Detective Comics #27, May 1939, "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate"
Wayne, visiting his friend, Police Commissioner Gordon, is drawn into
the murder of a businessman, supposedly by his own son. A strange, new
Batman, takes an interest and is led to the real villains: Alfred
Stryker (who schemed to take control of a chemical company from his
fellow stockholders) and Jennings, his henchman. Wouldn't the
Commissioner be surprised to learn that Bruce Wayne is The Batman?
The first appearance of the Batman. The basic plot, by the way, is taken from a Shadow pulp tale, "Partners of Peril" (recently reprinted, if you're curious).
Detective Comics #28, June 1939, untitled
encounters a suave
jewel thief, "Frenchy" Blake. Not much else to tell here. The most
interesting thing about this
story is how Batman first gets the police to think he's the thief, then closes the
case for them by beating a confession out of Frenchy – not quite the
"World's Greatest Detective" of later years.
Detective Comics #29, July 1939, "The Batman Meets Doctor Death"
|The first foe to return, Doctor Death is probably the first true Bat-villain, in that he has a codename and a gimmick. Dr. Karl Hellfern, society doctor, developed a deadly pollen with which he threatened wealthy men. When someone failed to pay up, he sent his Hindu servant, Jabah, to spray them with the pollen. He apparently perishes in a fire.||
Detective Comics #30, August 1939, untitled
|Doctor Death escapes the fire,
but not unscathed. In Detective
#30, we see him,
bandaged, sending another servant, the
Cossack Mikhail, to retrieve some jewels he'd left in another
location. When Batman finally arrests him (Dr. Death is disguised
as an old jewel
dealer named Ivan Herd), he finds Doctor Death
was hideously scarred by the fire.
I thought there was some promise to this villain, but he never returned after this. But, like many an early Bat-villain, later generations reused and revised the concept. Gerry Conway did a very similar (if unscarred) Doctor Death in the '80s, and there is also a modern version (face hidden in a gas mask but still using allergens as a weapon).
These two stories were written by a young Gardner Fox, who had previously written a few other stories for Detective.
Detective Comics #31, September 1939, untitled
|Bruce's fiancee, Julie Madison, is advised to take a trip for her health. "Why not Hungary?" the doctor suggests, "Land of enchantment and ... werewolves!" His keen detective instincts aroused, Bruce follows Julie as the Batman and finds her being hypnotised by "a weird figure, cowled like a monk", if monks regularly wore full-head hoods with pirate flags on them. He saves her, and avoids a trap with a giant gorilla (shown here drawn as unrealistically as it appeared in the story), but vows to get The Monk. (That always seemed to me to need both capitals, like The Batman or The Shadow.)||
Detective Comics #32, October 1939, untitled
we're in Hungary, and Batman randomly kidnaps a
young woman named Dala, who turns out to be a vampire under The Monk's
influence. Batman melts down a silver statuette (with a candle)
into bullets and kills the two of them as they rest in their coffins.
Oh, yes, in addition to the giant
gorilla, werewolves appear in here at various times, as well. And
there was a reference
to Orson Welles's "War of the Worlds" scare in the previous issue.
The two Monk stories are both by Gardner Fox, and they're pretty clunky. Fox apparently really liked both M. G. Lewis's Gothic classic, The Monk, and the Lugosi Dracula film, and wasn't too clear on the difference between vampires and werewolves. However, he did introduce the second returning Bat-villain, a love life for Bruce Wayne, specialized equipment such as the "baterang" and bat-plane (actually, an autogyro), and a definite urban setting for the stories: New York.
Matt Wagner retold this sequence in the 2006 Batman and the Mad Monk 6-issue mini-series.
Detective Comics #33, November 1939, "The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom"
|Dr. Carl Kruger
has such a Napoleonic complex, he even looks
like Napoleon. He joins with three other scientists, and a
private army, to form the Scarlet Horde. (Oddly, while their
leaders wear scarlet, the Scarlet Horde apparently all wear
attack New York with death rays, and Batman flies to the defense.
He infiltrates the Horde, fakes his own death, wrecks the Dirigible of
Doom, and has an aerial battle with Dr. Kruger.
"Mr. Bixley" is called that by the crew of the Dirigible of Doom, so I'm claiming "Mister" is more of a First Mate title than just an ordinary address. Ryder is simply referred to as one of the lieutenants, but I've given him that as an official rank. Poor Travis had nothing but his surname in the story.
The Dirigible of Doom story was also the first appearance of Batman's origin, a page-and-a-half sequence called "The Batman -- Who He Is and How He Came to Be". Since the Scarlet Horde story follows immediately afterwards, I've chosen to treat this as part of that story. I'll cover the origin specifically when I get to Batman #1, where it was reprinted.
Bat-trivia: Gerry Conway also reworked this story in the '80s, with Dr. Kruger becoming "Colonel Blimp". (According to the dictionary, "Colonel Blimp" was a 1937 cartoon-strip character with pompous, reactionary views. I guess Conway just liked the name, as the character showed none of these traits.)
Detective Comics #34, December 1939, untitled
|Bruce thinks he
sees a friend on the street, but it turns out
to be Charles Maire, who apologizes because his lack of a face "must be
startling". Maire was the victim of the Duc D'Orterre, Master of
the Apaches. (The Apaches were a criminal gang of fin de siecle
Paris, so named because their savageness was compared with those of the
Apache tribe of 19th century America. You may have heard of, or
seen references to, the
"Apache dance", where a man roughly treates his female dance partner.)
had burned Maire's face away with a "terrible ray". Batman goes
D'Orterre, escapes from a rotating-wheel torture through a garden of
talking human-faced flowers (!) (I'm sorry, but ! !!), and fights a final battle
with the Duc, who drives his car off a bridge.
This was another Gardner Fox story. He certainly had a taste for the exotic, but flowers with faces??!! (This could reflect the influence of Clark Ashton Smith's "The Garden of Adompha", published in Weird Tales in April 1938. Fox is known to have been a fan of the Lovecraft circle's stories.)
By the way, this is the last non-Batman cover on Detective. Some say that's the Crimson Avenger, even though there has been no CA story in Detective since #29, he didn't wear a checked scarf, and this is more of an Orange Avenger.
Detective Comics #35, January 1940, untitled
Sheldon Lenox has stolen an idol carved from a giant
ruby: Kila, the Hindu god of destruction. The Kila cult hunts him
down and kills him, but not until after he's sold the idol to a
collector. The idol is then stolen from the collector, and Batman
goes to Wong, the "unofficial mayor of Chinatown", to learn who might
fence stolen goods. He's directed to one Sin Fang, who sics giant
Mongol warriors on Batman. Sin Fang is revealed to be Lenox, who
set up the whole thing to get the idol and escape the cult. He really
when Batman throws the Kila idol at him, and he falls out the window.
This story is something of a swipe from the first Shadow pulp novel, in which a Chinese mastermind is revealed to be a white man in make-up.
And what's with the name "Kila"? It's OK to risk offending Chinese and Hindus, but not Kali? Were Thuggee big readers of Detective Comics?
Note the cover: that mad doctor bears a remarkable resemblance to the Duc D'Orterre from last issue.
Detective Comics #36, February 1940, untitled
|It's the first
appearance of Prof. Hugo Strange, but the
story shows Batman has previous knowledge of him – whether through
crime files or direct experience is unclear, but Strange's sneering "my
dear Batman" suggests something of an untold history between the two.
The story isn't much: Strange kidnaps an electrical engineer to help create a super-dense fog in which his hirelings can hide after crimes. (The fog machine as drawn is a Zeiss projector – the old-fashioned planetarium devices – with extra attachments.) But you can see why Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers were drawn to resurrect him in 1977. Strange is presented as a physically powerful, yet sophisticated, man, planning grand schemes with scientific wonders but not above rolling up his sleeves and picking up the bullwhip when Batman is captured.
Hey, the cover shows Batman fighting Mongols, just like last issue's story!
Detective Comics #37, March 1940, untitled
across a gangland execution. The dying
man names "Turg" as the one who ordered him killed. Bruce Wayne
looks up the three "Turgs" in the phone book and finds one, Elias Turg,
is supposedly a simple grocer but is too well-dressed and has
bodyguards. Turg is part of a smuggling ring, but a thug refers
to "The Head" as someone who is apparently not Turg. Further
investigation shows that "Turg" is actually a disguise for the socially
prominent Count Grutt. In the final battle, Grutt accidentally
impales himself on a sword.
The waterfront fight shown on this cover did appear in this story.
Detective Comics #38, April 1940, "Robin--the Boy Wonder"
sensational character find of 1940! Robin, the
Surely everyone knows the basic story by now: The Flying Graysons, acrobats, work for Haly's Circus. Mr. Haly is threatened by Blade, an agent of Boss Zucco, and to show Haly that the Boss means business, the trapezes are sabotaged. John and Mary Grayson fall to their deaths in front of their young son, Dick. Bruce Wayne takes the orphaned boy under his wing and trains him as a partner for Batman, their first case together being the capture of the killers of Dick's parents. Blade's murder by Zucco gave Batman and Robin the evidence needed to send Zucco to the electric chair.
There have been many variants on this over the years: Zucco was a young punk working for someone else; Two-Face killed the Graysons; Mr. Haly did it to collect insurance. Most of these were retold to cover the serious charge of child endangerment: what was Bruce Wayne thinking, bringing a 10-year-old boy into harm's way with him? (Dr. Frederick Wertham, psychologist from the 1950s, suspected there was a homosexual relationship between the two.)
But in the black-and-white world of four-color comics of the Forties, what could be more natural than an adult pal helping a kid bring his parent's killers to justice? (Hey, it's a better motivation than Bucky had.)
Batman #1, Spring 1940, "The Legend of the Batman -- Who He Is and How He Came to Be"
|Having a hit on
their hands with the Batman, DC decided to
follow the method they used with Superman and create a second magazine
character, this one devoted entirely to his exploits. They began
by reprinting the page-and-a-half origin from Detective
"One night some fifteen years ago, Thomas Wayne, his wife and his son were walking home from a movie..." There's a holdup, and the Waynes are shot, leaving young Bruce an orphan, but a driven one: "And I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals." As he grows, he trains his mind and body, and then, as an adult, muses on the best way to carry out this plan. "Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts." A bat flies in the open window, and the rest is history.
The gunman is not called "Joe Chill" here, Thomas Wayne is not a doctor, and Martha Wayne is unnamed. These elaborations are to come in future stories.
The coloring on these characters, for those who care, comes from Detective Comics #33; they were minorly recolored in this reprint.
|Batman #1, Spring 1940, untitled||Night, and
radio programs are interrupted by an eerie voice
threatening the midnight death of Henry Claridge and the theft of his
diamond by... The Joker. Police guard Claridge as the clock
strikes twelve. "I'm safe!" shouts Claridge, "I'm saaa-- Aagh!
Aagh!" He falls dead, his mouth twisted into an evil grimace.
"Grotesque! The Joker brings death to his victims with a smile!"
Investigation shows the diamond in Claridge's safe is actually glass.
Man, what a great, moody opening! And it gets better. Another victim is struck down in the midst of his guards by a blowgun dart. A third is playing cards with the Chief of Police, who suddenly declares, "You can't win anyway! You see, I hold the winning card!" And it's a joker.
The eventual encounters between The Joker and The Batman are almost an anti-climax to the murders. There's a temporary setback, but Batman captures the killer in the end. But the last panel belongs to The Joker: "They can't keep me here!" he grins from between the bars of his cell. "I know of a way out -- The Joker will have the last laugh!"
This is probably the single best story of the Batman's early career, written by Bill Finger.
Also, at this point, a number of minor costume tweaks for the Batman have settled down, so along with the Joker, here also is the iconic Batman of the 1940s.
|Batman #1, Spring 1940, untitled||This story's
premise was straight from a Doc
story, "The Monsters" (April 1934). Hugo Strange kidnaps some
asylum inmates, and some time later giant monsters roam Gotham, causing
destruction. Strange has turned the inmates into giants and is
them as both a terror weapon and a cover for ordinary crime. How
one capture and imprison a mad giant? According to Batman, one
doesn't: "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's
necessary." He hangs one monster after roping it from the Batplane,
causes two others to fight to their mutual deaths, and machine-guns a
This story was retold by Matt Wagner in a 6-issue mini-series, Batman and the Monster Men. So I'm calling this giant a Monster Man.
Here, too, is Hugo in his down-to-earth, "roll up your sleeves and get busy with the important work of horsewhipping your foe" attitude.
|Batman #1, Spring 1940, untitled||There's a party
aboard wealthy Mrs. Travers's yacht, and
nephew Denny brings a guest, the elderly Miss Peggs. She is
secretly The Cat, renowned jewel thief, working with Denny to steal his
aunt's diamonds. Along the way in this story, there's a holdup by fake
Coast Guard men, a
masquerade party, and, of course, The Batman, who allows Robin to
tackle four of the holdup men alone, to prove to the kids of America
how yellow crooks are without their guns. He also shows the kids
of America that it's okay to let a criminal escape if she's female and
you like her eyes.
This is, of course, the first appearance of the character who will soon be known as the Catwoman.
|Batman #1, Spring 1940, "The Joker Returns"||The Joker's
second appearance is not quite as memorable
as the first, but it's still good. He escapes prison using explosives
kept in hollow teeth (an idea taken from Doc Savage). From his
secret laboratory beneath a cemetery (an idea taken from The Spirit),
prepares crimes that are as much about terror as about profit. He kills
the police chief with a dart hidden in a phone receiver and gasses
guards from within a mummy case. Reformer Edgar Martin, marked for
death for denouncing The Joker, decides to play cards under watchful
eyes of his guards, only to find every card in the pack is a joker,
after which he dies from a poisoned cut he received from the cards.
Batman sets a trap, and The Joker responds. There is a fight, during
Joker accidentally stabs himself, shrieking "The Joker is going to die!
laugh is on The Joker! Laugh, clown, laugh!" He is left for dead, but
the last panel shows a startled doctor saying, "He's going to live!"
Writer Bill Finger had actually written The Joker's death, but his editor overruled him, and the last panel was redrawn to save the character.
This story first showed the slouch hat and trenchcoat outfit which Marshall Rogers brought back in the 1970s and which then appeared in the first Batman movie and the animated adaptation of the Rogers story. So, here is that appearance for The Joker.
New York World's Fair Comics #2, 1940, untitled
|DC did two
issues of a comic intended to cash in on
the 1939-40 World's Fair in New York City, one issue each year.
Since Batman wasn't around at the time of the 1939 issue, he
missed it, but he and Robin, or rather Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson,
did tour the fair in 1940 – for all of 8 panels. A radio
newscast then calls them back to the city and real meat of this story.
Dr. Hugo Vreekill has invented a device that melts or crumbles steel by destroying its molecular bonds, and he intends to use it to extort money from construction companies and civic officials. His horrified niece goes to the police, who summon Batman. Vreekill has smuggled one of the devices into State Prison, to free an army of criminals to work for him, so that's Batman's first stop. Next, it's off to a threatened building, and finally to Vreekill's lab, where Vreekill grabs a live wire and kills himself.
And the last panel plugs the Fair again.
So why didn't Vreekill threaten some object at the Fair? I'm guessing the story was already in production and Fair references were inserted at the last minute to give DC a Batman story for the Fair book.
By the way, the idea of a comic with both Superman and Batman in it was apparently popular, because DC chose to continue it but as a new book, with the title World's Best rather than World's Fair.
Detective Comics #39, May 1940, untitled
|You can tell
how much of an influence The Shadow was on The
Batman partly because of the three separate stories that take place in
Chinatown during the first couple of years. This is the second of
Hatchet-wielding men threaten the honest denizens of Chinatown. Batman visits his friend Wong, the "mayor" of Chinatown, for more information but finds Wong slain. The trail leads to the Tong of the Green Dragon. (A tong is a semi-military, semi-criminal organization from China. The British supposedly smashed the tongs in China in the early 20th Century, but pulp writers of the time often brought them into America as the place they could re-establish their power base.) Robin is captured and about to be tortured by the Master of the Green Dragon, who likes to watch things squirm, but Batman rescues him and smashes the idol which serves as a symbol of the Tong's power.
Hmm. This cover shows a scene strongly resembling the climax of last issue's story.
Detective Comics #40, June 1940, untitled
last seen being threatened by vampires, is
now an actress in a remake of a (silent?) horror picture. Bruce
and Dick are present to cheer her on, and luckily so, since murders
start happening on set. Someone, with a face like clay, evidently
wants the production stopped. Is it the fired actor? Or
gangster who threatened the studio head, Mr. Bentley? Why, no,
it's Basil Karlo,
who played the monster in the original movie and now resents someone
taking his place.
Clayface was nothing more than a variant on the Phantom of the Opera, but he gave his name to a 1960s villain who proved way more popular (and who spawned a string of even more Clayfaces – I think they're up to Clayface VII or Clayface VIII in the comics). And in the 2006 cartoon incarnation, Clayface is once again Basil Karlo.
This cover shows a scene from Batman #1's second Joker story. What's been going on here, with all these mismatched covers? I'm guessing that, as with the pulps, comics writers were asked to develop a story based on a cover image. Only the resulting story was not necessarily used in the same issue as the inspirational cover. This suggests Batman stories were assigned/received without a firm plan as to where they'd appear. Certainly, the stories in Batman #1 were pulled from inventory planned for Detective; Detective #37 announces, for the next issue, the Hugo Strange story from Batman #1, not the origin of Robin that did appear in that next issue. (I reject the idea that the production staff could have been one issue behind in producing covers, as this went on for over a year and was not consistently off.)
Batman #2, Summer 1940, untitled
Syndicate, Inc. (I would like to have
seen their incorporation papers), has lost its leader, and
second-in-command Weasel gets a great idea: spring this injured guy,
The Joker, who's been getting so much press, from the hospital and have
him lead them in the theft of the Pharaoh's Gems. The Joker is
grateful but not enough to share the loot, and he quickly turns on his
erstwhile benefactors. But someone else is after the Gems: The
Cat (now called The Cat-Woman as well). Batman is caught in the middle.
He manages to recapture The Joker, but the The Cat escapes again
(legitimately, this time).
Could this be the first comics story where two of a hero's established villains appear in the same story? Yet they're not teaming up against Batman -- they're rivals for the same loot. One wonders why this sort of thing didn't happen more often in Gotham City...
|Batman #2, Summer 1940, "The Crime Master"||Adam Lamb, a
meek taxidermist, does enjoy his mystery novels.
While reading one called The
he falls and hits his head, and the set of circumstances induces a
split personality in him. Taking the alias "Wolf", he becomes a
master criminal himself by re-enacting the events of the novel. Batman
quickly tumbles to the connection between Wolf and the novel, but he's
at a loss as to who Wolf could be – until he remembers this meek
taxidermist he met. He arrives at Lamb's place of work in time to
prevent a murder, but the circumstances of Lamb's original fall are
recreated, and this time Lamb breaks his neck.
This was a pretty obvious Jekyll/Hyde inspiration, but I rather liked the added feature of the criminal who re-enacts a book. Batman stories always drew on a variety of popular fiction sources, but that particular feature was used a year later in an episode of The Shadow radio program, "The Chess Club Murders". Did they get it from the comic? Or is there some other movie or book that served as a common source for both?
|Batman #2, Summer 1940, "The Case of the Clubfoot Murderers"||Millionaire
Harley Storme is killed by a clubfooted man
with a hook hand. His heirs each receive a gold token with a
cryptic message, and each is then attacked, presumably by Clubfoot
Beggs, a former partner of Storme's whom he cheated out of his share of
a gold mine. However, the real Clubfoot Beggs is a prisoner of Ward,
Storme's lawyer, who knows the tokens will reveal the gold mine's
location and who is masquerading as Clubfoot to get them all.
An average "pick off the heirs" story. There's even an heir with gambling debts to a gangster, Varrick, as a red herring. Clubfoot is an interesting design, and the story twists the tendency of popular fiction to make disfigured people villains (even if it does fall back on the crooked lawyer cliché), but the amateurish lettering spoiled the story for me.
|Batman #2, Summer 1940, "The Case of the Missing Link"||Prof. Drake has
returned from Africa with a
prehistoric survival: a creature he believes may be the missing
evolutionary link between apes and humans. Because of a glandular
condition, the ape-man has grown to gigantic size, which led to its
being worshipped by a tribe of Pygmies. Some of the Pygmies followed
Drake to America and attack him on a train, which is how Batman gets
involved. The news spreads, and Hackett and Snead, unscrupulous
showmen, want to buy the ape-man, whom Drake calls Goliath, for their
circus. When Drake refuses, they kill him and make his death look
like suicide, and leave a fake will directing Goliath go to the circus.
Bruce and Dick attend Goliath's first public showing, in case
there's trouble – and there is. Goliath recognizes one of
Drake's killers and breaks free. To save Batman's life, Robin
hits Goliath with a pellet from his sling, and Goliath falls to his
death. Hackett and Snead are arrested.
Okay, we know now that the "missing link" never existed – it was a popular misconception. But how do Pygmies sneak all the way to the US from Africa? And Batman boots the Pygmies off of a speeding train, probably to their deaths. So this is a story high on excitement and low on logic.
Detective Comics #41, July 1940, untitled
|A masked figure
is prowling the grounds of a boys'
boarding school. Is it the homicidal maniac who escaped from the
asylum nearby? Dick Grayson goes undercover to investigate and,
after Robin finds and thoroughly thrashes the maniac, discovers the
"Masked Menace", as he calls him, actually has a very sane goal: a set
of plates for counterfeiting. The menace is unmasked as meek Mr.
Graves, the school's art teacher.
This is very much a Robin story. Batman's in here, too, somewhere.
Detective Comics #42, August 1940, "The Case of the Prophetic Pictures"
Pierre Antal is a hit in high
society. His paintings of the rich and famous are in great
demand. But one day, the owner of one of them finds his portrait
with a dagger in it; that night, he is stabbed. A diva finds a
dart in her portrait, and she is killed by a dart while
performing. A noose is draped over a third, and the person is
found hanged the next morning.
A skull-masked killer is prevented from shooting an arrow into a fourth portrait's sitter, so Batman sets a trap by having Antal paint Bruce Wayne's portrait. A bullet hole is found in the portrait's forehead the next morning, and that night, a shot is fired at Wayne while he sits reading. Batman grabs the killer, who turns out to be a Mr. Wylie who was sponsoring Antal's work – the sensation made the paintings more valuable (at least, to those who weren't portrayed). Wylie kills himself, and the "Bruce" who was shot is shown to be a dummy operated by a concealed Dick Grayson.
I'm a big fan of serial killers with a motif, the iconic example being Vincent Price, as either Dr. Phibes or Edward Lionheart (the ham Shakespearean actor from the movie Theatre of Blood, my all-time favorite of such stories), so this unnamed "Painter of Death" was a delight for me to discover when this story was reprinted in a 1970s issue of Detective Comics – along with its sequel from a few years later!
Gee, that "Batman watching over Robin in action" cover would have gone well with last issue's story, no?
Detective Comics #43, September 1940, "The Case of the City of Terror"
Robin find a city run by a corrupt mayor,
Harliss Greer, and a narcotics gangster, "Bugs" Norton. Not an
especially exciting story.
No docks or boats in this story or the previous one, but that fellow in the orange coat with his back to us looks suspiciously like Blackbeard from the forthcoming story in Batman #4.
Batman #3, Fall 1940, "The Strange Case of the Diabolical Puppet Master"
|Dimitri is master not only of wooden puppets but also of human ones. One scratch from a needle dipped in his thought serum, and someone can be controlled from afar by Dimitri's will. Even the mighty Batman is not immune.||
|Batman #3, Fall 1940, "The Ugliest Man in the World"||Certain young
men are afflicted with "the Ghastly
Change": "in place of the once young, intelligent looking man, there is
now a coarse, ugly person with an aged idiotic face". At the same
time, a horde of ugly people attack objects of beauty throughout the
city. It is all the work of Carlson, the self-proclaimed Ugliest
Man in the World, out for revenge on the college friends who
accidentally deformed him and the society which then rejected him.
Also, Batman meets a bumbling police detective – he was
apparently supposed to be a regular part of the series but was dropped
after only two appearances.
Bat-trivia: In the '80s, Gerry Conway sort of reworked this story, too, ugly Carlson becoming "Scar".
|Batman #3, Fall 1940, "The Crime School for Boys!!"||Oliver Twist time. Stopping a warehouse robbery, Batman learns one of the gang is "a mere boy", Tommy, a recent graduate of a "crime school". Pockets preps kids to become members of Big Boy Daniels's gang. "A school to teach boys how to become criminals! To admire criminals! I'm going to do something about this!" muses Batman. He has Dick Grayson join the school and get the kids more interested in sports and fair play than in crime. But it's when Batman wallops Big Boy Daniels, who is a full head taller than him, that the kids finally decide to join Batman.||
|Batman #3, Fall 1940, "The Batman vs. the Cat-Woman!"||Now wearing a cat-head
mask, The Cat is back in Gotham, stealing gems. When a member of
a diamond syndicate is killed, suspicion naturally falls on her. But
Batman quickly learns that Darrel and Hoffer, unknown to remaining
partner Blake, have hired the Cat to steal gems for the insurance
money, to cover gambling losses – something the murdered man had
learned, which caused Hoffer to hire other thugs to kill him.
This is the last Catwoman story for a couple of years and is the last time she is called "The Cat". It is also Detective McGonigle's second, and last, appearance in Batman stories.
Detective Comics #44, October 1940, "The Land behind the Light!"
Robin meet a Dr. Marko, who has a machine that
opens a passage into a world of giants and dwarves. They are
captured by a giant and taken to the giant king, but they escape.
They are then captured by the dwarves, convince them of their
good intentions, and help them fight off an invasion by the
giants. But It Was All A Dream – Dick had fallen asleep while
reading a book on giants and dwarves.
I rather liked the thug-like features of this particular giant, Gorl, chief hunter for the giant king.
Detective Comics #45, November 1940, "The Case of the Laughing Death!"
|The Joker, disguised as music dealer "A. Rekoj", manages a gang of jewel thieves. The thieves do the hard work of theft, then, as himself, The Joker steps in and robs them. He also kills a district attorney with a phonograph record: as it is played, the needle scratches away a wax coating and releases a poison gas.||
Detective Comics #46, December 1940, untitled
Strange develops a powder that causes
fear in those who breathe it. He teams with Carstairs, a gang
leader, who sends his thugs out into Gotham City with the fear dust.
Batman and Robin are kept busy, stopping the thugs, but Batman
finally catches up with Strange on a cliffside road. There's a fight,
and Strange falls off the cliff.
And that's the last we see of Prof. Hugo Strange until the 1970s, when Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers brought him back.
Batman #4, Winter 1940, "The Case of the Joker's Crime Circus!"
|A miniature circus is the latest rage of high society parties. However, some nights later, some of those same homes are robbed. Batman realizes the circus is casing the homes for future robberies. Trailing them to a "haunted house" they use as a base, he finds the clown leader is The Joker.||
|Batman #4, Winter 1940, "Blackbeard's Crew and the Yacht Society"||Members of the Gotham Yacht Society make an annual cruise on one of their members' yachts. This year, the cruise is interrupted by modern pirates, led by a self-styled Blackbeard. Batman to the rescue! The crisis also serves as a catalyst in helping some passengers solve their personal problems: a meek secretary shows his backbone, a young woman chooses the man to marry, and a bankrupt businessman finds the will to continue living.||
|Batman #4, Winter 1940, "Public Enemy No. 1"||Growing up on the streets of Gotham, Jimmy Cag– uh, McCoy was a tough kid, and he was on his way to becoming a tough gang boss when he was sent to prison. Returning after serving his time, he tries to pick up where he left off but discovers Big Costello runs the rackets now. So Jimmy sets out to become the baddest bad-man in town, Public Enemy #1, and wages war on Costello. Batman must protect innocent Gotham citizens, caught in the middle of the two thugs' struggle.||
|Batman #4, Winter 1940, untitled||Stacy, a gambler, has his thugs go after the star player of an opposing team to make sure Stacy's team wins the game. Batman gets to play football, disguised as the star. (That's some sturdy makeup!)||
Detective Comics #47, January 1941, untitled
|The family of
banker Harvey Midas is in a mess. Midas
won't let his talented son become a musician, so the son takes to
gambling, and his status-seeking
wife insists their daughter marry the gold-digging, but titled, Count
Alexis rather than the average boy whom the daughter actually loves. It
takes a brush
with death, prevented by the Batman, to show the elder Midases the
error of their ways.
Detective Comics #48, February 1941, "The Secret Cavern"
discovers a cave which runs right under the Fort
Stox gold reserve. Gangster Nick is quick to realize the
opportunity this provides. With the help of Renaldo, he frames
Lewis's daughter for murder to get the cave's location from Lewis.
Batman stops the looting of the gold
Detective Comics #49, March 1941, "Clayface Walks Again!"
freed in a traffic accident, returns to the
movie studio to become Clayface again. Luckily for him, Julie Madison's
appearance in the remake he failed to stop was a sensation, and (under
her new screen name, "Portia Storme") she's
making another film, so he gets another shot at her. (Portia Storme was
also the name of one of the legatees in the Clubfoot
story from Batman
#2; no connection, though.) This is Julie's
last appearance until the 1970s.
Sigh. Pirates on the cover, no pirates in the book, but there were pirates in Batman #4.
Batman #5, Spring 1941, "The Riddle of the Missing Card!"
The Joker falls in with three other crooks and
realizes they share card-themed nicknames.
|Batman #5, Spring 1941, "Book of Enchantment"||Wild-eyed Prof.
Anderson summons Batman and Robin: he's been
working on a device which will provide access to a dimension of
storybook characters, but Gruel, a witch, comes through and kidnaps his
daughter. The heroes must enter a fairy tale land to rescue this
"princess". After beating a variety of fantastic henchmen, they
return home with the girl. But did the adventure really happen,
or was it a trick of the fog?
|Batman #5, Spring 1941, "The Case of the Honest Crook"||
|Batman #5, Spring 1941, untitled||
World's Best Comics #1, Spring 1941, "The Witch and the Manuscript of Doom!
Erik Dorne is clubbed to death, and his butler
reports a witch leaving the grounds. A page from a missing
manuscript is found, a true story about a "real-life witch". It
seems this witch killed Dorne and stole the manuscript, but who is
it? Dorne's crone of an aunt? His ex-wife, playing a witch
on stage? The fellow author and demonologist? Actually,
it's his publisher, Wright, who is a fifth columnist whose activities
Dorne was about to expose.
There's some hand-waving explanation as to how he counts as a witch, but the real lesson here is not to tell your publisher your next book will cause his arrest.
Detective Comics #50, April 1941, "The Case of the Three Devils"
Devils are acrobats whose rooftop escapes are
giving Batman and Robin headaches. Detective work leads the duo
to the trio's clock-tower hideout, where they wait for the returning
To save Batman's life, Robin has to cause one Devil to fall to his death. There are other stories where he throws a slingshot pellet at someone and causes them to die. You'd think causing a death would be traumatic to a child, but, in his first appearance, he takes a picture of Boss Zucco killing the man who killed his parents, so maybe his psychology was permanently warped by that. Think of that, the next time you hear someone talk about how comparatively well-adjusted Dick Grayson is.
Bat-trivia: In the "No Man's Land" storyline from the '90s, cheesy villain Nicholas Scratch has three devil-faced henchmen, who turn out to be genetically modified clones. I suspect these guys were something of an homage to the Three Devils.