World's Finest Comics #169

World's Finest Comics #169 (Sept 1967)

The cover by Curt Swan and George Klein depicted an unshaven, powerless Superman struggling to help Batman repair a broken-down Batmobile, as Supergirl and Batgirl hide behind a fence, gloating. It looks to me like another case of a cover being designed before the story was written, but judge for yourself.

"The Supergirl - Batgirl Plot"
Script: Cary Bates
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: George Klein

As the story opens, Supergirl is flying on patrol over an empty field somewhere between Stanhope College and Gotham City, when a huge cloud in the shape of a human hand appears out of nowhere and tries to grab her. Naturally, her own counterattacks pass through the gaseous creature with no effect, but when it catches her, the vapor is so intensely cold that it makes even her shiver.

At that moment, Gotham's newest crimefighter, the Dominoed Dare-doll, Batgirl, arrives on a Bat-Scooter. She tosses a chemical grenade at the giant fist, but it too has no effect, and the hand scoops her up as well. In desperation, Supergirl focuses her X-ray vision on the chemical residue from Batgirl's bomb. The X-rays alter the chemicals, somehow causing the cloud-hand to explode, and the two new friends congratulate one another on their teamwork.

Later that day, in their sorority house and library office respectively, Linda Danvers and Barbara Gordon watch a televised ceremony honoring Batman and Superman, as trophies of their past cases are placed into a time capsule to be launched into orbit for 500 years. They think, why shouldn't Supergirl and Batgirl get the same glory?

(What was the obsession with time capsules during the Silver Age? I can think of several more DC stories involving time capsules. Was this a fad that I missed in the sixties? Was there a fear that the commie hordes were going to wipe out all our museums and libraries, so that historical records had to be buried or launched into space to preserve them?)

The next day, Superman appears at a public ceremony to place the cornerstone of a new skyscraper -- that's already been built. As he shoves the stone into place, he pushes a bit too hard, and the tower begins to topple toward the crowd. Superman tries to fly up to catch it, but his powers suddenly and inexplicably vanish. Fortunately, Supergirl arrives at that moment to save the crowd. When her cousin's powers return moments later, the two fly off. Superman wonders what caused his powers to fail, and Supergirl thinks to herself that she was responsible, and that "this super-oaf" will soon be "as popular in Metropolis as an anteater in a flea circus."

That evening at Gotham's annual Fair of the Future, the Dynamic Duo corners a desperate criminal atop an atomic reactor. Robin tries to tackle the crook, but stumbles, allowing the fugitive to get him in a hammerlock. Batman thinks that "there's only one way to save Robin;" he drops to his knees and begs for Robin's life. The crook just laughs and throws the Boy Wonder down into the reactor -- but Batgirl arrives on the scene, rescues Robin with a Batrope, and subdues the criminal with a judo flip. Batman and Robin are both puzzled by Batman's compulsion to plead, and Batgirl thinks that "the gallant Caped Crusader will soon find out that his troubles are only beginning!"

A series of similar events over the next few days cause the World's Finest Team to suspect that their female counterparts are somehow behind their troubles, and note that Batgirl is still an unknown quantity. "Holy alter-ego!" Robin comments. "She might be a criminal... maybe even an alien!" Meanwhile, Batgirl and Supergirl, in a hidden cavern miles away, decide that "it's time for Step Two of Operation Take-Over!"

Batman and Robin, returning from an important case, find that the hidden entrance to the Batcave doesn't open as they approach. Parking the Batmobile outside, they enter Wayne Manor and take the elevator down to the cave, only to find it completely empty! At the same time, in the arctic, Superman finds his young cousin carrying his Fortress of Solitude away to a new location. When he confronts her, his powers disappear again, and he plummets into a snowdrift. Hours later, Batman and Robin, flying to the Fortress in the Batplane (which had been hangared somewhere outside the Batcave), spot Superman lying in the snow and give him a ride back to Metropolis. They wonder how Batgirl learned the Batcave's location and emptied it, and whether she is working with Supergirl or has super-powers herself.

The next day, the Dynamic Duo barges into the hideout of a criminal gang they'd been trailing, and makes short work of them. (Personal note: During this fight, Robin's mask somehow vanished from his face. The second letter I ever wrote to a comic was to point out this fact. Yes, I was an 8-year-old boo-boo hunter. The letter wasn't published, but I did receive a nice form letter on sage green paper, answering frequently-asked questions about the Superman Family.) As Batman ties up the gangsters, Robin goes out to the plane to radio Commissioner Gordon. When he doesn't return, Batman goes outside to find him and the plane gone without a sound -- and a Bat-Compact laying on the ground.

Later, Batman drives to Metropolis to find Superman at the side of the road, hitchhiking. His powers gone, his face covered with stubble, and his Clark Kent clothes missing, the Man of Steel had no other means of transportation. Batman drives Superman back to Gotham, planning to stop at Wayne Manor to pick up some things, but when he removes his mask to change to Bruce Wayne he finds that his face now resembles Curt Swan.

The heroes spend the night searching in vain for clues, when one of the Batmobile's supposedly blowout-proof tires gets a flat, and the car slams into a pole. In the scene from the cover, Superman struggles to pump up the tire while Batman notes that even the spare is flat. Suddenly, Supergirl and Batgirl step out from behind a fence and challenge their male counterparts to a showdown. Supergirl dares her cousin to catch her as she flies into space, and with a gesture she restores his powers and even makes his beard disappear. As he flies in pursuit, she hurls a meteor at him. He thinks she's gone crazy, but then his X-ray vision reveals that the meteor has a kryptonite core, making him wonder why she wasn't affected by it. He tosses another meteor at it, knocking it back at her, and it knocks her unconscious -- from the impact, not from the green K. He realizes that she couldn't be the real Supergirl, and surely enough, underneath a face mask and wig, she's really Black Flame, a Kandorian villainess who lost her powers years ago from gold K exposure.

Back on Earth, Batgirl pulls out a Bat-Whistle, which produces sonic vibrations that cause the sign on a tailor shop to break loose. The giant scissors that were part of the display pin Batman's cape to the ground; but he's still able to toss a Batarang, wrapping Batgirl up tight. He removes her mask, to find the face of Selina Kyle -- the Catwoman! ("Meow, Darling!")

Back in the Batcave, the heroes question the villainesses, now dressed in their own costumes. Black Flame explains that she invented a serum to restore her powers and give her immunity to kryptonite, though she was not as invulnerable as before. She used an enlarging spray to escape Kandor, and a brain command ring to make Superman think his powers were gone and that his and Batman's faces had changed, and Catwoman used a special variety of catnip to induce Batman's cowardice.

The next panel confuses me to this day. I think it only makes sense if Cary Bates assumed that the villainesses were still in disguise and Curt Swan jumped the gun by drawing them in their own costumes. If you have another explanation, please let me know: Batman asks, "Now where are the real Supergirl and Batgirl?" Superman interjects, "You mean this Batgirl is phoney, too?" Batman replies, "Of course! Batgirl's eyes are blue -- Catwoman's are green!" (Wasn't the fact that she's wearing a Catwoman costume enough of a giveaway?)

"The captive crime-chicks" take the heroes to their own cavern HQ, where Supergirl and Batgirl are shackled to chairs, Supergirl with kryptonite chains. Since Superman can't approach the green K, Batman steps forward to free them. But before he can touch them, a heat beam reduces them to ashes. Suddenly, the real Supergirl and Batgirl arrive, explaining that the mysterious cloud-hand carried them into another dimension and they've only just managed to escape. Supergirl used her heat vision to destroy the dummies in the chairs, because they were gimmicked to send Batman into that other dimension if he touched them.

"Suddenly, an amazing transformation..." as Black Flame and Catwoman change into Mr. Mxyzptlk and Bat-Mite! Bat-Mite declares that, since his hero Batman didn't fall into the trap, he has won their bet. But Mxyzptlk says that Batman would have fallen into the trap if Supergirl and Batgirl hadn't saved him, so Bat-Mite owes him 100 magic units. Bat-Mite concedes defeat, and writes out a check, which he signs with his real name to make it legal. Mxyzptlk reads, "Your name is Klt Pzy Xm?" and disappears into the fifth dimension. Bat-Mite explains that he only agreed to this bet so that he'd have a chance to trick Mxyzptlk back to his own dimension, and bids the heroes farewell, in what would turn out to be his last in-continuity appearance. (He would next be seen more that a decade later in Bob Rozakis's classic "Bat-Mite's New York Adventure.") "It's been fun!" he says as he leaves, and Batman replies, "As Robin might say, that kind of fun MITE drive us BATTY!"

"The Amazing Cube"
Script: George Kashdan
Art: Bernard Baily

The backup feature in World's Finest during this period was the Editors' Round Table, where different DC editors would choose favorite stories from the archives to reprint. This one first appeared in Tales of the Unexpected #9 (Jan 1957).

In a Las Vegas casino, gambler Harvey Hacker just lost his last dollar at the roulette table. As he's about to leave, he notices an odd-looking man at the craps table, asking for permission to use his own dice. The house decides to allow it after inspecting them and determining that they're not loaded. However, the player never loses while using them!

Harvey follows the stranger, hoping to figure out a way to learn his secret. Driving out of town, the stranger's car is wrecked as an "atomic station" explodes as he's driving past! The stranger begs Harvey to drag him away from the radiation, and Harvey agrees -- IF the stranger will tell him the secret of the dice. The stranger reveals that he carved them from a meteorite, and that he doesn't know why they always come up the way he wants them to. Harvey finds one of the dice, and concludes that the other one was destroyed in the explosion. Reneging on his agreement, he leaves the stranger to die with a casual "So long, sucker!"

Harvey drives home to his little shack, and locks the die in a metal strongbox, planning to have it analyzed by a chemist to see if in can be duplicated. In the middle of the night, he hears a noise. The cube has grown, and burst out of the strongbox. Not sure if he's awake or dreaming, Harvey carries the cube and locks it in a safe. But in the morning, as he drinks his coffee, the safe cracks open, and the cube is still growing! It's soon too big to fit through the doorway. Harvey grabs an axe and tries to chop it to pieces, but the axe breaks. Harvey runs out of the cabin just in time, as the cube fills the entire room, and soon breaks the house apart!

As Harvey wonders if it will ever stop, or just keep growing forever, a giant hand reaches down from above and lifts him into the air.

"What does it mean, Professor?" asks a scientist from the ruined atomic station. His colleague answers, "It seems that, somehow, the atomic radiation had an effect on this piece of carved meteor, making it temporarily give off rays that shrank everything near it!" Harvey drops to his knees and grabs his head as he realizes that the cube didn't grow any larger, but he's now stuck as a miniature man in a normal-sized world.