This one is too good a story to just pass off with a couple panels. So let's dive more deeply into the gold-medal winning* (*Disclaimer: story did not actually win a gold medal) "Peril in Greece" from Batman #38!
Splash page from "Peril in Greece" in Batman #38 (December 1946-January 1947), script by Edmond Hamilton, pencils and inks by Jim Mooney, letters by Ira Schnapp
It all begins with an insulting put-down from Batman to Robin. Yep, that's the encouragement your young protégé needs, 1940s Bruce! Who are you...1990s Bruce?
So: off to the 5th Century BC! (It's easy when you're Batman.)
As happens often in his time-travelling adventures, Batman instantly becomes entangled in an illegal gambling ring instituted by a crooked Persian. What is it about these things that Batman can't stay out of them?!?
But, just like every fight within the first three pages of a comic book story, all-s well and everybody becomes friends. Batman and Robin are befriended by the Beefy Heroes of Athens™, while the wily and sneaky Persian criminal runs away like the cowardly weasel he is. Run away! That's right, you weasel...right away!
Batman uncovers an Olympic-hobbling ring targeting the Athenians, and he vows, when an Athenian wrestler is thrown through his window, to uncover and avenge this ancient crime! Which is perfect timing, because Athenian Olympic athletes have been kidnapped by the wily Persian Byrus! Which, you'll all agree, is not as comfortable as being kidnapped by a wily Persian cat.
As quickly as he can pronounce his destination, Batman quickly rushes to the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is!
Anyway, in the Acropolis where the Parthenon is, there are no straight lines, and no straight men, because "not even murderers could be arrested in the sacred temples of Ancient Greece!" The Joker immediately booked his flight on Aegean Airlines.
Of course, Batman and the other one save the kidnaped athletes, leading to them being declared official citizens of Athens! I do believe that means they are honor-bound to protect Athens from its criminals and underworld by night. Luckily, Grecian criminals are a cowardly and superstitious lot. What Batman now needs to do is negotiate his pay. After all, what's a Grecian earn?*
Olympia! Whoa, that's impressive! (It's only a model.)
If you've been keeping track of the plot so far instead of just admiring the impressive display of Grecian beefcake (and who wouldn't!), you'll remember that there's a faction trying to hobble the Olympic Games. Through the cunning use of throwing spears! Robin and...I dunno, looks like Hercules, but his name is probably "Bob"...chase after the perpetrator using the ancient Athenian version of the Batmobile...a horse! (Of course, of course.)
Batman is eager to join the chase, but he's paused by the gentle touch of Milo's ham-sized hand. The Olympics are beginning! Kenneth Branagh is already smoking a cigar and smirking happily! It's time for the games to begin!
The plot device we all knew was coming suddenly arrives: Batman must participate in the Olympics! But surely that will disrupt the time-space continuum...oh, the heck with it. BATMAN'S GONNA BE IN THE OLYMPICS!
To the stirring strains of "Tubular Bells," the Olympic athletes march into the stadium in their native garb. Batman is the only one who is not bare-chested, depriving every reader who loves bare-chested Batman fighting and getting sweaty. C'mon, Batman...a l'il sugar for us, huh?
But Batman is worried about Robin! As in, "I'm concerned for him," or "I'm concerned he'll screw this up just like he did at the beginning of the story when I called him a wimp," we don't know which.
Now, for those of you who are fans of Frank Miller, here is that exact same scene re-presented in glorious full-color All Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder-scope!
Skeptical Athenians are skeptical. I believe this means that the Grecian bookmakers will have to return all bets because no one could have foreseen Batman entering, and therefore in the interests of honesty in the ancient customs of...BWAH-HA-HA-HA! Oh, I couldn't even get through that without laughing. They're keepin' every shiny quatloo for themselves.
But remember: always bet on Batman. Why, he hit this guy so hard his face turned into delicious raspberry jam! Mmmmm, jam.
Oh yeah, remember the rest of the plot? Batman is now able to catch up with Robin, who's let his wingman Damon get injured and let the Persian bad guys escape on their way to assassinate the equestrian events Spartan Olympian to foment (thank you, Word of the Day Calendar!) civil war in Greece. Since everyone in ancient Greece is as valiant and noble as Golden Age Batman, Damon volunteers to stay behind with his flesh wound and sends Batman and Robin back to the Olympics. "We'll just let you lie in the dirt until then...we'll send help later!"
Of course, breaking every rule of the Olympics, Robin rides in the horse race while Batman and Milo clean up the Persians! With plenty of soap and water, because clean living is the first trademark of the crime-fighter, old chum.
Batman invents bowling. Which is therefore instituted as an official Olympic sport from that day forward. I hope when you watched this years 2012 London Olympics and saw the valiant alley battles of your favorite Olympic team that you paused for a moment to raise a toast to Batman, inventor of bowling! Huzzah!
Then Batman and Robin go back home to 1946. (Look, just work with me on this one, okay?) And the Batcave gets a pair of shining new ornaments: Batman and Robin's Olympic laurel wreaths! Just off panel, Alfred sighs wearily, knowing that's yet one more thing for him to dust. And say, what's that thing in the trophy case to the right? Is that the wheel from "The Adventure of the Giant Car with the Really Dangerous Wheel?" (Batman vs. Nazis #4, Summer 1943).
So, the lesson of Batman's story is the same one as Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremonies: that the strength of a country is based upon equality and shared experience, useful in fighting off those who would undermine the Olympics, whether that be greedy and jealous political enemies or a one-hundred-foot Lord Voldemort! Also, that you can travel back in time through hypnosis! Hail Batman! Hail Robin! Hal Jordan!
*Depends on his social class. Generally an average of five or six drachmas an hour.