1/09/2010. Contributed by Geoff Willmetts
pub: DC Comics. 191 page graphic novel. Price: $14.99 (US), $16.99 (CAN). ISBN: 978-1-4012-1961-1.
check out website: www.dccomics.com
We're back in the Bat-groove with more tales of the early Batman thanks to DC's nice publicist. These 'Batman Chronicles' have the early adventures in chronological order and with Batman and Robin appearing in 'World's Finest', 'Batman' and 'Detective', it makes it easier to see them develop. Saying that, this is less from a continuity aspect but how writer and artist/creator Bob Kane's skills develop and occasionally spot mistakes even they made back in 1940. Take the story, 'Laugh, Town, Laugh', where the Joker attempting to kill off five comedians where only one of them will become the beneficiary of a dead comedian's fortune is bumping them off by using the joke each has to find. That's all well and good but he then appears to be doing it before the joke is discovered. Now that is forethought. Then again, it's like continuity errors in TV and films prior to video recording, at most you'd see once or twice let alone pick out every last detail.
Although there are many more volumes to go, I do wonder if I've found the source of the Tyrannosaurus Rex resident in the Bat-Cave. In 'The Island That Time Forgot', Robin is piloting a Bat-Plane birthday present from Batman that is blown off course in a hurricane where they land on an island where they find all sorts of things from wrong eras attacking them. Incidentally, I'm still puzzling over why Bruce Wayne slaps Dick Greyson's backside prior to giving him his presents. Was that an American tradition in those days?
The flexibility of Batman at the time was tested when the pair was put into a western setting in 'Sheriff Of Ghost Town' where our caped crusader becomes sheriff and ousts the bad guys. Likewise in 'The Cop Who Hated Batman' when Commissioner Gordon invites the duo off up to the northern snowy states for a combination holiday and meet the police there, they're practically in lumberjack territory. Mind you, seeing the Batman in bed in full costume makes me wonder if he took his boots off. It's also an interesting episode in establishing within the story that events were taking place in 1942.
This isn't to say they didn't face off against their more colourful enemies. Although there is a predominance for using the popular Joker, there are also tales of the Penguin and the Catwoman where Batman sees her without the mask and lets her go. Even back in the 40s, there was some mutual thing going on between them emotionally.
Speaking of the clown of crime, the Joker's tales are always intelligent more than having him as a madman. In 'The Joker Walks The Last Mile', he confesses to his crimes and seemingly executed although his cronies bring him back to life. Good trick for those who go to the electric chair, especially in the 1940s. However, with double jeopardy, he can't be tried again and leads an apparently honest life although Batman and Robin keep an eye on him. The story that follows it, 'The Joker's Advertising Campaign' also shows an intelligent manoeuvre in outwitting Batman by putting adverts in the newspaper as to bewilder him.
One of the more interesting characters comes from the story, 'A Gentleman In Gotham', is Mr. Baffle, a practising con-man who gets his two cronies to rob the houses he's cased posing as a journalist. Things didn't quite go right when the first place he robbed was Wayne Manor. It'll be interesting to see if he crops up again.
I'm only spot-checking only some of the fourteen tales here. For those who like artist spotting, there is also 'Detective # 65' cover by Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Interestingly, SF writer Edmond Hamilton also scripts some of the tales. I knew he did both, just not as early as this. These 'Chronicles' make for great time capsules and insight to how Batman developed.
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