For the first several years that I read and collected comic books, I had only the vaguest notion that there ever been a publisher called EC Comics. I didn’t know that, before the advent of the Comics Code Authority, there had once thrived a skillfully-executed line of horror, crime, science fiction, and war comics that were, beyond their other attributes, much more graphic than anything one would ever find on the spinner racks of the mid-to-late ’60s. You see, the Code was established in 1954, and EC’s last comic book was published shortly thereafter, in early 1956 — while I wasn’t born until 1957. And though by 1966 I was a regular reader of Mad magazine, I had no clue that Mad was in fact the sole survivor of EC’s line, converted to a magazine format in 1955 to evade the Code’s strictures.* All of which I offer by way of explaining that if the 70th issue of DC Comics’ The Brave and the Bold had included creator credits (which it didn’t), I would not have recognized the name of the book’s penciller, the great EC Comics artist, Johnny Craig. Read More
It’s a well-known fact of comic book history that, in the 1960’s, editor Julius Schwartz often came up with an idea for a cover, had one of his stable of artists draw it up, and only then assigned a writer to script a story around it. I don’t know if any of Schwartz’s fellow DC editors of the time followed a similar practice — but if there’s any one non-Schwartz cover of the mid-Sixties that might be considered a candidate for “cover first”, it’s surely the Carmine Infantino-Joe Giella cover of The Brave and the Bold #69, edited by George Kashdan.
That’s partly due to the fact that Infantino is the same artist who pencilled many of those classic covers for Schwartz’s books — but mainly, it’s because of that big, red, iron bat holding Batman prisoner. That visual is so bizarre and unlikely, yet also so striking and memorable, that I find it easier to believe that someone — whether Infantino, Kashdan, or someone else — came up with it all on its own, and then found a way to work it into a story, rather than that it emerged naturally during the plotting of the story it ultimately came to illustrate. Especially since “War of the Cosmic Avenger”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Win Mortimer, doesn’t really have a whole lot of use for the big red bat after the first few pages. Read More
If you’ve been a comics fan for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “Silver Age of Comics” — a hallowed era of comic book history extending from (probably) 1956 to (maybe) 1970. You may even have an image that comes to mind if someone says a phrase like “the Silver Age Flash”, or “the Silver Age Thor”, visualizing an emblematic artistic interpretation of a character that flourished in that era. But even if you’re as old and grizzled a fan as this blogger, you may find yourself hesitant, and even confused, should someone ask you to visualize “the Silver Age Batman.”
That’s as it should be, frankly, because the decade-and-a-half period we call the Silver Age encompassed a number of distinct interpretations of Batman, all involving different approaches to depicting (in story, as well as art), the character and his world. My own, personal inclination is to identify the “Silver Age Batman” with editor Julius Schwartz’ “New Look” version of the character, introduced in 1964. And I can make a strong case for that, I believe, based on Schwartz’ role in the Silver Age revival of superheroes like Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom — said revival being one of the main markers of the era. But, when it comes right down to it, my inclination probably owes at least as much to the fact that that version of Batman happens to be the one I first encountered as a reader, way back in 1965. Read More
This comic book features an “Imaginary Story”. (And if your response to that phrase is “but aren’t they all imaginary?”, rest assured that famed British comics author Alan Moore agrees with you.) “Imaginary Stories”, also known as “Imaginary Tales” or even (as in this very issue) “Imaginary Novels“, were a fixture of editor Mort Weisinger’s “Superman family” comics of the 1960s. They allowed the creators to explore “what if?” scenarios in which Krypton never exploded, or Jimmy Olsen married Supergirl, or Superman was murdered by Lex Luthor (sounds like a bummer, I know, but it made for a classic story) — in other words, scenarios that wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the “real” ongoing continuity of the comics. Read More
I’ve mentioned DC’s The Brave and the Bold in a couple of earlier posts. This comic got its start in 1955 as the home for a variety of historical adventure series, starring swashbuckling heroes like the Viking Prince, the Golden Gladiator, Robin Hood, and the Silent Knight. Later, it became a tryout book, showcasing new characters and concepts that could be spun off into their own series if their “pilot” issue sold well enough. In this iteration, the book saw the first appearances of the Suicide Squad, the “Silver Age” Hawkman, Metamorpho, and (most successfully) the Justice League of America. With its 50th issue, however, the book began a transition towards becoming a one-off team-up comic, with a rotating roster of (normally) two characters sharing cover-billing. My own first issue of The Brave and the Bold, #64, was the second to feature one of DC’s two most popular heroes, Batman, as one of the two headliners; over the next eighteen years, however, it would be succeeded by 132 more such team-ups starring the Caped Crusader. It was thus a typical issue of the series in terms of what was to come, if not what had gone before. Read More
By December, 1965, I had been buying and reading comics for almost half a year, and in that time Justice League of America had definitely become my favorite comic book — the one series I would buy whenever I saw a new issue. That’s not surprising, I guess, considering its all-star cast of heroes. Concurrently, I had also sampled individual issues of a number of the Justice League members’ own series (and most of those that I hadn’t gotten around to yet, I’d be checking out before long). But there were other DC heroes I only glanced at when perusing the spinner racks at the Tote-Sum. These particular heroes — characters like the Doom Patrol, the Metal Men, and Ultra the Multi-Alien — were a little more bizarre, and a little less-human seeming, than Superman, Batman, and the rest of the JLA gang. Nevertheless, there was a way for such characters to get my attention, and that was to appear in the JLA’s own book — as Metamorpho, the Element Man, did in Justice League of America #42’s “Metamorpho Says — No!” (produced, per the Grand Comics Database, by the series’ regular team of writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and inker Bernard Sachs). Read More