Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Detective Comics #53 (July 1941)

Sorry for the long absence, readers. Don't really have an excuse. But here's some Batman related posts about the two Tim Burton movies from my other blog!
And say, wasn't The Dark Knight Rises fantastic? I've been quoting Tom Hardy's Bane nonstop. Anyways, back to 1941 for another issue of Detective Comics!

"Viola Vane"
Writer: Bill Finger
Pencils: Bob Kane
Inks: Jerry Robinson and George Roussos
Synopsis: Bruce Wayne is having a debate with his society friend, Jim Daly, who argues that Gotham City is a cold and heartless place where it's every man for himself. Bruce disagrees and wishes he had some way to prove it.
That evening, on patrol at the waterfront, Batman rescues a young woman from suicide. Calming her, he discovers her to be Viola Vane, a girl from a small town who came to Gotham to be an actress. But all she could be is the understudy to the star. She's ashamed, largely because she sent letters to her parents claiming she had become a big star, and now they're coming for a visit and she's going to be caught in the lie. Batman promises to help her, providing she doesn't attempt to kill herself again. She agrees. Batman sees it as a perfect opportunity to prove the city has a heart.
Batman goes from nightspot to nightspot, telling the city's rich and powerful of Viola Vane and convincing them to go along with his plan. In the process, Bruce Wayne gets volunteered to be Viola's escort about town. Having convinced the entire city more or less to go along with his charade to make it seem like the girl really is a star for the duration of her parents visit, Batman even bullies the city's radio and newspapers into playing along, including the Gotham desk of the Daily Star (the paper Clark Kent works for in Metropolis), which the Batman calls a "dirty, yellow scandal rag."
Bruce takes Viola out to a beauty parlour, which gives her a free make-over. He takes her to a hotel, where the penthouse suite has been cleared. She has new clothes, and jewelry, and all thanks to the Batman. Viola cries in happiness at the city's generosity.
Her parents arrive, and Bruce takes them out to see all of Gotham's hotspots and nightclubs.
Meanwhile, he's left Robin the duty of guarding Viola's penthouse suite, given that it's filled with valuable furs and jewels on loan from the city's shops. So of course a bunch of crooks attack and attempt to steal it. They knock Robin over the head with a gun and when he comes to, the furs and jewels have been stolen. 
Realizing that calling the police would result in bad publicity for Viola and prehaps ruin the deception, Batman and Robin take off after the crooks themselves. Based on Robin's description, Batman determines the ringleader to be "Toothy Hare". The Dynamic Duo bust up a saloon filled with disreputable characters and break some bones to get some information on Toothy's whereabouts. One crook agrees to talk, because even he agrees that stealing from Viola was a dirty stunt. He directs Batman to "The Shacks", crooked rowhouses by the waterfront that serve as a hideout for criminals.
After a three page fight scene, Robin has punched Toothy toothless and the Dynamic Duo have recovered the jewels. But there's another problem. Viola's parents want to see her act in the play, the one where she's really only an understudy! So of course the Batman convinces the real star to step down in favour of Viola. She's game, it'll let her go to Hollywood to do a movie. 
So Bruce escorts Viola's parents to the show, where of course she's fantastic and gets tons of applause. Her parents go home happy, and Jim Daly admits to Bruce Wayne that Gotham City does have a heart after all.
My Thoughts: So Bill Finger does Readers' Digest? I suppose it fits in as another one of his "comics as morality plays" stories, but it does seem like a bit of an odd thing for Batman to get involved with. That being said, I like the notion of Bruce Wayne defending the heart of the city of Gotham, of believing in the essential decency of its people. Ultimately I don't know if the idea of everyone lying to cover for the lies of this girl is a particularly good example of "decency" or morality, but ultimately it's vindicated when the girl proves to be a good actress.
The Art: Pretty good stuff from the Kane studio. I especially like the sequence where Batman saves Viola from drowning herself, as well as the attack on the rowhouses. The action scenes are getting to be quite dynamic in these stories, with the art improving upon each issue. Roussos' use of blacks and shadows is quite dramatic and effective.
The Story: The main tale of Viola is pretty predictable, the city coming together to support the girl and then of course she gets to go onstage and be great. Probably the one neat angle is the one newspaperman who refuses to let his coverage be bullied by the Batman, but then gives in to blackmail because apparently Batman's got all kinds of dirt on him. Convenient that the one guy who doesn't want to compromise his own integrity in favour of lying for the girl turns out to be crooked, eh? Also, the action stuff with the gangsters is pretty obviously tacked on for the sake of maintaining some typical Batman stuff, which kinda proves how ill-suited this piece is for the Dark Knight. That being said, it's always cool to see Finger trying different things, even if they don't work.

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