For today’s episode we’re going to do something a little bit different. Insurance agent Bert Brandon is going to actually try paying off a claim! Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as he’d like!
I’m sure you all heard about the tragic death of M. M. Memmon, the richest man in the galaxy and owner of the planet Belvedere. His untimely demise in an asteroid-spaceship collision means that Triple-I has to pay off a life insurance claim of $100 million to Memmon’s next of kin, a guy named Shmilliam Shmemory.
No, I’m kidding, it actually goes to a dude living on the aforementioned planet Belvedere named Lance Memmon, the deceased’s cousin. Mr. Emory gives Bert a fat check and sends him to Belvedere to deliver it. Bert imagines the “lucky beneficiary” will “jump for joy” since he has only a vague understanding of your primitive Earth emotions. Emory tells him to make sure he gets Memmon’s signature and “retina identification photo” as proof of ID.
(I am quite surprised that Julius Schwartz didn’t step in here to explain that retinas, like fingerprints, are unique to each individual! Nobody in the entire story mentions this fact which, as we’ll see, is kind of critical to the plot.)
So Bert shows up at Memmon’s door, explains who he is and why he’s there, and prepares to hand over the check as soon as some simple formalities are taken care of.
Bert doesn’t understand Lance’s bizarre behavior, so he goes to someone who probably can explain it: the family banker. The banker tells him that some folks hate having their eyes photographed. In fact, the late M. M. Memmon was such a person, and this banker has the only photograph of the elder Memmon’s eyes in existence! Bert gets a copy of the photo because “eye characteristic often run in families, you know!”
While he puzzles over the retina photo, he tries to at least get a signature out of Lance. Although a graduate of the Jimmy Olsen School of Lame Disguises, he has no luck getting Lance Memmon’s John Hancock.
Bert now realizes the only way he’s going to get pix of this dude’s peepers is on the sly, but first he needs to get a camera. Because he doesn’t have one. What was he going to use to photograph Memmon’s eyes with in the first place? Who knows?
So Bert heads over to the store to get a camera, but they have none in stock. In fact, what he finds out is that there are no cameras on the entire planet. What do they have instead to take pictures with?
I assure you, you are not going to believe the answer.
Let me spell this out for you: the people of the planet Belvedere do not need cameras because they have POLAR BEARS THAT TAKE PHOTOGRAPHS THROUGH THEIR THIRD EYE. And, just like a plain old film camera, when you’re not using it, you set it on an iceberg and feed it seals.
Bert borrows Klik the Polaroid Bear for a few days and concocts the greatest plan in the history of ever.
For those just joining us, Bert Brandon is dressed as a motorcycle cop and is hoping to pull a guy over so he can take a picture of the guy’s eyes with his camera-bear in order to give him a check for a hundred million space moneys.
I’m gonna go ahead and declare Sid Gerson the mayor of the Silver Age.
Okay, so back to the story. Naturally, since this plan is essentially the “wear a disguise” plan that failed before — albeit with an added camera-bear element — it fails for exactly the same reason. Lance recognizes Bert and fails to stop.
Bert calls up Emory and tries to explain the situation, but Bizarro-Emory will hear none of it. “YOU AM GOOD INSURANCE AGENT,” he says. “YOU GIVE CLIENT MONEY HE AM RIGHTFULLY OWED!” (Seriously, Emory tells him, “The I.I.I. lives up to its obligations!”)
Bert can no longer get near Memmon because the guy has hired bodyguards, so he tries getting a shot from above in some kind of jet. I guess the bear has a telephoto attachment? That plan fails when Memmon starts shooting a cannon at him. Bert then approaches Memmon’s front door. Wait, what about the bodyguards from two panels before? He waited until they left the house. That’s the kind of protection you can get when you’re the richest guy in the galaxy.
Bert rings the doorbell but Lance won’t answer. However, when Bert looks in through the keyhole…
The camera-bear snaps the picture and they high-tail it out with Memmon and his bodyguards (who I guess came back from their lunch break) in hot pursuit! Bert attempts an escape in his space yacht, but it’s no use. Lance easily overtakes and boards his ship.
Not only does Memmon force the bear’s eye open (making a “POP!” sound), he then tells Bert that he’s pressing criminal charges against the insurance agent! It seems that Belvedere has very strict laws against both harassment and shenanigans and Memmon intends to throw the book at Bert.
Memmon hauls Bert (and the bear) into a police station and announces that he wants Bert arrested, to which the cop says, “Yessir!” He also adds, for no apparent reason, “By the way, did you hear the news that the Belvedere Supreme Court has ruled eye-retina photos invalid?” Just before Officer Exposition hails Bert off to the pokey, Bert tells Memmon he can have the check for only a signature now. Lance signs the form, takes the check — and then Bert tells the cop to arrest Memmon for conspiracy to defraud I.I.I.!
See, Memmon had vast land holdings, but was cash poor. So he posed as his cousin, faked his death, and made himself his own heir! And then he refused the money he was trying to get out of this scheme until he could have the laws changed to make it safe for him to take it. And you said these plans never make sense!
Now, how did Bert manage to transfer and develop the camera-bear’s photos? That I can’t answer, unless he picked up a Belvederian Darkroom Llama somewhere along the way.
The story ends with a gag involving the bear having taken photos of Bert dressed as a speed cop and him now being in jail for impersonating a police officer, but I would like to point out two things.
First: Triple-I still doesn’t have to pay out any cash.
Next week: Duel in the Stars!
“The Living Camera!”
Mystery in Space #23 (December 1954-January 1955)
Writer: Sid Gerson
Penciler: Carmine Infantino
Inker: Carmine Infantino
Editor: Julius Schwartz