Retro Comics are Awesome

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:39 am

Detective Comics #154
December 1949

Underground Railroad of Crime!
This is the very last story with a 1940s cover date, and the 373rd Batman story.

Prisoners are escaping from the state prison and cannot be found. Batman is called in. The warden is convinced that the convicts are being smuggled out of the country somehow, and Batman speculates about an "underground railroad" for criminals, and since all the known escapees had loot hidden somewhere, they're paying their way out. He goes undercover, disguised as bank robber Jim Millan, known to have stolen loot hidden from the cops, in the hope that he'll be approached to make an escape. Sure enough, he is, but not before Millan's girlfriend comes to visit him in prison, and the disguised Bruce slips up by hinting to her that only he knows where the money is, when she knows as well. That turns out to be helpful when the syndicate does indeed break "Millan" out of prison and demand half his loot, and though Bruce does not know where it is, he tells them to ask his girlfriend to retrieve it.

In the end, Batman is forced to break cover, and having seen several stops on the "underground railroad" is able to find the last one, a helicopter ride to a boat out at sea. Batman is able to get on board the copter as it's taking off, break in through the cockpit, kayo the pilot and land the copter in the prison yard. In a nice way to end the story, Batman and Millan's girlfriend talk to the real Millan, and convince him to give up the location of the rest of his stolen loot, making him eligible for parole, and he vows to go straight, much to her delight. I always like it in these stories with hardened crooks when one is redeemed. Batman needs to score more wins than just putting men in jail. Nice concept for a story, and it's a chance for Batman to engage in some deduction, disguise and aerial acrobatics. Not bad.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 12:41 pm

Detective Comics #155
January 1950

Bruce Wayne, Detective!
Imagine Batman... having to study how to be a detective! The things I do to keep my identity a secret! (sigh)

Sometimes you can see the writers taking the same idea and exploring it from different angles over successive stories. On several occasions we've seen Bruce Wayne revealed as Batman only to contrive an explanation each time that preserves his secret identity, and we'll see more of that (though the association of Wayne with Batman in people's minds should be something Bruce avoids like the plague). Now we're starting to see Bruce as himself taking on more prominent roles in stories as well, which in some ways is a welcome idea to explore. He spends so much time as Batman we rarely see much of Bruce.

He's already spent a short stint as a policeman, and now thanks to Vicki Vale (who he is now dating... ask Linda Page and Julie Madison how that goes), Bruce takes a turn as a detective, as Vicki gets him to fill in for a detective friend of hers who is laid up in the hospital after an appendix operation. And naturally, Bruce is very good at the job. The plot really kicks in when a man wants to hire Bruce to get a model train that's in the Batcave. The man only knows it's there because Batman allowed Vicki in to photograph the cave and then publish the pictures! Say what? A second man also wants the train, and long story short, they both want it because a magnet in the model train made of wire wrapped around a tiny motor is actually a wire recording with blackmail information. The actual mystery about why the two crooks want the train is not bad, and I enjoy seeing Bruce acting as himself, but letting Vicki publicize the Batcave's existence and contents is a monumentally stupid thing for Bruce to do. But the plot hinges on it, so what can you do? Gripes aside, I liked this one.
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

Postby andersonh1 » Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:57 am

World's Finest Comics #44
February-March 1950

The Confession of Batman!
Dick is worried about Bruce, who hasn't been himself for a few days. When they head out as Batman and Robin to investigate a robbery, they find a clue in the form of a button. An examination yields no real clues, and then Dick notices that one of Bruce's suits is missing an identical button. The next night Bruce disappears and then returns, claiming not to know where he's been, and there is red clay on his shoes. Sure enough, the next "10 o'clock crime" shows that the crook left his footprints in some red clay, and casts prove the prints came from Bruce's shoes. Batman asks for a week to figure this out before turning the evidence over to the police, and Robin agrees.

The story doesn't leave us in suspense at all. The real culprit is a man named Jacuqes Venta, a former criminal turned botanist. He has a rare orchid in his house that has a hypnotic fragrance, and he got to Bruce while Bruce was visiting, and every night at 10 Bruce is under his control. Venta wants revenge because Bruce prevented his escape from a hotel after Venta had shot and robbed a guest there. Venta is going to frame Bruce for crimes that Bruce isn't actually committing. So every night Venta creates a crime and sees to it that Bruce is there and that evidence of his presence is found there. But Bruce worked it out by the scent of an orchid that Venta wore in his lapel when he woke from his hypnotism at one of the crime scenes, and a little theatricality with Robin playing along helps to trap Venta.

Apart from the unexplained ability of Venta to control Bruce from across town (where Bruce cannot possibly hear his voice), I very much enjoy that we get another "adventure of Bruce Wayne" here and get to see a lot more of Bruce outside the Batman costume. There seems to be a bit of an effort here to tone down the "playboy" persona and to elevate Bruce's moral standing in the public eye, and we'll see more of that soon. Robin's unwillingness to withhold evidence from the police comes across as odd, but it fits in an era where these two characters are essentially deputized lawmen, not vigilantes. And of course, the old idea that a hypnotized person cannot be made to act against their own beliefs comes into play, as Venta can direct Bruce to the various crime scenes, but has to commit the crimes himself since he cannot force Bruce to do so.
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