This is a review of Batman Golden Age Volume One. I’m not going to explain Batman. Just watch one of the fifty or so Batman movies, many of which repeat his origin story ad infinitum. This graphic novel runs over thirty issues, which is much longer than I expected. True, the stories are only twelve or so pages apiece, but that’s a lot of Batman.
I will be honest and say that I enjoyed this more than I thought I would. However, aspects of this graphic novel have, in the words of a Goodreads reviewer, aged about as well as milk. Some of these stories are racist/contain racist stereotypes, so know that going in.
Batman is Bruce Wayne, sluggard millionaire. At night he dresses up like a bat and fights crime. It never does any good, because by the end of this graphic novel New York City is as crime-ridden as it’s ever been. The cast is bare-bones. Bruce has a fiancée, whom he never sees unless she’s being threatened by werewolves. Bruce’s sidekick is Dick Grayson, aka Robin, and their dialogue is cringeworthy. Commissioner Gordon is around, but he wants to arrest Batman!
The rogue’s gallery fares better. We see a lot of The Joker, who’s pretty scary. The pages of this graphic novel contain many cackling mad scientists and homicidal maniacs, but what sets the Joker apart is callousness coupled with randomness. The term ‘serial killer’ hadn’t been invented in 1940, but The Joker is a picture-perfect portrait of one. There’s also a thief called The Cat, aka Cat Woman, who bewitches Batman with her feminine wiles. Also present is Dr. Hugo Strange, a Batman villain we don’t see much of nowadays.
The stories move fast, with lots of action, and are totally unrealistic. There’s a fair number of whodunits, most of which are obvious, but still fun. One of the stories is a King Kong tribute, another is a Dracula riff. Bob Kane and Bill Finger produced a lot of material together!