Publication date: January 1940.
Author: Bob Kane
Yawn… Just another day in Gotham. Bruce Wayne, indolent playboy, is whiling away the hours in the police commissioner’s office when a man bursts into the room, claiming to have been sold a ruby statue by famous explorer and 2-time Indiana Jones Look-Alike Contest-winner Sheldon Lenox. The man tells of a mysterious letter threatening his demise if the statue is not returned to the cultists who worship the god the statue depicts… you know, same old, same old.
Bruce is just as blase as I am. “Oh, it all sounds so very melodramatic. Yes, terribly thrilling. I’ll be with you in a moment, Commissioner, as soon as I finish yawning.”
So then there’s a car chase, which is kind of breathless, I suppose, and after a while they catch up with the Kali cultists, who’ve kidnapped Lenox. They stab him to death by the waterfront and throw him into the drink, so I guess that bit’s kind of lively. (No pun intended.)
The commissioner declares that he’s going to make sure the statue and its owner (Weldon) are safe. Bruce is bored by the whole affair, though.
While Wayne hangs out at home, the newspapers get wind of the story so far, summed up neatly as: “NOTED EXPLORER IS MURDERED BY HINDUS”, “POLICE DRAG RIVER FOR BODY OF LENOX, BODY NOT YET FOUND”, “LENOX SOLD MILLIONAIRE WELDON PRECIOUS STATUE CARVED OF VALUABLE RUBY”. The report, while clearly about very prosaic and humdrum events, manages to interest more than a few criminals around the city, including the villainous Asian caricature Sin Fang.
Everybody involved, however, is smart enough to wait until Weldon thinks he’s safe and asks for the police guard to be removed. Including Batman, who breaks into Weldon’s house the first night the police are gone.
Batman interrupts some thieves, there’s like a fistfight and stuff, pretty standard. Then some Hindus arrive, they knock Batman out–who didn’t see that one coming? Anyone? When he comes to, the statue’s been stolen, and he has to punch some guards on his way out.
Batman ends up trailing the Hindus to Sin Fang’s place in Chinatown. After consulting with “Wong, the unofficial mayor of Chinatown”, Batman walks right into Sin Fang’s pawn shop and asks to see the idol–see, if Sin Fang had known it was stolen, he never would have taken delivery… is the polite fiction both Fang and Batman are maintaining. So Sin Fang leads our hero deep into his shop, which is now a castle or something, with lots of deathtraps interrupting them. Batman just kind of takes it all in stride.
Batman next gets trapped in a small room which fills with mustard gas (which he neutralizes with a pellet off his utility belt). Sin Fang apologizes for the plumbing issues and promises to get them fixed as soon as possible. This game of uber-polite one-upmanship continues for a while until Sin Fang finally gives up on the fancy stuff and just pulls the ol’ trapdoor lever.
Batman climbs out, though (I mean, come on, Sin Fang, originality much?) and observes SF gloating in the next room over the idol.
Oh, thank goodness. It wasn’t the COMIC being racist, it was Lenox. He’s the one who thought bright yellow greasepaint made an effective Chinese disguise. That’s a relief.
Anyway, Batman has this dramatic monologue wrapping up the whole evil plot, in which Lenox sold the statue, faked his death, stole it back, etc. Lenox contributes that he killed the real Sin Fang so he didn’t have to split the profits, and he would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling bat–
Lenox draws a gun, and the altercation predictably involves Batman throwing the idol at his face, Lenox falling out the window to his death, yadda yadda yadda, crime doesn’t pay. And we end up back where we began, another boring afternoon in this boring city.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to find something exciting to do. Like a nap.
Tune in next week for Detective Comics #36 as Baturdays continues.