Retro Review: Detective Comics #215 (January 1955)
A clever main premise, Shelly Moldoff art and a concept that would spawn bigger and better things.
The new characters aren't given much to do and the main tale is pretty short.
With the advent of Batman, Inc., Bruce Wayne has turned his masked alter-ego into a worldwide franchise. With Batman all around the world, each using their own unique skill-sets, it’s as though the Caped Crusader is in 15 places at once. Of course, this isn’t the first time such an arrangement has occurred (and Grant Morrison knew it, thank you very much.) Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Detective Comics #215 awaits!
DETECTIVE COMICS #215
Writer: Edmond Hamilton/Otto Binder
Penciler: Sheldon Moldoff/Joe Certa/Ruben Moreira
Inker: Charles Paris/Joe Certa/Ruben Moreira
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $700.00
Previously in Detective Comics: As a young child, Bruce Wayne was the victim of a terrible tragedy, one that drove him to dedicate his massive fortune to becoming a warrior against crime of all sorts. Years later, returning him, he partnered with the Gotham City police department to become a Caped Crusader for justice, accompanied by his spunky acrobatic ward, Robin. His legend grew to inspire not just his sidekick, nor Green Arrow (who had, by this point, become nothing more than a bow-and-arrow Batman), but heroes all across the globe…
While the heroes of other nations prepare for their trip to Gotham, the head of the city’s mobs, one “Knots” Cardine, has a plan to use the gathering to his benefit. Chasing down the town car bringing one of the Batman to police headquarters, he captures the (unknown) hero. Shortly afterwards, the Batmen of Many Nations assemble, not knowing that one of them is a fraud…
Boy, it’s a good thing they brought the stretch Batmobile, what with all the heroes stuffed in there. Batman pulls off the save against Cardine’s ambush, but the criminals escape (thanks to the traitor hidden in plain sight). Cardine’s crooks then knock over the box office of the World Circus, getting away with all the show’s cash, with the only clue being that their car has a series of scratches down the side. The heroes give chase, but this time it’s not Batman who gets the crucial clue…
Legionary’s quick thinking has the other heroes questioning the superiority of their American counterpart, and Legionary rubs it in by second-guessing Batman (correctly) in the field. It seems to have a negative affect on The Dark Knight, causing him to make a bad decision that ends in tragedy.
Yes, kids, Batman is dead, and has been for nearly sixty years. The guy you know as Batman is actually just a Clint Eastwood impersonator who couldn’t quite sing like Rowdy Yates, and he has been faking his super-feats with a combination of trick photography and boomerangs since 1955. Now you know….
No, of course I’m not serious. He’s actually Edd “Kookie” Byrnes. As for the heroes, they set out to avenge their fallen comrade, throwing their weight behind the Legionary, who seems to have a sixth sense for crime…
…because he is, in fact a criminal himself. Of course, there’s a precedent for clever criminal plots in the town of Gotham, and one man who always figures them out. Indeed, some might say he’s two steps ahead of crime (or at least a panel or two.)
As our story wraps up, everyone is once again in awe of Batman and his awesome cape, as it should be (at least to hear most comic fans tell it.) By the time of the “BoMN” return just prior to the New 52, all of the Batmen have gotten much better at what they do, but Batman remains that much better, and once again has to ferret out a traitor in the ranks. As for the rest of the issue, we get an adventure of Captain Compass (secretly wealthy socialite
George Van Smoot Roderick Allerton), who uses his maritime skills to ferret out crime on the high seas…
One of the best parts of old anthology titles comes in the filler material, including puzzles, games, house ads and, in this issue, a one-page humor strip by Henry Boltinoff…
It’s an okay bit of goofy humor, but it’s also worth noting that a recurring police officer named Casey has appeared in the New 52 Superman titles, meaning that this strip could by considered canonical (or at least mined for material the next time Grant Morrison ends up on a Superman book). We wrap up the issue with 1950s mainstay, Roy Raymond: TV Detective, who uses his… um… pleasing profile and soothing voice to fight crime in the then-new medium of television.
As the introduction of the Batmen Of All Nations, this issue is interesting for the hardcore Batfan, but not particularly outstanding in terms of its material. Even the interesting concept of the Batmen gets little play this issue, as they’re all relegated to wondering what Poochie is doing when he’s not in the room. Also, it looks like The Musketeer is wearing short-shorts the whole time, so that’s a little bit frightening for me. Still, all in all, as pre-Silver Age Batman stories go, it’s not a terrible one, and the art (by Shelly Moldoff, regardless of the Bob Kane signature on the first page) is fun stuff, leaving Detective Comics #215 with an above-average 3 out of 5 stars overall. If only viewed in terms of the amount of fodder it provided for later stories, it has to be viewed as a success…