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Detective Comics #72

December 23, 1942

"License for Larceny"

And here we come to the end of 1942 - a time of great trouble in America as the country had been involved in World War II for a year now. Some of the stories in these pages were war geared, mostly to encourage folks to purchase war bonds to do their part for the war effort, but there were also stories that were deeply grounded in what we know as Batman lore. And then there were stories that dealt more with other characters and Batman and Robin were secondary to the tale.

With this final story of the year, we have a story in media res as Bruce and Dick visit a Mr. Larson, a man who promises double your money in six months if you invest with him. It's interesting because normally, we'd have a setup of either a last desperate attempt by a poor person to make the money or perhaps a friend of Bruce's feeling swindled first and then the investigation, but here we are.

After making their investment, Bruce and Dick leave and we learn that Larson is really Larry the Judge, an underworld crime boss. He raises the money through the scheme to pay his men who he uses to lean on other crooks. He sets up a scheme where he grants licenses to these crooks to commit high end crimes in Gotham City, ones where they cannot get knicked. Those who commit crime without a license are rounded up by the Judge's men, dressed in police uniforms no less, and brought before the Judge for trial.

Gas-Pipe Grogan is given a license to rob Gordon's house. And it is here we first learn that Gordon is married as his wife's expensive necklace is mentioned. Gordon and his men surprise Gordon at home where he is waiting for Batman and Robin to arrive to talk about the crime spree. Which brings us to another interesting point. Batman and Robin visit Gordon in his home. I know we saw it in the Christmas story last year, but that seemed like a special occasion for the holidays. We see just how close the three have become that they are visiting Gordon at home. It also shows the level of trust Gordon has as he doesn't know who these two are.

Batman and Robin arrive and stop Gas-Pipe from his crime. I love Batman's indignance at the audacity of the criminals to issue licenses to commit crimes. No one seems to know who the Judge is.

Meanwhile, six months later, Bruce returns to Larson and finds his money has doubled as promised. He leaves with the money, not able to deposit it in the bank because it is evening.

As they return home, some of the Judge's men are waiting to rob them of their gains. It's another interesting point as we still have the two living in a suburban home and the Stately Wayne Manor we will come to know. They rob the two, who put up a short fight, but give in so as not to tip the crooks off.

They follow the car in the Batplane and capture it with a winch, dumping it in a nearby body of water. They quickly round up the gang and find another license on them from the Judge. He gets word of the botched theft and writes up a license for himself to kill Batman. He orders his men to commit three break-ins, but to steal nothing, leaving evidence behind that they were there.

Batman and Robin show up at the third crime site and are captured by the Judge's men. He has them driven to a place for their execution. Two police men on motorcycles order the car to pull over. They try to shoot it out, but Batman and Robin distract them by head butting them.

Turns out the police were pulling over the car as Batman had managed to put his cape over the license so it couldn't be seen, something to get the police's attention. It stretches the suspension of disbelief that not one of the crooks didn't catch this. Robin didn't either as Batman explains his plan after the fact.

Overall, a good story. I love how creative these criminals are in coming up with themes for their crimes. In fact, this is another story I could see as a 66 Batman episode, maybe third season. So what's next? Stay tuned, Citizens!

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