Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Batman Defeats Middle Eastern Villain with Hockey
In Batman 268, written by Denny O'Neil and drawn by Irv Novick and Tex Blaisdell, Batman fights a brand-new villain known as "The Sheikh," a character who, as far as I can tell, never returned after this one appearance.
In looking back at these mid-70s Batman comics, one clear motif emerges: animal fighting. In Denny O'Neil's vision of Gotham City, there is a vibrant trade in exotic animals, both legal and illegal. In Batman 263, we saw that giraffes were such a valuable commodity that the Riddler saw fit to launch an elaborate heist in order to steal them. Inevitably, these animals inadvertantly get caught up in the violence that is also inherent in Gotham City.
Case in point, Batman 268 opens with Bruce Wayne attending the arrival of a herd of camels that the Wayne Foundation has purchased for various zoos. As the camels are being unloaded from their cargo ship, a burnoose (as Alfred identifies him), fires a rifle and causes the camels to stampede. Batman then has to take one of the camels down with a chokehold:
Batman comes across as a little judgy there--that camel's just being a camel.
Batman stops the stampede, but not before wealthy oil baron Fredrick Goforth is trampled by the beasts.
Batman suspects that Goforth was murdered, but his investigation will have to wait because he has a prior engagement: box seats at the Hudson University hockey match. I like his sense of priority.
Luckily, Bruce is able to kill two birds with one stone, as the Sheikh strikes again by assassinating the man in the box next to Bruce Wayne.
As Batman gives chase to the Sheikh, we can see that the Caped Crusader's anti-animal bias has clearly gotten out of hand:
(Just don't call him late for dinner!)
The Sheikh actually gets the better of Batman, and Batman falls off the roof of Gotham Sports Arena, only saving himself by sliding down a long neon sign. Unfortunately, this messes up his hands pretty badly, and Alfred has to put on these really clunky bandages:
Because he no longer has the use of his hands, Batman is unable to save the Sheikh's next victim, but he does find clues that lead him to discover that the Sheikh loves hockey:
If there's one thing I can't stand, it's cultural stereotypes.
It turns out that the Sheikh is actually two villains: Goforth and Hopkins, the two "victims" that Batman had failed to save earlier in the story. Their deaths were faked in order to cover their plan to murder their third partner in the oil business.
So, Batman and Robin confront the villains at the hockey rink, and, in a scene that undermines the positive image of the sport, the Dynamic Duo beat the crap out of them with hockey sticks:
Also in this comic: Alfred shares a little too much information about his private life with Dick Grayson: