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Detective Comics #63

March 25, 1942

"A Gentleman in Gotham"

Wow! I have to say, I love this issue. I love Michael Baffle, international thief (although I wish he had a different, more romantic last name). I love Egg-Head (no connection to the 66 series) and Fish-Eyes. What I don't love is that this appears to be the only time we will see these characters in Batman despite it appearing that the ending of the story was setup for an eventual return.

The story opens with Michael Baffle being led to his execution for his theft from the elite, but when he falls as the guns blaze, we quickly learn the weapons have blanks and his "lifeless" body is left behind. Baffle had bribed not only the soldiers with the guns, but their commanding officer as well. Free to escape, Baffle boards a ship to America, arriving at Gotham City.

It's interesting to note that the Statue of Liberty is located in Gotham Harbor. So the question is, is this New York? If not, does New York exist? If it does, is this an alternate earth where the statue was gifted to Gotham instead of New York? is Gotham the port of call to folks from Europe? And where along the East Coast is Gotham? With the placing of the Statue there, Gotham cannot be Chicago as many have suggested it is.

Baffle visits the Gotham State Building and looks out, wondering what kind of wealth he can accumulate. He is surprised by a pair of petty thieves, Egg-Head and Fish-Eyes, who try to rob him, but at the moment he has no money. Indeed, he impresses them by picking the pocket of one of the, He enters into a partnership in which they act as lookout while he robs the home. The first target is Bruce Wayne.

As it works out, they manage their attempt just as Batman and Robin are returning from patrol. There is a fight between Batman and Baffle, but Baffle gets the edge on Batman - just. It turns out each has a respect for the other, one where even though he was left on his keister, Batman can't help but laugh.

Baffle knows he will have to alter his appearance and change his game plan if he hopes to make any money. He gets himself a job as a society columnist, an assignment that allows him to case the homes of the elite as he features them in his column.

He gets into a party that Bruce and Linda Page are attending. Bruce feels he recognizes Baffle, but can't place him. Baffle suggests a pool party theme and so the guests need to lock up their valuables in their host's safe. Bruce is not happy about this and so he contacts Robin and as Batman, they go to guard the safe, but find Baffle's partners in the process of opening it.

Baffle gets the drop on the two by putting a gun to Linda. But being the gentleman that he is, he quickly lets her go with a polite bow to her. She notes how his fingertips are all raw. Baffle steals a car while his partners depart in the car they came in.

And Batman pursues him by leaping from the upstairs window, somersaulting and then landing in a car. The thing is, the act is very reminiscent of the Filmation Batman 77 cartoon which featured a lot of tumbling by both Batman and Robin.

Batman leaps from a high point in the comics.

Batman comes to a landing after leaping from a high point in the Filmation 77 cartoon series.

Baffle gets away, but Bruce finally makes the connection between the mysterious thief and the man he admires when he sees Dick drawing a beard on Baffle's image in the paper. Bruce finds that Baffle will be at another party that evening. In fact, Baffle tries to pass himself off as Batman in order to "protect" the jewels of the host of the party. But Linda Page is one of the guests and she sees Baffle's hands and identifies him as the thief.

Batman arrives and he and Baffle engage in a sword fight where each gives the other a chance to retrieve his weapon when each loses it. Eventually, Baffle hurls himself out a window as he hears the police arriving. It's a weird image as Batman laments that the two could be friends and Baffle states they will meet again.

But they don't. And that's the real disappointment as, like Batman, I can't help but like this romantic scoundrel. He's crafty, dashing and has a flair akin to Batman himself. It's no wonder Batman likes him. He's Batman if Batman was a thief but with his tendencies not to hurt the innocent.

So we don't get Baffle again, but what is next? Issue #11 of Batman. Stay tuned, Citizens!

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