Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Detective Comics #56 (October 1941)

"The Stone Idol"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: So Bruce and Dick are on vacation and driving across America, when they stop in a ghost town called Ghost Gulch City. The town used to mine silver but the vein ran out and all that's left are a few people with nowhere else to go. The town is at the base of a mountain range, and on top of one of the mountains sits a two thousand year old stone idol carved by Native Americans. 
In the town, an old bum named Mad Mack rants and raves about the day that the Stone Idol will come to life and destroy the town, while Bruce and Dick check into an inn while a thunderstorm rages outside. The storm causes a truck making it's way through the mountain path to crash, another bolt dislodges the stone idol and sends it crashing down the mountain to sit near the town. 
The next morning, people from the town gather round the idol, frightened. The mayor is not afraid, after all it's just a hunk of stone, but Mad Mack believes the mayor has reason to be afraid. A blinding flash of light occurs and then the Stone Idol is alive, and tells the townfolk that unless they leave forever, they will all be destroyed. Another flash and the Idol is back to normal.
The mayor refuses to budge, insisting that it must be some kind of trick and that the townfolk should fight for their homes, but the majority of them are superstitious and fearful, making to leave. Just then, the Idol arrives with several odd white men in neanderthal costumes whom it claims are it's servants. They begin ransacking the town.
So Batman and Robin appear, naturally, and beat up all the "servants". After another flash of light, the servants are gone and the Idol is once again simply a stone statue. The Batman and Robin also disappear, with Bruce wondering what the truth behind the Stone Idol is. The townsfolk turn against the mayor, Mad Mack working them into a fury where they are willing to sacrifice the man to the Idol. They go to push him off a cliff but Batman swings out and saves him. Fighting the townsfolk alongside the mayor, Batman attacks the stone statue to find it is, in fact, made of stone. Batman knocks over the statue to find it's covering up a large chasm into the mountain.
Heading down, Batman finds he's in the silver mine. Batman and Robin fight a bunch of goons and then the Idol himself. The fights start bringing down the mine, but Batman and Robin survive the cave-in. Mad Mack, however, is buried under a ton of rubble. Batman convinces him to exposit the explanation to the story with his dying breath. Basically, there's still silver in the mine, and Mad Mack found it, but after the mine ran out the first time it was bequeathed to the town. So if Mack was to mine the silver, he'd have to share with the whole town. Luckily, the truck that crashed at the start of the story was carrying a travelling circus in trouble with the law. Mack decided to paint the strong man up to look like the Idol. Then they used a camera's powder flash to switch out the stone idol with the strong man, while the other circus members dressed as the servants. Mack dies, the mayor thanks the Dynamic Duo, who drive off hoping that superstition is over in that town.
My Thoughts: So, for the most part, I don't care for this. I don't like "travelling Batman" stories in general, and the whole stone idol, ghost mining town, etc. stuff just feels so much like some old cliché western story and not suited to these characters at all. Still, I do like that the Stone Idol isn't real, and that the Mayor stands up to fear and superstition alongside rational Batman.
The Art: Art's okay, Kane does some good caricature with the townsfolk, and there's a lot of dynamic layouts, and Roussos does his usual good stuff with the background shadows and things, but I can't say there's anything special going on here.
The Story: I understand that Finger wants to change things up every once in a while, but this just isn't a Batman story. And I hate the way everything gets exposited in like two panels at the end. It's okay, but at the end of the day it's very predictable the way it all wraps up. Not that I would've preferred the Idol be real, I like for Batman to stand for rationality given that he's a detective, but ultimately the only thing that makes this a Batman story is that Batman's in it.

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