Ben-Day Shots – Detective Comics #29


Detective Comics #29

1939 July, Golden Age
Cover Price: 10 cents

This one starts with a great cover. I wish I had a better version, or could find a nice large version, but it’s awesome. We’ll see what Photoshop magic can do. Unfortunately, Batman is still running around bare-handed. Bruce, you’re supposed to be smarter than that. (and YES, I will harp on that until it changes.) The cover has dropped the hyphen in his name too, which is nice, cuz it was annoying to type ‘the Bat-Man’ over and over again. Bats is sporting more of a wing than cape look, which is nifty, if completely impractical. And our mad scientist looks like he has pointy ears. Hm.

But onto to the content itself.

The Batman meets Doctor Death

Characters: Bruce Wayne (with Bruce actually doing stuff), Batman, Doctor Death (Doctor Karl Hellfern), Jabah.

The title panel is still ‘The Bat-Man’ in rather awkward letters, which I won’t continue on, since Todd Klein has done a much better job than I ever could. (see the first part his Batman logo study)

Well, I can see why Doctor Death goes by that rather than his name. Hellfern? Seriously? If I wasn’t so lazy I’d photoshop some sort of hellfern, but you shall have to visualize it yourself.

Anyway, Doctor Hellfern Death tells his large supposedly-Indian servant with the unfortunate name of Jabah that he’s finished something important. That something is his ‘death by pollen extract,’ which sounds ridiculous to me, especially since ferns don’t have pollen. They use spores. He’s going to use his pollen extract to blackmail wealthy people, as one does. Showing that he’s got brains to back up that doctorate he figures out that ‘the Bat Man’ will notice quickly. Of course, rather than giving up and, I dunno, selling this killing method to the government or something, he decides he must trap the Batman. And to do it through the personal notice column of the newspaper, because all vigilantes read the personals.

His servant never says a word. Actually I don’t know if he’s a servant, assistant, or boyfriend. But in any case, it’s obvious he has to put up with this from Doctor Death all the time and has given up pointing out the stupidity involved.

Oh, and Doctor Death is the mad scientist from the cover, and yes he has pointy ears. Presumably because he’s evil. Or an elf. It’s hard to be sure.

Er, I had an accident with a mechanical fern picker as a child.

Apparently Doctor Death purchased the largest possible ad to get Batman’s attention. No seriously. (Look, I know they did it like that so the readers can actually see it, but that’s why they make insets Bob!)

We get to see where Bruce is keeping his bat-stuff. In a chest right in front of a window. *Sigh* And puts on really ridiculous looking suction gloves. Again *sigh*

But at least he’s wearing gloves! And the bat-rope doesn’t magically appear when needed. He does however look silly in that red car, which he decides is too conspicuous and hides in a construction lot. Hmmm, Chekov’s construction anyone? We shall see.

So he swings up to a window sill and then uses the suction cups to climb up. They look as silly as you’d imagine. Oh, lord. The next panels caption kills me. Just kills me. ‘Like a gigantic bat he moves up the sheer face of the building.’ You know, oddly enough, I don’t think of bats as climbing up buildings. They fly, don’t they? Isn’t it geckos that can climb up sheer surfaces? Admittedly that would sound ridiculous, but come on! He’s wearing suction cup gloves and kneepads. Kneepads! Aren’t kneepads one of those inherently funny things?

Batman on his daily commute.

Right, so the whole thing is a trap (remember that from before I started about ranting about geckos and kneepads?) So naturally there are gunmen waiting inside to shoot Batman as soon as he enters. Naturally enough they talk before shooting which gives Batman more than a chance to flatten them. He then proceeds to threaten them with a gun. I love Early Installment Weirdness.

Jabah shoots Batman and gets a face full of choking gas in return. Right, so Batman escapes, as we knew he would. Somehow he manages to climb down, bandage himself up (while unmasked) and places a public notice in the newspaper tell Doctor Death to bring it on. Oh, and then because his shoulder is aching goes and sees his doctor. I love you Bruce, please never change.

Because the searing pain of a gunshot wound is completely unimportant, but god forbid he have an ache.

Right, so Doctor Death sends Jabah off on an errand to kill a guy with the silly name of John P. van Smith. So… he’s English Dutch English? What?

The cape makes him inconspicuous. Also, please notice the picture. ‘Doomed’ and skull and crossbones. You know Doctor Death is serious now!

Bruce (not Batman) saves van Smith from horrible death by covering his face with a handkerchief. I have no words.

No words

And so Bruce follows Jabah home, makes note of the address, and returns that night properly attired. One wonders how it is that no one ever figured out Batman’s identity. I maintain that everyone knows, just no one tells anyone else because it’s supposed to be a secret. Please don’t poke holes in my theory. It amuses me.

WAIT. Ok, so Batman is breaking in using a glass cutter to cut a round hole, as they always do. But then he walks through a rectangular hole. What the hell artist? They’re right next to each other! You don’t even have the excuse of forgetting from one page to another. They’re right next to each other!!!

What the hell?!!

Hold on a minute while I sputter about this some more.

Okay, I’m back.

Okay, so after that bit of wtfuckery, Batman attacks Jabah and Doctor Death. Doctor Death tries to escape through a secret chute, because no evil lair is complete without one. Batman follows. They run around. I’d imagine like something out of Scooby Doo. Doctor Death returns to the lab, where we see that Jabah wasn’t just choked but strangled. To death. Batman throws a fire extinguisher at Doctor Death which causes a fire (oh, irony). Doctor Death starts laughing madly and, oh lord, I can’t believe I’m typing this, but Batman walks away to let him burn to death.

Yes I have scanned proof.

This brings your death count up to what again? (Answer: Two in this issue, at least one, possibly two in #27, and possibly one in #28)
This brings your death count up to what again? (Answer: Two in this issue, at least one, possibly two in #27, and possibly one in #28)

… You know what’s sad? We never saw Doctor Death kill anyone. We’ve been cheated! It’s okay though, he comes back next issue. (I hope that didn’t ruin anything for you)

(I’d take ideas for captions for any of these. Or any of the icons I make)

Credits: Bob Kane (pencils & inks) (writer: Gardner Fox) *(information from the Grand Comic-Book Database at

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