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Let's read vintage Batman

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
I've been reading some old Batman comics, and they're that special brand of batty that's too good to keep to myself. You get to be the beneficiaries of my reading.

#191

Batman announces that he's giving up crime-fighting, and he auctions off all his paraphernalia. Alfred and Robin are distraught. What could be going on? Flash back to an earlier battle with one Ira Radon. Batman beats him soundly, but then he discovers a hidden message written in radiation on the batmobile: Radon has blasted Batman and his gear with radiation. The dose is harmless, but if Radon ever discovers that Batman is fighting crime again, he'll activate the radiation in Batman's body, killing him. Radon demands that Batman retire and auction off his stuff. Radon does some research and finds that the Wayne foundation bought up everything to put it into a museum -- everything but a single batarang. That one was bought by Batman under a pseudonym. Radon traces down the fake buyer and finds himself attacked by a man he quickly deduces is Batman. Batman has covered himself in a thick layer of clay, which protects him from the radiation, so he manages to defeat Radon without getting radiated to death. The day is saved!

---

Alfred is kidnapped by some no-name who became a millionaire through illicit but undescribed means. Since the crook is rich, he wants to live like the rich, so he orders Alfred to make him some food. Alfred, that clever so-and-so, makes a menu full of hints as to his location, but Batman and Robin thwart one of the grocery store robberies. (Of course they're robbing the stores. You don't become a criminal millionaire by throwing away cash.) This is a problem, because they're now lacking a crucial hint. They revisit the store and find the criminals' shopping list, which they cross-reference with Alfred's recipes, which he keeps in a safe because of course he does. This gives them the final clue they need to recover Alfred. The day is saved!

--

#197

Catwoman is on a crime-stopping spree. Batman and Robin show up late to each crime scene, only to find that Catwoman has already saved the day. She pointedly remarks that she's way better than Batgirl. At one point, Batman and Robin are basically defeated, but Catwoman saves them. Later, Batgirl arrives at a crime scene at the same time as Catwoman, and Batgirl finds herself utterly unable to fight the goons. Catwoman cleans them up just before the dynamic duo arrive, and Batgirl is forced to concede that Catwoman is the better crime-fighter. Catwoman asks Batman to marry her now that he's seen how good she is, but Batman declines (only to change his mind decades later). Catwoman later apprehends all three of our heroes and unmasks them all, but they anticipated this and painted their faces black under their masks. Our heroes deduce that all the crime Catwoman thwarted was actually set up by her, and the earlier defeats they suffered were a result of a shiny bauble Catwoman was wearing. They de-bauble Catwoman and apprehend her. The day is saved!



There's so much to unpack in these stories that it would entirely derail the story if I attempted it, so I'll leave the commentary to you this time. See you again -- same Bat-time, same Bat-thread!
 
Last edited:

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
#200

We open with Scarecrow looking scared of Batman, but it's revealed that Scarecrow is just testing his latest fear spray on himself. He then gets in a fight with Batman and Robin and fear-sprays them, rendering them completely helpless. Scarecrow's goons suggest offing the dynamic duo, but Scarecrow's like, "Why bother?" Batman and Robin head back to the Batcave and explain to Alfred that their crime-fighting days are done, because they're simply too afraid to do it anymore. Alfred cures them by this is going to sound like an exaggeration but it's completely what happens reciting their origin stories to them. That's it. They're cured.

Cue a montage of Batman and Robin taking on assorted other villains (Joker, Penguin, et al.) to prove they're not afraid anymore. They defeat four villains, and each of them has a few colored straws. They use the number and colors of the straws to deduce the street address where Scarecrow is hiding out. (It's extremely common in these stories for the World's Greatest Detective to work this way. Never mind that Scarecrow shouldn't be leaving clues for a crime-fighter he thinks he's put out of commission.)

Scarecrow is disappointed to see Batman back in action, but he quickly realizes that Batman and Robin are still terrified, just doing a good job hiding it. He scares them into submission, then he sets up a trap where the two are tied to chairs with strings attached to their wrists that will set off guns to shoot them if they move. Couldn't have just shot them, could you? He sits by to watch them die, but Batman looks at the strings and is reminded of the string of pearls his mother wore, and Robin looks at the strings and is reminded of the trapeze or whatever. This emboldens them somehow to both duck at the same time, avoiding the deadly gunfire and allowing them to break free and defeat the Scarecrow. The day is saved!

---

#1

We jump back in time to 1941, an age where Batman worked a little differently. Here, Bruce Wayne is exclusively seen sitting in an armchair, smoking a pipe, and reading a newspaper. I wouldn't be surprised if they just reused the art over and over.

Anyway, Joker is up to shenanigans. He announces that he'll kill Rich Man and steal the Expensive Thing at midnight tonight, so police put up a watch around him. Sure enough, though, Rich Man dies at midnight, and the police examine Expensive Thing and find it's a fake. Joker stole Expensive Thing the night before, and he injected Rich Man with slow-acting Joker venom at that time. Clever! This whole thing repeats a few times until Batman finds Joker and loses to him in a fistfight (boy, things have changed), causing him to topple over a bridge and into the river below. Joker kidnaps Robin and is about to inject Robin with Joker venom, but Batman catches up, saves Robin, and defeats Joker. The day is saved!

--

Hugo Strange leads a prison riot that allows him to escape. He unleashes a giant on Gotham, who is impervious to gunfire. Batman tracks down Strange, but he makes the classic blunder of not noticing the two enormous giants in the same room, so he's captured. Strange reveals that the giants are fellow inmates that he's injected with growth serum that also makes them lose their mental faculties, and he explains that he's going to unleash two giants next time for twice the fun and rob a bank amidst the chaos. He then injects Batman with the serum and knocks him out. Batman only has a few hours left to counteract the serum. But, you know, he finds and beats up Strange, then he comes up with a counter-serum in a thoroughly unremarkable fashion.

Batman still needs to stop the two giants as well as the bank robbers, so he takes to his Bat-plane. He finds the would-be robbers driving to the bank. Time is of the essence, so Batman says, "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's necessary!" as he riddles the goons with holes thanks to his plane-mounted machine gun. The truck crashes, and one of the giants pops out the back. Batman deploys a noose around the giant's neck and flies off ("He's probably better off this way," he remarks). The second truck is in the streets of Gotham by this point, but Batman guns down the drivers all the same. The second giant climbs, King Kong-style, to the top of a tall building, and when Batman's gun fails to affect the giant, he gasses him. The giant falls from the building to his doom. The day is saved!



Um... wow, though, Batman.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
I think for me the bigger surprise was seeing Joker win in a fair fight.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
#1 (continued)

Someone's holding a big party on a big boat that involves a big diamond. Bruce Wayne, sitting in his armchair with pipe and newspaper, deduces that there's no way someone won't try to rob it, so Dick goes undercover as a serviceboy on the ship. We meet the old lady who owns the diamond and we get a roundup of people who might be interested in stealing it, and the diamond then disappears. Good news: the coast guard arrives at this point. Bad news: It's not actually the coast guard but a bunch of criminals who want the diamond for themselves. Bad timing! They're angry that the diamond isn't available for the stealing, so they start to become violent. Dick steps in at this point, but he's outmatched. He throws himself overboard to pretend he's been shot, and he changes into his Robin outfit underwater. He rejoins the party and finds that Batman is there as well. They disarm the crooks, then Batman has the four men try to beat up Robin without their guns. They attempt it with gusto but are soundly defeated. Batman asks if they want to try again, and they decline. "See," he says, pointedly facing the reader, "criminals are really cowards when they don't have guns." (And after you've beaten them up once, I guess.)

Anyway, Batman has solved the crime. He sets off an alarm on the ship, and everyone starts running, including the "old woman." Old women can't run that fast, concludes Batman. He apprehends the old woman and gets rid of her makeup, revealing that she is none other than the Cat (who will go by Catwoman starting in the next issue). The diamond was wrapped up in the bandage on her leg! Batman takes the Cat to his speedboat, but then he ""accidentally"" lets her go. Robin asks why in the world he let her go. Batman replies, "Why, Robin, my boy. What ever gave you such an idea! -- Hmm... Nice night, isn't it? ...Lovely girl! ...What eyes! -- Say... Mustn't forget I've got a girl named Julie! ...Oh well... She still had lovely eyes! ...Maybe I'll bump into her again sometime..." The day is saved?

---

We return to the Joker, who is in jail following the events of earlier this issue (see above). He unscrews his molars to obtain ingredients for a bomb, which he uses to blast a hole and escape the jail. Per his previous MO, he announces over the radio that the police chief will die at a certain time. The police chief is waiting, surrounded by officers, when the phone rings. An officer answers the phone, finds that it's a call for the chief, and gives him the receiver. The chief asks the caller to speak up, and the caller loudly says, "J O K E R," causing the chief to fall over, dead. The officers find a dart in his ear, which they conclude was tipped in Joker venom and rigged to launch on a loud noise. Diabolical!

Joker commits a few more crimes, then Batman catches him in the act. The two fight for a bit, and Joker once again manages to gain the upper hand. Batman is knocked out, but the cops arrive on the scene, causing Joker to flee. One of the officers attempts to unmask Batman, but Batman wakes up at that very moment and escapes.

Some guy, never mentioned before or since, decries the Joker publicly, and the Joker announces his death. Once again, we see him surrounded by cops, nervously awaiting the hour foretold. One of them says, "Relax -- one of the boys must have left those cards for you! Why not play some solitaire?" He dies by cutting his finger on the cards, which are razor-sharp and laced with Joker venom. Every card in the deck is a Joker. This is by far the Joker's most contrived murder yet.

Bruce Wayne pays a visit to Commissioner Gordon and suggests talking up a fake ruby so Joker will jump on it. The ploy works. Joker finds himself surrounded by cops wearing gas masks (and therefore immune to Joker gas), and Joker escapes capture by shooting them all, a masterstroke for sure. (The cops are armed, too, but they don't fire back because ???) Robin finds Joker fleeing the scene, but as he leaps to the next rooftop to follow Joker, Joker wallops him, causing him to fall to near-certain doom but for a conveniently-placed flagpole. Joker descends to ground level and finds Batman. Joker announces that he will shoot Batman in the face, where Batman does not have bullet-proof armor, but Robin falls on Joker, thwarting his plan. Joker brandishes a knife, and in the tussle with Batman, he stabs himself. Batman and Robin flee as police arrive. They presume the Joker is dead, but we see in the end that the Joker survived after all (to be continued next issue). The day is saved!
 

MetManMas

DNM-123
(He, him)
I remember hearing that a lot of villains died in Batman's early days, and the "Wait he's not dead" thing was a last minute addition because somebody realized the Joker had a lot of potential as a recurring villain instead of yet another in a long line of one-and-done baddies that were dead before the issue was over.

Of course, these were the days back when death in a comic could actually stick.
 

Mogri

Round and round I go
(he)
Staff member
Well, in this case, the Joker was pronounced not-dead before the cover closed on the issue.

Which brings us to...


#2

The Joker is at large once more! Bruce reads about it in the paper, and I learn a new word. Batman plans to apprehend Joker and "take him to a famous brain specialist for an operation, so that he can be cured and turned into a valuable citizen." (We will leave aside what might constitute a "valuable citizen" to billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne.)

A group of criminals laments that their leader is dead, and one of them reads the same story in a competing newspaper and comes up with the brilliant idea to recruit the Joker as their new leader. They break Joker out of the hospital where he was being treated for his self-inflicted stab wound (continuity!). Batman appears and starts attacking the police who are guarding the hospital (still unaware that the gang is freeing Joker inside). After a scuffle resulting in the death of an officer or two, the police unmask Batman and realize it's Circus Charlie, an escaped convict. To their credit, they realize this can't be the real Batman. The ploy allows the gang to abscond with Joker.

The Cat observes all of this, and then out of nowhere, real Batman abducts her and carries her into the Batmobile. He agrees not to take her to the police in exchange for information on Joker's whereabouts. (How he knows she knows is not explained. Also, Robin is driving the car. Isn't he, like, 12?) Batman frees the Cat-Woman and orders Robin to trail her.

Joker unsurprisingly turns out to be a poor boss. He tells the gang that he's drugged all of them, and when they take out their guns to shoot him -- and just when Batman appears -- Joker reveals that he's removed all the powder from their bullets. Batman beats up the cronies, but Joker escapes. He finds that the Cat is stealing the jewels he had come for, so he pulls a gun on her. Robin attacks Joker, and the Cat realizes Robin must have been trailing her. Joker overpowers Robin and almost kills him, but Cat offers him the jewels for Robin's life. He doesn't get a chance to respond before Batman drops in. Batman has the upper hand on Joker, but then he decides he wants to settle this in a swordfight. He gives Joker a sword, and the two duel. Once again, Joker bests Batman -- all this while (as the comic points out) Joker is weak following his operation. It's a bad look for the Bat, I gotta say.

Cat barricades herself and Robin in the library, so Joker tries to burn down the building. Batman beats up Joker and leaves him unconscious in the burning building. He carries Robin up to the bat-plane, and Cat starts to follow before diving into the water below. Robin protests that Cat got away with the jewel cask, but Batman has the jewels. The day is saved!

---

A guy who likes reading crime stories falls down a staircase and hits his head, somehow becoming a criminal mastermind in the process. By day, he's still mild-mannered Adam Lamb, but by night, he turns into Wolf, purveyor of fine crimes. It's all very Jekyll and Hyde, and Batman and Robin are foiled by him until they figure out by the dent on his car that Wolf is Adam Lamb. But how could this be?

Batman takes a bullet to the shoulder while chasing down the criminals. He falls off the dock. Robin assumes he's dead for some reason and goes ham on the criminals. Batman pops back out of the water, to everyone's surprise. None of this is really relevant to the rest of the plot.

Bruce realizes that Wolf is reenacting the events of The Crime Master, the book Lamb was reading when he took a tumble. He learns that the next scheduled crime is... murder! The dynamic duo chase down Lamb, who's working late. They arrive just after he's transformed into Wolf. When Wolf sees Batman's insignia, he's reminded of a painting he saw when he fell down the stairs, and he falls down the stairs again -- but this time, it's fatal. The day is saved?

---

Clubfoot, a villain that for some reason didn't really catch on, is menacing Gotham. Despite his club foot and hook for a hand, he beats up Batman, who has, I have to say, an exceedingly poor track record in hand-to-hand combat.

Bruce Wayne bumps into Commissioner Gordon, who invites him to a thrilling will reading for the Storme family. There is literally zero reason for Gordon to invite Wayne out for some police questioning except that Bruce needs to be there to advance the plot. The Storme family is squabbling following the death of the patriarch, and also, Clubfoot is murdering them one by one.

Clubfoot is the lawyer. He wants all of Storme's money, so he's killing the whole family. I'm not sure it works that way, but it certainly doesn't work that way for Clubfoot, who is apprehended by Batman and Robin. The day is saved!

---

Oh boy. Uh... Batman beats up African pygmies on a train and recovers a prehistoric giant, who the Africans thought was a god until some American professor captured him. The giant is a nice guy until the professor dies to some circus workers who want the giant, and then he goes berserk and Batman has to kill him. This is not exactly the apex of Batman storytelling.
 

MetManMas

DNM-123
(He, him)
Wow, Batman was really bad at his job in the olden days.

Pretty sure these deaths by Batman and/or deus ex machina are gonna continue for a while.
 

ThornGhost

lofi posts to relax/study to
(he/him)
Batman still needs to stop the two giants as well as the bank robbers, so he takes to his Bat-plane. He finds the would-be robbers driving to the bank. Time is of the essence, so Batman says, "Much as I hate to take human life, I'm afraid this time it's necessary!" as he riddles the goons with holes thanks to his plane-mounted machine gun.
"These guys might rob a bank, better kill them!" is peak Batman.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Cat barricades herself and Robin in the library, so Joker tries to burn down the building. Batman beats up Joker and leaves him unconscious in the burning building
Once again, Batman tries his "Doesn't count because I didn't kill him, the event did" shit that he pulled with Liam Neeson.
When Wolf sees Batman's insignia, he's reminded of a painting he saw when he fell down the stairs, and he falls down the stairs again -- but this time, it's fatal. The day is saved?
It seems like the hero of this story is happenstance.
 
Wow, Batman was really bad at his job in the olden days.

Pretty sure these deaths by Batman and/or deus ex machina are gonna continue for a while.
As far as I remember, Batman stops actually murdering dudes fairly quickly, although there's a few cases where he essentially lets the bad guys die, but once Robin's on the scene he pretty much puts his killing days behind him.

I've been reading Golden Age Superman lately, I'm actually considering keeping a tally of the amount of people Supes lets die either through carelessness, disinterest or just straight up murdering, because it's a lot. Let's just say Snyder may actually have been onto something with his interpretation of the character as a murderous, arrogant Superdick, as that's basically what Golden Age Superman is. If he wasn't on the side of the good guys he'd essentially be a total monster!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I view Golden Age Supes a bit different. I mean, yeah, there was that time he FUCKING DESTROYED A NEIGHBORHOOD because "I'm sure the government will make a new, better one." but rather than the Messianic figure he'd come to be, he was very much a rough and tumble champion of the people. Not so say its all cool. He straight up kidnaps a football player and steals his identity to... fight fixed games? Superman is largely focused on social justice (on occasion, misguidedly) before he fights actual Super-Villains though when he does... man, I did not expect early Luthor and Ultra-Humanite to ramp things up so fast. I assumed Luthor started out as a slightly more competant gangster but he has technology that looks like magic from the friggin' get go.
 
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