Deck Log Entry # 219 So, You Want to Join the Mystery Analysts . . . .

You are looking at the meeting room of a unique and exclusive club, the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City, experts at the business of solving bizarre mysteries . . .

 

 

Thus began one of the more fondly remembered features of Julius Schwartz's "New Look" Batman.

 

I've talked often about the changes that Schwartz wrought when he became editor of Batman and Detective Comics.  Some of them would become permanent Silver-Age fixtures, such as the yellow-ellipse bat-emblem and the addition of Aunt Harriet to the bat-cast.  Others, like Patricia Powell, would have a brief shelf-life.  And some of his ideas were ill-conceived, such as killing off Alfred the butler, then revealing him to be the Outsider.

 

But, overall, the freshness of "Be Original" Schwartz's approach nudged the straggling Batman into the Silver Age.  The Masked Manhunter was taken back to his roots.  Gone were the space aliens and the unearthly creatures and the bizarre transformations.  Once more, he was a solver of crimes.  Sure, a costumed villain might pop up now and again, but for the most part, Batman and his boy partner, Robin, had returned to what had been their stock-in-trade, pitting their skills against Gotham City's gangland, tackling criminals a bit too clever for the police.

 

With the "detective" part reëmphasised as Batman's curriculum vitæ, it seemed a natural step to provide a group of professional sleuths with whom the Caped Crusader could associate.  So begat the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City. 

 

This august club of investigators is introduced in Batman # 164 (Jun., 1964).  The Batman, of course, is the premier member of the group, and we're familiar with Commissioner Gordon.  The others we meet over the first couple of stories:  reporter Art Saddows, "winner of the 'Front Page Award' for his successes in cracking unsolved cases"; Professor Ralph Vern, of State University, "whose laboratory sleuthing led to the conviction of a score of criminals"; District Attorney Danton, consulting detective Martin Tellman---and the sole distaff Analyst, mystery novelist Kaye Daye, "whose fiction strikingly parallels actual cases and solves them".

 

As the only female in the club, Kaye was the Mystery Analyst who would stick most in readers' minds, after Batman, naturally, and Commissioner Gordon.  (Seeing the police commissioner out from behind his desk and actively on the hunt was a novel treat.)  The rest of the group were pretty much cyphers, with nothing to distinguish them, other than their names, occupations, and newsman Saddows' ever-present pipe.

 

Not that it mattered much.  As to be expected, on all of their cases, the Masked Manhunter was preëminent.  The inaugural Mystery Analysts tale, "Batman's Great Face-Saving Feat", was little more than a Batman adventure set against the backdrop of a club meeting to decide on the admission of a new member.

 

I always felt that Julius Schwartz missed a trick by not using the Mystery Analysts as a vehicle for bringing back some of the sleuths whose back-up series had run in Detective Comics in the previous decades---guys like Roy Raymond and Captain Compass and Mysto, the Magician Detective.  It may be that Schwartz preferred to look forward, not back.  Or maybe the canny editor figured that the presence of those old headliners would detract from his star.  The readers would have expected more participation by the former series leads.

Not that the actual crop of Mystery Analysts didn't provide useful service from time to time.  In "How to Solve a Perfect Crime---in Reverse", from Batman # 168 (Dec., 1964), the club tackles the theft of the precious Kashpur Diamond.  Each member uncovers valuable information toward the solution.  But it's the Batman, of course, who puts all the pieces together.

 

 

As noted in the opening narrative that introduced the group, the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City was an exclusive club.  Membership, with access to its "sprawling estate", was a highly sought prize by those in the investigative field.

 

Just ask Hugh Rankin.

 

Rankin, a private eye, was certain that he'd secured an invitation to join the Analysts.  In that first Mystery Analysts story, he presents the club with a model displaying his deduction of Batman's true features.  While aiding the Caped Crusader in apprehending a gang of acrobatic crooks called the Trapeze Ten, Rankin picked up enough clues to describe the face beneath the mask.  Or so he believes.

 

So do the Mystery Analysts, when the Batman lifts his cowl to reveal the same face as on the model.  The rub is---it isn't Bruce Wayne's face!

 

Early in the case against the Trapeze Ten, Batman tumbled to the fact that Rankin was employing stereognosis---the ability to determine form, weight, and other characteristics by the sense of touch---to identify him.  Forewarned, the Masked Manhunter, used his make-up artistry to construct a different set of features for Rankin to "detect". 

 

Later, at the club meeting, Batman wears the same disguise just to screw with Rankin

 

All it takes is a single "nay" vote to deny the private investigator's membership, and the Batman casts it.  But Hugh Rankin isn't the kind of fellow to take nay for an answer.

 

Several months later, in "Trail of the Talking Mask", from Detective Comics # 335 (Jan., 1965), Gotham City is hit by a wave of robberies.  Acting on a tip from Rankin, Batman and Robin arrive at a jewelry store in time to intercept the latest theft.  The three crooks flee, and the Dynamic Duo's attempts to stop them by fist and flying tackle are shrugged off, as if the escaping men were made of armour.

 

As the crooks race off in a waiting car, the Masked Manhunter ponders their invincibility.  Having kept up on his Scientific American, he deduces that their opponents were audio-animatrons, basically humanoid constructions which, by reacting to impulses from electronic sensors attached to a real person, can perfectly replicate the person's actions.  Somewhere near-by, in a well-rehearsed procedure, three men wired with sensors must have performed actions, coördinated with the jewelry-store layout, which the audio-animatrons imitated.

 

Hugh Rankin has figured out the same thing, and he is on hand, a block away, to spot the human "hosts" of the animatrons going through the motions of the robbery.  Having had the presence of mind to coat the tyres of their "getaway" car with a chemical which leaves a trail visible through a polarised lens, the private eye is able to follow them back to their hide-out, a deserted theatre building on the outskirts of town.

 

Here, the criminal mastermind greets the arrival of his henchmen, human and mechanical.  The leader is the Make-Up Man, a former show-business impersonator who found crime more lucrative.  He frequently changes identities, never revealing his true face.

 

Rankin sneaks into the building, determined to catch the gang and earn a ticket into the Mystery Analysts by solving the case before the Batman can.  Unfortunately, he triggers a hidden alarm, and the crooks waylay him.  The good news is Batman has figured out Rankin's plan, right down to the chemical trail left by the car tyres.  He and Robin assail the theatre hide-out, and after a pitched battle with man and machine, capture the gang and rescue Rankin.  The P. I. informs them that the Make-Up Man has fled the scene.

 

However, when he fails to open the locked door of his car, the Dynamic Duo tackles him, realising that "Rankin" is really the Make-Up Man.  A more thorough search of the premises locates the real Rankin, who's embarrassed to admit that he bit off more than he could chew by trying to capture the Make-Up Man and his gang by himself.

 

Rankin's failure on the Talking Mask case didn't open any doors for him with the Mystery Analysts, even though a slot had opened by the loss of one of their own.  (As it turned out, the culprit who stole the Kashpur Diamond back in Batman #168 was one of the club's own members!)

 

 

 

Hugh Rankin's determination to join the Mystery Analysts was one of those running sub-plots of which Julius Schwartz was so fond.  So Batman fans didn't have to wait long for the single-minded private eye to show up, again.

 

The Elongated Man tale in Detective Comics # 339 (May, 1965), "The Counterfeit Crime-Buster", opens with the Stretchable Sleuth learning that his wife, Sue, has been arrested for passing a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill at a local department store.  Given the Elongated Man's good-guy reputation, the Zenith City police are willing to go along with Sue's claim that she has no idea how the phoney double-sawbuck got into her purse.

 

When a forensic examination of the counterfeit bill reveals that it bears the fresh fingerprint of Husky Harry Bellows, a mob boss who died in a car accident over a year ago, the E-Man's nose starts twitching like crazy.

 

Acting on a slim suspicion, the Ductile Detective sits up on the department store and nabs a trio of thieves who break in to rob the place.  At the super-hero's suggestion, the police trace the licence plate of the crooks' getaway car, and the address leads them right to Husky Harry Bellows' hide-out.  The Elongated Man is waiting at police headquarters when the not-so-dead Bellows and the rest of his gang are marched in wearing handcuffs.

 

Including one Hugh Rankin!

 

Rankin explains that he hadn't believed the report of Husky Harry's death.  By posing as an ambitious underworld thug, he insinuated himself into Bellows' gang, where he learnt that the mob boss had put the authorities off his trail by staging the automobile crash, passing off another man's body as his own, battered beyond recognition.

 

The problem was getting away with the information.  Bellows kept his underlings under intense scrutiny, so Rankin pocketed one of the gang's counterfeit twenties, which he knew had Bellows' fingerprints on it, and waited for his chance.  It came when the undercover P. I. was sent to case the department store ahead of the burglary.  He spotted Sue Dibny in the crowd of shoppers and slipped the bogus bill into her purse, knowing it would draw Ralph into the situation.  Rankin trusted that the Elongated Man would connect the dots.

 

When the E-Man suggests to Rankin that proof of his account would be nice, the private eye tells him to call the Batman.  The next day, the Gotham Goliath shows up at the Zenith City intake to vouch for Rankin.  An impressed Batman promises to sponsor Hugh for membership at the next meeting of the Mystery Analysts.

 

 

However, the Batman must have decided to give the matter extra thought because the next time the group gets together, in Batman # 174 (Sep., 1965), Rankin is nowhere to be seen.  He's not even mentioned.

 

"The Off-Again On-Again Lightbulbs" was another one of those Mystery Analyst tales in which none of the club members, except Batman, does much in the way of mystery-analysing.  This time, the other Analysts serve only as imminent victims to be rescued by the Caped Crusader. 

 

During their regular monthly meeting, a gimmicked chandelier hypnotises the group into forgetting the event and reconvening two days later, believing it's the original meeting.  This was a test of the special hypnotic device secretly installed in the chandelier by former convict Al Cutshaw.  Now that he knows he can control the minds of the Analysts, Cutshaw has bigger fish to fry.

 

Cutshaw was sent to prison after being exposed as a criminal by the efforts of Art Saddows and Martin Tellman, arrested by Commissioner Gordon, and prosecuted by District Attorney Danton.  The ex-con is determined to extract revenge from the four men.  At the "repeat" of the meeting, Cutshaw activates the mind-influencing lights again and issues orders Gordon and Danton, Saddows and Tellman to destinations where death-traps await.  Kaye, in whom Cutshaw has no interest, is sent home.

 

His plan is upended when he finds the Batman is not under his control, thanks to some specially treated contact lenses he was wearing for a case he completed just prior to the meeting.  Batman overcomes Cutshaw, but the hypnotised Analysts, compelled to obey the ex-con's orders, leave during the fight.  The criminal refuses to spill his plans; he's willing to accept any consequence to carry out his revenge.

 

This forces the Masked Manhunter to anticipate Cutshaw's murderous plot and act in time to save the lives of his fellow club members.

 

 

 

Perhaps it was simply that the Mystery Analysts hadn't gotten around to voting on membership yet before Al Cutshaw intruded because when they assemble again in Batman # 181 (Jun., 1966), Hugh Rankin has finally made the grade.  He's present as a member in good standing.

 

"The Perfect Crime---Slightly Imperfect" spotlights Kaye Daye, who arrives at the monthly meeting with some astounding news.  Her latest thriller, The Stars Do Kill, a best seller, the one for which she'll be receiving the Sherlock Award later this evening . . . she insists she didn't write!  Moreover, Kaye says that she doesn't know who did.

 

While she was in Europe last year, Kaye explains, someone submitted the manuscript in her name to her publisher.  It was written in her style, so the publisher had no reason not to believe it was hers.  Since discovering the matter, she's been unable to uncover any clue to who pulled such a hoax, or why.  She has no recourse but to attend the award banquet that evening and disclose the truth.

 

Before anyone can respond, a recorded voice issuing from the golden pin on Kaye's dress announces that the authoress will die at exactly ten o'clock, the time the Sherlock Award is scheduled to be presented to her.

 

Before the taut twelve-pager is over, the trail of the bizarre mystery will lead them to a Kaye Daye impostor, a theatre ingenue, two million dollars, and three hitmen hired to kill the real Kaye.

 

Naturally, Batman handles the rough-and-tumble stuff, but for once, the rest of the Analysts have a hand in gathering the solution.

 

A year goes by before the crime-solvers are seen again, in "The Problem of the Proxy Paintings", from Batman # 194 (Aug., 1967).

 

When Martin Tellman, millionaire industrialist Reginald Stonefellow, and his son, Ronald, gather for their regular bridge game at Tellman's country home, they are joined by a last-minute fill-in, Haverford Mimms, the noted art scholar.  As a collector of valuable art, the senior Stonefellow is acquainted with Mimms.

 

During a break from the card table, Mimms is surprised to discover several priceless paintings hanging in Tellman's den.  The news startles Tellman; the art he bought and paid for were only reproductions of the famous artists' work.

 

The armchair detective calls a meeting of the Mystery Analysts to report the fantastic occurrence.  Several possible explanations are raised and discarded before the Batman asks a revealing question:  why didn't Reginald Stonefellow, an art collector and expert in his own right, ever spot the genuine paintings on any of his frequent visits to Tellman's home?

 

On the idea that fresh eyes might spot a clue that Tellman missed, Batman, along with Commissioner Gordon, Art Saddows, and Kaye Daye, head for the armchair detective's residence.  Meanwhile, the others will see Reginald and Ronald Stonefellow.

 

However, when the group of Analysts bound for Tellman's house arrive, they spot that his burglar-alarm system has been deactivated.  Batman goes inside to investigate.  (I love the way Gordon and Saddows and Kaye talk themselves out of accompanying the Masked Manhunter.)

 

Inside, Batman interrupts three thieves in the process of stealing the valuable paintings off the walls and, one bat-fight later, has them wrapped up for police custody.

 

When the other Analysts arrive with the Stonefellows, it doesn't take long for them to learn how the real masterpieces were switched for Martin Tellman's reproductions, and more important, why.  But now the sleuths are left with a more pressing mystery:  how did those crooks learn that the paintings were genuine and move to steal them so quickly after Tellman himself discovered it, only a couple of hours earlier?

 

For the only time in the series do we witness the deductive abilities of the Mystery Analysts in action.  Working off each other's reasoning, they beat a path straight to the identity of the individual behind the attempted theft of the artwork.

 

But figuring it out is one thing; proving it is another.  So the Batman lays a trap for their quarry by disguising himself and Hugh Rankin and Martin Tellman as the three thieves sent to steal the paintings, then arranging a meeting.  When the plotter arrives to make the payoff, the disguised Analysts nab him, despite committing an error which betrays their imposture.

 

 

 

The Mystery Analysts would take one last walk upon the Silver-Age stage . . . and, of all places, in Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen.

 

Superman editor Mort Weisinger often borrowed elements from Batman for use in his own magazines, even after they had ceased to be part of the Caped Crusader's mythos.  Batwoman, Bat-Mite, Vicki Vale, and Ace, the Bat-Hound all appeared in the pages of World's Finest Comics after Julius Schwartz had banished them from the bat-titles.  In the case of Jimmy Olsen, Weisinger established links between the cub reporter and the Bat-universe by establishing the Olsen-Robin team in World's Finest Comics # 141 (May, 1964) and having the Batman entrust Jimmy with the secret of his and Robin's true identities in WFC # 144 (Sep., 1964).

 

So it doesn't feel that out of place when the Mystery Analysts of Gotham City show up in "Jimmy Olsen, Boy Wonder", from Jimmy Olsen # 111 (Jun., 1968), to consider the junior reporter's application for membership.

 

Much like Hugh Rankin, who thought his exposal of Batman's true face would win him the brass ring on his first try, Jimmy is über-confident that his past investigative efforts make him a shoo-in for admission.  But unlike Rankin, who sought professional achievement, Jimmy's in it mainly for the fame and prestige of being a Mystery Analyst.  It's there in his own thoughts:

 

"Maybe someday I'll be on a magazine cover like other Analysts have been . . . mystery novelist Kaye Daye . . . District Attorney Danton . . .and my reporter pal, Clark Kent!"

 

Wait a minute!  Clark Kent?

 

That's right.  When we see the Mystery Analysts gathered in their meeting room, Clark Kent is right there at the banquet table.

Weisinger probably wanted to firm up the connexion between Jimmy Olsen and the Mystery Analysts, but Clark Kent's heretofore unmentioned membership in the club doesn't ring quite true.  The Superman stories had long established that the mild-mannered Kent avoided any distinction that might draw extra attention to himself, and thereby, his secret identity.  One wouldn't think that he'd go on record as solving a mystery impressive enough to earn a place with the Analysts, or accept it, if it was offered.  Clark Kent wouldn't be looking to be on any magazine covers.

 

But there he is, one of the club, nameplate and everything, so we have to go along with it.

 

In Gotham City, Jimmy is brimming with expectation of success as he plies his case to the assembled sleuths.  So you can fairly hear his jaw hit the floor when the vote is "Nay".  And when he does recover his wits, he's so pissed that he storms out before hearing the principal reason that he was rejected.

 

The ego-stung Jimmy figures the best way to "show them!" is to pull off a successful impersonation of his pal, Robin, the Boy Wonder.  (It's not really apparent how such a thing would impress the Mystery Analysts with the Jimster's ability to unravel complicated puzzles, but that's the kind of oblique thinking that made up eighty per cent of the Jimmy Olsen story plots.)  Olsen meets with Robin in their secret headquarters, the Eyrie, and after several days of intensive training, thorough coaching, and one bang-up make-up job by the Teen Titan, Our Boy is ready to go.

 

In the typical Olsen manner, the disguised Jimmy successfully passes muster with Alfred, Aunt Harriet, and Dick Grayson's school chums, but within a minute of the Batman's return from a Justice League case, he makes a revealing blunder, one which the Caped Crusader keeps to himself.

 

The next evening, Batman and "Robin" tackle the Scorpion Mob, led by the cold-hearted villainess, Lydra.  When a stumble puts the Gotham Goliath out of commission, the imitation Boy Wonder is no match for the criminal gang.  However, when Lydra threatens Batman with death, Olsen is cavalier about it, even after she carries out the Masked Manhunter's execution.

 

You see, Jimmy has doped out that the Scorpions are actually the Mystery Analysts in disguise.  Their "attack" was one of those teach-him-a-lesson hoaxes that Superman and Batman were so fond of pulling in comics edited by Mort Weisinger.  But the Analysts' performances as crooks were flawed, too.  Enough for even Jimbo to catch on.

 

Jimmy is pleased enough with himself to finally listen to the main reason he wasn't accepted as a Mystery Analyst.  A club by-law requires its members to be at least twenty-five years of age, which Olsen is not.

 

But, so they don't have to go through this all over again, the Mystery Analysts agree to make Jimmy an honorary member.

 

 

* * * * *

 

 

The Mystery Analysts of Gotham City added some needed characters to Batman's supporting cast, which, otherwise, consisted of only Commissioner Gordon, Alfred, and Aunt Harriet.  Most of them held positions which would have naturally been part of the Caped Crusader's circle.  So it's a little surprising that they weren't used more often in non-Analyst situations.

 

Danton, the district attorney, appears in Batman # 196 (Nov., 1967), prosecuting a case in which the Batman is the chief witness.  However, one has to go beyond the Silver Age in order to catch a trace of the other members.

 

Art Saddows approaches Batman as a concerned father when his son, Alex, is wanted for manslaughter in Batman # 225 (Sep., 1970).  Martin Tellman lends his assistance in The Brave and the Bold # 157 (Dec., 1979).  And Kaye Daye jumps over to the Superman universe when she turns out to be the aunt of WGBS sports broadcaster Steve Lombard.  She factors into stories from Superman # 277 (Jul., 1974) and Superman Family # 205 (Jan.-Feb., 1981).

 

The group of veteran investigators makes one final appearance before DC rewrites its continuity with Crisis on Infinite Earths.  "The Adventure of the Houdini Whodunit", from Batman # 295 (Jan., 1978) reunites most of the Analysts.  Their presence is largely nostalgic, as they contribute little to the mystery at hand, other than relating its occurrence to the Batman.  Just about the only thing that makes the story notable is District Attorney Danton finally gets a first name.

 

If you wanted to join the Mystery Analysts to-day, your chances would be just about nil, as you're not likely to see the group reëmerge, at least not in a mainstream DC comic.  Following the Crisis, newer, younger writers increasingly depicted the Batman as an obsessed, near-psychotic loner with a streak of paranoia.  Modern Bat-fans would never believe a Masked Manhunter who regularly socialised with trusted friends.

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"Cutshaw was sent to prison after being exposed as a criminal by the efforts of Art Saddows and Martin Tellman, arrested by Commissioner Gordon, and prosecuted by District Attorney Danton. "

Which reminds me of "The Round Robin Death Threats" which had a similar "get revenge on them all" elaborate scheme.

" Modern Bat-fans would never believe a Masked Manhunter who regularly socialised with trusted friends."

Similarly the excellent Bronze Age story "Silent Night of the Batman" has Bats spending Christmas Eve celebrating with the GCPD. They'd never try that these days (heck, Gotham's such an urban hellhole, it's hard to imagine the cops would ever have that much time off).

It is too bad Schwartz didn't do more with the Mystery Analysts as a club or individually. I was always pleasantly surprised when a Mystery Analysts Club story appeared in either Batman or Detective Comics. Those stories added depth to the Bat-mythos and I would have welcomed seeing more of them during the Silver Age.

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