Batman In The Early Golden Age

You know about the homoerotic undertones of Batman and Robin? Right, and every one knows they’re (probably and mostly) unintentional, except for Frederic Wertham who saw threats of teh gays against young comics reading children every where in the early 1950s. So if Wertham thought he saw evidence back then couldn’t there’ve been earlier examples that set off his twisted  gaydar? During one of my library trips last month I borrowed a copy of Batman: The Dark Knight Archives vol 2 that collects Batman #5 – 8 and I found some interesting things that made me look for volume one, collecting Batman # 1 -4.

One thing that stood out to me is how often writer Bill Finger used the word “queer” in these stories. Sure, Finger meant to use it to mean odd or stange and not to refer to gender. Finger uses it three times in Wolf, the Crime Master, a generic story featuring a mild mannered private museum curator as a Jekyll Hyde villain to describe a strange dream and a distinctive dent in a car; then in Case of the Clubfooted Murderers in Batman #2 to describe a robe wearing, clubfooted murderer with a claw hand which in reality is a disguise used by a man to cheat both his brother out of money and the heirs of a businessman who originally swindled the money.

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The word comes out of Batman’s mouth again in Case of the Missing Link, also from Batman #2. That gem of a story is about blind Professor Drake accidentally discovering a giant primitve white man who was worshiped by a tribe of Africans. Drake captures this savage “god” and whisks him away from “Mabonga” land to America. Somehow these Africans have pursued Drake all along his route with the idea of returning their god. Yeah, Africans praying to a giant white guy. And Batman thinks he’s cute!

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Queer is what Batman thinks of a man dressed in a Cossack’s costume who shoves his way into another man that’s been targeted by Cossack man’s boss – Dmitri, the dreaded Puppet Master!

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Now Puppet Master has several methods of gaining control of people, including the tried and true method of hypnotism which Batman falls for. Robin’s really upset when Batman bitch slaps him across the face. Don’t worry! Plucky little Robin’s going to take care of things!  This is from the Case of the Diabolical Puppet Master in Batman #3.

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A nameless ship captain unknowingly rescues the Joker from drowning, thinking he’s doing a good deed by rescuing a “queer sort of duck” instead of letting the pasty faced bastard die in Davy Jones’ locker and saving countless people from torture and murder. And Barbara! She wouldn’t have been shot by Joker!

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In Crime Does Not Pay from Batman #5, Batman finds it queer that one hood butts in to try save another.

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Mr Brock the Clock Maker from Batman #7 is considered a “queer, old fellow” because he thinks he’s Father Time. Maybe the poor guy really suffered from Alzheimer’s.

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That wraps up Bill Finger’s use of queer for now. Now there’s nothing gay in this next panel but I wonder if Finger was being a little kinky by having Batman telling Catwoman to shut up or get spanked from Batman #1.

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Robin seems a little jealous of Bruce’s early love interest Linda Page after the Dynamic Duo help Linda’s Texas oil baron father.

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Finally in Case of the Honest Crook proves tight his emotions are wound after mistakenly thinking Robin’s been killed on a solo mission. Anguished sobs! Batman threatening to kill a doctor if Robin does die! A wounded Batman overwhelmed with relief declares himself a sissy before fainting! Side by side twin beds for recovery!

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Y’all know these were drawn by Bob Kane, right?

March 7, 2015
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