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

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 #173 (September, 1967)

Fans of the Flash who’ve only been reading about him in comics for say, the last quarter century or so — not to mention fans who primarily know him from the current CW network TV series — may find this a difficult notion to grasp; but, back in his Silver Age heyday, Barry Allen did not regularly share his adventures with other costumed speedsters.  While it’s true that my own first issue of The Flash, bought and read in the September of 1965, featured an appearance by Barry’s teenage protégé Wally West — aka Kid Flash — as of summer, 1967, I hadn’t seen the two together again since.  And while I was familiar with Barry’s Golden Age predecessor as the Flash, Jay Garrick, I’d only actually seen him in action in a vintage 1947 adventure that had been reprinted in Flash #160. — I’d yet to see him team up with “my” Flash, or even with his fellow Justice Society of America members in one of the annual Justice League – Justice Society team-up extravaganzas..

All of which is intended to convey to you, dear reader, that when this comic book came out in July, 1967 — with its terrific cover (penciled by Carmine Infantino, inked by Murphy Anderson, and strikingly lettered by the great Ira Schnapp) promising not one, not two, but three Flashes in one story together — it was a big honking deal for my ten-year-old self.  Read More

Justice League of America #55 (August, 1967)

From June, 1966 through May, 1967, DC Comics published nine issues of Justice League of America, all of which capitalized on the enormous popularity of the Batman television show by prominently featuring the Caped Crusader on their covers.  Upon its publication on June 13, 1967, Justice League of America #55 clearly marked the end of that year-long run of exploitative, Batman-dominated covers.

Um, sort of.  OK, not really.  Because this issue’s Mike Sekowsky-Murphy Anderson cover, featuring the debut of “a grown-up Robin” whose costume was an amalgam of the duds traditionally worn by both the Boy Wonder and his august mentor, was obviously trading on Batmania as much as any other JLA cover that editor Julius Schwartz had seen through production in the last twelve months.  Read More

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

Justice League of America #47 (September, 1966)

According to both the Grand Comics Database and Mike’s Amazing World, this issue was released to newsstands and other retail outlets on July 26, 1966.  I probably received my mailed subscription copy a week or so before that — but whenever it was that I finally held this book in my grubby little nine-year-old hands, it had been a long, long month-and-a-half since the conclusion of the previous issue — the first half of the first bona fide continued story I’d thus far encountered in comic books — had left me hanging precariously off the edge of a cliff.  Summers always seemed longer when I was a kid, of course, but that summer was probably the longest of my life, either before or since.

Beyond my overall excitement on finally having the issue in my possession, I have no specific recollection of what I thought when I first looked at the cover — but I’d like to think that I was at least momentarily nonplussed by the sheer immensity of the figure of Batman.  The Caped Crusader had been given greater and greater prominence on the covers of JLA over the last several issues, but for him to literally dwarf every other hero depicted in the cover scene — that was new.     Read More

Showcase #64 (Sept.-Oct., 1966)

For a couple of months in the autumn of 1965, readers of most DC comics were confronted with this enigmatic message, which appeared in the borders of pages, and even within the panels of stories, all through the publisher’s line:

spectre-ad

It was an unusual marketing campaign — although my eight-year-old self didn’t know that at the time, since I’d only been reading comics for a few months.  Nevertheless, I can recall being vaguely curious about this “Spectre”, the eerie green lettering of whose name suggested that he might not be the warmest and friendliest of characters.  I had no idea whatsoever who he actually was, however — nor would most of the rest of DC’s readership at that time.     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

Green Lantern #45 (June, 1966)

This issue featured the second appearance of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, as a guest star in the comic book headlined by his “successor”, Hal Jordan.  Alan’s first guest shot had occurred less than a year previously, in Green Lantern #40’s “The Secret Origin of the Guardians” — a tale that eventually turned out to be one of the most consequential stories DC ever published, at least in terms of fictional universe-building (or, more accurately, multiverse-building).  Although this second team-up of the two Lanterns, “Prince Peril’s Power Play”, was produced by the same creative team of writer John Broome, penciller Gil Kane, and inker Sid Greene, it wasn’t destined to achieve the same fame as the first one; still, it had (and has) several special things going for it.  One of these was a second, different “guest appearance”, of a wholly different sort from Alan Scott’s, which we’ll get around to discussing a little later.  Another was a greatly expanded role for a supporting character who’d only appeared briefly in GL #40 — Alan Scott’s chauffeur and sidekick, Charles “Doiby” Dickles.     Read More