–Detective Comics #35-37
Explorer Sheldon Lenox has stolen the ruby idol of Kila from an Indian cult. On the run from the Kila cultists in Gotham, Lenox sells the idol to a collector named Weldon. Weldon is murdered by the Kila cultists, but the idol goes missing again. Batman’s investigation into the case leads him to Chinatown. Batman’s good friend and informant Wong, the unofficial mayor of Chinatown, guides him to the new owner of the idol, Sin Fang. After defeating Fang’s Mongolian henchmen, Batman discovers that Fang is actually Lenox in disguise. Lenox has created a huge ruse in order to keep the idol and evade the Kila cultists. Lenox and Batman begin fighting and the latter falls out of a window to his grisly death.
Next, Batman gets blamed for the murder of an FBI agent. After learning that master criminal Professor Hugo Strange—who is a notorious public supervillain, but has yet to cross paths with the Dark Knight—was behind the execution, Bruce ponders how to bring Strange to justice and clear Batman’s name. While Bruce smokes his pipe and ponders for literal days, Strange envelopes Gotham in a sea of fog using a giant fog machine. In the dense mist, Strange’s henchmen knock off a few banks. The Caped Crusader prevents the robbery of another bank, but gets caught by Strange’s thugs during a heist at a fur company. At Strange’s HQ a bound Batman takes a vicious whipping at the hands of the supervillain. Batman is able to break his bonds, use sleeping gas pellets from his belt to incapacitate Strange’s cronies, and then pound Strange into submission. Batman is cleared of all charges and the radio reports news of Batman as a savior for incarcerating the city’s “arch-villian.”
Following the encounter with Hugo Strange, Batman takes a ride in the Batmobile and gets lost on a country back road. Batman getting lost? Jesus. The Dark Knight then goes to ask for directions at a nearby house only to walk in on a gangland execution. With his final breath the dying gangster names “Turg” as the man who ordered his death. Batman finds a Turg Grocery Store in the phone book (!) and pays the grocer a visit. Batman fights some smugglers and learns that Turg is an alias of the monocle-wearing crimelord Count Grutt. Batman tracks down Grutt and fights him—Grutt winds up dead via his own sword.
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #168. Batman battles and is defeated by The Red Hood.
–Detective Comics #38
Dick finally finishes his intense vigilante superhero training and its finally time to get revenge against Boss Zucco. A single-panel flashback from World’s Finest Comics #65 shows Dick, nearly finished with his training, suggest to Batman that he take up the mantle of Robin. (As we learn in a reference in Detective Comics #226, the Robin costume and title already exist—as a teenager, Bruce wore the original Robin superhero costume while training with ace detective Harvey Harris. Surely, Bruce has told Dick about this, thus inspiring Dick to use that moniker). Dick gets a job as a newsboy in order to get closer to Zucco. Meanwhile, Batman begins tearing apart Zucco’s casinos. After taunting Zucco by busting up his operations and then sending him a live bat, Zucco goes to confront Batman face to face at a highrise construction site. When Zucco arrives, Dick is suited up as “the Boy Wonder” Robin and is ready and waiting. (His costume is directly modeled off of Bruce’s old Robin costume). Robin fights off Zucco’s henchmen and even deliberately kicks one off of a girder to his death. Batman then joins the fight—making this the official debut of the Dynamic Duo—and both he and Robin beat a signed confession out of Zucco.
–Batman #32, Part 2
This tale takes place right after the jailing of Tony Zucco. Bruce commends Robin on a job well done, but says he still needs more training in regard to detective work. After an intense study period, Robin dons his costume for a second time. Batman introduces Robin to Commissioner Gordon during a secret private meeting at GCPD HQ and learns about a recent bank robbery. (Batman is publicly considered an outlaw, thus Gordon must do things in secret). Later, in the underground bunker beneath Wayne Manor, our heroes figure out the bank was held by Stick-Up Sidney. Authors Bill Finger and Dick Sprang make the mistake of referring to the bunker as the Batcave and showing later versions of the Batmobile and Batplane inside of it. We must ignore these references and images. The Dynamic Duo crashes into Sidney’s hideout, but they are captured. Robin is tossed out of a moving vehicle and the injured boy is discovered by policemen, who are surprised to see a child wearing a superhero costume. Gordon—along with some loyal cops—nurses Robin’s wounds and goes out in search of Sidney and the Dark Knight. Robin tracks Batman to a rabbit farm twenty miles north of Gotham. After hitchhiking there, Robin is able to free Batman and help take down Sidney and his henchmen. Afterward, Bruce praises Dick’s performance as his sidekick.
–FLASHBACK: From The Brave & The Bold #197. Batman and Robin swing into action against some criminals. Batman is still wielding a handgun.
–REFERENCE: In Batman #32, Part 2. Batman teaches the young Boy Wonder how to drive a car, pilot a plane, and several other important skills that a normal boy his age would never know how to do. Aside from a mention about not having had Bruce’s driving lessons yet in Part 2 of Batman #32, we know these important lessons occur now since we will see Robin driving and flying time-and-time-again quite soon.
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #205. Batman and Robin install a new crime lab into their underground bunker HQ. They also finish modernizing the rest of the facility. The underground “Bat-Bunker” is now at one hundred percent capability.
–FLASHBACK: From Batman #74, Part 1. Batman and Robin combat against the new threat of Skid Turkel. Skid deviously evades capture. Batman erroneously refers to this flashback as having occurred in 1939, but his memory must be a bit off since his first encounter with Skid includes Robin and therefore must be in early 1940.
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #132. Batman learns lock-smithing skills from safe-cracker and magician Paul Bodin.
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #65. Batman goes after two bandits named Mike Nolan and Nick Rocco. Rocco betrays his partner and shoots him dead before escaping. Writer Joe Greene says that this flashback takes place “five years ago in 1937.” When Greene wrote this issue of ‘tec it was indeed 1942, but why he would draft a flashback to 1937, which is two years before Batman even debuted, is beyond me. Based upon Batman’s costume and the other things referenced in the flashback, I’d place the Nolan/Rocco encounter right here.
–REFERENCE: In World’s Finest Comics #12. Batman sends criminal Slick Swade to prison.
–REFERENCE: In Batman #20, Part 1. Bruce invests in a Hollywood film called Through the Ages. The producers build a giant set in the Midwest, but the picture bankrupts before shooting can even begin. Joker will later use this colossal set as part of one of his many elaborate criminal schemes.
–REFERENCE: In World’s Finest Comics #23. Batman and Robin put high-powered crook Goldplate Gorney behind bars.
–FLASHBACK: From Batman #57, Part 1. Crooked promoter Ed Kollum is outed to the police by Bruce and sent to jail. Kollum vows revenge on Bruce.
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #244. Batman and Robin debut the Rope Batarang, which is just their utility belt rope fastened to a Batarang, to get atop the penthouse of notorious criminal Matt Howland. Howland goes behind bars and Batman puts this historic Rope Batarang into the Hall of Trophies (as referenced in Detective Comics #244).
–FLASHBACK: From Detective Comics #168. Batman rounds up a posse and chases after the Red Hood, who has successfully evaded capture for a month now. At the Monarch Playing Card Company, Batman and company corner the Red Hood on a ledge above a giant vat of chemical waste. Rather than be caught, the Red Hood dives into the noxious liquid mixture and escapes into the river. His body is never found and Batman won’t learn for another ten years that he has just inadvertently spawned his deadliest enemy. The Red Hood is affected by the chemicals in ways no one could have imagined—his skin turns chalky white, his hair bright green. Yup, this is the secret origin of The Joker!
–Batman #1, Part 1
Enter the Joker! The Joker makes an announcement that Henry Claridge, owner of the famous Claridge diamond, will be dead at midnight. Sure enough, despite a massive police presence, Claridge keels over with a rictus grin spread across his face. Joker had administered his patented Joker Venom to Claridge the night prior. The following night Joker murders a bunch of cops and his target, Jay Wilde, by filling a room with a gas version of Joker Venom. By this point Joker has earned the wrath of both the police and a jealous gangster community. Gangster Brute Nelson publicly declares that he will kill the Joker, but Joker attacks Nelson first. Joker is able to off Nelson, and then gets in his first confrontation with Batman. Unbelievably, Joker defeats Batman in a fistfight! The next night Joker goes after Judge Drake. Robin is on hand at the Judge’s house, but is unable to prevent his murder and gets captured. Luckily Batman is not far behind and locates Robin and Joker using an infra-red flashlight to spot their footprints. The Dark Knight rushes in to save Robin and apprehend Joker, winning round two. At one point in their struggle Batman gets dosed with Joker Venom, but is able to fight off its effect thanks to his “amazing recuperative powers.” I’m not sure if Bill Finger means this literally or if Batman whipped up an antidote for the Joker Venom right after their first duel. Note that, unlike the Modern Age version of the Joker, the Earth-2 Joker was a career criminal long before becoming the Clown Prince of Crime. Part 1 of Batman #1 also features the debut of the short-lived GCPD Chief Chalmers.
–Batman #1, Part 2
Part 2 of Batman #1 is next and takes place over the course of the immediate next two days following Joker’s arrest. Hugo Strange escapes from prison, kidnaps a bunch of guys from the insane asylum, and injects his victims with Monster Serum. These hulking fifteen-foot tall behemoths cause terror across the city. Equipped with superhuman strength and bulletproof skin, the monster men go on a spree of death and destruction at the bidding of their master, Strange. Batman confronts Strange, but is subdued by the monster men. Strange injects Batman with Monster Serum, which will take effect in eighteen hours. After escaping from a holding cell in Strange’s HQ using explosive materials hidden in his boot, Batman uses his super-science knowledge to create a vaccine that prevents him from turning into a monster. The Caped Crusader then fights Strange and knocks him into the bay. The Dark Knight then addresses the situation of the monster men, stating grimly, “Much as I hate to take human life, I’m afraid this time it’s necessary!” Strange’s henchmen attempt to drive the monster men back into the city, but Batman machine guns them off the road from high above in the Batplane—yes, this is the debut of the Batplane, noticeably sleeker than the Batgyro. Batman then kills the first monster man by slipping a cable wire noose around his neck and hanging him from the Batplane. After machine gunning another enemy truck into submission Batman, still in the Batplane, follows the final monster man up Gotham’s equivalent of the Empire State Building and gasses the beast, causing it to fall to its King Kong-esque death. Up to this point, nearly every one-shot foe has perished while fighting the Dark Knight, but this is the first time that Batman has definitively decided to use lethal force.
–Batman #1, Part 4
The Joker only spends two days in jail before blowing his way out using explosive materials hidden in two false teeth. The very night of his escape Joker murders Chief Chalmers. After announcing via radio his next crime a night later, Joker successfully gets away with another murder and theft. The following night, Joker brags about his next target at the museum and attempts to rob Cleopatra’s necklace, but Batman is waiting for him. However, just like in their first fight, the Joker bests Batman and escapes. Days pass and by the time Joker commits yet another murder, public opinion of the GCPD has plummeted. A panicking Commissioner Gordon chats with Bruce and they decide to bait Joker with false news of a famous gem arriving in Gotham. Sure enough, Joker bites and winds up toe to toe with Robin, whom he easily evades. Joker then runs into Batman and is handling the Dark Knight pretty well yet again. The Dynamic Duo, however, is able to combine their efforts to fight off Joker. The Harlequin of Hate then brandishes a knife, but during his struggle with the Dark Knight, the former gets stabbed in the chest. Batman and Robin leave Joker for dead. However, EMTs are able to revive and stabilize Joker in an ambulance.
–Batman #1, Part 3
Part 3 of Batman #1 takes place the same day as the Joker stabbing from the previous story. Dick goes undercover working as a waiter aboard socialite Martha Travers’ yacht masquerade party in order to keep an eye on an expensive emerald necklace that is sure to be the target of thieves. But Dick fails in his task and the necklace is quickly stolen by the mysterious burglar known only as The Cat. The Cat’s real name isn’t mentioned in her debut story, but she is none other than the future Catwoman and Bruce’s future wife, Selina Kyle! Before Dick can begin an investigation into the stolen jewelry, a bunch of gangsters, also vying for the necklace, board the vessel. Dick fights them, but winds up taking a dive into the ocean. The gangsters, unable to locate the necklace, settle for stealing everything else. Before they can make a getaway the Dynamic Duo appears and takes them down. Batman then unties the captured gangsters and tells Robin to fight them just for kicks! After Robin knocks them silly, the Dark Knight breaks the fourth wall (!) with a message for the children explaining that guns are bad. (This is coming from a dude who just used a machine gun in the previous story). Back at the yacht masquerade, which has resumed, the Dynamic Duo finds the missing necklace and unmasks the enigmatic Cat, who was disguised as an old grey-haired woman. When the Cat struggles as Batman removes her wig and makeup, Batman holds her still and threatens, “Quiet or papa spank!” Amazing. The Cat’s accomplice, Martha Travers’ nephew, then attempts to steal the necklace back, but Batman knocks him out cold. The Dynamic Duo then escorts the Cat back to shore, but a smitten Batman allows her to escape! An annoyed Robin watches as a lovestruck Dark Knight muses, “Lovely girl!…What eyes!—Say…Mustn’t forget I’ve got a girl named Julie!” Great stuff. I should also mention that, like Hugo Strange, the Cat is a well-known and notorious Gotham super-villain that predates the debut of Batman.
Early May. The morning after their encounter with the Cat, Bruce and Dick awake to the news that the Joker has survived his stabbing. The Gotham crime syndicate aptly named Crime Syndicate Inc decides that they want Joker as their new leader, so they kidnap the injured Joker from the hospital, sending the police on a wild goose chase after a fake Batman. Meanwhile, the real Batman nabs the Cat for the second time in two days and interrogates her about Crime Syndicate Inc’s plans—she has ties to Crime Syndicate Inc and knows of their plans to use Joker’s devious mind to steal precious gems from an eccentric collector, ES Arthur. A full week passes and Joker makes a quick recovery from his wounds only to double-cross his rescuers. While Batman takes out the entire Crime Syndicate Inc, Joker sneaks off to steal the gems from Arthur’s castle. The Cat has the same idea, but shows up just after Joker has arrived and murdered Arthur. Joker is about to kill the Cat as well, but Robin shows up just in time to save her. Robin then gets knocked out by Joker, but Batman shows up just in time to save him. Batman and Joker then engage in a sword duel that ends with Joker setting the castle ablaze. The Dynamic duo escapes the inferno and leaves an unconscious Joker behind. The Cat leaps into the river below to make her own daring escape.
A few days later Batman and Robin encounter a new gang led by the criminal mastermind known only as The Wolf. During the encounter Wolf knocks Robin upside his head—making this the second adventure in a row where Robin gets conked on the noggin and goes unconscious—and makes a clean getaway. Who is the Wolf? The Wolf is actually mild mannered private museum curator and avid crime novel reader Adam Lamb. Lamb works for one of Bruce’s friends, Cyrus Craig. Having fallen and hit his head some time ago, Wolf undergoes a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. During the day he is his normal timid self, but as soon as the clock strikes midnight he morphs into a violent gangster. Batman and Robin tackle the Wolf again, and again the Wolf is victorious as one of his thugs shoots the Dark Knight in the shoulder. The injured Dark Knight escapes by using smoke pellets—the first time he’s ever used them. At Bruce’s lab inside Wayne Manor, nine-year-old Dick is forced to remove the bullet and stitch up his weakened mentor! Afterward, Bruce realizes that the Wolf is using a crime novel as a playbook. Bruce also recalls that Lamb was reading the book during a recent visit to Craig’s museum. After coupling this fact with some other evidence, Bruce deduces that Lamb is the Wolf. The Dynamic duo rushes to the museum just in time to save Craig’s life. Batman then fights the Wolf and punches him down a flight of stairs where the latter breaks his neck and dies!
After the Wolf affair, the Clubfoot case begins. Clubfoot Beggs, a villain with a clubfoot and a hook for a hand, murders the patriarch of the wealthy Storme family, Harley Storme, and then defeats Batman in a fight. Clubfoot has long had problems with the Storme family. The next day Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are in attendance for the reading of the Storme family will. The Storme’s are infuriated when no one is given a dime. Ward, the family lawyer who is also an heir to Harley, notes that a letter regarding further information about the family fortune is to be read in a month’s time. That night Clubfoot kills another Storme. Varrick, a loan shark hoping to have cashed in on Tommy Storme’s inheritance, hears word that Tommy has received ziltch, so he personally pays Ward a visit to get the info about the upcoming letter. Batman also pays Ward a visit and beats away Varrick and his men. Meanwhile, Clubfoot keeps killing off the other Stormes. The Dynamic Duo eventually learns that Clubfoot is actually Ward in disguise, having kidnapped the real Clubfoot in an attempt to frame him for the murders of the Stormes. The letter to have been read next month stated that the last remaining living heir to Harley would have been willed a gold mine. Ward, with this knowledge, began his ruse to kill the Stormes and frame Clubfoot. In the end, Batman easily defeats Ward and sends him to jail.
Following the Clubfoot case, Batman successfully battles African Pygmies aboard a train bound for Gotham. The Pygmies have followed the famed explorer Professor Drake all the way to the states because he has kidnapped their god, a 25-foot tall living, breathing Neanderthal man—the so-called “missing link.” Dubbed “Goliath” by Drake, the giant caveman has also been completely tamed by the professor. The next day news spreads of the scientific discovery and circus promoters Hackett and Snead wish to incorporate Goliath in their show. When Drake refuses he gets a bullet in the head—despite being under the watch and guard of Robin—and Hackett and Snead make it look like suicide. A day later, poor Goliath is in a cage of a touring circus. When he recognizes on of Hackett and Snead’s henchmen at the show, he realizes that his new masters are responsible for Drake’s death and goes on a rampage. Batman and Robin show up and control the situation, but Goliath falls from the peak of the big top to his death.
–Detective Comics #39-40
Hatchet men from the Tong of the Green Dragon attack Gotham’s Chinatown and murder Batman’s friend Wong, the unofficial mayor of Chinatown. The Dynamic Duo goes after the Tong of the Green Dragon, but Robin is captured by the Master of the Green Dragon. Batman is able to rescue Robin from torture and smash the Master’s symbolic idol of power.
Julie gets cast as the lead in a remake of an old horror film, when the star is murdered. Bruce and Dick visit the shoot to support Julie, but are horrified when more cast and crew members begin getting mysteriously murdered. After investigating several red herrings, the Dynamic Duo comes face to face with the culprit, Basil Karlo, master of facial disguise. Karlo is upset because he was in the original picture and doesn’t want it remade. Batman and Robin take down Karlo, but they now have a new supervillain arch-enemy in Clayface!
–New York World’s Fair Comics #2
Bruce and Dick visit the 1940 New York World’s Fair, but when news of a bridge collapsing mysteriously hits the radio news, Bruce leaves to get details from Commissioner Gordon. At the time of publishing Batman was living in New York City, so this whole story took place in NYC. However, since NYC was later retconned to Gotham, we must assume that Bruce and Dick visit the New York World’s Fair and then return to Gotham. When another bridge collapses the Dynamic Duo is on high alert. At yet another Gotham bridge, Batman and Robin encounter gangsters using a ray gun that melts steel. They learn that their boss, Dr. Hugo Vreekill, has invented the technology and is planning on breaking criminals out of prison to add to his criminal organization. As the prisoners run amok through the yard—courtesy of Vreekill’s henchmen—Batman and Robin fly overhead in the Batplane and gas-bomb them. After preventing Vreekill’s men from destroying a skyscraper under construction, Batman and Robin confront Vreekill in his lab. Rather than go to jail, Vreekill commits suicide by electrocuting himself. In celebration, Bruce and Dick return to the New York World’s Fair. Fun!
–REFERENCE: In Batman #48. July 1940. Batman and Robin fight Joker, who tries to kill them with an oversize Joker jack-in-the-box that emits poison gas. Joker fails, but escapes capture. Afterward, Batman collects the jack-in-the-box and puts it into the Hall of Trophies.
–REFERENCE: In Detective Comics #141. Batman and Robin solve the “Case of the Long Distance Crime.” All I can tell you about this case is that Batman debuts the Bruce Wayne dummy in order to fool some dumb crooks. Afterward, the Caped Crusader puts the Bruce Wayne dummy into the Hall of Trophies. Batman will use the Bruce Wayne dummy on various cases in the future.
–Detective Comics #41-43
When a boy dies and another goes missing at Blake’s Boys School, Dick goes undercover as a student. Dick suspects a lunatic who has just escaped from an asylum, but he’s a red herring. When school headmaster is murdered, Dick suits up as Robin and beats the tar out of the masked murderer, revealing him as the timid art teacher Mr. Graves. Graves has committed the murders because he is involved in a counterfeiting operation. With Batman’s help, Robin shuts down the counterfeiting scam.
Everyone who gets their portrait done by famous painter Pierre Antal later winds up murdered by a man in a skull mask. Bruce poses for a painting to lure the killer out. Later that night, the killer shows up and shoots a dummy Bruce, handled by Dick. Batman leaps out of the shadows and apprehends the killer: Antal’s main sponsor, Mr. Wylie, who was trying to drive up the prices of Antal’s work through the controversy. Rather than serve time in jail, Wylie commits suicide. Batman seems to have that effect on people lately. Afterward, Batman hangs his Antal portrait in the Hall of Trophies (as referenced in Batman #12) along with the portraits of three of Wylie’s murdered victims (as referenced in Batman #38, Part 2). According to Part 2 of Batman #38, this case, known as “The Case of the Prophetic Picture,” is Batman’s first truly famous investigation where the full details of the criminal events are made public.
By ‘tec #43 Batman and Robin have become famous enough to grace the pages of magazines and newspapers across the globe. Deciding that its time for a vacation, Bruce and Dick travel across the USA and stop in an unnamed city. The government and police of this unnamed city has been taken over by corrupt politician Harliss Greer and his lackey, gang boss Bugs Norton. Bruce ends the vacation and the Dynamic Duo systematically shut down every aspect of Greer’s and Norton’s corrupt rule; busting up drug shipments, smashing up slot machines, and even distributing leaflets and making speeches at city hall! After the tyrants are arrested, the city erects a giant statue of the Dynamic Duo in their honor.
Dmitri has the superpower to control any one’s mind provided they are injected with a special serum, hence his moniker of The Puppet Master. Using his Cossack thugs to attack and inject the serum into his victims—all of whom happen to be government employees—the Puppet Master begins attempting to steal military secrets to sell to the Axis Powers. After the Dynamic Duo foils his plans several times, including the debut of the new two-passenger Batplane and an arsenal of tear gas, the Puppet Master enslaves a small army of thugs and is able to eventually take control of Batman’s mind too. Robin is able to intercept the mind-controlled Batman, knock him out, and cure him somehow—off panel, no less! Batman then shows up and surprises his “master” by cold cocking him and hand delivering him to the cops.
Batman roughs up some thugs and meets GCPD Detective McGonigle, who vows to find out Batman’s secret ID. That night Bruce has dinner with socialite acquaintances Larry Larrimore and Harvey Dodge. During dinner, Dodge grows ill and his face literally deforms before their very eyes. Over the course of the next few days, other rich Gotham socialites undergo similar afflictions as they mysteriously deform thanks to the curious “ghastly change” virus. Across the city, a mob of hideously deformed thugs begins vandalizing “things of beauty” like statues, artworks, and museums. The mob also begins murdering models and beauty queens. That night, Bruce and Dick learn that the European nation of Boravia, suffering greatly due to the Nazi invasion, has shipped a bunch of priceless paintings to the US. The Dynamic Duo, with McGonigle, takes down the “ugly horde,” and then learns via radio that a famous doctor has found a cure for the “ghastly change,” clinically known as myxedema. The Dynamic Duo rushes to the docs house but, along with the doc, Batman is captured and chained up by the deformed baddies. In the dungeon of the uglies, their ringleader reveals himself to be Larrimore, who removes a mask further revealing a twisted, deformed countenance. Larrimore was accidentally deformed in college during a fraternity hazing, went insane, and vowed revenge on the beautiful people of Gotham. Robin shows up—slingshot in hand—just in time to rescue Batman and together they defeat the “ugly horde.” McGonigle shows up just in time to shoot Larrimore dead.
After dealing with Larrimore, Batman defeats a few thugs from Big Boy Daniels’ Mob and tracks one of their teenage members to a warehouse where he discovers something sinister: a crime school for boys. Bruce returns home and Dick asks him why he didn’t simply bust up the school. Bruce smiles and says he has a better idea. Oh boy. Bruce purchases a warehouse in the slums and fixes it up as a gym for boys. He also has Dick infiltrate their youth gang. Over the course of the next week or two, Dick has befriended the hoodlums and turned them on to other healthy hobbies like basketball at Bruce’s new gym. However, the kids are still attending crime school and still think crime is cool. Bruce suits up and systematically begins sending Daniels’ men to jail. Eventually Batman confronts Daniels in front of his students and the Dark Knight kicks his ass. When the rest of the mob tries to intervene with guns, Dick rallies his young comrades and they turn against their former criminal idols.
When the Cat, now wearing a cat mask, goes on a crime spree of epic proportions, Commissioner Gordon puts Detective McGonicle on the case. A sidetracked McGonicle nearly nabs Batman, who gets pistol-whipped by a thug. Batman easily escapes McGonicle. The thug who attacked Batman is part of a group trying to steal diamonds from a jewelry show organized by a diamond syndicate run by Mr. Darrell and Mr. Blake. Naturally, the Cat is also going after the same diamonds. At the show, the Cat snatches the diamonds, but is quickly snatched up herself by the thugs. While Robin follows the thugs to their hideout—using his debuting Robinmobile mini-car—Batman interrogates Darrell and drags him to the thug’s hideout. After the Dynamic Duo reunites, the truth comes out. Darrell and Blake were in debt and were trying to steal the diamonds from their own syndicate. However, Blake double-crossed his partner: Blake and Darrell hired the Cat to do the job, but Blake secretly hired the thugs to take out the Cat and grab the diamonds for himself. With the mystery solved, the Cat steals one more item, a kiss from Batman, and makes a clean getaway. The Dynamic Duo then delivers the stolen goods to McGonicle.
Detective Comics #44
Dick is at home worried about Batman, who is out on patrol too late (midnight!?). When Batman returns, the Dynamic Duo enters a medieval fantasy land and gets involved in a war between evil giants and good midgets. Thankfully, Dick has fallen asleep and this is all just a terrible, terrible dream.
Detective Comics #45
The Joker has cleverly begun hiring thugs under the fake identity of Rekoj. (Get it? Joker spelled backwards!). Joker makes his public return to Gotham by murdering DA Carter. Joker, disguised as Rekoj, then sends his men to steal some gems only to double-cross them as Joker. While Batman beats the tar out of Rekoj’s men, Joker makes off with the goods. Batman learns of Joker’s double-identity and confronts him only to get stuck in a death trap. The Caped Crusader escapes, joins Robin in the new high-tech, more jet-like Batplane, and prevents the Joker from stealing a jade statue from a Chinese freighter bound for the States.
–Batman #4, Part 1 Intro
The intro to Part 1 of Batman #4 takes place immediately following ‘tec #45. Batman has stopped Joker from stealing a Chinese jade statue from a freighter and has punched the Harlequin of Hate into Gotham Bay. Joker survives and returns to his secret HQ.
–Detective Comics #46
Professor Hugo Strange is back and he has developed Fear Dust, a precursor to Scarecrow’s Fear Gas. Strange plans on using Fear Dust to become “Dictator of America.” Batman beats up a bunch of Strange’s henchmen and obtains special pills that make one immune to the effects of the gas. He also threatens one of the young thugs into meeting him a night later with more info about the gang. The Caped Crusader meets with the thug, but is jumped and knocked out by another henchman. At Strange’s lab, the Dark Knight tries to fight off his captors, but gets knocked out again. Once Batman shakes the cobwebs out of his head, he finally beats back Strange’s men and radios Robin with orders. Robin stops Strange’s men from Fear Dusting the Gotham Reservoir and a popular downtown theater. Meanwhile, Batman dukes it out with Strange and punches him off of a cliff into a river. The latter washes away—the usual way these stories end—except this time Strange is paralyzed from the fall (as seen in The Brave & The Bold #182). We won’t see him again until 1982!
–Batman #4, Part 2
A gangster named Thatch decides to dress up as his namesake Edward Thatch—better known as Blackbeard the pirate. Assembling a crew of “pirates,” Thatch attacks a socialite yacht party with a legitimate 18th Century pirate ship and kidnaps all the guests. Batman and Robin fly to the ocean scene in the Batplane, which transforms into the debuting Batboat once it lands in the water. The Dynamic Duo, with a little help from the prisoners, defeats the pirate gang.
–Batman #4, Part 3
A gangwar erupts between two rival Gotham racketeers, Jimmy McCoy and Big Costello. Naturally, Batman finds himself in the middle and gets a bullet in the arm, courtesy of McCoy, for his trouble. Dick goes undercover as a shoeshine boy to get intel on both gangs’ next moves. The Dynamic Duo then intervenes when a gun battle explodes between the rivals in a downtown club. McCoy and Costello escape to fight another day. When they do exchange fire again, Batman and Robin are present in front of Gotham Courthouse. McCoy and Costello shoot each other dead, thus ending the gangwar.
–Batman #4, Part 4
Batman and Robin save pro football coach Tim Bannon from would-be assassins—the Dark Knight uses a handgun to shoot one of the assassins in the hand! An editor’s note is included, which reads: “Batman never carries or kills with a gun!” Bannon’s attackers work for the owner of a rival team, the corrupt gambler Stacy. When Stacy learns that Batman has saved Bannon’s life, he reveals that he knows the Dark Knight’s secret ID! Simply noting that Bruce spends a lot of time with Commissioner Gordon and that his “playboy persona” seems fake, Stacy has figured it out. Stacy calls Bruce and threatens to reveal his secret unless he meets with him face to face. At the meeting, Stacy and his men try to unmask Batman as Bruce—even though they already know it’s him since he showed up. Sigh. Batman fights off Stacy and his men and returns home only to find Wayne Manor swarming with more of Stacy’s men. Stacy’s goons chase the Dark Knight into a barn at the edge of the property where they lose track of him. Batman ducks into a secret tunnel that leads back to the mansion. The gangsters becomes confused when they see the Caped Crusader and Bruce Wayne together—Dick is manipulating the Bruce Wayne dummy again. Batman then explains that he was listening in on Bruce’s phone and that’s how he knew to attend the meeting. Wow. On Sunday Bannon’s star QB, Stockton, is kidnapped by Stacy’s henchmen. Bruce decides the best course of action is to disguise himself as Stockton and play in the game! While Bruce plays ball, Dick rescues Stockton. At the stadium, Bruce, who plays both offense and defense, breaks a scoreless tie by returning an interception back for a TD. (Bruce also kicks the extra point). Robin returns with the real Stockton and Bruce switches places with him. Bruce and Dick then watch the rest of the game from the stands.
–Batman #4, Part 1 Conclusion
Two months have passed since Batman’s last encounter with Joker. The Dynamic Duo is on regular patrol when they come across red-handed thieves—three masked acrobats and a masked strongman. The masked villains easily defeat Batman and Robin and escape. A week later, and a string of burglaries later, Batman still hasn’t caught the badguys. On Saturday, Bruce attends a society ball that has a circus act featuring three acrobats, a strongman, and a clown. I think we all know where this is heading. Eventually, the Dynamic Duo battles Joker’s circus gang and locates his secret HQ. Joker’s house is complete with traps, scary film projections of his face, and an actor who pretends to be a ghost. Batman defeats Joker yet again, and yet again Joker washes away, this time via sewage drain. Afterward, Batman keeps a large Joker mask that hangs above Joker’s mantlepiece and a large card suit spade-shaped vase from Joker’s den. He puts both items into his Hall of Trophies (as referenced in Batman #12 and Detective Comics #187, respectively).
–FLASHBACK: From Batman #5. Joker is immediately saved by three criminals and forms a villainous team with his rescuers. The Four Cards features Joker as leader, The Black Queen (Queenie), Jack of Diamonds (Jack Deegan), and King of Clubs (Clubsy). Under Joker’s orders, the Four Cards purchase a gambling boat and begin operating a casino designed to rob its patrons blind.
–Detective Comics #47, Part 1
Batman beats up some gangsters. The next day Bruce meets with his personal banker Harvey Midas. Harvey’s adult son, Roger Midas, is present for their meeting. Bruce learns that father and son don’t get along very well. That night, a creepy Batman decides to spy on the Midas family in their home and discovers that Harvey’s daughter, Diane Midas, is dating Johnny Brown, a man that her mother, Mrs. Midas, doesn’t approve of because he is in a lower class. Over the course of the next couple days, Bruce—wearing a tux and smoking cigarettes—spends time with Roger at various clubs and casinos and learns of both Roger’s gambling addiction and talent as a clarinet player. In the following weeks Diane is forced to break up with Johnny and rushed into an arranged marriage with a European dignitary named Count Alexis.
–DC Special #29
November 1940. Commissioner Gordon and British Intelligence Agent William Stephenson, on behalf of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, secretly recruit Batman to fight Nazis in the UK! After being summoned to a meeting via the Bat-Signal—and we must unfortunately ignore this since the Bat-Signal definitely wouldn’t be around quite yet—the Dark Knight meets fellow Gotham hero Green Lantern (Alan Scott) and Central City’s own Jay Garrick, better known as The Flash! Hours later Batman, Green Lantern, and Flash are airlifted into Scotland where they attack a castle swarming with Nazis led by High Commander Helmut Streicher. Things are going well until a giant Nazi robot knocks out the trio of heroes. Our heroes are then shipped to Berlin and put on display in front of the German masses. Adolf Hitler—with the Spear of Destiny in hand—delivers a speech and publicly unmasks Batman! Thankfully, Dr. Fate (Kent Nelson)—along with Hourman (Rex Tyler)—shows up and uses his magick to place a new mask on the Dark Knight. Hitler then uses the power of the Spear of Destiny to summon the Valkyries—of Norse myth. The Valkyries quckly pound the American heroes into submission. Meanwhile, a full Nazi invasion force storms the shores of England, but is turned back by the combined force of The Atom (Al Pratt), Hawkman (Carter Hall), The Sandman (Wesley Dodds), The Spectre (Jim Corrigan), and British armed forces. Eventually, the heroes in Berlin defeat the Valkries and join the other heroes in England. The battle picks up again when the Valkries accompany a giant Nazi flying fortress en-route to destroy Washington DC. The heroes fight literally across the entire span of the Atlantic Ocean for hours and hours, but are unable to prevent the Norse goddesses and Nazi war machine from reaching the US capitol. When all hope seems lost, Superman (Clark Kent/Kal-L) shows up and takes out the bomber. The Atom is then able to prevent a Valkyrie from assassinating FDR. The Valkyries are expelled back to Valhalla and the day is saved! Superman declares that this collection of superheroes should form a team called (unofficially) The Justice Society of America! The heroes do indeed form the JSA and plan a tentative meeting for the future, but Batman and Superman won’t join until later.
–Detective Comics #48-49
Surveyor Henry Lewis discovers a giant prehistoric cave deep beneath the mountains in Kentucky. When criminals discover that the cavern runs beneath the largest US Government gold deposit at Fort Stox, they kidnap Henry and torture him in an effort to learn the location of the entrance to the cave. Henry won’t speak, so the criminals decide to take another route. Henry’s daughter, Linda Lewis, is not only a singer at a Gotham club, but is close friends with Bruce. The Kentucky gangsters contact their Gotham comrades that work at the club, who stage an elaborate ruse that involves making Linda think she has killed a man. Linda immediately flees town to be with her father in Kentucky. Bruce, worried about Linda, begins investigating and beating up thugs until he finds out what has occurred. The Dynamic Duo flies down to Kentucky, saves the Lewises, kicks some ass, and prevents the theft of the gold. Detective Comics #48 is also notable because writer Bill Finger reveals that Batman’s red roadster has become a well-known vehicle on the streets of Gotham. Gotham’s criminals have come to fear the car and it is referred to colloquially as the Batmobile for the first time in this issue. Finger also names Batman’s hometown as Gotham City for the first time in ‘tec #48.
The film that Julie starred in earlier in the year finally hits theaters and Julie gets rave reviews for her performance. Studio execs convince her to change her name to the more exotic “Portia Storme”—oddly enough Portia Storme was the name of an unrelated character in Batman #2, but oh well. Portia is heralded as Hollywood’s next big star. Disillusioned with her relationship with Bruce and disheartened with his lackadaisical Playboy lifestyle, Portia dumps Bruce! Meanwhile, Clayface escapes from a prison transport and returns to the movie studio where Batman and Robin battle him. Clayface escapes by starting a fire that nearly kills Robin. Clayface then threatens to kill Portia on the set of her new film, prompting Batman and Robin to fight security guards to get on set. The Dynamic Duo then captures Clayface, which involves Robin pretending to be Portia and Portia dressed up in a Robin costume. In the end, Portia thanks Batman and wishes Bruce could be more like him! If only she knew. Alas, Portia leaves Gotham and becomes a famous star, without Bruce or Batman in her life. Bye!
–REFERENCE: In All Star Comics #3. The first official meeting of the Justice Society of America is held! Both Batman and Superman were present in Washington DC (in DC Special #29) when the DC heroes united to defeat the Nazi-summoned Valkyries and where Superman first referred to the collective group as “The Justice Society.” However, Batman, Superman, and Robin, despite being invited to join the JSA, now decline membership, citing that they are too busy fighting crime elsewhere. Red Tornado (Ma Hunkel) is also invited, but she declines as well. The official JSA lineup is The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, The Spectre, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, Hourman, and Johnny Thunder. While Batman and Superman decline official membership, they are made “honorary members” anyway, meaning that they are deemed “members for life” despite remaining “inactive” or part-time due to their other obligations. Shortly after this, Flash will change his status with the team to the “honorary” level as well (as referenced in a flashback from All-Star Squadron Annual #3 and in All-Star Comics #6). Once Flash becomes an honorary member he will hand leadership of the team over to Green Lantern.
- COLLIN COLSHER: Several reputable sources regard Batman #32, Part 2 as non-canon because it steps on the toes of the already-set-in-stone Robin origin story from Detective Comics #38. Mikel Midnight and Douglas Ethington, for example, place Batman #32, Part 2, not on the Earth 2 timeline, but on the Earth-B timeline, a timeline reserved for items that simply just don’t fit on any mainstream chronology. I submit, however, as my synopsis will detail below, that Batman #32, Part 2 does jibe with Detective Comics #38 rather than outright contradict it. Therefore, Batman #32, Part 2 serves as an integral canonical section of both Earth 2 and Earth-B’s timelines.↩