Ben-Day Shots – Detective Comics #31 & 32

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Yeah, this is a special double-sized post!

Detective Comics #31

September 1939, Golden Age
Cover Price: 10 cents
Untitled (Part 1 of Mad Monk)

Characters: Batman, Mad Monk, giant gorilla. 1st appearance of Batarang, Batgyro, and Julie Madison.

Another lovely cover.

The story opens with Batman stalking… a woman in a half open bathrobe.

That or the man in the green coat. You never know

Annnnnnd apparently she’s his fiancee, Julie Madison. I’m guessing they’re not especially close, seeing as we’ve seen that he keeps his costume only barely hidden in his house. She also doesn’t recognize his car (or Bruce is smart enough to have a separate car for ‘The Batman’). BTW, his car has changed from red to brown. And Bruce can change his voice enough that she doesn’t recognize it. And she can’t recognize her fiancee’s chin.*

Edited for conciseness – and you have no idea how hard it was to decide what to cut. For once I’m going to leave the snarky comment up to you, because there are so many options

* I’ve got this unsupportable theory that everyone or nearly everyone in the DC Universe has face blindness, which would explain why masks, glasses, and other barely disguising disguises work. They can’t recognize faces, so people are relying on context, speech patterns, body language, and clothes to recognize people (similar to real life people with face blindness).

To get back to Miss Madison, does anybody else expect her to die a horrible death? Is it bad that I think that? Or am I just conditioned by too many years of comics?

Anyway, Bruce takes her to a doctor who suggests she may have been hypnotized, and then suggests the cure for everything, an ocean voyage. … Yeah, I don’t get the connection either, but he’s an old white-haired doc, so either he knows what he’s talking about or he’s in the throes of dementia. One of the two.

… it’s probably dementia.

So Bruce sees his fiancee off on her cruise. Alone. To a country stated to have werewolves.

On the other hand, we get this nice picture of Bruce topless… which also serves to illustrate how incredibly bad he is at hiding the whole Batman thing…

And Bruce has apparently built a hangar onto the mansion. I’ve always wondered how that happens. Does he build it all himself? Does he bring in contractors that don’t know anyone in the country? What? I know, it’s just a comic book, things don’t have to make complete sense and it’s best not to think to hard about it, but I can’t help it (and I’m good company). We also see the first use of the batarang. Apparently in the 40s, boomerangs were still exotic enough to lead to the caption: ‘the flying batarang, modeled after the Australian Bushman’s boomerang!’

It quickly becomes apparent that Messrs Kane and Fox were much enamored with the batgyro.

Batman is also much enjoying freaking the hell out of people. The bastard.

Suddenly with no explanation the Mad Monk shows up on the cruise ship (unless the doctor is actually the Mad Monk or something). According to Bruce the Mad Monk can hypnotize people by staring at them and holding out his arms. Funny, I thought that was the signal for ‘dance with me already’, because hypnosis does NOT work that way. So Batman takes off in his batgyro, leaving his fiancee, again, unprotected on the ship, now known to have the enemy actually on it. Bruce really doesn’t care about her at all, does he?

So they get to Paris, and rather than following Julie, or say, getting the address of the hotel ahead of time, Batman wanders around, freaking out hundreds of Frenchmen, until he finally finds her. And is promptly attacked by a giant gorilla. And dodges right through a hidden door into a net. Because somehow the Monk has laid a trap for him. A trap involving a gorilla, a sliding door, and a net. How do these things get built? Does every building the DC Universe have spare rooms just in case someone needs a death trap? Or just big gaps between walls and huge basements?

I don’t know why this is bothering me so much, but there’s apparently a huge dungeon under the hotel Miss Madison is staying in. Okay, I know Paris has catacombs and stuff, but this is just silly. Especially since in one panel we see a WINDOW.

(And this is the edited for conciseness version). In what kind of world does a hotel have a dungeon below it but Batman doesn’t have a knife in his belt?

Naturally, Batman escapes. The Mad Monk traps him in a cage with the ape while he runs off to send Julie to Hungary (as the creepy doctor predicted. Is he connected somehow? Spoiler: Not in any way that we ever find out.) Batman escapes again, follows after the Mad Monk’s stylish green sedan, rescues Julie and then the issue ends, leaving Batman to search an entire country to find his antagonist. Bob, Hungary is in fact fairly large (so is Paris for that matter, but whatever) and I’m sure there were libraries in 1939, you could’ve gone a looked up a city. Pick one at random. How is Batman going to find the Monk when the only directions he has are Hungary and werewolves?

I, however, like resolutions, so scroll down for the second part.

Detective Comics #32

October 1939, Golden Age
Cover Price: 10 cents
Untitled (Part 2 of Mad Monk)

Characters: Batman, Julia Madison, Mad Monk, Dala.

Part two opens with the Batman stalking a horse-drawn carriage, in Hungary. Apparently Hungary doesn’t yet have the internal combustion engine or possibly electricity. That’s rather unfair. And keep in mind, that it does have werewolves. Perhaps the werewolves were afraid of being run down and have a very successful lobbyist. Alright, so Batman attacks a carriage that was apparently supposed to contain the Monk. Instead it has a pretty, barely clad (for 1939 anyway) woman, and Batman kidnaps her, as one does. But he’s still concerned about Julie, so it’s okay.

Bruce, the trick to starting a harem is not to let the harem girls talk to each other.

Bruce, once again showing remarkable intelligence, has the two ladies go to sleep in the same room. In the middle of the night Dala wanders out, all zombie-style, with blood on her mouth. To recap that: Bruce put a strange woman that he suspects may be connected to a known bad guy and from a country that we’ve been told has werewolves in the same room as his fiancee. And thus, to no one’s surprise but perhaps the Batman’s, she clobbers him over the head with a statue and escapes. And yes, she’s probably a vampire, and yes, she bit Miss Madison. Can we start the countdown to Miss Madison’s horrible demise yet?

No shit.

And we get some dialogue that really could’ve used an editor. “I thought you an accomplice of your evil master who calls himself the Monk. So you are vampires!!” *sigh* That only barely makes sense Bob. How about ‘I thought you an accomplice of the evil man who calls himself the Monk. So you are vampires!!’? And more: “I’ll tell you where you may find him if you promise to kill him!” “I’ll be the judge of that!” Those two statements do not relate, Bob.

At least the art is pretty.

And the Batman just leaves Miss Madison alone to follow this strange woman that he knows bites people, including, let me remind you, his fiancee. But he gives her money! That makes it okay! *sigh*

Apparently in the DC Universe money is as good as a silver cross.

So the Batman and Dala set off in the Batplane (formerly Batgyro, perhaps changed because Batgyro sounded stupid) which then gets netted. Magically. AND Batman gets hypnotized by the Monk. AND Dala betrays him. And Miss Madison. Wonderful. And yet, I still think that she might be against the Monk. Perhaps I’m naive. Then we get this:

The artist has apparently never seen a wolf or for that matter a dog, because that wolf looks like a badger. Or a very fat ferret.

This is obviously before most of the vampire and werewolf movies because they’re all mixed in together as they were in mythology (in other words, I’m not nitpicking that, I’m lauding it. Go read Dracula).

Worst pep-talk ever.

And Batman gets thrown to the wolves.

The Batman: Not smart enough to protect his fiancee from strange women or remember what he has in his own belt.
The Batman: Not smart enough to protect his fiancee from strange women or remember what he has in his own belt.

So Bruce sees the Monk sleeping, finds a silver statue (and why does the Monk have silver in his home? I realize the average household has hundreds of things that can kill the occupant, but I assume if the occupant is allergic to peanuts they don’t have a jar of Planter’s outside their bedroom), molds silver bullets and SHOOTS him. Let me state this again, the Batman, who is well known not to like guns, shoots the Monk, with a gun, which either he found in the house, thus proving the Monk’s stupidity, or that he brought, which is weird and disturbing.

And once again we get no resolution. Just Batman shoots the Monk, gets hugged by Miss Madison, and they fly away. Nothing about Dala or the people we see in the row of coffins we see Batman walk past, nothing about the werewolves or the giant ape, nothing about the creepy creepy doctor. But Julie Madison is fine. So far.

On the one hand I like that Batman isn’t y’know, omniscient and omnipotent here. On the other hand, he could be less stupid. And while the general plot is fine, the details make no sense (where’d the giant ape come from? How does it relate? Are there just giant apes for hire in Paris or something? Did the Mad Monk manage to get his deposit back on the ape?) See Detective Comments for more in-depth nit-picking. Apparently the cover of #31 is one of the most homaged and if you search for it, you’ll find a several recreations. The most famous homage is probably Batman #227, although the Neal Adams art is rather more dynamic than the original.

Icons

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As always, all icons can be used however you want. Credit Silvercat and DC Comics. Or don’t. I don’t actually care. The icons are named with the issue number.

Credits: Bob Kane (pencils & inks) (writer: Gardner Fox, backgrounds: Sheldon Moldoff). Full credits, as always, thanks to the Grand Comics Database (#31 & #32)

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