Batman #234 (August, 1971)

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

Flash #203 (February, 1971)

When I originally started buying comic books back in 1965, The Flash was one of the first titles I picked up;  over the next couple of years, it was one of my most regular purchases.  But my interest in the title fell off sharply following the end of Carmine Infantino’s tenure as penciller, and as of December, 1970, I hadn’t bought an issue of the Scarlet Speedster’s own title in over two years.  I still liked the character, and enjoyed reading about him in Justice League of America and elsewhere (I’d especially relished seeing him win his third race with Superman in World’s Finest #199, published just a couple of months previously), but his solo series had lost its appeal for me.

Until Flash #203 hit the spinner rack — and its stunning Neal Adams-Jack Adler cover grabbed me by the eyeballs, not letting me go until after I’d plunked my fifteen cents down on the Tote-Sum counter and taken that bad boy home.  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

Captain Action #4 (Apr.-May, 1969)

I never owned a “Captain Action” doll action figure as a kid, and to the best of my recollection, I never wanted one all that much.

Not that I had anything against dolls action figures as a class, you understand.  Indeed, I was a proud owner of a “G.I. Joe” (the real one, mind you), and I also had a “Man From U.N.C.L.E.” that the box claimed was Napoleon Solo (though if that were actually true, it was the worst likeness of actor Robert Vaughn ever).  But the concept behind Captain Action didn’t have all that much appeal for me, apparently — even though I think I could still appreciate how clever it was, even as a child.  Read More

Avengers #60 (January, 1969)

They just don’t make superhero wedding comics* the way they used to.

These days, it’s as likely as not that a heavily promoted “wedding issue” will come out and have not a single scene where anything remotely resembling a wedding ceremony occurs.  Or, a couple does get married, but it’s a different couple than the one whose marital union the book was supposed to be about.  Something of a bait-and-switch going on in both of those cases, if you ask me.

Ah, but in the Good Ol’ Days (AKA the Silver Age of Comics), the major funnybook publishers really knew how to celebrate them some nuptials.  For an example, take Aquaman #18 (Nov.-Dec., 1964), where the whole blamed Justice League of America turns out for the Sea King’s undersea wedding to Mera (bubble helmets thoughtfully provided by the Royal Atlantean Event Planning Committee, I’m sure),   Or Fantastic Four Annual #3 (1965), in which not only do all of Reed Richards’ and Sue Storm’s super friends show up, but so do a whole passel of super foes, as well, thanks to the machinations of the diabolical Doctor Doom.  Now that’s what I call a wedding to remember.  Not a dry (or un-blackened) eye in the house, y’know what i mean?

And then, there’s Avengers #60, featuring “‘Til Death Do Us Part!”, by Roy Thomas (writer), John Buscema (penciler), and Mike Esposito (inker, as “Micky Demeo”) — which not only gives us an Avengers Mansion-ful of super-powered guests and gatecrashers, but also brings the wacky on a level rarely seen before or since.  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

World’s Finest Comics #162 (November, 1966)

People who’ve known me for a while are likely to know that as much as I love comic books, they’re not the only thing I geek out over.  Another of my abiding passions, going back more than forty years, is the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, in all its cultural manifestations — classic literature, modern prose fiction, art, films, music, and — of course — comics.  Over the last few decades I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several opportunities to combine my interests in Arthuriana and comics in ways I can share with others — beginning with an article in the late, lamented fanzine Amazing Heroes in 1984, continuing with contributions to academic (!) works such as The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, and more-or-less culminating in my web site, “Camelot in Four Colors:  A Survey of the Arthurian Legend in Comics” — est. 2000, and looking every day of its age (still, you should check it out, OK?).

I got the Arthurian bug in a big way around 1973 or thereabouts.  It was sparked by a number of factors, among the most significant being T. H. White’s novel The Once and Future King (as well as its stage and movie musical adaptation, Camelot), Mary Stewart’s Merlin novels, and C. S. Lewis’ contemporary science fantasy That Hideous Strength.  Those were all manifestations of the Arthurian legend that I encountered as an adolescent in the early Seventies — but, of course, like many if not most other English-speaking people of the modern world, I was first exposed to King Arthur and his mythos during the earlier period of my childhood.  And what was probably one of the first truly significant exposures came along in September, 1966, in the form of World’s Finest #162 — in which the ranks of the Round Table knights were joined by none other than my two favorite heroes, Superman and Batman.     Read More