Detective 29 – Batman vs Dr. Death, Crimson Avenger takes a break, Cosmo vs the Avenger, and Slam Bradley goes to Hawaii
Batman gets his second cover appearance in Detective 29 (July 1939), and the story even matches the picture!
Batman is given his first recurring villain, Dr. Death, in this story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane. He has a stylish monocle, an murderous servant, and a taste for killing people.
There is no notion of a Batcave yet. Bruce Wayne appears to keep his gear in a trunk in the living room at this point. We see the utility belt for the first time, and it gets used later in the story.
Even in this early, and rough, form, Batman still makes for dynamic reading. And seems to need exotic villains to balance the extreme look of the character.
Batman strangles the servant, and Dr. Death appears to die in a fire, but in fact returns in the following issue.
The Crimson Avenger’s series ends with this story, although it returns in early 1940. After a kidnapping, Lee Travis learns the details of the sounds the victim heard while captive, and uses those to track the bad guys.
Wing gets a small role in this one, helping the Crimson Avenger escape the burning building at the end. The final panel announces more adventures for the hero, and I suspect the series was put on hold because it was felt too similar to Batman; and that the boom in heroes was the cause of it’s return.
Cosmo is pitted against the Avenger, a mad scientist who has developed a weapon that causes a bell tower to collapse, a ship to sink, a dam to burst, and airplanes to fall from the sky. Cosmo tracks down the scientist, and claims to be an “electric meter inspector” when he approaches him, but does not disguise himself for that, which turns out to be a bad move, as Cosmo is famous enough that the crazed Professor Salvini recognizes him immediately, and almost kills him.
In fact, if it were not for a stray bullet causing Salvini’s weapon to explode and kill him, Cosmo would have certainly fallen victim to the Avenger.
Siegel and Shuster are still credited with this Slam Bradley story, but again it looks unusual to me, art-wise.
Slam receives a note warning him to stay away from Hawaii, which he takes as a challenge. He and Shorty head there, and meet Betty Clark, whose uncle has disappeared. She sent the letter, figuring that he would take it as a challenge and come.
Must be an easier way to hire someone. Like, offer to hire them.
They get caught up with foreign spies trying incite native revolts, and creepy looking green lepers.
It’s also worth noting that Slam and Shorty share a bed in this story. It’s not the first time we have seen this, either.