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Post by shaxper on Jun 24, 2021 7:15:47 GMT -5
The next phase in my exploration of Batman across the decades, which I began in The Complete Batman: 1979-2011
and have supplemented with The Batman Family and Beyond: 1975-1990
. This time around, I am joined by Hoosier X, whose knowledge of the so-called "Atom Age," and especially of the Batman titles during that era, is far richer than my own.
So why begin with 1955?
As Hoosier will argue in the very next post, there is no decisive point at which the Batman titles start taking on a campier, sci-fi heavy approach, but we've decided to begin with 1955 for two reasons:
1. It follows shortly after the publication of Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent (April 1954), the establishing of The Comics Code Authority (September 1954), and the tidal change that both events triggered across the comic book industry.
2. It signals the beginning of the original Bat Family, starting with the introduction of Ace the Bathound in June. Hoosier and I could think of no clearer demarcation line for the start of this campier, more wildly imaginative era of Batman stories.
From there, it will be fascinating to follow the franchise's progression from sci-fi silliness to the more sober New Look Era, and finally the post-1969 solo Batman era which works to make the franchise darker and more mature.
It's a lot to take in for one review thread, but I believe the overarching idea that extends across all of this is evolution. Prior to 1955, the Batman franchise was, perhaps, more stagnant/less prone to change, and beginning with 1979, the franchise establishes a Modern Age sense of long-term continuity that has since pervaded through each of its ensuing evolutions. What lies between those two points is what we'll be exploring here, and hopefully enjoying the heck out of.
That's right: Bill Finger and Dick Sprang in the same review thread as Steve Englehart and Marshall Rogers, The Batman of Zur-En-Arrh in the same thread as Rhas Al Ghul! How did the Batman franchise get from one to the other over the course of only two decades? We all have a basic idea, but I'm curious to actually see
that evolution for myself, and I hope you'll join Hoosier X and I for the ride!
Shortcuts to key articles, lists, and arguments contained in this thread:Batman: The Challenge of the 1950s, Part One (1955-1959)Why 1950's Batman Had To Go Sci-FiBig Changes in 1956Batman vs. Detective Comics in The Atom AgeAn ongoing list of people who helped to train Batman
Shortcuts to reviews contained in this thread:Detective Comics #215World's Finest Comics #74Batman #89Detective Comics #216Batman #90Detective Comics #217World's Finest Comics #75Batman #91Detective Comics #218Detective Comics #219World's Finest Comics #76Batman #92Detective Comics #220Detective Comics #221World's Finest Comics #77Batman #93Detective Comics #222Detective Comics #223Batman #94World's Finest Comics #78Batman #95Detective Comics #224Detective Comics #225World's Finest Comics #79Batman #96Detective Comics #226Detective Comics #227World's Finest Comics #80Batman #97Detective Comics #228
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Post by shaxper on Jun 24, 2021 7:19:00 GMT -5
BATMAN: THE CHALLENGE OF THE 1950s
By Hoosier X
1955 to 1959
In the 1950s, Batman (along with the rest of the comic-book world, and media in general) found himself coping with a changing society, changing technology, and economic pressure to continue to appeal to youthful audiences. The Caped Crusader had survived the costumed-adventurer purge of the late 1940s and the early 1950s, and he stood tall at the top of the super-hero heap, with only Superman above him on the pinnacle. But as the 1950s progressed and became the 1960s, Superman thrived, held aloft by a Superman series on television, maintaining his series in Superman and Action, continuing the tales of his adventures as a boy (in two comics!) and expanding his media presence as his pal Jimmy Olsen and his girlfriend Lois Lane got their own comics. The Man of Steel also appeared with Batman in team-up stories in World’s Finest. Batman, still a powerful force, seemed to be stagnating, with adventures appearing only in World’s Finest, his eponymous title and Detective Comics. As a matter of fact, one might say he was losing ground as sidekick Robin no longer appeared in his solo series in Star-Spangled Comics, a monthly slot he had held for almost five years, from #65 to #130 (1947 to 1952).
A commonly told story of Batman in the 1950s goes something like this: With sales going down, editor Jack Schiff was pressured to inject fantastic elements into the Batman stories. It was believed that the kids of the 1950s, with a steady diet of movie and TV genres culled from the media menu, would be more likely to find the Batman comics appealing if they included more of the elements of popular films and TV programs. Science fiction was considered an especially fruitful draw for the comic-book demographic. That’s why the Martian Manhunter was added to Detective Comics in 1955. And that’s why Batman had so many adventures where he had to outwit random aliens, conquer giant monsters and cope with many strange transformations.
Jack Schiff did what he was told, and ruined Batman with a steady procession of dumb-looking green or blue aliens, out-of-place monsters from Grade-Z creature features, and stories where he turned into a zebra or a baby or a mummy or an Indian chief (or whatever).
The prime mover of these suggestions is said to be Mort Weisinger, another editor at DC, the guy who oversaw the Superman titles that were grabbing all the gory in the super-hero game in the 1950s. He also told Jack Schiff to copy all the great ideas that had made Superman great. Superman had Supergirl; Batman should have Batwoman. Superboy had Krypto; Batman would have Ace the Bat-Hound. Superman had Mr. Mxyztplk; Batman would have Bat-Mite.
And so Jack Schiff drove Batman into the ground. By 1964, Batman was on the verge of cancellation. At the last minute, the suits called in Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino to save the day! Just ask them!
There’s probably some truth in there but it’s clear that there’s also some silly nonsense involved in that interpretation. In this two-part essay, I’ll be sorting through the facts to try to prove that the conventional wisdom is so blatantly simplified that it veers into deception. Part One will cover the 1950s with a focus on 1956 to 1959. Part Two will focus on 1959 to 1964.
Jack Schiff Meets The Bat-Fifties
Jack Schiff edited a lot of comics for DC. Super-hero comics, humor comics, western comics, mystery comics, science fiction comics. One would suspect that the publishers thought he did a pretty good job as an editor when you consider that he did it for 25 years.
Jack Schiff was born in Brooklyn in 1909 and attended Cornell University. (My online research didn’t turn up any evidence that he graduated.) He started writing for Dc Comics in 1941. His credits include a couple of Joker stories and a great early Catwoman story from Batman #15, “Your Face Is Your Fortune.” It’s Catwoman’s sixth appearance, and it’s the first time Catwoman met Bruce Wayne as a civilian and not in his Batman identity. They begin a relationship, but a mistrustful Catwoman disguises herself as Bruce’s regular girlfriend Linda Page and he confides to her that he’s only dating Catwoman to get her to go straight. Complications ensue.
Schiff was promoted to editor in 1943 and was assigned to some of DC’s biggest titles.
Writer Alvin Schwartz praised Schiff’s skills as an editor: “I worked for Schiff for years. I found him intelligent, caring, fair and literate ̶ a combination which Mort Weisinger, who took over from Schiff, was thoroughly lacking. Schiff could write as well … Schiff was not easy to work with in the sense that he wouldn’t swallow a bad plot. But he could plot himself and I remember with pleasure some of the plotting sessions we had.”
As an editor, Schiff worked on the following titles from 1943 to 1967:
Action Comics (1943 to 1948)
Adventure Comics (1943 to 1953)
The Adventures of Alan Ladd (1949 to 1951)
Batman (1943 to 1964)
Big Town (1951)
Blackhawk (1957 to 1964)
Boy Commandos (1943 to 1949)
The Brave and the Bold (1960 to 1962)
Buzzy (1944 to 1949)
The Challengers of the Unknown (1958 to 1962)
Dale Evans Comics (1948 to 1952)
A Date with Judy (1947 to 1949)
Detective Comics (1943 to 1964)
Feature Films (1950)
Frontier Fighters (1955 to 1956)
Gang Busters (1947 to 1958)
House of Mystery (1951 t0 1962, 1964 to 1967)
House of Secrets (1956 to 1962, 1964 to 1967)
Leading Comics (1943 to 1945)
More Fun Comics (1943 to 1946)
Mr. District Attorney (1948 to 1959)
My Greatest Adventure (1956 to 1962)
Mystery in Space (1964 to 1966)
Real Fact Comics (1946 to 1949)
Rip Hunter – Time Master (1961 to 1962)
Showcase (1956 to 1961)
Star-Spangled Comics (1943 to 1952)
Strange Adventures (1964 to 1967)
Superboy (1949 to 1955)
Superman (1943 to 1948)
Tales of the Unexpected (1956 to 1962, 1964 to 1967)
Tomahawk (1950 t0 1962)
Western Comics (1948 to 1953)
World’s Finest Comics (1942 to 1964)
Surviving the Atomic Age
DC Comics, like any media company in any dynamic era, examined its product as the 1940s became the 1950s, and took a look at the sales and the audience and especially at what the other guys were doing. One very early reaction to the changing times – the challenge of the 1950a, as I call it – can be seen in Detective Comics #153 (cover-dated November 1949) with the debut of a feature titled “Impossible – But True!”
It’s about a TV show called “Impossible – But True!” The host of the show is a clean-cut, suit-wearing man who smokes a pipe. He’s Roy Raymond, TV Detective. His assistant is a pretty and very capable blonde named Karen Duncan, who always wears the same red dress. Roy presents strange phenomena on the show, and he and Karen must face people with extraordinary claims who want to be on the show. So every month we get six to eight pages of Roy and Karen debunking various frauds, con artists and hoaxers.
So one way that DC confronted the challenge of the 1950s involved creating a strip based on the new media Frankenstein-monster known as television! The name of the strip was changed from “Impossible – But True!’ to “Roy Raymond, TV Detective.” The strip started in #153 in 1949 and lasted until #292 (skipping #212 for some reason), a total of 139 installments.
Roy Raymond, TV Detective, replaced Slam Bradley, who had been in Detective Comics since the first issue in 1937. Not only did Slam precede Batman by more than two years, he also pre-dated Superman in Action Comics! Slam, a lowly private eye with no powers and no colorful costume, had punched his way to the solution for 152 issues! But his longevity couldn’t save him and he had to retire from slamming things to make room for a TV-show host.
A look at the other features in Detective Comics offers a little more insight into how the company coped with the changing times. When Roy Raymond first appeared, he shared Detective with Batman (of course), Robotman and Pow-Wow Smith, Indian Detective.
Robotman held on to his short feature for a very long time. He started in Star-Spangled Comics #7 in 1942 and appeared monthly until #82 in 1948. He didn’t miss a month before popping up in Detective Comics #138, sharing the book with Batman, Slam Bradley and the Boy Commandos. Robotman lasted until Detective #202 in 1953. He was replaced by Mysto the Magician Detective! (We’ll get back to Mysto in a moment.)
The fourth feature in Detective when Roy Raymond started represented another genre that dominated the 1950s – the Western! Somebody said, “Come up with a Western detective!” And the result was Pow-Wow Smith, Indian Lawman. I haven’t read many Pow-Wow Smith stories. A modern-day lawman in Red Deer Valley in an unnamed western state, Pow-Wow Smith keeps the peace and solves mysteries. I guess.
The Indian Detective started just a few issues before Roy Raymond and wasn’t booted out of Detective Comics until #202, the same issue as Robotman’s dismissal. But whereas Robotman retired, Pow-Wow Smith moved to another comic book for a respectable run in Western Comics #43 to #85.
Detective Comics had two new features as of #203. Captain Compass had navigated through a number of perilous adventures for a few years in Star-Spangled Comics #83 to #130 before taking a year off (except for one appearance in World’s Finest #63) and then sailing over to Detective Comics for his grand return in #203. Captain Compass had extensive maritime experience and he eventually found employment as an investigator for shipping crimes. His comic book series is about his various exploits on ships, in harbors, along the waterfront and wherever else maritime mysteries need to be solved. His last issue in Detective Comics was #224.
Returning to Mysto the Magician Detective (and I know you’re squirming in your seat from excitement!), we find a short-lived series about a magician who solved mysteries. He lasted from Detective Comics #203 to #212. He wasn’t replaced. Detective Comics now featured only three headline characters, Batman, Roy Raymond and Captain Compass.
(If you want to see a Mysto adventure, check out Detective Comics #421. Of course, it’s almost fifty years old and it might be kind of expensive. But it’s not as expensive as Detective #205!)
Which brings us to 1955 and the Martian Manhunter! Detective Comics #225 comes out and there’s no more Captain Compass! Instead we get “The Strange Experiment of Dr. Erdel” in which J’onn J’onzz is accidentally transported to Earth and masquerades as a human so he can be a policeman.
The Martian Manhunter adds a note of blatant science fiction to Detective Comics, although it should be noted that the series has very little actual science backing it up. The Manhunter is from Mars and he has great powers that include great strength, telepathy, flight, shape-changing, super-breath and pretty much whatever he needs for a story. He doesn’t reveal himself to the humans for a very long time. He assumes the identity of John Jones and performs his super-feats in secret, not revealing the existence of his Martian self.
(Many people consider this the real start of the Silver Age because of how important the Manhunter is to DC in this period, mostly because he’s one of the founding members of the Justice League of America. The Flash doesn’t show up for a few months. And while the Flash is appearing sporadically in Showcase until he gets his own title in 1959, the Manhunter is showing up every month in Detective. The Flash gets all the glory. But the Manhunter was doing the work!)
(Batwoman also predates Flash, but we won’t get into that until later.)
The other anthology title that concerns us in any discussion of Batman in the 1950s is World’s Finest Comics. The Superman/Batman team-ups in World’s Finest lasted so long, way into the 1980s (except for period in the early 1970s when WF was a Superman team-up title), that DC fans can be forgiven for forgetting that, until 1954, World’s Finest featured (among other things) a Superman story and a separate Batman story every month.
They ain’t throwaway stories either! The first appearance of Jonathan Crane – the Scarecrow himself! – was in WF #3! The iconic giant penny in the Bat-Cave provided the centerpiece for one of the theme crimes of “The Penny Plunderers!” in WF #30. And Luthor and the Toyman made significant appearances in World’s Finest Comics.
World’s Finest Comics faced the challenge of the 1950s with some creative rearrangement of its super-hero properties. In 1954, rising costs persuaded DC to reduce the number of features from four to three. At that point, it was Superman, Batman, Green Arrow and Tomahawk. But comic book editors are tricksy! They combined the Superman and Batman features to form the Superman/Batman team-ups starting with WF #70 and kept Green Arrow and Tomahawk! With four major characters, it looked like World’s Finest still had four features! And the greatest friendship in super-hero comics (at least until the 1980s) was formed!
GIMMICK CRACK CORN AND I DON’T CARE
When you compare the comics of the 1940s to those of the 1950s, you’ll notice the ding-dangy gimmick covers. In the 1940s, comic covers offered up symbolic representations of the stories inside or exciting actions scenes or, if it was winter, Batman, Robin and Superman making a snowman.
By the 1950s, everybody had seen enough of covers like this. It became important to attract readers by depicting something crazy from the story … and then to browbeat the writers to JUST DO IT!
They were still doing it in the 1960s. Silver Age DC is famous for insane things on the covers, like the Justice League of America floating away because gravity failed. Or the Flash gaining 1,000 pounds as he takes a few steps. Or Wonder Woman fighting her own robot self!
These gimmick covers (and the accompanying stories) can be seen in the Batman comics as well. The cover of Batman #72 features “The Jungle Batman” with Batman and Robin playing Tarzan and fighting a panther. Bruce Wayne is somehow the mayor of Gotham City in Detective #179 in 1952. The cover for Batman #79 teases the prospective reader with “The Bride of Batman” as Vicki Vale scolds Batman for not showering his soon-to-be wife with the proper attention. In Batman #86, Batman is somehow an Indian chief.
Elements of science fiction start popping up on some of these gimmick covers. As early as Batman #59 (1950), the cover depicts Batman and Robin in a Batman spacecraft flying past the moon. The story is titled “Batman in the Future.”
In 1952, Batman and Robin meet “The Robot Cop of Gotham City” (Batman #70). Eventually Batman robots start popping up on a regular basis: “The Batman Machine (1955); “Batman’s Robot Twin” (1957); and the Batman Robot (1960). There’s even a Robin Robot in Detective Comics # 290 in 1961.
Looking at the early 1950s, the sci-fi gimmicks haven’t taken over yet, and most of them at this point seem like sensible if outlandish technological developments. Like the Crime Predictor in Batman #77. Criminals use it to predict the death of Batman and Robin! (And as in many of these stories (but not all of them!), the gimmick on the cover turns out to be a fake or a hoax.)
Then there’s “The Brain that Ruled Gotham” in Detective Comics #210 (1954). I’ve never read it. The cover shows a brain floating in a tank and it uses its overpowering mental powers to command Batman to pick up a handgun and shoot himself! Robin can’t help because he’s being grabbed by a generic, fedora-wearing Gotham gangster. I want to read it so bad!
An early foray into science fiction appeared in Batman #26. The cover depicts Batman, Robin and Alfred on a snowmobile! And it’s a Bat-snowmobile! This may not seen notable, but this issue was published in 1945, very early in the development of the snowmobile. Batman always kept up with the latest technology.
Inside we find “In the Year 3000,” a story set far in the future when peaceful Earthlings face an invasion from Saturn! The people of Earth discover old films of Batman and Robin, and a man named Brane takes up the Batman identity to inspire 30th-century Earthlings to fight back against the invaders. At the end, Brane reveals that, per the customs of the time, his name is a contraction for Bruce Wayne, and he is named after an illustrious ancestor. Except for appearing in some 1000-year-old films, the 20th century Batman and Robin don’t show up in this story.
A character very much like Brane shows up in “The Lost Legion of Space” in Batman #67 (1951) and again in “The Batman of Tomorrow” in Detective Comics #216 (1955). His name is Brane Taylor, and in these two stories, the Batman of the 20th century actually meets his futuristic counterpart.
The editorial team for the Batman comics experimented with fantastic themes and outlandish gimmicks very early on. As the 1950s rolled along, the science fiction influence became a little more prominent and a little more audacious. Batman #104 (1956) featured “The Creature from 20,000 Fathoms.” It’s not the first time Batman fought a giant monster, but it’s probably the first time that a Batman story so blatantly displayed its monster-movie roots.
The elements which made Jack Schiff famous (or infamous) seemed to proliferate in the next few months. After the giant monster in Batman #104, Batman had to cope with a few of the famed strange transformation. The comic-book world gazed in wild-eyed wonder at “The Rainbow Batman” in Detective Comics #241 and soon marveled at the Gotham-crushing menace of “The Giant Batman” (not for the last time!) in Detective Comics #243.
Detective Comics #251 (1957) offered up “The Alien Batman.” The cover shows Vicki Vale snagging a great scoop for her newspaper as she witnesses Batman greeting an alien coming out of a spaceship. Batman is removing his mask to reveal … the Caped Crusader is also an alien! (In the story, it turns out the Gotham Underworld has put together an elaborate ruse to discredit Batman by making the populace think he’s an alien. A lot of these end up with the gimmick exposed as a con or a ruse or a hoax.)
The very next issue depicts Batman and Robin in the monster-fighting business again, this time armed with only a motorboat, taking on “The Creature from the Green Lagoon!”
In 1958, Batman and Detective Comics start to look a lot more like the conventional wisdom’s Jack Schiff stereotype. Batman #113 features “The Batman-Superman of Planet X,” the famed tale of that distant world known as Zur-en-arrh. That same year, the Darkknight Detective became “The Merman Batman” and participated in a “Manhunt in Outer Space.” (This is also this time period where Mogo the Bat-Ape was introduced.)
Over in Detective, Batman faces “The Challenge of the Captive Planet” and is imprisoned by giant robots and participates in “The Olympic Games of Space.” Around the same time, Batman faced, for the first time, The Calendar Man (Detective Comics #259 (not particularly science fiction-y)) and Dr. Double X in Detective Comics #261 (very science fiction-y.)
It’s still not quite the monthly parade of alien invasions, big monsters and strange transformations of the conventional wisdom. We’ll have to wait for that! It’s wonderful and terrible! We’ll get to that in a second essay when we reach the spring of 1959 and … Bat-Mite!
Let’s tackle the conventional wisdom again. One part of the 1950s Batman legend is that Mort Weisinger urged Jack Schiff to copy story elements that had succeeded in the Superman books. Like Supergirl! Batman needs a female counterpart!
Except … Batwoman first appeared in Detective Comics #233 in 1956 (two months before the Silver Age Flash) … and Supergirl first appeared in Action Comics #252 in 1959, three years later. (Not to mention all the other super-heroes with female counterparts, like Mary Marvel (1942), Bulletgirl (1941) and Hawkgirl, who appeared alongside the Golden Age Hawkman starting in 1941. Sometimes she was known as Hawkwoman.)
“What about Ace the Bat-Hound?” I hear you cry.
Krypto first appeared in the Superboy story in Adventure Comics #210, cover-dated March 1955. Ace the Bat-Hound first appeared in Batman #92, cover-dated June 1955, and Krypto’s second appearance occurred in Adventure Comics #214 the following month. You know what else appeared that month? Rex the Wonder Dog #22, edited by Julius Schwartz.
Maybe somebody was pressuring somebody to include more dogs in DC’s top-selling titles. But it’s not a particularly original idea. Besides, people love their dogs! It’s not some outlandish contrivance for Batman and Robin to have a dog. (Or Superboy either! Why wouldn’t they have dogs on Krypton?) In the climate of the time, it could be viewed as another gimmick, but not a particularly fanciful one.
And besides … stories with Ace the Bat-Hound are fun! I especially like the story that he narrates … and any story where Bat-Mite rides around on his back!
Speaking of Bat-Mite … he’s supposed to be a Bat-Mite counterpart to Superman’s Mr. Mxyzptlk, and the little imp might be a little harder to justify … for most people. Don’t worry, I have this all worked out!
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves! Bat-Mite is a 1959 creation, and a perfect centerpiece for the second part of this essay as Batman faces … The Challenge of the Mid-Silver Age!
We’re still not done with the conventional wisdom. Somewhere along the way, they were trying to save Batman, so it was suggested to editor Jack Schiff that he should insert more science fiction and more random aliens and more big monsters and more stories where Batman gets changed into a zebra or whatever. And Schiff was a good company man, so he did it. And the stories were so bad that sales plummeted and Batman was on the verge of being canceled. So Julius Schwartz and Carmine Infantino were called in and Sheldon Moldoff was told to draw less like Bob Kane and the publishers told them to save Batman!
I look at the timeline … or maybe it’s more accurate to say I try to figure out the timeline … and I wonder when they decided that Jack Schiff should start including so much science fiction. Was it 1944 when “The Year 3000” first appeared? Maybe it was 1950, when “Batman in the Future” decorated the cover of Batman #59. Or maybe it was 1954 when a brain floating in a tank menaced Gotham City. Or maybe the following year when the Martian Manhunter made his debut.
Or how about late 1957 thorough 1958, when Batman became the hero of Zur-en-arhh, led a “Manhunt in Space,” developed gills, fought accusations he was an alien, faced “The Creature from the Green Lagoon,” defeated giant robots, represented Earth in the outer Space Olympics and matched wits with the inter-dimensional personality of Dr. Double X.
That actually sounds like a relevant time period. So some time in 1957, somebody told Jack Schiff that he had to bring in more science fiction to increase sales on Batman and Detective Comics. And if sales didn’t increase, he would be relieved of his duties on Batman and Detective, and the two titles might be canceled!
And so Batman limped along from 1957 to 1964 and DC instituted “The New Look.” Because that’s how comic book publishing works. Jack Schiff had almost seven years to improve sales on Batman, but eventually DC was forced to bring in Julius Schwartz.
I am dubious.
It looks to me like Jack Schiff’s focus on science fiction and monsters and gimmick-y versions of Batman proved successful for a while. DC would have brought on Julius Schwartz and the New Look (or something like it) a lot sooner if Batman and Detective were on the verge of failing for a seven-year period.
The 1950s ended and the 1960s started, and society had changed. By 1963 and 1964, the formula was not working so well. DC looked at the numbers on the Superman titles and their mouths started watering (again!) and they started thinking about the money they could make if their Number Two property (Batman!) could do nearly as well …
But let’s save something for Part Two …
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Post by shaxper on Jun 24, 2021 7:52:26 GMT -5
Detective Comics #215 (January 1955)
"The Batmen of All Nations"
Script: Edmond Hamilton
Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Charles Paris
What an interesting era in which to be writing about a costumed crime-fighter. When the genre was first created in the late 1930s, it was a sort of condemnation of the United States. Crime was rampant, and the justice system was (at best) slow moving and capable of error and (at worst) self-interested and corrupt, necessitating heroes who would take the law into their own hands.
Yet, by November of 1954 (when this issue actually hit stands), America was the center of the Post-World War II world. To depict it as crime-ridden and injust would border on herecy, especially in a world that was now hypercritical of subversive messages in comic books since Fredric Wertham's Seduction of the Innocent had seen print only seven months earlier.
So heavy crime-fighting may have been a tricky subject for Batman at this point. What other options did that leave? Hunting commie spies had just gone out of vogue thanks to Joseph McCarthy's censure eight months earlier, so the only real remaining threat to America being felt at this point was Cold War anxiety, and Batman and Robin weren't going to be able to plausibly attack that in their pages.
So Batman and Robin are still crime-fighters in this story, but crime isn't depicted as a serious threat; crime-fighting is depicted more as their schtick, much as a cowboy might take on cattle thieves without it ever being implied that cattle thieves were an actual and pervasive threat to the average American citizen. Heck, the mobster and the gang in this particular story are portrayed primarily as a threat to Batman's reputation, not to the well-being of ordinary people:
and the real struggle in this story isn't about stopping crime at all; it's about Batman proving his superiority to our international allies and the crimefighters who represent them, which feels very 1950s to me.
The Batman of All Nations is a fun enough concept. It stands to reason that other countries would have their own crimefighters too and to wonder what they would be like:
But Hamilton and Moldoff are no fools. Even if the superhero genre is in decline at this point, they're not going to waste solid superhero ideas on a throwaway storyline, so the names and costumes we get are pretty unimaginative and perhaps a little racist. OF COURSE the British duo is going to be Knight and Squire, the French guy is The Musketeer, the Italian is The Legionary, and the Australian is The Ranger. And the costumes are every bit as obvious as the names.
Still, it's a very fun idea, and that fun concept sells the cover and keeps us invested even throughout a pretty simplistic, predictable, and low-stakes detective story in which Batman seems incapable of stopping a a crime boss who is baiting him while his counterparts from other countries wonder why he seems so ineffective. Spoiler alert: it's because one of them actually IS the crime boss Batman is trying to stop.
So, unless you believe Batman willingly walked into a trap we saw
him detect and thus got blown up partway through this story,
there's no real excitement to be had beyond entertaining the wildly fun idea of a sort of international coalition of Batmen.
(and the first person to bring up how Grant Morrison resurrected this concept during his run gets a symbolic slap across the face from me).
One final note: Who was the target demographic for such a simplistic tale (and for all the silly stories that follow)? We know entire families, including adults, were reading comics in the Golden Age, and we know that, by the 1960s, DC believed its target reader was twelve year old boys living in Middle America (1)
, but who did they think they were writing to, Post-Wertham? Sure seems like they are aiming for younger children, or perhaps they're just trying to sell a book with a quirky cover idea and not worrying too much about who they are playing to.Important Details:
1. First appearance of the Batmen of All Nations(1)
"Secret Origins of the Batman TV Show." DIAL B for BLOG - THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMIC BLOGAZINE. Dial B for Blog, 12 Jan. 2006. Web. 21 July 2016.
Post by zaku on Jun 24, 2021 8:54:22 GMT -5
Great, great, great review and research shaxper
! I'm looking forward to read the rest of this thred.
By the way, do you know that Gran...
(and the first person to bring up how Grant Morrison resurrected this concept during his run gets a symbolic slap across the face from me).
Uh, never mind...
Post by codystarbuck on Jun 24, 2021 15:52:47 GMT -5
The simple truth is the comics of the 50s were catering to a child audience who was increasingly distracted by new things, like television. newspaper strips went through a similar evolution, as the influence of genres on tv affected the strips, just like their floppy brethren. TV was filled with westerns and comedies, silly cartoons and sci-fi. Batman was chasing that same crowd, as was Superman. There is a lot of that in the post-War era, as a whole generation has come through darkness, though the spectre of death remains, in the form of nuclear paranoia and the various atomic monster movies. Batman went light as much as everyone else was, to escape the horrors of the war. the earlier generation was born out of the pulps and the adventure strips and sustained by a real battle against evil (and a just plain bloody battle for revenge and territory). DC courted the young minds and stayed conservative, while some of the others chased the ex-GIs and older readers, and got slapped down for it.
Batman, in this era, is as much about American Virtue and scientific achievement as the non-superhero comics of the same time, with batman as science adventurer, in a more absurdist form. Gimmicks are part and parcel, but no less out of place than The Spirit travelling into space (with wally Wood aiding Eisner) or Dick Tracy doing similar in his strips. A lot of former hardnosed adventurers lightened up considerably. That made them an easier sell to parents in a conservative time, while the darker stuff appealed to the anxieties of the adolescents.
We do have to remember that Batman didn't take a nose dive; it was a gradual decay, but you can't entirely lay blame on the content, as comic sales were in a steady decline across the decade, with the competition from television. As television becomes more ubiquitous, the decline is more prevalent. That's not to say that their weren't successes, just that you go from circulations ins the millions to the hundreds of thousands, then tens of thousands and those numbers continue to shrink to current decades. More comics get released, but at fewer numbers, given the narrowness of the Direct market, vs the days of the mass newsstand market.
So, while many fans decried this era, plenty of kids devoured them. Problem is, those kids moved on to other things, while the fans hung on and griped. It's a pattern that leads us to today, when hit comics would have been cancelled the decade or two before and they dream about selling as many copies as when Batman was at death's door.
Post by Hoosier X on Jun 24, 2021 19:30:46 GMT -5
I had to work today, so I haven’t had time to comment much. But I finally found a moment to link to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, to all the comics cover-dated January 1955 so everyone can see what the comic book marketplace was like when Detective Comics #215 was on the stands.www.mikesamazingworld.com/mikes/features/newsstand.php?type=cover&month=1&year=1955
The first thing you might notice ... there’s no issue of Batman! That’s because Batman was published eight times a year. And January was a month they skipped.
Superman, Superboy and Wonder Woman were also published eight times a year. Also ... Tomahawk!
Detective, Action and Adventure were all monthly comics.
World’s Finest was bi-monthly. The Superman/Batman team-ups had started less than a year before.
And Jimmy Olsen is only on its third issue and is also bi-monthly.
Green Arrow and Aquaman are still appearing in Adventure and World's Finest, but you wouldn’t know from any of these covers.
Also ... Plastic Man is still around in his own comic! Which means Quality is still publishing Blackhawk.
Post by chadwilliam on Jun 24, 2021 20:33:42 GMT -5
Really, really looking forward to this.
As evidence that Batman wasn't simply blindly following the lead of Superman at this time but was instead pretty innovative in his own right, none other than Bill Finger and Jack Kirby would team-up three years later to bring us "The Green Arrows of the World"
in Adventure Comics 250
. Of course, a sequel to "The Batmen of All Nations!"
would follow before then in World's Finest 89
suggesting that if you're going to gauge the effectiveness of the stories here by how often DC would revisit what's being established during this period, then we're off to a great start.