Publication date: Fall 1940
Author: Bob Kane
I don’t know why I like this title page, but I do. Probably it’s the puppets.
Our story begins with the caped crusader on his nightly patrol…
Batman literally jumps down there and uses his crimefighting abilities to ask, “Hey buddy! Why you gotta shove this guy for?” Absurdly, the shover throws a punch. In return, Batman pulls a Crocodile Dundee (‘That’s not a punch… now this…’), but while he’s busy, a carload of thugs pulls up, hits Batman from behind, and absconds with the shover.
Slightly annoyed, Batman turns his attention to the man whose unnecessary jostling the Dark Knight has just avenged.
Also, note how good this doctor is at keeping secrets from strange people he just met on the street. Ten to one he’ll be dead in a week. Luckily for him, he escaped the shoving incident with only one little scratch…
The next day, Wayne is walking around the city when he sees the goons he fought last night going into an alley. Upon inquiry, he learns the men he saw work the strings at “Dmitri’s” puppet show.
Robin, meanwhile, does the best he can with what he’s got:
Robin overhears the villains (the puppet-master from the title page and his two henchmen, members in good standing of the Green Turtleneck Sweater Brigade) discussing their plan in vague terms. Dr. Craig, the man whose shoving Batman objected to, will soon be under the puppet-master’s power. They’re doing something with him tonight, something with a “Voss rifle” the next night. Batman vows to stop… whatever it is they’re doing.
While Batman rushes off to Dr. Craig’s house, the puppet-master explains stuff to his henchman, who already knows it. Specifically, that when shoved, Craig was injected with a “thought serum”, which enables the puppet-master to hypnotize anybody telepathically for two days. I assume this ridiculously powerful ability, with which he could easily take over the world, will only be used to facilitate a separate, absurdly complicated and difficult plan.
The hypnotized Dr. Craig is told to take his atomic formula and give it to the puppet-master’s men. Batman, however, intervenes, and we get some nicely done action here.
Batman makes mincemeat out of the Matching Green Jumpsuits Dancers, sending the conscious ones limping back to their leader as a warning. Then he and Robin turn their attention to the still-hypnotized Dr. Craig.
Well, I suppose it is worth a try. Let’s check the next panel to see if it works:
Wait, what? Did it work or not? Okay, here’s my guess: “Later,” in the narration box, actually means, “Later, after they dispose of the body.” Let’s just move on…
Meanwhile, the puppet-master is getting increasingly annoyed at the Batman, who has ruined a perfect plan “whereby I may gain inventions to sell to warring nations.” Hah! That’s a ridiculously stupid use of hypnosis powers. The puppet-master could influence politics, or the media! Hell, why not just cut out the middle man and hypnotize bank employees into handing over millions in cash? Villains today, no imagination.
But he moves forward anyway, going after the Voss rifle, a new type of gun currently being guarded by a bunch of soldiers. So in order to steal it, he builds an army of his own, surreptitiously injecting dozens of lowlifes and hoodlums with his thought serum, and then telling them all hypnotically to go steal the gun for him.
The hypnotized thugs go and attack the train carrying the soldiers and the Voss rifle; meanwhile, Batman and Robin fly over there in their Bat-Plane. They knock several thugs off the top of the train, set the Bat-Plane to “hover”, and jump inside–where Batman is injected with the thought serum!
Both of our heroes are driven back out of the train by tear gas, which is also keeping the soldiers from fighting effectively. Luckily, the Bat-Plane has a gadget just for this precise circumstance (!): pellets that drop down and neutralize tear gas. The soldiers are able to properly defend the Voss rifle, and Batman and Robin fly off, triumphant.
The puppet-master is furious–until he learns that Batman was scratched with a needle carrying the thought serum. That night, he hypnotizes Batman, telling him to rob a particular jewelry store. Then he phones the police, informing them of the impending crime, and assuming Batman will be shot dead. Obviously the flaw in his plan is that he doesn’t realize how incompetent Gotham’s police force is. Batman robs the jewelry store, beats up the cops who confront him, and heads off to the puppet-master’s house.
Robin, meanwhile, sees that Bruce and his costume are missing, and assumes he’s going after the puppet-master alone. Robin heads over to the house, and encounters Batman on his way with the jewels.
Robin’s response is to punch Batman back, in the hopes that it’ll knock him out of his hypnotic state. But does it work? Batman returns to the puppet-master’s house, jewels in hand…
Just long enough to get the puppet-master’s guard down! Then there’s some punching.
Well, okay, there is the traditional one-panel denouement:
Yeah, sure, Batman. I’m sure the police don’t care about all the assaults, murders, accidental deaths, B&Es, unauthorized low-flying plane trips, speeding in the Batmobile, unofficially adopting a wayward orphan, identity theft, punching police officers, taunting punched police officers, egregious punning…
Actually, he has the perfect defense, now.
“Batman, why did you hit this innocent bystander?”
“I was hypnotized.”
“Why did you throw pygmies off a speeding train?”
“Once again, I was hypnotized.”
“What about that day at the circus when you–“
“And the night of–“
“Hyp. No. Tiiiiized.”
Tune in next time as Baturdays continues!