Friday, May 27, 2016

Batman #2: The Cat Saves the Bird & PC Policing

In the second issue of Batman, there are again four stories all starring Batman & Robin in some 53 pages (I think comiXology counts the cover as a page in its page totals. However, there are no ads in these electronic issues, so that's cool).

Most Amusing Panel Prize:

"He's very cute! Cute is just the word for him!"
Batman (1940) #2 Page 44 Panel 7: Batman gets up close and personal with Goliath, the friendly "missing link."

Surprising Details: 

In "The Joker Meets the Catwoman," Batman has an incredibly disturbing plan to prevent The Joker from resuming his nefarious criminal activities after he recovers from his injuries (sustained in the last issue).

Batman (1940) #2 Page 2 Panel 2: Batman's plan for The Joker involves a little brain surgery to "heal him."Batman explains to Robin that he wants to "abduct the Joker....then we'll take him to a famous brain specialists for an operation, so that he can be cured [emphasis added]."

He wants to have brain surgery performed on someone without their permission!?


In a perplexing misdirection, the Weasel (who also wants to abduct The Joker so that The Joker (whose chances at recovery are reportedly "very slim") can become the brains of Weasel's criminal organization?) -- Weasel has one of his men pretend to be Batman to distract the police.
Batman (1940) #2 Page 11 Panel 7: The Cat offers the jewels to save the Robin from the Joker.
Before this deception is revealed, however, everyone (including me) wonders when the Batman became willing to kill policemen.

(Given that I knew so little about Batman's history of killing the "bad guys," for a moment I feared that Batman was perhaps even more criminal than I had begun to believe...)

In this story, The Joker and Catwoman meet for the first time when both attempt to burgle the Pharaoh's Gems. They fight to see who will take home the gems, but when Robin's life is put in jeopardy by The Joker, it is the Catwoman who is willing to sacrifice the loot in order to save the Boy Wonder.

The Other Stories (in this issue):

One struggle I have with these early issues is that my personal frame of reference is loaded with modern politics that intersect poorly with the conscious (and unconscious) politics of the writers and artists from the time period in which these comics were created.

Batman (1940) #2 Page 43 Panel 3: Batman recognizes something queer is going on when he sees it.I am old enough to have been raised on classic Black & White movies and early television programs on endless repeat on Sunday mornings. There is an uncomfortable familiarity in these tales of the Bat in which simplistic (and therefor often stereotypical) portrayals of people who are "different" are common practice.

My awareness that these pieces are products of their time period does nothing to silence my inner literary critic who wants to tear apart the sexism and able-ism and racism presented in these stories.

But, when the depictions are so overt and noxious, do they really require explicit analysis to identify them for what they are?

So, to comment or not to comment? Align myself with the SJWs (Social Justice Warriors) or skip over such commentary to avoid the risk of becoming oversimplified and stereotyped myself under the latest label the right uses to demonize/dis-empower the political left?

"The Case of the Missing Link," the last of the four tales in this issue, bears the weight of both white colonialism and a limited understanding of scientific evolutionary theory.

Batman (1940) #2 Page 44 Panels 2 & 3: The Doctor explains how he acquired the gigantic "missing link."

In this story, a pituitary gland deformation turns the "missing link" into a giant whom the pygmies of Africa worship as a "god" and whom the Western white scientist has kidnapped in order to "civilize" him.

Luckily, Batman is there to save the day (...or not, as every major player who is not Batman or Robin is dead by the end of the story).

Batman (1940) #2 Page 45 Panel 5: The Doctor refuses to "put Goliath on display" to make a profit.And yet, there is criticism within this story over the exploitation of others expressed by the white scientist who recognizes that the intentions of the two "bad guys" to display Goliath (the missing link) for profit is wrong (even though he remains uncritical of his own desire to "civilize" Goliath).

And Batman expresses sympathy for the "monster," Goliath, when -- in a berserker rage of grief after his "master" (the white scientist) has been killed -- he attacks Batman and dies as Batman defends himself.

Batman directs Robin (and the reader) to recognize that the two men (now dead) who meant to exploit Goliath for profit were the "real monsters."

Last Notions:

I look forward to getting to some contemporary tales with characters who share a greater resemblance to me. Not because I am inherently narcissistic (though I often fear I am), but because variety enriches my understanding of the universe (and so far I have encountered no butch nerd feminists whatsoever in these pages).

Batman (1940) #2 Cover
Series: Batman (1940)

Issue #: 002

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: Summer 1940

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  53 pages

Print Release: 22-May-1940

Digital Release: 25-May-2011

DC Comics Logo
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Titles:
“The Joker Meets the Catwoman”; Wolf, the Crime Master”; “The Case of the Clubfoot Murders”; “The Case of the Missing Link”

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