Thursday, June 9, 2016

Detective Comics #27 - pt. 1

It had to happen!  I finally reached the first appearance of The Bat-Man. But, I'll get to that.

The first item in this issue is a new filler called Crime Never Pays. It includes a bunch of true facts about forensics, law trivia, and police history. The most interesting fact, that I'd never heard of before, was the "traveling crime headquarters" -- basically a mobile forensics lab in a trailer that can be hauled to a crime scene. I've never seen one of these show up in a story!

Now we get to The Bat-Man!  The first panel practically defines the Mysteryman class for us "a mysterious and adventurous figure....his identity remains unknown."  Any class can be adventurous or conceal their true identity, but the Mysteryman alone does so to create an air of mystery about himself. It's this air of mystery that allows him to intimidate.

Right away, we get introduced to one of the most important supporting cast members in comic book history, Commissioner Gordon. It is apparently very handy to make friends with your local police commissioner -- they take phone calls about murder investigations in front of you and then invite you to the crime scenes!

It's also worth pointing out that Gordon already knows about The Bat-Man, so even though this is the earliest case we see for many years, this is clearly not his debut outing. Now, in terms of a Hideouts & Hoodlums campaign, that could mean that the Editor has decided to start The Bat-Man out with some XP already under his belt, just so he won't have to wait so long to hit 2nd level.

We first encounter The Bat-Man in a rooftop battle with two robbers (robbers statted in Book II).  He sacrifices his surprise turn in order to try to intimidate the two robbers, but they must both make their morale saves. The Bat-Man still wins the initiative in the first melee turn and punches out a robber with one punch (if robbers are 1 Hit Die and punches all do 1 die of damage, then this is likely for anyone). If the other robber attacks The Bat-Man next, we don't get to see his attack (maybe he missed by a lot). On the following turn, The Bat-Man wins initiative again and grapples. There is no specific game mechanic for a headlock; if The Bat-Man's player wants a headlock he just rolls to attack and if the robber misses a save vs. science, he's in a headlock. And then, because The Bat-Man does what he wants, he just tosses the robber off the roof to take falling damage after that.

When police converge on the scene, orders them to "get" The Bat-Man. This adversarial relationship with the lawful authorities is an important part of the Mysteryman class.

The Bat-Man next turns up in Stryker's hideout. As a laboratory basement, the hideout has plenty of lab dressing -- tanks, chemical glassware, and machines of unknown contents and purpose. It also has a glass dome at least 6' in diameter that can be lowered from the ceiling to the floor and pumped full of lethal gas (an unusually large gas chamber for guinea pigs!). It certainly qualifies as a deathtrap.

Note that, before The Bat-Man races into the deathtrap to save Rogers, he snatches up a heavy wrench, but he doesn't grab the handkerchief he uses to plug up the gas from anywhere. And he isn't using Rogers' handkerchief, because that's still shown in his pocket in the drawing. That means The Bat-Man carries around his own handkerchief with him -- which actually makes a lot of sense. Apparently, handkerchiefs are very handy for foiling gas traps (I'd give a bonus on the saving throw, rather than letting it automatically foil the trap).

Breaking the glass dome with a heavy wrench just seems like a given to me; I probably wouldn't even require a roll for it (unless it was bulletproof glass, of course, and then it might take a wrecking things roll!).

The Bat-Man can "seclude himself in the shadows" (just a fancier way of saying hide in shadows) so as to go unseen. In 1st ed. H&H, "hide in shadows" is used differently, as a human skill for using dim light to their advantage during combat. This is more like the invisibility ability of Mysterymen.

Lastly, The Bat-Man punches out Stryker before Stryker can attack (The Bat-Man's player is very lucky at rolling for initiative!). There is nothing about that punch that should have knocked Stryker back through a metal railing and plunge into an acid tank -- that is all flavor text added by the Editor. What is telling is that The Bat-Man makes no effort to catch Stryker and keep him from falling. If this was my game, I would have given The Bat-Man a free attack roll to snatch Stryker -- if his player wanted one -- even if it wasn't technically a new melee turn yet.

(Bat-Man story in Batman Archives Vol. 1; filler page read at

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