The Brave and the Bold #79 (Aug.-Sept., 1968)

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

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World’s Finest Comics #176 (June, 1968)

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

Teen Titans #15 (May-June, 1968)

After reviewing my comics buying and reading habits of a half-century ago for close to three years now, I’ve just about concluded that the younger me of those days wasn’t all that interested in teenage superheroes.  Oh, I didn’t have any problem with, say, Robin, when he was appearing with Batman.  The same would apply in the case of Kid Flash with Flash, or Aqualad with Aquaman.  Teenage sidekicks were OK as supporting players, so long as there was a grown-up hero at the top of the bill.  But I appear not to have had much interest in checking out the three junior partners named above, or their colleague Wonder Girl, when they were having adventures on their own — not, that is, until the issue of Teen Titans that is the subject of today’s post.  Read More

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

The Brave and the Bold #76 (Feb.-March, 1968)

When I picked up this issue of Brave and the Bold fifty years ago (give or take a couple of weeks), Batman’s co-star in the book, Plastic Man, had been around for over twenty-six years — almost as long as the Caped Crusader himself.  But he’d only been a DC Comics hero for a little over one year — which is about as long as my ten-year-old self had been aware of him.  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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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 #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

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