4.15.2014

Batman: 1972

Image from here.
Let's just dive right in.

WORLD'S FINEST
(issues 211, 215)
Writers: Denny O'Neil, Bob Haney. Artist: Dick Dillin


As in 1971, Batman only appears in 2 of the year's World's Finest stories, and one of them is this "What if / Elseworlds" saga imagining a world with "the Super-Sons."

The identities of the Super-Moms are kept secret.

Kind of silly. I like the sideburns everyone has, though. (Even Alfred's in on the act.) 

Although we saw Superman dramatically destroying his super-robot-duplicates last year, apparently he kept one or two of them around.


The panel on the right is Batman shrinking down to visit Kandor. I've always loved the idea of Kandor, the bottled-city, and the endless angst of Superman's inability to restore them to their proper size. It's a bit like Reed Richards' decades-long failure to restore Ben Grimm's humanity, despite routinely designing devices that dismantle seemingly much more difficult problems.

JLA
(issues 96 - 103)
Writers: Mike Friedrich, Len Wein. Artist: Dick Dillin

Another less-than-stellar year for DC's premier super-team. Things get started with the latest threat from "the most dangerous villain we've ever faced," which prompts Hawkman to get the team to revisit how they came together in the first place, Golden Girls style. For an entire issue.

"You're gonna have to give him a moment, son. Dewey Cox needs to think about his entire life before he plays."
I mean, it's not the first or only time this sort of thing happened in comics of the era, but it's not handled very well. Naturally, it revives their fighting spirit, and the good guys prevail. They receive some help from a Golden Age DC hero named Sargon, and one of his old adventures is reprinted.


Issues 100-102 are devoted to the annual JLA/ JSA cross-over. 


I'm a fan of these crossovers in theory, but so far in the 70s, they've been big duds. Harmless enough but kind of a slog to get through.

I remain amused at this kind of stuff, though. I love how the villains haphazardly mix-and-match their native tongues with "Batman," i.e. "Der Batman" or "El Bathombre," etc. Also, "a thousand years of Teutonic terrors?"
This year's crossover involves the Seven Soldiers of Victory:


I don't know much about these guys. I've been meaning to read Grant Morrison's ambitious mega-series with the characters for years but never have.

The story occasions some fun absurdities.
Issue 103 features two things worth mentioning. One, the appearance of several characters dressed as Marvel heroes at a Halloween parade:


And two, the in-story appearance of Mike Friedrich, Glynis and Len Wein, and a few other folks writing or editing for DC at the time:


DC later established "Earth Prime" (i.e. our own world, where we write and read superhero comics) as an official dimension in their pre-Crisis multiverse, which allowed for such shenanigans to metastasize. (This is probably the only alternate earth I was happy to see eradicated by Crisis.) So, I guess the folks we're seeing here are only their Earth 1 equivalents? If so, are there Earth 2, Earth X, etc. equivalents? I'm being serious, here - is it not possible, now, to do a legitimate series in New 52 history with Mike Friedrich et al.? I mean, it's possible without any sort of precedent, of course, I'm just saying: it doesn't really work or serve much point here, but one could at least point to it as "These characters existed in 2-dimensional reality as much as any other DC creation."

The story (yet to be covered) that establishes Earth Prime is written by Cary Bates and Elliot Maggin. And Grant Morrison appears in Animal Man. That's three more. I should pitch this to DC: The League of DC Writers Who Have Appeared in Their Own Stories. (I'll work on it.)

THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
(issues 100 - 104)
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Jim Aparo, Bob Brown


Batman's compatriots this time around include Green Arrow, Black Canary, Robin, Metamorpho, the Teen Titans, the Metal Men, and Deadman.

I love how Batman is just walking around, scoping out the babes.
Wait, 1971? Oops. Well, I think this still was published in 1972. Its cover date was April-May 1972, after all, and DC was routinely 3 months behind its cover date in real-time. (As discussed here.) But undoubtedly written in 1971. No one cared, anyway.
The issue with Green Arrow and the Black Canary doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but there's some amusing sexism from Robin:

"Those legs --!!" Later he is confounded by women's lib.

I'm actually starting to enjoy Robin's one-man war both alongside and against the counter-culture in this stretch of the Batverse. Every year so far has seen him tousle with cultists, radicals, and political separatists.


The Teen Titans issue isn't especially good, but I've been getting a chuckle out of all the groovy lingo. A different kind of "lib" is explored in the Metal Men issue:

This is the real Relevance movement in comics!

The Deadman story was kind of a dud, but I'm not a particular fan of the character. Why, you ask? Because he does this:


waaaaaay too much. (This is a favorite, though.)

BATMAN
(issues 238 - 246)
Writers: Denny O'Neil, Frank Robbins, Elliot Maggin. Artists: Irv Novick, Neal Adams.

While not a particularly great issue, I do get a huge kick out of this cover.

A pretty disappointing year for Batman. Not so much for the Robin back-ups, though. In addition to hi-jinks with Jesus Freaks (that's their in-story designation, not mine:)

"Behold the bad vibes that are the result!"
he dives feet-first into the race relations of the era with:


As if that wasn't enough, he finds himself drawn into a shadowy supernatural world of a mysterious beautiful stranger:


Did I mention this also involves a Cult of Cthulhu, as well? Robin leads an interesting life. Anyway, back to Batman.

World's greatest detective, indeed!
The primary storyline running through these issues is Batman's ongoing struggle with Ra's Al Ghul the revelation of his immortality, as well as his conflicted feelings for Ra's daughter Talia.

Something for the ladies...

As amusingly fetish-friendly as Batman is here, I've got to say, this whole Ra's Al Ghul / Talia stuff comes across as very forced. Very break-Worf's-arm syndrome. Ra's is in Batman's life for all of five minutes before they mutually declare, multiple times, the other to be his most dangerous foe. Hell, as we saw last time, Ra's is introduced knowing Batman's secret identity and having broken into the Batcave; no build-up, just wham, I am now one of your worthiest adversaries! I tend to resist when new characters are sold to me this way. To draw an X-Men parallel, I enjoyed both Mister Sinister and Apocalypse as new villains when they were introduced, but within only a few appearances, X-history was retconned to elevate them far past their station. I prefer to see characters and relationships develop more organically. Not necessarily decompressed over years, just not so contrived.

All in all, Ra's and Talia are much better represented in the Nolan movies. If that's your only exposure to those characters, you're better served in those than you would be by these.

DETECTIVE COMICS
(issues 419 - 430)
Writers: Denny O'Neil, Frank Robbins. Artists: Bob Brown, Don Heck, Irv Novick, Frank Robbins


Frank Robbins is the dominant presence on the book for these issues. I'm of two minds on the man's work. At times, I'm really blown away by his art:

Even if his Bruce Wayne looks a little too much like Peter Fonda.

and other times it just repels me. I experienced both in equal measure going through these issues. Sometimes the story is cartoonish enough where the art helps it along, but at other times, well...

His style is a bit too Mad magazine-y for this sort of thing.

As a result of this, this year of Detective Comics is more than a little uneven. Sadly, too, it sees the end of the Batgirl back-up, which I often enjoyed more than the main story.

So long, Batgirl. See you when we get to Batman Family (1975) I guess.
An uninteresting supporting character (Jason Kane) replaces her for a few issues, and then random reprints. Including this one with art from the incomparable Alex Toth:


AND THE GREATEST BATMAN STORY
OF 1972 IS...

actually a reprint issue that only features about 35% Batman content.

Back cover and key to the super-heroes.
The Batman stories are fine slices of Silver Age mayhem.

A special Dog Star Prize to anyone who can tell me the last comic wherein superfolk had to navigate a super-sized pinball machine. You just don't see this sort of thing too much anymore. (Happy to be corrected, here, if anyone has a 21st century example.)

But it's the reprints of other characters that really entertained me. I only know the Doom Patrol from Morrison's famed run on the title, but I enjoyed their origin story enough -

By the way, this story (written by Arnold Drake) preceded Marvel's X-Men by more than a few months. Lots of parallels between the two set-ups. But that was the way things were done in the Silver Age.
- for me to break out one of the Doom Patrol Essentials I received years ago as a Christmas or birthday present. I doubt I'll cover it here on the blog, but rest assured, I'll be enjoying it.

And finally, this could be the best Aquaman splash page of all time:


I can't claim to know anything about the character or his backstory. Like most folks of my generation, the Super-Friends cartoon is the only reason I know who he even is. Oh, I've read his character bio and seen him in plenty of things, but he just never clicked with me. This story didn't turn me into a huge fan or anything, but I was charmed by its goofy innocence. 

So endeth 1972. Let's play out with a song that topped the charts towards year's end (and that Robin will undoubtedly reference somewhere in 1973's crop of issues.) See you next time.

10 comments:

  1. I have to chuckle at the notion of Batman just truckin' around town on a nice, sunny day in full Bat-regalia. It reduces him down to one of those cosplayers you see on the Hollywood Walk of Fame who pose for pictures in return for a few bucks.

    Also, would superheroes really be that popular a genre for comics in a world where real superheroes exist? Alan Moore addressed this in Watchmen years later, of course, but it really jumps out at me with the tweaks to Marvel's nose above. And say superheroes were a popular genre for comics; would they make up new ones whole cloth, or just make fictionalized versions of the real ones, like they did with Western heroes like Gene Autry or Roy Rogers? So many questions spring that little bit of tomfoolery...

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    1. I like your line of inquiry, here. It'd be worth a mini-series, I think: comic books of Earth 1 or 2. Set in the 70s. I'd like to take a crack at it, myself, actually.

      It always seems so odd to see Batman walking around in the daylight just on its own, but having him enjoying the miniskirts and warm weather takes it to the next tier. I'm hoping one of these stories coming up has him investigating a Jimmy Buffett concert.

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    2. Not only is Batman strolling along the sidewalks in full Bat-regalia, he's checkin' out ass while he does it! If I were ever to be put in charge of making a Batman movie, I would devote an afternoon to filming a scene of Batman doing this, turn it into a YouTube video, put "I'm a Girl Watcher" by The O'Kaysions on top of it, and release it into the world with no explanation whatsoever. That gets a million hits in two days, guaranteed.

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    3. I wonder how such a scene of Batman out in daylight, just being among the public would go down with today's comic fans.

      I have actually seen one comics fan go ballistic when pretty much the same gag was used in a later post-Miller comic. I don't know. That said, it has a nice 66 Adam West vibe to it.

      ChrisC

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  2. (1) I love that Superman refers to his son as Superman Jr. Almost as much as I love Superman Jr. smashing through a wall in a fit of teenage angst.

    (2) I really DO love that panel of Batman shrinking so as to enter Kandor. I can practically hear the sound effects that would accompany it.

    (3) A Dewey Cox reference!!! Good lord, why do people not talk about that movie more? It was genius. ("Mr. and Mrs. Cox, I'm afraid your son is suffering from a particularly bad case of being cut in half." "Speak English, doc! We ain't scientists!") There was at least one scene of that movie that made me laugh so hard I was afraid I might pass out from oxygen deprivation.

    (4) I was immediately skeptical as to whether Glynis Wein was actually that much of a babe in real life. The one photo of her I found via Google indicates that yeah, she kinda was.

    (5) I had no idea about that Earth Prime business. I wonder if Stephen King read any of that stuff...

    (6) Batman riding the bulldozer and hollering "CRUSH THOSE DEFIANT KIDS!" may be one of the best covers I've ever seen. Well, maybe "best" isn't the right adjective, exactly; but it's certainly one of the somethingest covers I've ever seen. Delightful!

    (7) "These kids are on a downer to nowhere..." Good god.

    (8) I'm not too big on Deadman, either. I don't even like him that much in Alan Moore's hands, which is surely a sign of some sort.

    (9) Batman dressed as Santa Claus. Comment seems irrelevant.

    (10) Shirtless Batman. I...I...just...what?

    (11) "I go on my own adventures. ADVENTURES WITH MY MIND!" That second sentence might make for a pretty good blog title. And the two together, a mission statement. Wouldn't it be amusing if Stan Lee pilfered the idea for Professor X from that issue as retribution for the Halloween-costume stunt in JLA #103? I'd get a big old kick out of that.

    (12) Am currently amusing self by making up goofy voices for each of the critters consoling Aquaman.

    Great post! So much Bat-awesomeness.

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    1. I agree on Dewey Cox. That movie's amazing fun.

      That shirtless, masked Batman fight is so funny. I especially love that he keeps his mask on. I mean, Ra's Al Ghul and everyone there already knows his identity...

      Glad you liked that "Adventures with my mind!" business. I can't pass that panel without saying that to myself and cracking up.

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  3. Comando America is a little close to "Captain America" don't you think??? I love to look through the art in the older panels you post. I think the one with them in a pinball game is fun!! LOL! Also I think that Batman going into tiny Kandor is neat and I would like to read that story. I find tiny worlds neat. I have always been fascinated with snow globes for this reason.

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    1. Someone someday somewhere will write the ultimate Kandor story! I hope it comes out in my lifetime so I can read it. I've always loved the idea.

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  4. Jesus Freaks? Good gosh, I'm surprised anyone even remembers them!

    Also, it's funny seeing Robin tackle the Youth issue back then.

    Believe it or not, after picking up a copy of Chris Milller's "The Real Animal House", I kind of had a funny thought. What would happen if Batman villains like the Joker, Harley Quinn and Scarecrow tried to take a college campus hostage, and ran afoul of, essentially, the Animal House gang?

    It's the kind of idea the mind can run riot with if given some thought. Basically it's the Bat villains trying to run riot, and always finding themselves outclassed, and ultimately at the mercy of a bunch of stoners who read Mad Magazine too much.

    Like I could see Scarecrow opening a door, only to have several tons of Pizza boxes fall on top of him, or imagining him threatening a bunch a frats, and winding up hog-tied upside down to a flag pole for his troubles. Yeah, that kind of story.

    I even thought of a title for it: National Lampoon's...Batman!

    ...I'll go take my meds now.

    Also, "Adventure in a Dream", "Theater of the mind"? I knew it! This is the first appearance of the Dreaming!

    ChrisC

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