Progressive Bully #3: You gotta be kitten me, Batman.

§ June 8th, 2022 § Filed under batman, Bully § 8 Comments

Bully here again, to bring you another installment in an increasingly confusing week of “Progressive Ruin Minus Mike Sterling.” I imagine Mike is lying back in a comfy hammock with a tall glass of lemonade and a pile o’ Swamp Thing comics by his side today. Surely a comics retailer doesn’t really have anything busy to do on a Wednesday?

Let’s start this post off with a quiz! No, don’t fret, this grade will not count towards your final, although I will ask you to use only a #2 pencil and to work neatly within the space provided for you.

Q: Which among his many foes is Batman’s most despicable enemy? I know you have a lot of DC supervillain characters to contemplate while I play the thirty-second-long Final Jeopardy music (those of you in the UK can substitute the Countdown…er, countdown). Is it the Joker? The Riddler? Orca? The Penny Plunderer? When answering, please cite issue numbers and provide panel scans, or at least rip ’em out of your comics and hold them up to the monitor so I can see.

Time’s up!

The answer is, of course, as all true Batman scholars know, Mr. Percy Swann, the deadly and diabolical nogoodnik of the Batman comic strip’s 1944 story “The Missing Heir Dilemma.” Until Swann’s run-in with Batman and Robin, he had previously escaped prosecution by being owned by the Queen, and his ability to break your arms with his mighty wings.

all panels are from “The Missing Heir Dilemma” from the Batman comic strip (1944), script by Alvin Schwartz, pencils by Bob Kane and Jack Burnley, inks by Charles Paris, letters by Ira Schnapp and the DC Bullpen;
as reprinted in Batman: The Dailies 1944-1945

Batman’s been called in by heavyset Golden Age Commissioner Gordon to hunt down confidence trickster Swann, a baddie the Gotham Police have been unable to touch. Maybe if you stopped depending on Batman so much, your men and women of the GCPD would do a more thorough job, Commish? Naw, that’ll never happen. He likes the big spotlight on the roof too much.

Batman and Robin, havin’ nothing else to do today (Penguin’s out of town, Two-Face is beside himself) immediately check out Swann’s hideout at the Hotel Elmo, the swankiest place on Sesame Street in beautiful downtown Gotham City. Please: no Groupon offers.

To be a superior crime lord in Gotham City, you’ve got to have a henchman or two, and Swann’s got one stuffed into a men’s Big & Large Store suit,: the ironically named “Tiny.” As doorman to his boss, Tiny plays rough, bopping Batman and Robin in their respective snoots, but he’s a crook with love in his life. That big ol’ over-stretched heart belongs to Tippie, his little foundling kitten. Already he’s Selina Kyle’s favorite underling.

Batman’s retort? A punch in the guts so loud that Tippie cries out a sound effect of “meow!” I think more supervillains need to have pets that exclaim loudly when their masters are popped a fist of justice. A penguin that awks loudly when Batman kicks Oswald Cobblepot’s posterior, a howler monkey that shrieks for the Joker getting hit over the head, or  a weiner dog that barks ever-so-cutely when Robin hits Condiment King. So far the Sensational Character Find of 1944 is Tippie, all the way, and I just bet we’ll love and cherish his furry little antics all the way through this story!

Genteel Swann pours on the charm and invites the Caped Crusaders in for a cup of tea. You’ve gotta respect that. Why, if he’s offering cookies with that tea I’d already be signing up to work for Swann. Just gimme the sweatshirt that says “HENCH #2” and I’m in, munchin’ on my cookie and giving Batman hard stares.

Round about now you should be getting frightened, very frightened.

Yes, that’s why I called him Batman’s most despicable villain: Swann has killed Tiny’s kitten.

Let us now have a moment of silence for Tippie the kitten.


For the next couple of months Batman and Robin investigate Swann and his fiendish plan — something about swiping an inheritance by impersonating an heir (see the title of the storyline) — but even when there’s exciting stunts and swashbuckling derring-do it’s hard to keep our minds off that poor little cat. I know, it’s going to take me a long time to get over him, too.

It’s actually a pretty solid storyline, with mysteries and fights and cliffhangers galore, and it’s paced dynamically to keep your interest whether you’re reading it daily or all in a big fat collection. It would have made a dandy movie serial. It’s even got some nice scenes for Bruce and Dick in their civilian roles, as well as Alfred saving the day once again.

And yet still, like Tiny, we cannot forget that Swann coldly and brutally murdered a kitten.

Like all Batman stories from “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” on through to “Tom King’s Big Ol’ Crossover Event ’22,” it all winds up with everybody just punching each other in a swamp. I’m not saying that now would be a good time for Alec Holland to make a guest appearance, but I’m not not saying that either.

No fool Tiny: he’s popped a few punches at the Caped Crusaders, but he’s gettin’ out while the gettin’ is good. Swann too, has turned chicken and flew the coop a few minutes before. Will the next six weeks of the strip just be Batman and Robin chasing them across country?

Suddenly: quicksand! Thanks to animated cartoons and movie serials, the number one fear of my young life. Swann’s trapped waist-deep in the muck, but he’s kept his gun above water. Just shoot the quicksand then, Swann, that’ll work. Tiny, on the other hand, is considering his options very carefully. Now this is a very interesting development we find ourselves in, boss, he might say, if he had the vocabulary and the sense of irony.

Swann shoots Tiny, but Tiny lets Swann drown. It is, as it says in the song, the circle of life. I guess Swann and Tiny won’t be coming back for further adventures in Batman comics, and I for one say of Swann, good riddance, and of Tiny, well, maybe Tippie the kitten is waiting for you on the other side. Batman, meanwhile, shakes his head at all this tragic, tragic waste, but it saves the public a long, drawn-out trial and he can use that “case closed” rubber stamp Alfred gave him for his birthday to cap off his detective notes that evening. One aspect of the adventure that won’t be in the Black Casebook is what happened to the kitten. May we, as Tippie’s sole memory keepers, salute him and shed a soft tear for his peaceful rest.

I told you Swann was a despicable villain, and you may choose to argue with me that the Joker has murdered thousands, that Penguin has driven men and women to their ruin, that Zsasz is an unrepentant serial killer, that Bane has broken so many backs he’s become Santa Prisca’s patron saint of back-breaking (Feast Day August 22, observed). Maybe because I have a cat myself, I will never forget or forgive Swann for killing that kitten, right on the newspaper page in black-and-white in front of impressionable youngsters who flipped past news of this Hitler guy on the front page to see what their favorite hero was up to today.

Rest in peace, Tippie. Roast in hell, Swann.

8 Responses to “Progressive Bully #3: You gotta be kitten me, Batman.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “Swann! and Tiny! Guess I’m too late! Hmm–maybe it’s better this way. I mean, it certainly saves me the time of bringing them in for arrest.”

    “Batman, help me! The bullet only grazed my side!”

    “No, I do believe it’s better this way.”

  • Thelonious_Nick says:

    “Swann! and Tiny! Guess I’m too late! Hmm–maybe it’s better this way. I mean, it certainly saves me the time of bringing them in for arrest.”

    “Batman, help me! The bullet only grazed my side!”

    [nudges Tiny’s body into quicksand] “No, I do believe it’s better this way.”

  • King of the Moon says:

    I was not ready for this level of evil.

  • Cassandra Miller says:

    Bully the Little Stuffed Bull, singlehoofedly bring back the Golden Age of Comics Blogging!

  • MisterJayEm says:

    That comic? Not fun!

    — MrJM

  • Rob S says:

    RIP, Tippie. This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

  • ChrisKafka says:

    Tom King, or someone, needs to bring back Tippie. Except, you know, this time Tippie is a rabies-infected, female cat rapist that Batman has no choice except to break Tippie’s neck (again). Because, that’s what sophisticated comic readers want in this jaded year of 2022.
    Either that, or they could bring in the Earth-20 version of Tippie in the next DC mega-crossover.

  • Thom H. says:

    Hmm, that sounds more like a Geoff Johns version of Tippie. Tom King’s version would be a depressed military veteran with marital issues.