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.
If you’ve been a comics fan for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the concept of the “Silver Age of Comics” — a hallowed era of comic book history extending from (probably) 1956 to (maybe) 1970. You may even have an image that comes to mind if someone says a phrase like “the Silver Age Flash”, or “the Silver Age Thor”, visualizing an emblematic artistic interpretation of a character that flourished in that era. But even if you’re as old and grizzled a fan as this blogger, you may find yourself hesitant, and even confused, should someone ask you to visualize “the Silver Age Batman.”
That’s as it should be, frankly, because the decade-and-a-half period we call the Silver Age encompassed a number of distinct interpretations of Batman, all involving different approaches to depicting (in story, as well as art), the character and his world. My own, personal inclination is to identify the “Silver Age Batman” with editor Julius Schwartz’ “New Look” version of the character, introduced in 1964. And I can make a strong case for that, I believe, based on Schwartz’ role in the Silver Age revival of superheroes like Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom — said revival being one of the main markers of the era. But, when it comes right down to it, my inclination probably owes at least as much to the fact that that version of Batman happens to be the one I first encountered as a reader, way back in 1965. 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
In January, 1966, I bought my first issue of Batman. I’d already had plenty of exposure to the character by this time, of course, in multiple issues of Justice League of America, plus appearances in The Brave and the Bold and World’s Finest. More to the point, one of the very first comics I’d bought had been the 344th issue of Detective, Batman’s “other” book (and arguably the primary Batman book, as it was the 27th issue of Detective in which the character made his debut way back in 1939). Still, up until January, 1966, I hadn’t gotten around to buying an actual issue of the Caped Crusader’s titular comic.
But if I was ever going to pick up an issue of Batman, there could hardly have been another month when I would have been more primed to do so than January of 1966. Because on January 12, eight days prior to the release of Batman #179, American television viewers saw this on their screens for the very first time: Read More