Publication date: Winter 1940
Author: Bob Kane
We start right off the bat with some swashes being buckled, in the form of our heroes having a friendly sword-fight.
When Robin asks why he’s learning fencing when they don’t actually use swords to fight crime (answer: the resulting awesomplosion would annihilate the city), Wayne replies that fencing teaches speed and besides, you never know when you’re going to have to fight with a sword for some random reason and GET TO THE PIRATES ALREADY.
From Wayne manor to a departing yacht, where we meet a diverse cast of characters: the elderly Mr. Horn, and his abused secretary, Stanley; Elaine (a young girl) and her two unnamed admirers; and Mr. Cowden, another in a growing line of Batman characters who used to be rich but who have recently lost everything.
They’re all part of a yacht club wich, once a year, wrapped in oh-so-stealable jewelry, set sail in a member’s boat. Tonight’s trip, however, will be very different…
Row-boats with muffled oars sidle silently up to the yacht. Pirates steal aboard. The astonished crew members who spot them exclaim that it must be a masquerade party! Cold steel is the only response:
That is not Edward Teach. Teach was one of the most badass men to have ever lived, and that is not him. Specifically, I can tell because he has not set his beard on fire in order to inspire fear in his enemies. To be fair, so far his enemies are “rotund woman with pearl necklace”, “gray-haired blue-blood” and “indignant spoiled rich kid.”
“Blackbeard” details his plan to hold them all for ransom. Luckily, the wireless operator managed to telegraph a brief, pirate-themed SOS to shore. Unluckily, the people who received it said, and I paraphrase, “Pirates?!! wut lol lol”. No help will be forthcoming from that direction. Luckily, however, the message is received by an altogether more credulous pair…
Can you blame Bruce for believing the message? This is a man who has faced werewolves, psychotic clowns, giant monsters… The list goes on. At this point, pirates are looking pretty normal. Plus, there’s the fact that the next panel features Bruce and Dick putting on colorful costumes, and the one after that has them flying out in a plane shaped like a bat. Improbable is relative.
Our heroes are able to find the pirate ship and the yacht it commandeered. They land in the water next to it, apparently unnoticed. Apparently nobody notices the plane shaped like a bat land in the water and turn into a speedboat which is still kind of shaped like a bat.
Then they sneak their way on board, ninja style.
They’re spotted by the relief sentry, though, and moments later we’re in the midst of a pirate fight (the literary term is in medias yarr) which, unfortunately, ends as soon as it’s begun. Instead, we get something arguably even better: Batman and “Blackbeard”, face to bearded face.
(Batman doesn’t believe “Blackbeard” is Blackbeard, either. Go Batman!)
“Blackbeard”‘s response to his historical veracity being questioned, however, is this:
Actually, criminals, a word:
For future reference, it’s a really, really bad idea to try and kill Robin first. I know he’s annoying. I know he pops up at the worst times with that grin and his stupid sling and his David and Goliath metaphors. I know. But the problem is, kill Robin, and you’re no longer fighting Batman. You’re fighting Angry Batman.
You do not want to fight Angry Batman. Angry Batman will shrug off three burly men like they’re house-flies:
Angry Batman will see a shark and say, “Fuck you shark, I will cut you with my pirate sword.”
Hurry, pirates! Now’s your chance to escape, while Angry Batman is busy killing the shark!
Oh, you poor, doomed bastards.
Batman and Robin climb up the side of the ship, alive, dripping, and ready for further badassery. And probably covered in shark blood. The prisoners let them into the hold through a window. Batman brings a plan for escape (he and Robin will create a diversion, while the prisoners take up arms), as well as immediate character drama:
-One of Elaine’s suitors volunteers to fight, while the other one does not, making her choice easy;
-The ruined Cowden finds a renewed determination to live when he volunteers as well;
-and the old man’s secretary finally stands up for himself, yelling that he’s been taken for granted for ten years, and it stops today, goddammit!Batman’s plan, which they immediately put into action:
Step 1: Batman and Robin acquire swords, by focusing on their core strengths: taunting and punching.
Step 2: Humiliate the pirates with the dread sting of mercy:
Awww! But the whole point of a sword is the stabby end! (Pun intended.) They might as well be using sticks!
Step 3: Use Errol Flynn-style derring-do to beat them up some more! See figures a and b.
(By the way, I don’t want to start feeling sorry for the pirates, but maybe they need the ransom to buy some fresh water?)
Step 4: Further humiliation.
Step 5: When Robin gets bored, he runs up to the top of the ship and starts cutting the sails down, enveloping the pirates.
That finally pisses “Blackbeard” enough for him to enter the fray.
Batman naturally beats the pants off him (not literally), disarms him (also not literally), and then punches him in the face (that one is literal). And then it’s all over but the unmasking.
Thatch/”Blackbeard” helpfully explains all the boring details, the only interesting part of which is when he admits that he gave all his gangster thugs dueling lessons to go with their costumes.
Their adventure concluded, Batman and Robin head for home. They leave behind, however, three dramas, changed forever (despite the fact that, actually, the prisoners were never involved in the battle at any time whatsoever).
As I predicted, Elaine chose the brave suitor over the cautious one, and Camden decided that maybe being poor isn’t so bad (“…this trip showed me what excitement there is in fighting instead of quitting!”)
Plus, well, this.
Tune in next time as Baturdays continues!