Updated on December 10, 2021
Today saw the release of “Detective Comics” #19. Despite the renumbering (thanks to DC Comics’ “New 52” reboot), this is actually the 900th issue of DC Comics’ longest-running still-published title, as well as its company’s namesake. Yes, “DC Comics” is short for “Detective Comics, erm, Comics.”
First appearing in 1935, “Detective” at first saw mostly detective stories that lived up to its name, until the debut of Batman in “Detective” #27 in 1939. Since then, it’s near-exclusively been a Batman-starring anthology comic.
While it’s a year younger than its older sibling, “Action Comics,” “Action” reached issue 900 a lot sooner thanks to its brief stint as a weekly comic in the late 80s.
As I did for the 900th anniversary issue of “Action,” I thought I’d look back over the previous anniversary issues of “Detective” (or “Tec” for short), and see what’s changed over the decades for the Masked Manhunter.
Detective Comics #100 (June 1945)
Plot: Batman and Robin must stop a group of crooks running a gem smuggling operation out of the isolated home of a writer, unknown to said writer.
Typical sounding Golden Age story, of course. Nice cover, though I don’t know if it ties into the actual Batman story.
Detective Comics #200 (October 1953)
Plot: Batman and Robin must try to figure out who’s behind illegal radio station C-R-I-M-E, a station aimed at helping crooks.
For the multiverse fans, I’d say this one takes place on Earth-2, with the Earth-1 switchover not too long after this point.
Detective Comics #300 (February 1962)
Plot: The Dynamic Duo face off against the menace of the Polka-Dot Man (a.k.a. “Mr. Polka-Dot”), whose costume’s polka-dots can be used to perform various deeds.
This story comes late in the “wacky sci-fi” era for Batman. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Batman and Robin were often in science-fiction themed adventures similar to those of the Superman titles of the time: fighting space aliens, going into space, fending off the pesky Bat-Mite, etc.
The Polka-Dot Man appeared again (after a years-long absence) in the 2000s Bat-books. There, he’s shown as having become a washed-up has-been since appearing in “Detective” #300. Polka-Dot Man also appeared at least once in the “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” TV series.
Detective Comics #400 (June 1970)
Plot: Kirk Langstrom, a bat researcher who injected himself with an experimental bat-derived serum (in an attempt to gain some of the abilities of a bat), is transformed into the monstrous Man-Bat.
This marks Man-Bat’s first appearance, and thus this one’s reprinted more often than the other anniversary issues. By 1970, the tone of the Bat-books have obviously shifted back to a more somber tone. Man-Bat’s appeared in various stories, TV cartoons, etc. since 1970. He even appeared in a read-along-storybook 45 RPM record I had as a kid.
Detective Comics #500 (March 1981)
Plot: There’s several Batman stories in this anniversary issue. The most famous, however (and most often reprinted) is “To Kill a Legend,” the story where Batman and Robin are sent to a parallel Earth by the Phantom Stranger to stop its Joe Chill from killing Thomas and Martha Wayne, which’d force young Bruce Wayne into becoming the Batman.
A classic story, and reprinted fairly often. Despite the Bat-books’ generally serious tone by 1981, Batman’s still capable of smiling on occasion, as shown on the cover.
Detective Comics #600 (May 1989)
Plot: Bruce Wayne, paralyzed by a villain, uses mind-infiltrating technology to allow him to continue functioning as Batman through another person. More details on this issue here.
This issue also tied into 1989’s 50th anniversary of Batman (and the then-new “Batman” movie) with backup material by various comic and non-comic fans of the Dark Knight.
Detective Comics #700 (August 1996)
Unlike the previous two anniversary issues, this one’s treated like any other comic, i.e., just another part of the latest crossover-du-jour. “Legacy” led to “Contagion,” which eventually led to the (still hard to swallow premise-wise) “No Man’s Land” storyline.
Detective Comics #800 (January 2005)
Plot: Batman deals with the aftermath of then recent events leading to the public losing trust in the Dark Knight, plus a rise in crime in Gotham City.
This one’s billed on the cover as being an extra-sized issue, but otherwise isn’t anniversary themed. The story is shown dealing with the aftermath of “War Games,” a Bat-book crossover that saw the (then-)death of Stephanie Brown, a teenage character created in 1992. Stephanie served as a crime-fighter under several identities, including Spoiler, Robin, and Batgirl.
“Identity Crisis” aftermath also appears here; the less said about that storyline, the better.
Detective Comics #19 (#900) (April 2013)
Plot: Batman deals with the appearance of new Man-Bats created by Dr. Kirk Langstrom (in his New 52 continuity debut). The number “900” ties into the story in a small part.
And that about sums it up. “Detective” reverted back to its original numbering in 2016. As of 2017, it’s a bimonthly comic, which should get it to issue #1000 before long.