Batman 1976


Don't let that pic above fool you - this isn't a particularly controversial year for the Caped Crusader. Messy real world stuff does intrude in a couple of spots, as we shall see, but for the most part, it's a year of stories that stays pretty happily in the shallow end. 

(Issues 5 - 9)
Writers: Martin Pasko, Denny O'Neil, Elliot S. Maggin. Artists: Irv Novick, Tex Blaisdell, Frank McLaughlin.

The Joker's series continues in the same vein as last year.

What the first-year-French student might accurately refer to as Comme ci, comme ça.
They seem to have solved the problem of how to get the Joker back in a jail cell at the end of every issue but having him build a (mini) Ha-Hacienda underneath his cell at Arkham Asylum.

This credit grabbed my eye:

Alfred Bester? As in one of the progenitors of science fiction in the 20th century Alfred Bester? Martin Pasko provides more detail on the letters page:

That story (issue 5) has got some fun twists and and is pretty entertaining.

(Issues 124 - 131)
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Jim Aparo, John Calnan.

Jim Aparo, Murray Boltinoff, and Bob Haney were not to be outdone in the "let's put ourselves in the story" department. They take the conceit one step further than we saw last year in JLA, though, and here we have the villains of the story stepping between realities and directly threatening the creative team for Brave and the Bold, Dark Tower-style.

If this illustration is accurate, Bob Haney looks a lot different than I imagined.
A few more fictional countries are introduced. I should be keeping track of these, but I've lost count. I reiterate my desire to see Alan Moore write an Atlas of Fictional Countries for DC, should he and Paul Levitz et al. ever reconcile.

Here's one of the few "real world intrusions" I mentioned earlier:

Not a particularly compelling year, but some familiar faces grace the pages.

And the Catwoman in some new duds. This is Aparo, but it looks a little like Byrne to me. I wonder if Byrne had this in mind when he drew:
Probably not. Just chronicling where my brain goes with these things.
(Issues 271 - 282)
Writer: David V. Reed. Artists: Irv Novick, Frank McLaughlin, José Luis García-López, Ernie Chua, Tex Blaisdell, Frank Giacoia.

Most of this year's issues deal with the rather un-exciting:

but there is also the return of the Spook:

David V. Reed's tenure on Batman is interesting. He wrote many Golden and Silver Age stories and then returned for this stretch in the later-70s. His style is a throwback to the earlier ages, which seems a tad out of place alongside the Denny O'Neil and Steve Englehart eras. It's not that any of it is bad, per se, just tonally at odds.

Fans of The Office may find this amusing. (Non-fans, see here.)
And of course, the concussions proceed apace.

As for this Riddler story:

I agree with Jack's take from the bare-bones-e-zine: "The key to a good Riddler story is having good riddles. I like the explanation for why a clock is the most modest of all mechanisms: because it covers its face with its hands. The story is basically a long chase with art by Chan and Blaisdell that is serviceable but no better. It’s nice to see Robin working with Batman again, though, and I’ve always liked the Riddler from the TV show, so this issue gets a pass."

(Issues 235 - 240)
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Dick Dillin, John Calnan, Lee Elias, Curt Swan.

What Bob Rozakis wrote in Back Issue 50 of the David V. Reed approach to Batman is also true for Bob Haney in this stretch of The Brave and the Bold: "(This) era was the 1970s version of a 1950s comic. The stories were aimed at the casual reader, usually based on a creative hook of some sort, with only the slightest nods to the fanboy readers who wanted more and more continuity."

Almost every issue is a Silver Age throwback. Kind of symbolic of America's bicentenniel year, is it not? Also: not for nothing, but 1976 was the only year that Happy Days ruled the TV roost. (It certainly did well in the years surrounding it, but '76 was its only year at #1.) It was a nostalgic year.

This one does not live up to its title.
The Super-Sons return, but they unfortunately do not go so wonderfully off the rails on a crazy train as they did on the last go-round.
She's actually an alien from the planet Lexor, where Lex Luthor is revered. Ain't that America. *
* Now I've got the Mellencamp song in mind. Which then made me picture a waving grains / Clark and Bruce Jrs. on a motorcycle montage sort of thing. A Super-Sons Tour of America, adventuring in crazy towns where they meet alien after alien running some crazy scheme, looking for hamburgers and smooch dolls, spouting groovy lingo with wicked sideburns...somewhere somehow this really needs to happen. Every other episode could end with "Ain't That America" (or something like it) and one of the pair could think back on the events of the episode and how they emotionally changed him. Learning 'bout America, and their own beautiful and damned groovy hearts. Zoom into sunset.

Thing is, too: it's not like you need to explain who Superman and Batman are to the audience, and yet the main characters are these Super-Sons. Leave it unexplained, every now and again just cut to shadowy father figures over the phone. That's a mystery you can stretch out over 5 or 6 seasons, my friends.

This cover put me in mind of this:
As seen on Kerry Callen's blog.
(Issues 126 - 137)
Writers: Gerry Conway, Martin Pasko, E. Nelson Bridwell. Artists: Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin.

These JLAs are becoming a bit of a chore to get through. I've looked forward to these portions of our slog through the 70s less and less with each blog. It may be affecting the way I evaluate these.

This year's cross-over is particularly overstuffed.

It introduces Earth S which is apparently where they stuck all the characters DC inherited from Fawcett Publications.

That's Earth 2 Batman, there, with his arms raised, but damned if I can find him anywhere in this issue.
If things don't take a turn for the better in '77, I may end up skipping the remaining JLAs in favor of Super-Friends instead. Which is probably not much better, but I've got to do something to revive my interest after so much underwhelming material.

The comic premiered in 1976, for what that's worth.
(Issues 3 - 8)
Writers: Elliot S. Maggin, Cary Bates, Bob Rozakis, Artists: José Luis García-López, Vinnie Colletta, Pablo Marcos, Curt Swan, Jose Delbo.

This year, Batgirl gets in on the bicentennial action, or as it's referred to in issue 6, the "bison-tennial."

The story: a corrupt Tribal Council leader (Jack Lightfoot) who wants to sell his ancestral lands on the sly to a corporation to develop while publicly pretending to fight them. Batgirl (despite being a member of Congress, who wrote the book on such shenanigans) ain't got time for that.

We also meet:

We first meet her in issue 6, but she returns in:

What the hell is going on here? Who's Catgirl? When did the Joker have a daughter? Bob Rozakis explains: "We had gotten some positive feedback to the Joker's Daughter's debut, so I hit Julie (Schwartz) with the idea of Catgirl. He was ready to shoot me down when I said But she's really the Joker's daughter! When I saw that he was intrigued, i figured I'd come up with something that could sustain a number of future tales as well, with our mystery woman masquerading as the daughter of one after another of Batman's foes. (...) I told Julie that next time, she'd come back at the Riddler's daughter. I'm not going to let you drag this out, Julie replied. You're going to wrap it up in the next issue."

Turns out, she's actually Two-Face's daughter, Duela Dent. Why Two-Face? "He was the only one of Batman's enemies who had been married." I'm not sure that's true. Off the top of my head, I can think of Mr. Freeze and Ra's Al Ghul (although Ra's daughter was already well-established so I can see why she'd have been a bad choice.)

Couple other things:

This ad (illustrated by Jack Davis) used to fascinate me as a kid. I forgot all about it.
That's The Huntress? Wait a minute...

This seems as good a place as any to mention that 1976 saw the return of Earth-2 characters outside the pages of the JLA / JSA team-ups with the re-launch of All-Star Comics. That's the series that introduced Power Girl, aka Earth-2's Supergirl, who for some reason (don't know what it could be) has been an enduring presence in DC down to the present day.

Art by Ric Estrada and Wally Wood.
We'll be covering Earth-2 events a bit more closely for reasons that will become obvious in the blogs to come.

(Issues 455 - 466)
Writers: Elliot S. Maggin, Denny O'Neil, Martin Pasko, Bob Rozakis, Michael Uslan, Gerry Conway, David V. Reed, Len Wein. Artists: Mike Grell, Ernie Chua, Dick Giordano, José Luis García-López, Frank McLaughlin.

I think the proper reaction to this year's crop of Detective stories is "meh." Sorry so brief, but there's really not much to say.

So here's the bare-bones-e-zine again (Peter, this time:) "To be fair, (these aren't) horrible stories, just unremarkable ones. As with many of these shortened Batman stories in Detective, there simply aren't enough pages to get a proper plot working. It's a set-up, a battle, and a quick resolution with no consequences shown in the next installment. It seems we're deep into another one of Julius Schwartz's crime bosses, crime bosses, and more crime bosses demand to his writers. Nary a costumed villain in sight until this title gets a radical revamping at the hands of Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers in 1977."

As for concussions:

"... darker than a black steer's tookus on a moonlight prairie night..." as The Stranger might put it.
There is one exception, which leads us to:

OF 1976 IS...

Written by Denny O'Neil and illustrated by Dick Giordano.
This is a very sweet story. It begins with Batman being a dick to Alfred.

He's just lashing out because he's nervous for his date with one Leslie Thompkins in Crime Alley.

I first read this years ago and thought it was an essential piece of Bat-lore. Still do. (Though this time around, I wondered... does he only patrol Crime Alley on the anniversary of his parents' death? Sheesh. No wonder it's known as "Crime Alley," to begin with!

How it ends. (Don't worry, ye fans of the endless Bat-angst; his smile never lasts.)
One final note -

If only the Batman lived closer to Capitol Hill, eh?


  1. (1) I did not know Alfred Bester had been a comics writer. That's cool.

    (2) This stuff with Haney, etc. being threatened by the bad guys from a fictional story is pretty cool. I bet that mus have blown people's minds in the seventies, and I continue to wonder if one of those minds was located in Maine...

    (3) The International Crime Olympics! Televised on TLC, I'm sure.

    (4) I was chuckling at that BJ Novak thing even before I saw your footnote. I feel pleased with myself by that. (I feel less pleased with Novak, who was part of the crap-fest titled "The Amazing Spider-Man 2.")

    (5) That World's Finest cover where Superman's head is popping off his body is effed-up. I bet a kid or two saw that and were semi-traumatized by it.

    (6) In a world where a Batman-less Batman tv show -- "Gotham" -- can get a greenlight, I would not characterize "Ain't That America" as being impossible to achieve. I'd consider watching it.

    (7) I did not initially realize that that Cap cover was a fake. So I clicked on the link. I think I was even more amused by the Spidey one.

    (8) The "bisontennial"!!!

    (9) "It's the Spanish Inquisition -- of the future!" I nominate this as the best line of dialogue ever written.

    (10) Power Girl . . . I approve and disapprove in equal measure. Lame name, though. (Speaking of which, has there ever been a comic about the exploits of Hero Man, whose nemesis is The Villain? If not, I think I need some time to pound out some semi-witty scripts.)

    (11) That final panel makes me think there would also be some gold to be mined out of writing a highly political comic in which a superhero-- let's call him The Patriot, or something like that -- goes around fighting against all the carnage wreaked by crooked politicians. Man, you could piss a lot of people off with that comic.

    Doesn't seem like '76 was a particularly good year for Bats, alas. That last one does sound intriguing, though.

  2. (11) I am all for this. It'd make a good Punisher series, actually, though I imagine it'd be too much for most folks. Still! Actually maybe that'd be a good one for (10) Hero Man vs. The Congress of Villains.

    (9) Isn't that wild? Plus, I love the idea of a time traveling Spanish Inquisition. Sent to the past, to raise HELL. God I wish I was Roger Corman; I'd greenlight the crap out of these things. (And (6) too!)

    (7) Those things crack me the hell up. That Spider-Man one is great. He's got a few more out there on his blog - good stuff.

    (3) Abso-freaking-lutely.

  3. My favorite parts about these posts is seeing all the wonderful old school art!!!

    1. Glad you enjoy! Although there are some outstanding artists working these days, to be sure, my favorites will always be the old school ones.

    2. They are just so retro. What do you think about the new Gotham show?

    3. I'm on the fence. On one hand, conceptually, a prequel-Batman show set in Gotham with a young Jim Gordon could be quite cool.

      On the other, I'm not sure it looks all that good from the previews. But I'll give it a shot.

  4. (1) That Alfred Bester had a hand in comics books is most definitely cool. I wonder if he ever did anything for Tales from the Crypt or the like.

    (2) Interesting theory. Could be, stranger things have happened. What I'm wondering is one (or perhaps two) of those minds were slumming across the pond in the UK comics industry during the PV (Pre-Vertigo) Era.

    (8) The following reactions happened in chronological order, one after each other.

    Me: (to myself) Well, it's nice to Barbra agai...(see villain of the story, sighs inwardly, resigned) Oh no, not again. (scrolls down to see Joker's Daughter)....AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHH!

    (9) Correction NO ONE expects the Spanish Inquisition! :


    (10) Ah the 70s, back when people had yet to rediscover shame (possibly somewhere right around the time of the Breakfast Club).

    (11) The irony is I think DC actually went this route way later on with a character called Firebrand, and dear crap was he annoying!


    1. I don't recall Firebrand making war on the US Congress. I'll have to look that one up!

      "Ah the 70s, back when people had yet to rediscover shame"

      That made me chuckle. Probably very true.