Date of Publication: August 1939
Author: Bob Kane
Well, I was wrong. It appears that Doctor Death was not dead at all! And Bruce Wayne is one step ahead of me, probably because he’s read the script:
Real quick, I just want to point out the helpful “6” in the corner; this is the panel number. If you’re going to make confusing panel layouts (and they will certainly get confusing soon enough), at least offer your audience a helpful guide. Modern comics just don’t do this anymore, which is a shame–it’s better of course if you arrange things such that the eye is naturally drawn precisely through the narrative in the way you want, but there are plenty of writers/artists who fail at that, it’s hard to do.
Anyways, Batman’s suspicions are confirmed a few panels later. See, Doctor Death has apparently poisoned a man (turning the victim purple, and also dead), and left a ransom note signed Doctor Death. His education apparently did not feature the importance of using one’s assumed demise as a cover for one’s later criminal enterprises. The ransom, by the way, is half a million dollars. This is over 7.5 million dollars in today’s numbers. The dead man’s widow reveals that they lost all their money in the Great Depression, but they still had some diamonds. Bruce Wayne leaves, changes into his costume (and grabs some gas pills) and heads back to her place, breaking in to check the safe and, presumably, sell the diamonds and spend the proceeds on hookers and blow. Or, you know, keep them safe? I dunno. Hey, he even knows the safe combination! That’s… really weird. And not explained.
Meanwhile, Doctor Death still lives!, a narration box informs us breathlessly. Apparently he escaped the fire via a secret door, but he must have been burnt, his face is swathed in bandages and his goatee is gone. He calls his giant henchman “Mikhail” here, who was “Jabah” last week. Perhaps his full name is Mikhail Jabah? Anyway, the point here is that Doctor Death is sending MJ to steal the very same diamonds that Batman is right now retrieving oh no look out Batman!
On the next page, the joke is on me; Batman says Mikhail is a Cossack, like Jabah, but a different guy. So I guess that makes me the racist. Well played, Batman.
So Mikhail interrupts Batman, who hides instead of punching, planning to follow Mikhail back to Doctor Death. Mikhail is interrupted in turn by the widow, heading downstairs for a glass of hot milk. In a situation deliberately reminiscent of Dostoevsky, Mikhail shoots the old woman, goes home with the jewels, and then agonizes over his guilt for several hundred pages of dense prose.
Well, that’s what would have happened if Batman hadn’t tackled him. Our hero throws Mikhail out the window, tosses the jewels out, and then follows him (after putting the old lady back to bed. Awwww).
Batman tracks him hilariously closely through the empty streets:
To the fence, where Mikhail gets rid of the jewels… And finally to the tenement apartment where the impoverished Doctor Death now lives… or does he? It’s just Mikhail’s place. Sad. Batman drugs Mikhail with a gas pill, searches the place, finds nothing, and then Mikhail wakes up, and there is fighting. Batman ends up swinging through the air and breaking Mikhail’s neck with a solid kick. Ouch. Batman’s not afraid to get his hands dirty. Or in this case, feet.
Batman returns to the fence to get the diamonds back. The fence is a sweet old man with white hair and whiskers (sweet old man mustache). Batman questions him; the man tries to run away, but Batman tosses a lasso around his neck and pulls. But it’s okay, Batman’s not being a huge dick, because luckily the old man’s hair falls off. Then his… face? What’s beneath is the truly hideous new visage of Doctor Death:
There’ll be no plastic surgery where you’re going! JAIL!
Amusingly, the comic has now run out of pages, so they elide the entire ensuing fight. Or they just recognize that, educated or not, Death is an aged burn victim and Batman is, you know, Batman. I’m sure the Caped Crusader broke him in half like a dry twig before leaving him tied up with the jewels for the police to find. Will we see Doctor Death again? Almost certainly. We’ll soon find that Gotham City has the most easily-escapable jails ever.
Tune in next week for Detective Comics #31 as Baturdays continues.