Earlier tonight, I was talking to Matthew Allen Smith–whom you’ll all know as the artist of The Chronicles of Solomon Stone, premiering this Wednesday on the Action Age–about Batman, because… well, let’s be honest here: 90% of the conversations I have in any given day are going to end up being about Batman whether the other party wants them to or not. It’s just how I roll.
Anyway, over the course of the conversation, Smithy told me about a story that I didn’t believe actually existed until he showed it to me, so since I haven’t talked about Batman in like three days now, I figured I’d share it with you.
Originally running for six weeks in 1946 as part of the Batman newspaper strip–which means that it’s handily reprinted in Batman: The Dailies–this story was originally credited to Bob Kane (of course), but was actually the product of Jack Schiff and the legendary Dick Sprang. And brother, it is a story that asks the hard questions, starting with…
What on Earth is Batman doing to Robin? And is it really worse than dressing him up in bright colors and chucking him at gun-toting hoodlums every night?
The answer to the latter question is yes, but for the former, it’s a little more complicated. It all starts with fugitive Slugger Kaye, who has managed to evade both the stalwart incompetence of the Gotham City Police Department and its resident vigilante, a problem that’s turned Commissioner Gordon into a total dick.
That dude has been waiting years for Batman to screw up so that he can rub it in, but that square-jawed sonofabitch is just not having it.
See, as it tuns out, Kaye is known for never missing the annual First Ward Independent Political Association Ball, and since this year’s is a masquerade, B-Dubs and the Rob figure he’ll make an appearance incognito. Thus, after wrangling an invitation through a classic B&E that involves the friendliest security guard ever…
…they’re ready to hit the town.
There is, however, one snag. According to the invitation, due to an outbreak of fisticuffs at last year’s party, every gentleman must be accompanied by a lady. And since Batwoman was still ten years away, that means it’s time for one of the Golden Age’s favorite plot devices: Cross-dressing.
Specifically, Batman elects to go with a matching Louis XVI/Marie Antoinette drag, presumably because Robin just didn’t have the legs to pull off Juliet.
Now, I took a vow a few years back that I’d do my level best to avoid Batman/Robin gay jokes. They’ve been done to death, and the last time they were actually funny was somewhere around the last third of Seduction of the Innocent, so I fully intend to stick by my word through this story.
Alfred, however, is totally fair game.
No matter how hard I might try to forget it, I will carry the sight of Robin’s heaving bosom with me to my grave.
Once Alfred’s done flirting with the Young Master, however, it’s finally time to get this drag show on the road. And as you might expect, Robin is the belle of the ball:
Whoa, Robin, you let him ast your foist?! On the first date?! Jeez, man, show some class.
Interestingly enough, the same thing happened to Jimmy Olsen in the ’60s when he dressed as a girl in order to infiltrate a gang. So for the record, that’s two of DC’s Big Three whose best friends can pass for attractive young ladies. All three if you count Etta Candy, but really, that’s a stretch.
Anyway, rather than stepping in to defend his “date’s” honor, Batman pretty much tosses his chum to the wolves so that he can case the party himself with the benefit of a handy distraction. And eventually, after Robin faces down a whirlwind courtship from Gotham’s seedier element, they track down Slugger and his date for the evening, Hammerlock Hilda. And given that her name is “Hammerlock Hilda,” a description probably isn’t that necessary.
Her presence complicates matters, because again, Batman decides to make Robin handle her, which is problematic in his own right because Robin can’t hit a girl! Even one whose first name is, from all indications, “Hammerlock.”
Fortunately, he is able to just stick his fist out and let physics take its course.
And then they chuck Slugger over the balcony.
Oh, relax, they’ve got the fire department waiting to catch him. As regular ISB readers already know, Robin wouldn’t kick a man off a balcony to his death until 1988.
Anyway, what matters here is that we all learn an important lesson: That there is no problem, be it in a sitcom or in crime-fighting, that cannot be solved with increasingly elaborate transvestism.