Detective Comics #27
November 15, 2010
The Caped Crusader's first adventure! ...was very short and his cape didn't look right.
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. And welcome once again to "Secret Origins Month"!
("Secret Origins Month" title is shown)
Linkara: (looking up in thought) You know, I just realized that I don't even have to record those opening lines. I could just edit the same thing in over and over, and you'd never know... How's that for a mind screw? (smiles)
(Cut to a montage of shots of Batman comics that Linkara looked at in the past)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, next up in the origins department is the Dark Knight Detective, Batman. From fighting aliens to calling people retarded, Batman certainly had his fair share of history, but how did it all begin?
(Cut to a shot of an early Superman comic)
Linkara (v/o): After the success of Superman, national publications asked for more superheroes.
(Cut to a tribute to Bob Kane)
Linkara (v/o): According to a tribute that Jeanette Khan, former editor-in-chief at DC had written when Bob Kane died, Kane and Bill Finger originally conceived the idea of Batman on a bench outside of Edgar Allan Poe's house.
(Cut to a shot of Bill Finger)
Linkara (v/o): Finger himself had said that Batman had been an idea of Bob Kane's, but the original ideas for the character were quite different.
(Cut to a shot of an early concept for Batman, who is quite different, as Linkara explains...)
Linkara (v/o): He only had a domino mask, red tights, no gloves, and bat-like wings instead of a cape. Influence for the character himself, like Superman, came from pop culture.
(Cut to Alfred on Batman: The Animated Series)
Linkara (v/o): Having a cavernous lair that you gained entrance to via secret passage, as well as a rich man leading a double life as a vigilante?
(Cut to a shot of Zorro)
Linkara (v/o): They got those ideas from The Mark of Zorro.
(Cut to a shot of an old movie called The Bat Whispers)
Linkara (v/o): Another inspiration for the costume was a 1930 film called The Bat Whispers, where there was a killer in a bat mask and cape.
(Cut to a shot of Bob Kane)
Linkara (v/o): Like with Superman's creation, there's some controversy surrounding the creators of Batman. When Bob Kane sold the character to DC...
(Editor's note: "Sold it to National, since DC didn't exist at the time.")
Linkara (v/o): ...he got sole rights to the credit of the creation, meaning he got most of the fame and glory with it.
(Cut to two shots of Bill Finger)
Linkara (v/o): However, Bill Finger was equally responsible for much of the character's look, personality, and a ton of the mythos of Batman. It was a point of understandable irritation for the guy. Made worse is that Kane also used ghost artists who would draw a lot of art, get paid for their work, but were never credited for it. It wasn't an uncommon practice at the time, but I can imagine it's not useful for resumes.
Linkara: (holding up a Batman comic book, which credits creation to Kane) Even today, Bob Kane still gets sole credit for Batman in the actual work.
(Cut back to the cover of Batman's first appearance in "Detective Comics #27")
Linkara (v/o): However, as I said in the Superman video, there are equally valid points from both sides about arguments concerning this kind of thing, and I'm not here to pick sides. We're here to talk about comic books.
Linkara: So let's dig into the story that started The Batman: "Detective Comics #27".
(Title sequence plays, followed by title card for this episode, which has the theme for the old Batman TV show playing over it; cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linakra (v/o): You may be surprised to learn that the first Batman story is not an origin story. In fact, it's only six pages long, and the beginning makes it clear that Batman has been operating for a while. We'll take a look at the actual origin story later, but first, let's take a look at the first story with all of our modern biases and laugh at the writing quirks of 1939. Our cover is of Batman swinging around the city and carrying a guy.
Linkara: (as Batman) Huh, there goes Spider-Man carrying around somebody, and Superman with Vincent Price. Must be Wednesday.
Linkara (v/o): It's kind of bland otherwise, save for one caption at an angle...
Text: Starting this issue: The amazing and unique adventures of THE BATMAN!
Linkara (v/o): Unique, huh?
(Cut to shots of a comic of The Shadow)
Linkara (v/o): Ironically, according to a website provided by fans, some investigative work actually uncovered that this story is kind of a ripoff of a story featuring The Shadow from a few years prior. Whoops.
(Cut back to "Detective Comics #27")
Linkara (v/o): We open to some narration among the title panel.
Narrator: The "BAT-MAN", a mysterious and adventurous figure, fighting for righteousness and apprehending the wrong doer, in his lone battle against the evil forces of society...
Linkara: Yeah, it's a little-known fact that the police never fight against the evils of society.
Linkara (v/o): We begin at the home of Commissioner Gordon, sporting a thin mustache and a bizarre-looking suit, opposite his young socialite friend, Bruce Wayne.
Bruce: Well, Commissioner, anything exciting happening these days?
Commissioner Gordon: No. Oh, except this fellow they call the "Bat-Man" puzzles me!
Linkara: (as Gordon) I mean, does he have a hyphen in his name or not? There's no consistency about it.
Linkara (v/o): Suddenly, the phone rings.
Gordon: Hello...what's that? Lambert, the Chemical King... stabbed to death? His son's finger prints on the knife?
Linkara: (as Gordon, holding up his pinkie and thumb like a phone) Repeat what you say so we don't have to show the other side of the conversation?
Gordon: Talk about something exciting... Old Lambert has been murdered at his mansion...I'm going there now, like to come along?
Linkara: (smiling) Hey, civilian, want to come to the gruesome murder scene?
Bruce: Oh well, nothing else to do, might as well.
Linkara: (as Bruce, hastily) I'm not Batman! I'm totally not Batman! (beat, burying his face in his arm) I'm Batman.
Linkara (v/o): The two arrive at the scene, Bruce Wayne still smoking a pipe, because getting ashes everywhere is just so helpful at a crime scene. By the way, a note on the coloring: the skin I'm using here is a reprint, since the scan of the original "Detective Comics #27"... well, looks like this. (the comic turns muted) The writing is the same, but they fixed up the colors, (the colors return to normal) though making some odd color choices. Why is Commissioner Gordon's hat bright green with a gray suit?
Linkara: If you're going to sport (points to his own hat) "The Hat of Power", then you have to make sure that (points to his coat) the fashion matches!
Linkara (v/o): Gordon talks to the son of the murdered man, who tells his side of the story. He had come home early to discover that his father was dead with a knife in his back and the safe opened. All the father could say as he was dying was...
Linkara (v/o): The reason he got fingerprints on the knife was because he pulled it out of his father's back. Smooth move, kid. The house receives a phone call from one of the murdered man's business associates who informs Gordon that the murdered man had gotten a death threat earlier.
Associate on phone: And I'm afraid I'll be next... What shall I do?
Gordon: Wait...and do not leave anybody in...
Linkara: Leave anybody in? The hell does that mean? Does he have a guy cooking in the oven?
Linkara (v/o): Bruce decides to leave and, just as I anticipated, empties his pipe ashes right onto the floor. The world's greatest detective, ladies and gentlemen! Meanwhile, the other industrialist is murdered by a guy in an orange-striped suit. The hell is up with fashion in the 1930s? Our tiger-print villain then steals a paper from the man's safe and climbs out the window to the roof. What, is he planning to escape by helicopter? Why wouldn't he escape to the ground? However, their daring airship escape by...
Thug in orange-striped suit: THE BAT-MAN!!!
Linkara (v/o): Yes, the Bat-Man, who, with his purple gloves of vengeance, delivers a mighty blow to one crook and then proceeds to headlock the guy and then toss him over his shoulder. How the hell does he get in this sort of position?
Linkara: (as Batman, imitating his pose) I'm Batman.
Linkara (v/o): The police arrive too late and Batman gets away, but Gordon quickly concludes that all the business partners are in danger.
Gordon: Let's go to Rogers next!
Linkara: (as Gordon) We'll just go to them one at a time. No worries, it's not like they're being murdered or anything... Oh, wait...
Narrator: The "Bat-Man" reads the paper he snatched from the killers and a grim smile comes to his UPS.
Linkara (v/o): Uh, I'm sure that's supposed to say "lips", but sadly, the lettering here isn't exactly at its best.
Narrator: He speeds his car towards an unknown destination.
Linkara (v/o): Ah, behold the first appearance of Batman's classic vehicle, the Batmob– er, uh, coupe. And painted bright red! Surely this will strike fear in the heart of evil. Anyway, the businessman Gordon's on his way to, named Rogers, goes to the fourth and final one, named Stryker. He's met at the door by John Goodman* here, who promptly knocks him out. John Goodman is Stryker's assistant and he puts Rogers underneath a lowering glass bubble. He explains that the bubble is actually a gas chamber used for experimenting, and he'll kill him that way instead of, you know, with a gun or knife or something. Like a true Bond villain, he walks downstairs while his nefarious death trap goes into action.
- NOTE: Actually, his name is Jennings, as the comic clearly displays.
Narrator: At that moment the "Bat-Man" leaps through an open transom...
Linkara: Yeah, it's important to have a nice, big, open, windowless skylight in your sterile laboratory.
Narrator: The "Bat-Man"...
Linkara (v/o): Oh, stop the quotes already! You're just starting to sound like even you don't take this seriously.
Narrator: ...seizes a wrench from a table and leaps for the gas-chamber. The "Bat-Man" quickly plugs the gas-jet with a handkerchief, as the gas-chamber descends entirely over them...
Linkara: (as Batman) I'm Batman, and I can breathe poisonous gas in a gas chamber. (beat) I am the night!
Linkara (v/o): Batman smashes the glass and gets Rogers out. John Goodman returns, but of course Batman just socks him with the purple fist of justice! Well, to be accurate, he... um, attacks his crotch first...
(Smiling, Linkara raises his index finger)
Offscreen singers: The Ambiguously Gay Duo!
Linkara (v/o): Rogers meets up with Stryker and informs him that his assistant tried to kill him. Stryker pulls a knife, saying he has to finish the job himself and throw him into the acid tank below, because I guess this guy just stores huge acid tanks in his laboratory that someone can fall into. However, once again, it's the oddly-eared Batman to the rescue, grabbing Stryker and explaining the situation.
Batman: This rat was behind the murders! You see, I learned that you, Lambert, Crane and Stryker, were once partners in the Apex Chemical Corporation... Stryker, who wished to be sole owner, but having no ready cash, made secret contracts with you, to pay a certain sum of money each year until he owned the business. He figured by killing you and stealing the contracts, he wouldn't have to pay his money.
(Cut to a clip of Wayne's World)
Old Man Withers (Carmen Filpi): And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for you snooping kids!
(Back to the Batman comic)
Linkara (v/o): Batman explains that he figured it out, thanks to the contract he got off the killers. Suddenly, Stryker shoves Batman away and starts ranting.
Stryker: Sure...I did it! But you won't send me to the 'chair' for it!!! I'll–
Linkara (v/o): And the Purple Fist of Justice speaks once again! However, he falls through the safety railings! Geez, OSHA's gonna have a fit when they see how weak the railings are.
Rogers: He's falling right into the acid tank!
Linkara: (as Batman) Oh, crap! Um... Uh, is he... I'm pretty sure he was a fan of rock 'n' roll. (nods) Yeah. (looks around shiftily)
Linkara (v/o): So Batman flies back away... somehow. The next day, Bruce and Commissioner Gordon are talking, with the Commissioner explaining the final details of the case.
Bruce: Hmm! A very lovely fairy-tale, Commissioner, indeed.
Linkara: Fairy tale? Uh, Bruce, what's in the pipe?
Linkara (v/o): Later, after Bruce is gone...
Gordon: ...Bruce Wayne is a nice young chap– but he certainly must lead a boring life... Seems disinterested in everything.
Linkara: (as Gordon) Ah, well, regardless of the problem, smoking is the answer.
Narrator: Bruce Wayne returns home to his room... A little later his door slowly opens... and reveals its occupant... If the Commissioner could see his young friend now... he'd be amazed to learn that he is the "BAT-MAN!"
Linkara: (as Batman) Man, I need a butler or something, 'cause I really don't know how to put on a cape. Also, I should get a cave. That last chick I did was wondering why all my Batman stuff was in my room. She thought I was into some weird stuff.
Linkara (v/o): So, yeah, the first Batman story ever made. It's simple, but it does highlight a few elements that would be commonplace later, like Batman's sudden disappearances, his quick thinking, his detective skills. On the other hand, though, the artwork is not exactly up to par. The coloring is... odd, in more than one spot, and Batman had to kind of get over the whole killing people thing. Once or twice in the early days, he even used a gun. Now, of course, people are free to have their own opinions on this, but personally, I've always been against superheroes using lethal force for numerous reasons and Batman especially, given his own past. He's not the Punisher, for crying out loud. He's a dark vigilante, sure, but he's trying to create a better world, a world where an eight-year-old kid wouldn't lose his parents like he did.
Linkara: Which brigns me to the other disappointment of this issue: the lack of an origin story. However, for your enjoyment, here's a bonus for today...
(Cut to a shot of the cover for "Detective Comics #33")
Linkara (v/o): Batman's origin story didn't actually come until six issues later in "Detective Comics #33". We're not going to look at the full issue or the full story, mostly because the digital copy I have...
(Cut to a shot of the digital copy, which looks all washed out and discolored)
Linkara (v/o): ...well, looks like this. Plus, every version that I find is missing a page.
(Cut to a shot of the cover of a comic called "Batman Chronicles")
Linkara (v/o): However, it is reprinted in "Batman Chronicles Volume 1" if you're interested. Fortunately, the awesome fans Chad Polenz – sorry if I mispronounced that – and Charles Poole were both fantastic enough to email me scans of the origin story.
(Cut to panels of this origin story)
Linkara: Uh, myth! What the hell was that for?
Narrator: The Batman and how he came to be! Slash! Exclamation point!
Linkara (v/o): What the heck's up with the typo there? Is that supposed to be another exclamation point? I mean, come one, no one had any whiteout or a marker or a crayon or something? Just make that look better?
Narrator: Some fifteen years ago, Thomas Wayne, his wife, and son, were walking home from a movie...
Linkara: So, for the nerds out there, that would make Batman roughly 23 or so when he started crimefighting. Nowadays, he's... (hesitates) thiiiiooooorrrtyyy... -ish?
Thomas: W-What's this?
Mugger: A stickup, buddy! I'll take that necklace you're wearin' lady!
Thomas: Leave her alone, you. Oh...
Linkara: (as Thomas) Oh, I just realized that bullets hurt... (falls over)
Linkara (v/o): When Martha Wayne starts yelling for help, the mugger shoots her, too.
Narrator: The boy's eyes are wide with terror and shock as the horrible scene is spread before him.
Linkara (v/o): And I guess the mugger just decided, "Uh, geez, maybe I overreacted and ran off." Bruce makes his best sad puppy face as he realizes his parents are dead.
Narrator: Days later, a curious and strange scene takes place.
Bruce: (Linkara uses adult Batman voice, even though Bruce is a child) And I swear by the spirits of my parents to avenge their deaths by spending the rest of my life warring on all criminals.
Linkara: (as Bruce, also praying) And someday, perhaps I will express surprise at the presence of a deadly bee weapon.
Narrator: As the years pass, Bruce Wayne prepares himself for his career. He becomes a master scientist.
Linkara: (as Bruce) Only a science major could fight crime like this.
Linkara (v/o): By the way, Bruce, I'm not an expert, but maybe you ought to do something about all that carbon monoxide that's floating around your laboratory.
Narrator: Trains his body to physical perfection until he is able to perform amazing athletic feats.
Linkara: (as Alfred) Yes, Master Bruce, that's very impressive, but perhaps you should put more than ten pounds on either side.
Linkara (v/o): Later, by firelight, he thinks that he must have a disguise.
Bruce: Criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot.
Linkara: Frankie, don't step on that crack! You'll break your mother's back!
Bruce: So my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts. I must be a creature of the night, black, terrible...a...a...
Linkara: (as Bruce) A possum! Yes, of course! I shall become a possum!
Narrator: As if in answer, a huge bat flies in the open window!
Bruce: A bat! That's it! It's an omen. I shall become a BAT!
Linkara: (as Bruce, calling out) Alfred, get me some insects to munch and some hair to be entangled in!
Narrator: And thus is born this weird figure of the dark... this avenger of evil, "The Batman".
Linkara (v/o): Technically, by the phrasing of that sentence, doesn't that mean he avenges for evil?
Linkara: This origin has not changed that much. Few comics retell the exact moment where he chooses the bat, but usually uses the same word since it's just classic. Details are added like the training and whatnot, but otherwise, it's the same now as it was then, and we wouldn't have it any other way. (gets up from his seat and leaves)
(End credits cut due to copyrighted music and video)