Sunday, April 5, 2020

Retro Review: Batman Vol 1 #20 - "Bruce Wayne Loses the Guardianship of Dick Grayson"

Stand Under My Umbrella

Written by: Bill Finger
Art by: Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson
Cover Price: 10 ¢
Release Date: December 1943

I started off these retro reviews with Dick Grayson's first appearance and chuckled at how easy it was for Batman to take the young boy under his wing.  Well, it seems that Batman should have filed the proper paperwork after all and it comes back to bite him in his bat-behind this issue.  While that is one of the reasons I picked this story to review, there is something here that ties into the current run of Batman.  This issue shows a Batman who is dealing with loss and is a bad Batman because of it.  Yea, it is a bit melodramatic, but I was actually shocked by how well it all plays out.  I better stop before I spoil it all.  On to the review...

The issue opens with a classic Bruce/Dick pillow fight.  Isn't that what all billionaires do all day?  They are interrupted by a couple guests...George and Clara Grayson, Dick's Aunt and Uncle!  What What?!?   It seems they've been traveling for the years since Dick's parents were murdered and have come to take Dick away from Bruce.  Of course, Bruce wants no parts of that so it's off to court.

Reading this, you immediately know something is up, but things don't go well for Bruce.  They use his playboy facade against him and the Judge orders Dick to go off with his aunt and uncle.  Before leaving, though, we get a nice walk down Memory Lane as the Dynamic Duo goes through the trophy room (this is pre-Batcave) and then say their emotional farewells.

Bruce is really broken up here and decides the best way to get through it is by socking bad guys in the face!  Seventy some years later and I still go by that myself.  The problem is, he is off his game.  He misses Robin's corny one-liners and quips and the gangsters he's fighting even throw shade at him for his weak fighting.  That is until Robin shows up!  Yep, Dick comes flying in and it's like old times again.  However, afterward he has to get back to his Aunt and Uncles house, but Batman tells his young ward he will work things out.

The whole idea of Batman being off his game because he's hurting is done so well here.  It's only a couple of pages but anyone at the time still complaining that Batman wasn't as good with Robin really should have been convinced otherwise.  A current Batman writer might want to read this issue (if he hasn't already) to see how it's done.

We then find out what's up with Uncle George and Aunt Clara.  Of course, they don't have Dick's well being on the top of their list and that gives Batman the in to get his little buddy back.  The best part, though, is that it's Dick and Alfred that end up saving Batman and the day.  The highlights of the issue?  Alfred pretending to be Bruce on the phone and then using the Penguin's umbrella against the bad guys...Classic!

This is a really fun issue that shows why Batman needs Robin...and also Alfred.  That's pretty much the Bat Family back then and goes to show that Batman doesn't always have to be a dark loner to succeed.  There are some real emotions and I have to admit, I got the feels from this one.  It's also cool to see the progression in art and story in the bunch of years since Batman debuted...the art especially.  

Bits and Pieces:

Another classic from Kane and Finger that shows that Batman needs a Robin, but also that he is best when surrounded by family.  This is another must read especially for those fans who want to see a Batman who is hurting from a recent loss and how he works through it.  Sound familiar?  



  1. I found this reminiscent of when Natalia (Nocturna) Night (or was it Knight? I'm too lazy to look it up right now) was awarded custody of (pre-Crisis) Jason Todd. Anybody else make that connection? Bruce and Dick bad a conversation about it at Donna and Terry's wedding.