Deck Log Entry # 89 The Cop and the Crimefighter

Batman fans have discussed this for decades. Since his debut in 1939, Bruce Wayne has not lacked for love interests, but who was the girl, the lady somebody should have smacked the millionaire playboy in the head and said, “She’s the one, stupid!”?

Golden-Age veterans usually opt for either Julie Madison or Linda Page. Society deb Julie actually made it as far as becoming Bruce’s fiancée before she broke off the engagement over his lack of ambition. Julie went on to become a successful actress and, shades of Grace Kelly, eventually married the prince of Moldacia. Linda Page was a wealthy heiress who renounced her life of ease to become a nurse. She was Bruce Wayne’s main squeeze for the first half of the 1940’s, then faded away without a trace.

The Silver Age presented two strong contenders for the part. News photographer Vicki Vale was a redheaded clone of Lois Lane, devoting most of her appearances to snooping out Bruce’s secret identity as the Batman or just generally getting in his way. In her own way, Kathy Kane was just as much of a pain. Kathy was a circus trapeze artist and motorcycle stunt rider who inherited a pile of dough. With nothing better to do, she adopted the costumed identity of the Batwoman, earning a heavy dose of disapproval from the original Caped Crusader, who felt that super-heroing was no job for a female. Her relationship with Bruce Wayne wasn’t much healthier. Since he knew that Kathy was Batwoman, but she didn’t know he was Batman, Bruce often patronised her, enjoying his superior knowledge.

Later fans preferred his more mature relationships with Silver St. Cloud and Selina Kyle, a.k.a. the Catwoman. Silver was yet another of the seemingly endless string of Gotham City socialites, only she had a bit more on the ball than either Julie Madison or Linda Page, at least when it came to Bruce Wayne. Unlike Julie or Linda, she managed to put two and two together and figure out that Wayne was the Batman. Silver dumped him because she couldn’t deal with the drawbacks of his night job. Selina Kyle was probably the closest to being Bruce’s equal, physically, mentally, and having a costumed identity of her own. While she and Wayne had their moments, he just couldn’t get past the way she hopped back and forth between both sides of the law.

And the modern era no doubt adds a few more to Bruce Wayne’s list of lovelies, and I’d mention them, if I knew who they were.

But, of all the potential mates thrown at Bruce Wayne, my top choice for the one he should have stuck with rarely gets a mention. She appeared in only two stories before disappearing as quickly as she arrived. She made quite an impression on me, though---but that’s what you’d expect from Policewoman Patricia Powell.

Patricia 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 Powell 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. The hero makes a good 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.

Patricia Powell appeared in the fourth month of Batman’s “New Look”, editor Julius Schwartz’s renovation of the bat-titles. It was a return to the character’s roots as a detective. In were more realistic plots and bad guys; out were the outer-space adventures and bug-eyed monsters. Schwartz also jettisoned all of the bat-hangers-on that had grown like barnacles on the series. Batwoman, Bat-Girl, Bat-Mite, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Alfred the butler all got pink slips.

After that purge, Schwartz needed to expand the bat-cast. Aunt Harriet was moved into Wayne Manor, mainly to blunt accusations of latent homosexuality in Bruce and Dick’s living arrangement. The Mystery Analysts provided Batman with a professional circle. And then came Pat Powell, who not only validated Bruce Wayne’s red-blooded heterosexual credentials, but was skilled enough to work alongside the Masked Manhunter, when necessary.

Being the 1960’s, Pat could not be the Batman’s equal. She 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 writer 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 hospital charity affair being held at the Wayne estate 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 right 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 suburban house 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.

Why Pat Powell disappeared after such an auspicious beginning is one of those comics mysteries which will probably never be solved. 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.

In hopes of picking up a hint of an answer, I reviewed the letters pages in every issue of Batman from ’64 to ’66, and could not find a comment about her. (In the interests of full disclosure, I’m missing about three or four issues of that run, so there might be something I couldn’t find; if anyone out there knows of something I missed, shout out.) To all appearances, Pat Powell just disappeared off the DC scope. And that’s a pity.

I liked Pat. 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 snoop 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 forced 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.

Views: 327

Comment by doc photo on August 25, 2009 at 9:09am
A few years back I purchased The Dynamic Duo Archive which reprints the earliest "New Look" stories from Batman and Detective Comics including the two Pat Powell stories. After re-reading those stories I was left wondering why I couldn't recall the subsequent issues featuring Patricia. As an avid Batman reader up through 1967 I must have read the sequel stories - right? Now I know why I don't remember them, the promised return of Patricia Powell never happened. Thanks for clearing that up, Commander.
Comment by The Baron on August 25, 2009 at 7:28pm
I used to think I knew DC history pretty thoroughly - but it's amazing the large swathes of it that I knew nothing about.
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on August 25, 2009 at 8:10pm

I used to think I knew DC history pretty thoroughly - but it's amazing the large swathes of it that I knew nothing about.

And how!

Comment by Eric L. Sofer on August 26, 2009 at 7:07am
Commander, I think that part of the problem with Pat Powell may have been, as you've noted, that she was too competent to be a side character - she didn't have any disabilities or handicaps, nor did she seem particularly emotionally involved with Batman. So she couldn't just be a "damsel in distress" on the sidelines. On the other hand, she couldn't be allowed to be too competent, either - it was Batman's comic, after all, and if she was better than Robin at crimefighting, a situation would ensue.

Maybe, also, the writers wanted to avoid the dilemma of "the doctor's wife" - or husband, in this case. How would it make Bruce Wayne look to have an ongoing relationship with a woman who was on call in a dangerous profession? And (as we are all in on it), how does it make Batman look? He obviously can't go out to protect her on every assignment, but he obviously can't stand by and watch the woman he loves(TM) go out into life-threatening danger every night either.

I think the resolution to this situation could have gone one of two ways - one pretty good, one not so good. Not so good is that the relationship blossoms and blooms, but eventually, she gets killed, and this sets Batman into a bit harder, more jaded mind set. The story here is about Pat Powell, not having her as a contributing side character, and for a new look, it would have worked fine in the "grim and gritty" comics of the 80s. But in 1965, Marvel was doing the realistic comics where characters - especially loved ones - died. That couldn't happen in a DC comic! Just ask Ferro Lad...

The other alternative - where I think the TV show beat the comic to the punch - is to make Pat Powell the next Batwoman/Batgirl. Both characters had name recognition, and obviously a Batgirl was on the horizon. Batman was obviously working with Pat Powell already, and quite impressed at her abilities. She seems a natural, and her already existing backstory (father's a cop, she knows Batman well, she has a crush on Bruce Wayne) all seem to make this a rather natural integration into the Batman legend. I can see where this could have lead to a Batwoman comic book - after all, Batgirl herself was supposed to have been created as a standalone TV show (anybody remember that? She was supposed to cross over with Batman, but Batgirl herself was going to be an independent TV star.)

Incidentally, Commander, I'm interested in your take - well, and everyone else's - of how Talia would have suited Batman as a perfect partner. If she had taken one more step, to see that what her father stood for really wasn't in humanity's best interest, but that her working with the man she loved - and the man who loved her back - would have been. Some of her stories got close a couple of times, but I think they could have made quite a series if they had gone the step farther, instead of having her constantly return to her father.
Comment by Travis Herrick (Modular Mod) on August 26, 2009 at 8:06pm

Incidentally, Commander, I'm interested in your take - well, and everyone else's - of how Talia would have suited Batman as a perfect partner. If she had taken one more step, to see that what her father stood for really wasn't in humanity's best interest, but that her working with the man she loved - and the man who loved her back - would have been. Some of her stories got close a couple of times, but I think they could have made quite a series if they had gone the step farther, instead of having her constantly return to her father.

I think pretty much from'82-'83 (pulling those dates out of my butt, although '83 was when B&TO started) on would have been okay, and would have been a compelling story. Come to think of it, including Talia in the Outsiders would have been a genius move.

Comment by Commander Benson on August 27, 2009 at 1:42pm
There's a germ of truth in the writer's problems you observed in Pat Powell, but I don't think Julie Schwartz and his Batman writers thought it through as deeply as you.

Clearly, they couldn't make Pat a regular character, like Commissioner Gordon. If the story presented her in keeping with her skills and abilities, then what did Batman need Robin for? Keeping Pat as a regular in the cast would force the stories to go one of three ways: (1) have her work with Batman and Robin, which makes either her or the Boy Wonder redundant (and is one of my objections to the Batgirl character); (2) somehow put Robin out of the picture (either he has homework to do or he's off on a Teen Titans case); or (3) dumb Pat down, which is not only unfair, it would make the reader wonder why in the hell the Masked Manhunter was letting her hang around on a case, anyway.

Options 1 (if handled well by the writer) or 2 would work if Pat were seen only occasionally, say, about as often as the Mystery Analysts were shown. But if Pat were a regular character---as she would pretty much have to be, if she became Bruce Wayne's girlfriend---soon enough, all three options would wear out and become contrived.

Given those complications, I think what really did Pat in was the fact that France Herron couldn't figure a way out of the corner he had painted himself into with the last panel of the second story. You have Wayne walking into the squad room, where Pat is waiting to return his wallet. Clearly, they wanted to keep the Bruce-and-Pat-never-officially-meeting gag going, but Herron couldn't think of a way to make it happen. He and Schwartz, and maybe some of his other writers, batted possibilies around, but no plausible circumstance to prevent their meeting came out of it. And with all the other complications you pointed out, fogey, Schwartz probably said, "Ah, skip it!"

As for:

"Incidentally, Commander, I'm interested in your take - well, and everyone else's - of how Talia would have suited Batman as a perfect partner."

Talia doesn't work for me. It's not the basic idea of "reformed bad girl" that I can't swallow. I think the romantic relationship between Captain America and Diamondback had plenty of interesting nuances, not the least of which is that Cap was her main inspiration for joining the side of the angels.

But, unlike Diamondback, Talia's "link to evil", as it were, is her father. That's a strong attachment. Once Diamondback became a heroine, there was nothing significantly strong enough to draw her back to crime; her desire to show Cap that she had changed would always be preëminent. She would have no compunction in helping Cap bring her old teammates, the Serpent Squad, to justice.

Talia, on the other hand, would always be torn by her love for her father. No matter how much she loved the Batman, she would always be torn when it came to thwarting Ra's-al-Ghul, even knowing that he was evil. Such a situation might make for some intriguing plot developments, but it doesn't make her Batman's perfect mate. If I were the Masked Manhunter, the girl I would want as a mate would be one whom I knew was always in my camp. Always.
Comment by Luke Blanchard on August 29, 2009 at 5:01am
When Pat debuted Batman still carried two stories per issue, so they could've solved the fifth wheel problem by doing a series of largely Robin-less Batman and Pat stories in the second slot, and using her as a supporting character who doesn't get involved in the adventures (like Alfred, Aunt Harriet and Commissioner Gordon) otherwise.
Comment by Patrick Curley on April 6, 2010 at 3:27pm
There is a brief postscript to a reprint of the first Pat Powell story in Batman #208: "Pat met Bruce, face to face at last, but no great romance developed." Of course if it happened, it happened offstage. Also, France Herron stopped writing Batman stories effective with #169, which may also have something to do with it.

As for Bruce/Batman's loves in the more modern era, there was a point in the early 1980s where the female cast got overwhelming, as he was somewhat romantically involved with Nocturna, Vicki Vale, Catwoman, and Julia Remarque (aka, Julia Pennyworth).


You need to be a member of Captain Comics to add comments!

Join Captain Comics


No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.









© 2020   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service