Publication date: January 1941
Author: Bob Kane
Perhaps befitting the first comic of the new year, this issue of Detective Comics offers a sort of introduction to Batman.
We begin with a truck heist in progress, interrupted by Batman’s arrival from above. He picks up a crook off the top of the truck and throws him down, hitting three other men. After a pithy good-bye, he hears the police coming and runs, leaping to and catching a nearby fire-ladder.
The arriving police are baffled (despite the opening “crawl” telling us, “All the world knows of the Batman!”). Meanwhile, the Dark Knight flies from rooftop to rooftop, swinging fearlessly on his rope, high above the city streets.
Later, he enters the deserted barn near his home, and takes the trapdoor to the secret tunnel we found out about in the previous issue of Batman. Emerging incongruously in a room made of wealth and splendor, he greets his ward, Dick. And the next morning he emerges through the front door, in full daylight, disguised as Bruce Wayne, indolent playboy.
In just three pages, they have established virtually everything we need to know about Batman, if we are new readers, and in a way which is not boring to those who already knew it. (Procedure is always interesting.) What does this sequence of events tell us about Batman?
He is strong, and brave; he fights crime at night, and hides his secrets in the day; he is rich; he is well-known; he is himself sometimes on the wrong side of the law; he has a young sidekick; he enjoys his work.
The next day, Bruce goes to see Harvey Midas, who is every inch the stereotypical fat businessman who has no time for his children. He even “arrumphs.”
Bruce is listening, however, and has become disturbingly interested in this trite little problem.
Batman watches creepily as this tawdry family drama unfolds. Here’s our cast of characters for the evening.
There’s Mrs. Midas, old, pig-faced, and obsessed with social position:
There’s the young Miss Diane Midas, in love with a clerk in daddy’s bank but forbidden to pursue the attraction by dear old mummy:
And of course, Roger:
And finally, the patriarch:
They are all available in a limited edition set of DysFUNctional Family Action Figures! When you pull the string in their back, they say a hurtful catchphrase! And if you buy the whole set, they come with Special Edition Creepy Stalker Batman:
After Batman observes the mother-daughter dynamic, Bruce focuses on following Roger around as the young Midas spends his father’s hard-earned cash in the swankiest nightclubs that ever swanked a swanker. (I… I don’t know what “swank” means.) Roger drinks, he gambles, and one night he gets up on stage with the band and plays a mean clarinet. (After which he confesses to Bruce his long-denied dream of leading an orchestra. I think it would have been funnier if he’d gotten up on stage and drunkenly tried to conduct.)
And it’s not long before Diane’s life is fully ruined, too. After a social “debut” (do they even do those anymore? …outside the South, I mean) which cost $50,000 (about $720,000 in today’s money, holy shit), she is pressured out of marrying the lowly clerk, and into, well, this:
Having observed all this, Bruce can only sit back, puff on his pipe, and wish he could do something to meddle in these affairs, but his baliwick is crime-fighting don’t you know and this is all perfectly legal, THE END
Or it would be, if Batman didn’t continue stalking the Midas family. It’s all part of his plan. Step 1: Meddle.
Step 2: Ridiculously terrible unintended consequences.
The newsboy is killed, and Roger’s “friends” convince him to add ” -and-run” to the accidental “hit.” The newspapers rage about the cowardly killer, but nobody’s the wiser… Until the gamblers threaten Roger’s father that they’ll expose the truth unless Midas pays them $5000.
Midas is not amused.
Meanwhile, I’m sure Robin is off actually foiling actual criminals…
Luckily for both of our heroes, these situations have now developed into actual crimes. As soon as Diane slams the door, her husband begins plotting to kill her for the family fortune. Robin stows away on his car, and overhears him meeting with a couple of thugs who plan to sneak into the house, steal the jewels in the family safe, and murder the wife. The dynamic duo compare plot-lines and realize that the theft is planned for 8pm tomorrow, and the blackmail payoff for 10pm on the same day. “We’ll just have to TiVo The Voice,” Batman says grimly.
The first heroic act of the night is this pun, given after Batman has punched the evil husband but good:
Batman: “But wait, I have more! Looks like he shouldn’t have counted on his plan!”
Robin: “We really don’t have time for–oh, oh! He never accounted for this countingency!”
Batman: “I have taught you well.”
After they finish adding indignity to injury (poor Dracula), Batman and Robin hide, waiting for the thugs to arrive. When they do, they are taken out effortlessly, to the shock of the Mr. and Mrs. Midas.
Batman: “It’s, uh. It’s not what it looks like.”
Robin: “You can count on–”
Batman: “Not now, Robin.”
Batman tells them about the Count’s betrayal, a story the thugs on the ground corroborate. Then Batman tries to parlay that into enough trust for Midas to take his advice and not pay the blackmailers. The old fool continues to be stubborn, however.
Batman and Robin pretend to leave in disgust, but actually hitch a ride on top of Midas’s car, as Harvey and his son go to pay off the blackmailers. The payment goes down as planned, until…
Our heroes race out after the crooks on the fire escape. Robin heads up to the roof and gets his man, while Batman’s races down to a waiting car. Batman’s response?
Needless to say, Batman lands in the car and takes him out.
His next move is to take Roger, who’s been shot, to an actor specially hired for just such an occasion:
Batman takes Midas aside to rub it in.
Roger does survive. Which means he has to face the music for running over that newsboy.
The moral of this story is that criminals are a problem that can only be solved by violence. Unless they’re rich.
Later that day, Bruce stops by the office, wanting to do a little business, but Midas is busy spending time with his son. And incidentally, Mrs. Midas has relaxed her standards for her daughter’s suitors–understandable given how disastrous her choice turned out to be. Let’s let Bruce and Dick sum it up:
Tune in next week for more Baturdays as 1941 continues.