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Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Annotated)

Following up on my recent post The Notebook Notions: Batman in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, here’s a slightly expanded look at what DC superstars would appear as guests in each issue of this imaginary twelve-part series.

When editor Murray Boltinoff and writer Bob Haney planned out what would happen in The Brave And The Bold in the ’60s and ’70s, I would presume they picked a guest star first. My fancies here started out that way for the first seven chapters; for the four final chapters, I switched to story idea first, as I expanded on the notion of all of this as an inter-related serial. Chapter 8 was a last-minute add-on.

I rejected a few ideas along the way. “World’s Finest!” would have been a gathering of the Superman family (Lois LaneJimmy Olsen, and Supergirl, plus the Man of Steel himself) and the Batman family (Robin and Batgirl), a nod to the Superman Family and Batman Family series DC ran in the mid ’70s. “A Piece Of The Outer Space Action” was originally a DC Comics Presents idea, teaming Superman and Green Lantern in a story concocted specifically so the villain could channel Donovan while protesting, “Superman and Green Lantern ain’t got nothin’ on me, see?” I am too cute for casual description, but my mind couldn’t see that as a Batman story. A Justice League of America story called “The Trial Of Dr. Light!” was actually among my many failed DC submissions, and it didn’t fit here, nor did Batman solo stories “Nightmare Resurrection” and “The Day I Met The Batman.” I considered “Bounty Hunter’s Back In Town,” reprising a one-off hired assassin created by Haney for The Brave And The Bold # 101, and “When Gotham Freezes Over,” continuing Mr. Freeze‘s quest for revenge from “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze.” The latter story would have to be told in this series, but could be chronicled within the events of the later chapters.

Among the other guest stars I considered for this hypothetical B & B exercise: Jimmy Olsen, Blue BeetleThe Crimson AvengerThe Martian ManhunterThe Challengers of the UnknownDolphinKid EternityDoll Man, and The Seven Soldiers Of Victory. Now, let’s have a look at the twelve chapters I decided to include.

BATMAN & AQUAMAN:
“The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze”
The only chapter I’ve ever completed, and I’m crazy, stupid proud of it. I think this can stand alone as a purple prose Batman pulp short, but it also serves as the spark for this series.

BATMAN & WONDER WOMAN:
“Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears”
My satisfaction with “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” led me to think about expanding that storyline. Picking up on Steve Trevor‘s cameo in the Mr. Freeze story made Wonder Woman a logical candidate to guest star in Chapter Two, for which I wrote a teaser intro. I also wanted to incorporate the amoral Ruby Ryder, whom Haney created for The Brave And The Bold # 95, one of my favorite issues. Ryder appeared in several subsequent issues of B & B, and I think she’s the only B & B-specific supporting character Haney ever re-used.

BATMAN & SHAZAM!
“Between Arkham And Eternity”
The billing says “Shazam, ” but we’re referring to The World’s Mightiest Mortal, the original Captain Marvel. I became a fan of Captain Marvel in the early ’70s, and ol’ Cap was likely the guest star I would have most wished to see in The Brave And The Bold. In an interview many years later, B & B artist Jim Aparo agreed that he would have enjoyed drawing Captain Marvel (or, even better, Cap’s younger pal Captain Marvel Junior) in B & B, and didn’t know why that never happened. I suspect licensing concerns may have complicated things: DC was still just leasing the character from original publisher Fawcett Comics at the time, and wouldn’t get around to owning the character outright until the ’90s, I think.

BATMAN & THE SANDMAN
“Bring Me No Dreams”
Golden Age comics greats Joe Simon and Jack Kirby reunited for the 1974 one-shot The Sandman # 1, starring a new titular character with no connection to the previous DC hero of the same name. It was very goofy, very out of place in the milieu of ’70s superhero comics, but it had an energy that was sorta kinda fun. From what I’ve read elsewhere, I gather that some glitch in sales reports led DC honchos to the erroneous conclusion that The Sandman # 1 was a smash hit on the spinner racks, prompting an order to series. Neither Simon nor Kirby stuck around for the unexpected second issue, leaving the reins to writer Michael Fleisher and artists Ernie Chua and Mike Royer. Kirby returned with the fourth issue, and Neil Gaiman much later incorporated the character as a tangent to his own acclaimed Sandman series. Writer Len Wein provided my favorite use of the character in 1983’s Justice League Of America Annual # 1.

BATMAN & RIMA THE JUNGLE GIRL
“Welcome To The Jungle”
As comics sales seemed destined to dwindle to a vast and empty void throughout the ’70s, DC publisher Carmine Infantino scrambled to find ways to scrounge up sales, trying different formats, different genres, any damned thing that might stick. One half expected a new DC title called The Kitchen Sink. Jungle girls (particularly the iconic Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle) had been popular in comics in the ’40s; Marvel Comics started its own latter-day Sheena counterpart Shanna The She Devil in 1972. Rima the Jungle Girl was a public domain character, from the 1904 novel Green Mansions by W. H. Hudson. Artist Nestor Redondo rendered Rima as a strikingly beautiful character in the DC comics version, while still avoiding the cheesecake good girl art style of the classic Sheena. Batman and Rima would be an odd team-up indeed, probably involving time travel, and (if I were writing it) definitely featuring Poison Ivy as the big bad.

BATMAN & ?
“The Phantom Of Gotham City”

No, it ain’t The Riddler (though maybe I should make him the villain of the piece, just ‘cuz). The mystery guest-star concept of “Batman And ?” was first used in The Brave And The Bold  # 95 (the same issue that introduced Ruby Ryder), and reprised for The Brave And The Bold # 150. At this time, I have no intention of telling you who my Super Secret Mystery Guest Star would be. I will say that I’m playing fair with the selection itself: it’s a DC Comics character, one who was part of DC continuity in the mid ’70s milieu I’ve chosen for this Brave And Bold project. And ’70s B & B letter columns indicated that there had been requests for this character to appear as B & B co-star, requests that were never answered…until NOW! Sort of. Fans familiar with Silver Age DC continuity might find a clue in the “Phantom” part of this story’s title. That’s all you’re gettin’ outta me about it today.


BATMAN & THE BLACK ORCHID
“Who Is The Black Orchid?”
The Black Orchid‘s three cover-featured appearances in Adventure Comics made her a star in my eyes, and I followed her subsequent appearances as a back-up strip in The Phantom Stranger. The Black Orchid’s true identity was a mystery, to crooks and to readers, and I always figured this had to be a job for the World’s Greatest Detective, Batman. In her original ’70s incarnation, The Black Orchid never interacted with the rest of the DC universe, though I think writer E. Nelson Bridwell, bless ‘im, used her–and Rima the Jungle Girl!–in Super Friends.

BATMAN, OMAC & SGT. ROCK
“Our One Man Army At War”
As noted above, this was a last-minute choice, and I began to second-guess it immediately. OMAC–Jack Kirby’s One Man Army Corps–much, much later became a large part of Batman and DCU continuity, though I would ignore all of that here. But I don’t feel any real affinity for the idea either. “One Man Army Corps” put me in mind of DC’s long-running war book Our Army At War, and its star (and frequent Batman B & B co-star) Sgt. Rock. Rock doesn’t work for me outside of a World War II setting, so the only Batman-Sgt. Rock team-up I really liked was the first one, 1969’s “The Angel, The Rock And The Cowl” in B & B # 84, which was set in WWII. (I didn’t see B & B # 162 until years later; it was published in 1980, during the brief period when this cash-strapped college student stopped buying comics altogether. Its Batman-Sgt. Rock story also went back to the ’40s, but it was written by Bill Kelley, not Haney.)

BATMAN & THE SPECTRE
“The Judgement Of Gotham”
One of my favorite characters since I was a kid, the ghostly avenger The Spectre replaced The Black Orchid as the star of Adventure Comics in a new series of stories by Michael Fleisher and Jim Aparo, stories which became notorious for their grim and gritty revenge fantasies. Brrrr! “The Judgement Of Gotham” was a title in my original notebook notions of half-baked story ideas, and it was intended to introduce my new villain Torquemada, a fire ‘n’ brimstone zealot determined to cleanse Gotham’s sins in a funeral pyre. The Spectre vs Torquemada? A match made in Purgatory!

BATMAN & THE JOKER
“The Death Of The Joker”
One of the many little bits that delighted me in the creation of “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” was my idea of The Joker putting himself into a catatonic state at will, allowing himself an opportunity to re-invent himself according to whatever his mad whims dictate. A line early in “Paradise Does Not Believe In Tears” tells us that The Joker had awakened from his slumber, but had been affected by the emotional miasma felt worldwide at that first story’s climax. What if this made The Joker…sane? What if it gave him a soul, a conscience, and an overwhelming sense of guilt over his own murderous actions? What if The Joker felt that, in penance, it was time for him to die?

And what if The Batman disagreed?

BATMAN & HIS GREATEST FOES
“A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot”
The events of both “The Undersea World Of Mr. Freeze” and “The Death Of The Joker” would culminate in “A Superstitious And Cowardly Lot,” a free-for-all finding Batman battling alongside some of his enemies, including The Riddler, Poison Ivy, The PenguinTwo-Face, and Catwoman.

BATMAN & 4 FAMOUS CO-STARS
“Hope In Crime Alley”

Writer Dennis O’Neil‘s “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (Detective Comics # 457, cover-dated March 1976) is one of the all-time classic Batman stories, a perfect balance of the tragedy that birthed The Batman and the undying hope that belies the story’s title. There is hope, or at least there can be, even in dark circumstances. The original story introduced Leslie Tompkins, a woman who comforted young Bruce Wayne in the moments after he’d witnessed his parents’ murders. Tompkins has been brought back in many, many later stories, but “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” is the only time her character was ever done right. In my opinion. Harrumph.

I can’t say whether or not my own indirect sequel “Hope In Crime Alley” would render Tompkins correctly, but the story would build on the feeling of hope Gotham needs after all that its citizens have been through in the year since Mr. Freeze attempted and failed to conquer death. The “4 Famous Co-Stars” billing was first used for The Brave And The Bold # 100, then referring to Robin, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, and Black Canary. Here, our fab four is Wildcat (opening a youth gym in the Crime Alley neighborhood, to help give direction and purpose to the children of its streets), Plastic Man (using his own experience as a reformed criminal to inspire marginal individuals to better themselves), Robin the Teen Wonder (to help his mentor retain the hope he needs), and Wonder Woman (because…well, that would be telling). Challenges would arise. Despair would threaten. Hope would prevail. The Batman, as always, will make damned sure of that.

And there’s my twelve-part fantasy edition of The Brave And The Bold. And though it’s been said many times, many ways, it bears repeating: B & B seeing you!

In this issue, a future blogger identified as “Carl Cafrelli” suggests Batman be teamed with The Shadow. I do not recall making that request. And no, The Shadow is not the co-star in “The Phantom Of Gotham City.”

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Amazing Heroes: My Secret Origin As A Freelance Writer

My first sales as a freelance writer were to a magazine called Amazing HeroesAH was published by Fantagraphics, and it catered to a mostly traditional superhero comics fanbase. This was in contrast with Fantagraphics’ better-known publication The Comics Journal, which generally took a more cerebral approach in its celebrations of more artistically ambitious comics outside of the costume-strewn mainstream.

Me? I was a fanboy, and I loved superhero comic books. Writing about ’em for Amazing Heroes was a great way for me to break into freelancing.

I don’t recall all of the specifics of my path to Amazing Heroes freelancerhood, but I think it was as simple as reading in the magazine that the editor was accepting submissions, and appropriate hijinks ensuing thereafter. It was 1984. I was a 24-year-old wannabe writer, four years out of college, working as an assistant manager at a late-night fast-food restaurant. I was trying to write, with little to no success. I submitted some pretty terrible proposals to DC Comics, attempted some pop journalism intended for either Creem or Trouser Press, and presumably poked at some non-starting short story notions. My writing career was getting nowhere, and not even getting there fast.

The idea of trying to write about comics may not have even occurred to me prior to learning of the opportunity in AH. It was a paying market, albeit a very modest one, and I was a less-than-choosy beggar. By whatever sequence of events–pitch? cold submission?–I wound up writing “The Call Of The Mockingbird,” a history of the 1960s DC title The Secret Six, which was accepted by AH editor David W. Olbrich and published in Amazing Heroes # 58, cover dated November 1, 1984. The check cleared. It was a pittance, sure, but I was now officially a published, professional writer.

Meanwhile, I lost my fast-food job, but got a job working in a record store–upgrade! Seeking to be more than a one-hit wonder with Amazing Heroes, I quickly turned around to write and sell “When Worlds Collide!,” a speculation about a shared DC-Marvel Comics superhero universe, which appeared in AH # 61 (December 15, 1984). 

I didn’t appear in AH again for a while after that. “Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This,” an attempted history of the Sandman character created for DC by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby, was rejected. My next AH sale was “Positive Energy,” a history of the great Charlton Comics character E-Man, in AH # 88 (2/1/86). This was followed by “Up, Up And…Oh, Well,” an article about comedy superheroes (AH # 92, 4/1/86). 

Olbrich had left the magazine some time back, and the editor by now was future superstar comics writer Mark Waid. Waid bought my short blurb “The Camp Knight Returns,” a collection of quotes about actor Adam West‘s evolution from never wanting to play Batman again to wishing he could return to the role for a then-upcoming major motion picture. My final AH sale was “Who’s…Who?!,” an A-Z of actual DC comics characters too obscure to receive entries in the company’s official Who’s Who In The DC Universe series. The piece appeared in AH # 109 (1/1/87), and it was very well received. DC’s Robert Greenberger wrote a letter of appreciation, so…yeah! The original article was exhaustively re-typed for an appearance right here at Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do).

Alas, my Amazing Heroes affiliation ended there, though I didn’t know it at the time. Waid had accepted my history of The Joker (“The 53rd Card In The Deck”) to appear in an unspecified future issue, but it was trashed when his own stint with Fantagraphics came to an abrupt, unpleasant, pyrotechnic conclusion. I, collateral damage. The folks at Fantagraphics didn’t know me, didn’t know about the Joker piece I’d written, and couldn’t get off the phone quickly enough when I called them to ask wha’ppen. 

At least Fantagraphics wasn’t my sole freelancing gig by then. I’d made a sale to Krause Publications‘ Comics Collector in 1985, when that magazine’s editors Don and Maggie Thompson bought “Same Bat-Time, Same Bat-Channel,” my retrospective of the 1966-68 Batman TV series and its effect on the character and the comics (Summer 1985). This entry point with Krause eventually led to the twenty years I spent freelancing for the company’s music tabloid Goldmine.

Although my Amazing Heroes stint sputtered to a halt quickly and badly, it’s where I got my start: my secret origin, who I am and how I came to be. From a history of The Secret Six to Boppin’ (Like The Hip Folks Do), I still have a few amazing things I’d like to write about.

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COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: Batman #180 (May 1966)

This inaugural entry of Comic Book Retroview was written some time in the ’80s as a spec submission to Comics Buyer’s Guide; it was intended to be the first in a series of reviews of back issue comics (an idea a CBG reader had suggested in the letter column), but editors Don and Maggie Thompson passed on the idea.  This is its first publication. All images copyright DC Comics Inc.

In 1966, Batman and Robin became household names.  The vehicle for this new-found fame was, of course, a twice-weekly televised showcase on the ABC network, a comedy/adventure program which would catapult the Caped Crusaders to national prominence and magazine sales in excess of one million copies that year.  Around the same time that the TV show was beginning to gain in popularity, Batman # 180 was published.

The issue’s cover set the mood.  Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson produced a cover that re-created the spirit of the blood and thunder pulps of yore:  pummeled by heavy rain, the hero struggles desperately with the gun-toting villain–the vision of death incarnate!–as his partner falls helplessly into an open grave.  It could have been a cover for Black Book Detective (starring the pulp hero The Black Bat) as well as for Batman.  The scene is completed by a tombstone marked, “R.I.P. Batman and Robin,” and by the ominous threat hissed by the villain:  “I’ll be the death of you yet, Batman and Robin!”

Inside, the story “Death Knocks Three Times” fulfilled the promise of the cover.  In twenty-four pages, uncredited author Robert Kanigher (with pencils by Bob Kane ghost Sheldon Moldoff, and inks by [I think] Joe Giella) spun a gripping, suspenseful yarn about a murderous thief called Death-Man, who was captured by the Dynamic Duo and brought to trial for the killing of an armed police guard.  Throughout his capture, trial, and subsequent death sentence, Death-Man remains confident and unconcerned:  “Do you really think you have the power to sentence me to death?  I–and I alone–possess the power over life and death!  I am beyond your feeble laws!  You can no more jail a shadow–or punish it–than m-m-m–“

And with that, Death-Man fell to the ground, and was pronounced dead on the spot.  This was on page seven.  Mere pages later, Death-Man would soon rise from the grave to rob again, boast again, and die again before Batman’s eyes.

Although a one-shot character, Death-Man was arguably the most memorable addition to Batman’s gallery of rogues since the 1940s.  Compared to the ineffectual clown that The Joker had become by this time, and to the costumed buffoons Batman would soon play with on the tube, the self-proclaimed master of death cut a striking figure.  Indeed, Death-Man’s arrogant taunts and mocking death(s) were enough to shake even the dread Batman to the point of nightmares.  In spite of an unconvincing explanation for Death-Man’s death-cheating–Eastern mysticism and self-discipline allowed him to enter a state of suspended animation–the villain’s cat-and-mouse games with Batman lent themselves to a fascinating storyline.  The climactic cemetery confrontation alluded to on the cover is wonderfully atmospheric, as Death-Man meets his final fate for real.

“Death Knocks Three Times” was the final flourish of the New Look Batman, begun in 1964 by editor Julius Schwartz to streamline and revitalize the character.  Soon after this issue was published, the camp silliness and “Holy Jet-stream!” expletives of the TV show began to show up in the comics as well, effectively destroying everything that Schwartz had worked for over the past two years.  However, the saga of Death-Man was more than just the last story of that period; it was also the finest, and worthy of standing alongside the later accomplishments of Neal Adams, Denny O’Neil, Steve Englehart, Marshall Rogers, et al.  Really, they just don’t write ’em like that anymore.

POSTSCRIPT:  Although the original version of Death-Man never again appeared in DC Comics continuity, the character was slightly revamped in the ’60s by  Japanese manga artist Jiro Kuwata, who called the villain “Lord Death Man;” Kuwata’s version is included in the 2008 book Batman:  The Jiro Kuwata Batmanga.  Subsequently, Lord Death-Man has appeared in DC Comics continuity, and has even been retrofitted into Batman ’66, the 21st-century comic-book version of the camp TV show.  Holy irony!

When I was 16, I wrote a script called “Nightmare Resurrection,” a sequel to “Death Knocks Three Times,” bringing Death-Man back from the dead one more time.  It was terrible.  I bow to Kanigher, Moldoff, Giella, and Schwartz.   

By Carl Cafarelli

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THE EVERLASTING FIRST: Batman

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.

This was originally posted as part of a longer piece covering both pop music and comic book characters. It’s separated here for convenience.My introduction to Batman, my favorite comic book character, came in the person of Adam West, star of the 1966-1968 Batman TV series; I wrote about that here, so we don’t need to cover all that again. For now, suffice it to reiterate that no TV series ever had as great and as lasting an impact on my life as did the campy, twice-weekly adventures of The Dynamic Duo in 1966.

But that’s just the first part of a first impression. Where did I go from there? Well, the massive nature of Batmania ’66 made the Caped Crusader as ubiquitous as The Beatles had been just two years before. There was so much Bat-merchandise everywhere you turned; the J.M. Fields department store had a small section devoted exclusively to Batman tie-in stuff, and I still have the Batman wastebasket I got there.

One of the most intriguing Batman products would have to be the bubblegum cards. There were two entirely different series of Batman cards; there was a series featuring stills from the TV show, capturing images of Adam West and Burt Ward capturing Gotham’s Most Wanted, and there was another series with painted, pulpy images of Batman and Robin battling their deadliest foes. Oh God, those painted cards were awesome, and I sprang for a complete set of reproductions a couple of decades ago. Those cards, with their hints of an unknown wonderland of Batman adventure, were my first teasing taste of (excuse the expression) a Batman beyond what I’d seen on TV.

(I recall a similar feeling of Bat-discovery in, I think, a tie-in from Hostess or some other sweet treat distributor, which carried images of Bat-villains I’d never seen, like The FoxThe Shark, and The Vulture; I got another sideways glance into Batman’s vast rogues gallery with coloring-book appearances by The Bouncer and Blockbuster.)


I can’t quite remember my first Batman comic book story. I have a vague memory of a battle with The Joker involving giant tubes of paint (which would have been from a 1966 Kelloggs promotion), and that may or may not have been my first. If not, then the honor probably goes to a 1966 Signet paperback, collecting Batman reprints in black-and-white. Most of the reprints were from the ’50s–I particularly loved a Joker story called “The Crazy Crime Clown!”–but the first story in that book was a reprint of Batman’s origin story by (uncredited) writer Bill Finger and (too-credited) artist Bob Kane, as it appeared in Batman # 1 in 1940 (except for, y’know, the expensive color part). I still have that paperback, and if that’s where my Batman comics-readin’ started, then I picked a hell of a great place for my Batman to begin.

Subsequently, the first bona fide Batman color comic book I owned was Batman # 184, purchased off the rack at a grocery store in Aurora, Missouri in the summer of ’66.  I’ve purchased a few more Batman comic books since then.

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Our new compilation CD This Is Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio, Volume 4 is now available from Kool Kat Musik! 29 tracks of irresistible rockin’ pop, starring Pop Co-OpRay PaulCirce Link & Christian NesmithVegas With Randolph Featuring Lannie FlowersThe SlapbacksP. HuxIrene PeñaMichael Oliver & the Sacred Band Featuring Dave MerrittThe RubinoosStepford KnivesThe Grip WeedsPopdudesRonnie DarkThe Flashcubes,Chris von SneidernThe Bottle Kids1.4.5.The SmithereensPaul Collins’ BeatThe Hit SquadThe RulersThe Legal MattersMaura & the Bright LightsLisa Mychols, and Mr. Encrypto & the Cyphers. You gotta have it, so order it here.

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Comic Book Cover Cavalcade #1

As the music portion of my former series Comics And LP Cover Cavalcade already split off into its own separate LP Cover Cavalcade, the comics portion also needs its own space. This inaugural entry of Comic Book Cover Cavalcade shares five DC Comics covers from the 1970s.
ALL-STAR COMICS # 58 (January-February 1976)

When writer Gerry Conway left Marvel Comics for DC in the mid 1970s, one of his highest-profile assignments was this opportunity to revive All-Star Comics, which had been the home of comics’ original 1940s super-team, The Justice Society of America. Continuing its numbering from the final JSA issue of All Star Comics in 1951 (pretending All-Star Western # 58 and onward never happened), the new series initially soft-pedaled the old ’40s JSAers to focus on the three younger heroes–Batman‘s former partner Robin, former Seven Soldiers of Victory member The Star-Spangled Kid, and a buxom new character called Power Girl–who comprised the team-within-a-team referred to as The Super Squad. Conway script, Mike Grell cover, Ric Estrada pencils, and inks by the legendary Wally Wood helped get the new All-Star Comics off to a solid start. Conway returned to Marvel before long, but the series continued with style and distinction.

BATMAN # 253 (November 1973)

I was thirteen years old in 1973, and I was a big, big DC fan. The Batman was my favorite character, and you bet I insisted on calling him THE Batman. The Batman was a creature of the night, a dark avenger, not the campy crusader whose TV show hooked me on superheroes when I was a mere child of six. No! The Batman was serious stuff! You can look back now and smirk at my sanctimonious nerdiness, but I say to hell with you. I was having a grand old time, and I remember the comics of this period with great fondness. Writer Denny O’Neil was on a roll, having already given The Dark Knight a new classic adversary in Ra’s al Ghul; penciler Neal Adams and inker Dick Giordano provided sleek visuals that were as integral to the mood, setting, and storytelling as any word within the captions and balloons, and alternate penciler Irv Novick (also inked by Giordano) deserves credit for maintaining that style in the many issues Adams didn’t have time to draw. In Batman # 251, O’Neil, Adams, and Giordano had reintroduced The Joker in “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge!,” returning the character to the murderous roots of his debut in 1940’s Batman # 1. It is not an exaggeration to say that “The Joker’s Five-Way Revenge” influenced every single Joker story published since 1973.

And, a mere two issues later, The Batman got to meet his greatest inspiration, The Shadow. DC had licensed the character of The Shadow in hope of tapping into ’70s-era nostalgia for the pop culture playthings of the ’30s and ’40s. I was all in, as I read my Doc Savage paperbacks, watched The Marx Brothers on Saturday night TV late shows, listened to old adventure radio shows (including The Shadow) on the public station’s Radio Rides Again presentations, and devoured histories of comics, histories that taught me about the Golden Age of Comics in the ’40s, and even about the blood ‘n’ thunder pulp magazines that helped to sire those comics. Pulp magazines like The Shadow.

The Shadow was the biggest single influence on Bill Finger and Bob Kane when they created the character of The Batman in 1939. I knew that, so I was more than primed for The Shadow’s DC’s series (written by O’Neil), and absolutely psyched to see The Shadow finally meet his disciple in the pages of Batman # 253. Beneath an atmospheric cover by Mike Kaluta (regular artist on DC’s The Shadow), the actual story by O’Neil, Novick, and Giordano could be viewed as anti-climactic, or even a cheat. The Shadow is an off-stage player in most of the tale, stepping out from the shadows only near its end. I didn’t care. I loved it without reservation, and I still do.

DC SPECIAL # 10 (January-February 1971)

If I had to pick my all-time favorite comics artist, I would acknowledge the above-mentioned Neal Adams and Wally Wood, plus (of course) Jack Kirby, and a long, long list that would include Dick SprangCarl BarksJack ColeAlex TothJim Aparo, and…listen, we’re gonna be here all night, and I haven’t even mentioned Marshall Rogers yet. But when I have to name just one, I usually say Nick Cardy.

And I don’t pick Cardy on the basis of most of the covers he cranked out as DC’s go-to cover guy in the early to mid ’70s. Those were fine, obviously, but his best work was his brief stint as the regular artist on the Batman team-up title The Brave And The Bold, his Teen Titans (especially his later issues), and his exquisitely-rendered Western series Bat Lash. Oh, and the gorgeous covers he drew for Aquaman.

And there’s also this gloriously atmospheric cover for DC Special # 10, dressing up a basic collection of 1950s cop and fireman stories, reprinted from old issues of Gang Busters and Showcase. Calling them basic isn’t meant as a put-down–I read this damned thing over and over when I was 11–but there’s nothing inside that could hope to match that dynamic Cardy cover. 

SHAZAM! # 8 (December 1973)

The same pursuit of the nostalgia market that prompted DC to license The Shadow also led to the company licensing Superman‘s biggest sales rival from back in the ’40s, the original Captain Marvel. DC had effectively sued Fawcett Comics‘ Captain Marvel out of existence in the early ’50s. When licensing and attempting to revive Cap in 1973, DC Publisher Carmine Infantino‘s intent to restart the World’s Mightiest Mortal’s former comic book Captain Marvel Adventures was immediately thwarted by another, more powerful rival. Marvel Comics had trademarked the Captain Marvel name for its own unrelated use during the original Cap’s decades-long dormancy, and wasn’t about to allow DC to use it. DC went with the alternate title Shazam! instead. Each issue of DC’s Shazam! series featured vintage Cap reprints backing up the new adventures, and the reprints were…well, better. A lot better. The eighth issue was a 100-Page Super Spectacular collection containing only the old stuff, and I felt like it was a gift given to me directly from the Rock of Eternity. This was just magnificent.

SHOWCASE # 100 (May 1978)

DC’s original try-out book Showcase survived on newsstands from 1956 to 1970. It was a series that offered readers an opportunity to sample potential new series, with sales presumably determining which concepts would graduate to ongoing series and which would, y’know…not. Some point to Showcase # 4 (which introduced a brand-new superhero called The Flash, inspired by the 1940s character of the same name, but reimagined as something minty-fresh) as the beginning of comics’ Silver Age, and I would agree. Showcase produced a lengthy list of, well, showcases for both new characters introduced in its pages and already-existing characters given a shot at joining DC’s A-list. The series was revived briefly in the late ’70s, and that revival brought us Showcase # 100.

For this celebration, writers Paul Kupperberg and Paul Levitz teamed with artist Joe Staton in an attempt to craft a new adventure that would feature at least a cameo by each and every one of Showcase‘s stars and woulda-beens. Well, almost; Showcase # 43 had featured a reprint of a British adaptation of the James Bond novel and film Dr. No, and DC’s license to thrill with 007 had never been renewed. And I’m not positive, but I don’t think The Doom Patrol or Power Girl–the stars of the Showcase revival issues that preceded # 100–made it into the big party either.

But yeah, everyone else is represented, from Fireman Farrell through Manhunter 2070. Even Archie ripoff Binky, even Dobie Gillis and Maynard G. Krebs stand-ins Windy and Willy. We’ve got Bat Lash, AquamanGreen LanternLois LaneThe CreeperThe AtomSgt. RockEnemy AceThe Teen TitansDr. Fate and HourmanThe Challengers of the UnknownThe Inferior FiveThe Phantom StrangerJonny DoubleAngel and the ApeTommy TomorrowThe Hawk and The DoveThe SpectreAnthroAdam StrangeThe Sea DevilsThe Metal MenSpace Ranger, the pop group The ManiaksNightmasterCave CarsonRip HunterB’wana BeastDolphinFirehair, Johnny Thunder, and Jason’s Quest protagonist Jason. Maybe someone else I missed. Hell, maybe 007 is in there somewhere, hidden behind the rest of this large cast.

And it’s a blast. It’s goofy in all the right ways, serious where it needs to be, and never so serious that it gets in its own way. Forgive the comparison, but it’s like a Marvel movie in comics form, a lighthearted superhero epic that satisfies. It’s fun.

Quick! Someone go back to 1973 and tell my 13-year-old self that’s it’s okay for superheroes to be fun. Lighten up already, young man.

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