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

Advertisements

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

Flash #175 (December, 1967)

If you’ve been reading this blog for a few months or more, you’ll recall (I hope) our post back in June about Superman #199, the classic DC comic book that featured the first-ever race between Superman and the Flash.  That race ended in a tie, but the end of the story promised us readers a “terrific rematch, coming soon in The Flash!”  So when the DC house ads for Flash #175 began appearing a few months later, my ten-year-old self was pumped.  Surely, when the second race was run in the Fastest Man Alive’s own series, he’d win the victory that he so obviously and logically deserved (in my mind, anyway.  See that earlier post for more details of my reasoning).  And regardless of the outcome, with Carmine Infantino (the artist who’d pencilled every single Flash solo story I’d ever read) drawing the book, it was bound to look great.

Well.  Things didn’t quite work out as my ten-year-old self expected.  Read More

Justice League of America #57 (November, 1967)

About two years ago, a couple of months following the debut of this blog, I wrote a post about the first issue of Justice League of America I ever bought (#40), a comic book I credited with making a significant contribution to my personal moral development.  As I said at the time, I thought that that particular issue, though missing the mark in some ways (and simply feeling dated in others), still held up pretty well as an earnest endorsement of individual ethical responsibility, informed by an awareness and appreciation of the common humanity we all share.  Since that time, I’ve been looking forward to re-reading and re-appraising Justice League of America #57, an issue with a similar theme, produced by the same writer, penciller, and editor as #40 (Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Julius Schwartz, respectively)  — and expecting that it would hold up just as well.

Now that the time has come, however, I regret that I have to say that the book doesn’t hold up quite as well as its predecessor — at least, it doesn’t for this reader.  Which is not to say that it’s wholly without merit, or that it’s not worth a visit (or re-visit), fifty years after its original publication.  Read More

Flash #174 (November, 1967)

Flash #174 is a particularly notable comic book for several reasons, most of which have to do with Carmine Infantino.  To begin with, there’s the book’s cover, pencilled by Infantino and inked by Murphy Anderson — rightly renowned as one of the best by that superlative team, featuring a transformative, convention-shattering treatment of the title logo that would have been even more astonishing if the same artists hadn’t pulled off something similar just a couple of months back, on the cover of Batman #194.

Then there’s the fact that this issue of Flash was, for Infantino, the last one in an unbroken eleven-year, seventy-four issue run illustrating the adventures of the character he’d co-created with writer Robert Kanigher way back in 1956’s Showcase #4.  As we’ve recounted in previous installments of this blog, over the course of the year 1967 Infantino was taking on more and more behind-the-scenes responsibilities at DC Comics, beginning with overseeing cover design for the company’s whole line, and culminating in his becoming Editorial Director by the end of the year.  It was part of a remarkable career trajectory for the veteran artist, one that would eventually lead to him being named Publisher of DC Comics in 1971 — but it also meant that he had to give up his regular pencilling gigs.  Infantino would return as the artist of the Flash series years later, in 1981 — but things would never again be quite the same.  Read More

Justice League of America #56 (September, 1967)

This issue of JLA features “The Negative-Crisis on Earths One-Two!”, a story written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Mike Sekowsky and Sid Greene.  It’s the second part of 1967’s Justice League – Justice Society team-up, an annual summertime tradition that DC Comics maintained from 1963 all the way through 1984.  I blogged about the first half of this tale a few weeks ago, and I’m sure you’re all eager to find out how our heroes get out of the mess they were in at the conclusion of JLA #55.  And we’ll get to that pretty soon — but first, I’d like us to spend a little quality time with the book’s cover.

To begin with, it’s just a great piece of work — one of the final, as well as one of the finest, products of penciller Carmine Infantino and inker Murphy Anderson’s long and profitable collaboration.  And as perhaps the first comic book cover to feature what would become an everlasting motif in the superhero genre — two line-ups of superheroes charging each other — it has historic significance as well.  Read More

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

Superman #199 (August, 1967)

Who’s faster — Superman or the Flash?

It’s one of those questions that comic book fans have argued about for ages — like who’s stronger, the Hulk or Thor?  (Did someone just say “the Thing”?  Please.)  Essentially unanswerable — or, rather, the answer is “whichever one of them the creators at the comic book company that owns them has decided is the faster/stronger/better dressed in the context of the story you’re currently reading.”

Actually, I think the more interesting question — a question for which one fan’s answer is as valid as any other’s, and can’t be overruled by the characters’ corporate owners — is, who should be faster, Superman or the Flash?  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

Wonder Woman #171 (July-Aug., 1967)

It may be difficult for some younger comics fans to believe, but Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman haven’t always been perceived as a “Trinity” of characters standing head and shoulders above the rest of their fellow DC Comics heroes, in the Justice League and elsewhere.  That’s not to say that fans in earlier eras didn’t appreciate the special status of these three characters — the only superheroes to remain in virtually continuous publication in their own titles from the 1940s to the present day — but that appreciation didn’t necessarily equate to seeing the characters as equals.

When I first started reading comics in 1965, Batman and Superman were each headlining two titles of their own in addition to co-starring in World’s Finest, and were also appearing regularly in Justice League of America.  Add to that the two titles featuring Superboy, and (from late 1965 on), Batman’s frequent co-starring turns in The Brave and the Bold, and it was clear to me that these guys were DC’s Big Two, and no one else was in the same class.  Wonder Woman, after all, starred in just one title, and also appeared in JLA — which simply put her in the same good-sized camp as Aquaman, Atom, Flash, Green Lantern, and Hawkman.  Of course, Princess Diana also had the distinction of having been around in the same incarnation since the Forties, unlike most of those guys, as well as the unique quality of being the only female superhero with her own comic book, which put her a step ahead of Supergirl.  Still, all that wasn’t enough to give her iconic status — at least, not in the eyes of the (admittedly ignorant) little boy I was at the time.  Read More