Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Detective Comics #396

Detective Comics #396 (On Sale: December 23, 1969) has a cover by Neal Adams.

This issue begins with Batman in "The Brain-Pickers" by Frank Robbins, Bob Brown and Joe Giella. Wall Street wiz-kid Rory Bell makes the cover of Now! Magazine and the notice of Bruce Wayne and three thugs led by a guy named Sharf. Bell rides around on his motorcycle and radio-phones in his orders to his broker and girl friend, Nan Owens.

Sharf has a buddy who works at the garage where Bell keeps his bike and has had his helmet bugged, so that when he places an order Sharf and his buddies will be able to "share in the wealth." Their plan goes south when they find out Bell phones in his orders in code.

As it ends up Nan is Bruce's broker as well and Bruce calls in to see how "the street" is reacting to Wayne Enterprises proposed merger with Seven-Star Pictures. Nan mentions how Bell has bought in for a "big slice" and how others are following his lead. Meantime, Sharf and his buddies waylay Bell on his bike and say they are going to hold him up in a motel room for a few days and make all the same trades as he does to get rich quick.

Bell tells them it doesn't work that way, that if he can't ride his bike he can't figure out what to trade, so the thugs agree to just follow him by car. Bell's first order is to sell Wayne Enterprises which forces Nan to Call Bruce to try and soften the blow on "the street." Eventually Bruce figures out that Bell's orders are really a code for where he located and as Batman Bruce goes to intercept him.

At a gas station Batman confronts the thugs and has to use the remote-control features of the new Batmobile to foil the thug's plans. All in all a pretty stupid story. I remember liking Robbins' run on Batman, so either it gets a lot better or I didn't have very good taste in writing back then.

Much better written by Frank Robbins is the back-up Batgirl story, "The Orchid-Crusher," drawn by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. The Orchid-Killer is murdering one redhead after another and Barbara Gordon is even dreaming that as Batgirl she is a victim of the killer. She learns that the last victim had registered at a computer dating service when she finds a book with the woman's dating card used as a bookmark. She tracks down the last borrower of the book, but he has moved out of his apartment. Barbara immediately rents the apartment and also joins the computer dating service. She has to brush off Jason Bard's advances as she waits for the trap she is setting to be sprung.

She does get a date through the service, a mousy looking man named Max Tournov, but he seems harmless, till he buys her an orchid and then tries to kiss her. She sends him over her shoulder and he responds by crushing he orchid and running off. As Batgirl Barbara gives chase, but loses him. As she frantically searches, she is pulled into a dark alley by an unseen figure who says, "A red-headed Batgirl will do for now!"

The filler story is "The Master of Mind Over Matter" from Strange Adventures #26 by Jack Miller, Gil Kane and John Giunta. This is a tight little story about a psychiatrist and amateur magician named Blake, whom the police asked to report on the sudden death of a magician named Elmo the Great, since the man had been investigating Elmo for a while. It seemed Elmo could do miraculous things: levitate people, turn water into wine, etc. Blake was present when Elmo suddenly died. In his report he tells the police that he believes an alien creature had entered Elmo's body and was the source of his amazing powers. The police scoff at such nonsense and leave. Blake then reveals that he knows what he says to be true because when Elmo died the creature entered his own body.

Edited by Julius Schwartz.

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