Poor post-CCA Batman. Weep for our beloved Dark Knight, doomed to utter wholesomeness in the name of protecting the most middle-of-the-road values.
Now, it’s not that I’m in the business of defending the extreme, grimdark themes of the 1990s and beyond. That lingering trend has its own issues, not the least of which is the drive to depict violent crime for the sake of shock value.
Then again, a Batman comic without at least a little broodiness is like an old, toothless beast. It’s practically one step away from Mary Poppins. Well, except Mary Poppins displayed real creepiness, between her haunted talking umbrella and her vindictive wind-based disposal of all the other nannies. Side note: don’t mess with Poppins.
Anyway, the Batman of the 1950s was thoroughly hampered by the goody-goody, Leave it to Beaver rules of the Comics Code Authority. That meant that creative folk working within the industry had to seriously reach sometimes to even get a story on the page. Most of the time, what they come up with was inoffensive and entirely forgettable — just what the CCA wanted.
Sometimes, though, you get a Bat-Baby.
The plot of the Bat-Baby story, which appears in 1961’s Batman #147, is predictable enough. A mad scientist creates a ray gun, Bats gets caught in the beam and turns into a toddler with the intellect and strength of the fully-grown Bruce Wayne.
Now, the fact that he’s now far shorter and has many more unfused skull plates does nothing to stop Batman. He does inexplicably discard parts of his costume for short pants and overalls, though at least he manages to whip up a child-sized cowl and cape. Eventually, of course, he turns back to normal, but not before the specter of Robin carrying baby Bats in his arms is forever burned into your memory.