Detective Comics #29: "The Batman Meets Doctor Death"

Detective Comics #29
"The Batman Meets Doctor Death"
July, 1939

Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Bob Kane
Letters: Bob Kane

The Masked Manhunter has become an urban legend in Gotham City,
dispensing justice as it never had been before. In the study of Doctor
Karl Hellfern, Doctor Death calls for Jabah. The Doctor has already
completed all of his laboratory experiments. His death pollen extract
has been perfected and he is ready to exact tribute from the world's
wealthiest citizens. They will either pay him or die, and only one thing
worries him. Their crime may attract the attention of the Batman, and he
must be dealt with. Since they do not know who he is, it will not be a
simple matter to trap him. Doctor Death plans to contact their prey
through the personal notice section in the newspapers. In another part
of the city, millionaire Bruce Wayne is reading the morning newspaper
when he comes across a certain ad.

"Batman, If you will go to General Post Office and ask for a letter
addressed to John Jones, you will find a message of vital importance."
At the U.S. Post Office, Bruce Wayne picks up a letter for John Jones.
"Batman, At 10 P.M. tonight at Suite B on the 14th floor of the Beverly
Apts, I will commit a murder and I defy you without the aid of the police
to stop me..." The millionaire playboy returns to Stately Wayne Manor,
where he opens a small chest, and retrieves his Bat-attire. He has half
an hour to change clothes and half an hour to reach the penthouse. Gas
pellets filled with choking gas may come in handy for the evening's
activities. Suction gloves and knee pads will make access to the
penthouse even more feasible. Now, instead of the millionaire playboy,
there stands the Batman. After glancing at the dashboard clock, he sees
that it's 8:30, and he's off. Minutes before nine, the automobile stops
in the vicinity of the building.

Before the climb to the penthouse, the Batman parks his automobile in a
nearby vacant lot. After racing from the construction site, he throws his
lasso up to catch onto a window sill. The suction pads enable him to
climb up the side of the building, where he soon stands on top of the
penthouse garden roof.

The Masked Manhunter keeps his rope handy for a quick exit, then surveys
his surroundings with caution. Inside are gunmen under the employ of
Doctor Death. The Doctor's instructions are for them to wait until he is
inside, where they will open fire, and the police will find him later.
When the lights are turned on, the Batman finds himself in a trap. It
looks to Doctor Death's thugs that they have caught him at last.

Dodging the first two shots, the Batman topples over a pedestal, and
brings down the two hired hoods. The Batman leaps upon them, delivering
firm punches with both fists. When they are asked who sent them, they
refuse under fear of death and Doctor Death. Jabah arrives to deliver
greetings from his master. The Indian fires off one shot.

The Masked Manhunter is struck in the arm, but manages to remove a glass
pellet from his utility belt. Holding his breath, he slams the glass
pellet down in front of Jabah. The room is now filled with deadly gas,
with the Batman leaping for the glass windows leading to the penthouse
roof. The two thugs watch as he leaps over the side, and are unaware
that the Batman has grabbed onto his waiting rope. He swings onto
another part of the roof.

Still bleeding from his wound, he dons his suction cups and knee pads.
In the automobile, Bruce places cotton wadding on his bare shoulder.
After changing clothes, he enters a phone booth, and calls the Daily
Globe to have a public notice inserted. "I accept your challenge, Doctor
Death. The Batman." His shoulder now aching, Bruce pays a visit to his
family doctor. When the physician asks how he shot himself when there's
no powder marks on his flesh, the patient admits that he does strange
thing sometimes, and promises to tell him about it sometime. The
following morning finds Doctor Death chastising his henchmen, then having
a word with Jabah. He shows the giant Indian a picture of John P. Van
Smith, the man who refuses to pay tribute, and who must die. Since Jabah
is immune from the pollen, he is to blow it at their victim when he
emerges from his club this evening. Soon, the giant Indian is on his
errand of death.

Bruce Wayne spots his killer from last night, and follows him. As John
P. Van Smith exits from the club, Jabah blows the dust at him. The giant
Indian flees, not seeing the millionaire playboy covering Van Smith and
his face with handkerchiefs. There's no time for explanations as Bruce
must continue to follow Jabah. After watching the giant Indian pass
through the gates, the millionaire playboy prepares to pay a visit as the
Batman. That evening, the Masked Manhunter enters from the sidewalk
behind the house of Doctor Death. Using his rope, the Batman climbs up
to the second story of the house. In a few more minutes, his score with
Doctor Death will be settled.

After using a glass cutter, he makes his stealthy entrance. Doctor Death
and Jabah are found in the laboratory. When a lasso catches him around
the neck, the giant servant is yanked from the table. It will not be a
good evening for Doctor Death. Pressing a button, the Doctor drops down
a secret chute. The Batman is close behind, having leapt before it
closed. He lands onto a mat, and sees his quarry disappearing down the

It is a relentless pursuit, with Doctor Death returning to his
laboratory, and striving to defeat his foe. As the Batman grabs ahold of
a fire extinguisher, Doctor Death has prepared a fiery death. The
extinguisher is thrown at the deadly test tube, where it shatters on the
floor, and triggers a deadly inferno. The Doctor is mad with laughter
over his own predicament. The Batman could almost pity the poor fool,
who has received death... to Doctor Death.

This story was reprinted in Batman: From The Thirties To The Seventies.

Doctor Karl Hellfern is bald, bearded, has pointed ears, and wears a

Jabah wears a turban and says nary a word.

Gotham City has yet to be named at the time of this story.

Bruce Wayne smokes a pipe.

The Batman drives an ordinary automobile, and has yet to create the

The Golden Age hero can be shot and wounded.

He also has a deadly arsenal of his own.

After his visit to the family doctor, I wonder if the millionaire playboy
ever visited a psychiatrist, and discussed the funny things he does

Steve Chung
"The Batman Meets Doctor Review"