I enjoyed reading Pat’s recent post at the Silver Age Blog about Batman’s swipe of Blackhawk. That got me thinking about an earlier swipe where the Silver Age Batman swipes a story from the Golden Age Robin the Boy Wonder. Although I covered this story way back in the Golden Age of Comic Books Podcast #27 (December 2005), I thought it would be fun to discuss it here on the Blog, complete with panels from the stories.
The story begins in the pages of Star Spangled Comics where Robin the Boy Wonder began a series of solo appearances with issue #65 (February 1947). In issue #70 of this title, we met a new villain in the life of Robin, The Clock. Although defeated by Robin in this issue, The Clock makes a “clock themed” escape from jail in issue #74 in, “The Clock Stirkes!” (November 1947).
In Star Spangled Comics #74, The Clock robs a clock factory of very expensive watch screws by using orange slices to distract the factory supervisor and workers who are afraid that the acid in the oranges will caused rust and corrosion to the delicate watch works in the factory. Robin tries to apprehend The Clock in the factory, but he escapes after a “clock themed” battle on the outside of the building. Robin returns to the building, speaks to the supervisor about the high value of the stolen screws and discovers that The Clock had dropped his watch in his fight with our hero. Robin examines the inside of the watch with a microscope and discovers a trace of flour inside. Robin then travels to an old flour mill thinking it must be The Clock’s hideout. Sure enough, he finds The Clock at this location, but is captured by the villain. The Clock then devises a death trap for Robin whereby Robin is tied from a clock pendulum which is set to release a deadly barrage of arrows. Robin escapes by swinging into a wall, breaking the crystal on his watch and using the broken glass to cut his ropes. He later apprehends The Clock and sends him to jail.
Twelve years later in Detective Comics #265 in “Batman’s First Case”, we learn of a “new” Batman & Robin villain, “The Clock”. Maybe Robin has selective memory, or maybe this is an Earth-1 versus Earth-2 situation, but in any event, the story of this Clock is identical in many ways to Robin’s Star Spangled Comics adventure over a decade earlier. In this story, we learn of Batman’s very first case, that he initially bungles, but redeems himself by catching the crook and sending him to jail. It is this crook who Batman sends “to do time” that later becomes “The Clock” after leaving prison. From this point in the story, the action is almost identical to the earlier Robin story. Ultimately, Batman & Robin catch this new version of “The Clock” and send him back to prison.
So, just how similar are these stories? Let’s examine some of the pages and panels.
In the above panels both of our villains decide to use orange slices to distract the factory supervisor and workers while stealing priceless watch screws. Note how similar some of the dialogue is.
In a very similar fight scene, The Clock makes his escape after throwing a can of paint at Robin. Note the similarity between the window below the large clock face through which The Clock escapes. Also note the description of the watch screws by the supervisor.
In both stories, our heroes examine the interior of The Clock’s watch and find flour. This leads them to the old flour mill and The Clock’s hideout. Note the similarity of the scene where Robin is climbing the wheel on the outside of the mill.
After being captured by The Clock, both Robin and Batman are placed into “clocked themed” death traps. They both escape by smashing the watch crystal and using the broken glass to cut their ropes. It seems that it took Robin a little longer than Batman, but they both escaped in the nick of time!
There are numerous examples of story and art swipes from the Golden Age of comic books. I assume the publishers saw nothing wrong with this practice as they likely believed that after twelve years (in the case of these stories) they had a completely different readership who would never know any better. Additionally, it probably saved them money in the long run. Little did they know that decades later their publications would be closely scrutinized by devoted fans of the genre who would take pleasure in discovering and revealing these swipes.
Thanks again to Pat at the Silver Age of Comic Books for inspiring me to go back and re-read these two stories and reveal where Batman actually stole from Robin!