Friday, July 17, 2009

Batman #215

Batman #215 (On Sale: July 17, 1969) has a cover by Irv Novick. I have always wondered if this cover inspired the soon to happen desertion of Wayne Manor.

"Call Me Master" is by Frank Robbins, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano. Three of Gotham's leading citizens, J. Carlyle, Andrew Barclay and Clem Sterling, receive strange phone calls giving them orders of some sort. A fourth call to Bruce Wayne is not completed as Bruce is out that night patrolling as Batman. While on patrol Batman and Robin foil a robbery at Carlyle Department Stores warehouse only to find Carlyle himself on site and calling it a legitimate shipment , even though the men a a bunch of ex-cons.

Later on the Dynamic Duo break up a robbery at Andrew Barclay's mansion only to find Barclay there and insisting that the man in the mask breaking into his safe is a locksmith. Still later that night Batman and Robin spy a group of phony guards stealing jewels from Sterling gems. When they call Sterling he says that he turned off his alarm system and opened the vault an hour earlier, but does not know why he did it.

Bruce notes that all three men involved in tonight's crimes are members with Bruce of the Gotham Civic Conscience Council. The next day, after more digging Bruce learns that all the members of the Council have been similarly involved in strange activity where they have somehow assisted in the participation of crimes against themselves. Just them Bruce gets a phone call and won't tell Dick who the caller was.

When it comes time for their nightly patrol, Bruce says he has some business to attend to and Dick tails him as Robin. Bruce drives to one of his warehouses and unlocks the door for a group that Robin recognizes as pharmaceutical smugglers.. Robin breaks up the heist and confronts Bruce, who says he doesn't know why he did it, but felt compelled to do whatever the voice on the phone told him to do. Robin orders Bruce to hit him on the chin and Bruce does it, proving that Bruce will do whatever he is ordered to do by anyone.

The next day Bruce calls an emergency meeting of the Council and lays out his theory of what is going on and gives each member a locket containing a bug that Batman will be listening in to. Should any of them receive a call ordering them to do something Batman will be there too break up the crime and hopefully catch the mastermind. However one of the people at the table is the mastermind and thinks this is his opportunity to get rid of Batman.

That night Myron Mycroft gets a call ordering him to bring his negotiable securities to the Gotham First National Bank. Batman and Robin stake out the place and when Mycroft shows up to hand over the securities the Dynamic Duo attempt to collar the bad guy, only a gunman tries to ambush Batman. Robin takes care of the assassin, but the bad guy gets away with the securities. Batman assumes the gunman was aiming for Mycroft and when he apologizes to Mycroft for bungling their planned trap Mycroft tells him to "Take your inept paws off of me!" to which Batman responds, "Yes, master." Mycroft realizes that Batman is also somehow subject to voice control.

Later Mycroft calls police headquarters and asks to speak to Batman. Robin notices that Batman gets the same strange look on his face as Bruce did when he was ordered to do something. When they return to the Batcave, Batman says he needs to do some "gardening," but Robin and Alfred follow him as he plants explosives around Wayne Manor. Mycroft arrives and orders Batman to complete the destruction of Wayne Manor as he has been ordered. Batman tries to fight the mind-control, but in the end he cannot and he presses the detonator, causing a massive explosion. However when the smoke clears, Wayne Manor still stands and Mycroft thinks that Batman was only pretending to obey his orders in order to capture him, that Batman realized he was wearing on of Mycroft's "micro-wave will-power nullifiers" and removed it. His hands behind his back batman removes something from his wrist and knocks the gun out of Mycofts's hands.

Alfred and Robin appear revealing how they followed Batman around replacing his explosives with fireworks and smoke-bombs. Mycroft is confused by this and Batman explains how when Mycroft revealed that Batman had to be wearing the mind-control device he realized it must be the gold, electronic watches that the Civic-Conscience Council was given that were provided by Mycroft's company. Mycroft then admits that he had made some bad investments and was on the verge of bankruptcy and that the devices contained a "micro-mechanism that tunes the watch-vibrator to a frequency that numbs the voluntary-control center of the brain."

The probmen I have with this story is that it does not explain how Batman got one of the watches unless his secret identity is as one of the members of the Civic-Conscience Council.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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