Batman is perhaps the world’s best known and most iconic superhero. The World’s Greatest Detective hit the store shelves on April 18, 1939 (although the “publication date” on the comic book shows May 1, 1939), in the pages of an existing comic book title, Detective Comics. Prior to Batman’s first appearance in Detective Comics #27, this title had featured crime, detective, and police-type stories. The introduction of a costumed crime fighter who in real life was merely a normal human being was new. A few months earlier, the world had been introduced to a super-powered costumed hero named Superman in Action Comics #1. That fellow was an alien from another world with incredible powers and abilities. This new “Bat-Man,” as he was first called with the hyphenated name, was in reality the supposedly mild and easily bored millionaire Bruce Wayne. As we all now know, this first appearance of “The Bat-Man” would launch a stellar career in comic books, television, movies, video games, and many other aspects of pop culture.
Detective Comics #27 featured the first appearance of “The Bat-Man,” as he was first called. This book included several separate stories, only the first of which featured Batman. Several oddities are evident in this story. Batman is called “The Bat-Man,” and Bruce Wayne is seen smoking a pipe. This also features the first appearance of Commissioner Gordon. The villains are just run of the mill criminal types, not the insane and bizarrely costumed villains that Batman fans are used to.
Featured Characters in this Detective Comics Batman Story:
Batman (First appearance)
Commissioner Gordon (First appearance)
Alfred Stryker (Single appearance) (Dies in this issue)
Jennings (Single appearance)
Lambert (Single appearance) (Dies in this issue)
Lambert, Jr. (Single appearance)
Paul Rogers (Single appearance)
Steven Crane (Single appearance) (Dies in this issue)
Story Summary: “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate":
Commissioner Gordon learns that a chemical industrialist named Lambert has just been murdered. It seems as if Lambert’s son is guilty of the crime, but the son, Lambert Jr., confesses only to finding his father’s body. Millionaire Bruce Wayne is conveniently present at the scene of the crime, and decides to investigate as his alter-ego, The Batman.
After looking though the late Lambert’s contacts, Batman discovers the names of Lambert’s old business partners: Steven Crane, Paul Rogers and Alfred Stryker. Shortly thereafter, Steven Crane is found dead in his home. Paul Rogers learns of the murder and seeks out the last surviving business partner, Alfred Stryker. But Stryker reveals himself to be behind the crimes and kidnaps Rogers. Stryker seeks total control over their business interests. Batman swoops down inside of Stryker’s chemical factory and rescues Rogers. Stryker tries to attack him but Batman beats him back, toppling the criminal into a vat of acid.
*It should be noted that many versions of the Joker’s origin story have the Joker falling into a vat of acid, thereby causing his discoloration and insanity. Over the years, the Joker’s true origin has been kept rather vague, but many long-time Batman and Joker fans like to believe that THIS criminal who fell into the acid vat turned out to be the Joker.