DC SALUTES THE BICENTENNIAL
Detective Comics #461
Published monthly, thirty cents, July
Cover artist: Ernie Chua
Editor: Julius Schwartz
The first issue of Detective Comics was published in March 1937 as an anthology comic book specializing in hard-boiled detective stories akin to the pulp magazines that were its inspiration. Despite retooling and renumbering for publicity and sales’ sake, the comic has been in publication ever since!
It is the comic book that DC Comics took its name from. So really the company is called Detective Comics Comics. I know, nowadays it’s called DC Entertainment. Fine. I still sometimes refer to it as National. I’m old.
The most obvious claim to fame of Detective Comics was the debut of Batman in #27 (May 1939). But Detective also featured the debut of Robin, Commissioner James Gordon, the Martian Manhunter, Simon and Kirby’s Boy Commandos, Batgirl (the 1960s version), Walt Simonson’s Manhunter, Batwoman, Bat-Mite, the Crimson Avenger, ManBat, and Batvillains the Penguin, the Riddler, Two-Face, Killer Kroc, the Calculator, and Blockbuster.
Sadly, despite some incredible stories and art, Detective Comics at the time of the Bicentennial was at its nadir. Within two years there will be serious talk of cancelling their namesake comic. Fortunately it merged with Batman Family into a Dollar Comic and survived the DC Implosion. Batman’s immense popularity in the coming years made the idea of cancelling the magazine laughable. It’s still out there, renumbered as part of DC’s “New 52” publicity stunt, but still one of only six of the thirty-three comics published under the Bicentennial banner still published as an active title.
“Bruce Wayne – Bait in a Trap”, Bob Rozakis and Michael Uslan ( w ), Ernie Chua/Chan (a), Frank McLaughlin (i)
This story is continued from the previous issue and concludes in the next. I owned that third issue when it was published.
Captain Stingaree believes Batman to actually be three different men; as part of a corps financed by Bruce Wayne. He kidnaps Bruce Wayne and alerts Commissioner Gordon and Alfred to that factby exploding a dummy in Wayne’s clothing on the front steps of police headquarters.
Batman appears (to the delight of a stunned Alfred) and vows to “rescue” Bruce Wayne. Batman later explains that he easily escaped a holding cell meant to keep in a frivolous playboy, not a dark avenger of the night! Mud from the kidnap scene leads Batman to Gotham’s sewers. Stingaree blocks the exits and unleashes swarms of rats to attack Batman. He escapes, but the next chamber is flooded and he and a scuba-equipped Stingaree fight it out, both falling unconscious and whisked to a drain leading to the Gotham river (eww…). Stingaree awakes first and hauls Batman off to his lair.
Bruce Wayne appears at police HQ and tells Gordon and Alfred that Batman rescued him. But … but…
Stingaree, only now discovering Wayne’s escape, approaches the captive Batman and unmasks him – revealing him to be Batman #2: Robert Courtney! We readers who did not read part one gasp in astonishment and say, “Umm, who?”
All will be revealed in the next issue. Granted it’s been nearly 40 years but I don’t want to spoil the ending. If you REALLY want to know, email me. Or look up the ending online…
“The Moneybag Caper”, Denny O’Neil ( w ), Pablo Marcos (a), Al Milgrom (i)
St. Louis private investigator Tim Trench appeared in three issues of the “all new” Wonder Woman (#179-181 – not counting a later reprint issue) helping her and I-Ching during her non-powered Diana Rigg phase. He had two solo stories in Detective Comics (460 and 461) and did not appear again until 2006 when he was killed off in 52 #18. His Wikipedia entry also says he was a member of the Hero Hotline, but the Hero Hotline, nor the Grand Comics Database or DC Comics Database, mention this.
He was a two-fisted old-school private dick. You could almost hear the saxophone music playing in the background of his two solo stories. He was such a caricature he could only be described in metaphor. If he was a brand of toilet paper he’d be taken off the market – he was rough and tough and wouldn’t take crap off of anyone…
Tim enters his office to find one of Big Willy Cline’s hired goons. But wait, this isn’t a hit – the goon, Manooch, says Cline has a job for Trench! Since his “bank account is lower than a snake’s belly”, he says he might be interested. Seems Big Willy tried to double cross the other gangs and got caught. He offers Trench 500 big ones to see him safely to the airport.
A car tries to run over Trench, Cline, and Manooch. Trench knocks a blind man out of the way but too late to save Cline, who is shot by a man in the car. Trench shoots back – killing the driver and the shooter. He socks it to Manooch, who dove out of the way before the car hit. He was in on it!
Meanwhile, the blind man walks away with the $500 cash. That’s okay: Trench didn’t earn it anyway…
Batman’s Hot Line: letter column giving universal praise for issue #457, “No Hope for Crime Alley,” a story that has become a Bronze Age classic. All five letters praised the story – the first three writers calling it a masterpiece. Adam Castro of New Rochelle, NY, David B. Kirby of Richmond, VA, Paul Emrath of Milwaukee, WI, Louis A, Latzer of St. Louis, MO and Elizabeth Smith of Tacoma WA contributed. The latter was the only letter writer to also praise #457’s back-up Elongated Man story.
Join me next time for DC’s Bicentennial issue #30: Action Comics #461
Original Material copyright 2015 Michael Curry
Images used are copyright their respective holders and reproduced here under the “Fair Use” doctrine of 17 USC 106 & 106a for the purposes of criticism and comment.