Batman: the Dark Knight Archives volume 6

By Bob Kane, Don Cameron, Bill Finger, Jack Schiff, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Greene, Mort Weisinger, Dick Sprang, Jack Burnley, Jerry Robinson & various (DC Comics)
ISBN: 978-1-4012-2547-6

Debuting a year after Superman, “The Bat-Man” (and latterly Robin, the Boy Wonder) cemented DC/National Comics as the market frontrunner and conceptual leader of the burgeoning comicbook industry.

Having established the parameters of the metahuman in their Man of Tomorrow, the physical mortal perfection and dashing derring-do of the strictly human Dynamic Duo rapidly became the swashbuckling benchmark by which all other four-colour crimebusters were judged.

This sixth lavish hardback Archive Edition volume covers Batman #21-25 and again features exploits from the height of World War II – specifically February/March 1944 to October/November 1944.

These Golden Age greats are some of the finest tales in Batman’s decades-long canon, as lead writers Bill Finger and Don Cameron, supplemented by Joe Samachson, Jack Schiff, Alvin Schwartz, Joe Greene and Mort Weisinger, pushed the boundaries of the adventure medium whilst graphic genius Dick Sprang slowly superseded and surpassed Bob Kane and Jack Burnley, making the feature uniquely his own and keeping the Peerless Pair at the forefront of a vast army of superhero successes.

The sheer creativity exhibited in these adventures proved that the ever-expanding band of creators responsible for producing the bi-monthly adventures of the Dark Knight were hitting an artistic peak which only stellar stable-mate Superman and Fawcett’s Captain Marvel were able to equal or even approach.

Moreover with WWII finally turning in the Good Guys’ favour, the escapades became upbeat and more wide-ranging…

Following a Foreword from former bat-scribe Alvin Schwartz, the Home Front began to offer a brighter – but still crime-ridden – perspective with Batman #21, an all-Sprang art extravaganza which opened with the slick Schiff-scripted tale ‘The Streamlined Rustlers’ which saw the Caped Crusaders way out West solving a devilish mystery and crushing a gang of beef-stealing black-market black hats.

Cameron then described the antics of murderous big city mobster Chopper Gant who conned a military historian into planning his capers, briefly bamboozling Batman and Robin with his warlike ‘Blitzkrieg Bandits!’ whilst Schwartz penned the delightfully convoluted romp ‘His Lordship’s Double’ which sees newly dapper, slim-line manservant Alfred asked to impersonate a purportedly crowd-shy aristocratic inventor… only to become the victim in a nasty scheme to secure the true toff’s latest invention…

It all culminates with ‘The Three Eccentrics’ (written by Joe Greene), which details the wily Penguin’s schemes to empty the coffers of a trio of Gotham’s wealthiest misfits. The fiendish foray founders because he fails to take into account the time-sensitivity of his information and the dogged grit and ingenuity of the Gotham Gangbusters…

Batman #22 leads with ‘The Duped Domestics!’ by Schwartz, Bob Kane & Jerry Robinson wherein a select number of Gotham’s butlers are targeted by a sultry seductress looking for easy inroads to swanky houses. Despite being an old enemy of Batman’s, “Belinda” more than meets her match when Alfred becomes her next patsy…

When the little rich boy secretly takes a menial job, his generous guardian is rightly baffled but after ‘Dick Grayson, Telegraph Boy!’ (Finger, Burney & Robinson) exposes a criminal enterprise centred around Gotham Observatory, the method of his madness soon becomes clear.

Next a new solo series debuted as Mort Weisinger & Robinson launched ‘The Adventures of Alfred’ with ‘Conversational Clue!’ wherein Batman’s batman misapprehends an overheard word at the library and stumbles into a safecracking gang.

The issue concludes with ‘The Cavalier Rides Again!’ (Finger, Burnley & Charles Paris) as the Dashing Desperado mystifyingly begins bagging cheap imitations rather than authentic booty in his ongoing campaign to best the Batman…

The Joker led in issue #23 with Finger, Sprang & Gene McDonald’s eccentric thriller ‘The Upside Down Crimes!’ wherein the Harlequin of Hate turns the town topsy-turvy in his latest series of looting larcenies after which smitten Dick’s bold endeavours save classmate and ‘Damsel in Distress!’ (Cameron & Sprang) Marjory Davenport and her dad from gangster kidnappers.

Unfortunately for him, she soon has her head turned by flamboyant Robin and the Boy Wonder becomes his own rival…

Anonymously scripted but again rendered by Jerry Robinson, ‘The Adventures of Alfred: Borrowed Butler!’ found the domestic detective loaned out by Bruce Wayne to a snooty neighbour and accidentally uncovering an insider’s scheme to burgle the place.

Wrapping up this outing is another fact-packed “Police Division Story” with Batman and Robin joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to stop a vicious ring of fur bandits who have decided to forego robbing big city stores. Instead, the ‘Pelt Plunderers!’ (Joe Samachson & Sprang) head due north to steal directly from the trappers…

Batman #24 added a smidgen of science fiction flair and a dash of sheer whimsy to the regular mix as ‘It Happened in Rome’ (Samachson & Sprang) introduces Professor Carter Nichols who devises a method of time-travel which depends on deep hypnosis.

His first subjects are old friend Bruce Wayne and his ward who both wing back centuries for a sightseeing trip and end up saving a charioteer from race-fixers as Batmanus and Robin

Bruce also plays a pivotal role in ‘Convict Cargo!’ (Cameron & Sprang), pretending to be an embezzler in order to expose a ring of thugs offering perfect getaways to Gotham’s white-collar criminals. Happily when the villain vacations turn out to be one-way trips, Batman and Robin are on hand to mop up the pirates responsible.

Cameron & Robinson then describe how ‘The Adventures of Alfred: Police Line-Up!’ leads the bewildered butler into trailing the wrong crook but still nabbing a mob of bad eggs before portly purveyors of peril Tweedledum and Tweedledee connive their way into the position of ‘The Mayors of Yonville!’

Their flagrant abuse of civic power dumps the Dynamic Duo into jail but still isn’t enough to keep their goldmine scam from coming to light once the heroes bust out…

This superb hardback compendium concludes with Batman #25 as opening shot ‘Knights of Knavery’ (Cameron, Burnley& Robinson) sees arch rivals Penguin and Joker join forces to steal the world’s biggest emerald and outwit all opposition, before falling foul of their own mistrust and arrogance once the Dark Knight puts his own thinking cap on.

‘The Sheik of Gotham City!’ (Schwartz, Burnley & Robinson) then sees an Arabian refugee working as a cab driver in Gotham restored to rule his usurped desert kingdom after our heroes foil an assassination attempt, whilst ‘The Adventures of Alfred: The Mesmerised Manhunter!’ (Cameron & Robinson) sees the off-duty domestic the plaything of a stage magician whilst simultaneously foiling a box office heist.

The action and suspense wrap up in spectacular style as Finger, Burnley& Robinson detail a saga of sabotage and redemption when the Dynamic Duo join the rough-and-ready electrical engineers known as ‘The Kilowatt Cowboys!’

As if the job of bringing the nation’s newest hydroelectric dam on line is not dangerous enough and a plague of thefts by murderous copper thieves isn’t cutting into productivity, most of Batman’s time is spent stopping rival wire men Jack and Alec from killing each other…

Accompanied by a stunning and iconic Sprang cover gallery and full creator ‘Biographies’, this sublime selection of classic comicbook action is a magnificent ride on the Wayback Machine to a time of high drama, low cunning and breathtaking excitement
© 1944, 2009 DC Comics. All Rights Reserved.