Batman #86

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Sept. 1954
Editor: Jack Schiff
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Voyage of the First Batmarine!

Script: Edmond Hamilton
Pencils: Dick Sprang
Inks: Charles Paris

Batman and Robin are scuba diving to retrieve a submerged shipment of highly explosive nitroglycerin but they stay underwater too long (only an hour!) and now they have to stay there for two days or they’ll die. This tale about decompression sickness (or “the bends”, which afflicts divers who surface too quickly) doesn’t sound scientifically accurate, but what do I know.

“Slant” Stacy and his gang of platinum bandits take advantage of Batman’s absence by going on a crime spree. On page three we get our first look at Stacy and… wow, just …wow!

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Batman artist Dick Sprang wasn’t known for his naturalistic drawings but this is so off-model from the usual characters it’s kind of amazing. Can we get this panel installed in the Museum of Modern Art? Sorry, I didn’t mean to get distracted…

Trapped underwater, Batman and Robin must use their brains to thwart the criminals from the newly-minted Bat-sub. (But why is it the Dynamic Duo’s job, anyway? Doesn’t this sort of imply that the Gotham City police are completely useless?) At any rate, none of their ideas are the least bit plausible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t successful. Criminals are captured and Bruce and Dick return to dry land. Yay!

I just have to say that it’s amazing to me how many problems in comic books can be solved by building a life-like robot—and how quickly that can be done! (Often anywhere from a few days to just a couple of hours.) It’s tempting to think it must be a basic skill all comic book characters are taught in comic book high schools—at least those operated by DC during the Silver Age. 

2. The Joker’s Winning Team!

Script: Bill Woolfolk
Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Stan Kaye

In my opinion, this story is the winner—the most fun of the three in this issue! I’m not sure why the Joker went to a baseball game by himself, but I’m glad he did or we wouldn’t have this panel:

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I know the Joker is supposed to be the villain, but in this instance I completely agree with him. 

As he leaves the ball park, Joker gets the idea of trading gang members the way teams trade players—to have the right talent for a given crime. He proceeds with a series of thefts employing a team of specialists and, of course, runs into Batman and Robin—resulting in this exchange:

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Once again, I have to agree with the Joker here. That’s twice already and we’re only on page 4!

Before long, Batman disguises himself as a British explosives expert and is recruited by the Joker. Without much trouble, the Joker is double-crossed and we’re exposed to a series of baseball-related puns as Batman apprehends him and his cohorts.

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I hear you! Is it wrong I found myself rooting for Team Joker?

I’m not an expert, but of the stories I’ve read, this is the one I’ve found closest in tone to the 1960s Batman TV show. Hopefully I’ll find more that are similar!

3. Batman—Indian Chief!

Script: France Herron
Penicls: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Stan Kaye

Flying home from a special mission out west, Batman and Robin spot a smoke-signal bat-signal and stop to investigate. They discover an American Indian named Great Eagle and his son, Little Raven, who dress up like Batman and Robin to fight crime among their Sioux tribe. Strangely, these Native Americans seem to be stuck in the 19th century, but no one mentions it. 

The villainous Black Elk has speared Great Eagle in the shoulder and if the Indian Batman appears with the same wound, it will expose his secret identity. To avoid this, Batman and Robin disguise themselves as their Indian counterparts and apprehend Black Elk and his raiders. 

Batman’s main objective here is to protect someone else’s secret identity for a change but it’s all just an excuse to exploit the western genre that was so popular at the time. As long as we get to see Batman and Robin dressed as Indians, I’m not complaining. 

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