23 May 2012

Faster than a DC Bullet: Prose Fiction #2: Batman vs. Three Villains of Doom

Normally, I'd review the next three volumes of Jessica Jones next, but ILL is taking its time with getting the last of those to me, so I'm stepping out of sequence next to witness another exciting encounter in prose:

Mass market paperback, 128 pages
Published 1966
Borrowed from the library

Read May 2012
Batman vs. Three Villains of Doom
by Winston Lyon

Nearly thirty years after Superman received his first novel, Batman receives his... and it's based on the Adam West TV show! So not exactly laced with psychological realism, then. What can you say about a book whose premise is that the Penguin, the Joker, and Catwoman take turns fighting Batman in a tiebreaker for the "Tommy" Award, for the best criminal of the decade (it is a gold-plated tommy gun)?  Nothing, except that it does exactly what it wants to.

There's one bit where Batman explains to Robin how he predicted the Penguin's last crime:
"The Penguin's clues are obscurely planted, Robin. You have to put yourself into his evilly twisted mind to figure out what he means."

"Is that how you knew he would strike at the auction gallery?"

"It wasn't hard to figure out that an emerald statuette shaped in the form of an ancient bird, the ibis, would be a natural target for the Penguin."

"That's one thing you said back there that did surprise me, Batman. How did you know the tear gas bomb would be planted in the autioneer's hammer?"

Batman shrugged. "That was easy, Robin. The news item mentioned that the statuette of Thoth would be put up for auction--and the auctioneer would use a yellow hammer that been used in the days of Louis Quatorze. The yellowhammer is a kind of bird. It was an irresistible pun pattern for the Penguin."

"Holy hummingbird," Robin exclaimed. "The Penguin substituted his own yellow hammer, complete with gas bomb, for the original."


Robin looked at the newspaper. "And the front page of this paper has another clue, you say? Let me see . . . 'Famous Mimic to Appear at Universe Room' . . . That seems the only possible item that would be of any interest, yet how . . . ?"

"Remember, Robin, you must try to think like the Penguin. He sees bird analogies in some unlikely places."

Robin frowned. "A mimic . . . hmm. What does a mimic do? He imitates other people's voices. . . . In a way, he might be said to mock them. Can that be it? A mockingbird?"

"Exactly, Robin."

"But what possibility for profitable crime does a mimic have to offer? There has to be something else," Robin persisted.

Batman nodded. "Elsewhere on the front page there's a notice of a gold shipment that will be carried by blimp from a bank in Gotham City to Fort Knox."

"But is that a bird clue?"

"A blimp is called a Dodo by Air Force pilots--because the dodo was a wingless bird. That's the Penguin's target. And there's still a further irony to whet the Penguin's villainous appetite for bird-puns."

This time Robin got the point at once. "Both items appear on the same page of the Gotham Daily Eagle. Right, Batman?"

"You're thinking on sixteen cylinders, Robin. I'm proud of you."
If you're okay with that, you're okay with the book. If you're not, then at 128 pages, you haven't exactly wasted a lot of time.

Next issue: I find out whatever happened to Jessica Jones! (for real!)

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