman theme, the giant object, is snuck into the story under relatively "realistic" pretexts. Batman also gets an upbeat personal life, one that anyone would enjoy.

This story pays tribute to such DC giants as Mort Weisinger and Gardner Fox, both of whom were much more mythos oriented than is typical among Batman creators over the decades. Englehart's Batman is different from others I have read in that it involves a mythos. In Englehart's case, this mythos centers on a continuing group of characters, all of whom interact with one another. For example, although the Penguin is not the main guest villain in this tale, he plays a role in the story. Furthermore, he behaves according to the character and technological approach that have been assigned to him in previous stories. The Penguin is here functioning as part of a "Batman mythos", a self consistent world out of which the story elements of each new tale are constructed. Englehart brings in many other continuing characters, each in a small role. Englehart even has the Joker show up for a small cameo, laughing menacingly in one scene, then exiting from the plot. His appearance here is designed structurally to make the Joker part of the story. He is part of "Batman's world", the mythos of the series, and Englehart wants to preserve his membership in this world, even if he has to make the tiniest appearance in the tale. While the Penguin, Robin, Dr. Hugo Strange and others have bigger parts in this episode, Englehart manages to include the Joker in a role approaching the outer limit of small size a character's appearance can achieve, and still be part of the mythos underlying Batman's universe.

One might note that Englehart's mythos based approach here is structurally different from the concept of a "continuing roster of guest villains". Batman, like many other comic books, has always had that. One issue the Joker might be the guest villain, the next month Two-Face. The stories that ensue tend to have a common pattern: Hero battles guest villain. Englehart's mythos-based construction is different. Here the Penguin is part of Batman's world, and he can play a role in tales even where he is not the main villain. He will advance the plot, not merely fight against Batman.

Rogers' art has plenty of pizzazz, too. His depictions of New York City street scenes are brilliant. His Bruce Wayne has more presence than most artists' before or since. After all, Bruce Wayne is a leading philanthropist. This is a worthwhile activity. His life should be fun, and full of potential. Instead, he has often been drawn as a non-entity, Batman's frivolous disguise. This Bruce Wayne looks like a respected citizen, and a candidate for romance.

Bat-Mite's New York Adventure (1978). Writer: Bob Rozakis. Art: Mike Golden. Bat-Mite magically summons all his creators to DC's offices in New York City one evening. This charming tale includes portraits of all of the comic's staff. One might note that they have been captured in full casualness in the height of 1970's dressing down. No other decade in American life, not even the 1990's, could offer people in such full flight from suits and ties.