Saturday, January 11, 2020

Just the facts, Batman

Did You Know™ that DC comic book stories are always one of the following: an Imaginary Story, a Dream, a Hoax, a "Just Imagine...", or a Blot of Undigested Mustard. Important fact: there has as of yet been no concrete evidence found that any stories published by DC Comics are a "What If." So, basically they're all just made up, right? Remember this, the Prime Directive of the DC Universe?:

Panel portion from Superman (1939 series) #423 (September 1986), script by Alan Moore, pencils by Curt Swan, inks by George Pérez, color by Gene D'Angelo, letters by Todd Klein

And we all know how that one turned out for Superman.

On the other hand, DC Comics has published some comics with real facts in 'em. For example, the aptly titled...Real Fact Comics! Let's take a look at a random issue, chosen completely by chance without any agenda whatsoever...say, totally unplanned...Real Fact Comics #5.

Cover of Real Fact Comics #5 (November-December 1946), Batman and Robin inset: pencils by Jack Burnley, inks by Win Mortimer

Whoa, that "Real" is doin' a lotta heavy lifting in that title, don'tcha think? Also: the word "Facts" is stretching it a bit. I'm inclined to allow them the word "Comics" in it, though, because that's what the lead story in this issue is all about: comics! Also, lies and recriminations. Prepare to get your j'accusing gloves on as we present...

Panel from "The True Story of Batman and Robin! How a Big-Time Comic is Born!" in Real Facts Comics #5 (November-December 1946); script by Jack Schiff, Mort Weisinger, and Bernie Breslauer; pencils and inks by Win Mortimer

This introductory panel raises a lotta questions. One of them is "Was Bob Kane inspired by the tiny Batman and Robin mites who would occasionally appear on his drawing table?" Also, "Why are Robin and the lady from the first panel of the comic strip attacking Batman?" And: "Why didn't Kane leave enough room for the letterer?" All of this, plus his snazzy lip gloss, lead me to believe that Bob Kane may be tellin' more than a few porkies in the story. Let's fact check it as we go along.

Fact check: Bob Kane (or his mother) did not design the Batman suit. It was Bill Finger, now rightly officially named as Batman's co-creator (although I'd argue for an "and" in the "created by" byline instead of the "with." See here, Wikipedia pals.)

Fact check: Was Bob Kane's Batman actually "authentic based on scientific facts?"

Panels from the story unofficially titled "Batman vs. the Vampire" in Detective Comics (1937 series) #32 (October 1939); script by Gardner Fox; pencils and figure inks and sole credit for the story by Bob Kane; background inks and letters by Sheldon Moldoff

Oh yes, the indisputable scientific fact of vampires. To be fair, this is a story written not by Kane but by Gardner Fox, and is a few stories into the Batman canon, but I'm gonna blame Bob Kane anyway, if not for this, then for that giant glass bell jar for gassing hamsters in Batman's first appearance.

Panels from "The Case of the Chemical Syndicate" in Detective Comics (1937 series) #27 (May 1939); script by Bill Finger; pencils, inks, and letters by Bob Kane

Wow, that one guy really hated small rodents. Anyway, look! Bob Kane is designing the Batmobile and the Batplane!

Fact check: Bob Kane and Bill Finger created the Batmobile and Batplane.

Fact check: The Joker was created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane, and Jerry Robinson. And, I wanna say, Cesar Romero, but that's only the Paint-Over-Your-Mustache Joker so popular in the 1960s.

Fact check: The Penguin was created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.

I suppose, though, it's not fair to hold up this Bob Kane-centric hagiography as "Real Fact," because if it weren't, they wouldn't publish that title on the cover wouldn't have put all these other "Real Facts" in the magazine. From some of the other stories in Real Fact Comics #5:

Panels from "Just Imagine — If the Oceans Dry Up!" in Real Fact Comics #5, pencils and inks by Virgil Finlay

Um, okay, that one might be a fact in say, 2022. Next: remember when cowboy radio and movie star Tom Mix was literally killed by the Grim Reaper?

Panels from "Tom Mix, Greatest Cowboy of Them All!" in Real Fact Comics #5; script by Jack Schiff, Mort Weisinger, and Bernie Breslauer; pencils and inks by Ed Smalle (?)

And altho' it's more or less a human possibility, I find it difficult to believe that focusing on a foot-long ruler will teach you to you recite the Gettysburg Address*. (*Little Stuffed Bull's assertion does not apply to "Gettysburg Address on a Ruler," available at the Gettysburg Museum Store.)

Panels from "Mental Marvel"; script by Jack Schiff, Mort Weisinger, and Bernie Breslauer; pencils and inks by Nat Edson


Panels from "What's Wrong" in Real Facts #5, pencils and inks by Jon Small

What's wrong with those pictures of famous comic heroes? If you answered "Dover and Clover," you are correct. They were never famous.

In fact, just about the most factual story in the issue involves animals going to the theater to see Cats. Even though the cats are bi-pedal, can speak and reason, live in cities, have a sophisticated system of money and exchange, and appear nude on stage while other animals wear clothes...well, the facts about cats are pretty accurate, if elementary. Check it out for yourself. Can you spot the Jellicle Cat?

Panels from "Know Your Animals: The Cat"; pencils and inks by Otto Feuer (?)

That's just pretty darn cute. I wonder if they ever did a story about cows.

Well, that pretty much punctures all the "Real Facts" this comic book promised to tell us, especially about Bob Kane. Except for one small exception:

Well, whaddaya know? Bob Kane really was inspired by the tiny Batman and Robin mites who would occasionally appear on his drawing table!