Regular readers of this blog will have heard me say this before, but it bears repeating — sometimes, I just have no idea why my younger self chose to buy a particular comic book fifty years ago.
That’s certainly the case with the subject of today’s post. After passing Captain Marvel by on the stands for almost a year, in January, 1969 I decided to gamble twelve cents on the series’ twelfth issue. How come?
Was it the cover, by John Romita and Sal Buscema (or maybe George Tuska and Buscema — the usual reference sources differ)? I suppose it could be. It’s not a particularly distinguished composition (at least, not to my present-day, 61-year-old eyes), but it’s not what I’d call bad — and those bright, contrasting colors really do pop. So, maybe.
Perhaps it was the result of a long-simmering curiosity about the character that had been sparked by my reading of the “Captain Marvin” parody in the ninth issue of Marvel’s Not Brand Echh series, back in May of ’68. That piece, produced by the “real” Captain Marvel’s onetime writer and penciller (Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, respectively) had served as a sort of primer on the origin, powers, and modus operandi of “Marvel’s Space-Born Super-Hero!™” — though one read through a cracked glass, as it were. It had also been pretty funny to my then ten-year-old sensibilities, even if Thomas’ gags referencing the original Captain Marvel had gone right over my head. So, maybe I recalled this story when I saw Captain Marvel #12 on the spinner rack, and decided to give the “real thing” a try. Read More
December, 1968, saw the publication of the fourth issue of Neal Adams and Bob Haney’s run on Brave and the Bold — a partnership that had begun with the duo’s “The Track of the Hook” some six months earlier, and which was gradually evolving the image of Batman towards a darker, more mysterious vision, one closer to how he’d originally been concerned by Bob Kane and Bill Finger thirty years before. That vision was slowly becoming established as the proper take on the Caped Crusader in the minds of comics pros as well as fans (though there was as yet little evidence of its influence in the other series in which Batman regularly appeared). And while this emerging new direction for Batman was inarguably driven almost entirely by the artistic efforts of Adams, Haney’s scripts — more grounded and serious than most of his earlier work with the character in BatB, which he’d produced during the TV show-inspired “camp” era — were consistent with the visual tone set by Adams’ drawings, and usually managed to carry their share of the weight in the ongoing enterprise of re-imagining DC Comics’ Darknight Detective. That was true even in the context of a story like “The Sleepwalker from the Sea!”, which brought one of the publisher’s more fanciful heroes into the increasingly gritty urban milieu of Gotham City. Read More
Regular readers of this blog may recall that Aquaman was the very last Justice League member with their own book in the late ’60s that I got around to sampling as a solo draw. And, as I posted almost one full year ago, what finally convinced me to pick up the Sea King’s 36th issue had less to do with the comic book itself, and more to do with the fact that the hero just debuted as one of the two titular stars of CBS’ animated series, The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure. As things turned out, that single issue, featuring a story by the regular team of Bob Haney and Nick Cardy, failed to grab me enough for me to pick up the next issue, or the one after that. By the time September, 1968 rolled around, one year later, the TV series had aired its last original episode, and with Aquaman only appearing in roughly every other issue of Justice League of America at the time, there wasn’t exactly a lot going on to spark a renewed interest in the hero’s solo adventures on my part. Still, something convinced me to pick up Aquaman #42 when I saw it on the stands. What could it have been?
The topic of today’s post is, I believe, one of the most important single comic books in the evolution of Batman to appear during the character’s nearly eighty-year history — probably ranking in the top five or so such comics. Chronologically speaking, it’s certainly the most important Batman comic that DC Comics had published since 1964’s Detective Comics #327, the issue in which editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino debuted a “New Look” for the Caped Crusader — and I think that a strong case can be made that there wouldn’t be another single Bat-book quite so significant until the publication of the first installment of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, in 1986.
That’s because “The Track of the Hook”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Neal Adams, serves as the clearest point of origin for the most thorough overhaul ever of one of comics’ most iconic heroes — an overhaul that has often been called a return to the character’s original 1939 roots, but is probably more accurately viewed as an approach based on what comics writer Denny O’Neil once described as “remembering how we thought it should have been” [emphasis mine]. It was an approach which returned an air of mystery, a touch of noir, to Batman and his milieu — one which did indeed recover visual and thematic elements that had been present, or at least implicit, in the character’s earliest published adventures, but which explored and elaborated on those elements in a more sophisticated fashion than readers had ever seen before. And it all started with Brave and the Bold #79, and the art of Neal Adams. Read More
After reviewing my comics buying and reading habits of a half-century ago for close to three years now, I’ve just about concluded that the younger me of those days wasn’t all that interested in teenage superheroes. Oh, I didn’t have any problem with, say, Robin, when he was appearing with Batman. The same would apply in the case of Kid Flash with Flash, or Aqualad with Aquaman. Teenage sidekicks were OK as supporting players, so long as there was a grown-up hero at the top of the bill. But I appear not to have had much interest in checking out the three junior partners named above, or their colleague Wonder Girl, when they were having adventures on their own — not, that is, until the issue of Teen Titans that is the subject of today’s post. Read More
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
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
Carmine Infantino is generally (and rightfully) acknowledged as one of the two or three primary architects of the “look” of DC Comics during the Silver Age; I think it’s interesting to note, then, that almost all of his interior artwork from 1962 through 1967 (when the artist transitioned from full-time pencilling into management responsibilities at DC) was done for just one of the company’s numerous editors, namely Julius Schwartz. The fact is, however, that even though Schwartz did keep Infantino very busy throughout those years, the artist still managed to complete the odd job for another DC editor here and there — including a couple of issues of The Brave and the Bold for George Kashdan, both of which (probably not coincidentally) co-starred one of the two or three characters most closely associated with Infantino — the Flash. Read More
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