The Dynamic Duo’s Double-Deathtrap, DETECTIVE COMICS No. 361 (March ’67); story: Gardner Fox; art: Carmine Infantino & Sid Greene; 14 pages; on sale January 31st ’67.
If they wish to avoid spoilers, before going forward, Batman & Robin fans are advised to read this story in the original comic or as reprinted in these titles:
- SHOWCASE PRESENTS: BATMAN Vol. 3 (2008)
- TALES OF THE BATMAN: CARMINE INFANTINO (2014)
DETECTIVE COMICS No. 361 (March ’67); cover by Carmine Infantino & Joe Giella ⇒
also in this issue:
Batman’s Hot-Line–letters from readers; 1 page.
Direct Currents–previews of the latest goodies from DC; writer: E. Nelson Bridwell; half page.
Cap’s Hobby Hints: How To Do It Better; story & art: Henry Boltinoff; half page.
Elongated Man: The Curious Clue of the Circus Crook; story: Gardner Fox; art: Carmine Infantino & Sid Greene; 9 pages.
Public Service Ad: Countdown on Excellence; story: Jack Schiff; art: Sheldon Moldoff; 1 page.
Batman’s Hot-Line–Extra–more letters from readers; 1 page.
The Curious Clue of the Circus Crook
DETECTIVE COMICS No. 361 (March ’67) was the first issue of that comic I bought new in the store–I remember reading some borrowed issues that predate this one, but I don’t recall if I read those before or after buying this one. To this day, this issue remains one of my favourites in all recorded human history.
To be sure, the lead story-The Dynamic Duo’s Double-Deathtrap [see the bottom of this page for more about that]–is the main reason I hold No. 361 in such high regard. However, the back-up story featuring the Elongated Man was no slouch either.
Note: The Curious Clue of the Circus Crook is reprinted in SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE ELONGATED MAN Vol. 1 (2006)–if you want to read it there, before going forward.
This one has Ralph Dibny return to his old stomping grounds at Bert Mangum’s Mammoth Circus, where the Stretchable Sleuth got his start as an India Rubber Man–that would lead him on the road to becoming the World Famous Elongated Man.
But Ralph finds Mangum on hard times. At each town where the circus stops, a big robbery occurs after a performance. And now the towns on the Mammoth Circus schedule have cancelled for fear of also being robbed.
Some thief seems to be following the circus to each stop on their schedule and pulling off jobs, on each night of the Mammoth performance. Ralph hatches a scheme to identify the thief, by putting on a show with himself as the star attraction in Grassy Corners.
But the flourescent fingerprint of Bert Mangum frames the circus owner when another heist is pulled in Grassy Corners.
Go to the spoiler page to see how this mystery ends.
This issue’s letter page has comment on DETECTIVE COMICS No. 357 (November ’66)–which happened to feature a colour reversal on the Elongated Man’s costume At that time the costume was predominantly red with yellow and black details; however, in Tragedy of the Too-Lucky Thief, the red and the yellow were reversed, making Ralph look like a rubber banana.
This was before the red was changed to magenta (as seen in No. 361 and others)–I suspect that colour change was to distinguish the Elongated Man from Plastic Man (also in red, yellow and black), who now had his own DC book.
But with his red hair and magenta outfit, Ralph then looked similar to Elastic Lad–otherwise known as Jimmy Olsen. As No. 361 was the first official issue of what would become my large collection of DETECTIVE COMICS, I assumed that Jimmy and Ralph were required by the laws of elasticity to have red hair and magenta outfits.
Go to the spoiler page for Batman’s Hot-Line–Extra.
More features of this issue
Cap’s Hobby Hints by Henry Boltinoff was always a favourite feature in DC comics. I was amazed that some boys cared so much about their model sets. Ah the lives of the leisure rich. This Hobby Hint came from a fellow Canadian. And on the bottom half of the page a house ad for the first issue of THE INFERIOR FIVE.
Bonus: See this issue’s Direct Currents on the spoiler page.
The Dynamic Duo’s Double-Deathtrap
The Dynamic Duo’s Double-Deathtrap is quite simply one of the greatest stories I ever read.
Being my first such purchase, I took it for granted that every issue of DETECTIVE COMICS would be just as great–and for about a year, they almost all satisfied my eight year old expectations. It’s only with the passing of the years that I’ve come around to acknowledge that this story stands above all other single-issue tales.
For pure plot structure, it resembles the television episodes that had first introduced me to the Gotham Gangbusters–as at the midpoint there is a trap much like the traps that Batman and Robin encountered every week on their series.
As well this one features Eivol Ekdal, who first appeared in DETECTIVE COMICS No. 346 (December ’65), in Batman’s Inescapable Doom-Trap–which was adapted for the BATMAN television series as Zelda the Great/A Death Worse Than Fate (air dates: the 9th and 10th of February ’66). In the comic book version the escape artist was called Carnado–he’s replaced by Zelda the Great (played by Ann Baxter) for the the teleplay by Lorenzo Semple, Jr, directed by Norman Foster.
Eivol Ekdal remains essentially the same and is played by Canadian character actor, Jack Kruschen. In both versions of this story, we learn that Eivol’s standard fee is $100,000. In the delightful TV treatment, Eivol is Albanian, allowing Kruschen to do a thick Eastern European accent.
Ekdal is one of those fun side-characters from crime-land that populate the Julius Schwartz edited comics. These shady characters added another dimension to the underworld inhabited by gaudy costumed villains and pin-stripe suited gangsters.
The original Eivol Ekdal plot was put down on paper by John Broome, Sheldon Moldoff and Joe Giella; whereas, No. 361 has the completely different team of Gardner Fox, Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella.
What distinguishes the latter story are the many and varied elements that Fox successfully juggles–as visualized by Infantino and Greene.
From mobsters that want a trap to fry the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder. And from Yuri Melikov, a Stasi agent also known as the Berlin Butcher–out to eliminate the inventor of the escape devices in Berlin helping Germans slip through the Iron Curtain.
One of my favourite parts of this story is when Bruce teaches Dick a simple mnemonic device. As a kid, I found this small detail incredibly important–it spoke volumes about the father and son relationship of the Dynamic Duo. I envied Robin such attention from his surrogate father. As nothing in a Gardner Fox story is wasted, this mnemonic will prove important a few pages later.
Another side-plot involves Thea Albrecht, herself on Melikov’s trail. She is detained by police and introduced to Batman and Robin. The beautiful secret agent and freedom fighter explains her mission and that of Melikov. This plot may owe something to John le Carré’s THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD, a recent bestseller (and movie) at the time.
–but there’s a few more twists to this plot, as you will see on the spoiler page.
And Robin is soon caught: