For the first year or so of the Justice League of America’s existence, the stories of DC’s premier superteam followed a fairly strict formula. Beginning with the team’s three tryout issues of The Brave and the Bold in 1959 and 1960, the tales told by writer Gardner Fox, penciller Mike Sekowsky, and editor Julius Schwartz played out according to a prescribed pattern; the team members (Aquaman, Batman, Flash, Green Lantern, the Martian Manhunter, Superman, and Wonder Woman — and, from JLA #4 on, Green Arrow) would come together at (or at least near) the beginning of the story; then they’d encounter or discover a menace; then they’d split into teams to battle different aspects of said menace; and then, finally, they’d come together at the end to secure their ultimate victory over the menace. Also as part of the formula, at least for the earliest adventures, Superman and Batman took no active role in the central team-up chapters, and sometimes didn’t even show up for the group scenes at the beginning or end; this was due to editor Schwartz deferring to the preferences of editors responsible for those heroes’ own titles, Mort Weisinger and Jack Schiff, who didn’t want DC’s two marquee characters overexposed. Even after the restrictions on using the Man of Steel and the Caped Crusader eased up somewhat, there were issues when they were entirely absent (“on assignment” in Dimension X, or something else of that sort), and neither of them appeared on a cover until JLA #10 (March, 1962). Read More
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
Back in 1967, when DC Comics’ newly-promoted Art Director, Carmine Infantino, discovered Neal Adams toiling away in a production room on one of the company’s “third-string” (Infantino’s words) titles — The Adventures of Jerry Lewis, perhaps — and determined that the young artist’s talents could and should be put to better use, one of the first better uses he put them to was to produce covers for DC’s “Superman family” books. These comics had been under the editorship of Mort Weisinger for a long, long time — decades, in some cases — and their covers all had a particular “look”, typified by the style of artist Curt Swan. The advent of Adams’ more dynamic style represented a sea-change for the Superman books, and, by extension — given the Man of Steel’s flagship status — the rest of DC’s line, as well. Read More
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
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…
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
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
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
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
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