World’s Finest Comics #155 “Exit Batman-- Enter Nightman!” (part 1 of 2)
It’s time once again for the Agony Booth series that’s electrifying the nation: Bizarre Silver Age Comics! I realize it’s been a while since the last installment. After writing about stories from Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane, and Action Comics Starring Superman, I was starting to get the notion that maybe this series was a little too Superman-heavy.
So I set about searching for a worthy Batman story to add to the canon, which is easier said than done. Don’t get me wrong, the Silver Age saw plenty of bizarre Batman stories, one of which was detailed on this very site, but none of them feature Batman being, well… a colossal dick. Certainly never to the degree that Superman is a colossal dick in the three stories I’ve covered so far.
I even came across a story where Batman puts his services out for hire, just like Superman in Action Comics #176, but I can assure you at no point does Batman make a guy sign a contract before saving his life. Why the DC writers of the period created a ludicrously assholish persona for Superman, while leaving Batman a near-total blank slate is one of the world’s great mysteries.
But after a lengthy search, I finally found a Batman story I could sink my teeth into, and, well… it also stars Superman, acting like a colossal dick. When it comes to Silver Age DC Comics, there’s really no escaping Superman being an asshole.
And as everybody knows, for every asshole guy in the world, there’s a woman with no self esteem who thinks she can’t live without him. And in World’s Finest Comics #155, dated February of 1966, we learn that Batman is in fact that woman with no self esteem who simply can’t live without Superman.
World’s Finest Comics originally started out as a series featuring separate Batman and Superman stories, until someone realized they were two great tastes that taste great together, and soon World’s Finest was all about Batman and Superman teaming up every month to fight crime. It certainly seems like a can’t-miss proposition, but the novelty must have worn off rather quickly, because just a few years later, things started to get a little weird. Case in point: “Exit Batman– Enter Nightman!”
This cover is really a thing of insane beauty, so let’s examine the different crazy aspects in finer detail.
Here we find Superman watching one of his closest friends getting his ass kicked, and the thing weighing most heavily on his mind is replacing the insignia on some random plaque. The guy has some screwed up priorities, to say the least. And what’s with the plaque? Why do Batman and Superman need a plaque? Unless you’re a member of the Rotary Club or the Wendy’s employee of the month, you really don’t need a plaque.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the cover…
That’s right, a mysterious crime fighter named “Nightman” has just acquired Robin by beating up Batman. It really is that simple to take ownership of Robin. I’ve heard rumors that Batman once lost Robin in a bar bet, but was able to win him back before the story leaked.
Even by the bonkers rules of Silver Age superheroes, how does this make any sense? Beat up a superhero, get his sidekick? What the hell? Do superheroes usually operate according to the rules and customs of prison inmates? If so, Robin has just become Nightman’s bitch.
Also, “That’s the way the Batman crumbles”? I’m actually kind of hoping this is Nightman’s stupid catchphrase that he utters at every possible opportunity. Like maybe he’ll catch some bank thieves in the act and go, “That’s the way the heist crumbles!” That would really endear him to me. Which is not to say that a moronic name like “Nightman” isn’t enough to win my heart.
And lastly, I’ve never read Watchmen or seen the movie, but thanks to the onslaught of publicity surrounding the film, even I know that Nightman bears a strong resemblance to Nite-Owl. So, to all you Watchmen fans, insert your own snarky, uber-geeky comment here comparing Nightman to Nite-Owl, and laugh yourselves silly. You’re welcome.
On to the splash page!
“I won’t be with Superman on our 1,000th case,” Batman whimpers. “He has his new partner, Nightman!” Yeah, well, I’m pretty sure Nightman doesn’t sit at home sulking and watching home movies of his former loverpartner solving other cases. So I kind of don’t blame Superman here.
So, is everybody clear on the premise here, which is that a mysterious crime fighter named Nightman is about to replace Batman as Superman’s partner? Good. That means we can finally get to the actual story.
I’d say it’s obvious that neither one of them wants the ugly trophy.
“No, please, Batman, put this in a prominent location in your deep, deep underground, hidden Batcave.” “No, no, Superman, please put this in your Fortress of Solitude where only polar bears and the Yeti might actually see it.” “No, no, old chum… Say, Robin, you’re a big boy now, isn’t it about high time you had your very own souvenir?”
And I know you’re all extremely curious as to what kind of case resulted in a trophy of a miniature space capsule. Well, actually, you probably don’t give a shit, but you’re going to find out anyway.
First of all, Jimmy, you said “great cases”, and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t apply to a case where Superman takes home a miniature space capsule. Second of all, 1,000 cases? That seems kinda high. Even if they’ve been solving one case a week, we’re still talking almost 20 years here. And 34 is a little old for Robin to still be running around in hot pants.
To celebrate their 1,000th case, Jimmy cons both Batman and Superman into thinking that Commissioner Gordon wants to “put on a special law-enforcement exhibit” in “a location between Metropolis and Gotham City”, and then…
Allow me to translate the conversation above:
Superman: Wasn’t it?
And aren’t the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude supposed to be, I don’t know, secret? As in, unknown to the general public? Isn’t it kind of dumb for Batman to even suggest there’s an underground cavern where he hides out? To say nothing of decorating a banquet hall at the local Ramada Inn to look like that secret hideout?
But then again, it’s kind of dumb for Superman to suggest he even has a secret identity, but apparently he’s more than happy to talk about that, too.
And then comes the big surprise that Superman didn’t want to spoil: Commissioner Gordon has invited “officials of countries who are grateful to Batman and Superman” to help celebrate the occasion.
Why… look who’s arrived! Despots from every country!
I’m pretty sure none of you afford basic human rights to your citizens, and you rape and torture all dissidents, and you’re probably stockpiling chemical weapons as we speak, but hey, come on down and party with Batman and Superman! There’s gonna be cake!
Look… The truth is, we couldn’t pawn this shit off on tourists, so… Happy birthday, Batman and Superman!
What’s that? It’s not their birthdays? Well, enjoy this useless crap anyway.
Suddenly, Batman is consumed with guilt, as he starts to mentally decompensate before the leaders of the world. He actually detaches his head and lets it float around the room as he reveals the ugly truth.
You know, Batman, I can understand wanting to unburden your soul and come clean at long last, but is this really the best time? You’re making the ambassador from Kyrgyzstan uncomfortable.
Seriously, what got to you, Batman? Did you suddenly realize you weren’t deserving of a cheap replica of the Eiffel Tower?
To explain to Mr. Out-of-Frame Voice who “Nightman” is, Batman unveils his “Bat-Eye”, which is some type of flying movie camera that patrols the city while he’s otherwise occupied. Or, really, any time he doesn’t feel like it.
In other words, Batman is letting a soup bowl patrol the city while he’s asleep. That sure puts my mind at ease.
Seriously? A giant model to help people understand the Apollo missions? Was NASA really building crap like this back then? I’d prefer to think they had better things to do in 1966.
And is that soup bowl really supposed to be hovering around and filming all this? How is it that neither Superman nor Nightman ever notice it’s there?
So, it looks like the jewel thieves actually took up residence inside a moon model in the middle of the city. Am I the only one wondering what they were using for a bathroom? I’m thinking maybe no one should go near the Tycho crater for about 40-45 minutes.
There’s no sign of the stolen gems, until Nightman notices the model space capsule has an irregular orbit, and tells Superman to “focus [his] x-ray vision” on the capsule.
Wow! Who needs Batman? Nightman’s a freaking genius! He’s even more of a genius than the jewel thieves, who found a way to live comfortably inside of a moon model with no heat or running water, while somehow stuffing all their jewels into an rapidly orbiting model of a space capsule.
The problem is, this is obviously the same space capsule trophy seen at the beginning of the story. Which Superman was handing to Batman in the Batcave. But Superman and Nightman are the ones who cracked this case. Batman had nothing to do with it.
I think that going forward in this series, I should take bets on how many pages it takes the writer to completely lose track of the story’s internal continuity. Those betting on 6 pages would be receiving a pretty decent payout right about now.
Jesus, Batman, so Nightman solved one stupid case while you were asleep. There’s no reason to get all butthurt about it in front of the prime minister of Tonga.
Superman and Robin actually have to drag Batman back in, to suggest that finding out the identity of this Nightman person might be kind of important.
Did Batman just say “cases”, plural, when as far as we know, Nightman only cracked one case that Batman couldn’t solve? Indeed he did.
Also, you might think “I give you seven days to come through” is just Commissioner Gordon spit balling. You know, as in expressing his confidence that Batman will crack the case in seven days. But no, he’s actually giving Batman seven days to come through. If he doesn’t, Batman has to retire. Think I’m joking? Check out the following panels.
I mean, what the hell, guys? Is this really how superheroing works? Someone else solves one case instead of Batman, and now Batman has to end his career? Or… wait a minute, is this just Batman indulging in a transparent sympathy ploy? Maybe this is the only way to win back Superman’s love and approval. Either way, this is how we end Part I of this incredible tale.