Bat Signal

Issue 83 – “Accidentally on Purpose”

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Greetings everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my ongoing project wherein I’m trying to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order and with essentially no context. And we have a very slight little issue to talk about today. It’s not really a bad issue or anything, it’s just kind of an odd one. But, it does give us a chance to talk about some of the weirder changes that have taken place with the Batman characters over the decades, especially Alfred. Because we sure do get a weird version of Alfred in this issue folks. Other than that? Well, let’s just get into the issue and you’ll be able to tell for yourself that this is a pretty meandering issue.

The issue begins with Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson hanging out in a shockingly modest Wayne Manor, which really looks like little more than a decent suburban house. They’re just sitting around, reading the newspaper, when Dick notices that they haven’t seen Alfred all day, and start to get curious. So, they traipse around the Manor, looking for Alfred, and pretty quickly start running out of places he could be, and end up travelling down into the Bat Cave. They look through the various rooms of the Cave, and end up finding a particularly rotund and clumsy Alfred hanging out in the gym, doing his best to exercise. Bruce and Dick find this a little hilarious, and tell him that if he’s feeling worn out all the time he shouldn’t try to lose weight, he should just go on a vacation. Alfred’s a little worried about leaving his boys alone, but eventually agrees, and heads out for a relaxing vacation.

 

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Bruce and Dick then start going about their business, trying to find crimes to solve. And, as luck would have it, they come across something really quickly. Because as they’re walking around the streets of Gotham one day they see a group of known gangsters including Biff Bannister driving around, and plow right into a man. Bruce and Dick race over to help the man, and find that he’s Henry Corliss, the owner of a local jewelry store. The man isn’t dead though, he’s just unconscious, and as Bruce and Dick deal with the guy a doctor comes running over to help. He introduces himself as Dr. Goodwin, and takes Corliss back to his office, where the man makes a speedy recovery. But, Bruce is still wary. He figures that if Biff Bannister would hit a jewelry store owner that probably means they’re planning on robbing it. So, they stake out the Corliss store, and find something surprising that night. Corliss himself comes in, apparently to rob the place.

But, when Batman and Robin go to talk to him, they find that he’s essentially sleepwalking, and is shocked to find that he’s in his office. They decide that it’s got to be some fluke of the concussion, and just decide to move along. However, the next day Bruce and Dick see another weird accident as a man is knocked unconscious by a falling scaffold. The man’s name is John Kling, and he’s a stockbroker, and as luck would have it, Doctor Goodwin shows up again, and whisks Kling off to his office again. Bruce is worried about all of this, and decides to stake out Kling’s office that night as well. So, Batman and Robin hang out in the office, and watch as Kling himself comes wandering into his office, and robs himself. But, this time they don’t stop him, and end up following Kling as he shambles out into the city with all the money he robbed from his own safe. And, sure enough, Kling ends up leading them straight to a building where Biff Bannister and his men are hiding out, because this has all been some sort of con. Batman and Robin then race in, and are pretty easily able to beat up the criminals. They best the crooks pretty easily, and while they’re all beaten Robin takes Kling to safety while Batman waits for the police. Which is when this happens.

 

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Shocker. Doctor Goodwin is in on the whole thing. He manages to knock Batman out, leading the criminals to decide they should just shoot him and be done with it. But, Goodwin has a better idea. He’s going to pump Batman up with the hypnotic chemicals that he’s been giving to the businessmen earlier in the plot, and make Batman a sleeper-thief too. They then leave the building, leaving Robin to find Batman passed out in the hideout. Batman can’t really remember what happened, and agrees to go home and rest with Robin. The next day Bruce starts to feel better, but has a strange feeling all day long that he has something he needs to do. And, as the day wears on, Bruce starts to get a better idea, realizing that he needs to go rob a jewelry manufacturer in downtown Gotham that night.

When night falls Batman automatically suits up and heads out into the night, ready to hypnotically rob the factory. Robin spots him leaving the Manor that night, and decides that something clearly must be up, and decides to follow him. Robin continues to follow Batman as he robotically walks through the streets of Gotham, and while Robin is too wrapped up with following Batman he doesn’t notice that a mysterious thin man is following them both. Robin then follows Batman into the factory, and is able to wake him up before he can go through with the robbery. Unfortunately, as they stand around congratulating each other for waking up, Bannister, Goodwin, and the goons show up to finish the job. They have Batman and Robin dead to rights, about to shoot them, when the mysterious stranger from earlier shows up, and trips down the stairs, running into them and giving Batman and Robin the distraction they need to stop them. So, the villainous scheme is defeated, but who is the stranger? Why it’s Alfred! Apparently he went away on his vacation specifically to lose weight, grow a mustache, and become less clumsy. So, now he’s the Alfred we know and love.

 

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Like I said up top, this isn’t exactly the strongest issue of Detective Comics that I’ve ever come across. It’s a pretty simple little mystery with a fairly obvious answer in the whole hypnotism from Dr. Goodwin reveal. There’s some decent detection, it’s all just a tad obvious. Honestly, the main purpose this issue seems to have is relaunching Alfred. I enjoy that in the very earliest Batman stories Alfred was a chubby, clumsy, doofus who spoke with a Cockney accent. But it’s nice to see the Alfred that we’re far more familiar with, the thin one with the mustache. It’s just bizarre that they chose to make this change in such a dramatic way, like they were recasting the role. It’s just silly. But, it makes for an interesting little landmark in the history of the Caped Crusader. I just wish that they had the whole reveal propped up with a better plot.

 

“Accidentally on Purpose” was written by Don Cameron, penciled by Jack Burnley, and inked and lettered by George Roussos, 1944.

 

 

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