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The Batman Chronicles Volume One by Bob Kane, Bill Finger and Gardner Fox

01/06/2005. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts

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pub: Titan Books. 190 page softcover. Price: 10.99 (UK). ISBN: 1-84576-036-0.

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I have to confess that although Batman is Bob Kane's creation, I added writers Bill Finger because he wrote 11 and Gardner Fox wrote 6 of the tales here to the credits above. Credit where credit is due and comicbooks have always been team projects.

This is a reprint of DC's US reprints of their earliest titles at a price that is more affordable than the hardbacks. 'The Batman Chronicles Volume One' contains the earliest tales of this vigilante covering his stories in Detective Comics # 27-38 and Batman # 1. Every comic fan has probably seen the cover of Detective # 27 but I had to pause to think if I'd ever read the story inside even in reprint. I hadn't. In fact there were several stories here I never read but only knew of. Chronicled together, it also gives a chance to see Bat-Man before they removed the hyphen, Batman as a complete word and his costume evolved. In one story he didn't even wear gloves. How he avoided rope burns I'll never know. It's also interesting to note his use of a gun on a couple occasions and allowing a couple people to die, one of whom he switched identities with to escape. I was beginning to think that Gotham City's - even if it didn't have a name at the time - Police Force was correct in treating Batman as a dangerous vigilante. Then again, considering the number of times that Commissioner Gordon took his pal, pipe-smoking Bruce Wayne, to murder investigations one has to wonder about his IQ. No doubt adding Robin in Detective # 38 was used to soften his image even if he did give the Boy Wonder some really dirty undercover jobs. Its enough to make you wonder what would have happened had any child protection agency would have done had it been around in those days.

Also significant amongst these tales is the first adventure of Professor Hugo Strange and the first two adventures featuring a green-haired white faced - and chest - Joker. What is significant here is how much an influence these were on Tim Burton's take on 'Batman' for his first film. The grins on the Joker's dead victims and his strolling around art galleries.

Batman's origin isn't put in until Detective # 33 and I didn't realise the two pages was really part of a larger story. Its also interesting to note that the decorative tubes on Batman's utility belt were to actually contain more than pellets but completely filled with chemical substances. This was changed much later but its interesting to see what was originally planned and the belt was probably a lot thicker than displayed.

No Bat-Cave yet even if Batman had a variety of cars and a monoplane that could, surprisingly, make a non-stop trip from America to Hungary. Bruce Wayne even kept his costume in a luggage case in his bedroom and was more involved in finding out what was going on before swapping to his cowled identity. The artwork varied considerably and if I have to be critical, it's a shame there wasn't any space given to documenting to explain such things to new readers who want a solid grounding in Batman's history. Certainly, the art became more confident and broader as it progressed.

As I doubt if there are many of you out there who can afford to buy the very earliest of Batman's adventures, this has to be a good cheap way to getting them. With more to come listed in the back of the book, start early and get them all.

GF Willmetts

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