Despite Batman having a well-established no-kill rule, he once took a life early in his career that has had a severe impact on his myths ever since.
In its more than 80-year history, there is one rule that Batman has held above all others: he does not kill. Many of the darker stories in the Batman mythos have explored the dire consequences of what would happen if Batman killed. However, a Batman who kills arrived much earlier than expected, during his first appearance in Detective comics # 27.
In the story “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” written by Bill Finger and illustrated by Bob Kane, Batman’s first appearance is also marked by his first murder in the form of the scheming executive Alfred Stryker. Stryker was the main villain of the story, organizing the murders of his colleagues in order to take sole possession of the well-known Apex Chemical Corporation.
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The story begins when Commissioner Gordon learns that a chemical manufacturer named Lambert has just been murdered. Gordon heads to the crime scene where they discover that Lambert not only received a death threat the day before, but the last thing he said was “contract.” Lambert’s son provides the names of three of his father’s associates: Paul Rogers, Steve Crane, and, of course, Alfred Stryker.
Gordon soon receives a call from one of the other associates, Steve Crane, who has also received death threats. Crane is killed by gunmen, stealing a contract as they leave, but they are stopped by the notorious “Bat-Man”. Batman takes the contract, deducing who is really the culprit.
Paul Rogers goes to see Stryker after learning of Lambert’s death, fearing that they will both be next. Rogers is knocked unconscious by one of Stryker’s men, who attempts to poison him with gas in a glass chamber. Batman jumps into the chamber before it closes, turns off the gas with a handkerchief, and breaks the glass chamber with a key.
Stryker finally enters the scene and attempts to kill Rogers himself. Batman grabs Stryker from the shadows and explains how Stryker planned to kill the three men to take Apex Chemical Co. for him. Stryker then breaks free of Bat-Man’s grip and points a pistol at the detective. Bat-Man hits Stryker, throwing him against a railing. The railing breaks and Stryker falls into a vat of acid. Batman comments that it is “A fitting ending for his kind,” a stark contrast to his now-established moral code.
Since the introduction of Batman’s no-kill rule, this part of Batman’s first appearance has been largely ignored. However, some elements have resurfaced in later years, even when it is the one act that many would try to forget. Not only does Apex Chemical Corporation look a lot like Ace Chemicals from many Joker origin stories, but Alfred Stryker’s fall into a vat of acid during a confrontation with Batman is also reminiscent of Joker’s origin.
This similarity is also noticeable when Alfred Stryker’s story was retold in New 52, addressing his deadly fate and Batman’s hand in it. In a story of the new 52 Detective comics # 27, also appropriately called “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” the original story is re-told by Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch, now more in line with what is expected of the world’s greatest detective.
When Stryker appears, he is noticeably slimmer than his Golden Age counterpart, and now sports a sinister smile and a purple suit. When Stryker draws a gun, this time on Gordon, Batman attacks. Batman kicks Stryker into a vat of acid, quickly fleeing the scene as the GCPD fires at him. In this version, more attention is paid to Stryker’s fate, as he screams about what the acid is doing to his face.
Although this may appear to confirm that Batman is breaking his no-kill rule, the final panel shows a hand sticking out of the tub, seemingly confirming the connection to the Joker. Even though Stryker’s original fate contradicts one of the core values of future Batman mythos, his impact is far greater than most realize, especially in the role he has played in the history of one of the greatest villains. from the comics.
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