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Detective Comics 29
"The Batman Meets Doctor Death"


Script: Gardner Fox
Art: Bob Kane
Letters: Bob Kane

The Masked Manhunter has become an urban legend in Gotham City, dispensing justice as it never had been before. In the study of Doctor Karl Hellfern, Doctor Death calls for Jabah. The Doctor has already completed all of his laboratory experiments. His death pollen extract has been perfected and he is ready to exact tribute from the world's wealthiest citizens. They will either pay him or die, and only one thing worries him. Their crime may attract the attention of the Batman, and he must be dealt with. Since they do not know who he is, it will not be a simple matter to trap him. Doctor Death plans to contact their prey through the personal notice section in the newspapers. In another part of the city, millionaire Bruce Wayne is reading the morning newspaper when he comes across a certain ad.

"Batman, If you will go to General Post Office and ask for a letter addressed to John Jones, you will find a message of vital importance." At the U.S. Post Office, Bruce Wayne picks up a letter for John Jones. "Batman, At 10 P.M. tonight at Suite B on the 14th floor of the Beverly Apts, I will commit a murder and I defy you without the aid of the police to stop me..." The millionaire playboy returns to Stately Wayne Manor, where he opens a small chest, and retrieves his Bat-attire. He has half an hour to change clothes and half an hour to reach the penthouse. Gas pellets filled with choking gas may come in handy for the evening's activities. Suction gloves and knee pads will make access to the penthouse even more feasible. Now, instead of the millionaire playboy, there stands the Batman. After glancing at the dashboard clock, he sees that it's 8:30, and he's off. Minutes before nine, the automobile stops in the vicinity of the building.

Before the climb to the penthouse, the Batman parks his automobile in a nearby vacant lot. After racing from the construction site, he throws his lasso up to catch onto a window sill. The suction pads enable him to climb up the side of the building, where he soon stands on top of the penthouse garden roof.

The Masked Manhunter keeps his rope handy for a quick exit, then surveys his surroundings with caution. Inside are gunmen under the employ of Doctor Death. The Doctor's instructions are for them to wait until he is inside, where they will open fire, and the police will find him later. When the lights are turned on, the Batman finds himself in a trap. It looks to Doctor Death's thugs that they have caught him at last.

Dodging the first two shots, the Batman topples over a pedestal, and brings down the two hired hoods. The Batman leaps upon them, delivering firm punches with both fists. When they are asked who sent them, they refuse under fear of death and Doctor Death. Jabah arrives to deliver greetings from his master. The Indian fires off one shot.

The Masked Manhunter is struck in the arm, but manages to remove a glass pellet from his utility belt. Holding his breath, he slams the glass pellet down in front of Jabah. The room is now filled with deadly gas, with the Batman leaping for the glass windows leading to the penthouse roof. The two thugs watch as he leaps over the side, and are unaware that the Batman has grabbed onto his waiting rope. He swings onto another part of the roof.

Still bleeding from his wound, he dons his suction cups and knee pads. In the automobile, Bruce places cotton wadding on his bare shoulder. After changing clothes, he enters a phone booth, and calls the Daily Globe to have a public notice inserted. "I accept your challenge, Doctor Death. The Batman." His shoulder now aching, Bruce pays a visit to his family doctor. When the physician asks how he shot himself when there's no powder marks on his flesh, the patient admits that he does strange thing sometimes, and promises to tell him about it sometime. The following morning finds Doctor Death chastising his henchmen, then having a word with Jabah. He shows the giant Indian a picture of John P. Van Smith, the man who refuses to pay tribute, and who must die. Since Jabah is immune from the pollen, he is to blow it at their victim when he emerges from his club this evening. Soon, the giant Indian is on his errand of death.

Bruce Wayne spots his killer from last night, and follows him. As John P. Van Smith exits from the club, Jabah blows the dust at him. The giant Indian flees, not seeing the millionaire playboy covering Van Smith and his face with handkerchiefs. There's no time for explanations as Bruce must continue to follow Jabah. After watching the giant Indian pass through the gates, the millionaire playboy prepares to pay a visit as the Batman. That evening, the Masked Manhunter enters from the sidewalk behind the house of Doctor Death. Using his rope, the Batman climbs up to the second story of the house. In a few more minutes, his score with Doctor Death will be settled.

After using a glass cutter, he makes his stealthy entrance. Doctor Death and Jabah are found in the laboratory. When a lasso catches him around the neck, the giant servant is yanked from the table. It will not be a good evening for Doctor Death. Pressing a button, the Doctor drops down a secret chute. The Batman is close behind, having leapt before it closed. He lands onto a mat, and sees his quarry disappearing down the hallway.

It is a relentless pursuit, with Doctor Death returning to his laboratory, and striving to defeat his foe. As the Batman grabs ahold of a fire extinguisher, Doctor Death has prepared a fiery death. The extinguisher is thrown at the deadly test tube, where it shatters on the floor, and triggers a deadly inferno. The Doctor is mad with laughter over his own predicament. The Batman could almost pity the poor fool, who has received death... to Doctor Death.

This story was reprinted in Batman: From The Thirties To The Seventies.

Doctor Karl Hellfern is bald, bearded, has pointed ears, and wears a monocle.

Jabah wears a turban and says nary a word.

Gotham City has yet to be named at the time of this story.

Bruce Wayne smokes a pipe.

The Batman drives an ordinary automobile, and has yet to create the Batmobile.

The Golden Age hero can be shot and wounded.

He also has a deadly arsenal of his own.

After his visit to the family doctor, I wonder if the millionaire playboy ever visited a psychiatrist, and discussed the funny things he does sometimes.

Steve Chung
"The Batman Meets Doctor Review"