July, 1971 brought DC Comics fans the second half of the year’s Justice League-Justice Society team-up (the ninth such event since the institution of the annual summer tradition in 1963). Like the first half, it was produced by the regular JLA creative team of Mike Friedrich (writer), Dick Dillin (penciller), and Joe Giella (inker). And, as you might expect, it began with a recap — though in this case, a bit more time and space were spent recapping the basic concept of the inter-dimensional assemblage of superheroes than the specific events of the story’s opening chapter: Read More
Over the course of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’s classic early-’70s collaboration on Batman, the team was responsible not only for introducing one major new adversary (Ra’s al Ghul) to the ranks of the Darknight Detective”s greatest foes, but also for reclaiming and refurbishing of two vintage baddies who’d fallen out of favor in recent years. The second of these restorations to appear, “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!” (Batman #251 [Sept., 1973]), is doubtless the best-remembered of the two, due to its ultimately having had such a dramatic impact not only on the Bat-mythos, but on the DC Universe as a whole — rehabbing what had become a joke of a character (no pun intended) during the camp “Batmania” era of the mid-Sixties into the comics medium’s quintessential avatar of psychopathic evil — a character arguably more popular than all but a small handful of DC’s best-known superheroes, and one with enough cultural gravitas for screen portrayals of him to have earned Academy Awards for two different actors.
I didn’t buy that one. Read More
It’s summertime! The most wonderful time of the year — especially if you’re a fan of DC’s original super-team, the Justice Society of America, and the year happens to fall within the range of 1963 to 1985 — ’cause that means it’s time for the annual team-up between the JSA and their pals in the Justice League of America. 1971 brought the sixth of these events that I’d personally enjoyed since becoming a comic-book reader, and the ninth published overall. And judging by the cover heralding this year’s team-up — more specifically, the two columns of floating heads flanking the dramatic central image by Neal Adams — 1971’s iteration of this beloved tradition was going to offer us something new: for the first time, the featured rosters of the two teams would be identical. We were going to get two Supermen, two Flashes, two Green Lanterns, and so on — all for the price of one. (Of course, as heralded by that “only 25¢ Bigger & Better” slug at the very top of the cover, the “price of one” had just gone up a substantial amount. But more about that in a bit.) Read More
Last month we took a look at Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia al Ghul, and the first mention of her father, Ra’s. As we noted at the time, despite that story giving the appearance of being one chapter in an extended story arc dating back to the first appearance of the League of Assassins in Detective #405, with the next installment already lined up for the very next issue of Batman, #432 (per a blurb in the story’s final panel), that wasn’t writer Denny O’Neil’s original intention at all. Rather, as he’d later tell fellow Bat-writer Mike W. Barr in an interview for Amazing Heroes #50 (July 1, 1984), Talia was created specifically “to serve the needs of that plot and that story [i.e., Detective #411’s “Into the Den of the Death-Dealers”], with no thought that she would ever appear again, or that she would have a father, or any of that stuff.” But somewhere in between the writer’s original conception and the story’s final published form, someone — perhaps Detective and Batman editor Julius Schwartz — had another idea; and the League of Assassins story arc, rather than concluding tidily with its third installment (fourth, if you count Detective #408’s “The House That Haunted Batman!”), instead became just the prelude to what was ultimately a much more influential saga, that of Ra’s al Ghul, “the Demon’s Head”.
But whence came Ra’s al Ghul? Read More
As of March, 1971, my thirteen-year-old self was picking up Detective Comics on a fairly consistent basis — but it was a habit I’d acquired only recently (or perhaps I should say reacquired, as I’d been a regular reader of the title before, back in 1965-67). For that reason, I’d missed writer Denny O’Neil’s first two “League of Assassins” stories, which had run in issues #405 and #406, respectively. On the other hand, I had bought and read Detective #408, whose lead Batman story, though not scripted by O’Neil, had featured an attempt by the villainous Dr. Tzin-Tzin to eliminate the Darknight Detective at the League’s behest. So it wasn’t like I was completely unfamiliar with the sinister organization prior to my purchasing issue #411. Rather, I was intrigued by the little I knew — and though I realized I was coming in late, I was eager to catch up. Luckily, this third installment of O’Neil’s League saga didn’t depend very much on knowledge of the previous two at all — and what little I did need to know, I’d manage to pick up easily through the script’s unobtrusive exposition. Read More
As noted in my recent post regarding Gold Key’s Star Trek, I didn’t get to see the TV series on which that comic was based until it hit my local market in syndicated re-runs, around 1970-71. And since I started consuming licensed Trek tie-in media (what there was of it) almost immediately upon discovering the show, concurrent with my viewing the television episodes for the very first time, my initial encounters with some classic Trek stories ended up being by way of the printed page, rather than the cathode-ray tube. That’s because the earliest licensed prose fiction based on the property, a series of paperback books written by James Blish and published by Bantam Books, were collections of short stories adapted from the TV episodes themselves. Read More
There’s an interesting story behind Detective #408’s lead Batman feature (and cover story), “The House That Haunted Batman!”. Or perhaps we should say, in the interest of total accuracy, that there are four of them.
Back in 1998, in the 1st issue of Comic Book Artist, editor Jon B. Cooke published “The Story That Haunted Julie Schwartz”, a collection of interviews with four of the personnel who’d been involved with producing this classic Detective story: editor Julius Schwartz, writers Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, and penciller Neal Adams. The funny thing about it, though, was that in spite of the interviews’ brevity (the entire article ran only two pages) the four veteran comics pros’ recollections differed in certain details, lending the whole enterprise a Rashomon-like quality.
This much, at least, the quartet could agree on: Quite early on in their professional careers, longtime friends Len Wein and Marv Wolfman wrote a Batman story together which they hoped to sell to Julius Schwartz. Somewhere along the line, Neal Adams took an interest in the as-yet-unbought script and ended up drawing it in his spare time, on spec — a remarkably generous gesture, considering how busy the artist was (not to mention what his time was worth). Ultimately, despite the irregularity of the process, editor Schwartz did indeed buy the completed 15-pager, and scheduled it for the next available issue of Detective Comics. Read More
Some fifteen months ago, I blogged about Avengers #70, which featured the first full appearance of the Squadron Sinister. Regular readers may recall my sheepish confession in that post that, despite how blindingly obvious it is to me now that these four characters were homages to/parodies of (take your pick) DC Comics’ Superman, Batman, Flash, and Green Lantern, in September, 1969 my then twelve-year-old self didn’t pick up on the joke at all.
Nor was I aware that this comic book was one half of a “stealth crossover” of sorts between Marvel Comics’ Avengers and its counterpart title over at DC, Justice League of America. Said crossover apparently had its origins at a party at which comics writer Mike Friedrich suggested to a couple of his cohorts, Roy Thomas (the writer of Avengers) and Denny O’Neil (then the writer of JLA), that they each present a “tip of the hat” of some sort from the super-team book they were writing to its rival, in issues coming out in the same month. Thomas and O’Neil both agreed, and Avengers #70 and JLA #75 were the results. But while the inspiration for Thomas’ Squadron Sinister was all but self-evident (though of course not to me, or to the other fans who chimed in after my September, 2019 blog post that they hadn’t caught on either), the relationship of the supposed Avengers analogues in O’Neil’s story — evil doppelgängers of the Justice League called “the Destructors” — to their Marvel models was obscure to the point of opacity, with the parallels being limited to such bits as having Superman’s dark twin refer to himself as being as powerful as Thor. (Um, sure.) I didn’t actually buy JLA #75 when it came out, but I’m all but 100% certain I wouldn’t have realized what O’Neil was up to with such subtle shenanigans, even if I had. Read More
Seven months ago, I blogged about a number of comics that I wish I’d bought back in April, 1970, the only month in the last 55 years in which I didn’t acquire a single new comic book. (At least not until April, 2020, when COVID-19’s temporary shutdown of the comics industry took the matter out of my, and everyone else’s, hands for a while.) Regular readers of this blog with good memories may recall that among those “comics that got away” was the 400th issue of Detective Comics.
That, of course, was the issue that featured the first appearance of Man-Bat — an important new adversary (and sometime ally) of Batman — created by artist Neal Adams. Unless, of course it was actually editor Julius Schwartz who came up with the character. In any event, it wasn’t writer Frank Robbins. Probably not, anyway. Read More
Based on this note from editor Murray Boltinoff that appeared on the issue’s letters page, Brave and the Bold #93’s “Red Water Crimson Death” by Denny O’Neil (writer) and Neal Adams (artist) had been in the works for a while:
“…one of the most distinguished and inspired examples of comic mag art”? That’s some pretty high praise from Mr. Boltinoff. But my thirteen-year-old self wouldn’t have argued with him back in 1970; and it still sounds just about right to sixty-three-year-old me, here and now in 2020.
In any event, regardless of how and why the production of this story might have been delayed, its ultimate release could hardly have been more opportunely timed — October 27, just four days before Halloween. What better time for Batman to dare enter the House of Mystery? Read More