Batman #20 - Story 4

"Bruce Wayne Loses the Guardianship of Dick Grayson"

October 13, 1943

If nothing else, this story wins the prize for longest title to date. I guess you could also say it pretty much tells you what the story is about. Let's get into it.

As the story opens, it's morning and Alfred interrupts a friendly pillow fight between Bruce and Dick in the bed they ARE STILL SHARING. Look, to each his own, but this was the stuff that gave Frederick Wertham his ammunition to speak of the ill effects comics have on children.

It turns out that Dick's Uncle George (his father's brother) and Aunt Clara have returned from a long stay in Europe to take custody of Dick. Bruce, of course, refuses to give him up. And we have another court room scene as George takes Bruce on. And we get testimony from Alfred, Bruce and Dick about how well Bruce has treated Dick.

But there is a wrinkle in this. Bruce's act of being a careless playboy catches up with him as George presents newspaper articles of his philandering ways. Add to it, Clara's testimony that a boy needs a woman in his life to provide mothering and the case is closed.

As Dick prepares to leave, he takes one last tour of the house including the trophy room. He keeps the Robin costume as a memento. Dick leaves with his new family and Bruce is left with dealing with their latest case, one Fatso Foley, alone. He struggles though as he attempts to stop Foley's men as they rob the library of a first edition Shakespeare folio. It's only when Robin arrives that they are able to foil the robbery and round up four of the men.

Robin explains that he remembered their case work and snuck out. Batman tells him to return home before he is missed. He sneaks back just in time to make them think he is asleep, but they are fooling him as well as Clara removes her makeup to reveal she is a much younger looking blonde. And George calls Bruce to make him an offer to buy back Dick.

I love it though because as Bruce, he has no problem giving up the million George wants, but as Batman, it goes against his code of ethics. Alfred suggests that perhaps the Batman should be the one to bring Dick back.

Batman pays a visit to George's home and intimidates him to sign a confession that he was shaking down Bruce for the million. George agrees, but asks for time to pack so they can get out of town. Batman agrees and there is his mistake as George calls Fatso to set a trap.

Fatso's men catch Batman and throw him in a decompression chamber. George then calls the Wayne house where Alfred pretends to be Bruce. George tells him that Batman is going to die and get the million ready. Alfred sneaks to George's house and finds Dick. As Robin, the two capture one of Fatso's men and get him to reveal where Batman is being kept.

They get him out in time by taking on the gang with Alfred using one of Penguin's trick umbrellas from the trophy room to knock them out with gas. (So Batman keeps loaded umbrellas in the trophy room?).

Once freed, Batman and Robin round up, Fatso, George and his girl. Dick doesn't press charges though as he doesn't want his father's brother in jail. (I was expecting we'd find he really wasn't his uncle as part of the con.). Bruce even helps literally kicking George out of Gotham City.

So, issue 20 of Batman had four strong stories altogether, but I have to say, this was my favorite of the four despite some of the things I found odd. And what's next? We're wrapping up the 1943 serial, Citizens! Stay tuned!

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