Monday, May 16, 2016

Detective Comics #29-33

My collection contains few of the classic comics; those that I have were purchased primarily for the first appearances of the major characters from the Big Two.

Detective Comics (1937) #31 Page 6 Panel 6: Batman is attacked by a giant ape in his search for Bruce Wayne's fiancee, Julie.
Weird-Ass Shit #1: "Warm Reception" 
= Giant Ape
Many of the iconic elements from these comic book stories have entered into the general lexicon, especially now that superhero movies have come to dominate the summer box office.

The Batmobile, Kryptonite, Cap's Shield, Gamma Radiation, we all have a basic understanding of what began with these early issues, and many of those details can indeed be found in those original mags.

But let me assure you, there is some really weird-ass shit in those early issues as well.

Most Amusing Panel Prize:

When Bruce Wayne visits the doctor to tend to his bullet wound (suffered while pursuing the bad guys as Batman), Bruce explains his injury with: "I do funny things sometimes."

Detective Comics (1937) #29 Page 7 Panel 4: Bruce Wayne visits a doctor to treat his bullet wound (which he suffered while fighting crime as Batman).

The Batman stories in Detective Comics #29 and #30 both feature Doctor Death such that they effectively function as a two-parter. Batman then battles the Master Monk in issues #31 and #32: "Batman Versus the Vampire" parts 1 & 2. Both sets of stories were written by Gardner Fox.

Detective Comics (1937) #31 Page 1 Title Panel: "The Batman...weird menace to all crime -- at last meets an opponent worthy of his mettle. A strange creature, cowled like a monk, but possessing the powers of Satan!..."


As the title panel that begins issue #31 admits, Batman is a "weird menace to all crime." (The description that follows -- intended for the Master Monk -- could actually be used to describe this early version of Batman if one merely replaced "cowled like a monk" with "cowled like a bat.")

The weirdness resides on multiple levels. For example, Doctor Death has a pair of henchmen -- a "giant Indian" and a "Cossack" (whose depictions border on the racist with stereotypical dress and a strange skin-coloring choice) -- henchmen whom Batman apparently has no qualms about taking out -- permanently.

Left: Detective Comics (1937) #29 Page 1 Panel 4 featuring Doctor Death talking with Jabah, his henchman; Right: Detective Comics (1937) #30 Page 8 Panel 6 featuring Batman killing Doctor Death's other henchman, the Cossack.



Detective Comics (1937) #32 Page 6 Panel 7: The Master Monk uses his mental powers to summon Julie from miles away.
Weird-Ass Shit #4: Hypnotic Powers
in a Vampire-Wolfman
The weirdness continues with the strange amalgamation that is the "Master Monk." He seems to be part werewolf, part vampire, and part... psychic?

Detective Comics (1937) #31 Page 3 Panel 4: Bruce Wayne admits he hasn't told his fiancee, Julie, that he is the Batman.
Weird-Ass Shit #5: Bruce Wayne
has a fiancee
The Monk has some sort of mind-control power, identified as hypnotism in issue #31, which he has used on Julie to make her kill some random guy for inexplicable reasons (at least no reason is ever offered) -- Julie, who just so happens to be Bruce Wayne's fiancee. That's right, Bruce Wayne's fiancee.

Batman manages to stop Julie before she kills, which snaps her out of The Monk's mind control. So, naturally the doctor to whom Bruce Wayne brings her prescribes an ocean voyage (?) to Paris to cure what ails her.

Mysteriously, the Master Monk just so happens to be on the same ship to Paris. (Mysteriously not because he's there, but because Batman seems to abandon Julie to his clutches after a brief skirmish only to "rescue" her again by issue's end.)


Detective Comics (1937) #32 Page 2 Panel 8: Batman lugs Dala, The Master Monk's hench-person, around like a sack of potatoes.
Weird-Ass Shit #6: Batman rents
hotel rooms as Batman
Issue #32 opens with Batman in pursuit of the Master Monk only to find Dala, the Monk's victim/collaborator, in his stead.

Dala, who appears to be a vampire, too, after she bites Julie with whom Batman, in his infinite wisdom, sets her up in his hotel room "deep in the Carlathan Mountains." (Apparently the masked crusader who looks like a bat has no problem getting a motel room in Hungary.)


Detective Comics (1937) #32 Page 7 Panel 5: The Master Monk transforms into a wolf.
Weird-Ass Shit #7:Batman Versus
The Were badger wolf Monk
Last Notions:

The weirdness in these early comics books seems to be pitched high as the creators keep piling on one storybook element after another: a bad guy who is a psychic, AND a werewolf, AND a vampire.

Don't get me wrong; I am a fan of comic books (and fantasy and SciFi), but I look for the fantastical to have some sort of internal coherence. I'm not talking about grounding these characters in a modern realism such as Christopher Nolan does with Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight. (I loved that film, by the way.)

Rather, what I need is some basic character development to provide a logical basis for the impossible to happen. Like the classic SciFi novels that are strong on the "big idea," but lack a clear plot and interesting characters to make that big idea resonate, these early comic books present characters (both the bad and the good) with the psychological complexity of stick figures.

CODA:

Luckily, Batman begins to gain some moral and psychological dimensions in the very next issue, #33, when Bruce Wayne's tragic back story is finally provided.


Detective Comics (1937) #33 Pages 1 & 2: Batman's origin story is finally revealed.


Detective Comics (1937) #33 Pages 1 & 2: Batman's origin story is finally revealed.
(The bad guy in this issue, on the other hand, remains one-dimensional as ever; he has a literal Napoleon complex and is, of course, bent on world domination.)


Detective Comics (1937) #29 Cover
Series: Detective Comics (1937)

Issue #: 029

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: July 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 11 pages

Print Release: 17-May-1939

Digital Release: 10-September-2011

Writer:
DC Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“The Bat-Man Meets Doctor Death”



Series: Detective Comics (1937)

Issue #: 030

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: August 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 11 pages

Print Release: 14-June-1939

Digital Release: 10-September-2011

Writer:
Pencilers:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
The Batman: “The Return of Doctor Death”



Series: Detective Comics (1937)

Issue #: 031

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: September 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 11 pages

Print Release: 19-July-1939

Digital Release: 10-September-2011

Writer:
Pencilers:
Inkers:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“Batman Versus the Vampire Part 1”



Series: Detective Comics (1937)

Issue #: 032

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: October 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 11 pages

Print Release: 16-August-1939

Digital Release: 10-September-2011

Writer:
Pencilers:
Inkers:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“Batman Versus the Vampire Part 2”



Detective Comics (1937) #33 Cover
Series: Detective Comics (1937)

Issue #: 033

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: November 1939

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count: 13 pages

Print Release: 13-September-1939

Digital Release: 10-September-2011


Writers:
DC Comics Logo
Pencilers:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
“The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom”



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