Bat Signal

Issue 121 – “Commissioner Gordon Walks a Beat”



Hey there everyone, and welcome back to another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing mission to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order and with very little context. And we have a very goofy, very forgettable issue to discuss today folks. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They don’t all have to be masterpieces, and as long as they’re fun little stories, it’s all good. Sadly nothing as ridiculous as the cover for this issue is going to occur today. We don’t get any human-sized slingshots being fired. But we do get to see Batman seemingly attempt to assassinate Commissioner Gordon! That’s pretty fun and wacky, right?

The issue begins with Batman and Robin being summoned to the headquarters of the Gotham City Police Department by the Bat Signal. They head straight for the Commissioner’s office, wondering what fresh adventure he has in store for them. But when they get inside the office, they find something surprising. It isn’t Gordon that’s sitting at the desk, it’s another officer named Vane. And he has bad news. Gordon has apparently been demoted to a beat-cop, and Vane has taken charge of the police department as the new Commissioner because the Mayor has decided Gordon was ineffective and relied too heavily on Batman and Robin. And, to make matters worse, he’s officially severing all ties with Batman and Robin, and even goes so far as to destroy the Bat Signal in front of them, promising that it’ll never be used again.




Got questions? Yeah, so do Batman and Robin. But for now we need to hop away from them and introduce the villain of the issue, a local gangster named “Sure Thing” Smiley who is collecting money from a bet he made with another criminal about the Bat Signal being broken, while also bragging about how he screwed over a guy named Chadwick Carfax. But that will make sense later. Because now we head back to Batman and Robin, who are meeting with Patrolman Gordon. He explains that the Mayor asked for Gordon to resign, and when he wouldn’t he demoted him as far down as he could, sticking him as a patrolman, and he has no idea why. So Batman and Robin head over to the Mayor’s mansion, only to learn that the Mayor’s son, Chadwick Carfax, lost a bet to Smiley recently. Smiley cheated in the bet, and instead of making Chadwick pay up, he made his father promise to get rid of Gordon and sever the town’s connection to Batman and Robin.

The Dynamic Duo then offer to help the Carfax’s and they head off to deal with Smiley. They begin stalking Smiley, and find him lurking outside of an art gallery. And as they watch Smiley something odd happens. A fire alarm goes off inside of the gallery, and a firetruck arrives almost immediately. Oh, and one of the firefighters is clearly an associate of Smiley. So Batman and Robin follow the “firefighters” into the art gallery and watch as they begin stealing things. Batman and Robin attempt to attack the gangsters, but they actually get taken down pretty quickly. Robin gets a vase smashed over his head, and a gangster gets off a lucky shot that grazes Batman’s head, and knocks him out. And when they both wake up while captives of Smiley and his gang. Smiley explains that he’s going to execute them, until Batman notices Smiley’s fixation of gambling, and comes up with an alternative.




So yeah, Batman has made a deal with Smiley where he says he’ll shoot James Gordon square in the heart and won’t kill him, and in exchange Smiley will give up his blackmail on the Mayor so that Gordon can be put back in charge. And Smiley obviously takes this bet, because it’s absurd. But that also means that Batman and Robin are going to need to get $100,000 for their side of the bet. And they accomplish this by going around Gotham and telling every person even slightly associated with law enforcement to pitch in some money to help save Commissioner Gordon. And, eventually they get $100,000 and get ready to go shoot Gordon. But first they stop by a plastic store to buy something.

And once that’s accomplished they go to meet up with Smiley. He has a pistol ready, and as soon as Batman says he’s ready, he grabs Patrolman Gordon and hold his still so Batman can aim. Gordon is more than a little confused about the situation, but Batman just goes ahead and fires the gun. And nothing happens. Because Batman has cheated. He bought a piece of bullet-proof plastic and hung it right between where he knew he’d be and where he knew Gordon would be. Smiley does complain about this, but that complaint is repaid with a punch to the head from Batman. And, with that taken care of, Batman and Robin then race off and stop some of Smiley’s men who were planning on robbing a building with a fake piano-moving operation. They take care of these gangsters and then all head over to the police headquarters to get everything squared away. The Mayor’s son is no longer being blackmailed, Vane steps down so Gordon can get his job back, and the Bat Signal is reinstated.




Yeah, there wasn’t a whole lot to this episode, and it isn’t going to be one that I hold in affection, but it’s pretty fun. The idea that one of the numerous corrupt mayors of Gotham City gets blackmailed into screwing over Commissioner Gordon and putting Batman and Robin on the outs is a pretty decent idea, it just gets  little goofy near the end. Having everything be solved because Batman was able to scam the gangster handling the blackmail and then concocting a ridiculous way to shoot Commissioner Gordon and not kill him is just a little too silly for me to have worked with that premise. I feel like a similar idea could have been made into a really dramatic and fascinating story if someone like Two-Face or Riddler was behind it, but instead we had a silly little gangster whose gimmick was that he cheated people when he gambled with them. There’s nothing wrong with a goofy issue though. Sometimes it’s nice to just have something silly.


“Commissioner Gordon Walks a Beat” was written by someone, probably Bill Finger, and penciled and inked by Howard Sherman, 1947.



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