Before the holiday break, I had been talking about Aunt Harriet, the character introduced in 1964 by newly appointed Batman editor Julius Schwartz.  The idea was to deflect accusations, first suggested by psychiatrist Frederic Wertham, that Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson---the Batman and Robin---maintained a homosexual relationship.  But certainly, it would have occurred to Schwartz that inserting a middle-aged and somewhat clueless spinster into the household wouldn’t do a whole lot of deflecting.  No, the obvious thing to do, if you wanted to validate Bruce Wayne’s red-blooded heterosexual credentials, was give him a steady girl friend.  And then toss in an occasional scene of the romantic couple doing some canoodling.

 

I suspect Schwartz was thinking the same thing because, two months after Aunt Harriet’s arrival, he and writer France Herron presented Batman fans with another female character.

 

Enter Patricia Powell---and she wasn’t anybody’s matronly aunt.

 

Pat Powell was introduced at the beginning of her career, in “The Dilemma of the Detective’s Daughter”, from Batman # 165 (Aug., 1964), and you can’t say she didn’t hit the decks running. At the annual graduation ceremony of the Gotham City Police Academy, rookie Pat is honoured as the first recruit in academy history to rank first in all four categories of training---academic, physical, firearms, and overall. She comes by it honestly. Her father is Detective Lieutenant Mike “Bulldog” Powell. That Pat is a knockout blonde is the one thing that she didn’t get from her father.



The Batman is on hand to present the award to the newly minted officer, and after the ceremony, he sticks around to indulge in some small talk with both Powells and Commissioner Gordon. After Gordon and Lieutenant Powell get back to work, the Masked Manhunter, clearly smitten with the beauteous Pat, pulls the old “Why don’t you give me a tour of the academy?” move. Turning on the old Wayne charm, Batman and Pat are chatting like best friends in no time. That’s when the girl confesses to having developed a serious crush on a fellow.



“Lucky man,” replies the Gotham Gangbuster. “Who is he?”



“Bruce Wayne!” says Pat.



The Batman is caught off guard by that curve. He’s never seen Patricia Powell before to-day. But a couple of “innocent” questions bring forth the solution to that mystery. Though she has seen Bruce Wayne on several occasions, he has never seen her face. The first time was during a sorority rush stunt, when Pat, disguised as a pirate, asked Bruce for the brass knocker from the front door of Stately Wayne Manor. Then, while diving, she had a chance encounter with him, but her scuba mask obscured her features. The last opportunity arose at a New Year’s Eve masquerade party they both attended, but Bruce suddenly departed (“Look! It’s the Bat-signal!”) before the mid-night unmasking.



Policewoman Powell starts work the next day. Because of her exceptional performance at the academy, she has been assigned to plainclothes duty, working for---surprise, surprise---her dad, the ol’ Bulldog himself. Their first case together is investigating the disappearance of Professor Ralph Smedley, who has developed a flashless, smokeless explosive for the U.S. Army.



Somewhat surprisingly, given that most of the time he was ready to pull the switch on the Bat-signal if there was an outbreak of hubcap thefts in Gotham, Commissioner Gordon is perfectly satisfied with letting two of his detectives handle the case. But he rings the Batman on the hot-line anyway because . . . .



“ . . . You wanted me to let you know what Pat Powell’s first job would be! She and her dad are on the Smedley case!”



Purely a professional interest on the Masked Manhunter’s part, no doubt. Heh heh.



Sending Robin off to follow another thread, the Batman rushes to Professor Smedley’s home, only to find Patricia there already. The rookie policewoman has already strung together minute clues establishing that the professor was taken away against his will. It’s a reasonably good bit of deduction, too. But Batman has caught one sign that Pat has missed, one which reveals where Smedley has been taken.

 

The Batman and Pat rush to that location, where a gang of safecrackers is forcing Professor Smedley to prepare some of his special explosive. The Caped Crusader draws the crooks’ attention while Pat slips into the stronghold and rescues the professor. Our Hero makes an impressive accounting of himself, good enough that the fight is almost out of the bunch by the time Robin, Lieutenant Powell, and a squad of Gotham’s Finest arrive. No slouch at sleuthing himself, the Boy Wonder decyphered a clue to Smedley’s whereabouts that the professor himself had managed to leave and rounded up the cavalry.

 

 

Pat was brainy, sharp-eyed, athletic, but unseasoned. Quickly, Batman assumed the rôle as mentor to the rookie policewoman. He called her attention to the overlooked clue at Professor Smedley’s house and walked her through its importance. (While Pat’s other deductions were impressive, frankly, the one she missed was the most obvious one; it would have been the first thing I noticed, and I’m no Batman.)



The wrinkle of Pat being love-struck over Bruce Wayne, whom (as far as she knew) had never seen her unmasked face, was entertaining, but obviously had a short shelf-life. Now that Bruce was aware of her interest, and it was mutual, it would be difficult to prolong the never-having-officially-met business without seeming contrived.



It appeared that Julius Schwartz and France Herron had figured that out. After the wrap-up of the Smedley case, Bruce, that ol’ sly dog, sends the Powells a couple of tickets to a charity affair being held at Wayne Manor that week-end. “The Dilemma of the Detective’s Daughter” ends with Pat, dressed to stupefy, arriving at the charity event and prepared to meet Bruce Wayne.



Or so it would seem. The next issue, # 166, brought the sequel, “A Rendezvous with Robbery”, picking up where the previous story left off. But Pat and her father never get one step closer to Bruce.



Suddenly, a loud-speaker warns the party guests to freeze. Their lives depend on it. The grounds of the Wayne estate have been mined with explosives which are now activated. And to prove the point, one of them is detonated by a waiter. All of the waiters, it develops, are in on the crime. Forced to remain still, Bruce, Bulldog Powell, Pat, and the rest of the guests are helpless to prevent the crooks from taking their wallets, purses, and other valuables.



The mines deactivate an hour after the robbers flee. Pat loses her chance to meet Bruce when her father insists they go after the crooks. (“No more time for social activities, Detective Powell! Let’s move! We’ve got a case on our hands!”) Of course, Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson plan to do some investigating on their own, as Batman and Robin.


Since Wayne has used the same catering business for years, the Dynamic Duo works the case from the angle of discovering how crooks were able to take the place of the trustworthy caterer’s usual wait staff. Backtracking in this manner, Batman and Robin collect sufficient information to locate the robbers’ hide-out, a split-level home in the near-by suburb of Plainview. But when the crimefighters burst in on the place, they discover it’s unoccupied---except for Bulldog Powell and Pat, whom they find locked in a closet.


Pat really shines here. She worked the case from a completely different angle, using clues she spotted at the party itself. With her father in tow, she found the hide-out a half hour before Batman and Robin did. Unfortunately, they were captured by the gang before they could move in and got stuffed in the closet so the crooks could make their getaway.



The lady cop has another ace to play. On the chance something would go wrong, Pat planted a miniature transmitter on the crooks’ car before they were nabbed. Using the receiver in their police vehicle, the father-and-daughter cops lead the Batmobile right to Secret Villain Hide-Out Number Two, an abandoned gas refinery. Here, they surprise the robbers. Though the Dynamic Duo grabs the lion’s share of the crook-catching, both Bulldog and Pat handle their end of the action admirably. Especially the hood who figures the "dame" to be an easy mark, until she gives him a hip toss and he lands with his face in the dirt. In short order, the gang is in handcuffs and all their loot is recovered.



The story ends on the next day, with Bruce Wayne arriving at police headquarters where Pat is waiting to return his stolen wallet. As Wayne’s private thoughts reveal, “Nothing can stop Pat and me from meeting now!” The final caption would have it otherwise, though . . . .



Don’t be too sure, Bruce---and you either, reader! There are more surprises in store, in the follow-up story to appear in a forthcoming Batman issue!



The narrative had it right. Bruce and Pat would not meet this time, either. But not because of some bizarre twist in the follow-up tale promised in that final caption. The readers never saw that first landmark meeting of Patricia Powell and Bruce Wayne because there was no follow-up story. In fact, Patricia Powell was never seen, again.

 

With all the principals involved having passed away, why Pat got the heave-ho after such an auspicious beginning is one of those creative decisions that will never be explained.  Going by readers’ comments published in the letters column of Batman # 168 (Feb., 1965)---including one by a Mike Friedrich, of Castro Valley, California---fan reaction toward Pat Powell was mixed, but mostly favourable. One liked the character, but did not want a romance between her and Bruce; the rest enjoyed Pat and the idea of a romantic attachment with Bruce, but---as predicted---thought the gimmick of not having them meet face to face had gotten old fast.

 

On the other hand, Pat had inertia working against her.  It had been decades since a writer had tried to saddle Bruce Wayne with a girl friend.  There was Julie Madison, who was part of the Batman’s supporting cast even before Robin.  But she appeared in only five stories and was gone by March, 1941.  She was followed by Linda Page, who figured in more of Batman’s adventures, but her time on stage wasn’t any longer than Julie’s.  Linda took her last bow early in ’43.  As far as Bruce Wayne was concerned, it was probably good riddance.  Both Julie and Linda were wealthy society girls who, nevertheless, constantly nagged “playboy” Bruce over his wastrel ways and lack of social concern.

 

In 1956, Batwoman was added to the series, and though the writers introduced a little romantic tension between her and the Batman, there didn’t seem to be many sparks flying between Kathy Kane and Bruce Wayne.  On occasion, the plot would have Bruce see Kathy socially, but usually it was just a device to work Batwoman into the story.

 

News photographer Vicki Vale was the longest-lasting female character in the mythos, débuting in 1948 and making it almost all the way to the start of the “New Look”.  Vicki might have cast a designing eye at Batman or Bruce Wayne, but her actual function was that of secret identity-snoop.  Bruce was just as happy to have Vicki out of town, covering a massive earthquake or erupting volcano.  In any event, Vicki, and Kathy, too, were given their pink slips when Julius Schwartz took over.

 

By then, Bruce Wayne had gone over twenty years without a steady sweetheart.

  



I liked Pat Powell. She had the brains and brawn and beauty to be a perfect match for Bruce Wayne, without any of the baggage of his previous girlfriends. She wasn’t a pest like Vicki Vale, who couldn’t wait to plaster “Batman Is Bruce Wayne!” across the cover of Vue Magazine.



Unlike Julie Madison or Linda Page, she accepted Bruce Wayne for who he was. (Though, in fairness, the “New Look” gave us a more socially conscious Wayne than his “bored idler” days.)



And where Kathy Kane was a dilettante crimefighter, Pat was a professional.



A romance between Bruce and Pat would have set the stage for some intriguing plot developments. Imagine Pat tumbling to a crime in the making while out on a date with Wayne, who naturally would note the same things but have to pretend ignorance to preserve his secret identity. Or them out for a stroll in the park and Pat saves them from a couple of muggers, while Bruce has to stand back “helplessly”.



And sooner or later---probably, sooner---Pat would surely start to pick up on things to indicate that her boyfriend was more than a simple millionaire playboy. She was a sharp cookie, and it wouldn’t take her long to get suspicious of those “fishing trips” Bruce and Dick were always taking. 

 

Which was more than you could say for Aunt Harriet.

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I knew about Patricia from a BATMAN EIGHTY PAGE GIANT. I wonder if it was because she wasn't in the Infantino-drawn New Look books?

I wrote about Batman's fiancé , Marcia Monroe in Brave & BOLD #64. I know it's by Bob Haney but she was mentioned in the same Eighty Page Giant.

But it is strange that the mid-60s Caped Crusader had no lady love and we can't blame the TV show for that, can we?

I vaguely remember her from the New Look era. I have a feeling that Julie realized that a detective girlfriend who doesn't miss much would be a major problem for Bruce. That, combined with the lukewarm fan reaction, probably caused them to drop her. They should have resolved the story, however, by giving her a reason to leave town.

Interesting. A character I had never heard of before.

Actually, they ought to have her show up now, 52 years later, and say, "Oh, Bruce, sorry I wasn't able to get your wallet back to you before now, I got tied up with a bunch of stuff."

Earlier this year I read Tales of the Batman: Carmine Infantino and I liked the Patricia Powell stories, but I wondered if they ever achieved closure in a story drawn by another artist, therefore not included in that volume (like the Outsider stories). Now I know. Too bad.

Also odd none of the bad guys got gun molls, considering the show was full of women following Joker and Penguin and Riddler around. Took over twenty years and a cartoon to get Joker one.
 
Philip Portelli said:

I knew about Patricia from a BATMAN EIGHTY PAGE GIANT. I wonder if it was because she wasn't in the Infantino-drawn New Look books?

I wrote about Batman's fiancé , Marcia Monroe in Brave & BOLD #64. I know it's by Bob Haney but she was mentioned in the same Eighty Page Giant.

But it is strange that the mid-60s Caped Crusader had no lady love and we can't blame the TV show for that, can we?

I think in the old days the perception was that their young male readers would react poorly to the female "cooties," so they didn't include a lot of girlfriends.

But almost all the Schwartz edited Silver Age heroes had girlfriends (honestly, the only one I can think of that didn't was Captain Action, and I'm not sure he really counts, being a toy & all...), so it seems really strange  that he didn't put more effort into giving Bruce Wayne a viable love interest.  Ironically, for all the wacky sci-fi plots and cluttered Bat-Family lineup, the pre-New Look phase was probably the most "heteronormative" period of Batman's existence: He had come around to seriously considering Kathy Kane as marriage material, and Robin had decided that kissing Bat-Girl was not so icky after all.  Once they were swept away, the new supporting characters didn't seem well thought out: Aunt Harriet never seemed to find a real role to play, and Pat never got past the silly "never actually meeting face to face" gimmick.  I wonder what would have happened to Batman if the Adam West TV show hadn't brought in legions of new fans?  It really doesn't seem like the creative team was bringing their A game to the New Look, and the most successful cast additions of this era, Barbara Gordon & Alfred Reborn were basically mandated by the TV people.

Richard Willis said:

I think in the old days the perception was that their young male readers would react poorly to the female "cooties," so they didn't include a lot of girlfriends.

For various reasons, I've never felt like Batman needed a love interest. In fact, more often than not the stories I've read where he does have one don't work as well as others where it's a non-issue. I don't mind his flirtations with Catwoman, but by and large putting him in a relationship just doesn't feel right to me. I know a lot of people will disagree, but that's my personal opinion.

I did like Pat Powell, and after reading reprints of these stories I also wondered why nothing more was done with her.

Dave Elyea said:

I wonder what would have happened to Batman if the Adam West TV show hadn't brought in legions of new fans? It really doesn't seem like the creative team was bringing their A game to the New Look, and the most successful cast additions of this era, Barbara Gordon & Alfred Reborn were basically mandated by the TV people.

IIRC, the Batman books were selling so poorly (pre-TV-show) that one or both of them were in danger of cancellation. Since DC was named after Detective Comics they probably would have dumped the Batman title first.


Richard Willis said:

 

IIRC, the Batman books were selling so poorly (pre-TV-show) that one or both of them were in danger of cancellation. Since DC was named after Detective Comics they probably would have dumped the Batman title first.

The conventional belief is that, prior to the "New Look", the Bat-titles were in danger of cancellation.  But there is a sound argument decrying it.  I discussed this somewhat in an old Deck Log Entry on the "New Look" Batman:

http://captaincomics.ning.com/profiles/blogs/from-the-archives-deck...

The source of the belief that DC was close to folding both Batman and Detective Comics comes, I believe, from printed interviews with both Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino, in which Schwartz noted, ". . . the [Batman] magazine was doing badly.  I wouldn't say they were going to kill it, but it was certainly being discussed."  And Infantino related that, at the conference which saw the editorial reins of the Bat-books being turned over to Schwartz, editorial director Irwin Donenfeld had told them, "The Batman books are dying and you two have six months to save them, or, very simply, it's over."

On the other hand, Jack Schiff, the old Bat-editor Schwartz replaced, had stated in an 1983 interview that the Bat-titles were never in any danger of cancellation.

The whole point of the "New Look" was to strengthen sales, so obviously there  was some concern over the popularity of the Bat-books, but how bad was it, really?  The logical thing to do is examine the sales figures for the period.  Unfortunately, that is somewhat muddied because the Statements of Ownership for Batman and Detective Comics---which would list the average total paid circulation for the year---weren't made public for the years 1963 (the last year of the old style Batman) and 1964 (the first year of the "New Look" Batman).  We do have the figures for 1962 and 1965, so some extrapolation can be made'

In 1962, the figures for the Bat-books were this:

Batman:  410,000

Detective Comics:  265,000

An examination of the 1962 sales figures for the rest of DC's line shows that Batman was outselling every other DC title except for the Superman family of magazines and Justice League of America.  Sales on The Flash fell right behind those of Batman, and then came Detective Comics.

Based upon those numbers and standings, the Bat-titles would have had to experience quite a precipitous drop-off in sales in 1963 to cause the suits at DC to worry about cancelling the title.  Sure, that could have happened.  But it's more probable that there was less-catastrophic drop in 1963 sales, enough for DC to want to give the Bat-titles a shot in the arm.

So then, the next question is---did the "New Look" increase the sales of the Bat-titles? We know that sales on Batman and Detective Comics soared in 1966, after the début of the Batman television show, but what about 1965, the only full, pre-TV-show, year of the "New Look"?  Here are the 1965 sales figures for the Bat-titles:

Batman:  453,745 (an increase of approx. 43,000 over 1962)

Detective Comics:  304,414  (an increase of almost 40,000 over 1962)

In terms of percentage, that's a nine-percent increase in sales for Batman and only hair less than that for Detective Comics.  It's only a modest gain, but statistically significant.  So the "New Look" had, indeed, increased sales on the Bat-titles.

According the 1965 figures for the rest of DC's output, Batman had moved up a notch, falling directly behind the Superman titles; it was now outselling Justice League of AmericaThe FlashGreen Lantern, and every other DC title.  Detective Comics had slipped a little in the standings; it was now being outsold by Metal Men and G.I. Combat, but it was still ahead of other first-tier DC titles, such as The FlashGreen Lantern, and The Atom.

Based upon those numbers and the fact that Batman and Detective Comics were outselling virtually all of the other DC titles, other than the Superman juggernaut of magazines, I'd say that the Bat-titles were in no danger of cancellation before Batmania swept the nation in '66.

I've never felt that Batman needed a love interest either, but the fact remains that most super-heroes (and an even higher percentage of DC heroes) had one as standard equipment, so the absence of one in Batman's orbit made him a prime target for "those" rumors.  On  the other hand, it does always bug me when Bruce Wayne goes thru extended periods of being a "millionaire playboy" who never dates anyone.  To me, the optimal solution would be for Bruce to have an assortment of "arm candy" supporting characters who would serve as his dates as needed, but on a recurring/rotating basis so that they could have a chance to be fleshed out to some extent, say an aspiring actress, a bored socialite, a doctor working at a free clinic the Wayne Foundation supports, maybe a city councilwoman?

Randy Jackson said:

For various reasons, I've never felt like Batman needed a love interest. In fact, more often than not the stories I've read where he does have one don't work as well as others where it's a non-issue. I don't mind his flirtations with Catwoman, but by and large putting him in a relationship just doesn't feel right to me. I know a lot of people will disagree, but that's my personal opinion.

I did like Pat Powell, and after reading reprints of these stories I also wondered why nothing more was done with her.

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