|Pin-up from Batman Family.|
Wolfman was wrong of course - in the early 80s, the industry was booming - but at the time, it was a reasonable view; all signs pointed to imminent collapse. At DC this was especially true. 1978 was the year of the DC Implosion, with cancellation of almost half the company's titles and mass layoffs.
|Much to the Joker's delight, this spread some (mild) chaos in the titles Batman appeared in.|
All-Star Comics folded, and the JSA wandered between the worlds before settling in Adventure Comics, as we'll see in 1979.
|Power Girl landed in Showcase.|
|And the Huntress followed in Black Canary's footsteps and went over to Earth-1.|
|FURTHER EDIT: Yep, I was 100% wrong. Here's Selina Kyle introducing herself to Bruce Wayne in Batman #308. (She's removed the flower from her hat and changed coats, but it's the same person.)|
WORLD'S FINEST COMICS
(Issues 248 - 253)
Writers: Bob Haney, E. Nelson Bridwell, Gerry Conway, Steve Ditko. Artists: Kurt Schaffenberger, Frank Chiaramonte, Don Newton, Steve Dikto, George Tuska, Vince Colletta, Tex Blaisdell.
In a face-saving move of sorts, DC expanded some of its titles to Dollar Comics as it slashed production elsewhere. World's Finest began featuring the adventures of Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and The Creeper (written and drawn by Steve Ditko) alongside Superman and Batman. The Creeper ones are cool if you like Ditko (and I run hot or cold on him)
|The Wonder Woman stories are actually pretty good. This splash makes it seem as if this is some lurid-race-panic affair, and while it's hardly that at all in the reading, I wouldn't fault you for raising an eyebrow.|
The Superman and Batman stories (alas, no Jrs.) are almost all Silver Age throwbacks in conception and execution.
|Superman vet Kurt Schaffenberger joined the fold, and while this art looks beautiful to my eyes now, it was very anachronistic for 1978. Comic book art (as Kirby was finding over at Marvel) was moving in an entirely different direction.|
|Like the Batman can even feel his skull at this point!|
|Some of the stories are actually pretty surreal. (Though "surreal" and "Silver Age throwback" are interchangeable.)|
|I am a sucker for any neutron bomb reference. They are fewer and further between than you'd think.|
(Issues 151 - 161)
(Issues 151 - 161)
Writer: Gerry Conway. Artists: Dick Dillin, Frank McLaughlin, George Tuska
Most of the year falls into this pattern:
|Another team meeting.|
|The women discuss gender roles.|
|The Atom agonizes over his impending nuptials.|
|Red Tornado finds time for a self-pitying remark.|
|Green Arrow gives "that speech" again.|
|And then this happens.|
|The year's cross-over event has the feel of any bloated variety show or fundraiser from the late 70s or early 80s.|
It does give the Batman the occasion to reflect on the child he never had:
(Issues 15 - 20)
Writers: Bob Rozakis, Gerry Conway, Denny O'Neil, Paul Levitz, David Reed. Artists: Lee Elias, Joe Giella, Don Heck, John Celardo, Jim Aparo, Bob Wiacek, Vince Colletta, Michael Golden, Craig Russell, Juan Ortiz, Joe Staton, Bob Layton.
and Batgirl and the Huntress (who gets a back-up along the way) prove they're definitely in the Bat-clan:
Starting with cover date January 1979 (on sale fall 1978) Batman Family was folded into:
(Issues 475 - 486)
Writers: Steve Englehart, Len Wein, Denny O'Neil. Artists: Marshall Rogers, Terry Austin, Jim Starlin, Dick Giordano, Don Newton, David Hunt
Saleswise, Detective Comics was actually the Bat-title on the chopping block, but DC figured it couldn't exactly cancel the series from whose title it derived its initials. So the better-selling Batman Family was folded into it.
That all happened in cover-date 1979, though, so we'll see those next time. This year starts off with perhaps the most well-regarded Joker story of the '70s outside of "The Joker's Five Way Revenge" (back in Batman 251.)
It's a decent two-parter, definitely. People have been telling me for years that Sam Hamm's script for Batman (1989) drew heavily on this for inspiration, but I didn't really see anything in it that wasn't in a dozen other Batman stories (prior to 1978) I can think of. Still pretty good, though.
Steve Englehart was hired by Jenette Kahn to write Marvel-style stories for JLA and Batman, and he certainly does so here, weaving in multi-issue sub-plots with haunted bosses and a girlfriend who guesses the Batman's secret identity. This latter story ends with a Bat-break-up and informs the last page of the Joker two-parter, which comes up often in any discussion of the period.
Otherwise, there's a throwback to "The House that Haunted Batman" from Detective Comics #408 (way back in 1971) and the return of (an all-new) Clayface.
THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD
(Issues 139 - 145)
Writers: Bob Haney, Cary Burkett. Artist: Jim Aparo
This year's stretch of team-ups includes Hawkman, Wonder Woman, Black Canary, Aquaman, the Creeper, Green Arrow, and the Phantom Stranger. A pretty familiar line-up at this point, isn't it? Compare it to the variety in Marvel Two in One or Marvel Team-Up of the same few years.
|Going through the motions, more or less.|
|Some cool art as always.|
|Get a job, sir.|
(Issues 295 - 306)
Writers: Gerry Conway, David Reed. Artists: Michael Golden, Sal Amendola, Rich Buckler, Vince Colletta, John Calnan, Dick Giordano, Walt Simonson, Tex Blaisdell
Meh. Nothing really jumps out as particularly worthy of discussion. Feels like a placeholder year for the line.
The David Reed-penned stories are all perfectly acceptable - so are the Conway ones, for that matter - but I've already forgotten what they were about. I look at the covers and images and remember taking them in, but nothing stuck.
|I did bring you back a couple of souvenirs, though:|
AND THE BEST BATMAN STORY
OF 1978 IS...
Note: as with a few other entries to this "Best of..." feature, this one might not be the actual best story of the year.
|from Batman Family #18.|
|Keep in mind: Barbara Gordon is a congresswoman.|
|Thank God, though, that her date has chosen this Makeout Point to park, as it allows her to espy the would-be terrorists.|
I won't draw it out. The set-up is what blows my mind, there, above.
If it ended there - Batgirl on this inexplicable date who just happens to thwart a would-be assault on an undefended Pentagon - it'd be chuckleworthy but not showcased. What brings it to the next level is the sudden appearance of:
The Pentagon, you see, was built to harness the mystical powers of the earth. (This might explain the intermittent blood sacrifice the State Department feels obliged to ritually enact once every generation - got to keep The Old Ones happy.)
|Madame Zodiac feels obliged to let the Pentagon's engineers off the hook, there.|
And that's all she wrote. Only one of these left! How did we get here so fast? See you next time for the last year of the Batman's swinging seventies adventures.