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 ever read this blog, the cover of Detective #354 should already be familiar to you. There it is, proudly displayed in the header above every post. Obviously, I have a lot of affection for this particular offering from the team of Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella, who contributed so many classic covers to this era of Batman comics (and even got to sign this one — not a routine occurrence at the time).
In some ways, it’s a head-scratcher that the cover is as effective as it is. A dozen or so thugs — none of them especially formidable-looking — are depicted standing in a half-circle around Batman, shaking their fists at him. The cover copy describes this as “The Caped Crusader’s most dangerous trap”. Really? Even in 1966, and even without taking the then-insanely-popular TV show’s weekly cliffhangers into consideration, I believe my eight-year-old self must have been skeptical of that claim. Sure, the odds are against him, but he’s Batman. These hoods aren’t even armed. Even if he’s not able to take them all down, our hero should at least be able to break free of this “most dangerous trap” and escape. And while those “force lines” drawn around the thugs’ brandished fists may be intended to make them look more threatening, the actual effect comes off as just a little bit silly. Read More
Most of the villains generally considered to be on Batman’s “A-list” of foes were introduced in the first decade or so following the Caped Crusader’s first appearance in 1939. The Joker first arrived on the scene in 1940, barely a year after his heroic adversary’s debut, as did Catwoman. The Penguin and the Scarecrow followed soon after, in 1941, while Two-Face first turned up in 1942. Even the Riddler, a character who wouldn’t really take off until the mid-Sixties, debuted as early as 1948.
I may be as old as dirt, but even so, I’m not quite ancient enough to have been around for any of those characters’ introductory appearances. On the other hand, I am old enough, and also fortunate enough, to have been present for the debut of another member of that top rank of Batman baddies — the villainess known as Poison Ivy. Read More
Before re-reading this comic in preparation for this blog post — probably the first time I’d cracked its cover in at least three decades — I had been remembering it as a more typical example of the JLA stories of the period than the first one that I’d bought and read, the philosophical and essentially villain-less “The Indestructible Creatures of Nightmare Island!” in JLA #40. As it turns out, however, this issue has a good bit more in common with its immediate predecessor than I’d previously recalled. Like in that story, the main action here turns upon a character manipulating people’s attitudes and behaviors by artificial means. However, in “The Key-Master of the World!” (uncredited, but produced by the book’s regular creative team of Gardner Fox, Mike Sekowsky, and Bernard Sachs, according to the Grand Comics Database), the manipulation is limited only to the titular heroes rather than affecting the whole world, and the perpetrator’s intent is malicious, rather than benign. Read More