Not the movie… the first four adventures, including Batman’s first recurring adversary.
Detective Comics #27
The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
Bill Finger wrote and Bob Kane illustrated this story of a secret agreement between four men who had written contracts making them co-owners of Apex Chemical Corporation. One of the four, Alfred Stryker, is murdering the other three so that he will be the sole owner. But he’s foiled in his attempts by the Bat-Man, a mysterious vigilante being hunted by the police. Police Commissioner Gordon discusses the Bat-Man with his friend, bored pipe-smoking socialite Bruce Wayne, who accompanies the Commissioner to interview the son of the first murdered man. The Bat-Man turns up at the second murder scene, overcoming the thugs and learning from the file they stole just what the whole scheme is. He arrives in time to save the third man from Stryker, punching the man into a chemical tank when he pulls a gun on him. “A fitting end for his kind,” declares the Bat-Man, who seems not at all disturbed by the death he’s just caused. The final panel of this six-page story reveals to the reader that (surprise) Bruce Wayne is the Bat-Man.
DC’s Batman: The Golden Age Omnibus volume 1 reprints the uncensored version of this story, complete with the knife sticking out of the dead man’s back on page 2. There are some other changes that I can’t quite remember, though I think both the Archives and Chronicles have the censored version. Six pages is a very inauspicious beginning for Batman, but a lot of the elements we know so well are there right from the start. Bruce Wayne, bored rich guy with no job, Commissioner Gordon, the Batman out after nightfall, using his fists instead of guns (though we’ll see him with guns soon), and escaping death traps (though the trap is set for someone else, not him; he only enters to save the victim). Even the black and gray costume is more like the modern version than the blue and gray one he’ll shortly be seen in and will stick with for decades. And the Batman gets the villain precisely because he doesn’t abide by any rules of evidence gathering or court proceedings. He goes around the law to bring justice. In short, despite the efficient narrative, this is a very familiar Batman, right from the start.
Detective Comics #28
Frenchy Blake’s Jewel Gang
Where would Golden Age superheroes be without jewel thieves to contend with? This is another Bill Finger/Bob Kane story, and a rather standard tale of the Bat-Man tracking down and stopping a gang of jewel thieves led by Frenchy Blake is given a plot twist by the fact that Batman lets himself be seen by police with the criminals, so he’ll be blamed and Frenchy Blake will feel bold enough to continue his activities as a result, allowing the Bat-Man to find him more easily. We see Bruce get information from a police informant via phone by imitating Gordon’s voice, and we see the “silken rope” for the first time, allowing the Bat-Man to swing from skyscrapers and other buildings and climb them.
Detective Comics #29
The Batman meets Doctor Death
Gardner Fox writes this story, still drawn by Bob Kane, where Batman meets his first supervillain, Dr. Death, and his hulking manservant Jabah (who is supposed to be some sort of “sinister foreign type”). The page count has increased to ten pages from six. Dr. Death is threatening to kill various rich men around the city with his poisonous pollen extract if they don’t pay up. Batman first makes note of his utility belt and the gas capsules he stores there as he’s preparing for the investigation. He walks into a trap set for him by Dr. Death and overcomes the thugs, but is shot by Jabah. Still, being Batman, it barely slows him down, and he escapes, has his wound treated and passes it off as an accident to his suspicious doctor. He is able to track Jabah to Dr. Death’s lair and take him down (literally… he strangles him with his silken rope, apparently!) and chases Dr. Death, who accidentally sets his lab on fire and seems to die laughing. ‘Death to Dr. Death”, Batman remarks, again not at all bothered by this.
Batman has killed at least three men at this point. Two were thugs he tossed off of a roof, and now Jabah. And his fight with Dr. Death led to the lab fire, but as well see next issue, Dr. Death has survived. At this point, Batman has no qualms about killing, which always seems bizarre given how much a determination not to kill has been engrained as a part of the character in the years since. Story by story, his standard equipment is being introduced as well.
Detective Comics #30
The Return of Doctor Death
Exactly what it says on the tin. Dr. Death has survived the fire, though he’s horribly injured, and he needs funds to get started again. He decides to steal and fence the Jones diamonds. Bruce figures out pretty quick that Dr. Death survived and tracks him down, killing yet another of his foreign servants, this time by snapping his neck with a kick. Batman is racking up quite the body count here! At least this time he arrests Dr. Death rather than leave him to burn to death. There’s not a lot that’s remarkable about this story, other than the fact that we get a sequel right away.