Batman #164: "The Two-Way Gem Caper!"

Batman #164
June 1964

"Two-Way Gem Caper!
Script: France Herron
Art: Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella
Editor: Julius Schwartz

Reviewed by Tom Orzechowski

The cover was a tip-off. The sleek Infantino/Giella artwork looked almost like a
cover for the Flash. And, strangely, there was now a yellow circle around the
familiar bat emblem. Ah! The New Look!

One morning at Wayne Manor, Bruce finds Dick Grayson strumming guitar
and singing his regrets over a coming fight with Doc Holliday! Dick, looking
two years older than in the previous issue, is preparing to audition for the
Hootenanny Hotshots, who use local backup talent while on tour. Bruce calls
him away to clear up the inhouse "secret business" that Dick had somehow
not noticed. Surprise #1: to replace the long stairway to the Batcave... an
elevator! Once there, Bruce pulls aside some drapes to reveal...the new
sports-car style Batmobile! Now in costume, Robin is surprised that there's a
new route out of the Batcave. A winch still pulls the vehicle to the surface,but it
does not lead to their old exit through the barn. Instead, a remote-control
button on the dashboard opens a wide door in the rockface beyond the
mansion. There, a private road leads them to the highway, far from the
mansion itself.

Meanwhile, the Hootenanny Hotshots' tour bus heads toward Gotham. But,
just around the bend, a "Road Closed" sign is being positioned. A suspicious
but outwardly respectable-looking gent isn't about to let their sudden arrival
spoil his planning. He anticipates the unexpected, so every "Plan A" is backed
by an alternative "Plan B." The Hotshots were arranged, at the last minute, to
a performance at Gotham Square. This will draw a crowd, blocking traffic.. and
stopping his "big job" cold, unless he does someting about it. So, moments
later, he flags the bus to stop, and assures the driver that it's his job to guide
them into town over the adjascent dirt road so that they'll be on time for the
celebration. Later, the passing Batmobile brakes for this oddly-placed sign,
and Batman puzzles over it, as it indicates that the sell-tended road they just
took is closed for repair. Robin says that the Hotshots would be traveling this
way from their previous gig. Batman points to fresh, bus-type tire tracks on the
dirt road, and they follow.

In the woods up ahead, the helpful stanger directs the Hotshot bus to run over
a tripwire. This causes a plank bristling with spikes to flips up, puncturing all
four tires! Just then, the sleek Batmobile arrives and screeches to a halt. The
mystery man runs off, grinning knowingly, with the Duo, now on foot, in
pursuit. Mystery Man reaches some scrub growth just as the Duo leap for him.
He takes a sudden turn of direction while their momentum carries them
forward, hands first, into something that wasn't undergrowth at all. Their
hands are now trapped in a vine-y equivalent of a Chinese Puzzle Box... easy
to enter, difficult to escape! MM laughs as he drives off in the car he'd left
hidden just beyond. While he hadn't expected anything to go wrong, and
particularly not the appearance of the Duo, he set the trap just in case. His
watch shows it's 7:15, and he figures it will be well after 8:30 before the
Hotshots get a lift into town. By then, he'll be a million dollars richer!

Meanwhile, the Hotshots have freed Batman and Robin. Batman tells them
he'll have a bus sent from Gotham to pick them up, and that he'll have them
delay the celebration. Robin sees that the group is just as happy to stay put
and rehearse... and probably wishes he could stay with them... but Batman is
pensive. MM's motive is not clear. The look of things back in town, though,
give us a rough idea. It's 8:22, and MM parks in front of the new Gotham
Square Museum, which boasts rare treasures from around the world.

Interlude: house ads: the first Superboy Annual, with stories purportedly back
to the "Golden Age" (not); and Showcase #50, "I--Spy," reprinting King
Farraday stories by Kanigher, Infantino and Barry (choice!)

Part 2! At 8:27, a museum guard escorts the Mystery Man, now revealed to be
named Mr. Dabblo, into the main exhibit room. His Golden Aztec Pyramid sits
on a shelf, just a yard from the jewel-encrusted Pearl of the Orient. Dabblo is
assured that the an alarm will be set off if any of the objects is moved. Then,
it's 8:30, and Dabblo's Pyramid takes off like a rocket! The alarm clangs, the
two guards chase the Pyramid, and Dabblo, while pocketing the Pearl, yells
for more guards! Dabblo exits the building at a trot while the guards piece it all
together. They fire warning shots at his car,but he's safe behind its bullet-
proof glass and puncture-proof tires. Meanwhile, the alarm also sounded at
police HQ. The Bat-Signal is soon spotted by our boys inside the Batmobile.
Batman now shows Robin a new wonder of the age... a hot-line phone to
Gordon's office... right inside the car! A chat with the commish tells them that
Dabblo is headed for the waterfront, and that the cops are setting up a

At the docks, Batman sees that every street is blocked, and that Dabblo must
be cornered. A cop tells him that they have the car, but that the man has
vanished! All the warehouses are locked, and the fire escapes are too high to
reach. Batman, though, notices fresh chipped paint under one of the fire
escapes, and figures Dabblo got to the ladder the same way he and Robin
immediately do, by use of a rope. At the rooftop, they see footprints in the roof
tar, still warm from the day's heat. At the roof's edge, though, the tracks stop,
but Batman spots a rope tied to a pipe. He figures Dabblo used it to swing to
the next rooftop, and they follow. On the next roof, in fact, Dabblo crouches in
wait. When the Duo are in mid-air, we see the cover scene as Dabblo zaps
Batman with a gimmick that looks like a TV antenna. Batman regains his
composure at once, though, and his thrown Batarang smacks Dabblo while
he himself breaks his fall by snagging Robin's rope. Soon, on that far roof,
they spot the place where Dabblo was standing, but see no sign of the perp.
Batman wonders why, of all the methods Dabblo could have used, he went for
the electronic antenna thing? Could it serve some other purpose? They
quickly determine that, like the remote control for opening the Batcave's
tunnel door, it opens a secret hatch in the roof. Staring down, they see Dabblo
telling a cohort that he sacrificed his Pyramid for the more valuable Pearl...
and just then, Dabblo notices the Duo. They take them down. Batman forces
Dabblo's hand open, retrieving the Pearl, but Dabblo boasts that, in his final
two-way trick, it's going to be worthless. What does he mean, asks Robin.
Batman replies that, if exposed long enough to perspiration, which collected
in Dabblo's closed hand, an expensive pearl can be damanged. He then
simply wipes it off.

Soon, the delayed festivities begin, and the Hotshots sing a paen to Batman
and Robin. Dick doesn't feel so bad about not singing with them, since they're
singing about him. The end.

House ads: Flash #145: "The Weather Wizard Blows up a Storm!" And
Hawkman #2: "Secret of the Sizzling Sparklers!"

Shelly Moldoff's pencil work in this issue was more naturalistic than what we'd
seen for those years he'd tailored himself to match Bob Kane. It's a shame he
didn't get a chance to develop his own look earlier. At the same time, Giella's
calm line changed the series' tone completely. I have to wonder if fans of the
previous few years were turned off, and if the real old-timers felt that Julie had
gone far enough.

A cutaway view of the Batcave reveals a three-level setup, including a hangar
with an exit tunnel for the Batplane, a laboratory, workshop, and radio room.
Similar setups have been depicted over the years. The engineering
represented in all cases is staggering to consider. And, let's not even think
about the questions Bruce's accountants would be asking.

Sadly, Batman couldn't give the Hotshots a lift in the new, sportscar-style
Batmobile. The old boat would have carried them easily, as the passenger
area was sometimes shown to house a large crime lab, and the trunk was big
enough to hold two Whirly-Bats. Ah, the price of progress.

"Batman's Great Face-Saving Feat!"
Introducing the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City!
Script: France Herron
Art: Shelly Moldoff and Joe Giella

The narration tells that we are looking in on a unique and exclusive club, the
Mystery Analysists, experts at the business of solving bizarre mysteries.
There's a guy from the police lab, a crack reporter, Commissioner Gordon, a
novelist whose research had solved a disappearance, and Batman himself.
Arriving late and carrying a shrouded six-foot long object is a member
applicant, private investigator Hugh Rankin. Rankin is convinced he'll be
voted in because he's solved Gotham City's greatest mystery! He claims to
know what Batman looks like in his unmasked identity, and has the proof with

There's an immediate and unanimous expression that the secret should not
be revealed. Batman disagrees, though. He and Rankin had recently worked
together, and Batman thinks they should not deny him the chance to reveal
his findings, as his membership depends on it. Rakin thus confidently
undrapes his exhibit, a mannekin in the familiar costume, but topped by an
head showing ordinary features and a bald dome. He calls on Batman to
confirm or deny the finding! Calmly, Batman walks to the dummy figure and
lifts his mask... to reveal an exact match!

The membership crowds excitedly around Rankin, congratulating him and
inquiring as to his method of detection. Batman is asked who he is in this
other identity, but he reserves the name as his own secret. The vote is then
taken, white balls for acceptance, but with even a single black ball forcing
rejection. To the amazement of the group, there is that single black ball. "But
why... and by whom?"

Later, Bruce tells Dick of the evening's events. Dick, whose leg is bandaged,
realizes it was Bruce who cast the black ball, as Rankin got it wrong, but he
wonders how Bruce knew to disguise his face to look like Rankin's dummy. It
began, Bruce replies, the night they were patrolling in search of a new gang,
the Trapeze Ten. Batman spotted some of them on a derrick, which had been
turned from a construction site toward the Gotham Insurance Company next
door. From the top of the derrick, the Trapezemen had thrown a grappling
hook to a ledge on the floor where the safes are kept. Batman sent Robin
down to block the derrick as an escape route, while he circled to the next roof
in order to follow them by swinging over to the same roof's ledge. Suddenly,
he was tackled from behind, moments before machine gun fire roared
overhead. The savior, Rankin, pointed out the gunner, posted to cover the
escape of the gang. Batman thanked him while indicating that he'd spotted a
glint off the gun and was prepared to dive out of the way. Batman then turned
and snared a convenient flagpole with his rope. While in motion he tied a
lariat, and used it to snare the trio of crooks on the ledge.

Now on the ground, Batman and Rankin exchanged professional
pleasantries, and we learned that Rankin has been after the Trapeze Ten, as
they'd robbed a couple of his clients. Rankin went on to say that he's learned
a lot about their methods, but Batman stopped him. Robin, after all, had not
been seen since this began. It turned out that one of the bullets got the kid's
leg, not badly but sufficiently to keep him off his feet for a while. Batman told
Rankin he'd continue the case on his own, and Rankin replied that he still
had an interest in it as well.

The gang laid low for nearly a week until reappearing one night at the
Gotham Skyscraper Heliport. There, a diamond merchant was relieved of his
merchandise by the end-man of a chain of five Trapezemen dangling out of a
helicopter! Fortunately, the cops had received a tip on the impending job, and
Batman arrived on the scene just as the `copter was heading away. At the
same moment, a sentry came out of the shadows to fire a flare gun ("VLOOP!")
and blind any possible pursuit. A split-second before, though, Rankin, weaing
protective glasses, leaped forward and, explaining that he recognized the
sound, clamped a hand over Batman's eyes. He explained that he knew
about the diamond courier and figured the gang would strike at the helipad.
Batman told him to call the police to have their own choppers intercept the
gang, and then to meet him on the ground. When out of sight, though, Batman
noticed a piece of pliable wax that fell through the eye opening of his mask
when Rankin camped a hand over his eyes!

Shortly, in fact, the gang landed, but not because police `copters forced them
down. Instead, they had a getaway planned through an abandoned subway
tunnel! Batman and Rankin gave chase. But then... "WHOOSH!"... Rankin
recognized the sound and told Batman they had to work fast! A deluge of
water was coming through the tunnel's roof!  The gang was flooding the
tunnel to thwart capture! Rankin was already wearing his breathing mask and,
grabbing at Batman's face in a helpful gesture, offered him a spare! Batman
begged off, as he carries his own in the utility belt. The floodwater soon
carried Batman and Rankin close to the escaping Trapezemen. Batman
recalled that, when the tunnel was abandoned, an opening to the bay was
made, in case the tunnel was needed as drainage in times of heavy rain.
However, there was also an emergency exit ahead. If they could get to it, they
could take a  shortcut. The pair hurried out and down to an alley, a route the
Trapezemen would have to take on the way to the bay (a plot point at odds
with the notion of the subway tunnel emptying directly into the bay), where
they would probably have a speed boat waiting. Soon, at the end of the alley,
Batman declared that one of them would have to stay there to hold the gang,
while the other carried out a plan he had in mind. This involved letting Batman
maneuver the gang into position before Rankin made his move. To achive
this end, Batman boosted Rankin up toward a high fisherman's warehouse
window, with Rankin leaning on Batman's head for support. A moment later,
the five Trapezemen turned a corner and rushed Batman. The Crusader
twisted and rolled away just as they hit, leaving them in a pile as Rankin
dropped a net from the window above. The gang members were they
dropped off at the precinct station.

Back in present day, Dick figures that Rankin planned all along to join the
Mystery Analysts by killing two birds with one stone... helping catch the
Trapeze Ten, and solving the mystery of the face behind the mask. Rankin
had determined Batman's weight when he half-lifted, half-shoved him out of
the machine-gun fire, and used wax to get an impression of the shape of his
eyes when the flare went off. Bruce tumbled to the scheme when he found the
wax, then specifically disguised himself while separated briefly from Rankin at
the heliport. When Rankin offered the breathing mask, he felt Baman's nose,
to get its shape. Finally, while Batman helped him up through the window,
Rankin felt the shape of the top of Batman's "bald" head. So he assembled his
clues, and so he was thwarted. Bruce offers that, still and all, Rankin did a
neat piece of work and will probably achieve membership one of these days.
The end!

Final house ad: covers for the first two New Look `Tec issues, #327 and #328.

The setup for Rankin's behavior showed so much synchronicity with the
actions of the Trapeze Ten that I was prepared for him to be their extremely
ingenious ringleader. Any other outcome relies too much on coincidence,
even for a Batman story. Oh well. Guess I wouldn't have made membership,

Both stories were reprinted in Batman #240.