In the sixties, there were the three B’s – the Beatles, Batman, and Bond – Adam West
There are few constants in Batman’s world. The nature of what he does and who he is, don’t allow him to be complacent or wallow in the idea fantasies of what might have been had he turned left instead of right or taken a different direction in life.
All that matters is the mission and protecting Gotham from the hordes of ne’er-do-wells who would bring the city to its knees and reshape it in their twisted image. His is a solitary, straightforward, and driven existence, which makes his sense of nostalgia and desire to collect trophies that remind him of the past and his multiple run-ins with the criminal fraternity, a little perplexing.
While it adds additional layers of complexity to an already complicated character, it also imbues the Dark Knight with a sense of humanity. He needs to remain in touch with his past in order to be reminded of who he is, what he does, and why he does it without dwelling on the single moment that made him who he is.
By embracing his past as a whole, it allows him to move into the future, and to become better at what he does. And, besides, who doesn’t like to be rewarded for a job well done and to celebrate their personal victories?
The Batcave is full of odd mementos from cases that he solved with the Boy Wonder, but with the exception of the full-size dinosaur and the Joker’s giant playing card, the one trophy that has always been there, or at least feels like it’s always been there, is the giant penny that hangs on the walls of Batman’s lair.
More in keeping with the spirit of Batman ‘66 than the relentless pursuit of evil that the Dark Detective had dedicated himself to, the giant penny is an ode to a bygone age and a much simpler time, and the tale of how it came to be hung in the Batcave is rooted in one of Batman’s oddest adventures.
The Penny Plunderer
Whether you’re familiar with the penny through the comics or the animated series, The Batman, the giant penny is a scene-stealer and it’s a little hard to miss. The villain whose apprehension eventually led to Batman acquiring the coin felt the same way too, and it was his obsession with coins that eventually led to his downfall.
Joe Coyne, or as he came to be known the Penny Plunderer made his one and only appearance in World’s Finest #30, which was published in nineteen forty-seven, at the tail end of Batman’s first formative decade.
A petty gambler who turned to a life of crime, and was arrested after his initial abortive robbery led to him finding nothing but a roll of pennies in a till, he swears vengeance on the police and the society that’s jailed him in old fashioned mustache, twirling fist-shaking cellblock scene.
It’s the moment that Joe Coyne abandons his former name and adopts the ever so slightly embarrassing criminal pseudonym, the Penny Plunderer.
A Life Of Penny Crime
After serving his time, instead of going straight like any sensible citizen who has managed to establish his own penny arcade after being released would do, the Plunderer embarks on a life of penny crime.
Somehow, he manages to graduate to robbing a bank armed with gas grenades that look like rolls of pennies, before moving on to more sophisticated criminal endeavors such as robbing antique pennies from rich collectors.
Attracting the attention of Batman and his teenage sidekick, the Plunderer’s next crime sees him trying to steal a valuable penny stamp, only to be stopped by the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder.
This is where the giant penny comes in, as the Plunderer, unable to steal the stamp from the collection that he was targeting, instead of rolls the giant penny (which just so happens to be hanging from a wall) at Batman, before knocking the streetwise vigilante out with a roll of pennies.
When Batman finally comes to his senses, he finds that his erstwhile sidekick has captured one of the Plunderers henchmen, who they interrogate and extract the location of the penny obsessed criminal’s lair from, before said henchman manages to escape and heads straight back to his boss, who promptly guns him down.
Arriving at the Plunderers lair, the dynamic duo leap over the body of the criminal who was their prisoner but is now sleeping with the pennies due to the fact that neither Batman nor Robin could hold on to one petty thug after nearly ten years of locking Gotham’s worst behind bars, only for Batman to get his bell rung by the Plunderer with another roll of pennies.
That’s twice in one book, and if we didn’t know better we’d swear this was Batman’s first time out of the Batcave.
Hoisted By His Own Penny Petard
The most embarrassing thing for both Batman, and the Plunderer is how he’s eventually caught. After doggedly pursuing their prey, they find him in a locked room with a payphone which he can’t use because the Plunder only has pennies and the phone which he could have used to call for help, only accepts nickels.
It’s probably a good job that the Plunderer was later sentenced to death because the story of how he outwitted Batman would have made the Dark Knight a laughing stock in the Gotham underworld for decades.
The Significance Of The Giant Penny
While most of us wouldn’t want to be reminded of one of the most embarrassing moments of our career, the penny hangs on the walls of the Batcave to remind Batman to never to assume that any criminal will be easy to catch and that even the pettiest thugs can take down a well-trained, world-class detective armed with only a roll of pennies and the will to succeed and escape.
And that sometimes, luck is just as important in solving a case as cold hard logic is.