Monday, September 23, 2013

World's Finest Comics #9 (Spring 1943)

"Crime of the Month"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Jerry Robinson
Inks: George Roussos
Synopsis:  The top crime bosses in Gotham are all invited to a "literary tea" at Mystery Castle, the home of best-selling crime novelist  Bramwell B. Bramwell (wanna bet the middle initial stands for Bramwell?). For some reason despite being experienced criminals they all decide to go (I wonder myself how Bramwell got their addresses).

Arriving at Bramwell's Castle (I bet Stephen King wishes he lived in a Castle) Bramwell explains that for years he's been writing crime novels in which criminals outwit the police and he thinks he's so good at it that he himself can commit crimes with impunity. The criminals (rightfully) laugh at him, but Bramwell proposes a contest -- whomever can pull off the "smoothest" theft shall be declared the Crime of the Month, and win the loot from all the jobs!
For some reason the crooks agree to go along with this instead of just shooting Bramwell or walking away laughing, and so Gotham experiences a new spree of overly elaborate robberies (such as a gang that robs a bank under the guise of exterminators dealing with a rat problem -- that they caused!). Somehow Bruce, by listening to accounts of the thefts on the radio, deduces the entire "Crime of the Month" contest and which gangs are involved and thus that they must follow "Slim" Ryan's gang next.
In the Batplane, they tail the gang to a wooden bridge where the gang is setting up dynamite to blow the bridge and capture an amored car. Batman and Robin foil the attempt, butt Ryan escapes. Batman follows Ryan's car in the Batplane and leaves Robin to turn the rest of the gang to the police.
Of course Ryan drives back to Bramwell's castle and so Batman enters in, deducing that Bramwell is "obviously connected with the Crime of the Month in some way!" But Bramwell immediately drops Batman into a fiendish deathtrap (because of course the best-selling author's castle has built-in deathtraps). Batman is locked in a sealed room with an induction furnace, which melts his utility belt and it's gadgets -- luckily Batman has no metal fillings in his teeth or "they'd heat up to 3000 degrees and cook my brain!" I admit this is so far one of the most impressive death-traps I've seen.
Robin figures Batman must be in trouble because he hasn't checked in on the radio, and drives to Bramwell's castle in the Batmobile -- only to be immediately locked in his own death trap room where a dynamo is building up a ten million volt charge in a metal rod which will eventually strike Robin with a bolt of artificial lightning!
Batman has no way out of the furnace room, where he will slowly suffocate, until he pulls a suction cup out of his utility belt (wait - I thought the belt and it's gadgets melted??) and uses that to pull the door open. He hears Robin's cries for help and saves him by smashing the dynamo.
Bramwell escapes, but not before gloating that his Crime of the Month will be the "social event of the year" and involve the "most tedious movie ever made!"
So of course from those two vague phrases Batman figures out that Bramwell is planning to rob a War Relief Drive being put on by high society by hypnotizing the audience with an experimental hypnosis film (which honestly just looks like the kind of Stan Brakhage/Andy Warhol/Michael Snow films I had to watch in my Bachelor's program). 
Just before Bramwell robs the transfixed audience, Batman switches the film with some Batman & Robin newsreel footage which snaps the audience out of it because that shit is dope and then captures Bramwell in between panels because we've only got three of them left.
Turns out Batman had read the phrase "most tedious movie ever made" in a book of Bramwell's where a crook pulled off this exact same crime and figured the author was just egotistical enough to plagiarize himself. 
In jail, the crooks tease Bramwell by remarking that he ought to be used to pens. 
My Thoughts: There's not much to say about this story except that I really like the deathtraps. They're very clever and deadly and a cut above what we've seen so far in the strip. Too bad Batman gets out of his through bad writing.
The Art: It's an interesting combo. Robinson's style shines through here, with his superior grasp of anatomy and slightly more realistic style than Kane's simplistic cartooning, but unlike in Detective #74 he's got Roussos inking him, which settles his linework down a bit and stabilizes things to look less "sketchy" and the faces look more on-model with Kane's style. It's still good art though, even if he can't decide from panel to panel whether Bramwell has glasses or not.
The Story: Safe to say I've missed Bill Finger -- we haven't seen a script of his since Detective #71 instead Don Cameron seems to have taken over the lion's share of Batman writing. Finger's story for this issue is very simplistic -- it follows his formula of coming up with a simple gimmick and then using that mostly as a wraparound springboard for over-the-top action scenes and setpieces. That being said, at least this time he sticks with the gimmick all the way through to the end, and man does he do deathtraps and action better than anyone else writing this book. I mean it's really fantastic the imagination he applies to this stuff. Unfortunately, Batman gets out of the trap by Finger just conveniently forgetting the melted utility belt from a couple of pages ago -- which I have to blame Whitney Ellsworth for as well since an editor's job is to catch shit like that. A bad point in an otherwise good story. 

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