Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Strange Powder...

You know, Silver Age comics really get a bad rep for being goofy and improbable. It's not fair, it's not right, and it's perpetuated by people who simply haven't read them and just deride them safely from a far.

Here, just take a look at this panel from a 1963 Batman story:

Batman really is kind of scary, isn't he?

Adjusting for the style of the time, that's a dark and dramatic panel, people!  It could be Batman saying he's found Joe Chill, or that the Commissioner's daughter has been shot, or that "you won't have to worry about the Joker ever again; I've taken care of it."  Brrrr.

What is Batman saying in the panel...?

Just try and read that panel in your Batman voice and see what happens.

Strange powder? Larko lamp legend?  Oh, fer #$*(&@#*(....

It's from Detective #322....

That's almost the third or fourth dumbest hat Batman has ever sported.

a.k.a. "The Bizarre Batman Genie!"

Sigh. So much for my thesis about the Silver Age, which was in fact just as stupid and absurd as you think it was.  You know those stories where the cover/splash page promises a certain fantastical scene, but it turns out it was just a metaphor or some grand ruse of the hero's to ensnare some cowardly and superstitious criminals?

Yeah, well, this isn't one of them.  That scene is in the story and that's because Batman actually does get turned into a magical genie.  An extremely jovial genie, I might add.

Admit it; you'd LOVE to see Ben Affleck do this scene in the movie.
Naturally, when Batman becomes a genie, his masters are a group of Gotham criminals.   And just as naturally, these criminals -- instead of just asking him to make them unimaginably wealthy -- ask him to help them with their crimes.  Because if these were Gotham criminals of any imagination whatsoever they'd be wearing thematic costumes instead of Rod Serling's old wardrobe.  

I like to think of The Bizarre Batman Genie as one of the stories that finally broke the back of the Silver Age; within six months of this issue, the "new look" Batman (with the yellow oval) was introduced and his adventures became much more grounded.  No less stupid, perhaps, but much more realistically so.

However, the really impressive thing here is the Gotham cops acting as Exposition Officers in the first panel:  

Our bullets, bouncing

off his skin! Nothing can stop

The Batman Genie!

I don't know what you or I might say when confronted with a giant Batman-Genie ripping the roof off a building, but I know darned well we wouldn't have the presence of mind to put it in a haiku!

But now is your chance!  What haiku can you compose to honor the Batman-Genie and the Silver Age madness that created him?


John said...

A turban'd Batman,
Somehow not the "New Look" Bat.
Comic book Irony?

The presentation:
Two panels, side-by-side, yet
In the wrong order:

Plunder...plunder the
Gotham Mint! Ho, ho, ho...Ha,
Ha, ha...ho, ho, ho...

Sigh. The Silver Age,
Unfairly maligned as dumb
By Frank Miller fans.

And yeah, this was kind of over the top. However, the cover has a lot going for it, like the bow-tied arch-criminal and one of the few instances of Silver Age Gotham architecture that actually looks practical: The giant ring could easily advertise and provide security! Though I'm a little concerned that the Diamond Exchange looks like a Chinese take-out place with a new sign. It seems slightly less than trustworthy.

Scipio said...

I noticed the ring, too.

I think you do the creators an injustice in your poem: the panels are in the correct order. The Batman-Genie removes the roof of the mint, then he reaches his arms in and plunders it.

CobraMisfit said...

Even when Silver,
And the world is stupid-strange,
Bats is still scary.

Bryan L said...

Batman a genie?
He's okay, but I prefer
Barbara Eden.

Anonymous said...

Look, Dr. Wertham!
With that turban, Batman is
Ribbed for her pleasure.

Nathan Hall said...

To rob Gotham's mint
There's a price you have to pay-
Rub Bat-genie's lamp

Nathan Hall said...

That's almost the third
or fourth dumbest hat Batman
has ever worn - splash.

Darn, Scipio, you were one syllable away from an unintentional haiku of your own.

Scipio said...

Nathan; easily fixed!

John said...

Well, yes, Scipio, the story the panels tell fit better that way, but the rhythm of the...haik-deux (for lack of a better term) fails when the second "plunder" gets split across lines. That's sloppy craft, of the likes I wouldn't expect to see in a Silver Age comic where Batman is accidentally genie-enslaved to run-of-the-mill bank robbers due to angel dus--err, mystic powder.

Yeah, mystic powder. Not angel dust. Wikipedia says that stuff has a "high prevalence of dissociative hallucinogenic side effects," which is absolutely not what we're seeing here.

Holy dirty needles, Batman! "Psychological effects include severe changes in body image, loss of ego boundaries, paranoia, and depersonalization. Hallucinations, euphoria, and suicidal impulses are also reported, as well as occasional aggressive behavior." It was even on the market until '65. I think you can go back to your thesis that Silver Age comics were dark and gritty...

Which is all(?) to say, I was joking to pull another haiku out of the panels at hand. And don't do drugs, probably lest you hallucinate thinking you're a giggling, giant genie, was at least implied.

Hoosier X said...

God, I love this story! I especially love Bat-Girl - the FIRST Silver Age Bat-Girl - showing up (without Batwoman) and helping Robin.

They are some very resourceful teenagers! They defeat an omnipotent Batman! (This was back in the days before he didn't need genie powers to be omnipotent.)

I have this issue and I read it every once in a while. I can't remember which J'onn J'onzz story is in the back; it's probably a hot and a half, with Zook and Diane Meade, and Captain Harding immobile behind his desk, eating a roast beef sandwich.

Hoosier X said...

I just checked it out and WOW! It's the one where Professor Arnold Hugo defects from Batman and goes over to fight J'onn J'onzz.

And Batman appears in one panel!

"Thanks, J'onn J'onzz! I was looking for this character but I got sidetracked when I was turned into a genie!"

No Diane Meade, but Zook is in it a lot. (Professor Hugo calls him a "stupid little creature." Not nice!)

And Captain Harding seems to be wedged into his chair in a couple of early panels, but later on, it seems that the paramedics have rescued him and he's free to walk around the country. (Looking for an Arby's (he's got coupons!) I assume.)

Hoosier X said...

Here's a haiku:

Bat-Girl on her own,
has what it takes to defeat
the Batman genie

Slaughter said...

My first Haiku
Never done before
Be Gentle

All-Powerful, blaphesmy
Batman's now a God
Damned Batman

Strange Powders
Lead Weirdly to
Strange Powers

Anonymous said...

"Bat-genie?" So dumb!
But smarter, better drawn than
T. Daniel's Batman

- Mike Loughlin

Dick McGee said...

Have you never watched the Shazzan cartoons? Genies are contractually required to be jovial. Even Bat-Genies.

Unknown said...

First you get the lamp,
then you get the Batman, then
you get the woman.

Unknown said...

The Silver Age stories were NOT stupid! Over-simplisitc, at worst, maybe. But, they still made me smile with satisfaction, at the time. And, thus, they were worth every penny of the 27 cents (including sales tax) I had to shell out back then!

What's really stupid is DC going back to single-digits, on ACTION COMICS instead of becoming the first publisher to have an even one thousand issues.