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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Detective Comics #369 (November, 1967)

Batgirl, alias Barbara Gordon, made her television debut on September 14, 1967, in the premiere episode of the third season of the Batman TV series.  I know that, because I just looked it up on the Internet.  But I actually have no memory of seeing that episode, or indeed any episode that featured Yvonne Craig in the role of the Dominoed Daredoll, until the show went into syndicated reruns a number of years later.  As regular readers of this blog know, however, I’d been a faithful viewer of Batman ever since it began in January, 1966 — so what was the deal?  How’d I manage to miss Babs Gordon on the teevee during Batman‘s original run?

I’ve discussed the matter with old friends who grew up in the same television market I did (the greater Jackson, MS metropolitan area), and as best we can figure, none of our local stations aired the third season of Batman when it was originally broadcast.  We only had two television stations in Jackson then, you understand — and with three national networks providing programming, it was something of a crap shoot as to what those stations would decide to air in any given time slot.*  As has been discussed in earlier posts on this blog, the Batman series’ ratings had declined during the second season, and it appears that whichever of our Jackson stations had been showing it decided to cut their losses in the fall of 1967, and show something else instead.  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

World’s Finest Comics #157 (May, 1966)

This comic book features an “Imaginary Story”.  (And if your response to that phrase is “but aren’t they all imaginary?”, rest assured that famed British comics author Alan Moore agrees with you.)  “Imaginary Stories”, also known as “Imaginary Tales” or even (as in this very issue) “Imaginary Novels“, were a fixture of editor Mort Weisinger’s “Superman family” comics of the 1960s.  They allowed the creators to explore “what if?” scenarios in which Krypton never exploded, or Jimmy Olsen married Supergirl, or Superman was murdered by Lex Luthor (sounds like a bummer, I know, but it made for a classic story) — in other words, scenarios that wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the “real” ongoing continuity of the comics.      Read More

Lois Lane #62 (January, 1966)

In tracking the publication dates of my earliest comics purchases via the Grand Comics Database, I’ve been a little surprised to find a lot of variation in how many (or few) comics I managed to pick up in a given month.  I guess the fact that I was an eight year old without a reliable means of regular transport to the nearest Tote-Sum convenience store provides a plausible enough reason — still, I’ve been somewhat bemused to discover that I apparently made only one comics purchase in November, 1965 — and of all the comics on the spinner rack that month, the single comic book that I chose was Lois Lane #62.

Lois Lane is one of those comic book characters that practically everyone knows, but of whom people have widely varying conceptions, based on what version of the character they’ve been exposed to and when.  If you line up all the renditions of the character in all media since her introduction in 1938, and look for qualities possessed by all of them, what do you have?  Lois Lane is a journalist.  Lois Lane knows Superman personally.  Lois Lane is… not a blonde.  Not a whole lot else, frankly.  Read More

Superman #181 (November, 1965)

The story featured on the cover of the second issue of Superman I bought (but the oldest one I still own) was actually the second, back-up story in the issue.  The lead story was a forgettable tale about a new “girl reporter” at the Daily Planet who begins scooping Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and even Clark Kent himself with what appear to be super powers — unfortunately, a fairly typical example of just how dull the most powerful superhero in comics could sometimes be under the editorial aegis of Mort Weisinger, probably the main reason why there are fewer 1960s issues of Superman and Action comics in my collection than you might imagine.

The real draw of the issue, justifiably granted the cover spot, was “The Superman of 2965!” — a tale that introduced a distant descendant of our own Man of Steel, who, despite the many intervening generations of interbreeding with ordinary (one assumes) Earthlings, still has all of his original namesake’s Kryptonian potency.  The cover copy assures us readers that we won’t believe our eyes, because this future version is “so different from the original Superman of Krypton!”  How different is he?  Read More

Superman #180 (October, 1965)

According to the Grand Comics Database, this particular comic book, the first one I ever bought, went on sale on the 5th day of August, 1965.  I probably didn’t buy it on that specific day, but it is possible.  In any case, I’m going to post about it today — exactly 50 years to the date it originally hit the stands.

Why Superman?  Well, then as now, he was the best-known comic book superhero in the world, having been published continuously from 1938 onwards.  And I already knew him from television, for even though the live-action series starring George Reeves had ended its run in 1958 (when I was two years old), episodes were being re-run every weekday afternoon by one of our two local stations.  It may be hard to believe in our era, when superheroes permeate popular culture in films, TV shows, games, toys, etc., but that was pretty much it for encountering comic book heroes in other media in the summer of 1965.  (Things would change drastically pretty soon afterwards, but that’s a subject for our next post.)  Read More