Bizarro Back Issues: Batman Dominates ‘The Olympic Games of Space’ Because Of Course He Does (1958)
A few weeks back, I talked about Superman’s ill-fated trip to the Interplanetary Olympics. In that story, the Man of Steel claimed that he could’ve won if he wanted to, but let’s face facts here: When it came down to it, Superman let the planet Earth down in the most important outer space sporting event of the ’60s. So imagine my surprise when I found out that there was a story where Batman was recruited for Outer Space Olympics and competed against the greatest athletes the solar system had to offer. Could he come through where so many others would fail, even without super-powers?
Of course he could. He’s Batman.Even though “Batman Solves the Mystery of the Outer Space Olympics” is a sentence that combines about six separate things that I love, I’d never actually read this story until it was brought to my attention by my little stuffed pal Bully, who’s recently been doing his own Olympic-themed roundups. And folks, it is something to behold.
Originally released as the lead story in Detective Comics #260, “The Mystery of the Space Olympics” was brought to us by the legendary Sheldon Moldoff and a sadly unknown writer, and it may be the most perfect example of that long-forgotten era of truly ludicrous Sci-Fi Batman stories. Even for me, a guy who tends to really like those bizarre ’50s and ’60s super-hero comics a lot, that was a time that defies all understanding, but I guess when there’s a backlash against crime and violence in the medium, your Shadow-inspired vigilante has to find something else to occupy his time until everybody calms down a little bit and we can go back to good, wholesome gunplay and stabbings.
Thus, Space Olympics, and an opening splash page that would’ve given Frederic Wertham nightmares:
Just a dude in tights riding on a rocket shaped like a marital aid while his youthful ward holds tight to his utility belt! Nothing to see here!
Anyway, the story opens with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson flipping out because the alarm in the Batcave has gone off, and somebody’s creeping through their stuff! They quickly change into their costumes — which is a little weird, since you’d think they wouldn’t keep those things up in the house since that’s the entire point of having the Batcave in the first place — and head down there to find Xeo and Tog:
Say what you will about those kooky ’50s stories, but it will always be pretty awesome that Batman could wake up and find a couple of Venusians in RenFaire costumes lurking around his basement.
As you might expect from the title of the story, Xeo and Tog are big fans who have come down to get Batman to represent Earth in the Space Olympics, and since there was absolutely no crime happening at all anywhere on Earth in October of 1958, he agrees. Thus, they stroll out of the Batcave and into a “bizarre beam” that shoots them right up to Venus, as is apparently Space Olympic tradition.
Unlike Superman’s fake-ass Interplanetary Olympics that only had three competitors, Batman’s version has representatives from all nine planets of the Solar System, and Batman proudly represents our planet by marching with a flag that just a has a picture of Earth on it:
That’s a trope that pops up in comics a lot whenever they need a flag for an entire planet — Krypton’s flag is like that too, but with a rainbow in the background. It’s always seemed a little weird, as very few flags actually have a picture of the thing they’re supposed to represent, but I guess it was better than doing what Arkansas and Montana did and just literally writing the name of the place on a piece of cloth. C’mon, guys. Get it together.
Once the opening ceremonies are over, Batman competes in the one-handed rocket-sled race and manages to take home the gold after Pluto chokes at the finish line and falls off. Apparently outer space sports operate on the same principle as the mechanical bull at a country bar. From there, it’s on to the next event, and surprisingly…
…Batman turns out to be super awesome at shooting guns! You’d think he’d give that event a pass, but when the honor of an entire planet is at stake, I guess you just have to get past childhood trauma and a life-long moral code.
After that, the Caped Crusader tries his hand (or fist, as the case may be) at a little anti-gravity boxing against Jupiter — and that’s when people start to suspect something’s a little off:
Yes, the fix is in! It turns out that Batman has been unwittingly cheating at all the events, as a quick investigation turns up a bunch of rigged equipment! And as for the reason why, we find out in a panel that introduces one of the greatest concepts I have ever seen in a comic:
That is just fantastic, and not just because it’s apparently a cornerstone of interplanetary trade. I want to adopt it for use in my daily life. I mean, I respect a lot of people, but I Space Respect Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Faced with an angry mob of aliens, the Dynamic Duo decides it’s time to beat feet before the Asteroid Police show up to arrest them for ruining the Space Olympics. But instead of running back to Earth, they decide that they have to solve this case, lest it provide irreparable damage to Earth’s Space Reputation.
Their prime suspects are, of course, the Venusians who brought them there in the first place, but after an investigation that pretty much involves two panels of the Venusians saying “It wasn’t us” and acting with a bare minimum of politeness, they’re convinced that the culprits are actually the guys from Pluto. After all, they’re the only ones who stand to gain from Venus’s lack of Space Respect.
Batman and Robin head over to the judges to claim that they have proof, and the Plutonians, who clearly have no idea how to run a scam, flip out and try to murder them in front of everybody. There’s a quick chase on the rocket sleds — which is a little underwhelming considering that they’re mounted on rails that go in a big circle — and then finally get them to confess their crime under the watchful eyes of the Asteroid Police.
Can we talk about those uniforms for a second, here? Bright red mini-dresses with gigantic epaulets and cuffs, green scale-mail hot-pants over orange tights, all capped off by the love-child of an English Bobbie’s helmet and a fireman’s hat. That is Space Swag.
So with crime successfully fought, Batman decides that it’s time to head back to Earth and get back to fighting regular crimes like clowns poisoning the reservoir or crossword puzzle robberies. But the question remains, if it wasn’t for the interference of the Plutonians, would Batman have been able to do as well as he did in the Space Olympics?
Of course he could. He’s f***ing Batman.