Panels from Batman v.1* #21 (February-March 1944), script by Jack Schiff, pencils and inks by Dick Sprang, letters by George Roussos
Whoa, what's goin' on here? A little too much Joker venom? Has Batman's mighty mind snapped from the pressure of his endless battle against crime? All we can say is...the worst is yet to come! Tune in tomorrow: same Bat-time, same Bat-stat...oh, wait, no, it's a comic book story, not TV. Ahem. So, we can find out right now. And hey, it looks like it involves horsies!
Batman and Robin are summoned out to the west (apparently all the crime in Gotham City having been cleaned up for the day) to investigate the Curious Case of the Cattle Rustlers! Which actually sounds like a Nancy Drew title. Luckily for Bruce and Dick, Nancy had been trampled earlier in the story, so it's Batman and Robin to the rescue of some of my relatives!
There's no time to lose, so Bruce and Dick infiltrate the ranch's cowhands (and horse feet) by disguising themselves as cowboys! Who said you can't sell a western comic book anymore, huh? Oh yeah...the comic book buying market.
A mysterious note! Even more mysterious because it was apparently carefully unwound from a notebook to avoid ripping the holes in the paper!
Let us all pause together here to quote Admiral Ackbar: "Once the shield is down, our cruisers will create a perimeter, while our fighters fly into the superstructure and attempt to knock out the main reactor.". ...what? What? Were you expecting a different quote of some sort?
Sigh. Here you go.
I bet Ackbar would have bugged George Lucas for more dialogue if he could have foreseen that was the only line anyone would remember from his nuanced and squiddy performance. Anyway! Why, yes, it is a trap. And OH NOES MY RELATIVES ARE TRAMPLING BATMAN!!!!!
Later, of course, all the cows felt really bad and got together and wrote a nice note of apology and sent Batman and Robin a Pick-Me-Up bouquet, so that's all right then. But then...another trap! (Not by cows, thankfully!)
Batman gets out of that one, but not before the cowardly and superstitious criminal forces Batman to eat something...I dunno, Fritos, maybe? No, it's even more deadly to the human body! That's where we came in, with Batman acting kuh-razy! The Sheriff's got the explanation...and the painful cure!
A tense moment! Will Batman die? Well, uh, no. But oh man, do he and Robin cry like a baby! That's another thing you don't see Batman do anymore. I actually think that love scene in Catwoman the other week could have been vastly improved if Batman had burst into tears during it. Sniff...I'm getting a little misty myself.
Later, Batman, Robin, and the Sheriff meet in front of a window somewhere near the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Batman has found a clue! Now, you've seen everything Batman has seen...well, except for the embarrassing sight of Robin's nose running. Match wits with Batman and see if you can find out...whodunit!
It was the banjo player! Guess he won't "pick on" Batman anymore! (I'm sorry. I'm so terribly sorry.) Also, there was a bunch of stuff involving cattle brands and moving cows around under cover of darkness, but that solves the mystery of the missing cows!
And so, wrongs righted, laws uplifted and bovines bailed, the Batplane zooms off into the sunset.
...hey, wait, it's heading east. That's not the sunset. Hey, Batman! That's not the sunset!
*I know, I know. Sigh.