You know what type of issue we haven’t had in a while here on Bat Signal, that I’ve gotten oddly fond of? One of those silly ones where it’s just Batman and Robin running around after some virtually nameless goons. Preferably with a bizarre trip to the woods. Well, while I didn’t pull one with any visits to the vast woods surrounding Gotham, I did happen to pull one with a whole lot of anonymous goon action! Although I’ll be the first to admit that the cover of this issue really promised more than it delivered. But that’s kind of par for the course for this era of the comics. We sadly aren’t going to see Robin reenacting any crazy Pit and the Pendulum action this week, instead we get out first real foray into some racially questionable caricatures! I’m pretty shocked it’s taken this long!
The story starts off with a man trying to sell tickets for his “rubber-neck tour,” which I eventually realized was basically just a sight-seeing tour of Gotham’s landmarks while riding on an ugly bus. We’re the introduced to some of the people who will be taking this bus ride, like Mary Dale the failed actress, Eddie and Johnny who are two boys who have run away from home to become amateur detectives in Gotham, and Victor Clement a playwright with writers block. Why have we been introduced to these people? I’m not sure, they’ve barely important. But what is important is the fact that some goons have robbed a bank for $50,000 just a couple blocks away. The gang gets away and start trying to make a run for it, only to be stopped by Batman and Robin. The Dynamic Duo starts beating the hell out of the goons while making bad jokes, not noticing that the leader of the gang has sneaked away with the money. And how is he going to escape? Why he’s going to get on the sight-seeing tour of course!
Unfortunately while our main goon Tiger is boarding the bus he’s spotted by a member of a different gang named Frenchy, who decides to call in to his bosses with the tip. We’re then treated to seeing some of the seedier parts of Gotham thanks to the tour, like Little Bohemia the artist district, the “Port of Missing Men” which seems to be all brothels and bars, and of course Chinatown, which is just full of racially sensitive portrayals. But it’s in Chinatown that disaster strikes, because as everyone is busy gawking at some Buddhas, the members of Frenchy’s gang show up to knock the the bus driver out and take his place. They then hilariously keep doing the tour for a while, telling people about the various prisons that they’ve been in until Tiger finally notices something is suspicious and recognizes the other gangsters. They then promptly shoot and kill Tiger, and start a goddamn hostage situation.
This new gang obviously doesn’t want the several witnesses on the bus to testify against them though, so they drive the bus to one of their garage hideouts while the news of the kidnapping spreads. The driver of the bus has come to and told the police, so they start broadcasting about the hijacking, and of course Batman and Robin hear about it and start speeding towards Chinatown. Meanwhile, the bus has been put in the gangster’s garage, and they’ve started their incredibly complicated plan. Instead of just shooting the tour group they decide to tie them all to the bus-seats, roll down all the windows, seal the garage, and flood it, drowning them all. What the hell? Luckily though the gangsters don’t tie up Mary the actress, because she fainted before the tying began and they didn’t care about her, and she was just faking so when they leave she starts untrying everyone. And once they’re all free the two little detective kids write a note saying what’s going on and use their slingshot to fire it out of a window. And can you guess who happens to be walking by?
I love that these little dorks have not only signed their full names, but also claimed to be amateur detectives on their note. Anyway, Batman and Robin decide that they should take care of the goons before freeing the soon to be drowned prisoners, and get to work beating the hell out of them. But while they’re fighting one of the guys gets the slip on the Dynamic Duo and knocks them unconscious, only to toss them into the bus room to drown as well. Good work guys! Anyway, they come to and talk with the other captives, doing their best to act like they have a hold of the situation.
And now that they’re in the bus they quickly take charge of the group, and get planning their escape. Which gets pretty ridiculous! Because Batman’s idea is to rip up some strips of steel that line the floor of the bus, put the steel strips up against the wall to function as a ramp, get the bus going and then drive it up the ramp to create a ladder that they can climb to get out the little window that the boys shot the note through. Instead of just using their Batarangs or something to just climb, but whatever, maybe they don’t have them. Even though we saw them use them earlier. And later. But that’s neither here nor there, because they get everyone out and Batman and Robin bust back into the gang’s hideout to start beating them up. Except this time it works! So the goons are brought to justice, the playwright decides to write a play based on the adventure, the actress gets a job in his play, the dorky kids decide to go home, and Batman and Robin are proud to have another crime solved.
I generally liked this issue, even though it wasn’t the best one of this odd little sub-genre. I think it’s mainly because Batman and Robin did a pretty crappy job, overall. yeah, they won in the end, but they still let the goons get away, chose to fight the other goons instead of saving the captives first, and then proceed to get beat up by the goons and tossed in with the captives. Get it together guys. But hey, it’s still pretty fun in the way a lot of these old issues are. Yeah, I wish that that crazy cover actually happened, but there was still a lot of fun and goofy stuff to like in this issue. I mentioned earlier that there’s a bit of problematic race stuff with the whole visit to Chinatown, but really other than that there was some great art in this issue. Plus, I’m always a fan of checking out the weird parts of Gotham, so even though the whole tour-bus thing was a little odd, it had some fun stuff in it. This wasn’t the worst issue I’ve had, but it wasn’t the best in a while. Just a fun and forgettable one.
“One Night of Crime” was written by Bill Finger and drawn by Dick Sprang and Ed Kressy, 1944.
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