Detective Comics #33
1939 November, Golden Age
Cover Price: 10 cents
The Batman Wars Against the Dirigible of Doom
Characters: Batman, Bruce Wayne, Thomas Wayne, Mrs. Wayne, the Wayne’s killer (unnamed), silly red dirigible, the Scarlet Horde, Professor Carl Kruger, Travis, Bixley, Ryder, Bat-plane
(Edited October 2013) (CN: character death, fictional terrorism, mental ableism)
We start with a cover that has nothing to do with the comic, so I’m not including it. We really start with a cool image of Batman in the Bat-plane in the clouds looking at a red rocket-ship looking dirigible (which is a hard word to type). However, the story actually starts with Batman’s origin, which we all know by now.
“Some fifteen years ago, Thomas Wayne, his wife, and son, were walking home from a movie…” Why Bruce’s mom doesn’t get a name, I don’t know. Then, “Days later, a curious and strange scene takes place.”
Bruce becomes a master scientist and “trains his body to physical perfection”. And then we get the iconic scene (which involves a huge bat flying through an open window instead of crashing through it. I prefer the case that doesn’t involve Bruce immediately having to clean up a dead bat. Much better omen, that.)
Anyway, page four and we actually start the story. The red dirigible shines some red light that causes buildings to explode, leading to thousands of deaths. And the (pilots of the) gas bag say: “We come to rule the world. Do not resist us or the rays strike again. We the ‘Scarlet Horde’ warn you.”
You know, I’d give up about then. No seriously, look at this:
On the next page we learn that Bruce has a secret laboratory, with files. I’m going to assume these are Sherlock Holmes type files, and not the kind I keep (hey, CUTE guy! he’s going in my files *eyebrow waggle* You do it too, don’t lie). It should be noted though that this secret room has a giant picture window, which makes it less secret than mildly inconvenient to get into. Actually, either there’s a window in the secret room, or Bruce is still keeping the batsuit in a chest in the living room. In any case, he’s still keeping it in front of a window, which still puts the whole secret identity thing in serious danger.
Anyway, his files tell him about one Prof. Carl Kruger who was released from an insane asylum and is working a new type of death-ray. Isn’t there supposed to be some sort of government oversight for that sort of technology?
So the Batman goes to see him, in his “high-powered car” (it’s red, so you know it’s fast). And apparently the guy who has at least three pictures of Napoleon, or himself dressed as him, has managed to get, not only three other scientists to join him, but a two thousand man army. Thus proving that Gotham City has never ever ever been known for the reasoning abilities of its populace.
Actually he doesn’t seem to think he is Napoleon, so much as another Napoleon, and considering how much he looks like him, at least judging from the picture over his chair, that’s not terribly odd. Dressing like him, however…
Anyway, Batman shows up, attacks him to no use because there’s an apparently invisible piece of glass between them (that’s some good damn Windex, before the invention of Windex even), gets knocked out, tied up, left to die, and escapes.
Nowadays that would be an entire issue. This is a panel and ONE page (which I’m going to try to compress even more right…. now).
The next night Batman scares the hell out of one of Kruger’s lieutenants and follows him to the secret dirigible hangar, leading to this exchange:
Bixley, one of Kruger’s other lieutenants is showing small death-ray machines to be mounted to trucks, when Batman gasses everyone and blows up the machines. Without, it should be noted, removing the people that were standing next to them. Unless he did it off-panel, which is the theory I’m going to go with. He starts to attack the dirigible with an ax and gets shot by Kruger. And then disintegrated. Or did he?
Naturally, in the few minutes Kruger was gone to get a death-ray, Bruce overpowered the guard (while bleeding, but otherwise okay because of the bullet-proof vest he was wearing), and switched their clothes. As one does.
He spends the whole night making something mysterious and sprays it over the batplane. The next morning he flies out to confront the dirigible. And is somehow immune to the death ray. Because, of course, he could figure that out it one night. So he rams the dirigible. But is fine, because he had a parachute. And Kruger also escaped. So Batman lands on the wing and gasses Kruger, adding another to his death count. Nice going, Bruce, you murderer.
I spent way too long on some of these. As always, use however you want, preferably crediting Silvercat and DC Comics.
Credits: Bob Kane (pencils & inks) (writer: Bill Finger an the origin & Gardner Fox on the main story, backgrounds & lettering: Sheldon Moldoff). Full credits thanks to the Grand Comics Database.