Commentary for Detective Comics #28 – Ben-Day Shots

Ben-Day Shots

Detective Comics #28

1939 June, Golden Age

Cover Price: 10 cents

Untitled Story (Frenchy & the Jewel Thieves)

Characters: Bruce Wayne / Batman (as ‘the Bat-Man’). First appearance of the Bat-rope (not called that).

I hope you’ll forgive me for the quality of the scans. Not my fault.

I love the intro for this.

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We don’t know who he is. (PS: He’s Bruce Wayne.)

So there’s jewel thieves (or ‘jool thieves’ as they’re called by the newsie in the first panel. Hint: Phonetic accents don’t age well) pulling giant robberies. Batman, or rather Bruce Wayne since he doesn’t bother with the costume (which is fine, because he’s in his home), tricks ‘Gimpy’, the PD stool pigeon, into telling him where the jewel gang will be. He does this by disguising his voice and saying his Commissioner Gordon. Which means either 1) Batman has a magic larynx that can sound like anybody he wants 2) Gimpy is a moron who believes that anybody is anybody they say they are or 3) Commissioner Gordon sounds like Bruce Wayne. My money’s on the second one, but we’ll go with the first since, well, he’s Batman (or rather the Bat-Man).

Please also note, that according to the newsie the police had no clues, but apparently Gordon was supposed to know that Gimpy was finding out info. Which sounds like a clue to me. I’m assuming that Bruce knows this since Gordon tells him anything (see: Detective Comics 27).

Naturally, once again the Bat-Man chooses to attack the thieves after they’ve pulled the heist, instead of before or during. Please also note, that apparently Bruce agreed with me that the purple gloves were ridiculous, but didn’t have time to pick up anything else, because he’s wearing none at all. Let me repeat that: the Bat-Man, a man wanted by the police, is going to a crime scene and assaulting people while being able to leave fingerprints everywhere . Oh Bruce. You’re brain-damaged aren’t you? That explains everything.

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Seriously?

At very least this times there’s an explanation for why the crooks don’t just shoot him, and a fairly good one at that. ‘The “Bat-Man” downs one of the jewel thieves as the other, fearful that a shot from a gun might attract the police, draws the ever silent knife…’ Remember, 1940s New York (equivalent), before everybody and his brother had a gun (I exaggerate. Or possibly flat-out lie. I’ve never been to New York) and the place is so noisy that you couldn’t hear one anyway. (Again, possibly lying; never been to New York.)

The second page suffers from an excess of scare quotes and underlines. (Yes, all that blather was about a single page. Hush.)

The “Bat-Man” reaches down of the bag of stolen jewels – and does a curious thing – he stops – he “seems” to be waiting…
The body of the man that went over the roof has attracted the police. They “seem” to “surprise” the “Bat-Man” who “drops” the bag of jewels…
To the horrified eyes of the police, the “Bat-Man” dives off the roof.

Yes, Batman threw a man off the roof. Street pizza anybody? This is also the first appearance of the ‘tough silk rope’ that eventually becomes the bat-rope. The ‘tough silk rope’ that magically appears on his belt one panel before he needs it.

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Ok, go back and look at all those other panels. No rope. So unless he pulled it out during the aerial somersault in the previous (unshown) panel, it just appears right before he needs it. Where do I get some?

Okay, so naturally, being seen by the police was all part of the Bat-Man’s plan. Which still doesn’t explain the lack of gloves. Yes, I’m going to harp on that.

So next we see a monocled goateed man that we know is the bad guy even before we read his speech balloon. Thank you comic book stereotypes! What would we do without you? This is also apparently Frenchy. Because all Frenchmen have goatees and monocles. We’re just lucky they don’t give him horrible phonetic accent. Not even a ‘monsieur’ or ‘mon dieu.’

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For some reason this doesn’t make me think French.

I love how Gimpy and Frenchy didn’t get quotes but the “Bat-Man”, “Ricky” , “Gloves” and “Slick” do. Yes, every time.

So anyway, Frenchy’s gang assumes that the cops are now looking for the Bat-Man and that they’re in the clear. Which was the Bat-Man’s plan and naturally he’s watching and waiting. The next robbery he’s there (naturally, again after they’ve already done it), knocks them out, ties them up, and calls the cops. Again, no gloves. While holding a phone. A surface almost tailor-made to take fingerprints. Of course this is also assuming that Gordon doesn’t suddenly think ‘why hey, that phone call from the “Bat-Man” sounded just like Bruce Wayne with a cold! Huh!’ And we get to see the red not-bat-at-all-mobile again.

So he heads over to Frenchy’s place, where Frenchy is playing solitaire. And we get to see his magic voice in action again, as he somehow manages to sound like at least one of Frenchy’s men, if not both of them at once. I would love to know how that works. Wouldn’t you like to have that skill?

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Solitaire: Just the thing to pass the time while waiting for a crime to be complete. And: the Bat-Man’s magic voice in action. (No, I’m not going to comment on the ‘thought’ bubble. This was before such things were solidified.)

And in a scene that is almost straight out of The Dark Knight, Batman dangles Frenchy out of a window and threatens to make some more street pizza. of course, here it’s actually believable, since we’ve already seen Batman kill two people, and only Bruce knows how many he whacked before Detective Comics 27.

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Of course, once the confession is written and signed, Frenchy decides it would be a good idea to throw himself at the Bat-Man. Frenchy, sweetie, this is the man that just dangled you out a window.

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Yeah, you pretty much asked for that.

So the Bat-Man dumps him on the doorstop of the Police Department – one advantage to a car that doesn’t scream ‘I’m driven by a man obsessed with bats!’ – with the evidence and a note, and thus finishes another instance of the Bat-Man doing the police departments work for them. Thank you Bat-Man.

(Yes, okay, if you look, he may have been drawn with gloves and they were then colored wrong. Doesn’t matter.)

Icons:

(As always, icons may be used or modified as you wish, with credit to DC Comics.)

Credits: Rob’t Kane (that is, Bob Kane. Pencils, inks, letters) (script: Bill Finger)

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