This week we’re going to shine the Spotlight of the Unloved at The Bouncer.
You’ve got the wrong medium, though Square’s Harajuku-meets-Ed-Hardy PS2 beat ‘em up certainly fits the Nobody’s Favorite bill.
The Bouncer I’ll be discussing was a minor member of Batman’s rogues gallery…
…who made his debut in Detective Comics #347 (January 1966). It was a weird time for the Dark Knight — following the high water mark of Silver Age weirdness but preceding the TV-driven Batmania and the “serious-minded” backlash it would spawn. And while the Marvel Age of Comics hadn’t yet become an existential threat to DC’s superheroic hegemony, DC editorial still felt obligated to mimic of its upstart rival’s tone of brash, “with it” informality. Sure, the net effect of these imperfect and uneven attempts was akin to Jack Webb donning a Nehru jacket and a set of love beads, but at least they tried. Sorta.
The Bouncer was an unnamed but “criminally-minded” metallurgist who found (using a medieval smelter in the backyard of his thatched hut) a way to combine bronze, steel, and rubber into a miraculous “elastalloy” capable of rebounding from any and all physical impacts.
Such an innovation should have netted its inventor billions in patent revenue — the applications for the automotive and superball industries alone are staggering to contemplate — but the metallurgist’s “triple heart” (a REAL THING, according to an editor’s blurb!) wanted what it wanted…
…and what it wanted was to dress-up in a turd-colored elastalloy bodysuit and knock over jewelry stores.
After two defeats at the hands of the bouncy badguy, Batman and the Boy Wonder figured out that elastalloy loses its special properties when subjected to extreme cold. An opportunity to test this theory occurred when the Bouncer’s overconfidence led him to call the Caped Crusader out for a one-on-one duel.
With the help of “special electrodes” concealed inside the their costumes, the Dynamic Duo were able to generate an invisible “quick freeze beam” which put the kibosh on the Bouncer’s extremely cunning plan to…um…
…hurl an elastalloy gun against a wall and hope that an accidental discharge would fatally wound Batman. (Again, this is a villain who could have been stinking rich by legitimate means but instead decided to dress like a poop golem and fight two dudes dressed like avian critters.)
Because this was one of roughly a million 1960s “BATMAN DIES!” stories, writer Gardner Fox (appearing as himself) added an extended “imaginary story” coda in which the Bouncer’s “triple heart” (TOTALLY REAL, I SWEAR) clued him into the freeze beam trick and managed to kill Batman with his gun toss trick. It was left up to Robin to come up with his own implausible gimmick for neutralizing the villain’s “elastalloy” suit, and ended with the not-yet-dead Earth-2 Batman crossing the dimensional barrier to take over for his deceased counterpart.
He even brought Earth-2 Alfred with him, who hadn’t died and been resurrected as a reality-warping supervillain with a skin condition. (No, I’m serious.)
Goofy, sure, but it did give us this glorious panel:
BEHOLD THE AMBIVALENT SYMPATHY OF ALT-SUPERMAN.
The Bouncer (sporting a new crimson hue) reappeared in 1981 as one of the marks in the Monarch of Menace’s “captive Batman” con. No invisible freeze beam was required to bring him low on this outing, just Batman’s foot and the laws of Newtonian physics (which had been inserted into the DCU during a 1977 retcon).
As easy (and fun) as it is to mock forgotten z-list villains like the Bouncer, there’s something endearing about their nonsensical motivations and explicit disposability. They weren’t built to last the ages, but to serve as foils for stories that were expected to fall into the memory hole after a year or two. Motivational complexity was moot, discarded in favor of visual “hooks” and dedication to malfeasance of the most generic variety.
The individual characters might be Nobody’s Favorites, but collectively I adore them.