Saturday, February 4, 2017

Detective Comics #33 - pt. 1

This is the issue that gave us Batman's famous, two-page origin story. This story is also the origin of both the "cowardly" and "superstitious" hoodlums, from Bruce's famous speech about "criminals are a superstitious cowardly lot."

When the real adventure begins, Bruce Wayne observes scarlet rays. These rays have multiple effects -- they can blind people and wreck buildings (probably at least as well as a 6th level superhero). Since thousands are killed in a single attack, we can assume they have a large range and a wide area of effect.

Prof. Carl Kruger is at least our 2nd Napoleon mobster in comics -- though I'm still not seeing a lot of justification for statting it differently like I did before in 1st edition. Maybe Napoleons are just master criminals or master criminal/scientists.

Batman hurls his Baterang as a missile weapon for the first time here, but Kruger is protected by a glass wall he keeps in his office between his desk and the window (perhaps wary of snipers?). Batman is overcome with a surprise head blow from behind (already going in 2nd edition).

Kruger's death trap is to leave Batman tied up with rope on the floor with a bomb set to go off in five minutes. Why Kruger wants to blow up his own house isn't clear, other than that he's obviously crazy. Batman cuts his bonds with a blade concealed in his boot and escapes in time. Luckily, Kruger never checked his boots -- or even peeked under his mask! (Save vs. plot to make sure villains don't do anything that obvious to you when you're captured.)

Batman doesn't escape entirely, though. His bleeding lip seems to indicate he took some of the blast, just not enough to kill him. An explosion would normally require a save vs. science for half damage, but with a deathtrap maybe it should be a save vs. plot for half damage, with a failed save meaning death instead of twice the damage.

Batman's not a great fighter yet in these early stories, but he's smart. He doesn't know where Kruger fled to, but Kruger unwisely told him the names of his lieutenants and one, apparently, has a publicly known address. Batman confronts him, tells him to take a message to Kruger, and then follows him in his Batplane (still the auto-gyro).  Of course, Batman would have been sunk had the lieutenant simply called Kruger on the phone...

Batman has a glass vial that, when it breaks, surrounds the Batplane in a thick smokescreen that clings to the plane. How this doesn't blind Batman isn't clear.

Guards can be really stupid. They see a smokescreen hovering in the sky and mistake it for a raincloud. I think even Winnie-the-Pooh would have seen through this.

Smaller (I presume weaker) versions of the scarlet death-rayguns can be mounted on trucks. They're delicate though -- one shot and they all blow up. Kruger explains soon thereafter that the death ray is a combination of ozone and gamma rays.

This is the first story in which Batman's life is saved by a bulletproof vest. This time, the bullets still knock him out and make him bleed (superficially).  On later occasions, bullets will just bounce off him because of the vest (maybe he has a Vest +1 by then).

Then Bruce Wayne whips up -- and I'm not making this up -- an anti-death-ray chemical spray to coat his Batplane with. This was the story that made me decide Batman had to be dual-statted as a mysteryman/scientist for Supplement IV.

The first Batplane is destroyed when Batman crashes it into Kruger's blimp, from which the scarlet death-rays are being fired.

Kruger apparently had an army of 2,000 mercenaries, though we never saw more than him, his three lieutenants, and two guards. After Kruger dies, Batman seems to sit back and let the authorities round up the army.

The next installment of Spy has to do with the country of "Luxen" -- a very poorly disguised Luxembourg suffering a bloodless annexation from "Thoria" (Germany). The story is interestingly prophetic, as this was 1939 and Luxembourg wasn't invaded until the following year -- and it was largely bloodless! The government did flee the country, but to the UK, not the US.  Past that, details seem strangely altered; Luxen has a male president instead of a female duchess. Also, in real life, the duchess fled with her family, which makes more sense than what the president does -- leaving his family behind so they can be threatened as hostages.

Bart Regan seems more observant than normal; he spots a wire hanging down behind a painting and immediately recognizes that it's a dictaphone wire.

The Luxen president's speech is interrupted by what appear to be mountebanks -- or so I call them in a new stat block for 2nd edition. Mountebanks, or rabble rousers, are able to get a growing number of innocent bystanders to start fighting.

And I learned a vocabulary word in this story -- plebiscite. Though it is consistently misspelled "plebecite."

Buck Marshall, Range Detective plays for high stakes when he has a defend a played out mine suddenly valued at $500,000. I learned the term "salting a mine", a con where you add extra gold to the random samples to make the mine seem more valuable.

Buck slips into a shack through a window because the front door is padlocked. It's important to keep in mind that, in modern times, we have multiple ways of locking doors. A padlock is relatively easy for Heroes to foil -- they might be able to wreck it with bolt cutters (though at a -4 penalty, if a non-superhero), or it can be shot off with a bullet if the bullet hits AC 7. Buck didn't want to make that much noise...

Buck didn't bring his own light source, though, so the Editor was gracious and left a lamp sitting out in the dark interior.

(Batman stories read in Batman Archives vol. 1; the rest read at

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