Publication date: March, 1940
Author: Bob Kane
Batman is out for a drive one night (in his extremely stylish car), in full costume, when he hears a terrible scream coming from a lonely house in the woods. Going to investigate, he finds a torturing in progress–three men burning a fourth, claiming the victim has been “selling information” about their boss, somebody named “Turg.”
Anyway, Batman’s not going to stand for torture! Not in his… area somewhere outside of town!
Obviously a fistfight ensues. The high point is probably this altercation:
Crook: “You’re not as smart as you might seem!”
Batman: “On the contrary!” *kick to the face*
Afterwards, Batman releases the tortured man, and goes to tie up the crooks. The freed victim, however, whacks Batman over the head. He murders the three men to cover up his treachery and escapes.
Batman wakes up later next to a pile of corpses. (I think we’ve all been there, am I right?) He’s fairly unfazed, managing to put two and two together. Turns out two and two make Turg. Batman goes home to figure out the case. The master detective’s first step? Look up Turg in the phone book. Oddly enough, there are three of them.
Bruce investigates, finding one oddity–a grocery store in a non-residential neighborhood. (Apparently Batman is in favor of food deserts.) Inside, the hood who Batman rescued the previous night sells Wayne a pound of sugar, and nods as a Mr. Turg heads out. Mighty suspicious.
Batman returns the next night, and follows his usual pattern of breaking and entering. He interrupts a criminal conspiracy–or at least some shady dudes sitting around a table–and when they rise to shoot him, cleverly turns the lights out. There follows a terribly cool sequence in which Batman, using special glasses to see in the dark (“just like a bat!” the narration crows (bats) triumphantly), walks around the room punching confused criminals in their blind, blind faces.
I really like the way they portray this darkened room. It’s an excellent compromise between realism (pitch black panels), which would be boring, and what the comic tends to do, which is present images that look like broad daylight and call them night. The silhouettes, the blue tones, the greater detail on Batman… it’s a welcome bit of stylization.
Anyway, in the aftermath of Batman’s visit, Turg (a white-haired gentleman) stabs the man Batman originally heard being tortured (Joey), having sussed out his treachery. The group, panicked, assumes Joey told Batman about their plan to blow up a ship, and decide to move forward immediately. They exit… and Batman reveals himself! He’d hidden in the dark and merely pretended to leave, so that he could hear their plans. He gets the details from Joey, who dies after telling Batman that Turg and his men are spies intending to start an international crisis.
We’re not sure of their target, but it’s possible they were trying to goad the US and Germany into war with one another. This might actually have been a good thing; with America in the conflict sooner, the Axis might have been defeated sooner, with less loss of life. Luckily Batman saved the day?
Not yet he hasn’t, anyway. He makes for the pier, confronting Turg and his men, who have loaded a motorboat full of TNT and set it on a collision course with the target ship. Batman is subdued in the most hilarious way possible–
“It was a good thing Carl was up there,” is better than any joke I could have written here. Rest assured it probably would have involved a “sack” pun.
Having decided, the crooks suit deed to word and soon Batman is sinking to the bottom of the bay. Luckily the water revives him, and he’s able to cut his way free. He swims to the surface, and starts beating the living crap out of the entire gang. They’re all unconscious or in the water in a matter of moments, but the motorboat is still headed out. Batman runs, leaps off the pier, lands in the boat, cuts the ropes holding it to its course, and pulls hard, missing the steamer by inches. Crisis (or fortuitously early US entry into WWII) averted!
And so, another Batman story concludes with–wait, what? It’s not over? Oh, right. Batman may have defeated the foreign spies’ plans, but the head of the organization is still out there!
Batman traces a clue Joey gave him to the home of one Count Grutt. If there’s one thing this comic has taught us, it’s that no good can come of a vaguely-European sounding aristocrat. And indeed, one unconscious armed butler later, Batman is face to face with the Count–aka, Turg! Batman gets to revel in his victory like a true detective:
“Chekhov’s gun” dictates that if a gun is on the mantle in Act One, it must go off in Act Three. “Batman’s sword” dictates that if a sword is over the mantle at any point it has to immediately be used to try and stab a dude, and today’s issue does not disappoint. As soon as Batman confonts him, Turg throws one of those swords at Batman, who dodges. The blade goes right through the wooden door behind him, and when the two grapple a moment later, Turg is accidentally impaled on that same sword. Hoist by his own petard, I say! It’s Shakespearian, or at least kind of James Bond-ish.
Batman is unperturbed by the grisly death–it’s okay, he says, because Turg was trying to start a war. You and I know it’s okay because Grutt was a dirty furr’ner. That’ll teach ’em to have titles. Over here we’re all Mister, buddy! USA! USA!
*cough* Oh, I ‘m sorry, I got some jingoism stuck in my throat. Anyway, the next issue will have Man-Monsters in it. I am soooo looking forward to the Man-Monsters.
Tune in next week for Detective Comics #38 as Baturdays continues.