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
Back in December, I wrote about the departure of Dick Giordano from his position as an editor at DC Comics. Giordano’s last day on staff at the publisher appears to have been November 4, 1970 — but, since the processes involved in producing periodical comic books don’t stop (or start) on a dime, the fruits of his stewardship would continue to appear in the titles he’d supervised for another few months, even after he was no longer the editor of record. The same principle had of course applied at the beginning of his tenure at DC; and thus, just as Giordano’s first issue of Teen Titans (#15, May-Jun., 1968) had featured a story almost certainly procured by his predecessor, George Kashdan, the first issue edited by his successor, Murray Boltinoff, would present a tale that had actually been written and drawn under Giordano’s direction.
Well, mostly written and drawn under Giordano’s direction. While the story in Teen Titans #32 is solely credited to writer Steve Skeates and artist Nick Cardy, its actual provenance is… rather more complicated. 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
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
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
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
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
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