Who's Batman?

Who's This? You tell me. The guy dressed as a blue bat on page 12 of Who's Who vol.II.
The facts: This obscure Golden Age character first appeared in Detective Comics #27 (1940), an obvious rip-off of the pulp character The Black Bat "created" by one Bob Kane, and he seems to have lasted until at least the late 50s, according to my research. He shared that book with a number of more illustrious detectives, like Roy Raymond and the Manhunter from Mars, who are still relevant today. When his entry was published in Who's Who, I  remember readers being peeved that he got one [whole] page.
How you could have heard of him: There's a chance he appeared after his entry in Who's Who, but if so, I seemed to have missed it.
Example story: Detective Comics #260 (1958) "The Mystery of the Space Olympics"
Admittedly I don't know all that much about Batman (THE Batman? Bat-Man?) or his sidekick Robin (a ridiculous character who doesn't wear anything remotely close to his "parent" superhero), but judging the strip on the story I ferreted out, they appear to be heroes of a Flash Gordony future. One day, someone invades their cave-like home on Earth - it's the Venusians bearing an invitation.
That's right, Batman is going to be Earth's champion in the "Universal Olympics". Not sure why the Venusians are sponsoring Earth's athletes, but then, I also don't know how these Olympics can be called "Universal" when it's just for our Solar System.
Whatever. It's not like this hero is trained in any of the events, so maybe Venus just wants some weak competition in the mix. Except Batman does really well in the first (racing) event, and then again in the skeet shooting competition. It's almost uncanny...
...especially considering that, according to my research, Batman swore off guns because his parents were killed in a hail of bullets. After an anti-grav boxing match against a Jovian where Batman once again does too well to be believed, the judges discover he's been cheating in every event. All the equipment's been tampered with!
The Plutonians are pretty peeved because they lost a couple medals to this flying rat (DOES he fly? ah, no, he's rappelling down a wall later). Batman and Robin escape in a Plutonian saucer, but decide to head back to the Olympic village to confront the Venusians who are the number one suspects in the case. Except it wasn't them:
Given the book is called Detective Comics, and the story is a "Mystery", I was expecting a lot better from this cowled sleuth than being told the solution and answering "that figures". So the next day, he and his boy partner try to get to the judges and explain their side of it, but are soon on the run from angry Olympians of all stripes. When the Plutonians catch up to them though, they blurt their guilt out like rubes, and...
Don't do that when you don't know who's listening! Now, if the Space Police look like Martians, I'm afraid they're not. We see a Martian earlier, and he's kind of pink, not green. Looks like Batman's stories might not have been canon exactly. After all, the more famous J'Onn J'Onzz also has a strip in this issue and he's both green AND the last of his kind. Unless Mars was repopulated with another species by the Batman's era?

I'd have to do a lot more research to find out. Maybe someone can reprint these stories some day - Kickstarter could help? - but I wouldn't be in any hurry. The bat motif just seems an ill fit for space cadet-type adventures.

Who's Next? Back to our regularly scheduled dissection of Who's Who vol.XXVI.


Anonymous said...

You know how "Star Trek" fans like to have a command of obscure trivia so that they can out-trivia one another? I don't know if you remember before the Internet, but for some reason, comic book readers seized about the Bat-Man as "the" character to know things about; if you could talk knowledgeably about major Bat-Man characters (like Roh Kar, the Martian manhunter) you had "cred".

To this day, comic book fans have a reputation for an undue affection for this Bat-Man.

Toby'c said...

I think I read one of this guy's stories a year ago. I didn't realise it was as old as the 1940s, though thinking about it that might explain some questionable stuff like the sexism, the child abuse and its use of slurs Like "retarded".

larry said...

He also used to appear in World's Finest but was dropped when the Superman/Ghost Patrol team-ups went to book length stories.

LiamKav said...

The only thing I can remember about this character was that there was an attempt by the creators to do an "April Fool" about who invented him. Apparently, they pretended that the guy who came up with the name and half the costume was the creator, whereas another guy who came up with the color scheme, the cape, the cowl, his lack of superpowers, his origin story, the idea that he’s a detective, the words “Batmobile” and “Gotham City,” Robin, the Joker, Catwoman... was completely ignored and wasn't ever allowed to have his name mentioned in any official or non-official capacity.

Now that I think about it, the first guy kept the April Fools joke going a lot longer than you are supposed to.

Randal said...

Sounds kind of interesting. I wish DC would experiment with reviving one of these older characters with potential instead of ANOTHER Klarion book (Like Teekl needs TWO solo series).

Boosterrific said...

Man, you gotta love those Golden Age heroes. Creators would try anything back then. I mean, who thought the adventures of a grown man dressed up as a rodent would sell even one comic book? (A Bat? They might as used a spider motif!) Kids would read anything back then!

Siskoid said...

And the kid is supposed to be a robin redbreast(?) I think... They just threw stuff at the wall to see what would stick back then.


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