Superman and Batman: 1959: ‘Tis the Season for Death, Chapter 1: Stinging Death

by Libbylawrence

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Bruce Wayne put down his pipe and smiled as footsteps rang out through the long hallway leading into his study at stately Wayne Manor. The same reflexes that had enabled him to masterfully cheat death a thousand times over also allowed him to slip a wrapped gift into his desk just as a bright little girl of two skipped into the room and jumped into her proud father’s arms.

He swung her up into his lap and said, “Helena, why so excited? Is Santa here three days early?”

She touched his handsome face and laughed, “Dick combing!”

“I think she means to say Dick is coming, but in fact, as you can see, Dick is here!” said a grinning, tall young man who followed the child into the lush room.

“Welcome home, son!” said Bruce as he moved around the desk to hug the man he had raised.

“It’s good to be home,” said Dick, smiling with eyes gleaming in fun. “Practicing law is challenging, but a guy just wants to forget legal torts over the holidays! I smell Alfred’s world-famous Christmas cookies, too. I wonder if he still has that penguin-shaped cutter.”

“You used to relish biting the heads off of those, if I recall correctly,” said Bruce.

“How’s Selina?” asked Dick as he took Helena from Bruce and bounced her on his knee.

“She’s wonderful. She went to visit Aunt Lois for some last-minute shopping in Metropolis,” he explained.

“This looks like a job for your super-charge account,” Dick said with a wink. “Now, girl wonder, what say we go get snacks from Alfred?”

Helena giggled, and the three exited for the warmth of Alfred Beagle’s kitchen.

***

In the city of Metropolis, Selina Kyle Wayne had heads turning as she walked with feline grace down the streets with the also-attractive Lois Lane Kent.

“You know, I still marvel at that figure of yours! After having a baby, you still walk like some femme fatale!” said Lois jokingly.

“It’s like riding a bicycle or walking a tightrope,” teased Selina Wayne, the former Catwoman.

“I have actually done both in my time,” added Lois.

“So, tell me, does your husband like to peek through the wrapping paper at his gifts?” asked Selina.

“Lead-lined wrapping paper,” Lois whispered. “It’s heavy, but it works! Speaking of the editor of the Daily Star, I need to see him for a minute, if you have time.”

The women entered the legendary paper, and Lois blew a kiss to Jimmy Olsen as he talked over the phone with an expression of helplessness on his freckled face.

“So, Clark, how are you?” cooed Selina as she sat atop the mild-mannered editor’s desk.

“I’m fine! Good to see you, and merry Christmas!” said a smiling Clark Kent as his wife kissed him.

The greetings stopped as Jimmy rushed in, shouting, “It’s murder! Come quick!”

Clark, Lois, and Selina turned to listen as the breathless young man explained, “That call came from Inspector Henderson. He wondered if we could get Superman. There’s been a murder, and he says it isn’t something within the normal police routine! He figured we could find him as quickly as he could.”

Lois nodded and said sarcastically, “We’ll just run up to the roof and flash the Superman signal!”

“Seriously, Lois, this sounds pretty weird,” urged Jimmy. “Henderson said the victim was well known, and the cause of death was bizarre.”

Clark smiled and patted the man on the shoulder. “Easy, Jim. We can get him down there. Did Henderson say anything more detailed?”

Jimmy frowned. “Gosh, no! I tried, but he was pretty tight-lipped!”

“Good work, Jim,” said Clark. “Why don’t you take over here while I head down there and see if I can’t rustle up Superman.”

Jimmy nodded. As the city room editor, he took the job deathly seriously. “Right, Chief!”

Clark winced. “Jim, I told Lois to call me chief during business hours, but that was a joke. You don’t need to do that.”

“I guess I’d better go, too,” said Selina. “Lovely to see you both. Bruce has a little something for you two if you can stop by when you get a free moment.”

They parted, and Clark left to secretly switch into his Superman identity. He carried Lois to Police Headquarters at top speed, leaving her hair mussed but herself unseen by onlookers below.

“You are murder on a girl’s hairdo!” she muttered as they entered the police office of Inspector Bill Henderson.

“Superman, glad you could make it,” said Henderson. “This may sound like something out of that new Roy Raymond guy’s show, but here are the facts. Hiram Music was found dead today by his maid Connie when she brought in the breakfast dishes. ”

“Metropolis’s own Howard Hughes — reclusive, wealthy, and eccentric,” summed up Lois as she smoothed down her wild hair.

“Exactly, and the cause of death was heart failure due to toxin?” said Superman as he glanced through the next wall at the body.

“Yeah, and we find the source of the toxin to be pretty kinky,” said the gray-haired Henderson.

“Needle, blow dart, what?” demanded Lois.

“I know she isn’t going to rest ’til I give the answers, but could I request you be escorted outside?” he said teasingly.

Lois smiled and replied, “I’ll go kicking and screaming, like usual.”

Henderson nodded at his old friend and said, “That’s just it, Lois. The toxin came from a bite of some kind, but the size of the entry marks makes me think the fangs or stingers were rather far apart.”

Superman frowned as he gazed at the dead body. “I see your point, Bill. The entry marks would make the creature that stung or bit him the size of a large dog.”

***

As Selina Wayne made her way through the streets of Metropolis, she dodged rushing holiday shoppers and enjoyed the bright lights and ringing bells that marked the Christmas season. She hoped whatever weirdness had entered Clark’s life would not slow him down for long. Bruce dearly hoped that his best friend other than Dick could visit this year.

She stopped as she noticed a shifty-looking figure hurrying furtively along. He had been loitering outside the Metro Arms, where the city’s wealthiest citizens lived in luxury suites high above the streets below. That’s Lefty Denver, she mused. He was loitering with intent if you ask this little kitty. She knew the small-time hood from her days as the feline femme fatale, the Catwoman.

Selina had long ago given up crime and now lived in bliss as wife to Bruce Wayne, alias the Batman, and she was mother to their child, Helena. Still, she retained the figure, keen eye, and agility that had made her a true foe to be reckoned with during her criminal days. And she could spot criminal behavior from a mile away.

The former Catwoman decided to follow him. She knew he could not handle her if it came to a fight, and she didn’t intend for the thug to even notice her. She trailed him through the streets until dusk fell, and he entered a small but attractive home. She swatted away a buzzing bee that had hovered over her for a block or two.

A handsome man with dark hair and a beard opened the door and ushered him inside. She did not know him, and she started to turn back. The address would be enough for Clark if she phoned it in to his office.

But before she could get very far, she yelped in pain. She rubbed her leg and noticed a whelp forming on her shapely thigh. “Something stung me!” she mused.

The streets blurred suddenly as she tripped and fell flat to the ground.

Hands scooped her up, and she was quickly carried within the house. The bearded man’s robe fell open to reveal a gray and purple costume. She saw it and then passed out.

“Good work, my little friends,” sneered the man. “I can trust you, if not my human lackey.”

He spoke seemingly to thin air, but in truth he addressed a bee that buzzed above their heads as if listening to all he said.

***

Selina Wayne later awoke to find herself tied to a chair. She noticed that the man in gray and purple was kissing a blonde woman in a yellow-and-black-striped costume and high heels.

“My Queen, the money is pouring in!” said the bearded man known as the Insect Master. “Our plan has paid off already! By telling local big shots that we’ll kill them if they don’t pay us protection money and then holding out old Hiram as an example of our power to get to anyone, even a wealthy old recluse with a top security system like his, we have earned their fear!”

Queen Bee giggled. “By combining your control over insects with my process for enlarging the little dears, we have perfected a perfect method of murder. Send in a bee or ant with a time-delayed enlargement, then order it to kill the victim and return to us in miniature size!”

Insect Master nodded. “True, my pet. And with Bruce Wayne’s wife here as our prisoner, it gives us a bit of a head start on our plans for Gotham, since Wayne was on our list of wealthy men and women to extort money from, anyway!”

“Good,” she said, pouting. “Gotham is my home, and I want to see Batman and Robin pay for our last encounter!”

“They will, after we rid ourselves of my old foe, Superman,” he vowed, stroking her blonde hair.

“You are the best husband in the world!” she said.

“I try. I assuredly do try!” he gloated.

Selina had never heard of Queen Bee, but then Bruce had battled so many costumed thugs in his career that even Alfred could hardly keep track of them all.

Insect Master turned to her and slid Queen Bee off his lap. “Mrs. Wayne? I am so glad you are awake. You will not be harmed, unless your hubby fails to pay us handsomely. If he fails to do so, then you get to be our example for the elite of Gotham. Pay us or die! Simple enough, eh?” He laughed.

Selina ignored him. She could not get free of the ropes, but she had no doubt that Bruce and Dick, who was expected in, would find and rescue her.

***

Bruce Wayne was worried about Selina’s absence that night. He had phoned Clark and received no answer. Before he could act upon this concern, Dick Grayson entered with the same tone in his voice that Bruce had heard innumerable times before.

“Bruce, it’s the Bat-Signal,” he said.

Bruce nodded. He led his partner to the sliding bookcase that led down a flight of steps to the Batcave.

They drove off in the Batmobile and soon were greeted by Commissioner James W. Gordon.

“Nice to see you, lad,” said the elderly Gordon as Robin shook his hand.

“Thank you, sir,” he said. “What can we do for you?”

Batman listened as his old friend explained that monsters had been sighted in the sky earlier that night over Sprang Boulevard. “Monsters?” asked Batman. “Can you elaborate?”

Gordon frowned. “Giant insects, if you can credit the reports!”

“Sounds like Queen Bee,” said Robin, turning to Batman. “Remember her?” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Valley of the Giant Bees,” Batman #84 (June, 1954).]

Batman led his partner away with the final words to Gordon, “We’ll handle it. Merry Christmas, Jim!”

Gordon glanced down to find a wrapped box of his favorite tobacco sitting next to the signal. “Thank you,” he muttered. “Merry Christmas to you, old friend!”

Batman and Robin soon reached Sprang Boulevard and spotted the huge bees overhead.

“Holy honeycomb!” cried Robin. “Those are giant bees!”

“True enough,” said Batman. “Looks like you were right on target with your deduction about Queen Bee. Let’s take these Brobdingnagian bees down quickly so we can find out why Selina is so late.”

The bees rushed downward toward the car. They seemed to be trained or controlled, with the master desiring the death of Batman. The hum of their wings was deafening as the giant bees swarmed toward the heroes.

“Freon should freeze them enough by slowing their metabolisms down until we can properly contain them,” said Batman as he reached for a pellet from his belt.

Robin nodded, and in one smooth motion the lethal bees were struck with the chemical pellets that drastically reduced their body temperature. “These things give me the hives,” joked Robin as they dropped to the ground.

“Well put! Good to have you home, chum,” said Batman, grinning. The two crime-fighters then began to examine the truck-sized creatures.

“Look out — they’re stirring!” warned Batman as one of the creatures suddenly moved for them. “Their sheer size makes the freon less effective!” They rolled aside as the monster flipped their car on one side.

Robin swung upward and kicked the beast in the face, while Batman caught the second one in a net that began to tear apart even as he weighted it down. “Gas should do it!” he announced.

A red and blue blur slammed the two insects to the pavement, and a blast of super-breath froze them into a coma as Superman swooped down.

“Nice timing! You sure saved the day, not that I want to wax poetic,” punned Robin.

Superman grinned at his friends. “Merry Christmas! I heard the vibrations of those wings and rushed over. We’ve got a death by giant insect case going on back home, and it looks like these oversized wasps are connected.”

Batman shook hands with Superman and said, “Nice save, old friend. I’d wager Queen Bee is behind this.”

“Can’t say I know the lady,” said Superman. “I suspected Insect Master.” (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “The Insect Terror,” World’s Finest Comics #10 (Summer, 1943).]

“He could control them, but she was the one who grew them so large,” Batman mused. “Perhaps a teaming between them.”

“That makes sense,” said Robin, “as does Queen’s malice for us. I assume you agree they were just waiting for us to show up before they did anything harmful.”

“True enough,” said Batman. “I see it was a trap for us. So, let’s run a check on the whereabouts of the pair.”

“I hope Selina made it home safely,” Superman added. “It was nice to see her again.”

Batman turned to his friend. “She did not return. Could she have fallen afoul of the pair we’ve been talking about?”

Superman frowned. “If so, we’ll make that couple very sorry they ever tried to target the wife of Bruce Wayne!”

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