Tuesday, December 08, 2020

The Man Who Replaced Batman (Part 2): Liar, Liar, Please Don't Fire

We left Jim Gordon confronting the uncomfortable ramifications of his own swift and utter embrace of vigilantism in the city where maintenance of law & order are his responsibility.  Batman is one thing, because, well... he's Batman.  

But he's ALSO a precedential nightmare and now some exceedingly well-dressed gun-nut is arguing that Batman having a monopoly on crime-fighting is an anti-trust issue.  As in, why trust Batman, and not me?

Other things to consider are Jim's impending singing telegram, glass-encased emergency toilet paper display, and atomic lava lamp.  At your leisure.

So... gun permits have NAMES on them, you know.  The gun doesn't have a permit; YOU do... to own the gun.  Did Deadshot just show Jim permits with the name redacted?  Or, did Jim just waive them off, saying, "Well, yes, I'm sure it's all in order."  You know how lazy Jim is.  And indulgent of sturdy young vigilantes in dashing costumes.

"We have openings in our new Operatic Crimes Division, you'd be perfect.  You'd be surprised how much opera-based crime there is in Gotham, and it's not as if I can assign it to Slam Bradley and Casey the Cop, you know."

Now, if Deadshot were being undiplomatic he'd simply reply "because your imbecilic praetorian guard is composed of addlepated stumblebums who can accomplish nothing while costumed freaks run rampart around our fair city."  Because that's how men in top hats talk. But men in top hats are also notorious diplomatic so he fobs off the offer with the flimsy excuse of a war wound:

Pretty sure steel plates are inside your leg, not grafted outside. Pretty sure those are just those thingies that hold your socks up.  Guys in top hats love those.

Clearly that was just an excuse for Deadshot to show Jim a little leg, increasing his chance of approval.  But, let's focus in on this statement a bit:

Well, Jim; isn't that reason ENOUGH for Deadshot not to want to join the department?

Deadshot takes advantage of Gordon's spineless ineffectuality to start shooting at those who threaten his hat-superiority:

"N-n-noo! Not MY HAT!"
This is 1950, mister; without a hat, you might as well be dead.

Props to the Golden Age artist who put a Batman & Robin statue in a public park as a way of both lampshading Gotham's indecent worship of the Dynamic Duo and putting Deadshot literally in their shadow, as well as metaphorically.  Golden Age artists understood economy of storytelling.  

By the time Bruce & Dick return from their cruise, it is to a different status quo (of which they are wholly unaware, because god forbid they should read any newspapers, which are surely chockfull of articles and editorials about the trigger-happy, tuxedoed vigilante shooting at poor non-innocent criminals).

Maybe there's a sale at Target, Dick. 

Gordon explains that, in the half-minute Batman took a vacation, he found a way to make his job even easier by adopting another vigilante.

"Yes, I do; that's why I'm already part of Dynamic Duo, you overdressed poseur."

This fear of being supplanted is a common theme in comics of this era, because the audience was children.  Children are paranoid about being replaced in their parents' affections.  They are often jealous of attention their parents give to other children, they are afraid of being upstaged by baby siblings, or replaced by a nimble circus orphan.  Golden and Silver Age comic books writers played on this fear. A LOT.  Characters in Batman and Superman stories frequently felt threatened that they were losing the affection of authority figures, of the public, or of one another, and, other than the death of a loved one, it was their WORST fear.  

For example, Joe Meach, the most powerful being in the universe, wasted his time humiliating the World's Finest in public so that he could make them fear being supplanted and becoming obsolete.  Because, for all the Composite Superman's power, Joe Meach was a small and petty man.

Starting counting all the stories from those eras where that -- fear of being supplanted -- is the crux of the plot and you'll be amazed.  It's no accident that Deadshot shows up when Batman is on vacation.

But, Deadshot is just a fancy dan and Batman is a DETECTIVE.  And he immediately detects that Deadshot's a liar during a joint field trip to interrogate a prisoner.

As you lay in bed tonight, drift off to sleep trying to find a justifying reason for Commissioner Gordon to send Batman and Deadshot to a penitentiary to interview an incarcerated felon.

With a puff of his pipe, Gordon poo-poos Batman's misgivings as pure piffel.
It's "eager", you vicious old queen, not "anxious".  Someone seems eager to put Batman in his place, like an overweening boy-toy who needs reminded that the Gotham streets are just full of hopeful young millionaire vigilantes waiting to become Jim's new favorite.

A BAT- prima donna! There's an image I didn't expect to encounter in a Golden Age story; it's both lively AND unbecoming. Yet I am hard-pressed to deem it inaccurate.


Clearly, in order to convince snippy ol' Jim Gordon that his latest adopted vigilante is bogus, Batman will need more EVIDENCE.  Fortunately, Batman is a detective and that's what he does; that evening, in fact, as crime erupts again in Gotham City:

"Look, circus boy, this was your choice; I wanted you to wear long pants and sleeves.  Alfred wanted you to wear long pants and sleeves. CHILD SERVICES wanted you to wear long pants and sleeves.  The only person who didn't want you to wear long pants and sleeves was Commissioner Gordon, for some reason."

Does crime really 'erupt' in Gotham City? Isn't it really more like a constant burbling? Isn't the sound of gently burbling crime what allows most Gothamites to nod off at night? In any case,  Batman gets his shot when Deadshot, the awesome trick shooter and marksman, manages somehow, utterly unexplained, to shoot a hole in his own pocket, apparently for the sole purpose of giving Batman a clue.

"Stevens! Fetch the darning kit!"

How on earth with that scrap of cloth let Batman undo Deadshot? Why, in most elaborate and tortured way imaginable, of course....


John C said...

Gordon's reaction actually explains a lot about Gotham, now tat I think about it. If he can't think of any way to stop a gun-toting vigilante and hasn't been fired, then I'm guessing that the city isn't particularly good at prosecuting criminals.

I'm surprised that the Comics Code Authority didn't object to this story, though, given that there's an entire section about how forbidden it is to portray authority figures as inept.

Those "am I being replaced?" stories are wild, too, I believe the only times that the writers were willing to show Superman crying. So, it was at least as important to them as making sure all romantic partners were portrayed as nosy, hectoring killjoys.

Anonymous said...

About doings over at Superman, remember that the editor over there was Mort Weisinger, who was known to have a taste for humiliating people in his employ. I suspect that a lot of that spilled into his ideas for what constitutes a good story.