Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July 1940: Batman #2

Cover supposedly by Bob Kane

'Batman' (all stories definitely by Bill Finger and supposedly by Bob Kane): Bar a few filler strips and text pieces, this is cover-to-cover Batman.  Issues like this make all the cowboys worthwhile.

The first story sees the return of the Joker, who is near-death from wounds sustained in his last battle with Batman. Batman plans to abduct the Joker and take him to a specialist who can fix his brain, but instead a gang of crooks intervenes. The Joker is brought back to health, and sets about double-crossing his saviours within two panels. He then attempts the robbery of some valuable jewels, and that's where Catwoman gets involved. It's a rollicking good story, that even features a Joker-Batman sword duel on a castle balcony. This is classic Golden Age Batman.

In the second story, a meek museum custodian falls and hits his head, and becomes a murderous master criminal known as the Wolf. The chain of coincidence in this story is almost too much to bear, but it gets by on drama and momentum. I was very surprised to see Batman get shot by a common thug, and spend a page being operated on by a very tense and nervous Robin. The modern Batman just never gets hurt like that, especially by a regular dude.

In the next story, a group of heirs are each left a token that, when combined, reveal the location of a gold mine. One by one the heirs are murdered by a guy with a wooden foot and a hook hand. This guy is serious business: he beats the hell out of Batman on page one. In the end he's revealed to be the family lawyer. Dude must have put in some serious hours training with that hook, otherwise Batman's years of jiu-jitsu practise were worthless. It's a solid story, if a bit unoriginal.

In the final story, an explorer brings a giant prehistoric savage back to civilisation, and various crooks try to get the savage to work for them. Batman gets involved, and as is the way with these types of stories, it all ends up in a huge fight at the circus. The giant is really a gentle guy, but the death of the explorer sends him into a berserk rage. And then, despite this giant being misunderstood - Robin totally kills him with a slingshot to the head! It's not acknowledged at all, as everyone credits the giant's subsequent fall with his death, but Robin totally did it. This ticks all the 'savage comes to civilisation' cliche boxes, and is a lot of fun.  You know, until Robin goes on a murder spree.

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