Detective Comics #408 (February, 1971)

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 ComicsRead More

Green Lantern #82 (Feb.-Mar., 1971)

As I noted in my post about Green Lantern #81 back in October, that issue had concluded on a note of finality, with Denny O’Neil’s script commemorating the end of the cross-country (and cross-galaxy) journey that the title character and his fellow emerald-hued hero, Green Arrow, had been on since O’Neil and artist Neal Adams had launched the series on a new, “relevant” trajectory, beginning with issue #76.  Readers at the time might well have wondered if Green Lantern had been cancelled, especially when an issue of the title, previously published on an eight-times-a-year schedule, didn’t appear on the racks in November, as had been the case since the 10th issue back in 1961.

But, in December, 1970, a new issue of Green Lantern (now being published bi-monthly) did finally show up — and things didn’t seem to have changed much, if at all.  As proclaimed by the cover logo, this was still the “all-NEW! all-NOW! Green Lantern co-starring Green Arrow”.  Neal Adams’ presence as cover artist indicated continuity with preceding issues as well.  If anything seemed off at all, it might have been that after a couple of issues whose covers heralded their socially relevant themes quite overtly — i.e., #80‘s graphic evocation of the Chicago 8 trial, and #81’s direct reference to the “population explosion” in its blurb text — #82’s depiction of our two heroes being besieged by mythological harpies suggested that we’d moved back into the area of pure fantasy.

Or did it?  Could it be, perhaps, that those harpies… weren’t just harpies? Read More

Justice League of America #87 (February, 1971)

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 AmericaSaid 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

Superman #233 (January, 1971)

As a kid, I was a big fan of Superman.  But I wasn’t all that crazy about Superman comics.

Oh, I bought ’em, at least occasionally.  Indeed, the very first comic I remember buying for myself was an issue of the “World’s Best-Selling Comics Magazine!” (as the blurb on each issue’s cover confidently assured us).  But they tended not to make a terribly strong impression, especially as my experience of comics widened; to me, at least, it seemed that for every Superman #199 (which featured the first race between Superman and the Flash, and which my then ten-year-old self enjoyed very much), there was a Superman #198 (see left) which centered on an “impossible” (but not really all that exciting) situation, or a Superman #200 (see right), which devoted all of its pages to an “imaginary novel” whose events didn’t even happen to the “real” Man of Steel, and thereby didn’t count.  (Yes, I was that kind of comics fan, pretty much from the get-go.)  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #93 (December, 1970)

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

World’s Finest Comics #199 (December, 1970)

Ah, here we are again, pondering the eternal question:  Who’s faster, Superman or the Flash?  Let’s see if I can recall where we’ve already been, and how we got where we are “now”, in October, 1970…

Oh, yeah, I remember.  Way back in the June of 1967, when your humble blogger had not yet reached the tender age of ten years, his DC superhero-besotted self thrilled to the first ever race between the Man of Steel and the Scarlet Speedster, as chronicled by the team of Jim Shooter, Curt Swan, and George Klein in Superman #199.  Thrilled, that is, up until the story’s last page, when the Flash was robbed — robbed, I say! — of his rightful victory, when the race ended in a tie.  (Why was I rooting for the Flash?  Essentially, because super-speed was his one and only thing, while Superman had a dozen other super-abilities he could be “best” at.)  Shooter’s story might have framed this as a necessary move by the heroes to thwart two gambling syndicates that were illegally betting on the race — but my younger self knew a rip-off when he saw one:  Read More

Green Lantern #81 (December, 1970)

Green Lantern #81, the sixth issue of writer Denny O’Neil and artist Neal Adams’ classic “Green Lantern/Green Arrow” run, represented a couple of “firsts” for the series.  For one, the superheroine Black Canary, who’d previously appeared in issues #78 and #79, was cover-billed as a guest-star for the first time.  For another, this was the first installment that overtly heralded the major social issue dramatized within the book’s pages with a cover blurb, i.e., the “Population Explosion!”

Along with these firsts, however, issue #81 almost had the added distinction of being the last issue drawn by Neal Adams.  As the artist would later tell interviewer Arlen Schumer (in Comic Book Marketplace #40 [Oct., 1996]), “I thought we started to run out of ideas when we ran the overpopulation story… Politically, I had a problem with the book.” Read More

Batman #227 (December, 1970)

According to the Grand Comics Database’s entry for this issue, the cover of Batman #227 has been reprinted seven times by DC Comics.  The story it illustrates?  Just twice.

The perennial popularity of the cover isn’t all that surprising, of course.  It’s a wonderfully atmospheric and technically accomplished effort by the artist widely considered to be the definitive visual interpreter of Batman during this era, Neal Adams — a great cover even if (like my thirteen-year-old self, back in October, 1970), you have no idea that’s it’s an homage to a classic Batman cover from the first year of the Darknight Detective’s existence…  Read More

Green Lantern #80 (October, 1970)

I have no doubt that many of the comic book fans who picked Green Lantern #80 up out of the spinner rack in August, 1970, took one look at the cover and immediately thought of Bobby Seale, and the 1969-70 trial of the Chicago Eight/Seven:

Courtroom sketch by Howard Brodie, from the collection of the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

But I’m also pretty sure that my thirteen-year-old self wasn’t one of them.

While I feel certain that the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite (which, along with Mad magazine, was my main source of information on current affairs in those days) covered that story, I don’t remember being anything more than dimly aware of it, if that.  (My family usually had “Uncle Walter” on while we were doing other things, like eating dinner, which made it pretty easy to miss stuff.)  And so, when I scrutinized artist Neal Adams’ dramatic cover for GL #80, I didn’t understand that it was directly referencing the October 29, 1969 incident in which Judge Julius Hoffman had ordered Seale, a defendant with seven others in a federal case charging them with conspiracy and other crimes, to be bound and gagged following the latter’s allegedly disruptive behavior in the courtroom. Read More