Detective Comics is a DC Comics monthly American Comic Book published since 1937, focusing on detective stories. One of DC's signature titles; the title featured early talents such as Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster, Bob Kane, Sheldon Moldoff, Jerry Robinson and Bill Finger. Detective characters, such as Slam Bradley and the Crimson Avenger, were featured monthly in its early days. As of issue # 27, the title became best known for the introduction of the Superhero Detective, The Batman, who eventually became the main feature. The title has also featured the debuts of Dick Grayson, James Gordon and many of Batman's villains and supporting cast, as well as other DC characters.
Detective Comics was the brainchild of National Allied Publication's owner, Major Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. His first two titles were called New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine #1 and New Comics #1. New Fun, often referred as New Fun Comics #1, was published in February 1935. It became the first comic to contain all-original material, instead of combining newspaper comic strips and the comic-strip style material. New Comics #1, also published in 1935, was retitled twice to become Adventure Comics. Adventure Comics was revived in 2009, by Geof Johns, using Conner Kent's Superboy incarnation as the main story, and the Legion of Superheroes as the back story.
Wheeler-Nicholson, published a third and final title, named Detective Comics. It was scheduled and advertised to be published on December 1936, however, it premiered on March 1937. During that year, he became indebted to Harry Donenfeld, who was a printing-plant and magazine publisher. This forced Wheeler-Nicholson to take Donenfeld on as a partner so that he could publish Detective Comics #1, through a new publishing company, called Detective Comics, Inc. The first owners of Detective Comics, Inc. were Wheeler-Nicholson and Harry Donenfeld's accountant, Larry Liebowitz. Liebowitz and Donenfeld would later force Wheeler-Nicholson out a year later.
Detective Comics #1 featured stories using the hard-boiled detective genre, which was popular around that time. Some of the better known characters in this publication were Slam Bradley, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster before they created the Superman character, Ching Lung, an asian character who was a villain; and Speed Saunders along with other characters. The debut cover was created by Vin Sullivan, who was the publication's first editor.
Issue #27 of Detective Comics is historically famous because this was the first appearance of Batman, then known as "The Bat-Man", as a comic book character. This issue was published in May 1939. Batman (created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger), will later become the star of the publication. His sidekick, Robin (created by Jerry Robinson), was introduced in issue #38, published in 1940. The publication also had several back stories, including "The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdell", featured in issue #225, which introduced Martian Manhunter as a character.
In the 1970s and the early part of the 1980s, the publication showed an expanded format which featured solo adventures of some members of the Batman Family like "Robin: The Teen Wonder" and "Batgirl". It also featured "Tales of Gotham City", which told stories of the ordinary citizens of the famous fictional city. Due to the declining sales of Detective Comics in this period, DC was heavily considering canceling its namesake franchise in place of the much more popular Batman Family in a wave of cancellations called the DC Implosion. However, over the protestations of the comic creators, this series was saved and the other was merged into this one, which resulted in a format change for the series from issue #481 onwards.
In Bruce Wayne's absence, Batwoman was featured in Detective comics between issues #854-863. Currently, the book stars Dick Grayson as Batman, as well as Commissioner James Gordon.
- DETECTIVE COMICS #1: Speed Saunders of the River Patrol: "The Murders of Cap'n Scum"
1.-Cover by Vincent Sullivan.
2.-"The Murders of Cap'n Scum" (Speed Saunders) written and penciled by E.C. Stoner and inked by Creig Flessel. Speed discovers that Cap'n Scum is smuggling Chinamen and throwing the sick ones in the sea.
3.-"Cosmo, The Phantom of Disguise" (The Rhangwa Pearls) written, penciled and inked by Sven Elven. Taro, the cleverest gem thief on two continents, attempts to steal some precious gems; a battle of the disguisers is had.
4.-"Bret Lawton" (The Peruvian Mine Murders Part 1) written by Unknown, penciled and inked by Creig Flessel. "The ace international detective is confronted with a series of baffling murders. Mystery and adventure lurk at every step as he penetrates the silent Peruvian jungles.
5.-"Bruce Nelson" (The Claws of the Red Dragon Part 1) written by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, penciled and inked by Tom Hickey. Hungering merely for some chow mein, Nelson arrives at an out-of-place Chinese restaurant where no one wishes to serve him. When a father and daughter also appear, tension continues to mount, until all three are attacked! (Features Vincent Sullivan Cover Character Sen Yoi as the Villain)
6.-"Gumshoe Gus" (The Gotlotz Jewels) written, penciled and inked by Bill Patrick. Gus keeps an eye out on Mrs. Gotlotz's jewels, only to see them stolen by someone he eventually bops on the noggin'.
7.-"Bart Regan" (The Balinoff Case Part 1) written by Jerry Siegel, penciled and inked by Joe Shuster. Bart goes undercover to "make the acquaintance of Olga Balinoff, who is suspected of using her charms to worm valuable army secrets out of young officers."
8.-"Eagle-Eye Jake" (The Gotrox Pearls) written, penciled and inked by Russell Cole (aka ALGER). Jake is the last resort to solve the case of the missing Gotrox Pearls, only to realize "neither gems nor thief exist"!
9.-"Silly Sleuths" by Fred Schwab. A collection of one-panel jokes.
10.-"Buck Marshall" (The Bar S Rustlers) written, penciled and inked by Homer Fleming. "Cattle thieves are terrorizing the country [and] Buck loses no time in responding to the Sheriff's appeal for help."
11.-"Slam Bradley" (The Streets of Chinatown) written by Jerry Siegel, penciled and inked by Joe Shuster. "Don't mind my torn shirt, lady. This is a special occasion - the first time I ever met a dime-store princess." Said princess offers Slam a job guarding her valuable poodle-dog; when Slam ... "politely" declines, the bumbling Shorty takes his place.
Appearing in Speed Saunders of the River Patrol: "The Murders of Cap'n Scum"
- Featured Characters: Speed Saunders (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Jake (Single appearance)
- Villains: Cap'n Scum (Single appearance)
- Other Characters: Mister Moran (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Speed Saunders of the River Patrol: "The Murders of Cap'n Scum":
Cyril 'Speed' Saunders receives a case where the bodies of chinamen were being found in the bay. Through some investigation work at the pier, Speed notices a cargo ship, The Maria, that never seems to come into port. He takes out a small boat and climbs aboard the ship only to find a group of no-good crewmen being led by a Captain Scum. The crew tosses Speed overboard, leaving him to swim the three miles back to shore.
With the help of a catboat owned by Jake, Speed trails the Maria to where it appears to be making an exchange with another vessel. He sneaks aboard, and overhears Scum negotiating a price with the man from the adjoining ship. Scum was smuggling Chinese laborers to potential buyers (Remember this was written in the 1930's) and had simply been tossing the sick ones out to sea! Speed successfully arrests Scum and his associate and the case is solved.
Appearing in Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise: "The Rhanqwa Pearls"
- Featured Characters: Cosmo (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Captain Burke (Single appearance)
- Villains: Taro (Single appearance)
- Other Characters: Gregory Dillingwater (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise: "The Rhanqwa Pearls"
In a large mansion, gem-collector Gregory Dillingwater gains possession of the Rhangwa pearls, a priceless bunch of gems. Later on, he receives a note that says the pearls will be stolen from him on the week of the 15th. It is signed by "Taro", a well known thief. After being called, the police captain decides to call Cosmo to help with the case. Cosmo comes up with a plan and explains it to Mr. Dillingwater.
Meanwhile, Taro has easily slipped past the police, and overcomes Buckley the butler. Now disguised in a butler’s suit, Taro attempts to poison Mr. Dillingwater by putting a pellet in his drink. Mr. Dillingwater instead lunges at Taro and knocks him to the floor. The Gregory Dillingwater that Taro tried to poison was really Cosmo in disguise! The police arrest Taro, and the Rhangwa pearls are now safe in Dillingwater's collection.
Appearing in Bret Lawton: "The Peruvian Mine Murders (Part I)"
- Featured Characters: Bret Lawton (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Tim Morgan (First appearance)
- Villains: Spider Malone (First appearance)
- Other Characters: Fred Collins (Appears only as a corpse)
Synopsis for Bret Lawton: "The Peruvian Mine Murders (Part I)"
While vacationing in Panama, Bret receives a telegram from his friend, Tim Morgan. He is having some trouble at his mining camp in Peru and is asking Bret to help.
When Bret arrives, Tim explains that there have been two murdered men found near the mine. Both victims had a small hole in their neck, but not from any bullet. Not long after, another body is found, that of the mining company's chief engineer, Fred Collins. An emerald is found next to Collins. The frightened and superstitious natives are refusing to work, meaning Tim may have to close up camp and lose thousands of dollars! Bret wants to search an old mine shaft in the Andes, where Collins was last working. He and Tim travel by horse through the thick vegetation. As they investigate the mine shaft, an Incan Priest watches from a high mountain-top, a look of malice in his eyes. This story is continued in the next issue.
Appearing in Bruce Nelson: "The Claws of the Red Dragon (Part I)"
- Featured Characters: Bruce Nelson (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: n/a
- Villains: Unnamed Chinese Thugs
- Other Characters: Erick von Holtzendorff (First appearance), Sigrid von Holtzendorff (First appearance)
Bruce Nelson was walking the streets of San Francisco one night, when he came across a restaurant sign that depicted a Chinese red dragon. His interest was especially drawn to the dragon's feet, which had seven deadly claws, just like the symbol on his ring. When he went inside, the restaurant was nearly deserted. None of the waiters would even give him a menu... Bruce grew more and more impatient as the minutes passed until he rose to his feet and confronted one of the Chinamen. The Chinamen only replied that they had no menu. Bruce was regarded with a cold shoulder.
-- A car was suddenly heard parking outside, and Bruce watched as a couple entered. A pretty young woman with her father, both of them being treated as honored customers by the Chinese. Bruce noticed that the father wore the same kind of ring he himself had on! The Chinamen treated the pair to a grand feast at the table, but the woman felt eeriness about the place. The waiters were also now serving Bruce, though they seemed in a hurry to make him leave... But Bruce's curiosity now overwhelmed his hunger, and he continued to watch the couple. Without any more delay, the Chinese took action! Two Chinamen wrapped a sheet of silk around the father and daughters faces and proceeded to tie them up, while another did the same to Bruce! This story is continued in the next issue...
Appearing in Gumshoe Gus: "The Gotlotz Jewels"
- Featured Characters: Gumshoe Gus
- Supporting Characters: Mr. Reeves, Butler, Mrs. Gotlotz
- Villains: n/a
- Other Characters: Police Commissioner
Synopsis for Gumshoe Gus: "The Gotlotz Jewels"
Gus is a detective who isn't as good at his job as he believes. The police chief tells Gus to go to a party at Mrs. Gotlotz's house and keep an eye on the jewels. When he gets there, he accuses the butler of using an alias ("What other name do you use besides 'Butler'?"), and mistakes his reflection in a mirror for a suspicious character.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Gotlotz is dancing with a gentleman when the clasp on her jewel necklace breaks. Not wanting to abandon her duties as a hostess to put them away, she hands them to the man for safe-keeping. When Gus spots the gentleman walking away with the pearls in hand, he takes out his club and whacks him in the head, knocking him out. Gus asks the Butler who the gentleman is, and the butler replies in horror that it's the chief of police! Whoops...
Appearing in Bart Regan, Spy: "The Balinoff Case (Part I)"
- Featured Characters: Bart Regan (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Sally Norris (First appearance)
- Villains: Olga Balinoff (First appearance)
- Other Characters: n/a
Synopsis for Bart Regan, Spy: "The Balinoff Case (Part I)"
Bart Regan is a Police Officer who 'got fired' from his job, but in reality was recruited to be a spy with Secret Service. Thus, he must leave his past behind, including his fiancée, Sally Norris. But she won't give up so easily. She heads over to his residence, but she has to have the taxi driver chase him because he has just left on his first assignment, disguised as Captain Markham, which is to go to a party hosted by Olga Balinoff, who is suspected of using her charms to worm valuable Army secrets out of young officers.
At the party Olga and Bruce are talking and Sally enters. A common friend of Sally's and Olga's introduces the two and Sally pulls Bruce away from Olga to dance. While she is confronting him, the butler, another secret agent, cuts in, freeing Bruce to get back to Olga. After a discussion between Bruce and Olga where he lets out that his superiors tell him everything, they go back to her apartment for drinks, again chased by Sally. Upstairs, Olga slips a pill into Bruce's drink while downstairs Sally is fighting with a taxi driver who won't let her go without paying even though she left her wallet at the party. This story is continued in the next issue.
Appearing in Eagle-Eye Jake: "The Gotrox Pearls"
- Featured Characters: Eagle-Eyed Jake (Single appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Mrs. Gotrox (Single appearance)
- Villains: n/a
- Other Characters: n/a
Synopsis for Eagle-Eye Jake: "The Gotrox Pearls"
Eagle-Eyed Jake takes a sleuth class by mail-order. Then Mrs. Gotrox's jewel's, valued at $500,000, get stolen. All the best sleuths and local cops try to solve it but fail, so they hire Eagle-Eye. He solves the case by realizing that the jewels never were stolen but Mrs. Gotrox just wanted to see her name in the papers.
Appearing in "Silly Sleuths"
- Featured Characters: Gumshoe Gus
- Supporting Characters: Inspector Schmaltz (Single appearance)
- Villains: n/a
- Other Characters: Reilly (Single appearance)
Synopsis for "Silly Sleuths"
Several silly cartoons about Inspector Gus and his fellow officers.
Appearing in Buck Marshall: "The Bar S Rustlers"
- Featured Characters: Buck Marshall (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Sheriff
- Villains: Sanders (Single appearance)
- Other Characters: Jackson, Rawhide, Volk
Synopsis for Buck Marshall: "The Bar S Rustlers"
Buck Marshall is a range detective who gets called to do an assignment for a sheriff he knows but in an area he doesn't. It seems some calves are being hustled by the Circle Bar 8 ranch from the Bar S ranch. Buck goes undercover as Sam Wilson on the Bar S Ranch, and after a quick shootout with a man named Rawhide, gets a job to mend a fence, which is on the border of the two ranches. He comes upon some hombres who are branding a calf. As he starts to follow, a shot rings, sending him to a halt.
Meanwhile, the Sheriff goes to confront Volk, with Sanders. They talk and then Volk punches Sanders in the jaw, and the sheriff makes him come along. Back to Buck, he follows the sound of the bullet and finds a dead man. He follows the horse prints and finds a broken bush, cut up ground, soft yellow ground and a horseshoe. He takes the body back into town where Rawhide confronts him about being in cohorts with the rustlers. He says no, and takes them to the scene of the crime. He deducts that the killers horse will be wearing a new shoe. Sanders starts to run away, but the Sheriff shoots him out of his saddle. A reward awaits Buck when they get back to town.
Appearing in Slam Bradley: "The Streets of Chinatown"
- Featured Characters: Slam Bradley (First appearance)
- Supporting Characters: Shorty Morgan (First appearance), Sergeant Kelly (First appearance)
- Villains: Fui Onyui (First appearance)
- Other Characters: Captain Frawley (Single appearance), Mimi the dog (Single appearance), Rita Carlisle (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Slam Bradley: "The Streets of Chinatown"
While tangling with a Chinese mob, Slam Bradley is interrupted by some policemen and Sgt. Kelley. Captain Frawley has summoned Slam to take on Rita's case which turns out to simply be guarding her prize, pet dog, Mimi. Slam turns down the job, but outsources it to Shorty, who is desperately trying to become partners with him. While on the job, driving with Rita, she sees an antiques store in Chinatown that she visits. After about an hour of waiting in the car, Shorty gets suspicious that Rita hasn't returned yet. Leaving the dog behind, Shorty checks the shop but does not find her and is told to leave by the very stereotypical Chinese owner. Shorty calls up Slam to tell him about the situation. They both make their way through the shop and hidden catacombs underneath it and rescue Rita from the clutches of Fui Onyui and his China mob. After Shorty stops Fui Onyui from making his getaway using tar to stick him to the floor, Slam officially declares Shorty as his new partner and rudely says goodbye to Rita after they share a kiss.
- This issue is reprinted in Millennium Edition: Detective Comics #1.
- First appearance of all characters.
- "The Streets of Chinatown" is reprinted in the The Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told.
- Many of the stories from this issue are rendered in black and white.
- Fui Onyui appears next in Detective Comics #22