Detective Comics #369 (November 1967)
"Batgirl Breaks Up the Dynamic Duo!"
Gardner Fox-Carmine Infantino/Sidney Green
Doug: My Bronze Age connection to this Silver Age gem? I first came across this tale between the covers of Batman Family #2 (Nov./Dec. 1975), which I acquired in some unknown manner; I know I didn't buy it off the spinner racks. So despite the fact that I'll be scanning from Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino (2014), I've known of this story for many a'moon. I'm curious as to the intentions of Gardner Fox and Carmine Infantino (and editor Julius Schwartz) -- this was only the 4th appearance of Batgirl, having debuted in Detective Comics #359 (cover dated January 1967). We know of her tie-in with the William Dozier television program, but I almost have to wonder if there wasn't some intent to create more of a triangle relationship between the three caped crimefighters. And no, I'm not even going to entertain the posits that float around about Batman and Robin -- that never occurred to me as a kid, and I'd prefer to leave that in the realm of people just stirring up trouble. But certainly Dick Grayson as an adolescent male, suddenly confronted with a powerful (and powerfully beautiful) female every bit his equal... well, who wouldn't take a second look? But I'm curious about Dick's age in the comics at this point. Without digging too deep, I'll assume that he was still high school aged (15 or 16?) -- which seems younger than he was portrayed on TV where I felt he was 18 or maybe 19. Even if the older suggestion is true, that would still put him a good 3-4 years or so younger than Barbara Gordon. While one can complete a bachelor's degree in library science, it was my sense that Barbara was a little higher up at the Gotham City Public Library and so perhaps had her M.S. -- she'd then be 23 or 24. So anyway, the match-up wasn't quite making sense to me as a kid, and I still have reservations and curiosities about it on the reread. I'd sure like to see others' take on this.
Doug: I've said it before, I'll say it again -- I have an affinity for Batman comics with Batgirl and for Superman comics with Supergirl. I don't know why... I guess I really like the feminized derivative costumes. So let's jump into this with a 100-Word Review and see just what the Dominoed Daredoll (yes, Fox uses that painful, PAINFUL expression on the third page of the story -- meet me in the "Ugly" section below) was up to in trying to end the Dynamic Duo.
Batgirl’s installed a “multi-color light-tracer beam” on her Batcycle that allows her to lock in on the specific vibrations of a car’s motor. This allows her to beat the Dynamic Duo to crime scenes – better tech = better crimefighting! Batman chauvinistically tries to take over, but in doing so ends up in a quicksand swamp. Batgirl soon deduces that he’s contracted the “swamp fever” and tells Robin. Knowing Batman won’t get bedrest, the new Dynamite Duo plot to beat him to every crime so he won’t have to work hard. In the end, Bruce Wayne is cured in the hospital.The Good: Carmine Infantino's art trumps Gardner Fox's sometimes dopey script and dialogue. The plot is pretty typical Silver Age fare, but then I reflected on it and thought to myself, no -- Batman probably wouldn't quit crimefighting to mend from his illness. We've agreed in the past that Infantino is one of the classic cover designers, on par with any of the other artists in the "best" conversation. He's also not too bad at laying out a story. His pacing is great, and while I'd argue that he's as guilty as the next guy of using "stock poses", it works for me. It's a Carmine Infantino book. That being said, I'll stand by my comments that I did not generally care for his Bronze Age work at Marvel. But here, ten years earlier and at DC his pencils feel comfortable.
I enjoyed the camaraderie between Robin and Batgirl. As I said above, I'm not certain if there weren't romantic motives on the part of the powers-that-be, but if we just look at it through the lens that the two of them were closer in age it still works. There's also that generational element, with the "old guy", Batman, squeezed out. "Never trust anyone over 30", indeed! The creators do a nice job of ramping up the tension in the "triangle" once Batman is afflicted with the swamp fever. It's priceless when Batgirl shows up with a sidecar on her bike and Robin's logo affixed to it. This follows one of those uncomfortable times we all faced as kids when a parent had to drive us somewhere. Yep -- Robin can't drive the Batmobile alone, so Batman has to take him to his rendezvous with Batgirl! Awesome... The new "Dynamite Duo" do their best to keep Gotham City under control while Batman further spirals down with his illness. The whole time I was reading this, I just wanted to scream, "Tell the poor guy!", but as I said before -- there was no quit in the Dark Knight. The Bat-team of Fox, Infantino, and Schwartz came up with a fun solution.
The Bad: I don't really have anything of note here, other than perhaps the stock poses employed by Carmine Infantino. But since I feel like I need to raise at least one stink to show that this wasn't a perfect book, I'll settle on Catwoman's outfit. She appears in the last three panels of the story in her secret identity of Selina Kyle. Ahead of its time, Detective Comics #369 actually continued into the December issue of Batman (#197 - Holy crossover!) where a jealous Catwoman would seek out Batgirl to let the young interloper know that Batman was off-limits. The Infantino book reprints the cover (and there's that costume for which I don't care), but not the story. I'd have liked to read that!
The Ugly: Nicknames! Within these fourteen pages lurk the following: Boy Wonder, Caped Crusader, Teen Titan, Dynamic Duo (all of those are just on the splash page!), the aforementioned Dominoed Daredoll, Gotham Gangbusters, Masked Maiden, Bat-Beauty, Masked Manhunter, Chic Crimefighter... and several of those are repeated throughout the story! People complain about Bob Haney's forced language in the Teen Titans, but this style of Gardner Fox's is equally annoying. I know -- you can argue that it's part of the charm and I should view this as a "period piece". I get it. And I agree. But it was still a bit much in a 15-minute span.
Doug: Several of us have praised DC for getting all manner of Batman (mostly Bronze Age) material back in print through these hardcover series -- "Tales of the Batman" and "Legends of the Dark Knight". The books are certainly pricey if you're into paying the cover rate; me -- I usually pre-order my copies or get them from places like In-Stock Trades. I feel like if I can pay $30 for one of these rather than $50, then I've taken care of myself both economically and nostalgically. And, since I don't buy comics any more these books are a wonderful way to acquire a nice run at prices below what I'd pay for back issues. Win!