Detective Comics Issue 329- “Castle with Wall-to-Wall Danger!”
Published July 1964
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Joe Giella
While the “wealthy socialite” and his young ward have their breakfast, the hotline from Commissioner Gordon’s office rings with details on their next case. Bruce answers as Batman, Gordon tells him that the elusive thief, Frank Pragnel, has been found after all this time. Picking up this week’s Lifetime magazine, Bruce learns that the subject of an article, Albert Maunch, has the same face as the thief. Gordon tells them to make sure that Maunch is Pragnel and if he is, extradite him.
In less than fifteen minutes, Batman and Robin are headed to Maunch’s castle manor in England. When they arrive, the master is there to greet them and Batman is surprised that this isn’t the guy they’re looking for. Mr. Maunch invites the two to dinner, especially having traveled all this way across the ocean. This is a bit odd, since it should be lunchtime now, unless Bruce and Dick have breakfast at two in the afternoon.
Maunch lets the two wait in a rather fancy guest room, with lounge chairs and something that looks like a bed. Batman notices that the castle really does reek with age and could do with a cleaning, especially since the hallways are full of cobwebs and the like. When dinner is ready, they head downstairs but Batman suddenly falls down a trapdoor.
He ends up in a pit of quicksand, and slowly he moves toward the stone walls to free himself from it. Luckily for the Masked Manhunter, the cracks in the wall allow him to push away a stone and move out of the hole. He returns to the waiting room, reuniting with Robin just as Maunch appears. The master apologizes for the incident, as it appears someone has set up the trap instead of leaving it alone in its disabled state.
While they have dinner, Batman starts having suspicions about their host, as he now looks a lot like Pragnel (especially in the photo). After they eat, the duo decides to explore the castle determined to get to the bottom of Batman’s suspicions . Along the way, a suit of armour falls on them and they are attacked by two “yeggs,” who speak in terrible cockney accents. Those two are led by a mysterious man in a trench coat. The thugs are easily dealt with, but the trench coat gets away.
The scene shifts to a cavern in the depths of the castle, as the master of the house, Albert, talks with his cousin Vincent, the trench coat. He tries to tell his cousin that he should just surrender himself, especially since that gun he’s carrying will only make things worse. Vincent tells Albert that there’s no way this is going to happen, especially now that he’s going to find the treasure in this estate very soon. Yup, that’s what an adventure in an old castle is about, the hidden treasure…
Batman and Robin continue their search and are accosted by Vincent holding his piece, but they turn the tables with a well placed diversion and a one-two punch. Batman grabs a bottle of “fire starter” and throws it into the fireplace, causing a huge flash, blinding the villain, allowing the two a chance to strike. Albert Maunch steps out the shadows and tells them the story of the castle and his cousin.
Albert bought the castle recently to search for a hidden cache of gold that a group of Nazi fugitives hid right after the war. The fugitives were captured, but they never did recover the gold. He spent the past decade searching for it and the trail led him to this castle, raising the funds from private investors to purchase it. Cousin Vincent, known in America as Frank Pragnel, caught wind of Albert’s plan and threatened his family and held them for ransom. If Albert didn’t find the gold, Vincent would kill them.
Batman apologizes to Albert Maunch for thinking he was Pragnel, especially since they looked so similar. The duo would have left right after dinner, not suspecting a thing about what was really happening inside the castle. The anxious Pragnel, believing that the two were here to arrest him, blew his cover and went after Batman, hiring thugs and activating the castle’s traps. Now that Scotland Yard has arrive to clean up everything else, Batman and Robin return home with their suspect in tow.
In an epilogue, the gold was found and Maunch wrote a check giving $50,000 to a charity of crimefighting duo’s choice.
This was a pretty interesting little episode, though I’m more excited about the next Batman story, which was even replicated in the manga!