Batman #92, June 1955
“Ace, the Bat-Hound!”
Batman and Robin are patroling the outskirts of Gotham City when they spy a dog drowning in a river. They rescue the hapless hound and resolve to find its owner. They take it to the Bat-Cave and place an advert in the newspaper asking the dog’s owner to contact Bruce Wayne.
That night, as the Dynamic Duo speed off in the Batmobile, the dog follows them. Concerned that someone might recognise the pooch from his distinctive forehead markings, Robin fashions a mask. Meanwhile, Bert Bowers, an escaped convict is holed up in a warehouse, and the trio go to investigate. Inside the warehouse Batman and Robin dodge giant clown figures, but Stevens is captured by the efforts of the newly-christened Bat-Hound.
Later, Bruce Wayne receives a call. The dog belongs to John Wilker, an engraver, but it soon transpires that Wilker is missing. His boss confirms that’s he’s not been seen for days. Batman realises that the Bat-Hound’s heightened canine senses could help track down his master. Alfred frets that the dog might be unmasked, giving away Batman’s identity. Batman dismisses this.
The Bat-Signal flashes and Bat-Hound leaps into action, impressing the Dynamic Duo. Commissioner Gordon tells Batman of a burglary at a paper company, which the Caped Crusader goes to investigate. Meanwhile, Robin and Bat-Hound ferret out a lost little boy.
The pair join Batman at the paper mill, where Bat-Hound starts to growl. He’s scented a trail—and Batman quickly surmises that it must be the criminals who kidnapped Wilker! The pair follow Bat-Hound to a printing factory. There, Wilker recognises Bat-Hound as his dog, Ace. So much for the mask! Ace is knocked out by a crook as Batman and Robin arrive. Afraid that Wilker might be hurt, the Dynamic Duo surrender.
Wilker is required to print up valuable bonds at a remote location. As he sets to work, Batman and Robin are tied up and left alone. In a brilliant and cunning move, Batman kicks a lamp into the fireplace while Robin tears off Batman’s chest emblem with his teeth. The emblem is dropped onto the lit lamp. This arrangement causes a Bat-Signal to shine through the chimney high into the sky above. Far away, the revived Ace spots the signal and dashes to the scene. He breaks in through a basement window and frees Batman and Robin. The trio burst forth and kick some criminal butt.
Following the fracas the police arrive and Wilker is reunited with Ace. A reporter surmises that as the dog is the same one Bruce Wayne advertised, he must be Batman. “No,” smiles the Caped Crusader, “I got the dog from Bruce to help find Wilker…” and he flashes a photo of him and Bruce together to prove it. Robin breathes a sigh of relief as he silently muses that the “Batman” in the picture is actually Alfred!
Batman and Robin leave after thanking Ace, promising him that he can be Ace the Bat-Hound again whenever he wants.
Often reprinted, this is a wonderful little tale full of classic Silver Age greatness. It was the first appearance of Ace the Bat-Hound who went on to be a semi-regular feature of the Batman stories for the next ten years. This was clearly in response to the Superman office presenting Superman’s mutt Krypto to the world. And, as the Superman Family expanded over time, so Batman’s editor—Jack Schiff—would match them every step of the way.
The giant clown figures that Batman and Robin evade are dead giveaways that this tale was scripted by Bill Finger. Finger loved giant props and used them often. Finger is the unsung hero of the Batman story, being the uncredited co-creator of the character with Bob Kane. Indeed, Kane’s signature is on the splash page, but the art is actually by Shelly Moldoff who long toiled as Kane’s ghost.
Cover art by Win Mortimer.
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