History of the Batman #6: Crane & Cobblepot – Batman 1941, Pt. 2

Fall and Winter of the year 1941 brought the debuts of Batman rogues Scarecrow and the Penguin, villains that remain popular today. But what is truly fascinating about the Batman and Robin stories in Detective Comics, Batman and World’s Finest Comics are the characters introduced and never seen again in comics. From a failed actress attempting suicide to a mad scientist brought back from the dead, these stories are great illustrations of golden age comics in DC and other publications of the era.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 53, July 1941 *Part of Chronology

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – cover, pencils
Jerry Robinson – cover, pencils, inks
George Roussos – inks, letters

Violet Vane

Story: When an unknown actress by the name of Violet Vane learns that her parents are coming to Gotham to visit their supposed famous movie star, Vane decides there’s no other way than to kill herself. Batman stops her suicide and decides to help her make her parents believe she is a big star, putting on a huge performance including Gothamites and elaborate costume design. A part of this costume are expensive jewels, which catches the eye of some crooks, so the Dynamic Duo have to stop them from stealing the jewelry on loan. In the end, Vane performs lead in a play and was so impressive she was given the lead role preeminently, making her parents proud.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 54, August 1941 *Part of Chronology

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – cover, pencils
Jerry Robinson – cover, inks
George Roussos – cover, inks, letters

Hook Morgan and His Harbor Pirates

Story: Mr. Conway, also known as Hook Morgan (a play on Captain Hook)  has a group of pirates steal precious cargo off of a ship in Gotham’s harbor. Batman has to track down Conway while escaping one of his deadly traps in the process with the aid of the Boy Wonder.

Batman (Vol 1) 6, September 1941 *Part of Chronology

Cover by:
Bob Kane

Murder on Parole

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – pencils
Jerry Robinson – inks
George Roussos – inks

Story: As two convicts are paroled with one, Chick Miller, discovering the prison board is filled with gang members, they are out to kill him (Miller) until Batman saves his life. Going under cover as a convict named Marty Loden and successfully uncover the gang boss of the corrupt system. But when Robin is kidnapped by the crook, the Caped Crusader goes and saves him, the gang boss being killed in the fight in the end.

Bat Facts: Even though they aren’t as compatible as this story makes it, Batman disguising himself as criminal Marty Loden foreshadows Bruce’s future guise of Dennis O’Neil and Irv Novick’s character Matches Malone, a gangster Bruce takes the identity of after his death and uses this to receive intel on Gotham’s criminal underground otherwise he wouldn’t know.

The Clock Maker

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – pencils
Jerry Robinson – inks
George Roussos – inks

Story: Hobbs Clock Company becomes a literal ticking time bomb when stockholder Atkins kills two others with his weapon of choice being exotic clocks. As Batman tries to stop Atkins from killing again, the man Atkins blamed for the murders, clock builder Brooks, Brooks kills Atkins out of rage and plans to blow up the Hobbs Clock Tower. Batman and the Boy Wonder now have to stop Brooks’ explosive plans before it’s too late.

The Secret of the Iron Jungle

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – pencils
Jerry Robinson – inks
George Roussos – inks

Story: While visiting Texas to see Linda Page and her oil rich father Tom Page, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson have to change to Batman and Robin as Tom’s business partner Graham Masters tries to take full hold of the company. The issue ends with a fight on huge oil derricks, Masters defeated and Page striking oil again.

Suicide Beat

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – pencils
Jerry Robinson – inks
George Roussos – inks

Story: Gangster Fancy Dan kills two Suicide Beat cops. To gain vengeance for his father’s murder, Jimmy Kelly takes over Suicide Beat and with the help of Batman both turn that gang territory around and stopping Fancy Dan from continuing his corruption.

World’s Finest Comics (Vol 1) 3, September 1941

Cover by:
Fred Ray

Batman superman and robin playing baseball
Amazing

The first time Batman and Superman are (briefly) in interior panels together being All-Star Comics (Vol 1) 3 from December 1940, the Dynamic Duo and the Man of Steel don’t save the day as a whole team until after 50+ World’s Finest Comics. But on each cover all three will be doing some kind of ‘team’ sport, from baseball to skiing to volleyball, to just having fun, hanging out at the beach.

The Riddle of the Human Scarecrow

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane -pencils
Jerry Robinson – pencils, inks
George Roussos – inks

Story: A brainy college professor turn bad to earn money for his books, Jonathan Crane dresses like a scarecrow to pull off his crimes to get money around Gotham City. Since he is a professor of psychology, he uses the element of fear against others to be successful in his heists. Eventually running into Batman and Robin but escaping, Batman uses his detective skills to find out the connection between Crane and the university. They fight once more and Crane is apprehended for his criminal acts as the human Scarecrow.

Bat Facts: This story marks the comic book debut of the character Jonathan Crane who turns into the infamous Batman rogue Scarecrow (Earth-Two). Unlike most introductions to villains, Crane came with an origin story. Also unlike other rogues, he is not as reoccurring; Scarecrow fighting against the Dark Avenger doesn’t happen again until about 20 issues later (Detective Comics (Vol 1) 73).

Scarecrow first appearance in detective comics
Scarecrow!

Splash page to The Riddle of the Human Scarecrow; the debut of the villain Scarecrow / Jonathan Crane.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 55, September 1941 *Part of Chronology

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – cover, pencils
Jerry Robinson – cover, inks
George Roussos – inks, letters

The Brain Burglar

Story: Having to pose as a scientist himself, becoming tangled in a bigger scheme of foreigners being smuggled into the country, Batman and Robin have to prevent the fifth columnists from committing crimes of sabotage with Professor Jon Henry’s stolen lie detector machine.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 56, October 1941 *Part of Chronology

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – cover, pencils
Jerry Robinson – cover, inks
George Roussos – inks, letters

The Stone Idol

Story: When the “town fool” Mad Mack evidently fools the good townspeople of Ghost Glutch City stealing the city’s wealth in silver mines, Batman and Robin’s leisure travel leads them to adventure when Mack’s urban legend of the stone idol comes true, endangering the town Mayor. The Dynamic Duo have to stop the mystical force of this town, in the end capturing Mad Mack putting on a hoax the whole time and giving the town its rightful money.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 57, November 1941 *Part of Chronology

Created by:
Bill Finger – writer
Bob Kane – cover, pencils
Jerry Robinson – cover, inks
George Roussos – cover, inks, letters

Batman detective comics

Twenty Four Hours to Live

Story: An unexpected story of betrayal and love, millionaire Jasper Sneed has been poisoned and is given 24 hours to live. Sneed then becomes crazy with rage and fear, trying to kill his family members, believing one of them poisoned him. Although it becomes too late, Batman prevents Jasper from killing anyone yet he dies from the poison. The culprit turned out to be his butler, who was unknowingly Jasper’s twin brother seeking revenge for treating the woman he loved badly. But before the Caped Crusader turns the butler, Richard, in, he ultimately has the same fate as his brother and dies.

Batman (Vol 1) 7, November 1941 *Part of Chronology

Cover by:
Bob Kane

Wanted: Practical Jokers

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: As the Joker begins committing crimes throughout Gotham while his new henchmen, a group of practical jokers and blackmails, distract the police, Batman and Robin have to find clues from these funny men to catch their leader, the Clown Prince of Crime.

The Trouble Trap

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: Batman and Commissioner Gordon’s relationship becomes more neutral when the masked vigilante helps the GCPD capture Granda, a fake swami.

The North Woods Mystery

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: When Bruce Wayne’s friend Nora Powell inherits her uncle’s lumber company, a series of accidents happen, almost killing her, Bruce turns into Batman to investigate who would want her out of the picture for control of the company.

The People vs. the Batman

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: After being framed for murder and broken out of jail, Batman and Robin bring to justice gang member Freddie Hill who tried to kill his underground rival. Although the district attorney is against the Batman and his crime fighting ways, Commissioner Gordon makes him an honorary member of the GCPD, making their relationship protecting Gotham even stronger.

Detective Comics (Vol 1) 58, December 1941

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Fred Ray – cover

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – cover, inks

George Roussos – inks

One of the Most Perfect Frame-Ups

Story: When Batman and Robin discover a new gang leader is in Gotham by the name of the Penguin, despite his short stature he brought tall troubles for Batman; after framing him from stealing his jade idol, he then breaks him out of prison and continues to have his men continue robbing stores and banks in the city. In the end the Dynamic Duo capture the henchmen but the Penguin escapes.

Bat Facts: Penguin, also called ‘Mr. Boniface’, makes his comic book debut in this story, with his normal iconography already in place; squat stature, beak shaped nose, a monocle attached to a black tuxedo with matching top hat and purple gloves holding an umbrella.  Penguin also becomes a regular rogue, like the Joker, in Batman comics, his next appearance we’ll discuss in next week’s column (Detective Comics (Vol 1) 59, January 1941).

Penguin!
Penguin!

Batman (Vol 1) 8, December 1941

Cover by:

Fred Ray

Jerry Robinson

Batman reads batman comics
It’s Bat-Ception!

Stone Walls Do Not a Prison Make

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: When big time gangster Mike Russo is sent to prison by the Batman, he creates it as a base for him and his men to not only take over the facility but have criminal activity happening in Gotham. So the Caped Crusader goes undercover as a prisoner to stop Russo, but his men catch him, sending him to the gas chamber. Luckily, Robin saves him and the Dynamic Duo stop Russo’s control.

The Strange Case of Professor Radium

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: Professor Henry Ross turns into the literal Radioactive Man when his experiment of bringing the dead back to life with radium goes wrong. Now called ‘Professor Radium’ who steals volitell to cure him in a suit, Batman and Robin try to save him but in the end they fight with Ross falling to his death.

The Superstition Murders

 Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: Bruce Wayne enters a real life ‘Clue’ when guests at a party celebrating a play one by one are murdered. Bruce changes into the cape and cowl to investigate and discovers that the author, Mr. Glim, is the killer, wanting to sell the play rights to another company.

The Cross-Country Crimes

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

George Roussos – inks

Story: Batman and Robin chase the Joker across the country after he shoots and kills FBI chief, G. Henry Mover in Washington D.C. After finding him and setting a trap for Joker, they finally catch him and he is sent to Alcatraz.

World’s Finest Comics (Vol 1) 4, December 1941

Cover by:

Fred Ray

The Ghost Gang Goes West

Created by:

Bill Finger – writer

Bob Kane – pencils

Jerry Robinson – inks

Story: Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson go on vacation and travel by train. Going through Western territory, their train is hijacked by bandits. At the same time on the other side of the country, another hijacking occurs. Being dubbed the Ghost Gang, Batman tracks down these supposed ghosts, stopping them from future robberies. Escaping a lynching and hanging himself as bait, Batman captures the leader of the gang with the sheriff taking them off to jail.

Next week we will continue with Spring and Summer of the year 1942 in Batman’s history in DC Comics!

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