Baturdays: Batman #3, “The Ugliest Man in the World”

In All, Books and Comics by Kyu

Publication date: Fall 1940
Author: Bob Kane

The ugliest man in the world? This sounds promising.

We start as Batman breaks up a fight on the street, knocking heads together and punning up a storm. It’s five men on one, and although Batman rescues the one, the five speed away in a convenient getaway car, sending bullets flying over Batman’s head on their way out.

The one turns out to be a police officer–Detective McGonigle–who was stopping an attempted arson.

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Oh, this is gonna be good.

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ahahahahaha FACE

Later, the humiliated McGonigle tries to explain to his fellow cops that Batman would have been his, if only Batman’s three goons hadn’t jumped him from behind. But they’re not falling for it. Yes, in this incredibly incompetent police department, it appears we’ve found the worst of the bunch. Detective, I look forward to your future hilarious bumbling.

Meanwhile, Batman has put on a mask and become Bruce Wayne for the evening, meeting a man named Dodge and a man amusingly named Larry Larrimore. I have little to say about their dinner, which is astoundingly boring.

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I do like how the writer clearly went, “Huh. I could invent a character for Larrimore, and have him say something interesting here. Or I could just throw some empty nonsense up, and go eat this pastry. Writing… pastry… decisions, decisions…”

Anyway, nothing interesting is happening, so we’ll just holy shit

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Dodge turns aged and ugly! Now this is interesting.

A doctor examines the poor man and finds no medical cause for his ailment. Bruce thinks to himself, “There’s something fiendish afoot! I’m sure of it! And I’m sure that poor Dodge is only the beginning.” Proving once again that the best superpower of all is having read the script.

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This isn’t funny or anything, I just think “ghastly change” is a lovely phrase. It sounds like the plot of a great steampunk novel. Or I suppose a book about puberty.

As Batman is never a comic to use one plot where six or seven will do, we’re next told of a wave of civil unrest, which, let’s face it, probably has nothing to do with anything else, and won’t result in Batman punching some ugly people in the face. Clearly this will all be resolved with some kind words and maybe a new law or two. Clearly.

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“I don’t mean ugly as in angry and destructive, I mean ugly like their faces are all messed up. Although I guess they are also being angry and destructive. Hah! That means I made a pun! …I really wish I had a partner.”

In fact, the pattern of the ugly mob’s attacks are the same as the museum arson from the beginning of the story, as McGonigle reminds Commissioner Gordon and Bruce Wayne. First the mob tries to destroy beautiful things; then, when the police arrive, a getaway car drives up, sprays bullets, and rescues the mob.

Meanwhile, a group of really ridiculously ugly people hold a secret meeting to hear from their leader…

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“Ugly Hitler is right! Down with beauty!”

This is getting positively Fight Club-ish. Thankfully, this philosophy is much less, well, appealing, for obvious reasons, so there’s no danger of a generation of college students adopting its tenets and catch-phrases with zombie-like tenacity. Watch out, though, because if Brad Pitt ever did start a cult, he’d be unstoppable.

Later, in a fit of jealous rage, Ugly Hitler slashes to death what appears to be a giant postage stamp:

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In the interest of public safety, I’ll ignore the bad “going postal” pun I’ve set up for myself, and instead make fun of the colorist, to wit: Jeez, Ugly Hitler. You wouldn’t look so bad if you didn’t insist on dying your hair baby blue and then wearing suits to match.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

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“You’re thinking, ‘Damn, Robin. You look super sexy in those plaid pants.'”

Actually, Bruce is thinking, “Where the hell is Boravia? Are they making up countries now?”

Sorry, I could do this all day. What he’s really thinking is, the ugly mob is going to try and destroy the statue. Clearly the authors have missed a golden opportunity for humor, here–it’s much funnier if Bruce Wayne declares that his handsome, chiseled features and rock-hard abs will be the bait for these beauty-haters. Way to fail at comedy, guys.

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A ‘date with death’? Are you planning on dying? No, you’re planning on killing some ugly people tonight, aren’t you. Yeah, I thought so.

So Batman and Robin arrive at the pier and start tearing things up, punching some crooks but good. I have to say, though, I’m quite disappointed in the quality of puns, here. What, no, “Looks like this fight is about to turn ugly”? That was just off the top of my head. And I’m not even a superhero.

Unfortunately, and possibly related to the lack of puns, the whole fight’s a bust. McGonigle shows up just in time to shoot one of the thugs and then watch the ugly mob speed away in their getaway car yet again… but he can still salvage things by arresting Batman. Well. He could, if he wasn’t comically inept.

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hahahahaha WIPEOUT

On their way home, Batman and Robin hear that one Dr. Ekhart has discovered a cure for the ghastly change, and realize that’ll make him the next target of the ugly mob. They race over to the doctor’s house, smash in the door, and start kicking ass. No time to take names, unfortunately; the ugly mob make good another escape in that same getaway car. This time, however, Batman spies the car being loaded into a truck–clearly their method of concealment in previous instances of violence and vandalism. He trails the truck to a private residence:

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World’s greatest detective, ladies and gentlemen. Did he think they wouldn’t notice a grown man wearing a cape and cowl in their rear-view mirror?

Batman awakens tied up in the basement headquarters of the ugly mob, alongside fellow captives Mr. and Mrs. Tyler. In steps none other than… Larrimore! Gasp! And he takes off his rubber mask to reveal… Ugly Hitler! Gasp again!

No, don’t gasp, not even once. This is precisely the wrong way to write a plot twist. Since we had no idea who Larrimore was (partially because the writer chose the pastry over characterization), it has absolutely no impact on us to learn that the bad guy and Larrimore are the same person.

Anyway, Batman watches as “Larrimore” vents his rage on the Tylers, first by reminding them of some back story:

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Man, what a dick. What a contrived, contrived dick.

When Tyler goes to fake the injection, however, he’s jostled by a presumably drunken frat boy, and the needle actually does inject Carlson. People, this is why you don’t use needles full of “a lot of drugs” when pulling pranks. You want to use needles full of air. Much safer.

Anyway, the mystery mix of chemicals turns Carlson ugly, and the resulting dumping by his shallow, shallow fiancee turns him Hitler. (The fiancee, by the way, is now Mrs. Tyler.) Apparently Carlson/Larrimore/Ugly Hitler spent fifteen years finding the chemical compound that turned him ugly, at which point he began his revenge spree-slash-mob-violence-whatever.

As he prepares to inject Mrs. Tyler with the very same formula, his hypodermic is shattered by a slug from Robin’s sling. Apparently Robin, who had been left behind with Dr. Ekhart, went after Batman immediately, and followed the glowing traces from the Batmobile’s wheels. The two vigilantes get to work doing what they do best:

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‘The consternation of the ugly horde’ is such a mellifluous phrase, isn’t it?

Suddenly a shot rings out. Ugly Hitler is dead! Killed by McGonigle, who for all I and Batman mock him, is getting to be a deadly man to be around. It’s a pity; he probably wouldn’t have been such a dick if he had just allowed Ekhart to cure him. On the other hand, he had 15 years to do that, and instead of making a cure, he chose to make the poison. So good riddance, I guess.

McGonigle, having followed Robin here (world’s greatest sidekick detective, ladies and gentlemen!) is pleased as punch. He’s killed both the source of the ghastly change and the leader of the ugly mob in one fell swoop–two birds with one stone, or two birds who aren’t really two birds, but who are actually the same bird, and–oh, hell. The point is, he’s shot Ugly Hitler and he’s got Batman to boot. Or does he?

The answer is no. No, he does not.

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bwahahahaha HAT

Batman and Robin run away grinning like little kids. Which I guess Robin is, at least. Anyway, during the “later, at home” case post-mortem, they do some weird moral equivocating, saying anybody would have gone mad in Carlson’s situation. And that, after all, the blame lies with those who rejected him. Bizarre. They’ve never shied away from speaking ill of the dead before, why start now?

Finally, we get our comic foreshadowing of future issues:

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Notice he has a new hat, which is too small to be jammed down over his eyes.

Ah, McGonigile. You and your bumbling, murdersome ways are welcome in my comic and my heart any time.

Next time on Baturdays: more heavy-handed moralizing than you can shake a stick at! Will Batman and Robin learn a valuable lesson? Will somebody get shot to death in a children’s comic? Will I ever tire of mocking Batman for being both too moral and not nearly moral enough? Tune in to find out!