Monday, November 26, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 46: The 1976 Wrap-Up

by Peter Enfantino

& Jack Seabrook

1976 was an uneventful year for Batman and Detective Comics. In contrast to prior years, which had seen frequent changes in page count and price, the comics in 1976 were of standard length all year long, and each title had twelve monthly issues. Starting the year at 25 cents a copy, they went up to 30 cents a copy with the March (Detective) and April (Batman) issues and there they remained.

Julius Schwartz was editor of both titles all year. Batman featured one long story per issue; initially, these were 18 pages but by midyear the page count had been cut to 17. Detective continued to feature a Batman lead story and a six-page backup story with a rotating cast of featured players. The lead stories began the year at 12 pages and shrank to 11 pages by midyear. Covers for Batman were drawn by Ernie Chua (10), Jose Garcia-Lopez (1) or Dick Giordano (1). Covers for Detective were drawn by Chua (8), with one each by Chua/Vince Colletta, Giordano, Mike Grell, and Chua/John Workman. All twelve stories in Batman were written by David V. Reed, who also wrote one of the lead stories for Detective. The other lead stories in Detective were written by Elliott S. Maggin (3), Bob Rozakis/Michael Uslan (3), Gerry Conway (2), Denny O’Neil (1), Marty Pasko (1) and Len Wein (1). Pencils in Batman were by Chua (10), Garcia-Lopez, and Irv Novick, while inks were by Tex Blaisdell (6), Chua (3), Frank McLaughlin (2), and Frank Giacoia.

Pencils on the lead stories in Detective were by Chua (8), Garcia-Lopez (2), Giordano, and Grell. Inks were by Frank McLaughlin (5), Chua (2), Colletta, Garcia-Lopez, Giacoia, Giordano, and Grell. Recurring guests in the Batman lead stories included the Riddler, Robin, and the Spook. The Underworld Olympics were featured in a four-issue arc. Each issue of Batman included a one page letters column called Letters to the Batman, edited by Rozakis with occasional help from Schwartz. Jenette Kahn took over as publisher with the September issues and a one page news feature called the Daily Planet began to appear that month.

While the Batman stories in the two titles did not demonstrate much variety in 1976, the backup stories in Detective certainly did. The rotating slot featured stories with Elongated Man (5, including a co-starring appearance), Man-Bat (2), Tim Trench (2), Atom, Black Canary, Green Arrow, and Hawkman. The stories were written by Rozakis (6, including one with his wife Laurie), O’Neil (3), Pasko (2), and Bridwell. Pencils were by Pablo Marcos (4,) Grell (2), Schaffenberger (2), Chua, Garcia-Lopez, Marshall Rogers, and the Union Studio. Inks were by Terry Austin (4), Al Milgrom (2), Schaffenberger (2), Blaisdell, Colletta, Garcia-Lopez, and Marcos.

Each issue of Detective included a one page letters column called Batman’s Hot Line, edited by Rozakis. Recurring guests in the Batman lead stories included Captain Stingaree (3), the Black Spider (2), and Signalman. The Calculator appeared in four backup stories as the villain. While 1976 would hardly qualify as a banner year for either title, it was unusual for the 1970s in that each published 12 monthly issues in the standard comic book size. David V. Reed was the most prolific writer and Ernie Chua was the most prolific artist.

Batman (or related characters) continued to appear in a variety of DC comics this year. Six issues of Batman Family were published, five with covers by Chua. The Brave and the Bold saw eight issues, with covers by Jim Aparo, while the Justice League of America issued 12 monthly books, all with Chua covers. Man-Bat came and went after two issues; Aparo did both covers with help from Chua on one. World’s Finest came out 7 times, all with covers by Chua. The Joker came out four times before being canceled with issue number nine; Chua did all four covers. He also did the covers for all three issues of Super-Team Family and also an issue of DC Super-Stars that included Batman. Super-Friends began and had two issues with covers by—who else?—Chua. Finally, a Limited Collector’s Edition (C-44) came out in June and featured Batman reprints. The Dark Knight was certainly all over the newsstands as America celebrated its bicentennial!

Circulation figures:

Detective Comics            148,000
Batman                            168,164
Superman                        235,430
Amazing Spider-Man      281,860


Best Script: Denny O'Neil, "There is No Hope in Crime Alley" (Detective 457)
Best Art: Dick Giordano, "There is No Hope in Crime Alley" (Detective 457)
Best All-Around Story: "There is No Hope in Crime Alley" (Detective 457)

Worst Script: David V. Reed, "Gotham City Treasure Hunt" (Batman 274)
Worst Art: Irv Novick & Frank McLaughlin "The Corpse Came C.O.D." (Batman 271)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Bank Shot That Baffled Batman" (Batman 273)
Special Achievement for Awfulness: "The Underworld Olympics" arc (Batman 272-275)


Todd Mason said...

I wonder how many comics approach those sales figures today. Also impressive, to me, how much more I enjoyed Batman on balance at that time (well, mostly over the the two years leading up to '76, as my "standard" comics reading was dropping off) than I did Supes or Spidey.

Jack Seabrook said...

Todd, hang in there--things start to look up very quickly in '77!