Sunday, August 11, 2013

Detective Comics #70 (December, 1942)

An absolutely spectacular cover from Jerry Robinson -- dynamic, pulpy, and it actually depicts a scene in the story! Fantastic!

"The Man Who Could Read Minds!"
Writer: Don Cameron
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson
Synopsis: Bruce and Dick attend a performance of Carlos, the Man who Can Read Minds! However, after the show Bruce explains to Dick that Carlos is a fake, and that his "mind-reading" is just a trick. 
Late that evening, as he is driving home, Carlos gets into a terrible car accident. Rushed to hospital, only delicate brain surgery can save his life. But there is a power outage at the hospital! By the time the emergency lights are back on, the neurosurgeon can't be sure if his scalpel slipped somehow. 
However, Carlos lives -- but through some strange comic book bullshit has been actually given the ability to read minds! He very quickly realizes that he could become a totally awesome criminal with this ability. Soon he's out robbing people's safes using combinations he's telepathized out of them, and when Batman and Robin try to stop him he's able to easily evade their attacks. He even threatens to reveal their secret identities if they try to stop him -- yes, he knows they are Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson!
Stymied, Bruce and Dick sit at home, when a bat flies through the window with a message! It's Carlos, taunting them with the knowledge that he's going to Miser's Isle to steal Old Pete Jorgen's buried treasure (wait, what?) and if they try to stop him he'll reveal their secret. But, since they are heroes, Bruce and Dick decide to go anyway, even if it means... the end of Batman and Robin!
They fly to the island in the Batplane and try to fight Carlos -- but, y'know, dude can read minds, so it's totally fruitless. He manages to knock out both Batman and Robin. He throws Robin in a bathysphere and drops him to the bottom of the ocean with the oxygen valve turned off, while Batman gets the standard trap-door-into-a-room-with-the-walls-closing-in dilemma (Carlos apparently had time to booby trap Old Pete's house before coming here?) Batman's able to get out of the trap because, y'know, this isn't his first time or anything, and when he gets out he finds Carlos questioning Old Pete behind bullet-proof glass. He's able to make it through the glass using his diamond studded platinum Bat-logo shaped police badge that we've never seen before and save Old Pete. He also knows where and how to save Robin too -- is it possible Batman is also a mind reader?
He dives into the sea to save Robin by cutting him out of the bathysphere with an acetylene torch (hence the cover image) but as they swim up to shore they are again confronted by Carlos -- but they are saved when Old Pete just straight up SHOOTS HIM. Guess that was one mind Carlos couldn't read? Or else bullets travel faster than thoughts. 
Batman rigs a lighthouse to project a Bat-Signal to call the coast guard, but while that's happening a dying Carlos scrawls Batman is really Bruce Wayne into the sand of the beach. However by the time the coast guard gets there Carlos has died and the waves have luckily washed away the message.
Robin asks Batman how he knew where to rescue him, and Batman explains that he saw Carlos taunting Old Pete with the information through the glass, and while Carlos could read minds, he forgot Batman can read lips!
My Thoughts: Don Cameron delivers a standard, but well told, entry in the "oh no, the secret identity!" genre, although I'm not sure how I feel about telepaths in the Batman world, but at least there's an attempt to make it plausible in medical science, however vague and ridiculous it is. It's no worse than alternate worlds and witches and so forth. Also -- diamond studded police badge?? Where did this come from?
The Art:  Bob Kane's artwork isn't as good as Jerry Robinson's, but he's still got a talent for character design -- Carlos resembles Hugo Strange only with bushy eyebrows instead of the goatee and queer bottle-cap glasses. The climax at Miser's Isle takes up most of the issue and it's action and environs gives the artists a lot of fun elements to play with.
The Story: It's straightforward and gets from point A to B. There's nothing overly special about it, and it has a ton of old pulp clich├ęs, and Carlos has no reason for turning evil other than "he can" (which is sometimes enough anyway) -- but all that being said there are no burgeoning plot holes, it's coherent and consistent, it's competent and there are few cheats (diamond Bat-badge, aside). So all in all I'm calling this a win for veteran writer Don Cameron.
Notes and Trivia: First appearance of Batman's diamond-studded platinum Bat-logo shapped police badge.

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