Detective Comics Issue #328- “Gotham Gang Line-Up!”
Published June 1964
(Prior to the 1970s, comic books didn’t credit people for their work and the volume shows:)
Pencilier: Carmine Infantino
While Batman and Robin are out on a case with Superman elsewhere, the loyal butler Alfred remains in the Batcave cleaning up after the two. Suddenly, the special hotline rings with a message from Commissioner Gordon. Alfred dares not answer it without endangering their identities and listens to the answering machine, as it is relayed that the “Tri-State Gang” is having a meeting in Gotham City. Mr. Pennyworth pulls up a file on Paul Pardee, a suspected member, and decides the best course of action is to follow him. Later that evening, as the gang’s only lead drives away from his home, Alfred is close behind on his motorcycle.
Batman and Robin return from their case and get suspicious that Alfred hasn’t come back home yet. They first go to Pardee’s house and then activate the Batmobile’s special infrared light looking for any sign of Alfred’s trail; his motorcycle’s wheels were painted with a chemical. They eventually end up at the old Gotham Prison, deserted for years. Apparently nobody ever thought of checking any abandoned landmarks for the gang, thinking such a thing would be a waste of time. The crime-fighting duo enter the prison, which the Tri-State Gang has rigged like Macaulay Culkin did in Home Alone. Batman nearly falls for the old electrified door handle trick thanks to a fly and decides to hoof it up the prison walls. They reach a staircase and as it collapses, they fall and get knocked out.
The gang rushes in and some of them get really anxious and want to off Batman and Robing with their handguns. Their bald chairman decides that it’s a better idea to see which one of the gang tells the best story about the time they were thwarted by this masked manhunter. One tubby guy talks about the time he tried to steal a $100,000 off the set of Cleopatra in a chariot. A mustached man talks about how his lumber-mill job was thwarted by Batman riding a log down the sluice. Three guys in another job, held up a diamond dealer ran up to the third floor and locked the room thinking nobody would go after them. Of course, Batman and Robin crashed through the window. All pretty basic stories and it sounds like all of them were idiots.
In Act 2, the cueball leader decides to put them in a cell far away from their other prisoner, but not before telling them their scheme. They are going to uncover buried treasure in Colonial City. One of the gang members tells Batman and Robin that they are going to dispose of their other prisoner first, with the crimefighters a close second. They decide to pull out something from their bag of tricks and trip the gang member outside their door. They lasso him in and get themselves free. Meanwhile, Alfred’s door is open and just as soon he has his back to his captor, he kicks his boot at him. He runs to the duo’s cell, only to find nobody inside. The Masked Manhunter and the Boy Wonder arrive at their butler’s cell and also find it empty. Both parties draw the conclusion that their dear comrades are dead, and run after the gang to avenge each other. Both race to Colonial City, narrowly missing each other once again.
At Colonial City, a group of reenactors are going to show an audience Jean-Pierre Blanchard’s hot-air balloon ride, the first ever done in the states on January 8, 1793. Why this? Probably the story takes place in January, despite everybody acting like it’s April or June judging by the clothes they’re wearing. The real reason is revealed on the other side of town, as the Tri-State Gang has used the balloon as a distraction. They’ve stolen a giant steam shovel to uncover the treasure, whatever it may be. Batman and Robin arrive on the scene and chase after the gang, while Alfred arrives in time to see them. Just as that shovel unloads a boulder to get rid of the duo, Alfred speeds up his bike and pushes them out of the way, even though they would’ve probably gotten away with a few scratches but nothing short of a flesh wound.
Seeing their dear father-figure get crushed by the boulder Batman and Robin spring into action with enough fury as half a panel can muster! They clean up the Tri-State Gang with a bulldozer and quickly make preparations for Alfred’s funeral. To honor his dear father-figure, Bruce will create the Alfred Foundation, a charitable organization that will solely be focused on scientific and philosophical advancement. All we’ll ever see from now on is how the scientists working for the organization will get the dynamic duo in a heap of trouble. The story quickly ends with the arrival of Aunt Harriet, Dick’s long lost relative that I’ve never heard of until now.
Even though this was a Detective Comics story to fit the Elongated Man, I was disappointed that they just killed Alfred just like that, even if he sacrificed himself to save his two sons from being crushed by a giant rock.