13 Fascinating BOB KANE PANELS From BATMAN’S First Year

A BIRTHDAY RETROSPECTIVE: Yes, we said Bob Kane, who was born 108 years ago, on Oct. 24, 1915…


There’s a lot of controversy and superheated feelings about Bob Kane out there, and while I recognize and acknowledge them, perhaps even sympathize with them, that’s not what I’m here for today. I’m here to recognize the anniversary of Kane’s birth in 1915, and celebrate his contributions to that first, halcyon year of his co-creation, Batman.

Those first 11 stories of the Darknight Detective before the appearance of Robin have always fascinated me, mostly because many of the underpinnings of the 1966 Batman TV show can be found in them. I took another journey through the stories for this article and pulled out 13 panels that for me illustrate some cool things Kane—with writers Bill Finger and Gardner Fox, and background artists Sheldon Moldoff and Jerry Robinson, of course—did in his art and storytelling.

And as I did, I always kept this in mind: Say what you will about Kane and his treatment of others over the evolution of the character (and I’ll probably agree), but he was there from the very beginning and will always be the Caped Crusader’s co-creator. If you remove him from the equation, there is no Batman. And that’s a world I wouldn’t care to live in.

Detective Comics #27 (Publication date May 1939). I’ve always loved this debut panel of Our Hero. He’s always known how to make an entrance.

Detective Comics #28 (June 1939). Isn’t this flip-over great? And please notice the inevitable destination of the screaming knife wielder—right over the edge to the pavement below.

Detective Comics #29 (July 1939). No door, no problem. Not for Batman, that is.

Detective Comics #30 (August 1939). First-year Batman usually never pulled any punches when dealing with criminals, as seen here. And boy did Kane love drawing the cape like bat wings.

Detective Comics #30 (August 1939). For a funny animals/humor artist, Kane could draw the macabre and gruesome with no problems.

Detective Comics #31 (September 1939). Not only was the Batgyro pretty cool, its first flight across the dark skies over New York was eerie and effective—Batman thought so, too.

Detective Comics #31 (September 1939). I get that there was a lot of swiping done back then, and Kane was no slouch in that department, but this one panel is still a huge favorite of mine from the 1939 stories.

Detective Comics #32 (October 1939). It’s appropriate that Batman’s battle with the vampiric Monk concluded in the October issue—and kicked off with Our Hero doing his best Dracula pose.

Detective Comics #33 (November 1939). Several months into the chronicles and finally the origin. This panel has always stood out to me, a mixture of pathos and psycho.

Detective Comics #34 (December 1939). Don’t scoff and laugh too hard at the unbelievable deathtraps of the ’66 TV show—they began right here in 1939.

Detective Comics #35 (January 1940). The “Batman Carried a Gun” thing is such a minor footnote for the character in my opinion, and not worthy of all legend that’s grown up around it, but I have to admit this is a striking panel.

Detective Comics #36 (February 1940). When there are perpetrator pins that need to be knocked down, only a Bowling Ball Batman will do.

Detective Comics #37 (March 1940) – Batman wasn’t much of a gadgeteer in the early days. That may be why I like this panel of him pulling infra-red goggles out of his cape.


— A BILL FINGER Tribute: BATMAN From 1939 to Today. Click here.

— 13 COVERS: Saluting the Ghosts of BOB KANE. Click here.

When JIM BEARD’s not editing and publishing through his two houses, Flinch Books and Becky Books, he’s pounding out adventure fiction with both original and licensed characters. In fact, he’s put words in the mouths of Luke Skywalker, Superman, Fox Mulder, Carl Kolchak, Peter Venkman and the Green Hornet… and lived to tell about it. 

Check out the most recent Batman ’66 books of essays he’s edited: Zlonk! Zok! Zowie! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season OneBiff! Bam! Ee-Yow! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66 – Season Two and Oooff! Boff! Splatt! The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66 – Season Three.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. In those first issues, the rapid changes in what we now take for granted as canon; the square buckle utility belt (thankfully no pouches), then the cowl and finally the scallop gauntlets appear.

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    • Having met Bob Kane back in the 80’s, I can assure you that he treats most with respect, until you disagree with him….

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  2. The art is all over the place as they find their stride, and the stories are great. I spent a good deal of time looking at the art of these golden age stories in 7th grade. Love the reference to the Martians, wasn’t that October 1939 when Welles radio program was broadcast. Hmmm!

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  3. Kane had such a weird style. I highly recommend the Batman newspaper comic strip. It’s a good showcase for what Kane’s art actually looked like.

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  4. Jim, thank you for this! So cool! I know I read a couple of these stories reprinted when I was a kid. I’ll agree with everything you said about Bob Kane, good and bad. And Wow! Could he draw! This is the Dark Knight, no doubt about that! (Oh, and as for laughing at the deathtraps, on TV they were done as a comedy. In this comic book version they are meant to be dark and dangerous!)

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