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Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom by Winston…

Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom (1966)

by Winston Lyon

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Nearly thirty years after Superman received his first novel, Batman receives his... and it's based on the Adam West TV show! So not exactly laced with psychological realism, then. What can you say about a book whose premise is that the Penguin, the Joker, and Catwoman take turns fighting Batman in a tiebreaker for the "Tommy" Award, for the best criminal of the decade (it is a gold-plated tommy gun)?  Nothing, except that it does exactly what it wants to.

There's one bit where Batman explains to Robin how he predicted the Penguin's last crime:

"The Penguin's clues are obscurely planted, Robin. You have to put yourself into his evilly twisted mind to figure out what he means."

"Is that how you knew he would strike at the auction gallery?"

"It wasn't hard to figure out that an emerald statuette shaped in the form of an ancient bird, the ibis, would be a natural target for the Penguin."

"That's one thing you said back there that did surprise me, Batman. How did you know the tear gas bomb would be planted in the autioneer's hammer?"

Batman shrugged. "That was easy, Robin. The news item mentioned that the statuette of Thoth would be put up for auction--and the auctioneer would use a yellow hammer that been used in the days of Louis Quatorze. The yellowhammer is a kind of bird. It was an irresistible pun pattern for the Penguin."

"Holy hummingbird," Robin exclaimed. "The Penguin substituted his
own yellow hammer, complete with gas bomb, for the original."


Robin looked at the newspaper. "And the front page of this paper has another clue, you say? Let me see . . . 'Famous Mimic to Appear at Universe Room' . . . That seems the only possible item that would be of any interest, yet how . . . ?"

"Remember, Robin, you must try to think like the Penguin. He sees bird analogies in some unlikely places."

Robin frowned. "A mimic . . . hmm. What does a mimic do? He imitates other people's voices. . . . In a way, he might be said to mock them. Can that be it? A mockingbird?"

"Exactly, Robin."

"But what possibility for profitable crime does a mimic have to offer? There has to be something else," Robin persisted.

Batman nodded. "Elsewhere on the front page there's a notice of a gold shipment that will be carried by blimp from a bank in Gotham City to Fort Knox."

"But is that a bird clue?"

"A blimp is called a Dodo by Air Force pilots--because the dodo was a wingless bird. That's the Penguin's target. And there's still a further irony to whet the Penguin's villainous appetite for bird-puns."

This time Robin got the point at once. "Both items appear on the same page of the
Gotham Daily Eagle. Right, Batman?"

"You're thinking on sixteen cylinders, Robin. I'm proud of you."

If you're okay with that, you're okay with the book. If you're not, then at 128 pages, you haven't exactly wasted a lot of time.
  Stevil2001 | May 23, 2012 |
Original novel based on Batman television series (1966-1968) (Cover blurb: "Now a spectacular new ABC-TV network series starring Adam West and Burt Ward." Cover title given as "Batman vs. 3 Villains of Doom".) The Joker, Penguin, and Catwoman all vie for the "Tommy" award, given once every ten years by the heads of the underworld to "the man or woman who has done the most for CRIME". The mission each has to succeed at: the outwit or destroy Batman and Robin.

Okay, for what it is, a tie-in to the television series. Interesting more for being an early such tie-in (coming out while the show was still riding it's peak of success) than for the story told itself. Lyon (who also wrote a novelization of the Batman movie released in theaters later that same year, also starring Adam West, Burt Ward, and company) does an serviceable enough job. At times one can picture the television actors in one's mind's eye while reading Three Villains of Doom--and Lyon does at times capture the "feel" of the campy 1960s show--while at the same time Lyon takes advantage of being able to place parts of his book in locations and situations which would have been difficult to film on a television show budget.

The downsides are 1) an increasing sense of predictability that increases as one continues through the novel due to the nature of the story being told (villains get their challenge followed by each individually attempting to outwit or destroy Batman and Robin), and 2) a style of writing (rather common of the comics based superhero novels of this early period, I believe) that's pretty shallow, character wise. What I mean is very little (if any) room given to looking in on the primary characters' thoughts or motivations. All that matters here is plot, plot, plot (and a pretty simple plot, at that). And at times the narration is pretty clunky, especially with constant references to the characters by their "superhero" and "super-villain" names ("Batman and Robin did this", "Catwoman did that") and, when referring to the two leads, constantly referring to them in their secret identities by their full names ("Bruce Wayne turned to Dick Grayson"; two paragraphs later, "Dick Grayson replied").

Still, an interesting book for Batman (the comics character), the 1960s Batman television show, and/or superhero prose fiction fans. (As far as I can tell, this is only the second novel ever released based on a DC Comics character, following the much earlier Adventures of Superman novel by George Lowther in 1942.) Definitely worth taking a look, if you can find an inexpensive used copy somewhere. ( )
1 vote YoungTrek | Jun 20, 2009 |
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