Sunday, October 21, 2018

Retro Review: Detective Comics #58 (1941) - "One of the Most Perfect Frame-Ups"

Written by: Bill Finger
Art by: Bob Kane, Jerry Robinson, and George Roussos
Cover Price: 10¢
Release Date: October 21, 1941

The Penguin is a Weird Science favorite and seeing that he will be showing up in Batman in a couple of months, I figured I would go back and review his first appearance in Detective Comics #58.  So, does Oswald steal the show the minute he waddles onto the page?  Let's find out...

The issue opens at an art exhibit where I can only guess that Bruce Wayne is trying to show young Dick Grayson a little culture.  It's not really doing much good as Dick just makes fun of the art until Bruce tells him how much the paintings are going for.  Then Dick changes his tune and like any young kid, is convinced that he could take up painting himself and become rich! 

Dick is a little too loud and the two almost get kicked out of the show.but then they run into the Penguin, who is there looking at the art as well.  The best part of this first appearance...Dick makes fun of the way he looks!  Bruce, being the adult here, stops his young ward, right?  Wrong!  He chuckles to himself at the Penguins looks as well.  Once again, Bruce Wayne, Father of the Year!

The issue picks up when two of the painting are stolen and everyone in the exhibit are frisked...but the paintings are not found.  Of course, we all know the Penguin stole them which is revealed when he goes to a local crime boss who, impressed with the theft, lets Penguin join his crew.  The Penguin taking orders from someone else?  Yea, that's not going to stick.  Of course, it doesn't.  After a couple of heists orchestrated by the Penguin, the Boss tries to low-ball the Penguin and ends up on the wrong side of an umbrella gun. 

While this is going on, Bruce has gone undercover as a goon himself (early Matches?!?) to find out the next heist.  He does stop it, but Penguin gets him with the gas umbrella (I love the umbrellas!) and plants a jade idol on him.  When the police arrive, they arrest Batman for theft!

I love it so much when Batman goes undercover.  We rarely get it anymore, which is such a shame because it is such a cool bit of detective work.  Plus, it's usually just silly fun that makes me smile as well.

The shocking bit of Batman being arrested here is made bigger by the fact that at this point in the continuity, Batman had just been made an honorary member of the GCPD.  It's not mentioned, but we do see Commissioner Gordon pretty upset that Batman had turned bad.

In the meantime, Batman never makes it to jail because Penguin and his goons crash the paddywagon holding the Bat and take him to their lair.  They tie him up, but Batman being Batman, uses his shoe telephone to send morse code to Robin who shows up swinging, punching and kicking.  I know that  the utility belt gets a lot of flack for having everything and anything to get Batman out of a jam, but the shoe telephone is the best!  Better still is how he gets away with tapping out the code...he tells the Penguin he is practicing his dance moves while tied-up! 

Batman and Robin have to make a hasty exit when Penguin calls the police (remember, Batman is still technically the bad guy here), but are soon disguised as a blind beggar and a street urchin and figure out Penguin's next big job.

The issue ends with Batman and Robin foiling the Penguin, clearing their names...and letting the Penguin get away.  Of course, it ends with the idea that they will certainly face him again.  That they do!

This issue felt a bit disjointed at first as if some panels were missing, but once the cat-and-mouse with the Penguin and Batman started, it was smooth sailing.  I love the look of the Penguin and it's all right here from the beginning.  The suit, top hat, monocle and of course the umbrellas!  One of the highlights was Penguin taking time out to admire his umbrella collection.  Even with his funny appearance, Bill Finger makes sure to show the reader how smart Penguin is and so later, it's no shock that he becomes a crime boss and better yet, one of Batman's biggest foes.

Bits and Pieces:

It's the first appearance of the Penguin and Bill Finger and Bob Kane pretty much nail the character right out of the gate.  The look is there (especially if you were a fan of Burgess Meredith in Batman '66), but also the smarts and the attitude.  Overall, the issue had a bit of a pacing problem at first, but that is just nitpicking what is a very important issue for Bat-fans.


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