Detective 38 – Robin debuts, Spy contends with a lightning gun, Red Logan begins, Steve Malone exposes the Commissioner, and Cliff Crosby finds Arctic Africans
In Detective 38 (April 1940) Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduced one of the most influential characters of the Golden Age, Robin, the Boy Wonder. Within a year every super-hero had to have a sidekick, and most were cut from largely the same cloth as Robin.
The story begins with young Dick Grayson at the circus, performing as an aerilalist with his parents, John and Mary Grayson. Dick overhears some gangsters threaten the circus owner, and then watches in horror as his parents fall to their deaths.
Batman then swoops in and takes Dick away with him, informing him that Boss Zucco was the force behind his parents deaths. We can assume he came to the circus as Bruce Wayne, and saw the accident, because the car he is driving is red. This is his earlier car, which he likely kept to drive as Bruce, reserving the costume matching car for Batman. He trains the boy, and there is a scene by candlelight in which he makes the boy swear a vow, similar to the one young Bruce swore.
The similarity in their origins helps make this sequence plausible, without the need for explanations. It is easy for the reader to see how Bruce viewed the boy, and their connection.
Dick is frequently smiling as Robin in tales from this era, it is clear the boy is having the time of his life, and he functions to a degree on his own in this story, with Batman watching off to the side.
Unlike Bruce, Dick gets to bring his parents’ killer to justice at the end of the story. Bruce gives him the option of returning to the circus, but it must have been a formality. It was clear Dick had found a new home, Batman had found a sidekick, and a trend had been born.
With Jerry Siegel still writing the series, Spy stayed largely within the realm of the possible. The story in this issue pushes it about as far as it will go at this time, with a lightning gun, developed by a mad scientist.
He is another one-shot character, though, and once Bart disposes of him, the lightning gun is never seen again.
Red Logan begins in this issue of in Detective Comics, nearly a year after his series ended in More Fun. Red is in England, working out of an office in the Daily Mail in London as a foreign correspondent for the Times Courier, still with Ivan as his massive sidekick.
His case involves what appear to be vampire murders, but are actually deaths caused by a mad scientist stealing people’s blood.
Steve gets one of his edgier cases in this issue, as he goes after the man behind the gambling rackets, and discovers that it’s the Police Commissioner.
The art on the series has improved dramatically since it began, but the stories remain short and simple.
Cliff Crosby, now with his friend Dr. Broussard, are abruptly “famous explorers” in this tale, set above the Arctic Circle. They discover an African tribe there, with a “formula” that allows them to survive the cold.
Cliff makes a deal with Aga, to restore him to what he claims is his “rightful throne,” in exchange for the formula. Or, to put it another way, an American installs a puppet monarch in exchange for trade goods.