Batman #232 (June, 1971)

Panel from Detective #411. Text by Denny O’Neil (and, presumably, Julius Schwartz), art by Bob Brown and Dick Giordano.

Last month we took a look at Detective Comics #411, featuring the first appearance of Talia al Ghul, and the first mention of her father, Ra’s.  As we noted at the time, despite that story giving the appearance of being one chapter in an extended story arc dating back to the first appearance of the League of Assassins in Detective #405, with the next installment already lined up for the very next issue of Batman, #432 (per a blurb in the story’s final panel), that wasn’t writer Denny O’Neil’s original intention at all.  Rather, as he’d later tell fellow Bat-writer Mike W. Barr in an interview for Amazing Heroes #50 (July 1, 1984), Talia was created specifically “to serve the needs of that plot and that story [i.e., Detective #411’s “Into the Den of the Death-Dealers”], with no thought that she would ever appear again, or that she would have a father, or any of that stuff.”  But somewhere in between the writer’s original conception and the story’s final published form, someone — perhaps Detective and Batman editor Julius Schwartz — had another idea; and the League of Assassins story arc, rather than concluding tidily with its third installment (fourth, if you count Detective #408’s “The House That Haunted Batman!”), instead became just the prelude to what was ultimately a much more influential saga, that of Ra’s al Ghul, “the Demon’s Head”.

But whence came Ra’s al Ghul?  Read More

Amazing Spider-Man #96 (May, 1971)

A half-century after the fact, I’m at something of a loss to explain why I stopped reading Amazing Spider-Man for almost an entire year, after my subscription ran out with issue #85 in March, 1970.  Regular readers of this blog may remember that my younger self went through a period of being considerably less interested in comic books than I previously had been, a period that began in the fall of 1969 and extended through the next spring.  But my subscription had actually carried through the bulk of that time span, as it had for my other favorite Marvel comic of the time, Fantastic Four; and I was back to picking up FF, at least occasionally, by June, 1970.  Somehow, though, even as late as February, 1971 — well after I’d resumed buying Avengers, Daredevil, and other Marvel standbys on a semi-regular basis — I was still avoiding becoming reacquainted with May Parker’s favorite nephew.

Until Amazing Spider-Man #96, that is.  This one brought me back into the fold.  Read More

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

Justice League of America #74 (September, 1969)

The second half of 1969’s iteration of DC Comics’ annual summer event teaming the Justice League of America with their Golden Age predecessors, the Justice Society of America, sported a cover that was — for this particular twelve-year-old’s money — considerably more exciting than the previous issue‘s.  That cover had featured a row of JSAers looking on passively while some nameless kid ripped up a lamppost; this one, pencilled and inked by Neal Adams, heralded the first meeting between the Superman of Earth-One (the one currently appearing in multiple DC titles every month) and the Superman of Earth-Two (the one who’d ushered in the whole Golden Age of Comics in the first place in 1938’s Action Comics #1) — and from the looks of things, it was going to be a, shall we say, rather contentious meeting.  That I would buy this comic book was never in question; but I have a hard time imagining anyone who was even a casual reader of DC superhero comics seeing this book in the spinner rack in July, 1969, and not picking it up.  Read More

Justice League of America #65 (September, 1968)

When last we left the non-costumed, non-codenamed, but nonetheless quite formidable supervillain T.O. Morrow — at the conclusion of the first half of 1968’s Justice League of America-Justice Society of America summer team-up extravaganza — he’d just managed to kill all the current members of Earth-Two’s JSA (some of them for the second time that issue), and was preparing to head back to his home world of Earth-One to similarly wipe out the JLA — secure in the knowledge provided by his future-predicting computer that the only way he could be stopped was if the Red Tornado intervened; and since the Red Tornado was 1) his own android creation, and 2) also dead, he was sitting in clover, as the saying goes.  Read More

The Brave and the Bold #79 (Aug.-Sept., 1968)

The topic of today’s post is, I believe, one of the most important single comic books in the evolution of  Batman to appear during the character’s nearly eighty-year history — probably ranking in the top five or so such comics.  Chronologically speaking, it’s certainly the most important Batman comic that DC Comics had published since 1964’s Detective Comics #327, the issue in which editor Julius Schwartz and artist Carmine Infantino debuted a “New Look” for the Caped Crusader — and I think that a strong case can be made that there wouldn’t be another single Bat-book quite so significant until the publication of the first installment of Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight, in 1986.

That’s because “The Track of the Hook”, written by Bob Haney and illustrated by Neal Adams, serves as the clearest point of origin for the most thorough overhaul ever of one of comics’ most iconic heroes — an overhaul that has often been called a return to the character’s original 1939 roots, but is probably more accurately viewed as an approach based on what comics writer Denny O’Neil once described as “remembering how we thought it should have been” [emphasis mine].  It was an approach which returned an air of mystery, a touch of noir, to Batman and his milieu — one which did indeed recover visual and thematic elements that had been present, or at least implicit, in the character’s earliest published adventures, but which explored and elaborated on those elements in a more sophisticated fashion than readers had ever seen before.  And it all started with Brave and the Bold #79, and the art of Neal Adams.  Read More

Strange Adventures #212 (May-June, 1968)

Since launching this blog back in July, 2015, I’ve endeavored to include my original impressions of the fifty-year-old comics I’m revisiting here, as well as to present my current opinions on same, and, frequently, some historical material about the characters and creators involved.  To accomplish the first part of that, I’ve obviously had to rely on memories of a half-century’s vintage.  Those memories have been vague and incomplete, without question; still, I’ve generally assumed that what I have been able to remember, and include in my blog posts, has been, for the most part, recollected accurately.

Until this post, that is.  Read More

Detective Comics #369 (November, 1967)

Batgirl, alias Barbara Gordon, made her television debut on September 14, 1967, in the premiere episode of the third season of the Batman TV series.  I know that, because I just looked it up on the Internet.  But I actually have no memory of seeing that episode, or indeed any episode that featured Yvonne Craig in the role of the Dominoed Daredoll, until the show went into syndicated reruns a number of years later.  As regular readers of this blog know, however, I’d been a faithful viewer of Batman ever since it began in January, 1966 — so what was the deal?  How’d I manage to miss Babs Gordon on the teevee during Batman‘s original run?

I’ve discussed the matter with old friends who grew up in the same television market I did (the greater Jackson, MS metropolitan area), and as best we can figure, none of our local stations aired the third season of Batman when it was originally broadcast.  We only had two television stations in Jackson then, you understand — and with three national networks providing programming, it was something of a crap shoot as to what those stations would decide to air in any given time slot.*  As has been discussed in earlier posts on this blog, the Batman series’ ratings had declined during the second season, and it appears that whichever of our Jackson stations had been showing it decided to cut their losses in the fall of 1967, and show something else instead.  Read More