Type Comic
Date 1940-03

Detective Comics #37

Detective Comics #37 (1940-03)

Batman

Batman, lost on a back road, stops by a house to ask directions. He hears screams inside and investigates. There he finds a man, Joey, tied to a chair being tortured with a hot poker. Making quick work of the torturers, Batman frees him, only to have Joey turn on him and attack him from behind, knocking him out. Joey shoots the other men and leaves Batman alive out of gratitude.

When Batman comes to and discovers the situation, he resolves to find out more about Joey and another name he had heard: "Turg". The name is uncommon enough that Batman can quickly investigate everyone nearby who shares that name. His snooping leads him to a suspicious grocery store run by an Elias Turg. Visiting at night, he overhears Turg, Joey, and other men conspiring, and reveals himself, causing a panic, and causing Joey to fall under suspicion. Batman hides hides himself from the conspirators, who fatally stab Joey and leave to blow up some ship. Batman, comes out of hiding, and Joey, just before dying, explains to him that the men are spies who intend to blow up the ship Ronij to start an international crisis. He also recites a phone number which belongs to the boss of the spies. It seems Joey is not a himself a spy, and had some last-minute patriotic feelings, enjoining Batman to "get them for good ole USA".

At the boatyard, the spies (minus Turg, who has gone to see the boss) have filled a boat with TNT, and arranged for it to crash into the Ronij, destroying both, and giving them ample time to get away. Batman defeats the men, and is just in time to stop the boat being destroyed. He then heads out to investigate the owner of the phone number.

The phone number belongs to "the socially eminent Count Grutt". Batman forces his way into Grutt's home and discovers that he and Turg are one and the same, disguised by a wig and a truly shameless palindrome. When the Batman confronts him, Grutt falls on his own sword, and Batman remarks that "it is better that he should die. He might have sent thousands of others to their death on a battle field, if his plans had been successful!"

This is one of the more bearable early Batman stories, I suppose. Both the artwork and storytelling in comics is going to improve substantially, as time goes on, but for the earliest stories, this is about as good as it gets.