Batman #147, May 1962, “Batman Becomes Bat-Baby!”
One night, Batman and Robin attempt to recover stolen loot from Nails Finney’s gang of jewel thieves. The Caped Crusader is suddenly bathed in an “eerie ray”—and begins to shrink.
The gang escapes under cover of a smoke bomb. When the air clears, Robin is stunned to discover that Batman has been transformed into a toddler! “Gulp!” is all Robin can manage in response. He carries the mini-Batman to the Batmobile.
The press get hold of some photos of the now midget Dark Night Detective. Struggling with his conscience, the editor prints the photos as “the public has a right to the truth!” The public respond with abject pity. “His career is finished,” opines one sharp-suited gent.
Meanwhile, Finney’s gang enjoy a good laugh. “We’ve made … Batman into a laughing stock… Ha, Ha!” chuckles Garth, the scientist who created the eerie ray.
It transpires that Batman, luckily, retains the mind and strength of an adult. Ever the pragmatist, he goes into a “rigid training” regime before donning a bizarre outfit and renaming himself “Bat-Baby”.
On patrol that night, Robin and Bat-Baby foil the plans of a trio of bandits. Able to float to a rooftop on a helium-filled balloon, Bat-Baby gets the drop on the goons. The press rejoice with a series of underwhelming headlines.
The next day, disaster looms as Kathy Kane, the woman Robin fears will become Bruce Wayne’s girlfriend, arrives at Wayne Manor expecting to see Bruce. As she heads for the library she is stunned to see a shadow cast on a wall that reveals Bruce kissing another girl!. Kathy storms off before she can discover that the “kissing couple” was, in fact, a cardboard cut-out, prepared by Bruce for just such an eventuality. Could it be this rejection that ultimately led Kathy down a… er… different path to find love?
Working undercover as an ordinary child, Bruce is quickly able to track down Finney’s new hideout. Robin and Bat-Baby dive in though the skylight. As Robin takes on the gang, Bat-Baby jumps astride a rocking horse and goes in search of Garth and his ray.
Robin fights on alone, but is soon joined by the now-adult Batman. “You’re full-size again!” cries the ever sharp-eyed Robin.
“Yes,” explains the Caped Crusader, “I discarded my Bat-Baby garb and slipped on this plastic costume I had … in my pants pocket!” We can be grateful for that.
With the crooks defeated, the Dynamic Duo retire to the Bat-Cave. There, they put a new trophy in pride of place: the Bat-Baby outfit.
Even in an era—some might say “error”—when Batman comics were pretty darn madcap, this tale from Batman #147 is seriously insane. Credited to Batman creator Bob Kane, but actually written and drawn by Bill Finger and Shelly Moldoff, “Batman Becomes Bat-Baby!” pretty much does what it says on the tin.
To place this in some context, 1962 was a time when the superstar of DC Comics was Superman. The long-running TV show, starring George Reeves, ensured the character’s popularity. Superman editor Mort Weisinger had embarked on a program of expanding the Superman mythos, and a series of stories introduced a wild variety of concepts and characters. Superman had a dog, Krypto, so Batman got a dog, Ace (see HERE). Superman had Supergirl, so Batman got Bat-Girl, and so on. Weisinger had presented a series of stories featuring the young Clark Kent as Superbaby, and, indeed, Wonder Woman editor, Bob Kanigher, had introduced Wonder Tot (see HERE), so Batman became… Bat-Baby. Thankfully, this was his only appearance. The orphaned child nature of Batman’s origin didn’t really allow for any “young Bruce Wayne” adventures.
It’s perhaps not surprising that at this time the sales on the Batman titles were falling. The once Dark Knight didn’t really suit these zany sci-fi-style adventures that filled all three of his regular comics. Something of a crisis would be reached a couple fo years later, and control of the character would be partly wrested from Bob Kane and taken in-house. That, and the 1966 launch of the Adam West-starring TV series, ensured Batman lived on, and never again had to revert to an embarrassing childhood.
Images © DC Comics