1973: Year of the Yom Kippur War, Skylab, Dark Side of the Moon, "Peace with Honor" in Vietnam, and Picasso's death.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
Issues 105 - 109
Writer: Bob Haney. Artist: Jim Aparo
This isn't a particularly memorable year for guest stars in The Brave and the Bold. Outside of the Demon, we've seen everyone (Wonder Woman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Sgt. Rock) already in these pages.
|What is memorable, though, is seeing Jim Aparo ink his own pencils for all 5 issues published in 1973.|
|There's also some fine 007-esque skiing action.|
The hijacking story with Black Canary interested me for its timing; 1973 was the year the Nixon Administration ordered the CIA to discontinue hijacking as part of its covert operations against the Castro regime in Cuba. Does Brave and the Bold 107 comment on this? Not at all. Just some fun context.
The story with Sgt. Rock... well, first of all, there's this:
Rather uncharacteristic of Batman, isn't it? (And why does he refer to himself in third person?) His uttering of the magic phrase "I'd give my soul..." precipitates, of course, the appearance of a mysterious stranger, who taunts Batman throughout, leading the World's Greatest Detective to conclude that he may indeed be dealing with... the devil.
Sgt. Rock has his own theory, though:
This issue is a lot more engaging than it may sound, and the art is fabulous. Needless to say, of course, neither the devil nor Hitler are actually involved.
|OR ARE THEY!? NO END.|
Issues 247 - 253
Writers: Denny O'Neil, Frank Robbins, Elliot Maggin. Artists: Neal Adams, Bob Brown, Dick Giordano, Irv Novick, Frank McLaughlin, Frank Giacoia
This year returns to the "supernatural detective" table, which means as in 1971 almost every issue begins with something like this:
How many haunted houses has the Batman staked out by this point? Got to be in the dozens. (Doesn't anyone ever notice him out there on the leafless branches?) Also in the dozens? The amount of concussions the Batman shrugs off.
It would obviously be silly to apply real-world medical repercussions to the life of a superhero - at least in this era of comic book storytelling - but it really is something how often people manage not just to sneak up on the Batman but to smash his skull hard enough to knock him out of the hell out.
|Here's just a smattering of examples from 1973 alone.|
|I'm including only examples where he is rendered unconscious, not just smashed upside the head by someone's fist or boot or with a blunt object, etc. There are dozens more of those.|
|Or rendered unconscious from falling rocks. Just as bad.|
|No wonder in later years he's as punch-drunk as he is:|
Batman's indestructible cranium notwithstanding, this is a fairly routine year for Bat-adventures. (With one exception, which we'll be doubling back to a little later in the program.) All fun enough stories to be sure but nothing all that out of the ordinary.
The Spook (who is rumored to appear in the forthcoming Batman and Son animated movie) makes his first appearance in a two-parter here:
|He returns in:|
Issues 431 - 437
Writers: Denny O'Neil, Frank Robbins, Elliot Maggin, E. Nelson Bridwell, Archie Goodwin. Artists: Irv Novick, Don Heck, Dick Dillin, Dick Giordano, Murphy Anderson, Rich Buckler, Bob Brown, Frank Giacoia, Walt Simonson, Jim Aparo.
|Characters spend a lot of time describing The Spook to one another in these issues.|
|Or simply saying his name.|
As with previous years, the fourth wall is often broken to encourage readers to help Batman solve the mystery:
|or beat him to it.|
As mentioned here: "The year 1973 saw changes for Detective Comics, as Neal Adams nearly vanished from the scene and low sales figures caused a cutback in the publication schedule. Detective had been a monthly publication since its debut in 1937 and its conversion to a bi-monthly with the issue cover-dated July 1973 must have been a significant blow to the publisher whose name had originally stemmed from this series."
|Sales were down all across the industry, of course, but DC had dramatically expanded its output, as well as hiked up its prices. This will come back to haunt them in a few years, as we will see in due course.|
|The "Censored" stamp plays a bigger role in the plot, but I quite like the effect of reproducing it out-of-context.|
The back-ups continue with this Jason Bard dude.
But I didn't read any of them, because Bard replaced Batgirl, and I love you, Batgirl...
Other back-ups feature The Elongated Man, Hawkman, and the Atom. (All of which are pretty fun.)
The last story of the year, "Deathmask," is probably the best of the lot.
This is the issue that Archie Goodwin takes over editing Detective from Julie Schwartz. The Goodwin era, as we will see, is brief but brilliant. He gets things started quite well here, with a captivating A-story and a back-up feature (both of which he wrote) that is among the most fondly-remembered of all 1970s stories:
|We'll save discussion of this until next time, since most of them came out in '74.|
Walt Simonson would go on to become one of comicdom's most successful writer/artists (and the guy whose run on Thor ruined all other runs for me) but at the time this came out, he was (outside of some work on Weird War Tales) a complete unknown. But, next time.
AND THE GREATEST BATMAN STORY
OF 1973 IS...
It's hard not to go with:
This is the story that more than any re-purposed the Joker from the villain he was to the villain he became (and remains.) It's still cited as a top 10 Joker tale and deservedly so.
|My copy is a bit faded, sorry for the muted colors.|
John Byrne snuck The Joker into X-Men #130, and I do believe he was using Neal Adams's version from this issue as a character model.
|Says Byrne: "I was definitely hoping that Glynis (Wein) would light that panel so that everybody had white faces and green hair so that he would come out looking even more like the Joker."|
I'm going to split the honors with the third back-up from Batman 250:
|Batman takes some kids out into the woods (hey now!) and they get to talking about what Batman really looks like.|
|Each of the kids projects his own take on the Caped Crusader, while a bemused Bruce Wayne listens. (That's all there is the plot.)|
Bruce slips into the shadows to put on his uniform (which he of course brings everywhere) to show them the in-the-flesh version, but they are unimpressed.
It's a children's tale, and I may overrate it simply because it was one that stood out to me when I got that Greatest Batman Stories Ever Told trade I've mentioned before. But it's another of those Bat-stories that couldn't / wouldn't be told these days, and I feel like that's a shame. An understandable one, sure, but just the same.