Your peanut-butter-eating days are over, miscreant
July 27, 2007 5:54 PM   Subscribe

Obscure children's fiction filter: What's this DC superhero book I read in the 1980s?

I read this book in the 80s about either Batman or The Flash--I can't remember which--which had the superhero trying to figure out how things were being stolen from somewhere (a museum? I don't remember). If I'm remembering right, part of it involved the villain sneaking through the city by way of manholes, and either the villain or the superhero could run exceptionally fast and had to eat a lot of peanut butter as a result. (I think it was probably the villain; I seem to remember the superhero finding empty peanut butter jars for awhile and wondering what was going on.) Sure, it sounds perfectly ridiculous, but it is superhero fiction.

The book, if I'm remembering right, was small: maybe 4" x 5"; as a kid I remember thinking it was sized right (?). (And yes, I know it's odd that I can remember the small size but not even who the book was about ... I'm willing to accept that I can't find the book again because I'm conflating several storylines into one.)

The book struck me as somewhat dark at the time but I'd like to track it down and read it again just for kicks.

... Also/alternatively, is there some authoritative source about children's books DC has published? I'm at a loss on how to even begin searching this one; freeweb search engines are being no help whatsoever.
posted by Tuwa to Media & Arts (14 answers total)
Oh yeah: and the book was all or mostly prose; it was not a comic book/graphic novel, and it was both smaller than the typical manga and before manga was popular in the U.S..
posted by Tuwa at 6:06 PM on July 27, 2007

This list may be of help.
posted by beaucoupkevin at 6:16 PM on July 27, 2007

Hm ... aside from a couple of Superman books, it looks like those were all in the 90s. Mine was definitely earlier than that, maybe by ten years or more (I don't know when it was published, just when I read it).

I think the problem might be complicated a bit because of the pulpy nature of the work (I get the idea in retrospect that it may have been a toss-off of some sort; I'd be surprised if it's still in print).
posted by Tuwa at 6:30 PM on July 27, 2007

Maybe you're thinking of a book in which one of the characters was the elusive (and sticky) Korrek the Barbarian, who appears by emerging from...uh... a jar of peanut butter? That makes pefect sense to me, I don't know about anyone else ;P
posted by iconomy at 7:04 PM on July 27, 2007

Tuwa, I had that exact book. You are correct about its size. It was the villain eating the peanut butter for speed (didn't work for me as a child). This would have been prior to about 1982. It was not with The Flash. I'm voting for Superman or Batman. It had a light blue cover.
posted by adipocere at 7:14 PM on July 27, 2007

Thanks, adipocere; at least I know now I'm not imagining it.

It occurred to me I could look through the LOC records (both catalog and copyright records), but I didn't find it even using a year range like 1965-1985 and not limiting it to a format. I did find plenty of comics, TV episodes, and Prince tracks, though. (It's not The Case of the Sticky Fingers; that's a 24-page book about the Joker trying to steal a ruby, published in 1990/91. The pages are too big, the book too new, and it's got the wrong villain.)

That doesn't mean the records aren't there, just that I didn't find them (many of the records don't have a year on them; it's possible this book was one of them).
posted by Tuwa at 8:18 PM on July 27, 2007

I doubt now that it was Superman; if my memory is right and the villain was also sneaking around by sewer when he couldn't outrun his opponents, then Superman could just use his X-ray vision and there wouldn't be any mystery to solve. So I guess now I've remembered the genre as well, if any of the catalogs don't just dump superhero fiction into fantasy/sci-fi.
posted by Tuwa at 8:35 PM on July 27, 2007

Something kept suggesting that it was Catwoman, which I dismissed out of hand since she isn't known for running fast. Then as I was falling asleep I wondered if it was some other cat-name known for running fast. And sure enough, there is a character The Cheetah in the DC universe, and a series of "big little books" which are about the right size; one of them is called The Cheetah Caper and has a plot which matches roughly with what I remember (I didn't remember Robin being in it, but no matter), though the cover isn't ringing any bells (maybe they changed the cover for reprints?).

Unfortunately I poked around in a few major metropolitan library catalogs looking for plot descriptions and couldn't find any that had it. And the LOC seems to be having trouble with both its databases at the moment so I can't look right now to see if they have any records on the book which I might have missed earlier.

But I think this might be the book.

And so to bed.
posted by Tuwa at 11:19 PM on July 27, 2007

Amazon has it. None of the versions have descriptions, sadly, but you could email one of the people selling it and ask them.
posted by Many bubbles at 11:46 PM on July 27, 2007

Oh! Bingo. Do a find for peanut and you'll see the two comments that confirm it:
I remember very well how peanut butter figured into "The Cheetah Caper."
India, thanks for the memories. I had that Big Little book too... but I bought a brand new printing sometime circa 1980, a VERY long time after the camp era had passed in the comics! And I noticed that peanut butter couldn't give me super-speed...
posted by Many bubbles at 11:53 PM on July 27, 2007

Awesome. What a great thing to wake up to.

Thanks, everyone.
posted by Tuwa at 7:00 AM on July 28, 2007

I have no idea how I would have searched for this book if I hadn't begun to remember more about it ... anyone have any ideas? (They could be useful for finding other half-remembered books, or helping other people find them.)
posted by Tuwa at 7:02 AM on July 28, 2007

The book arrived today. I must have been awfully young when I read it last; I'd be hard pressed to call it "dark" today. "Campy" is the word that kept coming to mind; "rushed" is another.

Every other page is an illustration, which sometimes directly contradicts what the prose describes, and the prose itself must be read to be believed:
At that moment a news announcer's puzzled face appeared on the screen. "One of Gotham City's strangest burglaries has just taken place!" he blurted out. "A food warehouse has been broken into. No money was stolen, but twenty case of peanut butter have disappeared!"

"Who on earth would want twenty cases of peanut butter?" asked Dick in astonishment.

"The Cheetah, that's who!" Bruce replied, smacking a giant fist into the palm of his other hand. "So, he's finally returned to Gotham City!"
--p. 16-20
Right. I guess even Gotham City has slow news nights.

The book's not a mystery, though there is a brief stretch near the middle where Batman is wondering where The Cheetah hides during the day. And The Cheetah is not sneaking around by way of sewer, though that memory was fairly close.

I guess it's no more or less farfetched than Batman himself that The Cheetah a) used to be a taxidermist, b) is able to disguise himself perfectly with an orungatan skin, and c) sneaks around by way of a drain at the bottom of the cage which easily opened, is large enough to fit a human, and lets out into the room where the zoo's groundskeeping staff keep the lawnmower and anything else they must want to rust.

Hm. Well. Off to think a bit about general search methods for half-remembered books, just because I think finding them is a skill worth having. The NYPL suggestions for a couple of databases are helpful, the rest of them less so.
posted by Tuwa at 6:21 PM on August 3, 2007

Oh, and The Cheetah is a man, not a woman, and he's known for his speed and his freckles. Sheesh.

Crisis on Infinite Earths probably took care of that one.
posted by Tuwa at 6:56 PM on August 3, 2007

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