Monday, November 21, 2011

Detective Comics #32 (October 1939)

Well, our cover isn't as memorable as last month, but it does feature Police Chief Hitler throttling a Tommy Gun wielding Clark Gable.
Bad jokes aside, we continue with the Batman's pursuit of the mysterious Monk in the wilds of Hungary...

"Batman Versus the Vampire, Part Two"
Writer: Gardner Fox
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Sheldon Moldoff
Synopsis: We begin with a spectacular drawing of the Batman by Bob Kane. It's mysterious and brooding and memorable, sure to influence the look of Batman in the works of artists such as Neal Adams and Bruce Timm. The Batman is tracking a carriage through the wilds of Hungary. (Editor's Note: By the time this story was written, Transylvania was located in Romania, but for years the home of Dracula had been within Hungarian borders). The Batman gases the occupant of the carriage, only to find it is a mysterious woman. He brings her back to the hotel where he is keeping Julie Madison. He keeps both in the same room, standing watch, but in the middle of the night the woman, Dala, awakes, sleepwalking, and knocks the Batman out with an Academy Award before escaping. When he awakes the Batman examines Julie to find two small marks on her throat -- the sign of the vampire!! Luckily, Dala hasn't gotten far (the yard of the hotel) and the Batman swoops down and captures her. He comes to the conclusion that Dala and the Monk are vampires and must be destroyed, but Dala pleads with the Batman that she is but a pawn and will help him to destroy the Monk.
The Batman leaves Julie behind and departs with Dala for the Monk's lair in the Bat-gyro, which is now called the Batplane, although it is still drawn as an autogyro. However, the Batplane is caught by a large silver net and pulled to the ground, as Dala has betrayed our hero to the Monk. The mad Monk puts the Batman under his mind control and leads him to the castle seen on last month's cover. He also telepathically wills Julie to them (they must not have been far away because she walks the whole way!). Julie sees the Batman under the Monk's control and exclaims "His eyes are suffering, but he cannot move!", which is actually pretty horrifying. The Monk threatens to put Batman into the Den of Wolves, and exclaims that soon Julie will be a werewolf like him and Dala.
But... I thought they were vampires???
Nuts to that, because the Monk transforms into a wolf before the eyes of Batman and calls a pack of wolves to a pit that he has placed the Batman in. However, the Batman gases the wolves and escapes by attaching his silk cord to his Baterang and roping a column above the pit and climbing out.
He finds Julie safe asleep, and then makes himself silver bullets by melting down a silver statue. In most stories, silver bullets are what kills werewolves, but occasionaly they kill vampires as well. Here they are said to kill vampires, but then the story seems to be confused on which Dala and the Monk are.
The Batman finds the vampires' tombs and shoots them with the silver bullets, killing both. Julie declares herself forever grateful to the Batman and they fly back to America.
My Thoughts: Part two continues on from last month in similar fashion, although the structure is more linear and less confused than in part one. Things flow logically forward, and we get more and better interaction between Batman and the Monk, although there is still no direct confrontation between Batman and one of his enemies. The introduction of the Dala character allows for a nice betrayal moment, but like with the Dr. Death story the climax is much too fast and sudden. Still, it's a fine, neat wrap-up to Batman's first two-part tale.
The Art: Once again Kane and Moldoff deliver very good work. Kane's become very good at delivering the Batman in spectacular poses, using his cape for good dramatic effect, while Moldoff's inks create the spooky, moody atmosphere necessary for both the Batman and this story in particular. The page illustrating the Batman's fall into the wolf pit is particularly well done and a great example of sequential art.
The Story: Gardner Fox's writing is certainly a lot better than the last three months, but the main nitpick this time is that he can't seem to decide if the Monk is a vampire or a werewolf or if both are the same thing. Certainly there has always been some overlap in the legends -- sometimes silver bullets kill vampires, and Dracula was said to be able to transform into a wolf -- but the confusion really causes the story to lose harmony. At the end of the day its a pastiche of old horror movies with Batman added, and would've been more than exciting for the children reading, who would not have cared about such distinctions. Also, Fox is to be praised for delivering the first really memorable Batman villain, a large improvement over Dr. Death -- although like Dr. Death the Monk would not reappear until a 1982 Gerry Conway story.
Notes and Trivia: First time Batman is seen to use a gun, first mention of the "Batplane", final Golden Age appearance of the Mad Monk
Batman Body Count: 6, if you count the destruction of the undead as a kill

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