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
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
Fifty years ago, in August of 1966, I picked up my first “80 Page Giant” issue of World’s Finest — a collection of reprinted stories featuring “Your Two Favorite Heroes — Superman and Batman with Robin the Boy Wonder (wait, isn’t that three heroes? oh, never mind) — in One Adventure Together!” It wasn’t my very first issue of the World’s Finest comic itself, however, and if you’d asked me what the main difference was between the then-new stories regularly appearing in that book and these vintage tales, I would have said that the new stories looked like the ones in the other new comics featuring the “Superman family” (Action, Adventure, and Superboy, as well as the Man of Steel’s eponymous book), while these reprinted stories looked much more like the old Batman stories I’d been reading in paperback as well as comic book reprints. Read More
This comic book features an “Imaginary Story”. (And if your response to that phrase is “but aren’t they all imaginary?”, rest assured that famed British comics author Alan Moore agrees with you.) “Imaginary Stories”, also known as “Imaginary Tales” or even (as in this very issue) “Imaginary Novels“, were a fixture of editor Mort Weisinger’s “Superman family” comics of the 1960s. They allowed the creators to explore “what if?” scenarios in which Krypton never exploded, or Jimmy Olsen married Supergirl, or Superman was murdered by Lex Luthor (sounds like a bummer, I know, but it made for a classic story) — in other words, scenarios that wouldn’t or couldn’t fit into the “real” ongoing continuity of the comics. Read More
Once upon a time, in the long-distant, antediluvian past, comic books were a lot like movies, or television shows. You caught them when they first came out (or on), or you were out of luck. Eventually, as we all know, the advent of consumer videotape technology changed everything for TV and film. Similarly, the gradual development of the comics collectors’ market ultimately made it economically feasible to reprint old, ephemeral newsprint periodicals in brand new, designed-to-last, real-book editions, and then to keep them in print for, if not ever, then a lot longer than a month or two. These days, in fact, you can even download a digital copy of a fifty-year-old comic book for less than the cost of a new one. (What a world we live in. You kids today, you just don’t know.) Read More
Guest appearances and crossovers are par for the course in the superhero comics of today, but it wasn’t always that way, at least not at DC Comics. In 1966 you had DC’s big guns teaming up every month (more or less) in Justice League of America, and Superman and Batman appearing together regularly in World’s Finest. And The Brave and the Bold had by now evolved into a book featuring a constantly revolving lineup of (usually) two headliners (although Batman would soon lock down one of the co-starring slots as an ongoing gig). But to have, say, Aquaman turn up in an issue of Wonder Woman? That sort of thing didn’t happen very often. Read More
In tracking the publication dates of my earliest comics purchases via the Grand Comics Database, I’ve been a little surprised to find a lot of variation in how many (or few) comics I managed to pick up in a given month. I guess the fact that I was an eight year old without a reliable means of regular transport to the nearest Tote-Sum convenience store provides a plausible enough reason — still, I’ve been somewhat bemused to discover that I apparently made only one comics purchase in November, 1965 — and of all the comics on the spinner rack that month, the single comic book that I chose was Lois Lane #62.
Lois Lane is one of those comic book characters that practically everyone knows, but of whom people have widely varying conceptions, based on what version of the character they’ve been exposed to and when. If you line up all the renditions of the character in all media since her introduction in 1938, and look for qualities possessed by all of them, what do you have? Lois Lane is a journalist. Lois Lane knows Superman personally. Lois Lane is… not a blonde. Not a whole lot else, frankly. Read More
The story featured on the cover of the second issue of Superman I bought (but the oldest one I still own) was actually the second, back-up story in the issue. The lead story was a forgettable tale about a new “girl reporter” at the Daily Planet who begins scooping Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, and even Clark Kent himself with what appear to be super powers — unfortunately, a fairly typical example of just how dull the most powerful superhero in comics could sometimes be under the editorial aegis of Mort Weisinger, probably the main reason why there are fewer 1960s issues of Superman and Action comics in my collection than you might imagine.
The real draw of the issue, justifiably granted the cover spot, was “The Superman of 2965!” — a tale that introduced a distant descendant of our own Man of Steel, who, despite the many intervening generations of interbreeding with ordinary (one assumes) Earthlings, still has all of his original namesake’s Kryptonian potency. The cover copy assures us readers that we won’t believe our eyes, because this future version is “so different from the original Superman of Krypton!” How different is he? Read More