Detective Comics #27
(WARNING: Minor spoilers ahead.)
With the lockdown in place, I have started to read comics a lot more. So, of course I went back to reading Batman comics. And obviously I went back to the beginnings.
This is a little known fact, but Batman as a comic series had very humble beginnings. I have not dug into the entire cast of characters that showed up back in the 1930’s as part of Detective Comics. That said, I did discover that it is the place where Batman started. So, my curiosity got the better of me, and I went back to first ever published Batman comic, and I was not disappointed. (By the way, “Detective Comics” is where “DC” comes from in what we know today as DC Comics.)
I will not dig into the details, because I do not want to give away the details and spoil it for those who have not read the first Batman comic published in Detective Comics №27. But I will provide a quick review of things that struck me when I read it — so there will be minor spoilers ahead … you have been warned for the second time.
The first thing that struck me is how to-the-point and crisp the entire story comes across as. A good example of that theme lies in the fact that Bruce Wayne and Commissioner Gordon show up on the first page. Bruce is introduced as a Gotham City socialite.
Next, Batman is shown to be someone who fights criminals in Gotham. But before that, he is portrayed as a detective who is solving a crime that is gripping the city — makes sense given that this was published in Detective comics.
In maintaining its simplicity, the story came across as a no-fuss read. There was no gadgetry, no fancy cars, no super computers in some cave. It was just Batman fighting criminals with his intelligence, skill and strength.
It was strangely refreshing. With so much contemporary fascination to Batman’s origin story, and how the myth and legend have been built around this fictional character, it was actually refreshing to see how simple the storytelling around this character really was — at least in the early days.
Interestingly, the other thing that caught my eye was Batman’s cowl. Notice how the horns in the cowl do not emerge from the cowl’s side. Instead the bat horns seem like extensions to his eye mask.
This might seem like a trivial detail to those who may not have followed Batman, or comics in general. But you see, I grew up watching multiple, different Batman Animated Series, and all the different Batman movies that Hollywood released over the decades, and more recently have been pouring over Batman “graphic novels” that show Batman in a dark, gritty light. Through all that folklore, Batman always had his bat horns cropping out from the sides. Visually, this original Batman from DC#27 is very different in his/its basic visual elements.
Finally, Bruce Wayne’s secret identity as Batman is revealed in this first comic. This may seem like an obvious detail — given how it is universally known that Bruce Wayne is Batman. But consider for a moment that you are in the year 1939, and you have never heard of Batman or Bruce Wayne. Why should it be obvious that the two characters are one and the same? To learn that this important detail was established in the very first comic, came as a bit of a surprise — but again, this points to simplicity behind this first telling of Batman’s many stories.
Other fun facts: Superman, another popular character in the DC-universe showed up first in a comic called Action Comics, specifically Action Comics №1, June 1938. And so, Superman actually shows up in the world before Batman does in Detective Comics №27, which shows up in May 1939.