Batman goes to elaborate lengths to keep homicidal maniacs alive, but it hasn't always been like that. Back in the '40s, his enemies had a lifespan of about three pages. Even the Joker couldn't make it through a whole issue before dying. And when you consider that most classic Batman villains are only a ventriloquist or a mercury poisoning victim or a guy who leaves clues or a guy with eyeballs on his fingers, you know a super criminal has to be fucking lame when comic writers kill him in his first appearance and then let him stay dead.
Predating the more popular Dr. Doom by 12 years, Batman's Doctor Doom wasn't quite as menacing. He was a smuggler that Batman and Robin had never fought or talked about until Commissioner Gordon called them and told them where he was. This panel of him attempting suicide was actually the first time readers got a look at him:
"Doctor Doom! We meet at la- never mind! Well, Commissioner, this Doctor Doom character is either an average to below average swimmer or he's dead. Or he could be this shadowy shape right below the water's surface. Call me if you need any other super crimes solved."
While the superheroes and police reminisced about their second long battle against Doctor Doom, he climbed out of the water and hid in the mummy case he stole. And since it was only a priceless relic and the very thing they were working to recover, Commissioner Gordon gives it to Batman to "remind him of his triumph." This was about the craziest thing possible for a cop to do, but to be fair he was probably being sarcastic. Batman's "triumph" was getting a phone call to come to the pier and doing nothing while a man killed himself. That's kind of like helping a brother and sister get their cat out of a tree and then leaving with the top half of the girl.
Batman drove the stolen sarcophagus home where Doctor Doom climbed out and just started wreaking havoc in the Batcave. The place is filled with robot dinosaurs and helicopters, so he was kind of kicking ass. Of course back in the '40s, Batman's idea of fighting was to shout descriptions of things while they smashed into him.
Unable to defeat Doctor Doom, an elderly man with no combat training, Batman and Robin were especially at his mercy when he pulled out Trophy #44: an old hand grenade. Since this story was compiled from the mutterings of schizophrenic hobos, Batman survived by hiding behind a tiny building built for him by dwarves. Please allow me to prove that I'm not just typing random words:
There's no way Batman could have known that would work. The fearless crusader only thought it would be awesome to spend his final moments fucking a church.
The durable craftsmanship of Batman's trophies didn't work out so well for Doctor Doom. The blast slammed the mummy case shut on him and Batman and Robin couldn't figure out how to get it open until long after he was dead. "Hold on in there, old guy who threw a hand grenade at us! Ha ha ha we're trying really hard to get you out! Oh, Batman, what a shame it would be if the sound of our kissing is the last thing this stupid asshole ever hears! Mmmmf! Shlrrp!!"
While investigating a stolen ruby idol, Batman learned of a sinister fence named Sin Fang. He started asking around about Sin Fang and a bright yellow man in a Fu Manchu mustache and emperor cap told Batman that Sin Fang was also a bright yellow man in a Fu Manchu mustache and emperor cap. He also hid out as the operator of a store called "Sin Fang's." It was enough for The World's Greatest Detective to go on.
Due to the nature of racist caricatures, Batman couldn't be sure if he had the right guy. But he started to think something was fishy when he showed up at Sin Fang's and two men tried to murder him with swords.
While Sin Fang's guards bled onto his floor shirtless and dead, he and Batman cleared up the hilarious misunderstanding. This is a fascinating window into what society was like 72 years ago. In 1940, people had integrity and took responsibility for their actions. For instance, if some guy kicked your Mongol swordsmen to death, you'd own up to it and apologize to the man.
When Sin Fang rushed out of the room and it fills with mustard gas, Batman was almost positive that he'd found his bad guy. But Batman was also kind of positive that Chinese breathe poison for fun. We as a people simply didn't know much about China at the time. Locking a guest in a mustard gas chamber might be a traditional part of some kind of egg roll ceremony, and Batman wasn't about to look like a dick by complaining.
Holy crap! Out of nowhere, the friendly Sin Fang attempts to kill the Batman! But that's not the biggest plot twist of this adventure. Get the fuck ready. No, really:
This whole time, it was a secret Chinaman! Using simple yellow gloves, Sheldon Le- wait, what? Yellow gloves? That's ... like racist on some kind of insurmountable scale. "Yellow" is a mean thing to say, not a real color that actual people are. And why did he do it? It didn't help in any way with this or any crime! Was this written by someone on their first day of racism? All joking aside, I have to admit that I've always wondered why wearing rubber kitchen gloves added such an Eastern flair to masturbation.
Batman is OK with being attacked with swords, trapped in a gas chamber or dropped to a watery grave, but to hell with you if you try to trick him into thinking you're Chinese. He retaliated by throwing the stolen idol at Sheldon "Secret Chinaman" Lenox, killing him. "Great job, Batman! Actually, the opposite of that! You're completely under arrest!" shouted the cop who saw the whole thing.
An evil psychologist known only as "The Carbon Copy Killer" became obsessed with Batman and recreated his very first case -- a series of brutal slayings that ended like all 1940s Batman stories: with the killer's own death. These copycat killings were part of an experiment to ... you know, I better let him explain it:
That's right, he killed three people to prove that it would have hurt Batman's feelings and made him less popular if he hadn't figured out who did them. Then he left Batman and Robin in his inescapable library after telling them he'd "return soon to make certain nerve tests to prove [his] theory." What the shit? The strangest thing about the writing of Batman's Golden Age adventures is that DC Comics managed to hire the only retarded person who wasn't any fun.
Now, quick! Think of the stupidest way an idiot would escape from a room full of books!
You were right! Batman's brain sprung into action and hatched a plot to stack up the books and shove them over the next time The Carbon Copy Killer came through the door. However, this unathletic, middle-aged academic was one step ahead of the Dark Knight and overheard the whole brilliant plan. I guess when it really comes down to it, owning a gun and a postgraduate degree is 50 times more effective than being Batman.
Batman's plan was to take off his mask and reveal that he was Bruce Wayne. How would that help? Well, knowing his radio show was about to come on, The Bat told Carbon Copy Killer to turn on the radio. That way, when he heard Batman's voice, it would blow his entire mind. It's similar to how every time a Bon Jovi song comes on, all of Bon Jovi's friends shriek, "B-but! Y-you're here! How can!? SORCERER!!!"
The only thing stupider than this plan was that it totally worked. The highly educated Ph.D. with audio equipment wired throughout his library and an obsession with copying things had never heard of
"Police? Hi, it's Batman again. Yes, I'm calling about another dead body, but this time the guy shot himself. Of course I'm sure! You know, I really don't appreciate your tone. Here's what happened, I was like, 'I'm not Batman. I'm Bruce Wayne,' except check this out: Batman was on the radio! Oh shit, Robin just shot himself. I'll call you back."
Iron Hat Ferris was actually named that before mob enforcers locked his head inside an iron hat. Hold on a second. Edward Nigma became the Riddler, William Tockman became Clock King, Roy G. Bivolo became the Rainbow Raider ... now that I think about it, Gotham could cut down on its super crime by almost 90 percent if Batman punched pregnant women in the stomach every time they thought up a clever baby name.
I don't need to tell you all the advantages of having an iron hat. It makes your head virtually immune to punches. Your boss has no idea when you're napping. You can fill it with soup and throw all your spoons away. Your woman's mons pubis will feel like it was bashed with a rusty anchor. So it's no surprise that Iron Hat Ferris went on an iron-themed crime spree that no one could stop, especially not Robin. Robin starts every fight with the most perfectly wrong move. If a man robbing the Indian food factory said, "I'm Rick Tallflame, better known as The Lava Colon!" Robin's first attack would be biting his asshole.
With no one to stop him, every iron-themed business in Gotham was at Iron Hat Ferris' mercy! The city had no answer for a man who broke his neck every time he heard a startling sound. Locking your head in a Dutch oven and being unable to brush your teeth for a week would be a lot like being a pair of extra large panties. And like those extra large panties, Iron Hat Ferris was ready to snap.
His iron-obsessed crimes became more and more stupid until even Batman and Robin could figure out his next move. What the Dynamic Duo never quite figured out was how to defeat an opponent when punching his face wasn't an option. Iron Hat beat the shit out of them every time they fought using a combination of headbutts and nothing. However, it's hard to think straight from inside a sweat-sock-scented face prison, and Iron Hat made the classic iron-headed mistake of going outside in a lightning storm.
In 1947, a fresh corpse was a fun and interactive way for Batman to teach children about science. "Tear off a gonad, chum! We'll drop it from the roof to see if it falls as fast as a stone!"
Paul Gregorian claimed to have nine lives, and he did what anyone would do if they could die eight times -- he killed himself all fucking day.
He jumped off of bridges and towers, he had people shoot him ... 9 Lives Man was awesome. At first he wasn't doing anything too criminal. In fact, it seemed like his main motivation was to screw with local emergency services. This was a man who discovered he sort of couldn't die, and his first and only thought was, "I'm going to prank a suicide hotline!"
Some of his deaths weren't as spectacular. "Behold as I touch these hot pans!!! My superpowers aren't an exact science, but trust me -- I'm holding on to them so long that this almost counts as two deaths!"
Soon, a group of thugs with more vivid imaginations than Paul forced him into using his amazing abilities FOR CRIME. Well, it turned out that Paul didn't really have nine lives. He was only a bored magician. Of course, being able to convince other people you should be dead is a handy ability to have. For example:
I love this cop's attitude. Filling out paperwork in the Gotham P.D. must take no time at all.
Somehow Batman figured out what was going on and he tracked Gregorian down. The chase scene lasted one entire panel before the Man With 9 Lives managed to kill himself diving out of a first story window. That's because when you pissed off Golden Age Batman, you died at least 20 or 30 times.
I think the moral of the story is that human life was cheap in the '40s. Batman and Robin crack jokes over a dead body while it's still twitching. Also, Batman brags every time he counts to 10.
Bill Keane died this week, and Batman would have wanted me to tell this joke: I feel like there would have been more order in the universe if the creator of Family Circus died from something with a second hilarious meaning like chili or bats. It's also too soon to link to these articles: If Family Circus Didn't Suck and 6 Family Circus Cartoons Improved with Dick Jokes.