Thursday 25 February 2016

World's Finest #218, Capricorn gets Batman and Superman's goat.

World's Finest #218, Batman and Superman sit atop a car in a ticker tape parade as a note from Capricorn taunts them, Nick Cardy cover, DC Comics
There are some extremely unlikely combinations in this life.

And I can't think of any of them.

Fortunately, I don't have to because one of the most unlikely of them is staring me straight in the face right now.

And that's Superman and Batman.

Given that one of them has all the super-powers in the world and the other doesn't have any, it always seemed a bit odd to me that they'd bother to team up.

Just what would Superman gain from teaming up with DC's equivalent of Daredevil?

And just what help would Batman think he'd be to the world's most omnipotent man? Basically, he'd be there just to stand around saying, "Ooh yes, you're doing very well, Superman."

I only ever got one chance to discover the answer to this question when I was a youth.

And that's because I only ever had one issue of World's Finest.

World's Finest #218, Superman arrives
That issue was issue #218 and it made it clear to me in just thirteen pages what that answer was.

The answer is that they team up because they're useless.

It all kicks off when Batman discovers a mystery extortionist called Capricorn is on the loose in Gotham City. He's blackmailing Commissioner Gordon. He's blackmailing the mayor. He even ends up trying to blackmail Bruce Wayne.

As it turns out, he's not much of an extortionist because he's demanding nothing from them. He just seems to want them to know that he knows what they know.

This lack of actual criminality doesn't stop Batman being determined to bring him to justice.

And so it is that, for no noticeable reason that I can see, he calls in Superman who seems to have nothing better to do with his time than chase around after people who've not actually broken the law.

Then again, as far as Batman's concerned, the law seems to be whatever Batman says it is. As he and Superman break into the house of their only suspect, a man called Fabio, Bats makes it clear he can break into houses whenever he deems fit to, as long as the suspect has a criminal record and Batman wants to get into his house. When Fabio tries to defend himself from such literally unwarranted intrusion, Batman gives him a punch in the face and arrests him for trying to prevent intruders getting in.

World's Finest #218, TSOKK!
Needless to say, it turns out Fabio isn't the wrongdoer (even though Capricorn's not, at this point, legally a wrongdoer either) and they've invaded completely the wrong house and smacked a man in the jaw for nothing. And now, thanks to that, they're starting to look a bit stupid in front of everyone.

World's Finest #218, Superman and Batman drop inIt's at this point that Capricorn finally decides to commit a crime and kills Fabio, in order to make our heroes look even stupider.

You can't help feeling sorry for Fabio. There he is, minding his own business when, suddenly, Batman and Superman are blowing up his house and someone he's never met is out to kill him.

Suitably buttressed by this dramatic turn of events, Batman and Superman fling themselves into the hunt with renewed vigour.

And get absolutely nowhere with it.

They end up finding him entirely by accident, as Bruce Wayne inadvertently bumps into him in a health shop and eventually works out that the man who looks like a goat and buys goats' milk and then sends him a letter to let him know who he is, might be Capricorn.

Having now found his house, they swoop, only for him to escape with no difficulty at all by hiding in a water main whose lead walls Superman's X-Ray vision can't penetrate.

World's Finest #218, CapricornThus, Batman and Superman's latest case ends in total failure.

I can honestly say that I could conduct a criminal investigation more effectively than this pair of wallies.

Do they fingerprint the blackmail letters?

No they don't.

Do they try to find out where the letters were posted?

No they don't.

When Capricorn escapes them, do they check out his known contacts?

No they don't.

Do they look into his history for any possible clues to his whereabouts?

No they don't.

Knowing he has an illness, do they check his medical records?

No they don't.

Do they arrange for, "Wanted," posters to be printed?

No they don't.

They just give up on it all and literally sit there feeling sorry for themselves.

And don't even get me started on the fact that the pair of them happily turn a blind eye to the various criminal misdemeanours they now know have been committed by various members of the Gotham City elite.

World's Finest #218, Capricorn goneSo there you have it. Basically, if you're having trouble with criminals, don't call in Batman and Superman. You'd be better off investigating it yourself.

In fact, you'd be better off calling me in. I've seen Father Dowling. I know how these things are done. All I need do is find a nun who's a mistress of disguise, expert lock picker, safe cracker, pick pocket, poker player, pole dancer and cocktail maker - and talks like Flo Steinberg (always bring it back to comics) - and I've got it cracked.

Still, on the upside, the adventure was drawn by Dick Dillin and Dave Cockrum, so at least our heroes look better while failing than I would.
World's Finest #218, Alfred the Butler - master of disguise

I'm sorry but how on Earth can that possibly be Alfred in disguise?


TC said...

Originally, Superman and Batman appeared in separate strips in World's Finest. When page count was reduced, DC decided to combine the two heroes in one feature, since both were too popular to drop. That was the one thing that they had in common: popularity.

They were obviously mismatched, especially in the 1970's when Batman returned to his grim Dark Knight image and Superman was still the Big Blue Boy Scout. But it wasn't so bad in the 1950's and '60's, when both were being played as straight good guy superheroes.

Actually, their disparity was addressed in WF #143 (1964). Batman was shot and wounded during a fight, and developed an inferiority complex. He decided to retire from crime-fighting. To restore his confidence, Superman took him to the bottle city of Kandor (where Superman had no powers) and staged a fake menace for Batman to help defeat. Naturally, a real menace turned up, and Batman really had to rescue Superman. His confidence restored, Batman returned home and resumed his crime-fighting career. I read a reprint of that story years later, when I was 12 or so, and thought it was pretty cool.

Steve W. said...

Thanks for the info, TC. It does almost make me wish Marvel had launched a comic that featured Daredevil teaming up with Thor every issue, which would have been their equivalent.

Anonymous said...

Nice cover.
I'm sure TC's right that the Supes/Bats duo was about DC putting their best sellers together.
But from a readers point of view... I think you're being a bit overly literal, Steve. Best to forget about logic when it comes to superhero comics, and maybe think thematically - I rather enjoy the contrast between the two characters.


B Smith said...

It was written by Bob Haney - sense or logic don't come into it.

Steve W. said...

I did actually feel Bob was relatively restrained in this story, by his usual standards. I hope he wasn't losing his enthusiasm.

20 cent aka Mike in Jersey said...

Daredevil and Thor - funny. Shang-Chi did team up with Thing in a Marvel Two-in-One issue.