Batman 1977 pt. 1

In 1977, World's Finest became a Dollar Comic, an initiative spearheaded by the woman who eventually (along with Dick Giordano and Paul Levitz) presided over the 80s and early 90s "New Golden Age" of DC, Jenette Kahn.

She's a film producer these days.
You can read the full story at that first link above, but the short version is that failure to keep pace with rising paper and newsprint costs combined with inflation and dwindling sales to put DC in a position where Dollar Comics made sense. The reader got four $.35 comics for the price of three, and the company and newsvendors realized a greater profit margin at $1 a pop vs. $.35.

It wouldn't last, but it was an attractive solution at the time. Kahn cracked down on filling out these giant-sized issues with reprints, to boot, and she solicited a steady flow of original content. Great for freelancers in 1977; bad for bloggers in 2014. Or good, depending on how you look at it. I take my duties as your tour guide on these comics safaris as seriously as one can take self-imposed imaginary duties. And I still feel kind of bad for providing such a limited excursion for the 100 Page Giants back in '75. So, this time around, pursuant to reporting to you here, I read all of it. Which necessitates splitting the overview into two parts. 

Let's start things off with a couple of ads that caught my eye.

Anyone see Once In A Lifetime? Fantastic documentary, even if you don't like football / soccer.
I've been posting this to people's facebooks and sending it around via email, so I might as well link to it here as well. Apple and Cherry still seem to be readily available at the 7-11, but I haven't seen some of the varieties from these 70s ads (blueberry, for example, or banana) in a long time. But I remember them from lunchrooms of yesteryear, yes sir.
I was confronted almost right out of the gate with the cover date vs. on-sale dilemma. I've been going by cover date - and I plan to continue going by cover date - but that leads to some occasional "Oh, I'm in the wrong year" moments. Nothing particularly earth-shattering, though.

For the nonce, let's set our dimensional chronometers to Earth-2 and begin with:

Writer: Paul Levitz. Artists: Joe Staton, Bob Layton

As you might have noticed, I have kind of a soft spot for the whole Earth-2 idea, so you'd think this late-70s surge of attention given to the continuing adventures of DC's Golden Age characters would please me. Unfortunately, it's all handled rather badly. I'm realizing now that my affection for this stuff comes almost exclusively from the team-ups from the JLA of the 60s and from an issue of The Brave and the Bold that while published in 1983 will be the coda for this Batman in the Bronze Age series. 

As for how the characters fared under Paul Levitz in All-Star and the JLA writers in the 70s, I'm not much of a fan. That's the weird thing about the JSA and many of DC's other-Earth characters. For as often as they've appeared and as many attempts made to establish them as popular characters, nothing ever really sticks. The exceptions are Power Girl (as we mentioned last time) and the character we meet this time, The Huntress. (v. 2)

We learn that Batman and Catwoman (remember, the Earth-2 characters are 20 years older than their Earth-1 counterparts) got married after their Golden Age misadventures.
No sooner do we learn this (after a montage of their having a child and honeymooning and what not) we learn that the Catwoman is now dead.
Cheap and gimmicky. Not that I can fault All-Star Comics for this exclusively, of course - it was (and remains) an all-too-common shortcut in comics and elsewhere. It's the storytelling equivalent of telling your classmates that you've got a significant other, of course, but he/she lives out of town or works for the Foreign Service.
The Catwoman's death prompts Bruce Wayne to retire from Batman-ing and become Commissioner Wayne. And it inspires their daughter to grow up and take the cowl and requisite oath-by-gravestone.

When I was growing up, the Huntress was not especially on my radar, so I can't say how popular she was or wasn't. 

She was brought to life by Barbara Joyce as one of the heroines in Legends of the Superheroes, a short-lived 1979 primetime variety show, but I'm still not sure she had the visibility of someone like Batgirl. (Who was not on Legends, for some reason. But the characters who did appear were so random, it would have made no more or less sense if Batgirl was chosen in her stead.)
A tribute to the late Ms. Joyce can be found here.
She seemed to get more popular in following decades. But she's never appeared the same way twice. The Bronze Age version, i.e. the daughter of Earth-2's Bruce Wayne and Selena Kyle seen above, was killed in Crisis, and the post-Crisis version was named Helena Bertinelli. This is the name of the character that appears in the DC Animated Universe.

Yet she was named Helena Kyle, recalling her original parentage, in the prime-time show Birds of Prey (which I've never seen and so can't comment on) and is back to being Helena Wayne from Earth-2 in the New 52.

At any rate, she's not particularly memorable in these issues. But neither is anyone else. The Wildcat in particular:

but this is a Batman blog, so let's move on.
(Issues 138 - 149)
Writers: Cary Bates, Steve Englehart, Paul Levitz, Martin Pasko. Artists: Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin

Remember how last time I said this comic better shape up or it was going to disappear from these pages? Well, they must have heard me across space-time and stepped up their game, as this year's batch is pretty fun.

Wonder Woman is used as a bit of a women's-lib cypher, but turns out she's just under the influence of "Construct-II." Whew.
Issue 144 has some meta-narrative fun with the timequakes of comics continuity. (I love the little "Calm down, youngster!" aside from Batman to Robin.) Something comics fans have been doing ever since.
This year's crisis-on-multiple-earths involves both the JSA and the Legion of Superheroes:

It's not a bad one. I think JLA might have been better served to go to this whole cross-dimensional-team-up well a little less than they did, though. It's easy to see how the DC brass decided to end the whole multiverse with guns-a-blazin' in the years to come.

Apparently, Earth-2's Kara is unvexed by her blood relation to her cousin. Maybe the other-dimensionality is enough cover? Good news for folks who have the hots for their cousins, I guess.
There's a couple of fun bits in the

Take a look at these suggestions for JLA movie casting:

Sure some of these folks might be obscure today, but I have to hand it to Mr. Stevenson: this is actually a pretty well thought out list. (Peter Lupus was a bodybuilder and not a proper actor, but I'll overlook that one.) What do you folks think? I kind of want to locate which level of the Tower has this cast in a JLA movie and see for myself.

And finally:

It's beyond the scope of my efforts, here, but there's quite a bit of interesting commentary on the times in the pages of DC during these years. Not as encapsulated by that image above, just in general. (If you thought "Town Without Men" was instructive, you should read Marv Wolfman's run on Green Lantern from this period - whew.) 

Not to mention the agonizing Terry Long plots from New Teen Titans.
Some enterprising young person should take it upon his or her self to properly footnote it all. "Reactions to the Equal Rights Amendment, both Direct and Indirect, in Popular Culture in the Seventies." So long as it's not written by Lena Dunham or Bill O'Reilly, I'd read it.

(Issues 241 - 247)
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Curt Swan, Al Milgrom, José Luis García-López, Murphy Anderson, Gray Morrow.

First things first: I screwed up. Even allowing for cover date vs. on-sale date, I should have covered issues 241 and 242 last time and didn't. But there's little I can add to these overviews of these issues not covered in those two links, except that I found them very entertaining whereas that blogger found them exasperating. He's particularly hard on Bob Haney, whose approach may seem silly, sure, but his writing is a huge part of the fun for me. Especially in the case of 241. 

I'm sometimes guilty of shrugging off things I should probably be harder on, but comics of the Bronze Age and earlier are like mythology to me. Sometimes, Superman's just going to create a M-class planet (complete with indigenous lifeforms) from smashing some asteroids together and I'm not going to care any more about what orbital velocity it has around our sun any more than I care what Apollo's or Odin's calendar birthday is. Issue 241 undoubtedly plays fast and furious with the rules of time, space and storytelling - and it strains under the points it tries to make about capitalism, race, love, etc. - but who cares? Not me.

I've grown to enjoy these Super-Sons ones as well, so my own review of 242 would be much nicer than in that link. It's a worthwhile continuation of their Easy-Rider-with-capes adventure.

Where I'm less forgiving of Haney's approach is in his inconsistent characterization of Superman. Take this otherwise-perfectly-fun story about ancient aliens from issue 243.

Also: add Maheps to our list of fictional DC nations.
Turns out that these monuments are actually ancient deflector systems for a previously-unknown alien race. But what gives with Superman's attitude here?

Later, he reacts in a similar wtf fashion once he discovers what's going on.


I mean, we saw him create a planet in the previous issue ... his problem solving abilities seem to retract and expand as necessary to the plot. Plus, he's a bit bitchy, isn't he? Anyway.

These 84 page giants have a plethora of fun back-up stories.

The Wonder Woman ones seem inspired by the then-airing TV show. (And are generally better-written.)
And there's this fantastic serial from former-wrestling-journalist Bill Kunkel and one of the 20th century's greatest artists, Mr. Gray Morrow.

I know zilch about this character, but I just love the crap out of Gray Morrow. This was a surprise for me - I had no idea these things existed.
I'll have to look up this Vigilante character. He'd be a natural for the New 52's All-Star Western series (if indeed he has not yet appeared in it.)
The year ends with this bizarre two-parter where Superman discovers he has an evil twin who wastes no time in taking over the country and enslaving the planet.

It turns out to be Superman villain The Parasite impersonating this Kor-El dude, but he has a good run as world dictator before the tides are eventually turned.

Once overthrown, the world goes back to normal, and the evil reign of Kor-El is never mentioned again.
(Issues 132 - 138)
Writer: Bob Haney. Artists: Jim Aparo, John Calnan, Bob McLeod

Not the best year for Brave and the Bold...

... notwithstanding the Caped Crusader's centrifugal-psychedelic freakout in issue 134.
Tinker, Tailor, Lantern, Spy! (Note: not actual title.)
The stories in B and B rarely tie into continuity in other Bat-titles, but a mild attempt was made to do so this year. Some of the characters we see introduced in Batman and Detective Comics appear here as well.

Though not in an especially compelling way.

This issue made me chuckle:

I mean, Man-Bat had been appearing for 7 years at this point. He doesn't appear in this issue, but I like how it's just sort of put to one side that they've already well-explored this sort of thing.
My favorite from this year is probably 138. 

Another for the atlas: Trond-Hag.
It's not an exceptionally sensible tale, but I'm a sucker for the whole the-villain-is-actually-a-computer?-Let's-talk-it-to-death-with-ILLOGIC! trope.

It's amusingly defended at this blog - worth a look.


I mentioned that I might cover one or two of the Super Friends cartoons. But watching a few of them disabused me of this idea.

It's not that they're any more or less terrible than any other Hanna-Barbera cartoon, it's just that life's too short.

I'll end this first part of the '77 overview with this covers gallery of the comic tie-in - see you next time for the Bat-goings-on in Detective Comics, Batman Family, and Batman.




  1. Good lord... the format/ spacing got so freaking screwed up with this one. Ah well... I tried to fix it, but I've got zero-space between pictures and paragraphs in edit mode and yet am seeing like four or five lines between them in published mode. When this happens, usually I'll look at it on a different computer screen and the extra lines will have disappeared. But in case that's not the case, sorry, folks, pretty JV of me.

    1. Putting in multiple images can be tricky. I've got a tip that might help: any time you press enter, hit the spacebar a couple of times. Sometimes, it seems as if pressing enter twice to leave a paragraph break confused Blogger; but I've had success with using the spacebar gambit to fool the system.

      As for the photos . . . do you upload them all at once, or individually? I find that I have fewer formatting issues if I upload any photos (the ones I want to appear in sequence, that is) all at once, and then go in and add comments or whatever. Doing them one at a time has created such catastrophic problems for me in the past that I've junked entire posts.

      If I knew diddly-squat about HTML, I might could be of further assistance. But all I really know about HTML is that I pretend it stands for "His Thermal Majesty, Lonny." Which it almost certainly doesn't.

    2. "His Thermal Majesty, Lonny" is pretty good. I don't know anything about HTML either. I really should probably learn, but there's so much other stuff to learn/ read/ do. One of these days, maybe. I'm sure it'd alleviate many of the problems I have.

      I do indeed upload multiple pictures at once. One thing I do that might be mucking me up is once I upload them, I'll cut-and-paste and move them around. I can't be sure of this, but I think that might be doing it, as it seems to leave hyperlinks active in blank space and when I delete them, the curser indicates there's still a line break or something. When I do pt. 2 I'm going to avoid this and see if it does anything.

      Thanks for the spacebar tip - will try that as well.

  2. That Evil Superman Twin storyline has me wondering just how much (if any) story elements worked their way into Alan Moore's Miracleman. Seeing as how the Moore series began in 82, it's just an interesting idea to ruminate over.

    The whole issue of Women's Lib and it's depiction in these issues is...ironic, to say the least. In terms of the portrayal of female superheroes, I can't say I know whether or not to be skeptical from one moment to the next.

    The whole issue of how to portray women as superheroes is sort of one big conundrum to me, really. After all, you have these characters drawn in skimpy clothing, and subject to a lot of fan service. Do I know what to say to any of that, especially bearing in mind that there are a lot of women fans out there? Not really, no. I've listened in on too many online arguments between fans to believe it's possible to please everybody all the time. In a way, what makes these Bronze Age issues kind of comforting, in a very pathetic way, is that it least they're sometimes they're so blatant there's no question of whether or not to call it sexist. I'm not sure what to say to the current situation. The last time I ever felt justified in criticizing the treatment of a woman was in The Killing Joke, really. After that, it just sounded like a rigged game of some sort, no matter how many good intentions.

    As to "Reactions to the Equal Rights Amendment, both Direct and Indirect, in Popular Culture in the Seventies", I think someone already did that back in about 89-90. It sums up the whole matter in terms of both life and art as best as anything I've ever heard or read.

    "Ought to be easy, ought to be simple enough...Man meets woman and they fall in love, but this house is haunted and the pride gets rough. You got to learn to live with what you can't rise above - Bruce Springsteen - Tunnel of Love.


    1. I don't think it ought to be all that difficult to figure out how to tastefully portray women superheroes in comics. Women are remarkably varied creatures. Some of them LIKE being seen in gear that showcases their various feminine attributes (by which I mean T&A). Some of them seem to like it at certain times, but not as an exclusive thing. Others don't like it at all.

      For me, it's all a matter of doing what is appropriate for the individual character. It doesn't seem that difficult, but the industry seems to have still not figured it out 100%.

      I dunno. Seems like as long as you're putting some thought into the "why" of what you are writing/drawing, it ought to be an issue that takes care of itself.

    2. On the subject of female superheroes and Bronze Age sexism, I as always prefer to take the anthropologist's approach over the missionary's. I think you're right, Chris, and wading into such territory is all too often a rigged game.

      I completely agree as well, (Bryant) that to paint women with one brush is in contempt of the reality, which is that women as a genre are a mansion with many, many windows, all with different views.

  3. (1) Am I crazy, or was there at one point a Hostess chocolate pie? Heck, I think they might even exist, assuming I didn't imagine them.

    (2) The cover-date/in-store-date dilemma is a vexing one for people who are trying to make chronological lists of things. Me, for instance. ...sigh...

    (3) Here's how I know I'm incredibly weak in terms of my DC knowledge: I had no idea about any of this Earth-2 jazz with Batman and Catwoman. Commissioner Wayne?!? That just don't sound right, man.

    (4) Those are some weird JLA casting suggestions. Julie Newmar was in her mid-40s! She'd've been good in her prime, though.

    (5) I know almost nothing about The Vigilante apart from the two-parter Alan Moore wrote during the eighties. It's alright, but it didn't do much to interest me in the character. He seemed like a less-interesting Punisher to me.

    (6) How would that issue where The Demon turns Batman into a literal Bat Man -- a Man-Bat, if you will... -- even happen? How does an idea like that get by editorial? SOMEBODY must have said, "Hey, we've already got a guy for this!" at some point during the process, surely. Weird.

    We're starting to get into the era where the covers -- at least in terms of the layouts and typography -- are beginning to look familiar, so we're probably getting close to some issues I'd've read in grocery stores or gas stations or whatever. Cool!

    1. (1) You know, I think you may be right. I googled for some definitive site on the subject but so far, nada.

      (2) Me, too! That site, tho, listing everything month-by-month with on-sale vs. cover date is a resource I plan to use from here on out.

      (3) There's at least one fantastic Batman/ Catwoman Earth-2 story - we'll be seeing that one at the end of the Batman in the Bronze Age path. (It also is my favorite Batman story, so double win for me.) We'll unfortunately be wading through a lot of sub-standard Earth-2 stuff before then.

      (4) I guess I was thinking of all these folks in their prime. Julie Newmar still looked pretty good in her mid-40s and definitely could have pulled it off. If a JLA movie had materialized in the late 70s, tho, I imagine they would have gotten someone younger. I like to picture the cast with these suggestions, though - especially Rollerball-era Jimmy Caan as Hawkman. Hell, if someone just made Rollerball and replaced Caan's character with Hawkman, I'd have enjoyed the hell out of that.

      (5) Oh man, I totally forgot about Moore's Vigilante story. I've read it but don't recall too much about it. That Gray Morrow art in these World's Finest issues is probably what I'm most responding to, but the stories themselves are fine as well.

      (6) Totally. In one of the interviews with Denny O'Neil I read, he talked about how the various creative teams never read each other's work. That's got to cause problems. But even in that environment, you figure SOMEONE would have mentioned Man-Bat. (In another interview, Paul Levitz talks about how when he got the Bat-editorial job, he went back and read every Batman story written up to that point and how "it was still possible to do that, then." The idea of getting that gig and sitting down in the DC vault (or ordering all the issues brought up to your office) is as appealing and otherworldly to me as Paris in the '20s.