Detective #324, "Menace of the Robot Brain!"

DETECTIVE COMICS #324; DC Comics; Feb. 1964; Jack Schiff, editor; featuring 
Batman and Robin versus the "Menace of the Robot Brain!"  The cover is a 
closeup of the metallic face of the "robot brain", whose eyes are windows behind 
which Batman and Robin are choking and dying in clouds of deadly pinkish  gas.

Review by Bill Henley

The only credit on this story is the  "Bob Kane" signature.... I don't know
the writer, I suppose the real artist is  probably Kane's regular ghost of the
period, Sheldon Moldoff, The splash page,  which somewhat resembles an
old-fashioned headache remedy ad,  shows a  cross-section of the giant robot head
with Batman and Robin trapped inside it  and about to be flipped by the robot's
mechanical "tongue" down its throat into  a pit.  "Robin-- we're about to be
swallowed by this mechanical  monster!"  As the story begins, we find Bruce
Wayne and Dick Grayson in  night court, posting $10,000 bail for a friend of
theirs, Daniel Williams.   It seems he is an employee of a jewelry store, the only
one possessing the  combination of the store safe, and a fortune in diamonds
has disappeared from  the safe.  And Williams can't even swear to his own
innocence; "My's gone completely BLANK, Bruce!  I can't remember a
thing that  happened to me during those hours when the robbery must have
occurred!"   "To show our faith in you," Bruce responds, "I'm going to ask my friend,
Batman,  to help!"  But plans to question Daniel further the next day are put
on  hold when a strange armored car robbery occurs.  One uniformed guard 
punches out the other and drives away.  Hearing a radio report, Batman and  Robin
pursue the car down Route 46, where crooks have taken control of a  drawbridge
and are raising it to halt pursuit.  Batman attempts to jump the  bridge in
the Batmobile, but "The Batmobile didn't quite make it!  But we  did-- he hard
way!" as the Dynamic Duo flip acobatically out of the car as it  falls into the
river.  (Must be nice to be rich enough to treat Batmobiles  as disposable.) 
Rolling down the other side of the bridge, Batman and  Robin knock down the
crooks and take them into custody, but all they can report  is that they were
hired to raise the bridge by a man with "a waxed mustache and  horn-rimmed
glasses".  Then our heroes get word of the armored car driver,  who has been
spotted wandering around in a daze; like Daniel Williams, he has no  memory of his
criminal actions.  He does, however, recognize the descrption  of the man with
the mustache and glasses; he was a sidewalk photographer who  took the
guard's picture some time earlier.  Checking with Daniel Williams,  B and R find
that he too was snapped by the mustached shutterbug.  "But  what's he got to do
with my case?"  "Perhaps everything, Dan!  It's my  hunch that 'camera' of his
is a device that makes it possible for him to CONTROL  MEN'S MINDS!"

(This seems to be yet another example of a comic-book evil  scientist who is
smart enough to come up with an amazing invention but too dumb  to use it to
real advantage.  If he wants money, why not use his "camera"  on a tycoon or
two and get them to turn over wealth to him legally, rather than  playing around
with small-time heists and attracting police and  Bat-attention?  And if he
wants real power, snap a few  politicians...)

Obtaining a police artist sketch of the mustached  man,  Batman and Robin set
out to find him.  But we readers catch up  with him first, as we learn his
name, Ernst Larue, and see him in action  snapping a photo of a clerk in charge
of a rare coin exhibit.  The clerk is  too cheap to pay a dollar for his
photo, but Larue doesn't mind, for he has what  he really wants, "the brain-tape I
just recorded!"   Driving to his  lair in "secluded valley", a brick building
topped by a giant robotic head (it  must be "secluded" if the neighbors don't
question his taste in  architecture)  Larue dons a "control helmet", inserts
the "brain-tape" into  the robot bran, and prepares to take control of the coin
clerk.  Meanwhile,  Batman and Robin have traced the mystery photographer to
the area of the coin  shop and noting the coin clerk leaving the shop with a
heavy briefcase and a  "half-crazed" look, they deduce he is another victim of
the mind-control  robberies and follow him.  They pursue him to the building
with the giant  robot head-- "Undoubtedly the criminal's bizarre lair, Robin!"
(Are you sure,  Batman?  Maybe it's just one of those funky theme
restaurants....)   and observe the clerk entering through the opened mouth of the robot
head, then  leaving again without his loot.  Sneaking into the robot's mouth,
Batman  and Robin seek a route into the interior of the mechanism.  But
suddenly  the robot mouth snaps shut and the robot's "tongue" lifts to pitch our
heroes  down its "throat" to an unknown doom.  Ever resourceful, however, Batman 
manages to catch his cape between the tongue and the roof of the "mouth", and 
hang on to it as Robin hangs on to his legs.  When the tongue lowers,  Batman
and Robin reach temporary safety; "We fooled whoever is behind this robot 
brain!" but "If that character built one trap, he can build another!"  

Sure enough, jet blasts of air from giant fans blow Batman and Robin  into
separate chambers, one behind each "eye" of the robot, which are filled  with a
choking pink gas.  Closing steel "eyelids" prevent them from  smashing through
the windows, and though Batman is able to avoid the effects of  the gas with
nose-plugs from his utility belt, Robin, it seems, has forgotten to  replace
his own nose-plugs.  (Good thing for Robin he's not dealing with  the more
harsh and prickly Batman of today, or even if he survived he'd get  fired on the
spot for such a screwup.)  Advising Robin to lie flat on the  floor and remain
quiet, Batman desperately cuts through the chamber wall with an  oxyacetylene
torch, and reaches Robin just in time to save his life and revive  him with a
dose of oxygen.  Hearing Larue  gloat, "Ha, ha!   That's the end of Batman and
Robin!",  our heroes smash in to burst his  bubble.  "This is your finish in
crime-- you can count on it!"  But  the criminal mastermind has one more trap
in store, as he leaps through an  escape chute and locks Batman and Robin in
the robot brain's central chamber,  activating a device designed to set off a
cacophony of loud, discordant sounds  designed to drive our heroes insane.  "We
have....just one....faint  chance!" gasps Robin.  Sitting outside his robot
brain, Larue waits eagerly  for his trap to do its work and leave the Dynamic
Duo "completely out of their  minds".  But suddenly he gets a "wild expression
on his face" and climbs up  the robot head to deactivate the noise-trap control
located in its nose.   Then he returns to the control room where  an entirely
sane Batman and  Robin are waiting for him, unable to remember what he has
done or why.   Robin, it seems, has redeemed himself for his earlier goof by  a
brilliant  stroke.  Just before Larue made his escape, the Boy Wonder spotted
his  "camera", grabbed it and snapped a 'picture"  of the mind-control 
criminal.  Now possessing Larue's own "brain-tape", Robin and Batman are  able to
figure out how the device works and take control of Larue himself.  
"Yes....thanks for rescuing us and capturing YOURSELF!"

Following house  ads for BATMAN ("The Bat-Mite Hero!"), WORLD'S FINEST ("The
Ghost of Batman!")  and BRAVE & BOLD #52 (no, not a Batman teamup-- rather, "3
Battle Stars,"  Sgt. Rock, airman Johnny Cloud and tankman Jeb Stuart teaming
up for a "Suicide  Mission")  -- the second feature is John Jones, Manhunter
from Mars in "The  Beast Who Was J'onn J'onzz!"  Art is by regular JJ artist
Joe Certa and the  script, I'm guessing, is by regular writer Jack Miller.  On
the splash,  police in squad cars and helicopters are firing pistols and
machine guns at a  fleeing blue-furred creature.  Don't you know this is an
endangered  species, guys?  More than that, "How can I make them understand that I'm 
the Manhunter and  that I can't change back to my Martian form?" A crew of 
archaeologists, accompanied by a vacationing Diane Meade (John Jones' police 
colleague and quasi-romantic interest) discovers a petrified creature resembling
a purple stegosaurus (hi there, Barney)  along with rock carvings of other 
prehistoric monsters.  Suddenly a bolt of lightning strikes the creature, 
bringing it to life and panicking the archaeologists.  "Gracious!   What a
vacation this is turning out to be!  I'd better contact Manhunter at  once!" Diane's
message is relayed to Police Chief Harding and then to Detective  John Jones,
who allows as how he might be able to get in touch with the mighty  Martian;
"He's as good as alerted this instant, Chief!"  (thought) And I'm  not
kidding!"  Stopping by his cave headquarters to pick up his  extradimensional sidekick
Zook ("A creature?  I not afraid if YOU there,  Manhunter!") J'onn J'onzz
arrives on the scene to find that Barney has trapped  the archaeologists and
Diane in a blind canyon.  Taking on the creature  with a flurry of punches,
Manhunter finds that the creature can't hurt him but  he can't do it much damage
either.  Shooing the archaeologists to safety,  JJ carves out giant slabs of
stone to form into a wall trapping the creature  harmlessly in the canyon.

As the Manhunter studies the cavern where the  monster was found, "Martian
mental-power deciphers to ancient script" and he  learns that Barney was created
by "the sorcerer Marlon to create havoc among the  people!"  On the other
hand, one of the other creatures carved on the cave  wall has the power to defeat
the purple menace.  But the inscription  indicating which one is no longer
legible.  Manhunter concludes he must use  his shape-changing power to adopt the
form of the different creatures until he  finds out which one is Barney's
nemesis.  As Barney smashes out of his  rocky prison, Manhunter takes the shape of
a green cross between a dinosaur and  a praying mantis.  It has the power to
cast "a ray-beam from its single  eye", but the ray doesn't faze Barney, who
grabs the creature and nearly wrings  its long neck before Manhunter can resume
his normal Martian form.  The  next form tried by Manhunter is a blue
creature with a funnel-shaped mouth that  breathes fire.  "How ironic it would be for
my single weakness on Earth to  be the only thing that can conquer this
menace!  Luckily it doesn't hurt me  in this form!"  Trouble is, the flames don't
hurt Barney either.  And  worse, the Manhunter-beast finds he is unable to
change forms again.  "Is  it because of the FIRE that burns within this beast's
body?"  And  naturally, just at that moment the local police arrive in force and
open fire,  thinking the Manhunter is just another rampaging monster.  And of
course,  unlike Barney, this creature is vulnerable to bullets.  It is Diane
Meade  who is about to draw a bead on the Martian Monster (""N-not you, Diane!
  Not YOU!") when Zook's antennae "scent" the creature's true identity and he
leaps at Diane to stop her shooting.  But the other cops on the scene are 
unconvinced-- "That little creature must have taken leave of its senses!"-- 
until the Manhunter  gets an idea.  Feigning shivering, he gets across  to Zook
what he must do-- use his temperature--control power to freeze the blue 
monster.  Once the creature's internal fires are snuffed out by the cold, 
Manhunter is able to change back to normal.

But meanwhile, Barney has  broken loose again, and the Manhunter has no
choice but to adopt the form of the  third and last of the cave-wall creatures, a
blobby violet monster, hoping as  advertised it will be the one at last that
can stop Barney (and that he won't be  trapped in its form too).  Charging at
the purple creature, Manhunter's new  form "spreads itself around the juggernaut
like a blanket"  and "enfolds it  tighter and tighter" until Barney flops
over unconscious.  Returning to  normal again, Manhunter prepares to "bury the
beast in deep ocean where no  lightning can ever again reach it", when Zook runs
up to tell him, "I very glad  you back to yourself again!  I think you much
better looking now!"   "Thanks, Zook!  I love YOU, too!"  (Uh Dr.
Wertham paying  attention?)