Tuesday, August 09, 2005

BATMAN #268 DC Comics, 1975



So here's the cover of Batman #268.

I know what you're thinking: The Sheikh? WTF? Wasn't he a WWF wrestler?

Or perhaps you're thinking: What in God's name is that thing The Sheikh is riding? A tauntaun? John Merrick's pony? Somebody please give that cover artist a photo reference so he can draw a frickin' camel properly. My cat looks more like a camel than that thing does.

Or OK, maybe you're thinking: Did The Sheikh rig the butt of his rifle with explosives so when he struck people in the ribcage it would explode? If it was me, I'd just shoot the gun, but then I've never tried swatting people with an exploding rifle before. Maybe it works really well.

This issue was written by Denny O'Neil with pencils by Irv Novick and inks by Tex Blaisdell - all edited by the legendary Julius Schwartz. I think this book is a product of it's time and a good indicator at the general tone of DC books at the time. By that, I mean it's goofy as hell. Batman and Robin go up against The Sheikh, a masked Arab assassin who is seemingly killing people at random. I hope I don't wreck it for you when I say The Sheikh is actually two white guys conspiring to kill a business partner, or something. I'm a little fuzzy on the details; all I know is that it ends with a big ice skating fight and The Sheikh likes to swat people with his exploding rifle.

The Sheikh is a good example of a character that lasts an entire issue due to The Riddler Factor, the sustained plot contrivance that allows otherwise lame villains to survive much longer than they should be able to. For instance, in this comics Batman doesn't kick the shit out of The Sheikh in two seconds flat because:

1.) The Sheikh is wearing body armor under his robes.
2.) The Sheikh gets a few lucky shots in.
3.) The Sheik's rifle butt explodes whenever it strikes a human or dog rib cage.
4.) Batman is incredibly wimpy in this comic and whines like a little boy.

Check this out, here's The Sheikh and Batman going at it:



"Oww?" Did he say "oww?" And then he spends a whole panel bitching about how much his hand smarts? Nuh-uh. Not my Batman. I'm all for different interpretations of the Dark Knight Detective and all, but Batman doesn't say "oww."

Oh. Wait...



Okay, I guess he does say "oww."

The panels above are taken from a rooftop fight at the beginning of the comic. Not only does The Riddler Factor protect The Sheikh during this fight, but it lets him get a lucky shot in and smash Batman with his rifle butt. Fortunately for Batman, the Sheikh's rifle butt does not explode. He does, however, fall off the building. Batman forgets in mid-air that he has a Batline that he swings from all the time and instead, he slows his fall by grabbing a long neon sign, fucking his hands up real bad.

Here's Alfred taking care of Batman, who is still bitching about his owies:



"Wrap them in fist form... I have a hunch I'm not done punching tonight."

This is where the comic derails and plunges to a fiery doom at the bottom of Quality Gulch.

The Riddler Factor is so pervasive in this book that Batman makes some insanely stupid choices. "I'm not done punching tonight so wrap my hands up into big soft boxing gloves, Alfred! Wrap them in fist form because I only plan on punching tonight! That's all I've got on the agenda. No driving, no opening doors, no picking things up, no ice hockey... nope, just punching." It's so stupid that the first time I read this comic I thought Denny O'Neil was trying to be funny, but no.

Let's get back to the story. Batman, with his hands encased in big cotton balls, visits the wealthy Mr. Lunt, who is next on The Sheikh's hit list. Because the plot requires Batman to be incompetent, Lunt is gunned down by The Sheikh. He escapes Batman by...

...well, by closing a door.



"What kind of clever fiend am I dealing with? He went through a door - and locked it! It's as if he knew my hands would be wrapped in yards of cotton bandages and I would be unable to operate a door handle! Blast him! Blast that wily denizen of the desert!"

In the end, Batman figures out The Sheikh's nefarious plans - he isn't a wily denizen of the desert after all, he is just the aforementioned two white guys. Naturally, this saga of murder and mayhem concludes with a big hockey fight.

That's right, Batman and Robin strap on ice skates. And you thought it was just in that stupid movie. No, there is an actual literary precedent to the scene in Batman and Robin where they all fight on ice skates, and here it is:



I don't know how suddenly Batman can hold a hockey stick with those big fist-shaped bandages, but he can, and he uses said hockey stick to easily beat the crap out of the same losers who gave him so much trouble for twenty pages.



What can I say? That's how DC rolled in the 70s: ice skating Batman.

One cool thing about this comic is the little artistic touches that they use, stuff you can only find in comics, where story and art combine. I'm actually being serious here, work with me. Check out the panel below, where Irv Novick has worked a little illustration of the Lunt Mansion into the narrative caption:



That's good stuff. I wish comic artists today took advantage of the medium and did more playful stuff like that.

Oh, and how could I forget? Here's Batman choking a camel:



I'm at a bit of a loss. Insert your own "camel choking" joke here.

34 comments:

RobB said...

No pictures of Batman and any camel toe in that issue?

Prof. Fury said...

So, when you said it was really two guys, I thought I pretty much understood. But I didn't understand that it was two guys *at the same time*. Huh, now?

Dan Coyle said...

Wow.

Stuff like this makes me appreciative I grew up reading Marvel, the home of quality books like Rom, Transformers, Rocket Raccoon, and The New Defenders.

Anonymous said...

Batman vs locked door - who wins? Door.

ElPeevio said...

Some things defy mocking. I am lost for words.

a'pennyworth said...

So the world's greatest detective can't solve a locked-room mystery.

Scipio said...

Fabulous review, Dave!

HOWEVER

I plead with you to rename The Riddler Factor. The concept is sound, of course, but the Riddler is not its exemplar. As a big Riddler fan, I am having to restrain myself from DECLARING WAR against you...! Or at least a campaign to rename the Riddler Factor.

Why not The Shiek Factor?

David Campbell said...

Scipio, I should have known you would be a big Riddler fan. I shall consider your request, as I am a just and benevolent Dave.

But I think "The Sheikh Factor" would refer to something else. Something naughty, probably...

Johnny B said...

This is what those who complain about today's "Grim and Dark" Batman want us to return to. Oh, brother.

FYI: the cover appears to be by Ernie Chan/Chua, who drew all the 70's DC covers that Nick Cardy couldn't get to. Just didn't want anyone to think it was Novick that drew that camel...

Jeff R. said...

Hang on, now. If it was supposed to be a big secret thing that there were two guys involved here, how come there's a second guy-on-camel coming up from behind on the cover itself? How many camels were there in the actual issue?

David Campbell said...

Thanks Johnny B, I couldn't figure out who did the cover, which yes, Jeff R, has TWO camels on it - or more specifically two guys on camels. There is a camel stampede(!) early in the comic, which Batman stops by choking one, but I think you're right, the cover sort of telegraphs the big mystery inside.

Plus, Batman's eyes look all fucked up on the cover. They're up where his forehead should be, methinks.

Mark Hale said...

I can't recall the guy's name, but years ago I read about a racecar driver who lost the ability to move his hands and had his stiff digits molded such that he could grasp a steering wheel and continue to racecar-drive.

kelvingreen said...

Well, I know that if I had an Arab-themed villain, the first place I'd think of to set the climactic battle would be a... hockey rink. Hmm.

Someone should send this issue to Grant Morrison. It's clear now that his conception of an ultra-competent Batman who can take down an entire Martian invasion by himself is just completely wrong!

kelvingreen said...

And I love the panel of Batman failing to open a door. That's superb, and slightly sad.

kelvingreen said...

Okay, last one, I promise...

Look at the writing on that box of "surgicle" cotton...

Anonymous said...

Irv Novick rules.

Anonymous said...

Alas, with his hands bandaged like that, he was unable to access the emergency Bat-Opposable Thumbs he keeps in his utility belt.

Anonymous said...

This issue makes me glad I grew up reading Batman in the 80's and not the 70's. I'll take The NKVDemon and the tulpa over fighting an imitation Arab on ice skates any day of the week.

Yail Bloor

garberner said...

This Batman issue is the first superhero comic I've ever received. My sophisticated seven year old mind thought it was an extension of the TV series. Batman plays hockey? It would have been better if Bats broke out the white batsuit to blend into the icy background.

Vaklam said...

Live, In Person, and not in a desert somewhere

Buh?

Is that some sort of precognitive Ishtar reference?

Scipio said...

Bless you, Dave!

Can I help find a substitute?

Kiteman?
Signalman?
Calendarman?

Johnny B said...

Hey, no making fun of the Calendar Man! I like him.

Scott said...

Denny O’Neil rules!

Batman in the desert playing hockey, Daredevil in a swamp stuck in quicksand, Green Arrow & Green Lantern on the road, bar fighting in small town America.

I don’t think Denny was a big fan of big cities.

Jason Elias said...

Very cool blog! I love seeing that comic from 1975.

Anonymous said...

You know, the real Sheik woulda just dug a pencil into Batman's forehead and drawn the DQ from the refree.

But I guess you can't draw that out for 22 pages. Damn Comics Code.

Daniel E. Renfer said...

The Turner D. Century Factor.

KJToo said...

Another comic that I remember! Granted, it came out when I was a mere toddler and by the time I read it the cover had long-since been destroyed, but I did read it. One of the the advantages to having older brothers who were into comics.

The thing that struck me about that particular issue is how painful the hockey-stick-across-the-throat, head-smacking-the-crossbar finishing move looked.

I mean, ouch.

But hey, that's the sort of thing you might think about when you're eight. I had no concept of how ludicrous the idea of Bruce instructing Alfred to wrap his hands in fists was. None. Only now, at the end, do I understand.

N said...

Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious.

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