Editor’s Note: What were the memorable or lasting events that took place in the comics during each publication year? That is exactly what this new article series should answer. Starting off with the first year and working forward, we hope to share a new year every week.
Every legend has a beginning, an origin. For Batman, it all started in the year 1939 with Detective Comics #27. Over the past eighty years, the character has become one of the most recognizable figures in all of entertainment. From comic books to movies, to video games, the Batman has appeared across all forms of media. Through it all, his mission has never changed or wavered. The Batman was after one thing, justice.
Shaped by the murder of his parents, Bruce Wayne dedicated his life to warring on crime to protect others from having to endure what he had suffered. Taking the form of a bat, he became a legend, drawing fear from the denizens of crime.
In the name of justice, Batman had fought numerous villains, and within that first year, we were introduced to the likes of mad scientists and evil clowns. Perhaps one of his toughest and most bizarre cases that the Caped Crusader took on, was in Detective Comics #31-32 with The Monk.
In those stories written by Gardner Fox, Batman had to deal with the supernatural for the first time, in the form of a vampire, werewolf hybrid creature. The villain was able to place his victims under his spell and control them. One of those victims turned out to be Julie Madison, the fiancee of Bruce Wayne.
Batman put Julie on a cruise and followed her to the lair of the evil Monk, but is captured and nearly turned into one of the vicious creatures before managing to escape the clutches of the villain and killing the undead fiend.
Within the first year of Batman stories, Robin, the young junior detective was introduced in April 1940 with Detective Comics #38. Like a young Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson watched his parents die. The family performed in the circus and fell to their deaths from the trapeze when their ropes were covered in acid. The young boy was taken in and trained by Batman to be a crime fighter, vowing an oath to protect the citizens of Gotham City. Robin, the Boy Wonder, quickly became a fan favorite and the Dynamic Duo soared to new heights.
Many people know that Batman does not kill his enemies. That wasn’t the case back in 1939. When Professor Hugo Strange created his monster men and set them loose on the city, Batman took to the sky and hung one the giants from his Batplane. He shot another one of the monsters with gas pellets while he was at the top of a tower causing him to fall to his doom below.
The Cat was also introduced in the first year of Batman. She was a jewel thief aboard a cruise ship. Batman and Robin solve the case and return the stolen jewels to their owners. But while trying to take her in, The Cat, who will eventually be known as Catwoman, manages to escape from the Dynamic Duo. Batman, who seemed to be a bit smitten with the mysterious woman refused to chase her, hoping that they would meet up again.
Perhaps the most notable thing that happened within that first year of Batman stories was the introduction of his most famous adversary, The Joker. The Crown Prince of Crime was introduced in the debut issue of the Batman comic book and set out on his murderous path. This villain was after more than just money, he wanted the attention and notoriety that came with his crimes.
Batman continues his mission, his quest to fight the injustice in the streets of Gotham City to this day, over eighty years since the first Batman story was told by Bob Kane and Bill Finger.