Detective Comics Issue 331- “The Museum of Mixed-Up Men!”
Published September 1964
Writer: John Broome
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
The stars of Detective Comics, Batman & Robin and the Elongated Man team up for a doozy of a case that involves face-stealing of all things. But what do the ghosts on the cover have to do with it? Since DC writers and artists make the covers long before the story, we’ll have to find out.
On a day out, Bruce Wayne is admiring the exhibits at the New Americana Wax Museum, as the Alfred Foundation has created a new piece featuring revolutionary war soldiers. He decides to spend a dollar at another exhibit, the Mathew Brady Photography Exhibit, dedicated to the first great American Photographer. Standing in front of an old time camera, the light flashes and a strange transformation happens, with Bruce’s face being turned into a man with a big schnozz and a huge forehead. The camera also gives the added effect of making Bruce forget his memory, leaving him to wander the streets of Gotham in a daze.
Miles away, a man with Bruce’s face enters the office of the “Vice-President of the Gotham City Bank,” and is addressed as “Bruce,” as if this VP knows what’s going on and is allowing it to happen. It could be a mistake by the letterer. “Bruce” withdraws $1 million from the real one’s bank account, and even has the papers to prove who he says he is. They make idle small talk, where the mimic even knows VP David’s wife.
Back at Wayne Manor, Dick is worried about Bruce, as he hasn’t come home yet or phoned. It’s dinnertime, and the food’s going to get cold! Aunt Harriet answers the phone but all she gets is a strange buzzing sound, which is the signal for a call by Commissioner Gordon. Dick makes the excuse that he has to go to his room, even without finishing his dinner, and heads to the Batcave to answer the phone.
Gordon tells Robin that a gang of jewel thieves will be robbing the Emerald Emporium tonight, and he hopes the duo can capture them. Robin heads into the city, driving the Batmobile, looking for his partner. As Bruce wanders the streets, still in a daze, he notices his car and runs after it.
Robin arrives at the Emerald Emporium and sets a trap for the jewel thieves. He’s arranged for the police to storm the place as soon as he’s given the OK. He waits inside the storage room and after thirty minutes or so, the thieves enter via the vents. Just as Robin tries to shoot his flare gun, the thieves charge at him, stopping him from alerting the police. He fights the trio, but they get too overwhelming that at the end of the act, he gets knocked out. Suddenly, Batman appears from the ceiling and makes short work of the criminals, even after they pull a gun on him.
On their way home, Batman tells his partner that he spent the day in an amnesiac state after visiting the Mathew Brady exhibit at the Wax Museum. He only regained his senses after finding the Batmobile parked nearby and realized his papers and wallet had been stolen! Rather than worrying about those, he rushes in to save his partner upon hearing the sounds inside. Robin tells him that he received a call from David Moore of the bank about the $1 million withdrawal today. Knowing that there is a connection between the museum and Bruce’s missing money and papers, they’ll have to investigate tomorrow.
The next morning, the focus of the story changes to the other star of Detective Comics, the Elongated Man. Ralph Dibny and his wife, Sue, as the narrator tells us, travel the world, solving cases at the same time. This story, they’re visiting Gotham City for a few days. They even went to the Wax Museum yesterday. As they go over yesterday’s photos, just developed by Sue, Ralph makes the discovery that two subjects are wearing the exact same outfit. He remembers that they only saw one person in that outfit enter the photography exhibit, and when that man came out, his face was completely different. He went from a rather big headed bearded man to an skinny sort of fellow. Sue tries to dissuade him from pursuing this case, but the Elongated Man can’t resist it.
At the same time, Bruce heads to the bank and tries to tell V.P. Moore that somebody has taken his papers and a million dollars. Moore promises to launch a full investigation, even though he was sure that it was Bruce who withdrew the money yesterday. Suddenly, the bearded man storms into the room and tells Moore that the same situation has happened to him, $1 million worth of stocks and bonds stolen from his safe-deposit box. He only found out today, because he had the foresight of creating a duplicate key to the box. Bruce learns that the man also went to the wax museum yesterday, and decides to start his investigation ASAP.
As Batman and Robin rush through the museum looking for the Brady exhibit, the Elongated Man meets up with them. When they try to proceed, they are attacked by invisible forces and a few of the exhibits brought to life. They get slammed around, destroying a few figures, and get knocked out in the fight. Batman wakes up and heads to the exhibit, only to find the camera readying to take a picture.
In a secret control room not far away, the masterminds, one of them a fat balding man with a comb-over named “‘Boss’ Barron”, tells the reader how this plot was accomplished. Using a device called an “electrofaciograph,” he and his cronies were able scan the facial structure and features of the subject, only to swap it with another person’s. It erases the memory and identity of the subject for about 12 hours. Batman’s mask will not save him from the effects of the ray, as the device is designed to scan biological matter. The comb-over is hoping that this would reveal his secret identity, so they can make even more money.
But what about the “ghosts?” Conveniently, the face molding properties of the machine can also be used to twist and bend people. Exactly how that is really accomplished isn’t very clear, but it’s probably the feature turned up to 11 or something.
The machine fails to capture Batman’s face, as the Elongated Man moved his face to cover Batman’s, forcing the machine to swap his face with one of the cronies. Batman goes and searches for the control room, looking for the perps and follows some footsteps. He infers that they belong to the pickpocket and is led to a false wall. He opens the wall and charges at the thugs inside. Barron throws his machine at the masked manhunter to save his bacon and attempts to flee.
Robin, leading the Elongated Man, enter the room and help their partner clean up a few more thugs. However, the job isn’t over yet, as they chase more of the criminals into an amusement park. Some of them try to hide in the carousel, ducking their heads and leaning towards the horses. It doesn’t fool the Batman a single bit. Meanwhile, Robin puts his circus training to use and swings around the pole, leaping on to a trampoline, with a great finish, lands on two perps. The Elongated Man continues to use his whip attacks and ensnares the rest of the gang, including “Boss” Barron.
Sue Dibny arrives on the scene after hearing the commotion and finds her husband still with a different face. Batman tries to reassure her that it is only a temporary effect and that he’ll be okay after 12 hours. And he is, after awakening from his confused state, Ralph Dibny is back to “normal.” As an epilogue, Bruce has invited the Dibnys to a dinner hosted by the Alfred foundation as a thank-you for their hard work. He tells Dick that he did reveal his secret identity to the Elongated Man, but only in his amnesiac state. Ha ha ha….