This is one of those posts that’s more dorky than daddy, so prepare thyself for a stop at the intersection where my love for comics meets my love of classic films.
In 1934, a great detective duo made their way into American pop culture, swigging drinks and jabs at each other like no married couple on screen before.
Five years later, in 1939, a great detective who offered up jabs on the chins of criminals would make his debut, dressed in an outrageous costume that resembled a bat.
40 years later, the three would meet, albeit briefly, and The Thin Man would come face to face with The Bat-Man.
Nick Charles was a hard-drinking, fast-talking, retired detective, who, with his beloved wife Nora at his side, constantly found himself pulled back into the crime solving business. Unlike any other couple on screen at the time, The Charles’ comedic rapport and crime solving adventures were such a hit, that they were featured in five sequels over the course of 13 years.
While the original novel that the first film was based on, “The Thin Man” by Dashiell Hammett was referring to the suspect in its title, “The Thin Man” quickly became synonymous with the character of Nick Charles (played by William Powell). It was so synonymous that it was used in the titles of all the sequels: “After The Thin Man,” “Another Thin Man,” “The Thin Man Goes Home” and “Song of the Thin Man.”
While the films blended comedy, adventure and mystery, they usually culminated with Nick Charles gathering everyone involved in the case in a room, and running through every motive and likelihood until the killer was revealed.
A favorite among move fans for decades, the original Thin Man film was added to the National Film Registry and Roger Ebert added it to his list of Great Movies in 2002.
In 1939, just a few years after William Powell and Myrna Loy left their indelible mark on Nick and Nora as well as pop culture, Bob Kane and Bill Finger introduced a very different type of detective in the form of Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy by day and a man who dresses like a bat and hunts criminals at night.
To try and sum up Batman’s place in pop culture could not even be contained to one article, let alone a single paragraph, as full books have been written on the topic. So it isn’t too surprising that, even if it was four decades after Batman’s debut, that the Bat-Man would cross paths with Nick and Nora Charles.
It was the late 1970s in Detective Comics #481, during the time when The Batman Family was prominently displayed on each cover of the comic, highlighting an adventure for everyone. Among those is “Ticket to Tragedy,” a tale written by Denny O’Neil and illustrated by the great Marshall Rogers. In it, Batman promises Alfred’s cousin, a renowned doctor in England that he can track down a killer and restore the doctor’s faith in humanity before he burns up his notes for a new technique in heart transplants.
Batman accomplishes his mission, of course, but along the way, while chasing the killer on a train bound for Gotham City, he comes across none other than Nick and Nora Charles. Nora instantly recognizes Batman and Nick asks Batman if he has a moment to compare crime solving notes. In typical loner fashion, Batman gives Nick the brush off.
The Thin Man collection can currently be found in a boxed set or on Amazon Instant Video, while “Ticket to Tragedy” has been reprinted in the “Batman in the Seventies” Trade Paperback.