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Detective Comics #88

March 24, 1944

"The Merchants of Misery"

Oh joy, a money lending scheme story. I'm saying that sarcastically. I can't see doing much with the concept, but let's go. The story opens with "Big Hearted" John, a money lender who is more than willing to offer his money to help, as long as you pay a "small" interest fee.

And those that can't make those payments find themselves killed to avoid talking to the police. A candy store owner is the latest victim as George, a night watchman with a sick daughter in need of an operation, approaches John for a loan. Quickly, he finds himself being squeezed to make payments on the loan. John's goons come to the apartment and smash up their furniture and warn George not to go to the police. George tries to appeal to John to no avail and then he is set upon by the gang who rough him up.

Fortunately, Batman and Robin are in the area, investigating the deaths of the shop owners. They break up the gang's attack and let them go when George begs them not to arrest the gang. Batman agrees, but he plans on taking John down.


The two take on jobs at the dock and then Bruce visits John and gets a loan. He returns a short time later with the money and what he considers fair interest, but John tells him otherwise. He sends his men to the dock to intimidate Bruce, but Bruce acts like a klutz and manages to drop the cargo he's carrying on the gang. He then follows up by attacking them, knocking them into the water.

That night, Bruce sets up silhouettes of the two of them by a window which John's gang shoots at. Batman and Robin wait on them to do this to catch them in a murder wrap. They fight on the fire escape, but sadly, Batman falls off and is knocked out. Robin is quickly captured and the two are brought to John who locks them in a safe while he and his men get George.

And in a scene that would make Jim Beard twitch, Robin refers to Batman as Bruce while they are locked in the safe. Mind you, John and his men most likely can't hear the two as they are surrounded by four inches of steel, but still, in the cowl, he's Batman. And as Batman, he blows the safe open with his chemicals from his utility belt. It knocks the two out a moment, but they come around in time to remember to rush off and save George.

They find him about to be hanged on a high rise project. They jump in with Batman getting shot and toppling over and into John, knocking him off the building. The gang gives up when they see their leader fall to his death.

It's a decent enough story, but like I said, nothing new is really done with the concept. And we're off to the World's Finest Comics for our next entry, Citizens!

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