Batman #47: "The Origin Of The Batman"

Batman #47
"The Origin of The Batman"
June - July, 1948

Story: Bill Finger
Art: Lew Sayre Schwartz

How did millionaire Bruce Wayne become The Caped Crusader, possessed
of athletic and scientific prowess, and using these attributes in the
cases against such foes as The Joker, The Penguin, The Catwoman, and
countless others, as well as using such fantastic vehicles as The
Batmobile and The Batplane? The answers are in this story of a young boy
who made a determined decision in his young life. (On the splash page,
young Bruce Wayne reads of his parents' demise while the shadow of The
Caped Crusader is upon his shoulders, and The Batmobile shines a
Bat-Signal, while the Bat-Plane soars overhead!)

Outside of Gotham City, a transport truck making its midnight haul
suffers a sudden blowout, then crashes over the edge of the highway!
The accident is seen by The Dynamic Duo, who rush from their Batmobile
and see the truck, now as folded as a piece of tinfoil! The Caped Crusader
sees that the driver is dead from the impact, and The Boy Wonder finds a
secret door, from which a figure emerges. As Robin rushes to his aid, the
thug hits him on the head with the butt of his gun, then the criminal's arm
is caught in the tight grip of The Batman!

Robin revives and stumbles into his mentor, who is caught
flat-footed, as the crook prepares to shoot, but the shot comes from
another direction, and strikes him dead instead! Looking up, The Dynamic
Duo see two arriving patrolmen, one of whom fired the shot which saved
Batman, and when they descend the hill, the dead man is recognized as
"Feets" Borgam, a wanted man for the crime of murder in another state,
and for whom an all-points bulletin had been issued. Inspecting the interior
of the truck, Batman sees milk containers, sandwiches, cigarettes in the
secret compartment, which proves that "Feets" was not a stowaway, but a
paying passenger. The smuggling of wanted men is the latest racket, seemingly
perpetuated by the head of The Sea-Air Transport Company.

In Commissioner Gordon's office, Batman receives the report about
the new owner of Sea-Air Transport, who fired the old owners and the
truckers, then re-staffed. When The Caped Crusader sees a photo of the
new owner, he suddenly comes face-to-face with the man who killed his
parents! He remembers the night when he was with them, how a hold-up man
was intent on taking his mother's necklace, and when his father sought to
prevent it, Thomas Wayne was gunned down, the sight causing Martha Wayne
to die of a heart attack, leaving young Bruce Wayne to accuse their
killer, whose features he would never forget.

With the killer never found, the young boy made a vow in front of
his parents' graves to devote his life and inheritance to find their
killer and bring all criminals to justice. Time passes, with Bruce
learning about scientiific investigation, achieving peak physical
condition to perform amazing feats, and then came the day he felt ready
for his new role... "Criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot..." He
had to find a disguise to strike fear into them, be a creature of the
night, such as the bat, which just flew through his open window! The
sight of the flying form would inspire him to become The Batman!

With this new lead, The Caped Crusader requests that he handle the
case himself, while Robin sees that something is amiss, indeed! At their
home, Robin learns that Batman seeks the killer of his parents and offers
to help, but his mentor is determined to handle this by his own. The
following day at Land Sea Air terminal, an applicant for the truck
driving job is rejected by the owner, who fails to notice how intently
this man is staring at him. Since Joe Chill only hires people he knows,
this ruins the chances for Batman to infiltrate his gang, but then, he
gets another idea...

That very evening, Batman and the harbor patrol are watching a
showboat which is actually a gambling ship, run by one Monty Julep, who
along with his men are attired in the style of the old-time riverboat
gamblers, and whose boat is outside the legal limit, so arrest is
impossible. An hour passes, and two of Julep's men are outside, with one
about to shoot at a sea gull, but the other discourages him since the
clientle wouldn't take kindly to gunshots. Unbeknownst to them, the
"seagull" is part of a camouflage underwater helmet worn by The Caped
Crusader, who reaches the stern paddlewheel, then rides her, and enters,
where he decks the captain, who is guiding the ship. Within the gambling
parlor, the festivities are interrupted by the hurried figure of The
Batman, who hurls a gambling table near Julep!

Julep tells his men to shoot, but they are unable to get a bead on
the fast-moving form of The Batman, who lands near Julep, and upsets the
poker chips in his face! He then takes the roulette wheel and spins it
into the crowd, then the sight of a searchlight has everyone rushing to
the deck! When Julep complains that the ship is outside of the legal
limit, Batman points out that he tied the wheel, then faked the fight so
that Julep wouldn't notice the change in direction. With the police
onboard, Julep runs to a hidden motorboat, then drives away...

The harbor patrol watch Julep make his escape, knowing that Batman
wishes it this way, and at Chill's business, he soon has a harried
visitor, who wants to be smuggled out of the state, which Chill agrees to
do for $5,000, but as he checks out a periscope to see if Julep was
followed, the screen shows that The Caped Crusader is indeed in pursuit
of the fleeing felon! Chill draws his gun and shoots Julep for
double-crossing him, and after the shot, Batman enters, only to see Chill
claim that the crooked Julep wanted him to smuggle him out, and when he
refused, he had to shoot in self-defense or be shot...

On The Gotham City Bridge, The Caped Crusader broods about how close
he is to making Chill confess to his father's murder! He comes to a
decision, one which may mean the end of his career as Batman! Inside the
office, Chill lights a cigar, as he listens to Batman, and a story about
a crime in Gotham City years ago, when a man named Thomas Wayne was
gunned down before his son's eyes. The name has not been forgotten by
Chill, who trembles as The Caped Crusader continues about how his wife
died from shock, and how the killer fled the scene never to be found, but
the boy remembers his father's killer. Chill listens as he hears how
Bruce Wayne can identify him as the killer, but knows that no jury will
believe that Wayne will still be able to identify him, and figures that
Pointy-Ears is bluffing... after all, how would he know what happened
that night...? Before Chill's eyes, The Caped Crusader removes his cowl,
revealing the face of Bruce Wayne, the boy whose father he murdered!

It was because of what Chill did that Bruce Wayne became The Batman,
and for that, he had sworn to arrest their killer one day. Although his
guilt cannot be proven, The Caped Crusader will continue to watch Chill
until he can prove it. Whereever Chill goes, he will be watched...
whatever he does, he will be watched, and he will be waiting for the
moment when Chill makes his fateful mistake. Chill is to remember this,
as well as the subsequent punch, whose force knocks him clean off his
chair and over his desk! Chill revives to find Batman gone, then knows
since he has seen his true face, he will never be free until either of
them is dead! Running to the terminal, Chill tells his gang about how he
killed a man, whose son grew up and became Batman because of him, and the
cardplaying hoods put down their cards...

Sweating, Chill tells them that it was Batman himself who told him
so, all because he killed his father! Now, the men rise, and confront
the man responsible for The Caped Crusader who put them in jail for a
decade, who broke up their smooth rackets, and who placed them into a
penitentiary! All because of Chill, who no longer shivers, as each crook
pulls out a gun, then shoot their employer down! Only after do they
realize that their boss knows Batman's secret identity, and as they bend
down to listen, The Caped Crusader arrives to break up their party,
having overheard their shots, and making sure that they don't overhear
what Chill has left to say...

The two remaining thugs seeks to shoot Batman before they can be
implicated for Chill's death, but The Caped Crusader uses a lever to turn
the car hoist, then fires a grease gun at them, to knock them
off-balance, then two gloved fists knock them down for the count! It is
Batman who hears Chill's final words of how it was he who caused Batman
to exist, and for that reason, his own gang rubbed him out, and in a way,
Batman did get the killer after all! The murder of Thomas Wayne is

A memorable splash page, as we see what drives a young boy to become
the terror of the underworld and the hero of Gotham City.

A smuggling scheme seems very advanced for 1948.

Just another case in the beginning for The Batman, but the face in
the photo says it all for The Caped Crusader.

Even Robin knows how important this case is for his mentor.

Monty Julep should've known not to have made a deal with Chill.

Arriving to a fateful decision, Batman reveals his true identity to
his father's killer, startling, as The Joker once said that the mask is
his true face.

It cannot be denied that Batman would have the patience to watch
over Chill for the one mistake he would undoubtedly make, as well as the
powerful punch which knocked him off his feet!

It was not The Batman who brought down his father's killer, it was
his own men who did.

The Batman fights for justice and the law, not vengeance. An
important distinction, or else he'd be no better than those he faces.

I'm impressed by how he asked permission from The Commissioner to
handle the case alone, as it implies how much Gordon regards him, and the
mutual respect they undoubtedly share.

The case of Thomas Wayne would be re-opened when it would be learned
that Joe Chill was hired by Lew Moxon to kill the doctor.

A Caped Crusader who fights for justice and upholds the law. Can't
help but be impressed by such a character than one who treats his allies
so shabbily at times.

At San Diego Comic-Con 2002, I met Lew Sayre Schwartz, who was
impressed to hear that folks still remember this story.

Steve Chung
"The Review of Batman!"