Monday, May 09, 2022

I'm surprised that title hasn't been used 40 times since.

It's been over six months since the last Bob Haney World's Finest we checked out here, so it's time for another, coincidentally about six months after the last issue! From 1979, World's Finest #255, featuring "Thou Shalt Have No Other Batman Before Me!" Written by Bob Haney, pencils by José Luis García-López, inks by Dan Adkins and Frank Chiaramonte.
This is only a 20-pager--with a teaser splash page--that probably could've been spun out into six months of comics nowadays. Mid-newscast, Clark Kent gets a note from Morgan Edge, regarding a bank robbery happening right then, and Edge wanted Kent to cut in with it. Instead, at super-speed Supes subs in an "obsolete" and non-functional Clark Kent robot, and zips out to check the bank robbery, finding it to be a movie filming. He returns to the newscast, and doesn't mention the 'robbery,' immediately drawing Edge's ire. The 'robbery' doesn't come up again, since Edge doesn't care and probably wouldn't have anyway: the bump in ratings would probably be worth a later half-hearted retraction, anyway. Edge punishes Kent--and his camera crew--with an assignment to cover the Harvest Festival in Dalton Corners. Which is...somewhere? The crew indicates it's some nowhere in the corn belt, so why are they covering it? Human interest?
To stick it to his crew, and maybe liven up his own day, Clark switches to Superman for a quick appearance, then checks out the town. It's built on a raised mound, which Supes kind of shrugs off as probably flood protection; but then sees the cops chasing Batman! The cops catch, and pistol-whip, 'Batman' after they unmask him: they tell Superman it's a local criminal, dressed up to burgle houses, but that doesn't ring true to Supes. The costume was too accurate for a common burglar to have thrown together, and Superman had overheard him say he got it out of the attic at the old Wainwright place. Investigating, he finds the house dilapidated and deserted for years, but also covered in swastikas! Behind a family photo, he also finds a newspaper article about a "Bat-Man" operating in town, predating Bruce Wayne's Batman! Superman then visits the town's newspaper to check their files, and the building explodes on him! That never happens to Batman, but I guess he's not as much a newspaper guy.
With his TV crew and the cops coming, Superman switches back to Clark Kent; but the cops immediately bust him, accusing him of blowing up the building to liven up his story. This is of course caught on camera, but in jail Clark's one phone call isn't to Edge, but to Bruce Wayne, who at least gets a chuckle out of it. Superman ducks out of jail in the dead of night, and back at the newspaper uses super-speed and recall to put the files back together again. Re-visiting the Wainwright place, Bats notes the swastikas weren't Nazi ones, but Indian. He also finds another clue: Wainwright's library card. While Superman returns to jail, Batman first checks the library then does some follow-up incognito as Bruce Wayne. Bruce then bails Clark Kent out of jail, because he needs to send Superman to Australia: Wainwright had last checked out a book on sheep ranching there, and had bought tickets east but then gone west. The cops are watching them, though, as well as the TV crew, who drive by to tell Clark Edge has fired him...again.
Batman tails the cop, by hiding in his trunk, to "the sacred spot" of "Gitchka." He finds a weird cult, with a giant wicker bat-head? Although, their outfits and the staff Batman gets knocked out with appear to be bird-themed? In Australia, Superman visits the new Wainwright ranch, and the son and grandson of the late senior. The son had been the Dalton Corners Bat-Man, but says it had been horrifying and he and his own son will never go back. Meanwhile, in Dalton Corners the giant swastika'ed bat-thing comes to life: calling Superman, the Wainwrights realize the cult had found the right chant to animate Gitchka; and the three fly back. Superman is not effective against Gitchka, but the Wainwright grandson has the Bat-Man costume, created by his great-grandfather, a medicine man. The camera crew had called in the WGBS helicopter, which Batman commandeers, and the Bat-Man jumps from it to stab Gitchka in the eye. Superman saves him from falling, and then a quick page to try and make sense out of all this: only the youngest descendant of the medicine man had the power to defeat Gitchka; and the crews had got a ton of that on tape, a story that gets Clark grudgingly rehired. He kinda looks a little smug about it, too!

Probably six flavors of cultural appropriation here, but while the "Indian" Batman costume wasn't too bad, why did the Wainwrights have a modern Batman costume in their abandoned attic? Where would they have seen the details for it? What, a plot hole in a Bob Haney story? No way. And while the Indian costume is prominent on the cover, it doesn't get a big splashy image like you'd expect.

1 comment:

Mr. Morbid's House Of Fun said...

You know that's not a bad story actually. Bob Haney sure knew how to spin some incredible, if not always sensical, comic book stories.

That was a pretty funny comment by Bruce taunting Clark in jail. Ha.