Batman #17 - Story 1
April 9, 1943
"The Batman's Biographer"
Pre-read note: There have been those characters who have mused about Batman's identity. Indeed, there was one criminal who was able to work out that Batman and Bruce Wayne were one and the same. But what of those folks who write about Batman, be they the beat reporters following his adventures and reporting for their papers or a simple spinner of tales? Well, here we have a story called "The Batman's Biographer" who from the synopsis puts together a biography of Batman that catches the attention of a criminal. Makes me wonder will there be any mention of identity.
The story opens with our biographer - B. Boswell Browne, regaling kids in the park with tales of Batman and Robin. He's overheard by Bruce and Dick who strike up a conversation with the man. He invites them back to his place where he shows them his souvenirs from their adventures, many which fans will recognize, like Batman's emblem he used over the headlight of a train to warn another train or Robin's cape he lost when he was attacked by river pirates. He has a biography written of their adventures, but he feels he will never publish it as he never met the two, it's all hearsay.
The two plan to visit Browne in their guises, but they also have a new master criminal in the Conjurer to deal with. In fact, they get the chance much sooner as he robs a nearby jewelry store by causing a panic among those in the area. Batman and Robin arrive and are quickly immobilized by ammonia fumes from the Conjurer's gun.
Back at his hideout, Conjurer is upset about leaving behind a half million in jewels. He needs to find a way to stop Batman. One of his men points out how he overheard Browne telling stories of Batman in the park. The Conjurer poses as a newspaper reporter and gets Browne, as an expert on the man, to tell him how Batman would stop a criminal robbing a brokerage.
That night, the Conjurer and his men rob a half a million from a bank and stop Batman and Robin with a net of chicken wire. But the Duo manage to stop the Conjurer from another robbery when Batman quickly realizes that the Conjurer has an inside track into the Batman's methods. The Conjurer and his men get away and Batman pays a visit to Browne.
While he doesn't confront Browne, he sees that Browne is aware of his mistake as Batman tells him of their failure that night. They leave the man to his troubled thoughts as the Conjurer arrives for another chat. Browne confronts him and the Conjurer threatens to kill him if Browne doesn't come up with a way to trick Batman so they can kill him. Browne agrees as he fears for his life.
Was this panel needed to tell the story? No, but it adds a nice layer of realism.