Atom #36 (Apr.-May, 1968)

What defines a comic book superhero as a unique character?  Is it a name, or a costume, or a power set?  What about a hero’s “secret identity”?  Does it even matter who’s wearing the costume?

For what it’s worth, I suspect that the majority of people reading this post have a general conception of “Superman” as a single, unique character, albeit one with multiple versions — “pre-Crisis”, “New 52”, “Golden Age”, and so on.  It’s probably the same with Batman, or Wonder Woman — or with Captain America, Iron Man, or the Mighty Thor, for that matter.  Even if these heroes undergo occasional costume modifications or power fluctuations — and even if someone else steps into their heroic role for a time in the service of a storyline — there’s still a sense of a core character underneath it all — an “ur-Superman”, an “ur-Batman”, and so forth.  Read More

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Spectre #3 (Mar.-Apr., 1968)

As I’ve related previously on this blog, I first made the acquaintance of DC Comics’ Ghostly Guardian, the Spectre, in the pages of Justice League of America #46 (August, 1966), the first chapter of that year’s annual Justice League-Justice Society team-up.  From there, I followed the character into his third solo tryout appearance in Showcase #64 — and by the time I finished reading that issue, I was a dedicated fan of the character (which I remain to this day, just so you know).  After that, I picked up his next two appearances, in JLA #47 (naturally) and, some months later, Brave and the Bold #72, where he teamed up with the Flash.  And when — almost two years after his first Showcase appearance, and more than a year after his last one — DC finally released the first issue of the Spectre in his own title, I happily put down my twelve cents for that book, as well.  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #76 (Feb.-March, 1968)

When I picked up this issue of Brave and the Bold fifty years ago (give or take a couple of weeks), Batman’s co-star in the book, Plastic Man, had been around for over twenty-six years — almost as long as the Caped Crusader himself.  But he’d only been a DC Comics hero for a little over one year — which is about as long as my ten-year-old self had been aware of him.  Read More

Batman #197 (December, 1967)

In January, 2016, some six months after the debut of this blog, I posted “a spoiler warning for all seasons” — a page dedicated to the idea that, while some might find the idea of spoiler warnings for comic book stories of a half-century’s vintage to be a little absurd, others might expect them as a matter of course.  Since then, that single page has served as my blanket spoiler warning for any and all fifty-year-old comics discussed over the course of the blog.  Today, however, we have a somewhat different situation, as I’m planning to refer to the concluding scene of a very recent comic book, namely Batman (2016) #32, which will have been on sale for only about three weeks at the time of this post’s publication.

So, here you go:  if you haven’t yet read Tom King and Mikel Jamin’s concluding chapter to “The War of Jokes and Riddles”, and you’re planning to, and you’d rather not know what happens on the last page — consider yourself hereby warned.

And now, on with our regularly scheduled 50 Year Old Comic Book… 
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Flash #175 (December, 1967)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months or more, you’ll recall (I hope) our post back in June about Superman #199, the classic DC comic book that featured the first-ever race between Superman and the Flash.  That race ended in a tie, but the end of the story promised us readers a “terrific rematch, coming soon in The Flash!”  So when the DC house ads for Flash #175 began appearing a few months later, my ten-year-old self was pumped.  Surely, when the second race was run in the Fastest Man Alive’s own series, he’d win the victory that he so obviously and logically deserved (in my mind, anyway.  See that earlier post for more details of my reasoning).  And regardless of the outcome, with Carmine Infantino (the artist who’d pencilled every single Flash solo story I’d ever read) drawing the book, it was bound to look great.

Well.  Things didn’t quite work out as my ten-year-old self expected.  Read More

Detective Comics #369 (November, 1967)

Batgirl, alias Barbara Gordon, made her television debut on September 14, 1967, in the premiere episode of the third season of the Batman TV series.  I know that, because I just looked it up on the Internet.  But I actually have no memory of seeing that episode, or indeed any episode that featured Yvonne Craig in the role of the Dominoed Daredoll, until the show went into syndicated reruns a number of years later.  As regular readers of this blog know, however, I’d been a faithful viewer of Batman ever since it began in January, 1966 — so what was the deal?  How’d I manage to miss Babs Gordon on the teevee during Batman‘s original run?

I’ve discussed the matter with old friends who grew up in the same television market I did (the greater Jackson, MS metropolitan area), and as best we can figure, none of our local stations aired the third season of Batman when it was originally broadcast.  We only had two television stations in Jackson then, you understand — and with three national networks providing programming, it was something of a crap shoot as to what those stations would decide to air in any given time slot.*  As has been discussed in earlier posts on this blog, the Batman series’ ratings had declined during the second season, and it appears that whichever of our Jackson stations had been showing it decided to cut their losses in the fall of 1967, and show something else instead.  Read More

Justice League of America #57 (November, 1967)

About two years ago, a couple of months following the debut of this blog, I wrote a post about the first issue of Justice League of America I ever bought (#40), a comic book I credited with making a significant contribution to my personal moral development.  As I said at the time, I thought that that particular issue, though missing the mark in some ways (and simply feeling dated in others), still held up pretty well as an earnest endorsement of individual ethical responsibility, informed by an awareness and appreciation of the common humanity we all share.  Since that time, I’ve been looking forward to re-reading and re-appraising Justice League of America #57, an issue with a similar theme, produced by the same writer, penciller, and editor as #40 (Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Julius Schwartz, respectively)  — and expecting that it would hold up just as well.

Now that the time has come, however, I regret that I have to say that the book doesn’t hold up quite as well as its predecessor — at least, it doesn’t for this reader.  Which is not to say that it’s wholly without merit, or that it’s not worth a visit (or re-visit), fifty years after its original publication.  Read More

Aquaman #36 (Nov.-Dec., 1967)

I’ve written before on this blog about the fact that as much as I loved the Justice League of America as a young reader — their series was the first comic book I actively collected — it took me some time to get around to sampling all of the team members’ solo titles.  While I bought comics starring Superman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman all within the first six months or so of my picking up the comic book habit, it took me another whole year, and then some, to give the last three JLA headliners’ books a shot.  Then, as I’ve related in earlier posts this year, I finally got around to buying an issue of Wonder Woman in May, 1967, and an issue of Atom in June.  That left only one to go — Aquaman.

Unlike with Wonder Woman and the Atom, however, where I’m not sure what exactly motivated me finally to take the plunge and pick up an issue of their series, I have little doubt what ultimately sold me on the King of the Seven Seas.  It was television.  Read More

Flash #174 (November, 1967)

Flash #174 is a particularly notable comic book for several reasons, most of which have to do with Carmine Infantino.  To begin with, there’s the book’s cover, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson — rightly renowned as one of the best by that superlative team, featuring a transformative, convention-shattering treatment of the title logo that would have been even more astonishing if the same artists hadn’t pulled off something similar just a couple of months back, on the cover of Batman #194.

Then there’s the fact that this issue of Flash was, for Infantino, the last one in an unbroken eleven-year, seventy-four issue run illustrating the adventures of the character he’d co-created with writer Robert Kanigher way back in 1956’s Showcase #4.  As we’ve recounted in previous installments of this blog, over the course of the year 1967 Infantino was taking on more and more behind-the-scenes responsibilities at DC Comics, beginning with overseeing cover design for the company’s whole line, and culminating in his becoming Editorial Director by the end of the year.  It was part of a remarkable career trajectory for the veteran artist, one that would eventually lead to him being named Publisher of DC Comics in 1971 — but it also meant that he had to give up his regular pencilling gigs.  Infantino would return as the artist of the Flash series years later, in 1981 — but things would never again be quite the same.  Read More