Batman #164 – “Two-Way Gem Caper”, “Batman’s Great Face-Saving Feat!”
Published June 1964
Writer: Ed “France” Herron
Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Sid Greene
So it’s another comic book read-through in a long while, since I’ve been preoccupied with the Spider-Man TV show. This issue claims to have the proper redesign of Batman and his tools, though the Detective Comics one already showed it, especially with its change in tone from the wackiness the pre-1964 series was known for.
The story begins with Bruce finding his young ward playing his guitar in a rather bizarre fashion. Dick is playing and singing a Hootenanny Hotshots song, and Bruce doesn’t seem to like it, though personally I prefer Spanish guitar. Why is the boy making a ruckus? It’s because the Hotshots are coming to town for a concert! But before Dick can continue, Bruce has a surprise for him.
Along with new costumes, the Batmobile has been replaced with a sleek sports car that Mike Hammer would drive in Kiss Me Deadly. In addition, the Batcave has been entirely remodeled, with the farmhouse entranced filled up, a hangar right under a field, with a workshop, lab and radio room. Wow, how the hell did Wayne manage to not cause a complete cave collapse when reconfiguring their base? Batman and Robin hop in their new ride and another surprise is shown, a garage door opener!
At the same time, the Hootenanny Hotshots are hollering their way into Gotham City until some jerk manages to direct their traffic to somewhere in the forest. It’s none other than the villain of the story, who needs Gotham Square cleared so he can pull a robbery, instead of having the band bothering him at their concert. Doesn’t he realize that there’s already a big crowd waiting in anticipation for this music novelty folk band?
The Batmobile halts at the sign and figure out somebody’s playing a mean prank. They follow the bus tracks, but by the time they reach it, its wheels are deflated due to some tire spikes. The fedora-wearing villain attempts to get away, but the duo see him and try to catch them, only to have their hands caught in some bramble. He drives away in his car, while they look on. After the Hotshots set them free, Batman and Robin promise to call for help while they chase after the perp.
The villain, Mr. Dabblo, reaches the Gotham Square Museum to start his heist. The night guards believe he’s here to take care of his donation, a “Golden Aztec Pyramid,” but when it launches like a rocket and distracts the two, he goes after real target. Dabblo steals the “Pearl of the Orient.” This does bring to mind how the hell could the museum allow a “golden pyramid” to be included in the exhibit, especially right next to a million dollar pearl? Surely anybody could’ve checked the validity of the piece. Fan-fictioners can probably write in that Dabblo works for the museum or something.
The Bat-Signal is activated as Batman drives into the city. Another surprise is revealed in the Batmobile, with a direct line to Commissioner Gordon’s office. Gordon tells the crimefighting duo that Dabblo is headed toward Water Street. When they arrive, they find no trace of Dabblo except for his car. Batman and Robin climb up to the roof and find footprints on the roof’s tar. They find a rope and attempt to swing across but are thwarted by Dabblo pointing a television antenna hooked up to a high-voltage device at them.
The two regain their balance and figure out where Dabblo went after their fall. He went inside the building, and the antenna was nothing more than remote control for a door into a penthouse. The idiot criminal didn’t bother to leave, and he and an accomplice soundly get beaten up. Dabblo tries to ruin his prize, by sweating on the pearl, causing it to depreciate in value, and he obviously fails since this was a hasty decision. The story ends with the Hootenanny Hotshots singing the duo’s praises.
“Batman’s Great Face-Saving Feat!”
In this story, we are introduced to the Mystery Analysts of Gotham, the city’s premier crime-solving club. Members include forensic scientist, Ralph Vern; award-winning journalist, Art Saddows; mystery novelist, Kaye Daye; and Batman. Commissioner James Gordon leads the meeting and they are all deliberating whether or not to let private investigator Hugh Rankin into the group.
To prove that he is worthy of joining this prestigious organization, Mr. Rankin has solved a mystery that baffles everyone around the world, who is underneath the cowl of the caped crusader? He carries a statue into the room and it is revealed that Batman is some balding middle-aged man. While the Analysts murmur at this development, the truth is indeed revealed, as Batman is indeed bald. How might this be possible, especially since the reader knows exactly who he is? Anyway, they vote to see if Rankin deserves to be in the club, and only one person is a holdout. Because the vote must be unanimous, Hugh Ranking is not the MAG’s newest member.
At home, Bruce Wayne tells Dick how he got away with showing everybody that Batman is bald. It all began with a recent case where the duo was chasing the Trapeze Ten, a gang of skilled athletes that have tried to rob Gotham Insurance. As Batman circles to the next roof, he is suddenly tackled by Hugh Rankin. Three bullets fly by the two and luckily due to the PI’s quick thinking and response, the two get a mere scratch from the gravel. Batman lassos their three attackers leaving them for the police. In the wrap up, the two learn that Robin was injured from one of the bullets and it was just a mere graze.
On the next case Batman fights the rest of the Trapeze Ten, as they form a human chain grabbing a suitcase full of money. One of the gang members fires a flare gun, and Rankin covers his eyes. Batman figures out that Rankin is measuring the dimensions of his face, especially by placing wax on the masked manhunter’s eyes. They pursue the gang into the subway and before they dive underwater, Rankin touches Batman’s face again right before he hands him a breathing apparatus. They eventually reach outside and Batman realizes that they used this escape route to get to a speedboat. The Trapeze Ten arrive with Batman in their way and a net is dropped on them. Another case finished.
Back in the present, Bruce tells Dick he disguised himself while split up from Rankin, allowing the PI to think that he is indeed a middle aged bald man. Batman was the one who voted no on Rankin’s membership because he couldn’t determine that it was Bruce Wayne under the cowl. If that’s the requirement, then bully! Does Batman want his secret revealed or not if he won’t let Rankin into the club? Or was the PI foolish enough to use that as a way to get membership? Anyway another interesting story is over.