Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Giant Inter-Dimensional Alien Hand!

I don't want to tell Batman his job. I really don't. He's been doing it for nearly 8 decades now and we should all presume he knows what he's doing.

But in Batman #130 (March 1960), he and Robin are told by Commissioner Gordon that a giant hand holding two aliens has been seen near a zinc factory. All three men immediately assume it's a prank. Because when you live on an Earth that is filled with super-powered beings, supernatural creatures and is regularly invaded by aliens, a giant hand is just too silly.

Also, Batman is apparently having a slow day, since he volunteers to personally give the supposed prankster a stern lecture. But when they arrive at the factory, they are shocked--shocked, I say--to discover the giant hand is real.

I am making fun of the story, but I also had great fun reading it. It is a prime example of Silver Age silliness, but it also has a well-constructed story that follows Comic Book Logic and Dick Sprang's art fits it all perfectly. Batman is hardly the Dark Knight (I do prefer his more serious Bronze Age stories), but if you imagine Adam West's voice while you read this one, it all works perfectly.

That darn hand seems to be unstoppable. The two aliens, able to understand English via a translator device, control it as it shrugs off bullets and artillery to steal zinc, copper, platinum and tin. Batman tries to wrangle it with a cable tangled from Bat Plane, but that doesn't work out well. The aliens, by now, have given away their plan--they need certain materials to build a larger dimensional transmitter, allowing them to launch a full-scale invasion of Earth.

Bill Finger's script treats all this completely seriously, which is what makes it work. Yes, it is silly and its pretty much impossible not to make fun of it to a degree. But the story never makes fun of itself. And when Batman uses the fact that the aliens can't speak Eskimo to deduce that the giant hand is a fake, it all makes perfect sense.

Lex Luthor turns out to be the mastermind behind it all. By faking a potential inter-dimensional invasion and stealing a lot of low-value ore along with valuable platinum, Lex hoped to make off with a fortune without anyone ever noticing.

This, by the way, is Luthor's first appearance in a story that does not feature Superman.

Batman tracks the fake aliens to Luthor's hideout and uses the hand to catch the mad scientist. This also allows the Caped Crusader to end the story with a really, really bad joke. But to be fair to Batman, I think most of us would have been tempted to make the same joke had we just used a fake giant alien hand to catch a super-criminal.

The video below will show you the entire story, Next week, we return to giant robots & giant monsters.

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