07 October 2012

Another Kid in Crime Alley

For years I’ve owned copies of Batman, #408, in which Max Allan Collins introduced the second Jason Todd stealing tires off the Batmobile in Crime Alley, and Batman, #410, in which Jason makes his debut as Robin.

Curiously, it was harder for me to find the intervening issue, which should theoretically be less prized. Last month I came across an unbagged, 25-year-old copy in the dollar bin at Bedrock Comics in Framingham.

“Just Another Kid in Crime Alley” is an odd little story, penciled by Ross Andru and inked by Dick Giordano. Having found Jason living alone in an abandoned building with nothing but his cigarettes, his vest, and his elaborate stereo system, Batman decides he needs a better home. So he drops the boy at an orphanage.

This orphanage has a reputation for “unorthodox” teaching methods, Bruce Wayne knows it’s had “difficulties with the board of education and various social agencies.” The woman in charge is named Fay Gunn. But somehow Batman’s keen detective instincts don’t clue him in that she’s training the orphans to be a criminal gang.

After several violent incidents Jason decides Ma Gunn is “batty” and runs away. Meanwhile, Batman revisits Crime Alley and meets a fedora-wearing man (it’s a very old-fashioned neighborhood), who discovers that his tires are missing. Now Batman’s deductive power kicks in. He decides that in Gotham City only one person could have committed that crime: the boy he left at the orphanage.

So Batman tracks down this nefarious criminal in…the same abandoned building.
Jason defiantly tells Batman the truth about Ma Gunn’s orphanage. Batman watches Jason reattach the tires (apparently Alfred handles that task at home). And they discuss the serious issues of crime.
And that’s when Batman realizes he’s found a new little friend.

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