Paging Doctor Wertham!
You know, the surprise is not that someone wanted the government to crack down on comic books, but that someone didn’t do it sooner …
So there I am, reading The Batman Chronicles volume 8 (the series collects every Batman stories “in the exact order of publication” and if you’re a Batman fan, you really should get these, because they’re awesome), and I get to Batman #15 (February/March 1943). The lead story features Catwoman – whose name, I should point out, is Elva Barr. She’s working at a beauty salon (for a good reason, trust me) and one day she meets Bruce Wayne, who was judging a beauty contest she won (on the second page of the story, because Bendis didn’t write this). Elva immediately falls in love with Bruce, because who can resist that lantern-jawed hunk???? Later, Catwoman tells Batman that if only she could hook up with Bruce Wayne, she’d go straight. So Bruce cooks up a diabolical plan where he romances Elva Barr to make her go straight, even though his on-again, off-again girlfriend, Linda Page, is still hanging around. Dick Grayson doesn’t quite get what Bruce is doing, leading to this panel:
I know it’s out of context, but come on – that’s funny stuff! “Oh, Bruce, what about those times when we would pull a train with Linda? And then, when she went home, we’d get to the really good stuff? WHAT ABOUT THAT, BRUCE?!?!?!?!?!”
Elva finds out that Bruce is playing her, and she goes on a crime spree. Elva herself has quit her job at the salon, so “the world’s greatest detective” is flummoxed over how to find her (he says as much to Dick). Dick, never one to take his man getting stolen lying down, decides to go undercover himself, and one night, he gets into costume because he has a lead. Bruce asks him, “Where do you think you’re going, youngster?” and Dick replies, “Oh, just after the Catwoman! Er … I suppose you can come along, too … although you might be too old to understand this sort of thing!” You see what he did there, turning the tables on Bruce? Well, that leads to this utterly bizarre panel:
A grown man spanking a young boy (what do we think Robin’s age is here? 12?) while said boy is dressed in a spandex outfit. All I can say to Jack Schiff and Bob Kane, who are the credited writer and artist: Fetish much?
I know Batman and Robin gay jokes are played out, but I don’t care! I’m just stunned it took Fredric Wertham another decade to decide comics were warping kids’ minds. I guess the government had more important things to worry about in 1943!