Sunday, November 22, 2009

Detective #79: Destiny's Auction



One of my favorite Batman stories of all time comes from Detective #79. Three separate people see Madame Calagra, a fortune teller, who correctly predicts all of their immediate futures. She sees Judy O'Casson, an aspiring actress, moving from her current humble lodgings to a great palace. But when Judy returns to her shabby boarding house, she finds that she's been locked out, and the landlady won't let her have the trunk of belongings unless she pays the back rent.

Madame Calagra's next customer is Tremaine Wentworth, a former actor whom she predicts will be cast in a new role.

But as Wentworth heads home, he's hit by a car, and thus his new role is that of an amnesiac.

The third person seeking her advice is mobster Diamond Pete Ransome, who is pleased to learn that strong men will follow him on his next job. But of course, the strong men are Batman and Robin, who put Pete in jail. Will the cops find Pete's trunk, which contains evidence that would convict him of murder?

The common thread that ties all three together is that they have each lost a trunk which contains something valuable to them. A year later, Judy returns to the big city, Tremaine recovers his memory and Diamond Pete gets out of jail. They each try to recover their trunk, but find it has been placed up for auction.

Judy gets to the auction house first and bids on a trunk that looks like hers. Tremaine arrives shortly after and bids on the second trunk, while Diamond Pete arrives late and gets the last trunk. But, as you can probably guess, none of them end up purchasing his or her own trunk, but one of the others.

Pete discovers that his trunk contains the belongings of Tremaine Wentworth (as do Batman and Robin). The Dynamic Duo dash over to Wentworth's and help him open his trunk. It's a bunch of dresses and a manuscript for a play. It's an undiscovered work by a famous playwright named Claude Renner, and will surely be worth a fortune to Judy, whose name is found inside the trunk.

But this time the crooks, who wear disguises they found in Wentworth's trunk, beat Batman and Robin to the girl's hotel:


Batman saves the young lady, and when Diamond Pete tries to slip by, Wentworth recognizes his old disguises and Batman and Robin are able to capture the crooks. Judy explains that she was given the play by the famous writer shortly before he died, with instructions to only sell it to a producer who promises to cast her in the leading role. As it happens, Batman knows a possible "angel":

So Judy and Wentworth star in the play, which is a smash hit. And Diamond Pete gets the chair, as he deserves. At the end, Bruce and Dick decide to pay a visit themselves to the fortune teller:

A very tight little story by Don Cameron (according to the GCD) and gorgeous art by Jerry Robinson, who really gets the mood right. While Dick Sprang is my favorite Batman artist overall, I must confess that I prefer Robinson's image of the Caped Crusader as a lithe, gymnast-type.

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