Publication date: Spring 1941
Author: Bob Kane
When Batman is rightly skeptical, Anderson counters with, “For man to fly was once thought impossible… Radio, the telephone were once impossibilities!” And that is all the justification the comic thinks it needs for a story where Batman fights fairy-tales. Onward to the plot!
As it turns out, the Professor has been testing this machine on his daughter, Enid, and she’s been in the book of fairy tales for two days. And now it’s Batman’s turn to step in and rescue her from her father’s ridiculous science.
Batman and Robin sit in the machine (which consists of a lot of doodads and such surrounding three giant white chairs side by side underneath what look like enormous light bulbs). It and the book dwarf them, symbolically making them children again. Except for Robin, who is still technically a child I guess.
And as Batman begins to read aloud a story about a wicked old witch, the machine begins to spark and shake, and our heroes begin to feel pressed upon, as if they were shrinking… And then it explodes, killing both of them, which is why kids should never test strange machines made by creepy little scientists.
Alright, alright. They don’t die. Instead there’s a trippy journey through the cover of your middle school Trapper Keeper:
“Robin, do you also feel a terrible, shrinking sensation?”
“Batman, have you ever felt… not so fresh?”
Finally, B&R are dumped unceremoniously on the ground. They look around to find themselves in “Fairyland”. (Robin’s response: “Golly!”) No time for sight-seeing, or appreciating science so sufficiently advanced, Arthur C. Clarke would plotz; to the mission! They decide to look for somebody who’s seen the girl they’re after, Enid. What they find is an old man who declares he will never stop moving, for he is “time–Father Time!” Sounds more like Father Shark to me, but whatever.
Father Time naturally gives them a time limit, as well–apparently they must rescue the girl today before sundown, for anyone who spends more than three days in Fairyland gets really really bored with it. Or, you know, trapped there forever or something. I wasn’t really paying attention.
As soon as Father Time moves on down the road, the pair are confronted by their enemy, the Witch, who apparently saw them in her crystal ball. She’s not black at all, though; she’s green. She’s the Green Witch. And look, I’m not a racist, but it makes sense. Everybody knows you just can’t trust green people. They’re always doing stuff like this:
Dramatic narration informs us that “the embrace of either of their opponents [means] death”, making this fight more than a little creepy, in a rapey kind of way.
Despite the pain, Batman manages to stick out a foot and trip the man of fire; and despite the cold, Robin manages to grab the man of ice’s arm and flip him… onto the man of fire! (Raise your hand if you did not see this coming. You there, with the raised hand. You are dumb.)
“We’re melting, Carl!”
“I love you, Maximillian!”
“Our bodies will mix for eternity, Carl!”
That terrifying incident over with, the dynamic duo continue along the path. At one point, they run into Simple Simon, on his way to the fair. Simon is surprisingly knowledgeable, telling our heroes that they’re on the right track, they have to follow the path through a mountain, oh, and by the way, the mountain is guarded by the “Great Dragon.”
Racing away, Robin trips! Batman doubles back! Meanwhile, Simple Simon can’t afford his pie! OH NO!
After pulling Robin to safety, Batman mixes two vials from his utility belt, and tosses the result inside the monster’s great, gaping, lipsticked mouth.
The dragon vanquished, our heroes continue on their quest, next running into Humpty Dumpty, sitting on his wall and dispensing sage advice. He tells them that in order to get to the witch’s castle, they’ll have to climb Jack’s Beanstalk. They soon find it, and hold on tight as it grows by itself into the clouds, where everything is quiet and peaceful and
They get captured and caged by a cyclops, who plans to boil them alive. Presumably he will grind their bones to make his bread, etc. But while he’s out getting the water, Batman mixes more vials and blows a hole in his cage. And when the giant returns, Batman is ready for him:
Then for a few minutes, the comic forgets that it’s about fairy tales and starts replaying the Cyclops scene from The Odyssey, Batman style, as the two tiny heroes fight the blinded giant and his sighted cousin. Robin, tossed, swings a lamp into the new giant’s head, dazing him; and Batman poses on top of the giant’s head, baiting the blind one.
“Batman, how will we ever penetrate this deep gorge?”
“Looks like we’ve got a man-sized job on our hands, Robin.”
Batman’s solution is to fashion a crude catapult by tying down a sapling, sitting Robin on top of it, and then cutting the rope. Seriously. It’s like something Wile E. Coyote would put together. Regardless, it works, and Batman soon follows.
Batman and Robin burst in, confronting the witch, but she’s smarter than them, and drops them down a shaft into her dungeon. Which is apparently the Island of Misfit Toys:
Batman and Robin beat up these hideous vivisectionist creations, hopefully ending their horrifying, miserable lives. They also interrogate the evil little dwarf, who tells them the secret to defeating the witch: wrestle her and don’t let go, even as she changes her form, to break her power.
Lions and crocs and tigers, oh my! The witch’s power is finally broken, through the power of unwelcome hugging (apparently the weapon of choice in this fucked up fairy tale world). Depressed, the witch throws herself off the castle parapet, falling to her death. Happy endings all around!
The carpet flies them swiftly back to their place of origin, and they experience the same shrinking sensation as they are brought back out of the book to the Professor’s lab.
So, that was a very strange story, particularly because of the various horrible images (the eye getting poked out with a fork, the twisted dungeon creations, the melting elementals) and especially because of the sexual subtexts that underlaid many of the fairy tale obstacles, all of which revolved around either eating or forced hugging. So it is in that light that I tell you that the next panel is absolutely the most disturbing of the bunch:
Tune in next week as Baturdays continues!