One of the potentially odder things to crop up with certain heroes is the concept of the hero family. These are not necessarily relatives, but individuals with similar powers or background who assist the main hero when not off having adventures of their own. The first such was probably the Marvel Family, the various heroes who shouted “Shazam” or some such variation and gained a similar set of powers. That Captain Marvel (and no, as far as I am concerned, his name will never be “Shazam”) had a sister, a friend, three other guys, and even a rabbit who gained the same powers, plus an elderly uncle who just wore the costume, a talking tiger, and who knows what else. Superman was probably next on that bandwagon, and when a cousin and a few co-workers weren’t enough, there were always various animals.
And then there was Batman. Though today known as the grim Dark Knight, that wasn’t always the case, and Batman used to have a more extended network of other Bat-themed individuals to help him out. And in there was Ace the Bat-Hound.
Ace was a large German shepherd dog that, originally, wasn’t even Batman’s dog. His original owner was an architect that Batman was searching for after criminals kidnapped the guy. Ace was able to sniff his master out, and since he had a distinctive white star shape in the fur of his head, a quick cowl was improvised to keep the dog’s identity a secret after billionaire Bruce Wayne had spent a lot of time publicly looking for that very distinctive dog. After successfully rescuing the architect, Batman would still from time-to-time go get Ace to help him find crooks. Eventually, the architect had to move and asked Bruce Wayne to take care of the dog since he couldn’t anymore.
Oh, the guy apparently had no idea his dog was also the Bat-Hound.
That would be more or less all there is to Ace if you get right down to it. He was a frequent guest star in Batman’s adventures from 1955-1964. After that, he just made sporadic appearances here and there. Since Batman eventually got rather grim and not goofy, a dog in a mask wasn’t really the sort of thing he could use all that often.
But what makes Ace interesting is he never really went away so much as he just appears wherever. If Batman gets a dog for any reason, it’ll probably be named Ace. Except for the one time the dog was named Titus. More on that in a bit.
But here’s a few of the places Ace has been seen:
- Ace has been spotted in Limbo pretty much anytime Grant Morrison uses the place. Both Animal Man and Superman spotted Ace there when they passed through.
- In a comic-within-a-comic, a popular Batman comic being read on the streets of Gotham portrayed a demonic Batman who had a guardian angel type spirit that alternately took the form of a giant, winged dog or the hero’s car. The car howled to summon him.
- In the animated series Batman Beyond, an elderly Bruce Wayne has a dog companion named Ace, though this dog looks more doberman than shepherd.
- During a stretch of Post-Crisis continuity, Batman adopted a large mutt with a bat-shaped patch of fur after investigating some crimes on a Native American reservation. Originally named “Dog,” Batman renamed him “Ace” and that Ace hung around the Batcave before more or less disappearing around the time of the No Man’s Land story.
- There’s a dog bowl with Ace’s name on it as an Easter Egg in one of the Arkhamverse video games.
- Classic Ace appeared in the animated series Batman: The Brave and the Bold, a silly homage to all things Silver Age.
- A talking version of Ace routinely assisted the title character on the animated series Krypto the Superdog. See picture above.
- Recently, Bruce Wayne tried to adopt a dog for his son Damien, the most recent Robin. Damien named the dog, another German shepherd, Titus.
Ace seems to have more lives than a cartoon cat.
Will there ever be another dog in a cowl assisting Batman on the mean streets of Gotham? I’d say no, but we got Krypto back somehow, so anything is possible.