Author: Bob Kane
It's the height of summer, and you know what that means--Batman and Robin are going to fight some poor window washer!
What did he ever do to you? And what does this have to do with Detectives? I'm so confused!
Ah, summer. When a young man's thoughts turn to guns:
Is it just me or is it weird to advertise an air rifle right before a Batman story, which is usually very anti-gun? Maybe this is the one where Bruce Wayne gets sick of pretending to be bored and goes postal on his high-society buddies.
No, apparently it's about one of my favorite subjects--cities.
Our story opens with a declaration of theme. Bruce is having lunch with a friend, one Jim Daly. Daly believes that Gotham is a cold and heartless place, its citizens bustling but without empathy. Bruce disagrees. Our dialectic set, it is up to some gangsters or something to prove the point one way or the other.
Our next page is an interesting illustration. Normally one would think of Batman himself as a refutation of Daly's point--here is a man who dedicates his life to the service of others in his city. Yet here he throws himself off a pier in order to save a girl from committing suicide. Is this empathy, or a self-serving savoir complex, unable to afford others the same autonomy he demands for himself?
Anyway, having saved her, Batman suggests she tell him her tale of woe. Perhaps he can solve her problem with punching?
"If only the artist had drawn me more attractive!"
Ms. Vane (get it? get it? aw, forget it) goes on to explain that she's been deceiving her parents, claiming wild success on the stage in the letters she sends them. And in a shocking twist worthy of every sitcom ever, her parents are now coming to town for a few days to watch Viola's performance and exclaim how proud they are in person. And rather than face their disappointment, she's chosen to throw herself in the river.
Batman to the rescue! With his strong muscles, he's able to hold her head underwater for much longer than the required--
Oh, wait. He's going to help with his super-selfishness, instead.
"This is my chance to use her suicide attempt to a prove a point in an argument!"
Later, Batman shows up at a nightclub and outlines his plan to help Viola. Bizarrely, the rich assholes agree.
"Tell me again how good looking Bruce is."
Bruce "goes from nightspot to nightspot, telling everyone of Viola Vane," and thanks to all those two-drink minimums, he's pretty smashed by the time he gets to the next stage of his plan: media blackout.
Mack: "Here's to you, Mr. Robinson! Jesus loves you more--"
Mr. Robinson: "And someone's sneakin' round the corner. Could that someone be Mack the Knife?"
Batman: *backs out of the door slowly*
What Batman has set up here is actually very precarious. By making it clear that he's telling this to every news organization in town, both the papers and the radio stations, he's set up a sort of Prisoner's Dilemma. The first person to break the press embargo gets the scoop of a lifetime (I can see the headlines now: "Viola Vane Not Actually Famous! Batman Tries to Stifle Freedom of Speech! Read All About It!"), and everybody else gets screwed for toeing the line. So each individual's best move is to get the story out as fast as possible--which means that they all will, and thus get screwed, because nobody will have the story out significantly faster than anyone else. So what holds this embargo together? The threat of physical violence, of course.
His words say "I'll start a Senate investigation" but his eyes say "I will punch anyone you have ever loved."
Time for step 3--Miss Vane. Bruce shows up ("There's no need for you to understand. The Batman told me what you're to do. ...now take off that dress. That's right. Now dance a little.") and takes her to first the beauty parlor for a makeover, and then to her home for the duration of her parents' visit.
"Your stage name, Miss Ophelia Thunderstorme!"
Viola is so touched by the kindness of her betters that she starts crying tears of joy. Gee, this sounds like a crackerjack new reality TV show. "Famous for a Day", or maybe "We Help You Lie to Your Loved Ones".
Finally her parents arrive, stunned by Viola's apparent wealth and fame.
Here the letterer has helpfully bolded all the failures of imagination.
After the tour, Bruce and Viola take the Vanes to a nightclub (her father has never even seen one, outside of the movies), and everybody applauds her arrival.
The best idea Batman had here was convincing the MacGianthands family to participate in the scheme.
While Viola is soaking up all the charitable glory, however, a trio of gangsters has designs on the furs and jewels on loan to her in her penthouse. Oh no! How could she ever live without them?
"No, dis is a laugh: Hah!"
Robin is guarding the penthouse. Do I even need to tell you what happens next, or can I skip right to the Boy Wonder's embarrassing failure?
"I tried to fight, but I just suck so much! I'm sorry for being totally worthless, Batman." is what he should have said.
Inside the penthouse, Vane's borrowed furs and jewels have been stolen back, and her rented Rolls has turned into a pumpkin, too. Batman's only fear is that Viola's parents might know of the theft, because... uh... rich people never get robbed? I dunno. Vane suggests calling the police, but Batman doesn't want publicity. "Robin and I will handle this in our own quiet way," he says, a line which tells us that this story is finally going to start trending towards this:
"Then why did you enter by breaking our skylight?"
After panel after panel of Batman and Robin saying, "Please stop fighting so we can talk" while they beat the living crap out of these gangsters, the hoods finally decide to listen. At least, the conscious ones.
Batman actually appeals to their common decency, telling them it's a rotten trick that's been played on Viola Vane. Most of them still deny any knowledge, but one rat-faced fellow tells Batman, "I may be a crook, but I never pulled a doity stunt like Toothy done." He tells our heroes where they can find Toothy (who can be seen a few panels up in this entry).
Apparently, he lives in "The Shacks", a "crooked row of weather-beaten old houses" on the waterfront, home mostly to criminals. Even Batman and Robin tread softly here... but not softly enough.
"The Batman is here!"
"He'll ruin his surprise party!"
"We must stab him!"
"We must stab the Batman!"
With difficulty, Batman and Robin fight their way through the crook-infested house, and then sleeping-gas the lot of them. They make their way to Toothy's room, only to be greeted by a hail of bullets. (Man, nobody ever has anything nice to say.) Toothy goes down the fire escape, and in a fit of pique at his earlier humiliation, Robin launches himself out the window and into Toothy's car. The two of them end up driving right off the pier. Robin takes the opportunity to turn Toothy into Toothless (haha, childhood brutality!), and all's well that ends--
Goddammit woman, will you ever be happy?!
Ugh. Batman has to schlep down to the theater, and convince the star and director to let little miss entitled star in the play, too. Luckily they're amenable--it's the star's last performance before she leaves for Hollywood, anyway.
"You'll do it even if I have to beat up you and half the audience," growled the Batman.
And she does and it's a big hit, of course, and the play's director wants her to stay on to take over for the real star, and her parents are happy, and everyone applauds...
And she never sees Batman again, because he all he ever wanted was this:
"Deep enough and no deeper! Certainly not deep enough to find all the criminals, or the class system driving thousands of Viola Vanes to desperate, dashed dreams, or the selfish superhero who uses violence to enforce the status quo, or..."