Slam Bradley
Interior artwork from Catwoman Secret Files & Origins #1 (September, 2002 DC Comics).
Art by Michael Lark.
Publication information
PublisherDC Comics
First appearanceDetective Comics #1 (March 1937)
Created byMalcolm Wheeler-Nicholson
Jerry Siegel
Joe Shuster
In-story information
Team affiliationsGotham City Police Department
  • Master street fighter and bar fighter
  • Expert detective

Samuel Emerson "Slam" Bradley is a fictional character that has appeared in various comic book series published by DC Comics. He is a private detective who exists in DC's main shared universe. The character concept was created by DC Comics founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and developed by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, who both later became more well known as the co-creators of Superman. As one of the first ever DC characters, the character first appears in the Golden Age of Comic Books in the anthology title Detective Comics, being introduced in the first issue. He later commonly was associated with Batman and other spinoff Batman characters when revived.

Slam Bradley was portrayed in live-action by Kurt Szarka in the first season of the Arrowverse series Batwoman.[1]

Publication history

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First appearance of Slam Bradley, from Detective Comics #1, March 1937. Art by Joe Shuster.

Conceived by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and developed by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the character first appeared in Detective Comics #1 (March 1937) and is depicted as a hard bitten, tough private eye who loves working for dames, but prefers the platonic company of his boy sidekick "Shorty" Morgan.[2] The character originally starred in his own stories during the Golden Age, and later was revived in supporting character roles. Slam Bradley was originally outlined by Wheeler-Nicholson in a May 13, 1936 letter to Jerry Siegel, who had previously created with Joe Shuster DC's character Doctor Occult. The letter stated: "We need some more work from you. We are getting out at least one new magazine in July and possibly two. The first one is definitely in the works. It will contain longer stories and fewer. From you and Shuster we need sixteen pages monthly. We want a detective hero called 'Slam Bradley'. He is to be an amateur, called in by the police to help unravel difficult cases. He should combine both brains and brawn, be able to think quickly and reason cleverly and able as well to slam bang his way out of a bar room brawl or mob attack. Take every opportunity to show him in a torn shirt with swelling biceps and powerful torso ala Flash Gordon. The pages are to run the same size as New Comics but to contain eight panels a page instead of six."[3]

Reportedly, the character's appearance was based on actor Victor McLaglen.[4] Some commentators have noted the similarity of Bradley's appearance to Superman, Siegel and Shuster's most famous creation for DC, who first appeared the following year, although the two had created the earliest version of Superman in 1933, and were shopping the character around the comic industry around the time Bradley was created. Simulaties have also been noted between Shorty and future Superman villain Mister Mxyzptlk, who first appeared in 1944.[4]


The Golden Age Slam Bradley stories have never been reprinted, except for once on microfiche.[4] In September 2018, DC Comics announced the Detective Comics: Before Batman Volumes 1 and 2 Hardcover Omnibus Set, which would reprint stories scanned from original copies from the first 26 issues of the series prior to Batman's first appearance, which would have included several early Slam Bradley stories.[5] However, the omnibus set was cancelled in November of that year,[6] with no official reasons given.[4]

Comics appearances

Golden Age of Comics

The character first appeared as one of several ongoing features, in the debut issue of Detective Comics – originally an anthology series – in March 1937. He debuted a year before Superman's first appearance, and two years before Batman would become the title's lead feature.[7] The character's adventures continued as Batman was introduced in issue #27, continuing as a supporting feature until Detective Comics #152 (October 1949). According to Jess Nevins' Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, "He fights ordinary criminals, Yellow Perils, stage magicians, the Human Fly, creatures from the year Two Billion, the Man-Beast, and on at least one occasion space aliens."[8]

Slam was replaced in Detective Comics #153 by Roy Raymond, TV Detective. Bradley would not make another significant appearance for over 32 years and his sidekick Shorty Morgan disappeared completely.[9]

The character was originally operating out of Cleveland, then later in New York City, Slam and his sidekick "Shorty" Morgan often had humorous, fight-filled adventures, often going undercover in various professions to catch their man. Though most stories had a mystery element, "Slam" was more likely to solve them with his fists than his brains.[1]


The character reappeared in Detective Comics #500 (March 1981). In a story titled "The Too Many Cooks... Caper!", an aging Bradley joined other DC detectives, such as Jason Bard, Pow-Wow Smith, Roy Raymond, the Human Target, and Mysto, Magician Detective in solving the murder of a fellow retiring detective. The character returned again in Detective Comics #572 (the 50th anniversary issue), teaming up with detectives Batman, Robin, Elongated Man, and Sherlock Holmes.

He appeared in the Superman titles in the 1990s, working for the Metropolis Police Department.[10] However, this incarnation of the character was short-lived.[11] When an older Slam Bradley later appeared in Detective Comics, it was explained that the Metropolis character was Slam Bradley, Jr.[12]

In 2001, writer Ed Brubaker and artist Darwyn Cooke revived the character in the four-part serial "Trail of the Catwoman" in Detective Comics #759-762.[13] In this story, he investigates the death of Selina Kyle and in the process runs afoul of the Batman.[14] This incarnation of the character is a former police officer in his late 50s who has always worked in Gotham City (contradicting the previous Cleveland, New York, and Metropolis settings). Bradley then became a supporting cast member in the Catwoman ongoing series. He reveals that he has a son, Sam Bradley Jr., on the Gotham City Police Department.[15] Sam Jr. and Selina Kyle engaged in a romantic relationship that produced a child, Helena Kyle.[16][7] Slam made an appearance during a flashback in the story arc "Heart of Hush", where he was the primary detective in the murder of Thomas Elliot's father.[17]

Bradley is the main protagonist in the 2022 Tom King/Phil Hester miniseries Gotham City: Year One, a story set in 1961 Gotham involving Slam with Bruce Wayne's grandparents.[18]

Outside mainstream continuity

The character appears in Darwyn Cooke's 2003/2004 DC: The New Frontier as a private investigator working alongside Detective John Jones,[19] and in Cooke's Solo #5. He also appeared in Legends of the Dark Knight #5, in which he had to team up with Batman to clear his name of a murder charge. This story was released digitally as Legends of the Dark Knight #11-13.[1][20]

In other media

"Slam" Bradley appears in the Batwoman episode "How Queer Everything Is Today!" portrayed by Kurt Szarka.[1] This version is a member of the Gotham City Police Department. He first appeared when Batwoman stopped a hacked train from crashing into a concrete wall. Those who saw them photographed together thought they were dating. A running gag is that there were comments that "Slam" Bradley had a similar appearance to Chris Evans. When the Crows and the GCPD arrived at Gotham Prep to evacuate the prom attendees before Alice's bombs went off, Batwoman used her cape to block the flames before it can hit Bradley. Afterwards, she told the press that she and Bradley are not dating.

"Slam" Bradley appears in the direct-to-video animated film Justice League: The New Frontier, voiced by Jim Meskimen. He appears as John Jones's detective partner and helps him and the Batman save a young boy from a cult that worships the Centre.

Golden Age controversy

The character Slam Bradley has, from its early onset, been embedded in a history of racism, in which the character is juxtaposed against Yellow Peril caricatures.[21][6][22][23][24] This is explored in-universe in New Super-Man #16, in which Kong Kenan is horrified to see Bradley attacking innocent Chinese-American civilians.[citation needed]

Criticism has also been directed towards the portrayal of women in the Golden Age Bradley stories. They have been described as, "often feisty but exist in a very objectified way to be ogled, rescued, kissed, then discarded forever to the limbo of single-issue appearances."[4]

It has been speculated that the planned Detective Comics: Before Batman omnibus set was cancelled due to the stereotypes in the stories featuring Bradley and other early Detective Comics characters that would have been reprinted.[4][6]


  1. ^ a b c d Donoho, Timothy (January 26, 2020). "Batwoman: Who Is Slam Bradley?". CBR. Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  2. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Korte, Steve; Manning, Matt; Wiacek, Win; Wilson, Sven (2016). The DC Comics Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Characters of the DC Universe. DK Publishing. p. 53. ISBN 978-1-4654-5357-0.
  3. ^ Ricca, Brad (2013). Super Boys: The Amazing Adventures of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster--the Creators of Superman. St. Martin's Publishing Group. p. 113. ISBN 978-1-2500-4968-1.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Ricca, Brad (November 16, 2022). "Unassuming Barber Shop: The Secrets of Slam Bradley". Retrieved March 11, 2024.
  5. ^ Seifert, Mark (September 16, 2018). "Detective Comics #1-26 Reprinted At Last, Plus A "Shocking Revelation" Which Will Rewrite DC History". Bleeding Cool. Retrieved March 12, 2024.
  6. ^ a b c Johnston, Rich (November 16, 2018). "Was Detective Comics Before Batman Cancelled Over Racial Concerns?". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. Certainly those early issues of Detective Comics had quite the obsession with Yellow Peril. and a few of this panels will show. Siegel and Shuster's Slam Bradley is always finding some 'inscrutable' East Asian person to punch – maybe DC Comics didn't want to advertise that as from the creators of Superman quite so much?
  7. ^ a b Wallace, Dan (2008), "Slam Bradley", in Dougall, Alastair (ed.), The DC Comics Encyclopedia, London: Dorling Kindersley, p. 59, ISBN 978-0-7566-4119-1
  8. ^ Nevins, Jess (2013). Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. High Rock Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-61318-023-5.
  9. ^ Markstein, Don. "Slam Bradley". Don Markstein's Toonopedia. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  10. ^ Greenberger, Robert; Pasko, Martin (2010). The Essential Superman Encyclopedia. Del Rey. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-0-345-50108-0.
  11. ^ Superman (vol. 2) #44, Action Comics #656 and Action Comics #743
  12. ^ Slam Bradley Jr. at the Unofficial Guide to the DC Universe
  13. ^ Cowsill, Alan; Irvine, Alex; Manning, Matthew K.; McAvennie, Michael; Wallace, Daniel (2019). DC Comics Year By Year: A Visual Chronicle. DK Publishing. p. 285. ISBN 978-1-4654-8578-6.
  14. ^ Greenberger, Robert (2008). The Essential Batman Encyclopedia. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 64. ISBN 9780345501066.
  15. ^ Catwoman (vol. 3) #27
  16. ^ Catwoman (vol. 3) #53
  17. ^ Detective Comics #846-850
  18. ^ Blum, Jeremy (September 26, 2022). "Gotham City: Year One Preview Introduces Batman's Ancestors and a Noir Mystery". Comic Book Resources.
  19. ^ DC: The New Frontier #2,4
  20. ^ Beedle, Tim (August 16, 2012). "DIGITAL FIRST SPOTLIGHT: Legends of the Dark Knight". DC Comics. Retrieved March 4, 2013.
  21. ^ Johnston, Rich (March 27, 2019). "Slam Bradley in Detective Comics #1000 - a Grand Tradition of Anniversaries, Get-Togethers and Insensitive Language". Bleeding Cool News And Rumors. Slam Bradley is also notable for a number of blatantly racist stories back in the day, [...]
  22. ^ Jackson, Londyn (August 1, 2019). "Beyond the Batcave: Why DETECTIVE COMICS is Batman's Life Line". Comicosity. While even today Slam Bradley is known as a classic detective in comparison to DC's "World's Greatest Detective", Batman, his and other figures within the pages of Detective are seen today as having racist and sexist tendencies, such as throwing around the term "Chinks" when fighting Chinese gang leader Fui Onyui and his henchmen in both of their very first appearances.
  23. ^ Regalado, Aldo J. (2015). Bending Steel: Modernity and the American Superhero. University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 978-1-62846-221-0. Siegel and Shuster's white hero proves his manliness by defeating ethnically defined "others." Indeed, Siegel and Shuster create an environment that conforms to racist depictions of Chinese American neighborhoods as described even by well-intentioned early twentieth-century reformers.
  24. ^ Austin, Allan W.; Hamilton, Patrick L. (November 5, 2019). All new, all different? A history of race and the American superhero. University of Texas Press. p. 31. ISBN 978-1-4773-1896-6. Siegel and Shuster fully embraced anti-Asian racism in a 1937 issue of Detective Comics that included their Slam Bradley, the epitome of white courage and strength, taking on a "horde of evil Chinese."