In the late ’60s, the mighty maestros of DC Comics had a brainstorm: Spin Robin and Batgirl into solo adventures in the back pages of “Detective Comics.”
If you were a fan of the Bat-sidekicks hoping to see them take on some of Batman’s notorious rogues by themselves or perhaps even develop their own gallery of colorful enemies, you had to be disappointed.
Robin fought campus crime, and the stories were even more boring than this sentence suggests.
Batgirl battled run-of-the-mill thieves and killers.
But there is one Batgirl story that stands out, even after all these years.
It’s a Gotham City-sized crater of stupidity.
“You’d wake up screaming too … if you had a ‘splitting headache’! A band of steel tightening around your throbbing skull … threatening to crush your brain to pulp!”
So says scripter Frank Robbins in his bombastic opening for “The Head-Splitters” (“Detective Comics,” No. 412, June 1971).
Evil wigmakers – gosh, are there any other kind? – Vazly and his associate Wanda at the Crowning Glory Wig Salon offer exclusive product to recent rich divorcees: a hairpiece that will crack their skulls if they don’t fork over some precious loot.
They can’t be bothered with their latest customer, that peasant Barbara Gordon, but through a fluke – a cleaner switching wigs one night – Barbara ends up wearing the monstrous mane.
In agony, she calls the wigmakers, who inform her:
Turn over $100,000 or die!
So Barbara scrounges her apartment for all the cash she has – which begs the question, how much cash does a Gotham City librarian keep around in her apartment?
It’s not $100,000, Barbara thinks, but maybe it will satisfy the wigmakers.
I’m so sure that $4.93 and that bottle cap will satisfy our villains.
But when Barbara turns up at the wig shop, our villains realize the mistake. They free Barbara from her wig and convince her that she had a nightmare and was just imagining things.
Shaken, Barbara almost believes them – until she spots outside a cracked wig stand in the trash – proof that the wigs can be used to inflict mortal injury.
As her heroic alter-ego, Batgirl crashes the villains’ hideout. In the ensuing struggle, Wanda slams the wig onto Batgirl’s head.
Vazly hits the remote control, activating the torturous device.
What a cliffhanger!
Can our hapless heroine overcome the homicidal hairpiece? Will the felonious follicles claim yet another victim?
Stop laughing. There’s a part two.
But not before we take a commercial break with this somehow appropriate classic sketch from “Kids in the Hall.”
In the completely non-epic conclusion of this tale, “Squeeze-Play,” in “Detective Comics,” No. 413, July 1971, Batgirl sure seems ready to drop a cowl size or two – but then she rips off the wig effortlessly.
She deactivated the device in Barbara’s wig before Barbara got here!
None of that agrees with what we saw in part one of this hair-raising tale, but hey, with a story so rich, you can forgive scripter Frank Robbins for letting a few details get away from him.
Batgirl easily subdues Vazly, but Wanda escapes.
Before you can say rinse and repeat, Batgirl tracks the felonious fashionista down to the home of her next intended victim and is almost killed by a wig – again!
Because you can’t get enough of a hero battling a hairpiece.
This time, Wanda tries to strangle her with it.
Batgirl uses the old noggin to defeat her enemy – and somehow loses the insignia to her costume. Hey, artist Don Heck was probably laughing too hard to keep track of all the split ends, I mean, the loose ends.
How has this story not been given the deluxe hardcover treatment?
Still, we can all agree that this story is better than the big-budget “Batgirl” film that Warner Bros. just shelved for the $90 million tax write-off.