Baturdays: Batman #3, “The Batman vs The Cat-Woman”

In All, Books and Comics by Kyu

Publication date: Fall 1940
Author: Bob Kane

Yes! Half-woman, half-cat, this vivisectionist’s creation will terrorize the city with her alarmingly spliced genes and disturbing–

Oh, nevermind. It’s just “The Cat” under a different, better name. That’s cool too I guess.

As our story begins, a wealthy couple has just arrived home from a party, festooned in special party jewelry, which must now go in the safe. Before it gets there, however, it will be intercepted…

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“Padding” in high heels? Really? …actually, it’s equally ridiculous that she’s burglarizing in high heels.

Note: apparently, between this story and the previous one, they’ve realized how awesome giant shadows are. From now on I expect 3 per issue.

All of Cat-Woman’s tiptoe-ing stealth is for naught, since she simply steps inside those French doors, pulls a gun on Mr. and Mrs. J. Q. Wealthington, and demands the jewels. At which point, absolutely nobody flies dramatically in through the skylight, there is neither banter nor punching, and Cat-Woman gets away scot free with the jewels.

No, really.

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Ah, the good old days, when headline news meant 3 question marks.

It occurs to me that one of the reasons we don’t have “spinning headline” montages anymore is not only because it’s cliched but also because the days when a single city had a dozen or more competing papers are completely gone. They all died or absorbed each other until only one giant one was left to fail slowly, just like Darwin intended. Where was Batman when all this was happening? What good is a vigilante if he can’t solve the important problems?

Back then, however, there was a decent flow of information, because everybody read the news–real news produced by real journalists. We see the rapid flow of information and opinion here: Cat-Woman robs people, newspapers report on it, people read the papers and question why the police aren’t doing their job, and those opinions get up to Commissioner Gordon, who, like any good commissioner, decides to solve the problem the only way he knows how: by pounding his fist on his desk until the job is done.

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Too late, Commissioner.

Remember when the police force was foiled by fog? Gordon doesn’t. He does recall two stories ago, when Detective McGonigle failed to bring in the Batman, but took credit for Bats’ cleaning up the “ugly mob”. So naturally the Comish assigns this buffoon to track down the Cat. Woo.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne has finally learned of Cat-Woman’s latest shenanigans, also via newspaper. Which makes me think about how lax he is about learning of crimes to stop. So far, he has four methods:

1. Patrol nightly above the streets, swooping down to stop crimes in progress.

2. Stumble upon crimes while not expecting to stumble upon crimes (for instance, while on vacation, or visiting his girlfriend on her movie set).

3. Hang out in Commissioner Gordon’s office and wait for somebody to come in and tell him about a crime.

4. Read the paper and listen to the radio.

We’re a far cry from the heights of omniscience Batman will eventually reach, once his giant Bat-Computer is constantly sifting data, once the Justice League is getting reports from all over the globe… Hell, he hasn’t even started listening to the police bands on the radio yet. Lazy, lazy superhero.

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It’s clear from his grin that he’s looking forward to another rendezvous with–

Wait, what? You’re not serious, are you? “What strange talk is…” …we… we know they’re Batman and Robin. You understand that, right? Even if this was our first comic book ever, and we had never heard of Batman before, this is the last story in this issue. The fourth, out of four. Ridiculous.

Anyways, Batman wanders through the city, intending… well, actually, I have no idea what he plans to do regarding the Cat. I don’t think he does either. Regardless, his not-plan is interrupted by a cry for help (crime detection method #1), so he detours.

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I don’t mind, though, since they’ve already fulfilled my expectations, by giving me two more giant dramatic shadows. So what if they shouldn’t exist, given the position of the moon (yes, that’s a moon; you can only expect so much common sense from a colorist)? At least they’ve got the right idea.

Batman takes the bastards apart, dealing them great whacking blows across the face, and throwing them down martial-arts style, in a battle I can only describe as “filled with awesome shadows”. (There’s a brilliant three-layered pun to be made here, connecting Batman’s fighting style with the idea of shadow puppets–something along the lines of “Punch and Judo Show”–but I don’t quite know how to put it. Just imagine I’m brilliant and move on, okay?)

The man Batman didn’t quite save from being stabbed by those goons gasps a few cryptic clues out with his dying breath (something about warning a diamond syndicate about a shipment) and then, you know, dies. While Batman is pondering this, another goon comes up behind him and knocks him unconscious with the butt of his gun. Luckily, a police officer arrives on the scene, scaring the criminals away.

Unluckily, it’s McGonigle, who takes advantage of the situation.

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I know it’s just the colorist, but you have to give props to a guy so committed to monochromism that he has a hat, suit, and watch-chain all in the same violet hue.

Also, it speaks volumes about Batman’s endurance in a changing culture that the left half of this panel looks totally normal to me, whereas the right half looks ridiculously old-fashioned and stylized. Even though one of them is wearing his underwear on the outside, and one of them is not.

What McGonigle has not considered is that, by cuffing Batman’s hands together, he has in fact taken away Batman’s use of both hands… and given him the use of one giant fist.

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Oh, admit it, Batman. It’s fun, too.

When the dork detective (ha!) wakes up, he decides it would best not to mention Batman’s presence this time.

The next day, Batman gets a big old chunk of exposition out of the Herald (3 cents!):

-The dead man was the secretary of the diamond syndicate;

-He wasn’t murdered for his jewels, because he wasn’t carrying any;

-A ship has just docked with a load of syndicate jewels meant for a showing.

Batman decides this needs more detecting. So he goes back to the crime scene and checks every inch for forensic evidence, which he then analyzes with no, I’m kidding, why would he do all that work when he’s friends with the police commissioner?

Gordon, as it happens, was just on his way out to interview the heads of the diamond syndicate. The best idea they can come up with is that the murdered man knew of a plot to steal the jewels from the salon where they will be shown, and that he was silenced by those conspirators. Gordon promises to add his own men to the guards from the insurance company which will be present during the show. This seems to assuage the three men’s fears, but Bruce is not convinced. He arrives home and begins laying a plan of attack, with Robin…

While meanwhile the Cat, still wearing her mask, and lounging on what appears to be a Victorian fainting couch, lays her own plans for the night of the show…

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I just want to say I like the composition here–the straight on angle, emphasizing the proscenium arch, and the silhouettes (shadows again, it seems) making us feel like we’re part of the show. Or, you know, watching Mystery Science Theater 3000.

Anyway, the show seems to go off without a hitch… until a blonde in a bright orange dress wearing a million bucks in diamonds throws down a flash-bang on stage and, “swift as a striking puma” (seriously), runs off to the elevator. It is then revealed, to those of us who don’t know what a puma is, that this is… THE CAT! (duhn duhn DUHN!)

Gloating over her victory, Cat-Woman exits the building past predictably pointless policemen, and it appears she’s gotten away with it, after all…

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duhn duhn DUHN!

This is the best kind of twist, in my opinion–the kind where two plotlines that you thought weren’t connected turn out to be connected.

As the car is making its getaway, however, another vehicle races behind it–with Robin behind the wheel!

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Oh, this is all kinds of illegal.

Meanwhile, Bruce Wayne has stepped away from the chaos, and quickly strips down to his costume, because, and I quote, “This is the only way I can get away from here without attracting attention!”

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Yeah, this is subtle.

Also, guys, nice work on the shadows, there, but Batman is a BAT. NOT A PANTHER. Two steps forward, one step back…

Later, in the home of “Darrel, of the diamond syndicate”, an ominous shadow (with pointy ears) crawls up the wall behind him. Darrel recognizes him and pulls a gun. Batman bitchslaps it out of his hand, knocks him out, and then calls Robin (using the radio in his belt buckle). Not long after, Batman and Robin introduce Darrel to a little gathering–the Cat, the thugs, and Hoffer (also of the syndicate). Darrel is shocked–shocked!–to see that Hoffer is an even bigger douchebag than he.

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This is the best way to deliver exposition.

Having tricked them both into confessions, Batman and Robin decide that there is a time for sowing and a time for reaping, a time for listening and a time for punching, a time for… well, awesome action sequences.

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If you’ll look closely, you’ll notice that Robin has smacked that man’s face so hard with his groin that he’s knocked the man out of alignment with the attribution arrow on his speech bubble.

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If you look closely, you’ll notice RAWRG BATMAN SMASH!

The bad guys well and thoroughly punched, Batman and Robin free the Cat-Woman, whose first response is witty banter, and whose second response is “I will scratch out that little bald man’s eyes for double-crossing me”. Hah ha! Just like a woman: crazy.

The diamond syndicate dudes, tied up and conscious once more, are smart enough to say what every criminal should, which is, “You have no proof of my crimes! It’s your word against mine!” The unspoken addendum to which is, “And I’m a rich and powerful businessman. And you, sir, are pretending to be a bat.”

Batman counters his argument with a ridiculous gadget–here, Robin’s “let’s all pretend this was here during the previous panels” camera-wristwatch, which took photos of the bad guy about to shoot up the room. After that, they all confess. Some stern-faced questioning reveals the rest of the story. They were strapped due to some risky stock ventures that didn’t pay off, and by hiring the Cat to steal insured jewels they could double their money. Oh, and they killed the clerk because he got suspicious. Go figure.

Anyway, time to put the Cat in jail… after she thanks him for saving her life, of course…

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*kiss* *shove* *SLAM* Aww, sad Batman.

As usual, Batman doesn’t try very hard to catch her. He’s too romantically inclined at the moment. You’d think he’d ask for her number eventually…

Later, he tosses a package to McGonigle from a rooftop, containing the missing jewels, the incriminating photographs, and the address where the criminals are tied up. He signs it, “Your pal”, and then a bat symbol, which literally gets McGonigle all steamed up.

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“If only our careers didn’t keep us apart, we could be together! And he could drive, while I sit passively in the passenger’s seat, like a woman should! Damn you, proto-feminism!”

By the way, this issue of Batman ends with a page basically summarizing the story a few posts back: “Hey, kids! Don’t grow up to be criminals, or you’ll eventually get thrown in jail, or shot dead by the police!” It is doubly hilarious coming on the heels of Batman letting Cat-Woman get away because she’s hot.

Tune in next time as Baturdays continues!