Batman Issue 167: “Zero Hour for Earth!”
Published November 1964
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
What a doozy of an issue, especially this full length story spans an entire day and the crime-fighting duo makes it home in time for bed!
Batman and Robin arrive at the Gotham City Airport in search of a recently arrived European plane. The man they were looking for runs onto the tarmac as if he is being chased by somebody. Nearby, a thug with a pistol shoots and kills the man. Batman arrives to catch the victim, while his partner chases after the gunman. The gunman hurries to his motorcycle in a nearby hangar, but before he can, the wheels of an airplane achieving liftoff crushes him.
At a small press conference on the steps of the station-house, Commissioner Gordon tells the reporters that the dead man was an agent of Interpol. He was investigating Hydra, the international criminal organization that is not as diabolic as the one in Marvel Comics. Batman vows to the press that just as Heracles defeated the mythical creature, so will he take down this organization. As news spreads around the world about this incident and the masked manhunter’s vow, a smug round-headed man inside a castle takes pleasure that the real reason the Interpol Agent was killed is still a secret.
The next day, the crimefighting duo go on the trail to find the elusive hideouts of Hydra. Their first stop? Holland, where the Interpol Chief hands the two a card with a riddle: “General Sherman slept here X.” Walking around the harbor, and admiring the landscape, Robin guesses that the “X” can mean the blades of a windmill. Batman affirms that the boy is correct, and solves the clue by noting that windmills are named in the Netherlands. “General Sherman” is not so much a reference to the Civil War era military leader, but the legendary redwood tree in Sequoia, California. They head to the “Redwood Windmill” and take out the Hydra agents there.
Back on the Batplane, Batman tells Robin that they are headed to the next part of their case, for the real reason they left America. Apparently, the Holland trip was just a mere appetizer. When the Interpol Agent got shot, his last words to Batman were about a man named Karabi plotting to start a war between two Asian countries, putting the US and the United Nation into action, and maybe causing the Cold War into a III. After contacting the CIA and holding a meeting with them, Batman decides to use the Hydra-busting as a mere diversion to the real goal, Karabi.
Back in the present, Batman disguised as a middle-aged businessman with out for some exotic nightlife walks through the streets of Singapore, finally entering a nightclub. He gives the secret code to call out the Interpol Agent of the area, and it turns out to be a dancer. She does her act, and instead of actually giving any information to Batman, she gives it to him in Semaphore, moving her hands in such a strange fashion, that a mere audience member would only be mesmerized by her dance.
Back on the plane, Robin asks if Batman has found anything new in his trip to Southeast Asia. He replies that he didn’t get much, but another clue to a Hydra hideout in Greece. They arrive at a village and hide looking for anything suspicious. They notice a fat man sitting down on a rickety old chair, but he doesn’t seem to be crushing it with his immense waist. He gets up and goes toward two more Hydra agents and the duo follows them into a theatre. The slight sound of their footsteps alerts the rogue agents due to the amplified structure of the theatre, and they are attacked. Using a diversionary tactic, Batman and Robin take care of these criminals and reveal their plot. The fat man was using his girth to hide stacks of counterfeit money, smuggling them in and out of the country.
Meanwhile, as news of the duo’s latest exploits reaches around the world again, Hydra leaders hold a conference on what to do about Batman and Robin. One demands that all activities be suspended for the time being, but another isn’t worried due to the easily replaceable elements of their organization. Karabi reads these news as well, as his men prepare to set up a missile.
Batman is currently in Hong Kong, disguised as a Chinese stereotype, buys a hat. The inside of the rim is punched with Braille with details of their next job. The crime fighting duo leave the city and spends more of their day continuing their Hydra-busting and Karabi-searching, seemingly jumping to both sides of Eurasia at once.
The pieces of the puzzle are at last complete, with Batman determining that Karabi is planning on firing a nuclear missile from Country A to Country B, starting a cataclysmic war. Amidst the chaos, Karabi will seize power by forming a group of “malcontents” that will rival the power of Hitler’s SS Elite. Yes, it’s pretty deranged, even if the editors at DC wanted to make more realistic Batman stories.
They arrive at a jungle in Country A, which kinda looks like Bali, and find a giant pyramid like the one on the cover, with rotating heads and such. The structure turns its head and shines a light on the duo, blinding them temporarily, and giving the grunts inside a chance to capture them. Batman regain his senses, with Karabi sitting right in front of them. He tells the World’s Greatest Detective that in fifteen minutes, he will press a button that will launch the nuclear missile that will start World War III. He takes Batman into a cell and leaves the alarm clock with him for some reason. After a few moments, Batman decides that he shouldn’t really waste any more time and takes out his guards by distracting them by setting the alarm to ring earlier. With only a few minutes left, he retrieves Robin and they rush to stop Karabi’s sinister plan. They take out more soldiers, and Batman punches out Karabi right before he can press the launch button.
After handing the mastermind over to the authorities, Batman tells Robin that they have to do one more thing, capture the rest of Hydra. According to Karabi’s diary, he deposited some money in a Swiss Bank Account and learned that a Hydra head is set on robbing that account. Since that plan is still underway, this will be a great opportunity to tie up that loose end. They arrive in a Switzerland City where a bank has been just robbed. They chase down the perpetrators to the Alps and ski in pursuit. They finish the job and hurry back to the Batplane.
Back at home in Gotham City, Dick is reading the evening edition and remarks that they sure had a full day of crimefighting, capturing Karabi and a head of Hydra at the same time, 8PM! Bruce tells him that it’s all because of the magic of time zones, as they hopped the globe doing their job. And the kicker is, it’s 8PM right now!