Batman #57, February-March 1950, "The Walking Mummy!"
|The tomb of Kiron, an
Egyptian bandit-king, is found filled with plunder, and
Kiron's mummy, brought to Gotham with the treasure, is in a
remarkable state of preservation -- so remarkable, indeed,
that Kiron sits up, knocks out the archaeologist examining
him, and escapes into the night. Soon after, the
living mummy commits a series of Egyptian themed crimes,
using methods and seeking prizes natural to someone from his
age. But Batman's keen senses find the proof that
Kiron is actually a modern impostor.
Batman #58, April-May 1950, "The Black Diamond!"
|The Black Diamond is an
otherwise unnamed Gotham crime-lord who takes his name from
the rarest of the rare gems he loves to collect. Normally
working behind the scenes, his downfall comes about when,
after even his best men have failed, he decides to take a
personal part in killing the Batman.
Despite his cool name, he's just another gang lord.
World's Finest Comics #45, April-May 1950, "The Historian of Crime!"
|Prof. Ezra Dorn is well-known
as an historian of crime. So when someone starts committing
modern crimes based on the methods and equipment of
criminals of the past, sometimes using unique items found in
Dorn's collection, naturally suspicion falls on Dorn. But
Batman is able to prove that the man calling himself "The
Crime Historian" is actually an assistant of Dorn's.
The Crime Historian wore a number of costumes of famous past criminals, but most were for a single panel only. Here are the two which appeared in extended sequences: Renaissance jester Cosimo the Clever and Turkish pirate Ahmed Maha.
Detective Comics #160, June 1950, "The Globe-Trotter of Crime!"
|Arrogant Henry Guile III
thinks he's a great actor and spends his fortune on a world
tour of his productions. Audiences think he's
terrible, and he returns home broke. When a bank refuses to
lend him money based on his name alone, he decides to start
a second world tour -- of crime, with himself in the
starring role. He announces robbery "productions"
(with posters) in major cities, but Batman is on his trail
and quickly puts an end to the tour.
This isn't a bad story, but other Batman stories have more successfully done the "crime tour" schtick. There's a clever framing sequence with international police officers telling their part in helping Batman catch Guile, but too much time is spent on it, so that Guile is caught after only two cities.
Batman #59, June-July 1950, "The Man Who Replaced Batman!"
|Floyd Lawton practiced
marksmanship until he was ready to become a "new fighter
against crime!" Costumed in evening clothes, he captured two
jewel thieves by trick shots and turned them over to the
police. "Call me Deadshot -- for obvious reasons! And my
game is to be the equal of -- if not the successor to --
Batman!" He badgered Commissioner Gordon until, when
Batman and Robin returned from a vacation, they found the
Bat-signal had been replaced by a bulls-eye. "There's
something fishy about that Deadshot," Batman mused. "It's
not like *you*, Batman, to be afraid of competition," Gordon
replied. But there *was* something crooked about Deadshot.
He planned to kill Batman with an "accidental" shot.
"And then you'll run this city," fawned his butler, "as its
*greatest crime lord*!" But Batman secretly altered the
sights on Deadshot's gun, then taunted him each time he
missed. "Kill me -- if you dare! You're afraid! You never
shot to kill before!… You've lost your nerve -- you *can't*
shoot me!" A broken man, Lawton confessed and went to
...where he remained for 25 years, until Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers brought him back and redesigned him, so that he's now in the second tier of popular Batman villains and even had a couple of his own mini-series.
Batman #62, December 1950-January 1951, "The Secret Life of the Catwoman!"
|A new crime boss, the
mysterious Mr. X, recruits The Catwoman as an advisor for
planning crimes. Fleeing from the Batman after one such
crime, the Catwoman hits her head and is captured. In
captivity, she claims to be stewardess Selina Kyle. Batman
investigates and finds that a plane crash made her lose her
memory, and past association with cats led her to create the
Catwoman persona. Batman asks the law-abiding Selina to
continue as the Catwoman to act as a mole in Mr. X's
organization. A petty crook named Mousey learns of
Catwoman's reformation and informs Mr. X, leading to both
Catwoman and Batman being trapped. Eventually, Batman
reveals Mr. X to be Mousey himself, and Selina Kyle retires
the identity of the Catwoman.
Apparently, this was some sort of attempt to clean up the image of Catwoman for the staid 1950s. Fortunately, it didn't last long.
The first "Mr. X" in a Batman comic was the villain in the 1942 Scoop Scanlon story. This is not the same Mr. X. There will be two other Misters X in Batman, as well.
Detective Comics #168, February 1951, "The Man Behind the Red Hood!"
|Batman is tapped to teach a
criminology class at the local university. As part of the
exercises, he tells the tale of an early case of his he was
never able to solve: that of The Red Hood, who robbed a
number of businesses, made some impossible escapes, then was
never heard from again. The students make some interesting
conclusions: The Red Hood stole exactly one million dollars
in total, so he may have set that as a personal goal and
retired afterwards. And the hood itself may have been a gas
mask with one-way mirror lenses, which would explain some of
the escapes. All this publicity brings the Hood out of
retirement, to further taunt Batman. After a couple of
encounters, Batman unmasks the Hood as a petty crook... who
would have been too young to be the original Hood. Further
deductions show the crook surprised the original Hood after
he came out of retirement and stole his costume. Batman
leads the class to where the crook hid the original Hood,
whom Batman reveals to be... The Joker!
The story is a decent lesson in observation and deduction, with a couple of sneaky clues to the Hood's identity, but its real significance is in telling, as back-story, the origin of the Joker. In one of his impossible escapes, the Hood swam through a chemical waste vat at the Monarch Playing Card company. But chemical fumes seeped into the mask and bleached the thief's skin and colored his hair, making him resemble one of the company's cards, so he took on the new "Joker" identity and left the past behind, only becoming the Red Hood again when the reopened case offered him the opportunity to further taunt Batman.
Batman #63, February-March 1951, "The Origin of Killer Moth!"
|A nameless convict spent all
his free time in prison studying the methods of Batman. When
he was released, he used cached loot to set himself up as
wealthy Cameron Van Cleer, and to build a variety of gadgets
to use as a sort of anti-Batman: Killer Moth. When a gang
found themselves in trouble, they would flash an infra-red
"Moth Signal", and Killer Moth would appear to help them
escape -- in exchange for 2/3rds of their loot. There were
three Killer Moth stories in rapid succession, and then he
disappeared until he was resurrected for test footage for
the introduction of Batgirl to the '60s TV show. He never
actually made it on air, though.
Poor Killer Moth. He's gained a reputation as one of the lamer Bat-villains, but the basic concept is, I think, a decent one: a criminal counterpart to Batman, even another creature of the night. Too bad the costume design is so atrocious; DC should have gone with a more ominous moth like the sphinx or the death's-head moth.
Bat-trivia: when Chuck Dixon brought back Killer Moth in the '90s, just prior to making him into the monstrous Charaxas, he gave the previously unnamed convict the name of "Drury Walker", after two entomologists.
|Batman #63, February-March 1951, "The Case of the Flying Saucers"||Agents from the planet Saturn
have come to Earth looking for gold, for medicinal reasons.
They hope Earth's governments will respond willingly to a
humanitarian request, but they're prepared to use their
advanced weaponry if not. Batman proves the Saturnians to be
Earthly crooks engaged in a gigantic hoax.
Detective Comics #174, August 1951, "The Park Avenue Kid!"
|Bruce Wayne punches a fleeing
robber, and the society press is amazed at his skill. A
boxing promoter convinces him he'd be a sensation in the
ring, and, to Dick's surprise, Bruce starts boxing as "The
Park Avenue Kid". It's all a plan to bring a new gang
leader, The Dagger, out into the open, as Batman suspected
(correctly) The Dagger was secretly one Ned Brann, another
He throws daggers. That's about it. There was a Dagger II in the 1980s, and a post-Crisis female equivalent, Cucilla, in 2001.
Star-Spangled Comics #123, December 1951, "Crazy-Quilt Comes Back!"
painter, was also a gang boss, sending coded instructions
through his painting. In a gun-battle with a rival, his
eyesight was damaged, leaving him only able to see bright
colors. Through a helmet with colored light projectors, his
vision was partially restored, and he embarked on a series
of color-related crimes until capture. Now a convict, he
escapes through smearing a bit of paint on a prison workshop
ceiling fan every day, until he had made a pattern which,
when the fan was finally turned on, turned it into an
hypnotic color-wheel, paralyzing all who saw it. Free, he
once again donned his color helmet and became Crazy-Quilt.
He now proceeds to "steal the color" from Gotham City. Robin
figures out the plot is a ploy to steal some paintings,
escapes a death-trap, and saves the day.
Crazy-Quilt was a recurring villain in the Boy Commandos series, introduced in Boy Commandos #15 (May-June 1946) and making 5 more appearances in rapid succession (plus a couple of cameos), but this was his first appearance in a Batman-related story -- and his last appearance for many years.
I really like the Crazy-Quilt concept. He could be a good B-list Bat-villain, with a little reworking. I've always been disappointed they wasted Vincent Price on the Batman TV show as the invented "Egghead". Price would have been a natural for The Scarecrow, but Crazy-Quilt would also have been appropriate, given Price's interest in fine art.
Batman #68, December 1951-January 1952, "The New Crimes of Two-Face!"
Paul Sloane is playing the parts of Harvey Dent and Two-Face
in a TV production but is scarred when a jealous prop man
substitutes real acid for the prop acid. When Sloane sees
the scars, he bitterly recites the lines from the "Two-Face"
character and becomes the new Two-Face, committing crimes
with a "double" theme and making decisions based on a
replica of Two-Face's famous two-headed coin. Even an
attempt by Dent himself, still handsome from his own
surgery, fails to get Sloane to turn himself in.
Finally, Batman allows himself to be captured and gets
Sloane to agree to surgery if his two-faced coin lands on
edge. The coin does land on edge, and Sloane
surrenders. Batman, of course, had substituted a trick
coin for the original.
In a 1962 reprint of this tale, a Klieg light exploding in Sloane's face is the cause of his scars -- possibly because the Comics Code Authority of the time worried that children might throw things in their enemies' faces. For what it's worth, I prefer the Klieg light version.
Batman #69, February-March 1952, "The Buttons of Doom!"
|Citizens of Gotham are having
buttons stolen from their clothes. No, really. It seems a
small thing, especially since one person only lost one,
another two, and another three. But then the button-victims
are each found dead in some sort of fire. Batman
investigates and finds the first victim was a rich man, the
second a poor man, the third a beggar. Someone is apparently
stealing their buttons as trophies prior to killing them in
the order of the old nursery rhyme. It's a person in a
fireproof suit, who calls himself The Blaze. Further
investigation finds all the victims were once members of a
suburban volunteer fire company. The Blaze is unmasked as
the fire-scarred father of someone who died in a fire the
volunteers were unable to put out and who irrationally
The "rich man, poor man" motif had been used before, but this is still a somewhat better version of an arsonist Bat-foe, except that the personal motivation necessarily makes him a one-shot villain. Plus, he dies in an explosion. (The 1980s arsonist foe The Firebug had a similar motivation, but he blamed Gotham City itself for his tragedy and burned down its buildings in revenge, a somewhat more lasting motivation. He, too, died in an explosion, but that didn't stop others from bringing him back a couple of times.)
|Batman #69, February-March 1952, "King of the Cats"||Having regained her memory,
Selena Kyle retired from crime and her Catwoman identity.
But when a male cat-themed crook comes to town, a
self-styled King of the Cats, Batman learns he is trying to
convince Selina to join him. And Selena seems to care for
the Cat King. Will she return to crime?
Well, no, not this time. The King of the Cats is actually her brother Karl, who was inspired by her. Selena saves his life and convinces him to go straight.
Detective Comics #181, March 1952, "The Crimes of the Human Magnet!"
|In fleeing the Batman,
small-time crook David Wist runs into a nuclear testing
facility and is exposed to radiation which magnetizes him:
his right hand attracts metal and his left repels it. He
becomes The Human Magnet and commits all the big jobs he'd
dreamed of. Realizing the Magnet's hands are of opposite
polarity, Batman sets a trap with mosquitoes; when Wist
instinctively swats at them with both hands, the opposite
magnetism locks his hands together, and he is quickly
Batman #70, April-May 1952, "The Parasols of Plunder!"
is granted a parole on condition that he have nothing more
to do with birds. But The Penguin is a two-gimmick
villain: birds and umbrellas. So he turns to umbrellas to
commit robberies. He causes umbrella holders to be pulled into the air by a giant magnetic statue, threatening
to let them fall, unless they surrender their valuables.
He next moves to an exclusive beach resort, where large
beach umbrellas are turned into fans, so that he can rob
the wealthy patrons in the sandstorm. Batman thwarts
both plots and captures the Penguin using birds: he dumps
freshly caught fish on the Penguin's getaway boat, causing
it to be swamped by nearly hungry seagulls.
This is my attempt at doing a Penguin micro in the style of the story's artist, Lew Sayre Schwartz. I like the micro, but it doesn't quite capture Schwartz's big-foot comedy style.
Star-Spangled Comics #128, May 1952, "The Man Called '50-50'!"
|"50-50" Finley is a famous
gambler who captures Robin, in one of Robin's solo stories.
I'm not sure why they created this poor Two-Face knockoff. Nor why I did this micro, but here we are.
Detective Comics #184, June 1952, "The Human Firefly!"
|Garfield Lynns is a renowned
lighting-effects provider who feels under-appreciated, so he
uses his knowledge to create a fake fire during a theater
performance, intending to rob the audience. Batman sees
through the ruse, calms the audience, and captures one of
the robbers, whom Lynns shoots. Fleeing from Batman and
Robin, Lynns crashes in a marsh and escapes capture when
Robin mistakes the light of a firefly for Lynns's
cigarette. Thus does inspiration strike, and Lynns
makes a Firefly costume and commits crimes using lights.
Batman and Robin thwart the crimes, escape a maddening
light-show, and capture Lynns.
The Firefly is one of those goofy-looking villains which some writers may remember fondly and reuse. He appeared briefly in such stories in the '70s and '80s. In the '90s, Chuck Dixon revamped the character and turned him into a pyromaniac (light gimmicks having more recently been made the territory of Crazy-Quilt), which is his current incarnation.
World's Finest Comics #59, July-August 1952, "The Joker's Aces"
|The Joker has hired new gang
members, but what good are an incredibly skinny guy and a
nearsighted one with thick lenses? But after the skinny man
climbs through a narrow drainpipe to admit the Joker's gang
into a millionaire's guarded home, and the nearsighted one
uses his lenses to start a fire in an otherwise fireproof
factory, the Joker tells how he's now using specialists --
"aces" -- for certain difficult jobs. One job requires the
talents of Bruce Wayne (as a slingshot champion!), but Wayne
turns the tables on the Joker and leads to his capture.
Most Joker stories are pretty much the same in this period. He comes up with a new crime theme, commits a successful robbery or two, gets thwarted by Batman who tumbles to the scheme, then has the scheme turned against him by Batman, leading to his capture.
This micro is another attempt to do a Batman villain as depicted by Lew Sayre Schwartz.
Detective Comics #189, November 1952, "The Undersea Hideout!"
|The spooky Mr. Styx runs the Aqua-Lair, a subsea hideout for crooks. Only his special formula allows his guests to survive at the crushing depth of 2,000 fathoms, so those who balk at his prices have little choice but to pay. But Batman investigates and finds the Aqua-Lair is a hoax, really located not far from the surface, and the sensations of crushing air pressure were artificially produced.||
Batman #74, October-November 1952, "Hydro"
|Puny Tim Flagg was only
suitable to be the water-boy for the Gotham State
Penitentiary baseball teams. After being humiliated in front
of the other cons, he swears "I'll show 'em what can be done
with water!", escapes using the prison water tower, and
becomes the costumed crook Hydro (not "Mr. Hydro").
Another fate-inspired theme villain.
Detective Comics #192 (February 1953): "The Phantom Eye of Gotham City!"
|The Phantom Eye breaks into
television broadcasts to show you crime as it happens.
Gotham goes wild, citizens glued to their TVs, never knowing
when the next broadcast might occur. And how does he find
these crimes before the police, or even Batman, anyway? It's
a double hoax. Behind the Phantom Eye costume is one Nails
Riley, who stages the crimes he broadcasts. He does this in
an elaborate plot to take over the identity of big game
hunter Byron King, so that he can loot his fortune.
A bit too involved to make perfect sense, but this is still an interesting story from a time when TV was just becoming a large enough craze to lead to the invention of things like TV dinners and tray tables for eating in front of the TV.
Batman #75, February-March 1953, "The Gorilla Boss of Gotham City!"
|George "Boss" Dyke is headed
for the gas chamber, but he dies with a smile.
Afterwards, his body is claimed by "Doc" Willard and his
brain transplanted into the body of a gigantic gorilla and
reanimated. Batman encounters the gorilla while it is
committing a robbery in Dyke's style: stealing only bills of
large denomination. No animal could be trained so
well. Next, the Gorilla Boss of Gotham City captures
Batman, and Willard is now to put Dyke's brain into Batman's
body and Batman's into the gorilla. After the
operation, the gorilla breaks free and falls to its death,
King Kong style. Turns out Batman overcame Willard, so the
gorilla was still Dyke when it died.
I don't know why this story had such a great impact on me as a child, but it did. I remembered the Gorilla Boss fondly. It seems a few others did, as well. On the one hand, Alan Moore reused him but confused him with the Mod Gorilla Boss from the brief '60s Animal Man series. On the other, Bob Haney brought back Doc Willard and Dyke's still-living brain in a very weird World's Finest story which also involved Sinestro -- best not to ask. The most recent incarnation occurred when Gorilla City (from Flash Comics, home of Super-Gorilla Grodd) invaded the DC Universe, as part of a summer crossover series in which appropriately themed super-gorillas opposed the individual members of the Justice League: Batman's new Gorilla Boss was a pinstripe-suited, tommy-gun-carrying thug.
Why is he pink and purple? Because, as with the giant gorilla in The Monk's story, I was trying to match the way the character appeared in the comics. The more normal coloring on the cover is not what appears inside.
(February-March 1953): "Mr. Roulette's Greatest Gamble!"
||Vicki Vale gets an exclusive
interview with the mysterious Mister Roulette, a masked
figure who says he had been a successful former gambler.
Retiring on his winnings, he now wards off boredom by
gambling with his life. His house is rigged with booby
traps, so that, for example, when the phone rings, he must
choose between two phones, one of which is a concealed gun.
Batman investigates, but Roulette is furious that anyone
would try to keep him from gambling as he sees fit, so he
temporarily imprisons Batman. While Batman escapes, there is
a shot, and he finds Roulette finally dead. He unmasks him
as a former gangster, but small clues lead him to realize
the body is not the Mr. Roulette who trapped him.
Eventually, it's shown another gangster arranged the scheme
as a blind to kill his rival and have Batman confirm the
death a result of one of the booby traps.
Detective Comics #197, July 1953, "The League against Batman!"
|The Wrecker has an
unexplained hatred of all things about Batman. He and his
gang smash Bat-statues, Bat-toys, and even kidnap and murder
the author of a book about Batman. But it's all a ruse by
said author, who sought to escape gambling debts by faking
his death and having his brother collect the insurance.
The Wrecker isn't much of a foe, but he did return in one of those Justice League stories where a handful of foes of each of the League members team up for story reasons, so that makes him of some wider interest.
Batman #78, August-September 1953, "The Manhunter from Mars!"
|A fantastic new crook is
dubbed "The Stranger" because of the impossible escapes he
seems to make after his crimes: getting atop walls too high
to climb, for example. Tracking his crimes in reverse
order, Batman finds a pair of spaceships in the woods, one
operated by Roh Kar, a Martian lawman, who had come to Earth
trailing the scientific crook Quork. Quork is the The
Stranger, making his escapes through Martian
technology. A combination of Martian crime-fighting
devices and Batman's skills lead them to finally capture The
This was the introduction of the "Manhunter from Mars" concept, which DC later turned into J'onn J'onzz, the Martian Manhunter and Justice League member (though the versions of Mars were otherwise unrelated). They even reprinted this story at the start of their Martian Manhunter Showcase volume.
Detective Comics #202, December 1953, "Millionaire Island!"
|Tracing a group of smugglers,
Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson take a "vacation" at the
exclusive Jolly Roger Hotel, on the so-called "Millionaire
Island". They find the smugglers have a base on the island
and reveal the leader, a modern pirate named "Jolly Roger",
to be an employee of the hotel.
World's Finest Comics #68, January-February 1954, "The Secret Weapons of the Crimesmith!"
|Rand Garrow showed an
aptitude for mechanical engineering while in prison and was
encouraged to go into a manufacturing line of work upon
release. He did, but not a legitimate one. As
The Crimesmith, he built weapons for gangsters, such as a
"mechanical mole" based on tunnel-builders' devices. By
constantly referring to his base as being in a cave, he
deceived his blindfolded customers, who, when captured by
Batman and Robin (as they inevitably were), were unable to
pinpoint the location of his workshop. When his final plan,
an attempt to convince Gothamites his giant robots were
attacking the city, required the use of a broadcast aerial,
Batman was able to track the signal to a disused garage
within the city, mocked up to resemble a cave, and show the
"giant robots" to be a hoax.
Batman #81 (February 1954): "The Boy Wonder Confesses!"
|One day in school, Dick
Grayson announces he is really Robin, and proceeds to
perform acrobatic stunts in costume as proof, but he won't
say why he volunteered the info. Did he do this to impress a
girl in class? And if he's Robin, does that mean his
guardian, Bruce Wayne, is Batman? Wayne denies it, showing
that he's been so suspected many times before, and the
accusations have always fallen flat. Indeed, reporters
trailing Wayne soon find him in one place and Batman in
It's all a plan to discredit the notion that Wayne could be Batman because one Mister Camera, a crook who uses photographic equipment in his crimes, claims to have hidden film of Batman changing into his civilian identity. As soon as he recovers the film, Batman is under his control. In addition to carrying out the discrediting plan, Batman and Robin are also searching for the film. When they find it, it's too over-exposed to show whatever face might be under Batman's cowl. (By the way, Dick allows his classmates to assume his claim to be Robin was part of some secret plan to help B&R -- which, of course, it was.)
Detective Comics #206, April 1954, "The Trapper of Gotham City"
|As a child, Jason Bard became
obsessed with the thrill of trapping things, so that, as an
adult, he decided to use his knowledge of traps for crime.
Batman being a master escape-artist, you'd think a master trapper as a foe would lead to pretty exciting stories. Not in this case.
Bat-trivia: DC re-used the name "Jason Bard" for a 1970s private detective, who later became part of the extended "Batman Family".
Detective Comics #210, August 1954, "The Brain That Ruled Gotham City!"
|Criminal mastermind "Brain"
Hobson is sent to the electric chair, but he vows Gotham
City hasn't heard the last of him. A few days later, gang
bosses are invited to a fantastic demonstration: a doctor
has removed Hobson's brain and kept it alive in an
electrochemical device. Moreover, the brain takes mental
control of one skeptical gangster and forces him to kill
himself. With power like that behind them, the bosses agree
to make the brain the Boss of Bosses of Gotham. Batman
learns of the new leadership and eventually seems to succumb
to the brain's power, before revealing it all as a hoax,
designed to give overall criminal control of Gotham to a
secret cabal of bosses (including the one who supposedly
The idea came from the novel Donovan's Brain, by Curt Siodmak -- or, more probably, the 1953 movie adaptation.
Batman #87, October 1954, "The Synthetic Crime King!"
|You wake up in a laboratory.
The man standing over you tells you he is Prof. Vilmer, and
you are his creation: a synthetic man he names "Adam
Newman". Vilmer sends you out to steal for him, and you find
yourself unable to resist. In committing your crimes, you
find Vilmer has made you better than the humans you
resemble. You're able to out-run, out-jump, and out-lift
them all -- even the costumed Batman who pursues you. But
you cannot out-think Batman, and he eventually learns that
you are actually Olympic athlete Johnny Marden, whom Vilmer
has convinced, through hypnotic drugs, to be under his
control. The Batman frees you and clears your name, and
Vilmer is taken to jail.
Detective Comics #213, November 1954, "The Mysterious Mirror-Man!"
|Floyd Ventris breaks a mirror
while in prison, then uses a piece of it to dazzle a guard
in a tower while Ventris escapes. He thus decides to use
mirrors as a crime-theme. As the Mirror-Man, he steals an
x-ray device (which is called a mirror for no good reason I
can see) and learns Batman's identity. But Bruce Wayne has
been accused of being Batman so often in the past, few
believe Mirror-Man. So Mirror-Man arranges for a crime to
lead to a more public exposure of the face behind the mask.
But Batman, now prepared, wears an interior mirrored cowl
which distorts his appearance in the x-ray, and Mirror-Man
is arrested, still unable to convince others of what he'd
In one of the '90s animated Batman stories, a crook who's stolen an invisibility suit (which sort of works on a mirror principle) is named "Lloyd Ventris", writer Marty Pasko's tip of the hat to this minor Bat-foe.
Detective Comics #217, November 1954, "The Mental Giant of Gotham City!"
|Police station janitor Barney Barrows always wanted to be a detective but knew he could never compete with Batman and Robin. He gets accidentally exposed to weird rays which cause his brain to grow, making him super-intelligent. He deduces Batman is Bruce Wayne and threatens to expose him unless Batman lets Barrows help him on cases. But Barrows now feels superior to other humans and turns arrogant, helping capture crooks but endangering both their lives and those of others. Batman secretly sabotages many of Barrows's unsafe plans and makes his arrests despite them, and Barrows, in a rage, sets forth to tell Batman's identity, but the outburst affects his brain, which shrinks to normal size. Barrows forgets everything which happened after his accident, and Batman arranges for him to wear a police uniform while cleaning the police station, making Barrows feel like he's a legitimate part of the force.||
Batman #98, March 1956, "Secret of the Batmobile"
|While Batman and Robin pursue
a criminal in a super-fast sports car, Vicki Vale takes
picture of the Batmobile. The story is really about Batman's
attempts to get the picture back from Vicki, who quickly
surmises there is some secret about the Batmobile which
Batman doesn't want released. Eventually, she tumbles
to the truth: it wasn't the real Batmobile, but a
replacement. This reduces the picture's value in her eyes,
and she turns it over to Batman in exchange for a similar
shot of the real Batmobile. Only after destroying the
photo can Batman relax -- the replacement was Bruce Wayne's
sports car with a Batmobile shell, and the photo could have
been used to identify the car as Wayne's. Oh, and the
criminal, called The Racer, is captured.
This is the best guess I could make as to the appearance of the Racer, since he only appeared in panels which emphasized the car rather than the driver.
Detective Comics #230, April 1956, "The Mad Hatter of Gotham City"
|"Some people collect
paintings... stamps... but I, Jervis Tetch, collect hats!" Thus is
introduced the new Mad Hatter. Tetch's main goal is to steal
Batman's cowl for his collection. He commits hat-themed
crimes to manoeuver Batman into a situation where he needs
to remove his cowl, finally succeeding when he causes the
cowl to become radioactive, forcing Batman to remove it for
de-contamination. But Batman uses the radiation to track the
cowl and captures Tetch.
I like this Hatter far better than the Alice-themed one, who had previously appeared only once in the '40s. Although this Hatter appeared a couple of times and was featured on the Batman TV show, DC later dropped him for the original and inserted a mind-control gimmick into his methods. The original Hatter then also claimed to be Jervis Tetch, which was a new wrinkle. Hatter II has still re-appeared a couple of times since, although Hatter I is the current mainstay of Batman's Rogues' Gallery.
Batman #102, September 1956, "The Caveman at Large"
|Carlin, the actor, is known for getting into his roles, but when injured on the set, he comes to believe he really is the caveman, Goth the Hunter, and escapes into the woods near Gotham, where he finds a cave to hide in -- a Bat-cave. Meanwhile, Batman has carelessly left a new trophy lying about, a stone club with an explosive head, not yet deactivated. You get the idea. Eventually Carlin is returned to normal and remembers nothing he experienced as Goth. Whew!||
Detective Comics #238, December 1956, "The Doors That Hid Disaster"
|Gang boss Checkmate (so named
from his ability to thwart attempts to capture him)
outsmarted himself: in hiding from Batman and Robin, he
exposed himself to radiation and was left with only a few
months to live. He used those months to devise a
complicated trap for Batman and Robin, forcing them, after
his death, to re-create their previous escapes from other
deathtraps, all with the aim of forcing them to expose
themselves to radiation as Checkmate had.
Checkmate only appeared on panel for two pages in this story, but I've always liked the idea of a mastermind who plots his strategy as a chess master would. (And, no, I was not particularly into chess when younger, thanks for asking.)
Batman #113, December 1957, "The Menace of False Face"
|False Face is a master of
disguise. That's it. While the police don't know what he
really looks like, eventually Batman captures and unmasks
This micro is based on the one panel in the story where False Face speaks to his gang while not in disguise. Once you introduce a villain who can change his entire shape, as they did with the second Clayface, someone who just changes his appearance is pretty tame. It's also hard to make a compelling villain out of someone who has no striking appearance, but False Face was reused in the Batman TV show, where he was shown in a Clayface-like mask. (I assume they did not have the budget to use a shapeshifter.)
Detective Comics #253, March 1958, "The Fox, The Shark, and The Vulture"
|The Fox, The Shark, and The
Vulture were criminal scientists, each specializing in the
production of criminal weapons suited for land, sea, or air
robberies, respectively. They were collectively known
as the Terrible Trio. Not much to say about this
story. With three villains, we get three encounters:
The Vulture wins the first one (though Batman wasn't really
around for it, only called in afterwards), The Fox is
stopped but escapes (a tie), and The Shark is tricked into
taking Batman to the Trio's group hideout, giving the win to
Batman. They returned once in the '60s, then fell into
obscurity until nostaglically reimagined in various stories
in the '90s, after which they returned to the Pool of
Batman #114, March 1958, "The Mirage Maker"
|The Mirage Maker has a
fantastic gadget. It tosses a packet of reflective dust into
the air, then projects a realistic image onto it. But
Gothamites don't know that. They think he's really
producing mirages out of nowhere. (Thus his wizardly
The Mirage Maker's gadget is a surprisingly accurate prediction of some "3-D" projectors, such as those which project images onto mist. Or maybe it's just an extension of the old "Pepper's Ghost" illusion. Your choice.
Detective Comics #259, September 1958, "The Challenge of the Calendar Man"
|Someone calling himself The
Calendar Man challenges Batman in the newspaper: he will
commit one crime a day, for five days, each based on a
season, unless Batman can stop him. Five seasons? For each
crime, the Calendar Man is wearing a different costume, but
Batman can stop only some of the crimes. On the fourth day,
Batman realizes the fifth season is the Indian Monsoon
season, and a magician called Maharaja is revealed as the
Since he's come back a few times since, it seems many people like the Calendar Man, especially the gimmick of wearing a different costume for each crime he commits, but no one can figure out how to make him into a more prominent Bat-villain.
Detective Comics #262, December 1958, "The Jackal of the Underworld!"
|Dr. Coombs is thrilled about
the Anubis head-mask he found on a recent expedition in
Egypt -- so thrilled, he's often found in the museum,
wearing the mask. So when an Egyptian costumed crime
boss, calling himself Jackal-Head, turns up wearing the
head-mask and vowing to become lord of the Gotham
underworld, the natural conclusion is that Dr. Coombs has
gone mad. Natural to everyone but Batman, however, who
soon finds the real Coombs a victim of a frame-up.
Batman #121, February 1959, "The Ice Crimes of Mr. Zero"
|Mister Zero was a scientist
who was accidentally saturated with a cryogenic solution,
forcing him to live in refrigerated conditions. He uses the
solution to power a freezing gun and commits crimes.
Sound familiar? This was the original name of Mister Freeze, who only got that name when this story was adapted for the '60s TV show. I'm guessing "Mr. Zero" sounded like a loser's name.
In this story, Zero is cured of his condition at the end. But when Freeze became popular on TV, DC brought him back under the new name.
Detective Comics #265 (March 1959): "Batman's First Case"
|The criminal Batman caught on
his very first outing has been released and decided to make
a new name for himself as The Clock. He threatens at noon to
kill Batman at 3 PM (the time Batman caught him) and commits
a series of time-themed crimes in the interim.
Batman fought a number of clock-themed crooks over the years, but the one with the most staying power proved to be someone he never actually fought: Robin's foe, The Clock. That Clock was used as the inspiration for The Clock King on the 1960s Batman TV show, and that led to the creation of The Clock King for 1990s cartoon, who then led to a DC Comics version of the same character. Even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Batman #125, August 1959, "The Last Days of Batman"
|Prof. Carter Nichols sends
Batman and Robin into the past, to find proof to save the
reputation of a popular museum director. But something
goes wrong, and Batman returns from the past before Robin
does. Robin, meanwhile, finds himself in the near future,
where a newspaper tells of Batman's death at the hands of a
criminal called "El Bolo". When he returns to his own time,
he doesn't tell Batman what he saw but tries to make sure
Batman will be nowhere near the place he's scheduled to die.
Then a criminal called El Bolo turns up...
Turns out a reporter sees El Bolo supposedly kill Batman, then rushes the scoop to his paper -- not realizing that Batman eventually saves himself and captures El Bolo. Robin is relieved.
(Nothing is said about the fate of the newspaper which printed the false "scoop" or the reporter who got them into that mess, but, you know, one wonders...)
Batman #127, October 1959, "Batman's Super-Partner"
|Batman and Robin are aided in stopping a crime by a super-powered figure in a bird suit, calling himself The Eagle. Imagine their surprise when, on returning to the Bat-cave, they find The Eagle waiting for them. The Eagle is Alfred, who gained super-powers when he accidentally set off a device in the Bat-cave trophy room. Alfred insists on accompanying them on their missions, but super-powers can't compensate for his lack of training, and he gets in the way more often than not. Eventually the powers wear off, and status quo is re-established.||
Detective Comics #273, November 1959, "The Secret of the Dragon Society"
|The Dragon Society is a national gang, with the Chief Dragon's four subordinates in charge of crimes in four major cities. Batman captures Dragon #1 (Gotham's local leader) and infiltrates the Society. He is found out, but not before he can direct the police to his location through his belt radio, and The Dragon Society is smashed for good.||