Bat Signal

Issue 174 – “The Park Avenue Kid”

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Hi there everyone, and welcome back to yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every single issue of Detective Comics in random order and with basically no context. And today we’re taking a trip back into the Golden Age of Batman comics, meaning we’re going to be talking about a weird story not involving any of the big villains, with a lot of Batman and Robin wandering around trying to figure out what’s going on, all while hunting down a poorly-defined villain who doesn’t leave much of an impact. Fun! Although, unlike the majority of Detective Comics issues I read on this project from the Golden Age, you can actually trust the cover of this issue! We’re actually going to be talking about Batman as a boxer, and it’s pretty fun!

The issue begins with Batman and Robin fighting crime in the middle of the day, knocking out some thugs who are attempting to rob a jewelry store. And, once they’re taken care of, Batman excuses himself and leaves Robin to finish things up, because Bruce Wayne has an important social commitment to get to. He changes out of his Batsuit, and starts walking to his engagement, only to notice a man in the park stealing a woman’s purse. Bruce then acts without thinking, and chases after the man, knocking him out with one punch. And, after he crook has been incapacitated, he realizes what he’s done. A crowd surrounds Bruce, shocked that the famous socialite was able to knock a man out with one punch. And, that shock grows when they realize that the crook was a former boxer. People are incredibly impressed, and Bruce is approached by a man named H.J. Morrison, a boxing promoter who wants to make Bruce the new champ. Bruce demurs, and head heads off, hoping that people will forget the fact that he has a killer right hook.

 

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Bruce then heads home to start working with Robin. Because it just so happens that the two have learned about a masked criminal known as the Dagger who has been stalking the streets of Gotham, pulling off some major heists. They go out investigating that evening, and end up just missing the Dagger and his men after robbing a bank, leaving nothing behind but an overcoat. Batman examines the coat, and finds no clues, other than a strange piece of rubber in the pocket. They run everything by Commissioner Gordon, and decide that much more research is needed before finding the identity of the mysterious criminal, although Batman admits that he does have a slight hunch.

The next day though, before being able to head out and investigate that hunch, Bruce is shocked to find a group of acquaintances arrive at the Manor, led by Morrison. They want Bruce to become a boxer, the Park-Avenue Kid, and have arranged for a special match where all the profits will go to charity. Bruce realizes that there’s no legitimate excuse for turning them down, and decides to accept. He then begins training with Morrison, having to hide the fact that he’s actually the fittest person in Gotham, while devising some ridiculous excuses to slip out of training occasionally and go be Batman. One night he and Robin even encounter the Dagger and his men again, robbing some sort of lawnmower factory, only to lose the elusive criminal once more. But, Bruce puts that all out of his head the night of the big fight, ready to actually give it his all.

 

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The match begins, and Bruce actually decides to go for it. He makes quick work of the man who was chosen to box against him, and the crowd loves it. They’re stunned that Bruce Wayne, someone they all assumed was a lazy socialite, would be able to acquit himself so well in the ring, and Bruce actually seems to enjoy some of the attention, much to the chagrin of Robin. However, this also draws the attention of a man named Ned Brann, a kingpin of sports gambling in Gotham City. Brann approaches Bruce, and more or less tells him that he’s going to be his manager now. And, weirdly, Bruce seems fine with the idea. Robin’s really put off by it, working with an obvious criminal and all, but Bruce is excited to continue his career in boxing, specifically setting out to become the new champion of Gotham City.

Bruce then throws himself headfirst into his new career as a boxer, even spending most of his time as Batman chatting with Robin about boxing. And it all comes down to a big match against a famous boxer named Young Vincent. Bruce is ready to actually compete, but Brann informs him that he’s expected to take a dive, because it’ll be good for business. And, Bruce goes through with it. Dick is pretty horrified to see Bruce take a pretty obvious dive, but it turns out that it’s all part of Bruce’s plan! He starts raising a fuss after the dive, earning him an audience with Brann. And, after learning where Brann is hiding out, Bruce changes into his Batman costume, and he and Robin head there to stop him. They burst in and take down all of Brann’s men, arresting them. And, in the process, we reveal that Brann was actually the Dagger too! Apparently the rubber in the coat pocket was part of a boxer’s mouth-guard, and when Bruce first met Brann he noticed that his head was dry, despite the rain, pointing out that he was apparently wearing a mask. Sure! Why not? And, with the villain taken care of all that’s left is for Batman to convince Robin that he’s not a sellout.

 

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This isn’t exactly the strongest issue of Detective Comics I’ve read for this Bat Signal project, but there are some things that I really enjoyed about it. Yeah, we have a lot of Batman and Robin struggling to take down some random villain who doesn’t really matter, and who doesn’t pose much of a threat, and it’s full of weird clues that are literally impossible for the reader to piece together. But, we also get to see Bruce Wayne seemingly love the idea of being a boxer, while simultaneously being terrified that people are going to realize that it’s weird that famous layabout Bruce Wayne would be a competent enough fighter. And that’s the stuff I really loved. I could care less about Ned Brann and the Dagger, and all that crap. What I connected with was Bruce Wayne panicking and struggling to explain why he could possibly have muscles while lying to his trainer that he strictly maintains tea-time every day so he can get out of training and be Batman. It’s nuts, and it’s exactly the type of insane Golden Age nonsense that I love.

 

“The Park Avenue Kid” was written by Bill Finger, penciled by Bob Kane (allegedly) and Lew Sayre Schwartz, and inked by Charles Paris, 1951.

 

 

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