Monday, July 23, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 28: 1973 Wrap-Up

by Peter Enfantino &
Jack Seabrook

The year 1973 saw changes for the Batman series, as Neal Adams nearly vanished from the scene and low sales figures caused a cutback in the publication schedules of both Batman and Detective Comics. In fact, 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.

The 20-cent cover price and 36-page length that had taken effect in mid-1972 continued throughout 1973. Detective was published monthly from January to April, then bi-monthly from July to November. Cover dates were July, September and November, while dates in the indicia were June-July, August-September, and October-November—undoubtedly to keep the comics looking fresh on the newsstands for as long as possible. The actual dates the issues appeared seem to have been about two months before the earliest dates in the indicia; e.g., the October-November issue, with a cover date of November, came out in August.

This means that only 7 issues of Detective were published with 1973 cover dates. Each issue featured a Batman lead story running 12 to 16 pages and a backup story running 7 to 9 pages. Covers were drawn by Dick Giordano (3), Mike Kaluta (2), Nick Cardy (1) and Jim Aparo (1). The Batman lead stories were written by Frank Robbins (5), Denny O’Neil (1) and Archie Goodwin (1). Pencils were by Irv Novick (3), Bob Brown (2), Dick Dillin (1) and Aparo (1). Inks were by Giordano (3), Murphy Anderson (2) Frank Giacoia (1) and Aparo (1).

Backup stories included two featuring Jason Bard, written by Frank Robbins and drawn by Don Heck and Murphy Anderson (1) and Robbins (1). Other characters featured in backup stories (one each) were The Atom, written by Elliot Maggin and drawn by Anderson, Hawkman, written by E. Nelson Bridwell and drawn by Rich Buckler and Dick Giordano, Elongated Man, written by Maggin and drawn by Giordano, and Manhunter, written by Archie Goodwin and drawn by Walt Simonson.

A one-page letters column called Batman’s Hot Line was included in each issue. Julius Schwartz was the editor until he was replaced by Archie Goodwin with the November issue. Guests in the Batman stories included Shotgun Smith (issue 436) and The Spook (issues 434 & 435). Disappointingly, Neal Adams contributed no covers or interior art to Detective in 1973.

Batman remained monthly except for four months, as it had been in 1972, but the four months changed after the April issue, from January/March/July/November to March/May/August/December. This resulted in no issues of Batman or Detective being published in May, August or December 1973. It also resulted in only 7 issues of Batman coming out with 1973 cover dates: February, April, June, July, September, October and November.

Batman covers were drawn by Giordano (3), Kaluta (2), Cardy (1) and Adams (1). Each issue featured a lead story about Batman, running from 11 to 24 pages, and sometimes a backup story about Robin, running 6 to 8 pages. One issue also included a 6-page Batman backup story. Batman tales were written by O’Neil (5) or Robbins (4), with pencils by Novick (5), Giordano (2), Brown (1) or Adams (1) and inks by Giordano (8) or Adams (1).

The backup stories were all written by Maggin (4), with pencils by Novick (2), Brown (1) or Dillin (1) and inks by Frank McLaughlin (3) or Giordano (1). Julius Schwartz stayed on as editor all year and each issue had a one-page letters column called Letters to the Batman. The October and November issues also included a one-page column entitled Behind the Scenes at the DC Comic World; it included inside information and was probably an attempt to duplicate Marvel’s Bullpen Bulletins.

While neither Ra’s al Ghul nor Man-Bat appeared in 1973, the Joker made a triumphant return in the O’Neil/Adams full-length collaboration in issue 251. This was easily the highlight of the 14 issues of Batman and Detective in 1973. The appearance would thankfully open the door to the return of The Rogues' Gallery in 1974.

A sign of things to come was seen in the two Batman 100-Page Super-Spectaculars issued in 1973 as DC-14 and DC-20. Each featured a cover by Nick Cardy and was all-reprint, with three Batman stories per issue. Meanwhile, Batman continued to appear regularly in The Brave and the Bold, The Justice League of America, and World’s Finest. The covers to those comics were drawn by Cardy or Aparo and a few are featured to illustrate this article.

1973 was not a strong year for Batman, but exciting things were happening at DC; new or reprint series such as Shazam, Plop, Wanted, and Secret Origins brought back great stories from the Golden Age and sometimes revived long-forgotten characters. 1974 would see more big changes for the two Batman series, as they would be converted to bi-monthly 100-Page Super Spectaculars.

Best and worst of 1973:

Jack & Peter:

Best writer-Denny O’Neil

Best artist-Neal Adams

Best story: "The Joker's Five-Way Revenge" (Batman #251)

Worst Batman story: "The Night Has A Thousand Fears" (Detective #436). Believe us, it was hard to come up with just one!

Worst non-Batman story (Peter): "The Immortals of Usen Castle" (Batman #248). Starring Robin!

Worst non-Batman story (Jack): "Case of the Dead-On Target!" (Detective 435). Our favorite artist illustrates his own Jason Bard script!

Best reprinted story (Peter): "The Origin of Two-Face" (DC Super-Spectacular DC-20)

Worst writer & artist-Frank Robbins 


Matthew Bradley said...

Love me my wrap-ups! Thanks for all of the hard work and number-crunching. I know that during that same year, Marvel was busting out with an unprecedented number of new strips and books, so it's very interesting to contrast their respective fortunes at that time. Ditto their m.o., when you compare the seemingly bewildering variety of formats DC was using with the generally traditional one-story issues from Marvel at that time.

Jack Seabrook said...

Good point, Prof. Matthew! I just took a quick look at what Marvel put out in December 1973 and it was all 20 cent cover price standard size comics.