Publication date: December 1939
Author: Bob Kane
After the events of the previous storyline (DC #31–32) involving the Monk, Bruce Wayne is hanging out in Europe, getting some R&R before heading back to America. While leaving his hotel one night, he sees somebody he thinks is an old friend, but upon closer inspection:
Bruce considers this to be “mighty queer.”
Meanwhile, a beautiful woman flees her hotel–she’s just received “the mark of Duc Dorterre, master of the Apaches”, which represents a threat against her life. On her way out, she just happens to choose Bruce Wayne’s cab. A moment later a thrown dagger has narrowly missed the both of them, and Bruce decides to protect her if he can. They leave the cab and go on foot, running into the man with no face again. He takes them to a private room.
The faceless man–Charles, the woman calls him–is her brother. They met the Duc at a party; he became enamored of the woman, Karel; Charles interfered, and for his troubles got his face burned off by a ray. After hearing their tale of woe, Bruce steps out, and Batman steps in.
That night, the Batman roams the Paris sewers, looking for the Duc, and finds him all too soon.
I like this character design. The pointed mustache, the sharp, angular features, the upthrust cane, the fancy dress; this is pretty much the epitome of the whole “evil duke” concept.
The Duc zaps Batman with his cane, and then, being a sadistic bastard, ties the Batman to a giant wheel, which he sets to spinning fast enough to kill. Luckily, Batman is able to break his bonds with pure muscle power and, leaping from the spinning wheel, winds up in the Duc’s garden. Where the flowers have faces. What? Batman questions his own sanity.
Meanwhile, Charles and Karel are taken by the Duc’s men. The Duc threatens Charles with torture on the wheel (he appears to be after money as well as Karel). Things are going better back in the garden, however, where the flowers are talking to Batman. They tell him the way back to the wheel room and implore him to set them free. Batman decides to just roll with it.
When he gets to the wheel room, he frees Charles, who tells him that the Duc has taken Karel and is driving her to his palace in Champagne. Batman takes his bat-plane, and finds the Duc’s car. Leaving the plane on autopilot, he drops down from his rope ladder onto the roof of the car. The Duc is all “I will zap you again” and Batman is all “uh-uh, bitch”. See for yourself:
In fact, take a look at this whole page.
I really like the formal experimentation here. In the first panel, Batman is not only larger than everything else on the page, but too big to be contained by the panel edges. This is your hero shot. Batman looms over the rest of the page, so that even during the fight, it’s clear who the victor will be. He’s just too awesome to be reckoned with. Especially by the Duc, who if you notice in the last panel, is getting kicked hilariously by a tied-up Karel in the back-seat.
Subsequently, the struggle causes the car to careen off a cliff and explode, the Batman jumping to safety at the last second (with Karel). The Duc killed, Karel and Charles offer their thanks, and ask the Batman his true identity. “That, my dear, must be kept a secret. And now–au revoir!” says Batman, bidding goodbye to the two siblings, presumably to France, and along with me, to 1939. The first year of his job is now under his utility belt.
Tune in next week for Detective Comics #35 as Baturdays begins 1940.