Detective #319, "Fantastic Dr. No-Face!"

DETECTIVE COMICS #319;  Sept. 1963; DC Comics; Jack Schiff, editor; 
featuring Batman and Robin vs. "The Fantastic Dr. No-Face!"  (Writer  unknown to me;
art probably by Sheldon Moldoff, pencils, ghosting for Bob Kane,  and Charles
Paris, inks.)  On the cover, a faceless and bald figure in a  trenchcoat is
stitting on a scaffold hanging down from the top of a mountain and  attacking a
giant Mount-Rushmore-like bust of Batman's cowled face (which  appears to be
wincing as No-Face's jackhammer destroys its eye).  The real  Batman swings down
on a rope as Robin declares, "Dr. No-Face is destroying  another 'face' in
revenge-- YOURS, BATMAN!"

Review by Bill Henley (by  special request of Hoy Murphy)

On the splash page, Batman and Robin burst  through the doors of an art
gallery to find their faceless foe already on hand  and destroying paintings with a
flamethrower.  "DR. NO-FACE has destroyed  the FACES of those masterpieces--
and now he's out to destroy ours!"  As  the story begins, "world-renowned
medical authorities" prepare to observe a new  advance in plastic surgery as Dr.
Paul Dent demonstrates his "skin rejuvenation  ray" on a chimpanzee. 
Supposedly, the ray will make the chimp's "rough,  wrinkled face smooth as a child" and
then go on to instantly heal "fleshy scars"  on human faces.  But as Dr. Dent
manipulates the controls, something  short-circuits, the machine explodes,
and Dr. Dent receives a "super-dose" of  his own ray right in his own face.  The
result is that his face is  completely blanked out, leaving only a smooth
expanse of skin and bald  head.  Screaming, :"My eyes, ears, nose...GONE!  I have
NO FACE!   YAAAA!:"   Dr. Dent flees in a fit of madness.  (You'd think he'd 
have more than just cosmetic and psychological effects to worry about.  
Without eyes, nose and mouth, how is he going to eat and drink, see, or even 
breathe?  The answer is unclear.)

Some time later, the Bat-Signal  alerts Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson to don
their "crime-fighting togs" and  Commissioner Gordon alerts them to Dr. Dent's
tragedy and asks them to be on the  lookout for him.  The doctor makes himself
easy to spot, as he is standing  on Gotham City's version of Broadway firing
a rifle at the giant faces on  lighted billboards.  "*Ha, ha*  I'm destroying
his face-- then he'll  look as I do-- DR. NO-FACE!"  Arriving on the scene,
Batman and Robin try  to urge No-Face to calm down and seek help from plastic
surgery, but the  doctor's shots sever an electric cable which falls to the
ground, threatening to  electrocute bystanders.  Batman hurls a "cutlass Batarang"
which cuts the  power line high up where it cannot threate anyone, but in the
meantime, Dr.  No-Face escapes.  "I'm afraid we'll meet him again!  Dent is
like a  man possessed-- he'll strike agan!"  Sure enough, he shows up at the
art  exhibition room of the Gotham Museum and starts destroying the faces of
famous  portraits with a flamethrower.  Robin uses a fire extinguisher, not
against  the flames but against Dr. No-Face's blank face, momentarily 'dousing his 
enthusiasm".  But the doctor pulls a giant Chinese plaque off the wall  which
blocks the exit to Batman and Robin as he makes his getaway.

Going  on further rampages, Dr. No-Face destroys the faces on clocks,
statues, and  ceremonial masks.  As Batman and Robin search for him at Dr. Dent's
known  past haunts, Robin suggests he might have a hideout in the mountans, but 
Batman  points out, "Hardly, Robin!  The doctor suffers from  acrophobia-- an
intense fear of heights-- remember?"  No-Face's next target  is the "Bonaparte
Emerald", seemingly an odd choice for him, but he intends to  destroy the
gem's "face" in a rock-pulverizing machine.   Batman and  Robin reach the machine
too late to save the gem, and as No-Face flees he  boasts, "YOU WON'T STOP
ME, BATMAN!  And YOUR face is the next one I'm  going to destroy!"  "Of course!"
Batman realizes.  "There's ONE place  he could have a field day with MY
facial features!  C'mon!"  Arriving  at the "Batman Face Monument" carved into the
side of Mount Gotham, our heroes  find Dr. No-Face already hard at work
defacing the stone Batman with  "high-powered sand-blasting equipment".  "We've got
him this time!"  declares Batman, but as he and Robin swing towards the mad
villain on ropes,  Batman's rope is severed by the sandblaster, and as Batman
clings precariously  to his likenss's face, No-Face prepares to use his
sandblaster on the Cowled  Crusader's real face.  Batman urges No-Face to remember
that he is a  doctor, not a murderer, but it is Robin who saves face for Batman
by cutting the  hose of the sandblaster.  Batman seizes Dr. No-Face's scaffold
and twirls  its hanging lines until the doctor is hopelessly and helplessly
tangled.   Once caught, No-Face seems to recover his senses; "What have I done,
destroying  all those things?  I must have been out of my mind!"  Batman
asures  him that the law will go easy on him and plastic surgery plus psychotherapy
should be able to restore him to his normal self.

But once locked up in a  prison hospital ward, Dr. No-Face in his private
thoughts is less repentant than  triumphant; "My plan worked!  I've fooled
Batman....the  police....everyone!  Ha, ha!"  It seems that the man called Dr. 
No-Face is not Dr. Paul Dent at all, but a gangster named Paul Magan who,  hearing
of Dr. Dent's skin rejuvenatio ray, approached Dent before his scheduled 
demonstration and demanded that Dent use the ray to erase a telltale scar on his 
features.  Dent claimed the ray didn't work properly and that he was about 
to cancel his demonstration but Magan insisted on going forward, operating the 
ray himself.  And it was he, not Dent, who found himself faceless.   But
instead of being driven to madness, Magan came up with a scheme to use his 
condition for criminal gain.  Having his gang hide the real Dent at their  hideout,
Magan the gangster disguises himself as Dent and goes through the 
"demonstration", removing he disguise to reveal his faceless face.  He then  goes through
No-Face's rampage of face-destroying crimes.  His ultimate  plan, it seems,
is to have plastic surgeons give him Dent's face-- and  identity-- permanently
so that he can live out his life as the respected doctor  rather than the
wanted criminal.  But as he prepares to go in for surgery,  he is shocked when
Batman shows him a picture of the face the plastic surgeons  will be working to
restore-- and it is his own, Magan's, face, not Dent's.   When he protests,
Batman says, "Come off it, Magan! We became suspicious of you  last night when
you put on that phony show at the Batman Face Monumnt!" because  the real Dent
was known to suffer from fear of heights and wouldn't have been  able to hang
from a high perch to sabotage the Batman face.  Becoming  suspicious, Batman
checks the fingerprints taken of "Dr. No-Face" and finds they  match those of
the wanted gangster Magan, not Dr. Dent.  And so, Batman and  Robin track down
Magan's gang hideout and find there not only the kidnapped Dr.  Dent but the
valuable paintings and Bonaparte Emerald, which "No-Face" actually  stole while
destroying fakes.  And now, the foiled faceless man faces a  long prison term
in his true identity rather than a brief institutionalization  followed by
freedom and wealth as "Dr. Dent". 

Speaking of whom,  it's curious to note that Dr. No-Face's supposed civilian
name was the same as  that of a better-known Batman villain with a facial
fixation-- Two-Face, aka  Harvey Dent.  (If No-Face and Two-Face had somehow met
and merged  identities, would they have wound up with a normal number of
faces?)  It's  also interesting that Two-Face made no appearances in Batman comics
between  1954, around the time the Comics Code started, and 1971, when the Code
was  liberalized.  Did the original stringent Comics Code frown on Two-Face 
because of his grotesqueness, or maybe because in his origin he was a law 
officer, a district attorney, who went bad?  And is it possible that Dr.  No-Face
was a conscious attempt to create a replacement in Batman's rogue's  gallery
for Two-Face, a similarly conceived but more Code-acceptable  variation?  (But
if so, I guess it didnt work out, since Dr. No-Face made  no further
appearances that I know of.)

It's also worth noting that a few  years after this story appeared, a good
guy adopted the faceless look-- Charlton  Comics' the Question.  And of course,
the Question was later taken over by  DC and has met Batman on occasion. 
(Though I doubt if Question creator  Steve Ditko was inspired by this No-Face
Batman story.)

Also in this  issue of DETECTIVE is John Jones, Manhunter from Mars, playing
the role of  "J'onn J'onzz, Wizard of 1463".  (Why do Silver age time travel
stories  usually have to take place in a year an exactly even number of
years/centuries  from the "present" year the story is published?)  Story probably by
Jack  Miller, art by Joe Certa.  As J'onn J'onzz upends a bridge to halt the 
advance of a medieval army, the opposing army's soldiers marvel that "Prince 
Charles' wizard body is defeating the Black Duke's soldiers!"  J'onn  thinks,
"They'd really be shocked if they knew  was secretly a Martian  living on
Earth 500 years in the future!"  Hardworking police detective  John Jones takes
some vacation time off to visit an unspecified European country  (and, receiving
plane tickets, reflects he could travel a lot faster if he  didn't have to
"keep up appearances").  Hearing as a tourist about the  "Dolmain Caverns" which
have never been fully explored, John Jones decides to  "duck the crowd" and
explore them himself, figuring if he gets lost he can  always just become the
Martian Manhunter and escape right through the cave  walls.  But Jones
encounters a strange hazy mist inside the caverns, and  when he finds his way back to
an entrace, he is confronted by what he first  thinks is "a gigantic movie
set" of a castle and a realistic-looking chase on  horseback.  More realistic
than he knows, as the man being chased is thrown  from his horse and would fall
to his death down a chasm-- if not for John Jones  becoming J'onn J'onzz and
flying to his rescue.  The man is understandably  puzzled by the appearance of
this flying green-skinned fgure, but explains that  he himself is the cpatain
of guards for Prince Charles of Auvergne Province (in  France?)  who has been
captured by the evil Black Duke,  Coming to  suspect that we're not in the 20th
century anymore, Toto, Manhunter asks the  year and learns that it is 1463. 

After leaving the guard captain  with farmers loyal to Prince Charles,
Manhunter enters the castle and spies  invisibly on the Black Duke plotting with his
henchmen.  The rightful  prince is safely locked away, it seems, but
adamantly refuses to abdicate in the  Black Duke's favor, and the Duke fears to simply
kill him lest this cause a mass  rebellion among the populace loyal to the
prince.  The Duke sends his agent  with guards to the Prince's hiding place to
try to again persuade the prince to  quit, but the Manhunter joins the mission,
knocking out one of the guards and  shape-changing into his form.  The
henchman boasts as they travel, "Soon I  will show you how tough I can get with
Prince Charles!"  but our hero's  silent response is, "You wouldn't talk so big if
you knew how tough I can  get!"   When the Duke's agent threatens Prince
Charles with death if  he refuses to abdicate, his "guard" turns on him and helps
the Prince escape to  rejoin his guard captain.  As the "guard" reveals his
true Martian form,  the captain marvels at the amazing powers of the prince's
new ally, but the  prince himself fears that the Black Duke will just take over
again once the  Manhunter returns where he belongs.  Manhunter explains that
he will take  the prince's own form and use his powers to rally the people and
defeat the Duke  once and for all, before departing 1463.  "Prince Charles"
appears to his  people and reveals that he now has supernatural powers which he
can manifest in  his green-skinned "wizard form".  (Hmmmm.... given religious
attitudes of  the time, it's possible that if anything like this had actually
happened, the  people would have rallied to the Black Duke, fearing to support
a prince who had  obviously sold his soul to Satan to obtain witchly powers.)
In his "wzard  form", the "prince" defeats a detachment of the duke's army
and twists their  weapons into a giant pretzel.  But then the Black Duke
decides to test the  prince's new powers in person, and sneaking up behind the
"prince" as he  addresses his people, the Duke knocks him unconscious with a pike. 
(It  wasn't portrayed completely consistently, but usually, in SA John Jones
stories,  when the shapechanging Manhunter was in his John Jones form or any
other normal  human form, he didn't have his other Martian powers including 
invulnerability.  It was also somewhat inconsistent whether or not he was 
vulnerable to fire in human form, but in this story, as we'll see, he  isn't.)

The "Prince" awakens in one of the Black Duke's cells and  prepares to burst
free as the Manhunter, but then has second thoughts when he  notes that the
cell is lighted by torches, whose flames will weaken and destroy  him if he
becomes the Manhunter.  When the Duke demands once more that the  "Prince"
abdicate,J'onn stalls for time by asking to be given till dawn to make  a decision. 
But in the meantime, learning that his doppleganger has been  captured and
seemingly lost his "magic" powers, the real Prince (who up to now  seems like a
rather passive, ineffectual sort) resolves to take matters into his  own hands
by rallying his people himself.  While the Prince leads his loyal  followers
in arms, he sends the guard captain to free J'onn J'onzz from the  Duke's
dungeon.  The Duke is baffled that the Prince is out leading his  people though he
should be locked up in the dungeon, but he leads his troops  against the
roused populace, and the people might face defeat by the better  armed troops were
it not for the now-freed Manhunter, who wrecks the bridge over  which the
Duke's troops are charging.  With his army beaten, the Duke  surrenders publicly
to the Prince, and the Manhunter takes his leave of the  restored prince,
saying, "You have proven yourself to be a brave leader, Prince  Charles!"  After
finding his way back to the future through the cave mists  and "sealing the
time-warp with tons of rock", our hero returns to America and  to his Detective
Jones job, where he smirks behind his hand as Diane comments  that he's "had a
good rest" during his  vacation.