Saturday, March 18, 2006

Batman meets the Shadow!

If I were ever to write Batman, I would like to do it in the same style as my favorite era of Batman comics, the mid to late 70's. In these books, Batman was a detective above everything else, and he knew how to crack a smile. Sure, he's a grim avenger f the night, but he isn't as nutty as the criminals he hunts, which is how it seems to me nowadays.

My very favorite Batman comic of all time is Batman #253, published in November 1973. If it couldn't be evidenced by the cover, that "master of other people's minds", The Shadow makes his first (to my knowledge) DC Comics appearance. In the appropriately titled Who Knows What Evil--?, we find Batman taking down a gang of counterfeiters, where he is saved from being shot by a marksman so excellent that he shot the gun out of the thug's hand without injuring the guy! Anyway, Batman pursues the lone remaining criminal but loses him in a blind alley, where he hears an eerily familiar bone chilling laugh. Writing these goons off as small fry, Batman leaves them for the police and returns to the batcave to analyze the stolen money in the hopes of capturing the mastermind. With the assistance of Alfred, Batman discovers a possible lead in Arizona. Meanwhile the goon that eluded Batman earlier apparently didn't escape the mysterious marksman from before, as the police find him tied to a lamppost in a hypnotic daze mumbling "Tumbleweed Crossing" over and over.

Arriving as Bruce Wayne he checks in to the only hotel in town, inquiring about any other newcomers to Bammy Stone, the local hotel owner. Bammy mentions a scientist taking water samples which strikes him as odd, being that the water isn't fit to drink anyway. Before Bruce can comment, a bunch of hooligans in dune buggies tear through the main drag to terrorize the small town. Ducking into an alley, he switches to Batman and tackles on of the punks off his buggy. After a short Batman-style confrontation, he learns that the punks are really a bunch of non-conformists who were paid to roll into town every Tuesday. Batman reveals to them they were paid with funny money, so they beat feet out of there. Batman hears the same chilling laugh from behind the hotel. He starts to wonder if it could really be 'him', but discounts it as his own wishful thinking, and decided to investigate as Bruce Wayne. He has dinner with one Lamont Cranston, who as anyone familiar with the character knows, is one of The Shadow's many disguises. Their conversation alludes to the fact the the water Cranston is there to investigate could be used in the production of ink. Bruce excuses himself and rents a jeep, which he proceeds to drive out to the mountains as Batman to check out this 'water supply'. He is ambushed by snipers and is only able to over come them due to the timely interference of a certain autogyro. After he takes out the gunmen, Batman hears the laugh yet again and continues to wonder if it truly could be 'him'. He shrugs it off and continues to his destination, where he finds the main counterfeiters, easily takes out the two thugs who pull guns on him, but is taken aback by his own overconfidence, and the printer who splashes Batman in the eyes with ink. While Batman is blinded, the printer tries to escape a plane stashed away, but is confronted by the Shadow himself, who proceeds to mete out justice with his twin .45 calibur automatic pistols, destroying the propeller and causing the plane to flip and crash into flames. Now recovered, and with the Shadow nowhere to be seen, he interrogates the printer, who gives a chillingly accurate description of the Shadow! Batman decides to prove it once and for all, but first he has to track now the true mastermind of the counterfeiting ring, and as he returns to the hotel, we learns he suspects Cranston, as he's the only stranger in town. He busts into Cranston's room, but instead finds the true fiend behind it all, Bammy, the hotel keeper who was going through Cranston's notes, to see how much he learned of the operation. Bammy pulls a gun on Batman, but the room's light is shot out by a certain marksman, so Batman quickly knocks Bammy out, and dives out the window in the hopes of catching the elusive stranger. He doesn't find him, but does find a note written by Cranston asking Batman to meet him the next night.

What follows is probably my favorite Batman page ever, where the Shadow explains it was he who has been helping Batman on this case, to determined if Batman deserved the reputation he has. The Shadow says "I am happy to say that you have fulfilled my greatest expectations!" Batman is sincerely flattered, revealing that the Shadow was one of his greatest inspirations. This was explored in the Batman Animates Series episode Beware the Grey Ghost where they couldn't use the Shadow's name or likeness. Finally, Batman asks the Shadow if he'll come out of retirement to help the world. Enigmatically the reply is "That... only The Shadow knows!"

Even though this issue was before my time, and to be honest, the whole caper wouldn't have been as exciting without the mysteriousness of the Shadow, it still remains my favorite Batman tale to this day, and I doubt it'll ever be topped.


At 11:02 PM, Blogger Joshisfuzzy said...

I always wanted to see this comic. I'm the only Shadow fan I know at age 21

At 11:43 PM, Blogger Ryk said...

Came across this blog searching specifically for what I think is this issue.

Did this one have a scene in which the Shadow meets the very young Bruce at a bank robbery? I remember such a scene very clearly but I don't have the comic (lost about 30 years ago).

At 2:30 PM, Blogger Nathaniel said...

we had this comic when I you younger probably long gone by now

At 12:36 PM, Blogger Michael Curry said...

I was a youngster when this came out and was a HUGE Shadow fan - some radio stations still played his old shows once in a while. When I saw the cover I nearly fainted. It is and remains my favorite Batman tale and I have never felt that way about seeing a comic cover since! haha! Well done summary!


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