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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Batman #194 (August, 1967)

Recalling my early comics-reading years, I can’t think of another comic book that I looked forward to with as much breathless anticipation, simply based on the house ads, as I did Batman #194.  And I can’t think of another comic book that I considered as huge of a letdown once I finally got hold of it and read it, as I did Batman #194.

It was the cover that grabbed me in those ads, of course.  That amazing Carmine Infantino-Murphy Anderson cover, with its impeccably rendered figures of Batman and Blockbuster, its dynamic action, and, most of all, its imaginative (and, for the time, daring) incorporation of the book’s title within the illustration.  My nine-year-old self had never seen anything like it.  Read More

Detective Comics #361 (March, 1967)

Somehow, someway, in the 18 months that I’ve been doing this blog — during which time I’ve written 26 posts tagged “Batman”, 8 tagged “Detective Comics”, and 14 tagged “Carmine Infantino” — I’ve neglected to write about a single one of the Batman stories Infantino drew for Detective during the corresponding span of time in the 1960s.  And since I believe that Infantino’s artwork for the Caped Crusader holds up better after half a century than virtually any other aspect of the “New Look”/”Batmania” era of the character, that’s an oversight that needs to be rectified — which I am happy to do, at last, with this post.  Read More

Justice League of America #51 (February, 1967)

Throughout the 1960’s, as their upstart rival Marvel Comics distinguished itself with the development of a complex and more-or-less consistent fictional universe that linked all of the company’s heroes, villains, and other characters into one ongoing meta-story, DC Comics resolutely continued to operate as a collection of mostly independent fiefdoms, each under the dominion of its own editor.  Sure, all the A-list heroes showed up for Julius Schwartz’s Justice League of America, regardless of who was editing the heroes’ solo series, and they could also pair off in George Kashdan’s (later, Murray Boltinoff’s) The Brave and the Bold — but, by and large, DC’s editors didn’t pay much attention to continuity across the line.

Within an individual editor’s purview, however, there were occasional stabs at crossovers and other signifiers of a shared universe — especially within the books guided by Schwartz.  As we’ve discussed in a previous post, one way Schwartz accomplished this was be establishing close friendships between pairs of his heroes (Flash and Green Lantern, Atom and Hawkman) which provided frequent opportunities for guest-shots in one another’s books.  Another way was to set up a plotline in one book that would carry over into another book — as was done in the classic “Zatanna‘s Search” story arc that ran through multiple Schwartz-edited books from 1964 through 1966, culminating in Justice League of America #51’s “Z — as in Zatanna — and Zero Hour!”.     Read More

The Brave and the Bold #68 (Oct.-Nov., 1966)

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

Batman #185 (October, 1966)

When I first began reading Batman comics, in August, 1965 (my initial issue, as I posted about around a year ago, was Detective #344), the character’s “New Look” — as developed by editor Julius Schwartz, with the help of artist Carmine Infantino and various writers — had been in place for well over a year.  Nevertheless, by the time August, 1966 rolled around I had managed to achieve some familiarity with the Caped Crusader’s pre-1964 “old look” as well.  This was thanks to several factors.  For one thing, the animated opening credits of the Batman television series were based mostly on the older look; more significantly, the huge success of that show led to an expansion in the reprinting of older Batman material.  And so, within a few months of the TV series’ January, 1966 debut, I had become the proud owner of two Signet paperbacks reprinting old Batman stories in glorious black and white, as well as an “80 Page Giant” issue of the Batman comic itself featuring tales of similar vintage in full color.     Read More

Justice League of America #46 (August, 1966)

By the time JLA #46 arrived in my mailbox one day in early June, 1966, I had a pretty good idea who the Justice Society of America was.  I knew about the “Golden Age of Comics” that had thrived a decade and more before I was born, and I also knew all about the “Earth-Two” concept that allowed for the “old” versions of the Flash, Green Lantern, and other DC heroes to co-exist with the current models I read about every month.  But I hadn’t yet experienced the extravaganza that was the annual two-issue JLA-JSA team-up — I’d missed the 1965 event by just a couple of months — and I didn’t have any real familiarity with most of the characters who didn’t have “Earth-One” counterparts.  So I don’t know exactly what I expected when I opened up this book for the first time (after flattening out its mailed-subscription-copy crease, of course).  I’m pretty damn sure, however, that I wasn’t the least bit disappointed.  Read More

Flash #160 (April, 1966)

Once upon a time, in the long-distant, antediluvian past, comic books were a lot like movies, or television shows.  You caught them when they first came out (or on), or you were out of luck.  Eventually, as we all know, the advent of consumer videotape technology changed everything for TV and film.  Similarly, the gradual development of the comics collectors’ market ultimately made it economically feasible to reprint old, ephemeral newsprint periodicals in brand new, designed-to-last, real-book editions, and then to keep them in print for, if not ever, then a lot longer than a month or two.  These days, in fact, you can even download a digital copy of a fifty-year-old comic book for less than the cost of a new one.  (What a world we live in.  You kids today, you just don’t know.)  Read More

Hawkman #13 (Apr.-May, 1966)

Hawkman was the fourth member of the Justice League of America on whose solo adventures I eventually decided to gamble 12 cents, his having been preceded by Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, and the Flash.  (Wonder Woman, the Atom, and Aquaman would eventually follow, though unfortunately Green Arrow had already lost his supporting slot in World’s Finest by this time, and I wouldn’t get around to checking out House of Mystery until well after its doors had shut on the Martian Manhunter.)  Most of what I knew about the Winged Wonder came from Justice League of America #41, where I’d learned that both Hawkman and his wife, the similarly attired and identically powered (but perhaps slightly smarter) Hawkgirl, were alien police officers from the planet Thanagar, operating undercover on Earth for reasons I didn’t quite understand yet. Read More

Batman #179 (March, 1966)

In January, 1966, I bought my first issue of Batman.  I’d already had plenty of exposure to the character by this time, of course, in multiple issues of Justice League of America, plus appearances in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest.  More to the point, one of the very first comics I’d bought had been the 344th issue of Detective, Batman’s “other” book (and arguably the primary Batman book, as it was the 27th issue of Detective in which the character made his debut way back in 1939).  Still, up until January, 1966, I hadn’t gotten around to buying an actual issue of the Caped Crusader’s titular comic.

But if I was ever going to pick up an issue of Batman, there could hardly have been another month when I would have been more primed to do so than January of 1966.  Because on January 12, eight days prior to the release of Batman #179, American television viewers saw this on their screens for the very first time: Read More