Hello everyone, and welcome back for yet another installment of Bat Signal, our ongoing mission to discuss every single issue of Detective Comics ever published, in random order, and with basically no context. It’s our first issue of the year, and the random number generator gods have decided to play a pretty cruel joke on us. Because, folks, this is a frankly confounding issue of comics. These extremely early issues can often be a little odd, but I don’t think I’v ever talked about such a strange issue. Not necessarily bad or anything, just kind of rambling, and never coming together in any sort of real way. So, if you want to talk about an issue of Batman that features out heroes getting knocked unconscious more times than the Three Stooges, do I have a story for you!
The issue begins by giving us a series of raids being carried out by the Gotham City Police Department, apparently on Batman’s behest. We see them raid a gambling den, a guy running a racketeering scheme, and some random bandit. And, it wasn’t just the three of them, Batman’s apparently been on a tear, finding out about various criminal activity in the city, and then just turning it over to the cops to handle. He’s managed to get a whole flock of criminals arrested, all of whom are being sent out to prison together, getting a whole personal train to take them away. Which, ends up presenting a perfect scheme for a new criminal looking to make his mark on Gotham. He calls himself Blaze, he kind of looks like a racist propaganda character, and he carries around a miniature flame-thrower. There’s…a lot going on with Blaze. And, he has decided to commandeer the train full of criminals, kill the engineer, and take the train off of its assigned course and to a secluded track in the woods where his men are able to kill the police on board, and free the criminals, getting himself an army of criminals.
So, Blaze has an army of hardened criminals to become his personal minions, but he still needs to make a big mark on the criminal world of Gotham. Which, of course, means that he’s going to try and take down Batman. And, his plan is insane. Blaze goes to visit Commissioner Gordon, claiming to be a Baron who is celebrating his birthday, and asks Gordon to hire Batman to guard it, because he’s had threats on his life. Gordon informs him that that’s not really something that he does, but then Blaze offers to donate $10,000 for a policeman’s charity, which convinces Gordon to try and get Batman to participate, especially because he’s already seeing Batman that afternoon. Because apparently Batman and Robin have been hired as some sort of entertainment for a police graduation ceremony where they present Batman with a diamond-encrusted Bat symbol to wear on his chest.
The Dynamic Duo stand on a stage in front of a bunch of cops and do some acrobatics moves, some jujitsu, and finish it off with a demonstration of their make-up abilities, becoming Commissioner Gordon before their eyes. And, once this weird farce is complete, Gordon asks Batman to go hang out with this mysterious Baron, and Batman weirdly agrees. So, he and Robin head to the “Baron’s” house, where he tells Robin to stay in the car learning multiplication tables while he goes and parties, which is ice cold. But, it does save Batman’s ass, because as soon as he goes into this massive party, the Baron asks the Caped Crusader to help him blow out his candles, and Batman agrees. Which, was a mistake, because the candles are actually some sort of knock-out gas, causing Batman to immediately pass out in a room full of criminals. They then stick him in a metal net, hang him from the ceiling, and then just kind of sit around and mock him.
So, while the World’s Greatest Detective is hanging around like a pinata, Blaze arrives with an acetylene torch, ready to apparently roast Batman alive. But, Batman has a trick up his sleeve. Or, more specifically, his chest. Because he’s able to use that diamond Bat logo to cut though the steel net, freeing himself and getting ready to beat them up. And, this causes such a ruckus that Robin stops learning math and comes racing in to help. Unfortunately, Blaze spots the Boy Wonder running in, and drops the metal net from the ceiling onto him, tangling the kid up. He then punches Robin into unconsciousness, holding him hostage. Batman stops fighting, and acts like he’s going to give up to save Robin, until he does some crazy maneuver where he slips his boot off his foot and then rocket-kicks it straight into Blaze’s face. It does stun the mastermind, but a different thug just sneaks up behind Batman, and knocks him out. Blaze and his men then attempt to flee while Batman is knocked out, which means it’s Robin’s time to shine.
Robin wakes up from his period of unconsciousness, and immediately jumps out of a window, into one of the getaway cars of the various criminals. He manages to throw a single punch, before getting a blackjack to the back of the head, slipping back into sleep. The criminals decide to kidnap Robin at this point, and take him to their creepy hideout on the docks. When Robin’s able to wake up, he immediately gets to work trying to contact Batman, sending him some messages through a radio in his belt. Blaze catches Robin, and destroys the radio, but also decides to plant a trap for Batman if he’s able to find them before racing off and getting into his latest crime. Batman’s able to find Robin using the info he sent over the radio, and walks into the room to find Robin tied to a chair. And, when Batman goes to untie him, Robin kicks him square in the head. Batman’s dazed, and responds by picking Robin up and throwing him out of the goddamn window and into the river. But, it’s apparently because the kick was a sign that there was secret dynamite under the chair, so Batman threw him into water to ruin it. Sure! They then race off to a local museum, where Robin heard they were heading, and they proceed to just beat up Blaze and his men, ending the issue extremely abruptly.
So yeah, this issue is kind of unhinged. I legitimately was feeling like I was maybe struggling to understand what was going on because I was getting sick or something, because this issue is somehow meandering and moving at a mile a minute. The idea of a criminal freeing a trainful of other criminals to make an army? Great. That said criminal having no real theme other than kind of being into fire? Less than ideal. Pages upon pages of Batman and Robing hanging out at a police officer graduation? Strange and needless. Batman getting a diamond-encrusted logo? Hilarious. Blaze coming up with a plan to kill Batman that involved him inviting Batman to his fake birthday party? Genius. Batman and Robin constantly getting knocked unconscious? Frustrating. And just ending the story in battle at a museum out of nowhere that has the final punch not even be to the main villain? Just insane. This issue feels like every couple pages was from a different story, like some sort of exquisite corpse experiment where a different person was writing every page. There’s some goofy and funny stuff in here, but it’s just kind of ultimately strange and frustrating. A great way to start the year!.
“The Blaze” was written by Mort Weisinger, penciled, inked, and lettered by Dick Sprang, and edited by Jack Schiff, 1945.
Categories: Bat Signal