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World's Finest Comics #6

May 8, 1942

"The Secret of Bruce Wayne"

I always found it interesting that while there was the occasional Batman story dealing with fifth columnists, unlike Superman, Batman was never directly involved in the war effort. And yet, we get many a cover like the one for this issue of World's Finest, where Batman and Robin are rallying with the troops.

Our story opens with the completion of another episode of RACKET-SHASHERS, a radio and television show that dramatizes some of Batman's adventures. Batman himself appears at the end to speak about his unending war on crime which gives us a brief panel of responses to his words not only from the general public, but from the Joker, the Penguin, and the Cat-Woman! Cat-Woman is still torn between kissing Batman or scratching his eyes out.

Meanwhile, in the offices of the detective magazine, View, the editor meets with his reporter, Scoop. He gives him his next assignment - find out the identity of Batman. Scoop takes the challenge and meets up with Batman at the TV studio to suggest he tag along with Batman on his cases. He'll write a series of articles on Batman as a means to give criminals an idea of what they will deal with if they tussle with him. Batman likes the idea of stopping before it can happen.

Before they leave, Batman notes how the producer turns down stage actor Mark Loring for a role on the show. He is not reliable with his drinking habit. And here's a curious thing of note. I think this is the first story where it is said Bruce and Dick live in a mansion. Up until this point, they have referred to it as a home or even an apartment.

The next evening, Batman and Robin fly above Gotham with Scoop when they get a police call of a robbery in progress. They spot the getaway car and it appears Robin fires a weapon, a gun of some kind, that blows the tires out. So much for not using guns.

Batman realizes the crime is the same as was dramatized on the radio show. Meanwhile, Scoop returns to his publisher, feeling guilty about taking Batman out as a crimefighter should his identity be revealed. The publisher nervously points out he will help him.

Scoop visits Gordon and asks him to contact Batman as he needs his help. Scoop leads Batman to an ambush where he and Scoop are both taken by the men who are working for someone else. They are placed in a press and left to die, but Robin comes in an saves the two of them. Scoop leaves, saying he intends to unmask Batman and Batman oddly refers to him as a friendly enemy.

Another episode of RACKET-SMASHERS and another crime follows. Batman speaks with the writer and director of the program. The writer is a little snide with Batman, but the director points out that all scripts are given to the actors a week in advance as it's also a television program. Batman stops a moment to help out Loring when the man comes around, looking for a part. He loans him some money and Loring offers his services if Batman should ever need it.

Meanwhile, Scoop looks through police files and sees that Bruce Wayne tagged along with Gordon in some of his earlier cases. He makes the connection that Batman and Bruce are one in the same.

Batman writes up his own script and asks the director to have it acted out on the next episode. He even gets Loring a part. Batman plans to play himself where he will reveal the identity of the man behind the radio script robberies.

The night of the show and the killer reveals himself to be Graves, the show's announcer. He took a bath in the stock market and needed the money to keep up his lifestyle. He shoots at Batman, but Loring steps in front of the bullet. At that moment, Scoop enters and announces that Bruce Wayne is Batman.

And in what has to be one of the most disturbing moments of the entire comic series, Robin pretends to feint so Batman can take him to a quiet room. There, the two wonder what to do about Scoop. Loring stumbles in, figuring he would have an empty room to die. Batman asks him to play one final role, which he does as he pretends to be Batman while Bruce makes an appearance.

I realize the writer needed a way to get Batman out of the situation of his identity being revealed on television, but to have Batman willingly sacrifice an innocent bystander who risked his life to save Batman seems too much.

I want to say I love this story because of the elements of radio and television, the latter being such a recent development in 1940s media, but the ending is too disturbing.

And from there, we'll move on to Detective Comics. Stay tuned, Citizens!

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