Hi there everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, my never-ending quest to read every issue of Detective Comics, in random order, and with basically no context. And, we have a really goofy little issue to talk about today. We’re tacking a trip back to the earliest days of Detective Comics to talk about a story that is firmly in the Golden Age, for better and for worse. From the baffling cover that has nothing to do with the actual contents of the story to the weird mixture of campy jokes and strange darkness, this issue is about as quintessentially Golden Age as we could have gotten. So, buckle up and get ready for a story that involves a whole lot of costume changes.
The story begins when a few soldiers arrive at a Gotham City Army base, and are let in basically without question. Which, was a bad call, because it turns out that they aren’t actually soldier, but criminals who have gotten a hold of uniforms of soldiers. And, after gaining entrance to the base they kill the real soldiers and take some supplies from them. But, this wasn’t a one-time raid, because the next night a bank is robbed by a trio of people dressed up like cops, even having their own cop car. And, the night after that, a bunch of fancy rugs are stolen from a warehouse while they were dressed as firefighters. So, there’s a whole rash of strange thefts being perpetrated with people with a very specific gimmick. Batman should be all over this, right? Well, it turns out that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson have apparently been on a vacation for the past week, and are just returning to Gotham to this strange news. Luckily though, while they’re driving into town they see the Bat Signal in the sky, and after a quick pit stop to get their costumes, they head to Commissioner Gordon’s office to basically be served the answer to this mystery on a silver platter.
So, yeah, the Joker has apparently been orchestrating these costume crimes, and has just sent the police And, what’s more, he gives them a clue regarding his next crime, which is that weather won’t stop him. Which, seems weirdly specific. However, after a brief amount of pondering, Batman quickly reaches the realization that he’s going to rob a post office, because of the whole “neither rain nor snow” thing. So, Batman and Robin race to a post office right new police headquarters, and see two men dressed as mailmen, and the Joker, muscling their way in. They then quickly start beating up the Joker and his goons, while spitting out a staggering amount of jokes, mostly related to mail and mail accessories.
Unfortunately, while Batman and Robin are busy coming up with labored mail-puns, the Joker manages to escape out the back. And, oddly, his two henchmen just kind of appear in his getaway car, and they speed off. Batman and Robin hop into the Batmobile and give chase, leading he goons to tossing a bunch of tacks and broken glass out of their van, hoping to slow them down. This doesn’t work, because the Batmobile has amazing tires, so they switch to their second plan, which is to throw a bunch of quarters out the back, summoning a wave of children, in the middle of the night, to block them. And, this works, giving the Joker and his crew enough time to escape. Which means that they can get back into the swing of their crimes, this time with no more hints. They pull off several new heists, until Batman decides something drastic needs to be done. They need a sting!
Batman and Robin have planted a fake story about a diamond into the newspaper, assuming that the Joker would be unable to pass it up. And, they’re correct! So, while the Joker and his men approach a yacht that supposedly has a priceless diamond aboard, dressed as Coast Guards, Batman and Robin are preparing to spring their trap. They watch as the Joker and his men climb aboard the yacht, and then leap into action, fighting with the villains. Things go pretty much the same as the post office, lots of quips, until things suddenly go very wrong. Because one of the goons is able to get a lucky punch off, and knocks Robin off the boat. And, this is enough to distract Batman enough that another goon is able to knock him out.
Batman wakes back up tied up and hanging from the yacht’s davit, with a small candle slowly burning the rope keeping him suspended. The Joker and his men have long since left, and Batman has been left behind, ready to drop into the ocean. Luckily though, Robin didn’t die from his drop off the side of the boat, and actually ended up on the Joker’s fake Coast Guard boat. So, he decides to just follow the Joker and his goons back to their base to take them down. Meanwhile, Batman does eventually plummet into the water, and is then able to use the yacht’s propeller to remove his binds and escape the water. And, thinking fast, Batman realizes that the Joker accidentally let it slip that he’s hiding out in a costume store. So, he races over to the Joker’s hideout, just in time to see Robin, who had been dressed up as a mannequin of Little Red Riding Hood start fighting the criminals. They then do battle, utilizing the various costumes and surprisingly realistic props inside the store, until Batman is able to eventually take the Joker down, and end his reign of terror.
You know, when I first read this issue, I wasn’t really too blown away by it. But, as occasionally happens with these Bat Signal posts, while actually thinking about it and writing it up, I really came to enjoy it. Yeah, it’s a little strange, especially when you consider that the Joker is really acting outside of his regular gimmicks, especially with all the riddles, but whatever, at least it wasn’t just some random goon that we had to struggle to care about. But, putting that aside, the issue was just generally really fun. I mean, there was a scene where the Joker tossed money out of his car so a bunch of night-time urchins flooded into the streets to distract Batman. That’s really amazing. Plus, I like the idea of the Gotham City just going to hell, getting taken over by a bunch of costume-wearing clowns, just because Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson went on a fishing trip or whatever. Let the men have a vacation!
“Case of the Costume-Clad Killers” was written by Jack Schiff, penciled by Bob Kane, inked by Jerry Robinson and George Roussos, lettered by Ira Schnapp, and edited by Whitney Ellsworth, 1942.
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