Batman #244 (September, 1972)

Neal Adams’ cover for Batman #244 is probably one of the most famous and iconic comic book covers of its era.  There are a number of good reasons for that, starting with the sheer drama of the moment it depicts, as our hero lies vanquished, perhaps even dead, at the feet of his greatest enemy, Ra’s al Ghul.  Then there’s the strength of Adams’ composition, which frames that dramatic moment so perfectly, as well as the sophisticated coloring by Adams and Jack Adler, which wonderfully enhances the mood as well as the visual appeal of the illustration.

And then there’s the chest hair.  Oh, and the nipples, of course.  Mustn’t forget the nipples. 

Interviewed in 2003 by Michael Kronenberg for The Batcave Companion (TwoMorrows, 2009), Adams described the pushback he got from Batman editor Julius Schwartz over his realistic rendering of the Caped Crusader’s topless torso:

Julie actually said, “Do you really think you ought to put nipples on him? They really don’t put nipples on people in comic books.” And I thought, “What a weird question.” “Yes, Julie, I think he should have nipples and hair on his chest.” So when I did it, it was like passed around the hall. Think about this. It never occurred to people that Batman had hair on his chest and had nipples.

In addition to the hair-and-nipples controversy, the late artist liked to call attention in interviews to another unusual aspect of the cover, albeit one that hasn’t been discussed quite as widely; the presence of two pairs of Bat-pants.  As Adams told Dan Greenfield in 2016:

This is the gag that I do at conventions. I take the cover and say, “How many pairs of pants is Batman wearing?” And they say, “One? Two?” and then they ask why and I say, “Well, you have to take his shorts off to get his pants off. That makes him naked.”

 

What people don’t know is that this leg to the right, even though you can’t tell, is a naked leg. It’s drawn as a naked leg. It was intended to be a naked leg. And (editor) Julie Schwartz objected to it. He said, “You can’t do that.” He said, “How can you have the trunks on and not have that on?”

 

I said, “But then we’ll have two pairs of pants.” And he said, “So what? Nobody’ll notice.” “Okay, Julie, whatever you say.” So then we colored his legs. But if you were to look at the black and white of this, you go, “I can see the little hairs. It’s really a naked leg.”

Adams’ anecdote is a funny one; no question about it.  But with all due respect to the recently departed artistic titan, your humble blogger believes there’s good reason to be skeptical of its veracity, at least in some aspects.

But we can’t really talk about why I feel that way until we get to the scene within our story that corresponds to the cover.  And we’ve got quite a bit of story to enjoy before we reach that part, courtesy of Adams and his collaborators, writer Denny O’Neil and inker Dick Giordano…

We’ll skip the recap of what went down in Batman #243 that immediately follows this splash, since I’m sure you all recall my recent post on that issue (and if not, it’s easy to refresh your memory at the link, right?), and jump on ahead to the bottom of page 2…

“…so it’s my show!”  Batman attempts to fake Ra’s out with a false left hook, before putting everything he’s got into a right  — but…

Looking in the direction Molly is pointing, Batman sees a strangely-shaped hovercraft emerge from a heavy blanket of snow, then take to the air…

Ra’s and Talia emerge unscathed from the crashed hovercraft, and proceed to flee on foot, leaving Batman with the “rotten” choice of either pursuing them or tending to the wounded Molly — which is, as he puts it, “not really any choice at all!”

Matches Malone is dead…”  Uh, yeah, Bats, he sure is — just as he has been ever since page 5 of issue #242, when he got himself shot to death before your little Ra’s-hunting caper had even really gotten off the ground.  You’ve been masquerading as him ever since, for reasons which have never been made clear and now, evidently, never will be.

As for the other members of this ad hoc Bat-squad, none of them will appear again before the end of the story — and for Lo Ling, it’s the end of the road, period.  We’ll just have to hope the poor guy fully recovered from his injuries, since neither Denny O’Neil nor any other DC writer ever let us know his final fate, at least so far as I’ve been able to determine.  As for Dr. Harris Blaine, he’d return as early as Batman #247 (Feb., 1973), but then would drop out of sight until the 1987 graphic novel Batman: Son of the Demon, in which he’d be, ah, murdered.  (Tough break, Doc.)  And Molly Post?  She’d turn up one last time, in Detective #451 (Sep., 1975)… and that would be it for Batman’s “good girl”.

Ironically, it’s “Matches” Malone — the man who wasn’t really ever even there — who would have the most prolific career of any of Batman’s little band.  Malone would go on to play a significant role in any number of good stories through the Bronze Age and beyond — stories in which he was legitimately useful as a disguise that allowed the Darknight Detective to move effectively through the Gotham City underworld; a utility that never actually came into play in the context of the Ra’s al Ghul saga.  One might call “Matches” Malone a great idea whose time had not yet come — but whom an enthusiastic Denny O’Neil shoved prematurely onto the stage, nonetheless.

Believe it or not, page 10 gives us the first actual words out of Ra’s al Ghul’s mouth (with the exception of page 5’s single “Y-yes”) since this multi-issue sequence began back in Batman #242.  As you may recall, Ra’s didn’t even appear in the storyline’s inaugural chapter, save as an image projected on a screen; and in issue #243, he was already dead by the time Batman and his crew caught up to him.

As the Al Ghuls retire to a lavishly appointed tent, Ra’s explains to Talia that he’s gone to the Lazarus Pit too many times now, and so doesn’t have all that many years left to fulfill his goals.  “I must begin putting into effect my plan…” he says, “my plans to restore harmony to this sad planet!”  This is the first instance we have of the villain’s expressing his radical ecological vision — something which in the years and decades since has arguably come to define him every bit as much as his worldwide criminal empire, the League of Assassins, or even the Lazarus Pit itself…

Ra’s seems almost happy to see Batman turn up.  “Detective,” he exclaims, “I respect you as I respect no other!  You are truly a magnificent foe!”  Indeed, Ra’s respects Bats so much that he’s unwilling to call for his men to come in and shoot him; rather, he challenges Batman to a duel to the death.  “When do we begin?” our hero growls in response.

The duel between Batman and Ra’s is such a stone classic comic-book scene (seriously, was there a single comics fan watching The CW’s Arrow TV series in 2015 who was surprised when the show’s producers nicked it for their third season finale?) that it’s a little jarring to realize, upon revisiting the fight for the first time in a while, that it doesn’t even last for two full pages…

And so we come at last to the story situation upon which Neal Adams’ cover for this issue is based — and to the obvious reason why his explanation for its inclusion of two pairs of trousers doesn’t really fly.  Because in the story, Batman never takes off his pants.  Why the hell would he?  And why would Ra’s strip him of his entire costume (excluding the cowl) after defeating him?  And even if Batman’s legs were originally supposed to be bare on the cover, where’d the extra trunks come from?

Doesn’t it make more sense to believe that Adams simply got carried away while working on the cover, and drew Ra’s holding the Masked Manhunter’s nigh-complete ensemble — full set of tights, cape, gloves, utility belt — when just the shirt and cape were called for?  It certainly does to your humble blogger.  (But again, all due props to Mr. Adams, who seems to have gotten away with telling that yarn about Julius Schwartz making him color Batman’s naked leg gray for years — maybe even decades — without being called on it.)

And here we have one of the most memorable kisses in comic-book history — as well as the inspiration for writer Grant Morrison’s famous 2006 line about the “Neal Adams, hairy-chested, love-god” version of Batman that he hoped to evoke in his own then-forthcoming run on the character.

The final panel of “The Demon Lives Again!” may just be the single finest such panel of all the stories Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams ever collaborated on together.  Indeed, it’s such a terrific ending that you might read it two, six, even twelve times (as I probably have) before it occurs to you to wonder how the hell Batman plans to carry the unconscious Ra’s out of an armed camp in the desert all the way to the nearest constabulary without being accosted, overwhelmed, and killed.  But even after that thought crosses your mind, you’re as likely as not to simply shrug and say, “Ehh.  He’s Batman.  He’ll manage.”  The ending — like the rest of the story preceding it — is simply that satisfying.

One other possible quibble you might have, however (one which might not even take twelve readings to occur to you), regards the rather large loose end the finale leaves dangling:  What about Bruce Wayne?  This storyline began in Batman #242 with our hero faking the death of his secret identity in a “jungle plane crash”, so that Ra’s wouldn’t be able to use his knowledge of that identity against him.  How does Batman plan to bring Bruce back?

In fact, O’Neil and Adams provided the answer to that question in the very next issue of Batman — in a story that hasn’t been reprinted nearly as often as the “main” Ra’s al Ghul saga, despite its serving as a coda of sorts to it.  And we’re going to discuss that answer here in this post — though not immediately.  Because as classic as “The Demon Lives Again!” is, it only accounts for the first 15 1/2 pages of Batman #244.  That means we still have another entire story left to look at before we’re done with this comic book… so let’s get to it, shall we?

Though the artists for this issue’s “Robin” backup feature, Irv Novick and Dick Giordano, were familiar names to any regular reader of Batman and/or Detective, the writer might be less so.  This was the first tale scribed for either of the Bat-books by a relative newcomer to DC, Elliot Maggin (or, as he’d eventually style himself, Elliot S! Maggin); it was also the first “Robin” story in roughly three years not to have been written by Mike Friedrich, who’d left DC for Marvel Comics following Batman #242.  As we’ve discussed in previous posts, Friedrich was in a rather unique position during his tenure on “Robin”, being that rare example of a professional comics creator writing about a college student who was himself of college-going age  — and who indeed was still attending classes when he wrote his first tales of Dick Grayson at Hudson University.  That perspective served to inform his scripts, which, whatever their other flaws might be, at least seemed to reflect the concerns of actual young Americans at the turn of the decade

Like Friedrich, Maggin was young — he’d sold his first published story (“What Can One Man Do?”, Green Lantern #87 [Dec.-Jan., 1971]) to Julius Schwartz less than a year before, while still at Brandeis University — and might well have been expected to follow his predecessor’s lead in crafting “Robin” stories that strove to be relevant to the lived experiences of readers in their late teens and early twenties.

“It goes to kids from places like Gotham CityMetropolis… kids who could probably afford it anyway!” explains the young thief.  “All those Hudson creeps are loaded!  What chance is there for a local kid like me to make it to Hudson… for free?  — Zilch!

Robin opines that that’s not a good enough reason to steal — nevertheless, he doesn’t bust the kid, but instead gives him a ride home on his motorcycle (all the while musing to himself how “Bats” likely wouldn’t approve).  Upon their arrival in the kid’s skeevy neighborhood, our hero tells his new acquaintance, “I’ll be sending a friend of mine to rap with you tomorrow — a Hudson student named Dick Grayson!”  Tommy Duffy — that’s the kid’s name — is considerably less than enthusiastic at this prospect, but Rob doesn’t give him a choice.

After Tommy goes inside, the Teen Wonder is about to hop on his bike and head back to campus, but…

Naturally, Robin knocks these guys on their asses in a handful of panels;  still, the sequence underscores the lousy conditions that Tommy and others like him are forced to live in (and also sets up the story’s final action sequence a few pages on).

I don’t have to explain to anyone reading this that the song Tommy is playing is Don McLean’s 1971 hit “American Pie”, do I?  I didn’t think so.

As you can imagine, Dick ultimately wins Tommy over through persistence, kindness, and a willingness to listen — plus free lessons in how to fingerpick the guitar.  (Had Dick ever been shown to be an expert guitar player before this?  Did he ever play the guitar again after this story?  I have no idea, frankly — if you do, please share your knowledge in the comments section.)

Things go swell for several weeks — and then one day, the guys who tried to jump Robin earlier in the story show up and start to make trouble:

Elliot Maggin gets points for tacking an aspect of college life — the so-called “town-and-gown” divide — that Mike Friedrich had never touched on, as far as I know.  But the treatment of the general issue is so superficial — and the resolution of the immediate situation so pat — one almost wonders if the story was really written by a 21-year-old recent college grad, or if a veteran DC writer of the previous generation — Bob Haney, say — slipped a script in under Maggin’s byline.

Perhaps Maggin got better at this sort of thing as time went by — I haven’t read any of his other “Robin” stories with the exception of Batman #245’s “Who Stole the Gift from Nowhere!” — but after revisiting “[The] Teen-Age Trap!” for the first time in half a century, it rather feels like someone let all the air out of the tires on Robin’s microbus following Mike Friedrich’s departure.


And now, as promised, we come to Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams’ tying off of the Bruce-Wayne-is-dead narrative thread, per issue #245’s “The Bruce Wayne Murder Case!”

Murder?  But wasn’t that “jungle plane crash” that Batman faked (somehow) supposed to have been an accident?

Well, yeah, it was.  I guess things are going to have to get more complicated before they can be straightened out…

The two men having the public altercation are two Gotham City political bosses, Bilker and Harvey.  Why does Bilker say he believes Harvey murdered Bruce Wayne?  Because right before he disappeared, Wayne had publicly withdrawn support from the mayoral candidate backed by Harvey.  That last bit is actually true, as Batman well knows (“…Bilker’s candidate is the best of a rotten lot!” he thinks to himself).  But that doesn’t mean that Harvey had Wayne killed, because, well, you know.

Later, Batman shows up at Bilker’s office, demanding to see his evidence…

Leaving Bilker, Batman next heads to a residential neighborhood, where he invades the home of a computer scientist named Osgood Peabody…

“…Nor was it difficult to find a specimen of Wayne’s handwriting!  You’ve used your little toy to commit forgeryhaven’t you?”  In response to Batman’s accusation, the panicked Peabody flees — but not before tossing a couple of live wires onto the metal table upon which the Darknight Detective’s hand rests, thereby sending hundreds of volts of electricity coursing through our hero’s body. Moments later, the lab catches on fire — and though the dazed Batman ultimately manages to get to safety before the whole house goes up in flames, it’s a very close call…

Meanwhile, Peabody has scurried to Bilker’s office.  The political boss assures the scientist everything will be fine — he and his underling Richard will drive Peabody to the harbor, where a ship is supposedly waiting to take the terrified man to Africa.  But when they arrive at the docks…

Moments later, Commissioner Gordon and several GCPD officers arrive on the scene, having been tipped off by Batman…

So how did Batman manage to pull off Bruce Wayne’s miraculous “survival”?  Um, the same way he faked his death in the first place, I guess… which is another way of saying I really have no idea.  But as with the end of “The Demon Lives Again!”, I suspect that most readers have just rolled with this bit over the years (and that new ones will continue to do so as well).  He’s Batman, after all; he manages.


Though my younger self would never have guessed it at the time, “The Bruce Wayne Murder Case!” was the last “Batman” story by Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams that I would buy new off the stands.  Indeed, it was almost the very last such tale that anyone would buy new off the stands, as the two creators would collaborate just one more time to chronicle an adventure of the Gotham Guardian; that story would be the instant classic  “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!”, published a little less than a year later, in Batman #251 (Sept., 1973).  As I’ve written here previously, I have no idea why I didn’t pick that one up — maybe I thought that the Joker, who hadn’t been seen since the end of the campy “Batmania” era, was too silly to take seriously; or maybe I just never saw it.  Either way, however, it would never have occurred to me that that book would be it for the O’Neil-Adams Batman.

But it was; and even more than that, it was almost the last time they’d collaborate, period.  The two creators would share a byline just two more times — once for a “Green Lantern” backup in Flash #226 (Mar.-Apr., 1974), and then for 1978’s All New Collectors’ Edition C-56 (or, as it’s generally better known, “Superman Vs. Muhammad Ali”).  In other words, as of July, 1972, the creative partnership between Denny O’Neil and Neal Adams — a partnership which, along with Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, exemplified the best DC Comics had to offer in the early Bronze Age (at least so far as your humble blogger is concerned) — was all but at an end.  And we had no idea.

Like the song says: you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

UPDATE, 7/16/22, 10:00 a.m.: The original version of this post erroneously stated that O’Neil and Adams only collaborated once more following Batman #251.  Thanks to Chris A. for the correction.

19 comments

  1. frednotfaith2 · July 16

    Great write-up, Alan! And your surmise about that cover seems right on. I’d just add that despite it not matching the details of the actual story, Adams likely figured it looked better to have Ras holding the costume with trunks and leggings rather than just the shirt, cape and gloves — a bit like holding Batman’s ghost. But how are the gloves attached to the sleeves??? Ok, we can just leave it all to artistic license, especially as it is an iconic image, like KIrby’s introduction of Galactus in Fantastic Four # 48, with the bare legs, odd-colored costume, and the letter G on his chest, but nevertheless iconic! I got the Demon story in glossy paper reprint format in the mid-80s, once I finally branched out from Marvel and started checking out some of the classic O’Neil & Adams Batman stories, along with the great Englehart-Rogers run.. I got that issue with the Joker as a back issue — can’t even remember the price but it wasn’t too high, maybe $5.00. I think more than anything, O’Neil and Adams take on Batman took him out of the camp reputation of the tv show, at least for comics fans who were paying attention, then or later, as in my case. Seems it took the Tim Burton movies to elevate Batman for the non-comics reading public. And much as the Comics Journal has a reputation of being down on superheroes, starting to read that in the early ’80s piqued my interest in many classic comics I’d missed, including these Batman comics.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Chris A. · July 16

    Batman 244, absolutely epic, especially for its era. I was surprised to see Batman using Peter Parker’s spider sense in the last panel of page 11. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. DontheArtistformerlyknownasfrodo628 · July 16

    God save us from comic book covers that don’t really match the interior story! Though usually, that’s because the cover artist is a different person from the story artist and maybe the story changes in the telling, but no one tells the cover guy! Of course you also have to realize that covers have a different job than the interior story and sometimes allowances have to be made for the liberties a cover artist has to take to make a cover seem exciting and dynamic. Still, in this case, the cover artist and story artist are the same guy, so who the hell knows? I don’t know from how many pairs of pants Batman has to tiny leg hairs or nipples or what have you, but I hate it whenever anyone draws a costume as one piece (as Adams does here), making it look like a Halloween costume rather than the uniform of a costumed adventurer. The fact that it’s become so iconic just makes it worse. Oh well…

    Speaking of all the detail Adams puts into his work, you’d think that with all the nipples and multiple pairs of pants, he’d remember to have Ra’s leave footprints in the snow on page two. You’d also think, when O’Neill has Bats consider that he’s never seen someone deliver such a “powerful” punch, he might remember that Bats best bud was…oh, who is that guy? Name starts with “S” and ends with “uperman?” I don’t care how strong Ra’s is after a trip to the Lazarus pit, he ain’t that strong! Still, as I’m sure someone is about to point out, O’Neill and Adams have a habit of pretending that most of the rest of the DCU doesn’t exist in their stories and I guess this is just another example of that.

    The Bruce Wayne Murder case is unnecessary. All Bruce has to do is turn up alive and Bilkin’s attempt to implicate his opponent in a crime is over and chances are, so are Bilkin’s political plans. The introduction of the “handwriting machine” is such an obvious macguffin, I’m surprised a writer of O’Neill’s talent would attempt it. He’s usually a much better plotter than that.

    The Robin story was a waste of time and space. It starts off strong, but by the end, it says nothing. Still, the art was pretty, all things considered.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Joe S. Walker · July 16

      I’ve read that at one time, Carmine Infantino used to do the basic design for nearly all DC covers and his method was to skim over the story and quickly extrapolate a scene as a very rough layout for the cover artist to work with. The result tended to be an arresting image that was only vaguely related to the original source. (They also used to have a rather neurotic feeling to me – late 60s / early 70s DC covers again and again show the heroes being defeated, betraying or being betrayed by someone, being found guilty of a crime, etc.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • frednotfaith2 · July 16

        I’ve also read that in the early Silver Age, editors would have an artist draw some sort of bizarre scenario for the cover and then the writer was directed to make up a story to go with the cover. Then there were a few times at Marvel in the ’70s when the cover art drew a scene that was entirely at odds with the actual story, such as an Avengers cover showing Mantis protecting Libra from the Avengers, while inside it was Mantis trying to beat up on Libra (after he revealed that he is her father) and the Avengers stopping her! Oops. But not quite as bad as a cover which promises a new story, particularly a continuation from the previous issue, but turns out to be a reprint due to the Dreaded Deadline Doom.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chris A. · July 16

        I once heard Joe Kubert say it was a DC cover “formula” in those days to get readers to buy the book. Look how many Sgt. Rock, GI Combat, and Losers covers he did where the heroes appear to be on the brink of destruction, often from hidden enemies they are unaware of, but which are in plain sight to the reader.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Chris A. · July 16

    You didn’t mention Neal drawing Batman 255’s lead story, but Denny didn’t write it either: it was scripted by Len Wein. Neal and Denny did work on a final Green Lantern solo story which appeared as a backup in The Flash a few years before the Superman vs. Ali book.

    It was slightly jarring to my younger self to see Neal subsequently draw Batman for DC merchandise (along with other characters), smiling and waving as if he were no longer the dark knight detective, but something closer to the prior camp incarnation. Some of these images show up in the Art of Neal Adams vol. 1 & 2, published circa 1977. But Neal was a pro, and it was a job of work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · July 16

      Well, I didn’t mention #255 because, like you said, O’Neil didn’t write it. 😉 But you got me on that Flash backup, Chris A! I’ll be revising the post with the correct info.

      Like

  5. Interesting, I was under the impression that O’Neil and Adams had collaborated much more frequently. I guess that because their work together in the early 1970s was so powerful & groundbreaking & iconic it gave the impression that both the length & volume of their collaboration was much greater.

    Regarding the ending of the main story in Batman #244, I agree that the confrontation between Batman and Ra’s al Ghul, and the farewell between Batman and Talia, are epic, with some amazing work by Neal Adams. But I have to confess that I have always wondered exactly which “authorities” Batman turned Ra’s al Ghul over to? Did Ra’s actually commit any crimes in the country in which the desert was located? Or is Batman going to carry the unconscious Demon’s Head all the way back to Switzerland or the United States? And what specific crimes is Batman going to ask the “authorities” to charge R’as with? And does Batman even have any evidence of those crimes? Plus he’s the head of a *secret* society. I can just imagine Batman showing up, um, wherever he was going and saying to that region’s law enforcement “I’m here to turn over Ra’s al Ghul” only to be met by the puzzled reply of “Ra’s al who?!?”

    Seriously, I did a Google search to see if there were any appearances by Ra’s al Ghul between this issue and DC Special Series #15 in 1978 (the story where Batman quote-unquote marries Talia) and I discovered there was a Detective Comics story arc from early 1975 written by Len Wein that starts with Ra’s imprisoned in Gotham Prison, so obviously Batman found some way to make something stick against him. Never knew about that one before because it wasn’t in the Tales of the Demon collection. I’ll have to look for one of the trade paperbacks that does actually reprint it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alan Stewart · July 16

      Yeah, I think that the “Tales of the Demon” collection was limited to stories written by O’Neil, and the “Bat-Murderer” arc in Detective was by Len Wein and Jim Aparo. It’s been decades since I read it, but it’s pretty good, if memory serves. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bill B · July 16

    I’m going to believe that by next June you’ll find an old copy of Batman 251 in your collection (hey, who can remember everything that happened 50 years ago) and it will be legit for reviewing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Chris A. · July 17

      Aside from a spectacular splash page of the Batman running, I wasn’t really excited about the story or art in Batman 251. It seemed Adams even drew the Joker’s teeth too large which made him comical in an unintentional way. Of course, the creators involved were top pros, but I felt it did not reach the same heights as Batman 243 – 244.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bill B · July 24

        To each their own. This is a well-worn copy of mine. I didn’t buy many Batman comics, (I didn’t buy the Ra’s books), so for me this was something new. A serious Joker, great art, detective work and no Robin. I always thought it was crazy to take a kid with him; in bright decoy costume, no less. Creators supposedly added sidekicks to give young readers someone to identify with, but I never identified with a sidekick just because I, too, was a kid. I wanted to be the hero, if I thought about it at all. Mostly, I just liked good stories. I didn’t mind the cliche villain death trap, either, because it was done so well. When people say O’Neil/Adams did a badass Batman before Miller’s Dark Knight, I think of this comic and agree.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. commanderbenson · July 18

    “Had Dick [Grayson] ever been shown to be an expert guitar player before this?”

    It’s funny what inconsequential images stick in one’s head after spending his youth reading comics. But as soon as I read your question, Alan, my mind immediately leapt to the first four panels of the story “Two-Way Gem Caper”, from BATMAN # 164 (Jun., 1964). This is the first issue of BATMAN after the début of the “New Look”.

    In the referenced panels, we see Dick Grayson playing the guitar and singing a song from the playlist of the Hootenany Hotshots, a folk-singing band. (For those of you who came in late, for a brief period in the early 1960’s, roughly ’62-4, folk-singing groups such as the Kingston Trio and the Brothers Four were popular.) As the sequence would have it, Dick was proficient on the guitar (though certainly no Andrés Segovia) and could, at least, carry a tune. This is based on an overhearing Bruce Wayne, whose crticism of his ward’s plucking and warbling focused on the youngster’s choice of music, rather than his ability.

    (Wayne didn’t know how lucky he was. It was a mere five years later when he had to suffer through his ward’s Janis Joplin albums [N.b., “The Cry of Night Is—Sudden Death”, from DETECTIVE COMICS # 387 (May, 1969)]. I can’t blame him; I’d rather dodge a super-villain’s death-trap than listen to that caterwauling.)

    Hope this helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alan Stewart · July 18

      Thanks for the information, Commander! (In honor of your service to the blog, we’ll overlook your indiscretion in dissing Ms. Joplin. 😉 )

      Like

  8. commanderbenson · July 18

    ” . . . we’ll overlook your indiscretion in dissing Ms. Joplin. 😉 ”

    Sorry, my friend, I can’t hear you over my Jo Stafford record. 😄

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Chris A. · July 18

    Regarding nipples, Alan, it seems Neal was en route to this even in GL/GA #84, “Peril in Plastic,” inked by Berni Wrightson (while Dick Giordano was sick with the flu). Two panels with Black Canary in her civvies show her with nipples and aureolas raised beneath her blouse with Ollie standing behind her. But it doesn’t stop there. Adams claims he was the first artist to give Superman “a package,” and I believe he’s correct. Over at Marvel in Tower of Shadows #2 Neal Adams wrote and drew “One Hungers.” The female protagonist, though fully dressed is on her knees in an old house and in poses that draw attention to the labia in her crotch in a way that they hadn’t probably ever been drawn before in mainstream US comics.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Terry Mulligan · July 18

    And so ends the original Ra’s al Ghul story arc, one of my all-time favorites. Concurrent to reading your blog over the past couple of years, I’ve been re-reading vast quantities of my 5,700+ comics collection, spanning roughly 1965 to 2011 (DC pretty much lost me with their New 52 debacle, and at present they seem determined to publish stories that I would never want to read). So, yeah, I’ve read all of Kirby’s Fourth World, Jim Starlin’s Captain Marvel and Warlock tales, the O’Neil/Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow, the Skeates/Aparo Aquaman run, most of The Avengers from 1968 through 1980, etc. But I’ve been saving the Batman and Detective stories from this era for last. I’ll probably start with Detective #395 and stop with Batman #255. Anyway, #244 strikes me as a flawed masterpiece. All those people that Batman recruited were largely useless to his mission, weren’t they? And the epic fight was too short and anticlimactic. But still…. that artwork! Wow! I think that at this point in time, DC was nearing the end of its era for great super-hero comics. Aquaman and Green Lantern–arguably their best titles–were canceled, Wonder Woman sank in quality thanks to Robert Kanigher and Don Heck, The Flash and Superman were awful if, like me, you can’t tolerate Cary Bates’ cliched writing. Pretty soon, Batman would be drawn by Ernie Chan, a major downgrade from Irv Novick and Bob Brown (and of course, Mr. Adams). But we’ll soon be entering the era of Weird Worlds, Sword of Sorcery, Swamp Thing, The Shadow, Simonson’s Manhunter, etc. Looking forward to see what you cover over the next couple of years!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Chris A. · July 29

      I loved all of those comics you mentioned at the end of your post. If hard pressed to give an answer, I’d have to say the absolute apogee of DC Comics came with the publication of Batman #244 and Swamp Thing #1. Neal Adams was already an established “star” artist in comics, whereas Berni Wrightson was about to become a superstar once the Swamp Thing series began….and the aforementioned issues were published within a month of each other. A pinnacle of excellence, to be sure.

      Liked by 1 person

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