Monday, April 22, 2013

Batman in the 1970s Part 67: The 1979 Wrap-Up and a Fond Look Back at the 1970s!


by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino



1979 Wrap-up

In 1979, twelve monthly issues of Batman and six bi-monthly issues of Detective Comics were published.

Detective was 68 pages for a dollar, with no ads until the last issue of the year. Issue #483, with a May cover date, celebrated the 40th anniversary of Batman's first appearance. Editorial chores were shared by Paul Levitz, Al Milgrom and Julius Schwartz. Covers were by Ross Andru and Dick Giordano, Rich Buckler and Giordano, Jose Garcia-Lopez, Giordano alone (2) or Jim Starlin.

Batman Family had been canceled at the end of 1978 and became part of Detective with the first issue in 1979. This meant that each issue of Detective began with a lead story featuring Batman and then included various characters in backup stories.

The Batman lead stories ranged from 16 to 20 pages. Scripts were by Denny O'Neil (5) or Jim Starlin. Art was by Don Newton and Dan Adkins (4), Marshall Rogers, or Jim Starlin and Craig Russell. Guests included the Bronze Tiger, Kathy Kane, the League of Assassins, Maxie Zeus, Ras al Ghul, and Talia.

The backup stories featured a number of characters. Robin appeared six times, in stories ranging from 10 to 12 pages. Stories were by Bob Rozakis (3), Jack Harris (2) or Paul Kupperberg. Art was by Kurt Schaffenberger (4), inked by David Hunt (2), Jack Abel or Frank Chiaramonte; Juan Ortiz and Hunt; or Newton and Adkins. The only guest of note was the Scarecrow.

Batgirl also appeared six times, in stories 8 to 12 pages long, written by Harris (3) or Rozakis (3) and drawn by Don Heck (5) with inks by John Celardo, Frank Chiaramonte, Vince Colletta or Bob Smith; or Bob Oksner and Vince Colletta. The only guest worth mentioning was Killer Moth.

Batman appeared in two backup stories, 8 and 16 pages long, with scripts by O'Neil or Starlin and art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin or Starlin and Craig Russell.

The unlikely team of Man-Bat and Jason Bard appeared twice, written by Rozakis and drawn by Don Newton, with inks by Hunt or McLaughlin.

The Demon was seen four times, in stories of 9 to 15 pages, all written by Len Wein and drawn by Mike Golden and Giordano or by Steve Ditko (3).

The Human Target appeared in three stories of 8 or 9 pages each, written by Wein and drawn by Howard Chaykin and Giordano or by Giordano alone (2).

Finally, Bat-Mite appeared in one 6-page story, written by Rozakis and drawn by Golden and Bob Smith.

The letters column was edited by Mike Barr, Levitz or Rozakis and was called Batcave (5) or Batmail Family.

Batman was less complicated. Each issue was 36 pages for 40 cents and it came out monthly. Editors were Schwartz, through the issue cover-dated March (ending a 15-year run on the title), and then Levitz for the rest of the year. Covers were by Jose Garcia-Lopez (4), Jim Aparo (3), Giordano (2), Andru,  Kubert, or Walt Simonson and Giordano.

Each issue featured a single Batman story; ten were 17 pages long, one was 18 and one was a whopping 23 pages. Writers were Wein (11) or Steve Englehart. Artists were Irv Novick and McLaughlin (7), John Calnan and Giordano (2), Calnan and McLaughlin, Novick and Giordano, or Simonson and Giordano

The letters column was Bat Signals, edited by Rozakis or Levitz. Other editorial filler included the Daily Planet Page and the DC Feature page with DC Profile.

This year's Batman run abounded with guests: Batgirl, Blockbuster, Boss Thorne, Calendar Man, Crazy-Quilt, Dr. Phosphorus, Firebug, the Gentleman Ghost, Killer Moth, Kite-Man, Selina Kyle, Mr. Freeze, the Riddler, Robin,  and Two-Face.

Elsewhere in the DC Universe in 1979, Batman appeared in 12 issues of The Brave and the Bold (covers by Aparo); 12 issues of Justice League of America (covers by Andru, Buckler, Dillin, Garcia-Lopez or Giordano); 12 issues of Super-Friends (covers by Ramona Fradon or Schaffenberger); 6 issues of World's Finest (covers by Neal Adams and Giordano, Aparo or Buckler and Giordano). He also appeared in one shots: Best of DC Blue Ribbon Digest (cover attributed to Wally Fax, which sounds fake to me) and DC Special Series (cover by Andru).


THE BEST (AND WORST) OF 1979

Peter's Picks:

Best Script: "A Caper a Day Keeps the Batman at Bay!" by Len Wein (Batman 312, June 1979)
Best Art: "Ticket to Tragedy" by Marshall Rogers (Detective Comics 481, January 1979)
Best All-Around Story: "A Caper a Day Keeps the Batman at Bay!"

Worst Script: "Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas!" by Len Wein (Batman 309)
Worst Art: "Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas!" by John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin
Worst All-Around Story: "Have Yourself a Deadly Little Christmas!"



Jack's picks:

Best Script: "Dr. Phosphorus is Back!" by Steve Englehart (Batman 311, May 1979)
Best Art: "Ticket to Tragedy" by Marshall Rogers (Detective 481, January 1979)
Best All-Around Story: "There'll Be a Cold Time in the Old Town Tonight!" by Len Wein, John Calnan and Dick Giordano (Batman 308, February 1979)

Worst Script: "The Galileo Solution" by Denny O'Neil (Detective 484, July 1979)
Worst Art: "The Galileo Solution" by John Calnan and Frank McLaughlin
Worst All-Around Story: "The Galileo Solution"







The 1970s: A Few Last Words

In our 66-week journey through the 1970s, we managed to read 195 comic books (101 Batman, 92 Detective, and 2 specials) and kept our sanity... well, kinda.


THE TOP BATMAN STORIES OF THE 1970s

Peter's Picks
 1 The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (Batman 251, September 1973) O'Neil/Adams
 2 The Sign of the Joker (Detective 476, April 1978) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
 3 The Laughing Fish (Detective 475, February 1978) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
 4 Night of the Stalker (Detective 439, March 1974) Englehart/Almendolas/Giordano
 5 The Lazarus Pit (Batman 243, August 1972) O'Neil/Adams
 6 There Is No Hope in Crime Alley (Detective 457, March 1976) O'Neil/Giordano
 7 The Dead Yet Live (Detective 471, August 1977) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
 8 A Vow From the Grave (Detective 410, April 1971) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
 9 The Last Batman Story (Batman 300, June 1978) Reed/Simonson/Giordano
10 Batman's Greatest Failure (Batman 265, July 1975) Fleisher/Buckler/Wrightson

Best Writer: Steve Englehart
Best Artist: Neal Adams
Best Back-Up: Manhunter (Goodwin/Simonson)

Jack's picks

1 Red Water Crimson Death (The Brave and the Bold 93, January 1971) O'Neil/Adams
2 The House That Haunted Batman! (Detective 408, February 1971) Wein/Wolfman/Adams/Giordano
3 The Lazarus Pit! (Batman 243, August 1972) O'Neil/Adams
4 Daughter of the Demon (Batman 232, June 1971) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
5 The Demon Lives Again! (Batman 244, September 1972) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
6 The Joker's Five-Way Revenge! (Batman 251, September 1973) O'Neil/Adams
7 The Secret of the Waiting Graves (Detective 395, January 1970) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
8 A Vow From the Grave (Detective 410, April 1971) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
9 Ghost of the Killer Skies! (Detective 404, October 1970) O'Neil/Adams/Giordano
10 The Dead Yet Live! (Detective 471, August 1977) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
11 I Am the Batman! (Detective 472, September 1977) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
12 The Laughing Fish (Detective 475, February 1978) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
13 Sign of the Joker! (Detective 476, April 1978) Englehart/Rogers/Austin
14 There is No Hope in Crime Alley (Detective 457, March 1976) O'Neil/Giordano
15 Gotterdamerung (Detective 443, November 1974) Goodwin/Simonson
16 A Monster Walks Wayne Manor (Detective 438, January 1974) Goodwin/Aparo
17 Night of the Stalker (Detective 439, March 1974) Englehart/Amendolas/Giordano
18 Judgment Day (Detective 441, July 1974) Goodwin/Chaykin
19 Batman's Greatest Failure! (Batman 265, July 1975) Fleisher/Buckler/Wrightson

Best Writer: Steve Englehart
Best Artist: Neal Adams
Best Back-Up: Manhunter


THE CIRCULATION FIGURES

Batman
1970 293,897
1979 166,640

Detective Comics
1970 209,630
1979   79,872











Year-By-Year Highlights

1970-71:

*great covers by Neal Adams
*Gil Kane drawing Batgirl backup stories
*first appearance of Man-Bat
*all-reprint Batman giant-size issues for 25 cents

1972-74:

*100-page super-spectaculars
*Manhunter backup series
*Steve Englehart begins writing Batman stories
*$1.00 classic reprints in Limited Collector's Edition and Famous First Edition treasuries
*Archie Goodwin as editor of Detective

1975-76:

*5-issue "Bat-Murderer" arc
*begin to see new artists like Mike Grell and Ernie Chua
"Enfantino said what about Frank Robbins?"
*The Joker, Batman Family and Man-Bat debut

1977-79

*Englehart/Rogers/Austin run in Detective
*Len Wein takes over writing Batman
*Don Newton's art
*Dollar Detectives


So, what happens next? Well, we've got a couple of things planned concurrently that should take up a couple years' time. Hope you haven't planned anything for our foreseeable future, every Monday starting next week.


13 comments:

Scott Parker said...

Gentlemen,

I want to thank you for this awesome series. Batman is my favorite character and, as a child of the 70s, this was a trip down memory lane, but with adult sensibilities. I've even gone back to my long boxes and re-read the ones I have with y'all. I look forward to y'all's next run.

Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, Scott! The battle starts next Monday.

Peter Enfantino said...

Scott!

Thanks very much for the kind words. I think I speak for Jack when I say that it's feedback like this that keeps us reading.
And two weeks after we go to war, we'll visit a certain creepy House.

Yankee Cowboy said...

Wow. What a fabulous, though all too short ride! Thanks guys- for having something to actually look forward to on Monday mornings. The only bittersweet thing from my pov is that you won't be continuing into the early 80's-when my interest in Batman comics was at its peak.

And btw, I couldn't help but notice that one of you guys REALLY likes Joker stories and the other guy REALLY likes ghost stories. Heh heh.

Not sure if I'll enjoy your next comics series, but if it covers the Haunted Tank & The Unknown Soldier at all then I'll be there 4sure.

Peter Enfantino said...

Yankee-

You'll most definitely enjoy the ride. Not only will we discuss Haunted Tank and The Unknown Solider but also Sgt Rock, Enemy Ace, Gunner and Sarge, and The War That Time Forgot (the latter even getting special coverage by MIA John Scoleri!). We're looking forward to hearing what you think.
Thanks for hanging in there for the ride.

David said...

This has been a really great series. I've loved every bit looking back on the Batman I loved as a child. Many thanks to all involved.

mikeandraph87 said...

Just for fun I listed by favorite Batman story by the year with a runner up on some.

Best story of 1970, "The Silent Night of The Batman" in Batman#219. Edges out the wacky mystery "Dead Till Proven Alive"

Best of 1971 is "Night of The Reaper". My favorite overall Batman story. All its missing is Batgirl.

Best of 1972 is "Second Chance For a Deadman". Deadman's storyline in Brave and the Bold really stands out.

Best of 1973-1974?#250s in Batman are too amazing to pick one. There is the Joker epic but then The Shadow appears and The Spook issue and then there is the Batman and Man-Bat team up against fomidable forgotten villain The Getaway Genius while Penguin is plundered by Talia.

Best of 1975 is Detective Comics#457,"There Is No Hope In Crime Alley".

Best of 1976 is one of my first back issues, Batman#279. A nice fun mystery with two of my favorite character Robin and Riddler.

Batman Family#1 is fun and has a historical background even if ridiculous not to mention Robin and Batgirl carrying the story.

Best of 1977 is Batman#291-#294, "Where were You on The Night Batman Was Killed?".

Best of 1978, " The Laughing Fish"
with Batman Family#17's "Horoscope of Crimes" a close second.

Batman#311 features two of my favorite characters Batgirl and the underappreciated Dr. Phosphorous. Great story all around it edges out the fun and character driven Brave and the Bold#148.


Jack Seabrook said...

Thanks, David. I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Mikeandralph: It was cool to read your picks for best of the 70s! There were a few we agreed with and some we did not. I regret not reading the Brave and Bold issues you mention, but I'm sure I read them way back when!

mikeandraph87 said...

My picks are influenced by villains and my two favorite Gothamites Dick "Robin" Grayson and Barbara "Batgirl" Gordon. It seems all of our picks are derived from specific characters or story types.

Deadman appeared Brave and the Bold#79,#86,#104,and #133. He also appears in an unrelated storyline in DC Special#8 alongside Batman and Sgt. Rock in a tabloid sized mess in the Brave and the Bold which is not recommended. You can get all of the Deadman stories in the Showcase Presents format if you don't want to pull those issues out of a long box.

Matthew Bradley said...

Belated congrats on a typically thorough wrap-up and eminently readable run. As a Marvel man I am, of course, unfamiliar with the material, but with Enfantino and Seabrook as my guides, I'll go almost anywhere. And I'll take pride in the fact that your best writer and artist did similarly distinguished work at Marvel...

Ed Howard said...

Fantastic job, guys. I've been reading these comics as well, as part of a project starting in 1968 and eventually running through the present, reading every Batman comic published since the end of the Silver Age. It's been great having these posts to accompany me on the '70s portion of that journey.

It's great reading everything from this era, as opposed to just the highlights that everyone knows, because not only are there some unknown gems in these years, but reading everything helps put the hits in context - for example, much of what Denny O'Neil wrote in this era, besides his most justifiably famous stories, is actually pretty bad. By the same token, I don't think Frank Robbins gets enough credit for establishing much of the early '70s Batman tone alongside O'Neil - it's not like his hit/miss ratio is THAT much worse than O'Neil's, though I suppose it helps if, like me, you actually enjoy his art.

Anyway, just to play along here are my picks for highlights of the era:

1. The entire Englehart run (DC #469-476)
2. The Joker's Five-Way Revenge (B #251)
3. Archie Goodwin's editorship (DC #437-443)
4. O'Neil's Ra's/Talia saga
5. Robbins' Man-Bat
6. There Is No Hope In Crime Alley (DC #457)
7. Killer's Roulette (DC #426)
8. Night of the Reaper (B #237)
9. Enter the Ragman (Batman Family #20)
10. The Cape and Cowl Deathtrap (DC #450)
11. Scars (Batman Family #17)

Peter Enfantino said...

Ed-

Is your project being published somewhere? I'd love to see what you have to say about that era (and especially the issues we didn't cover). Good point about Quality ratio when talking about O'Neil and Robbins. The most startling fact I came away with after our project ended was that O'Neil just might have been cruising on the coattails of one Neal Adams. He had a couple of very good stories (and I'm not forgetting that he write the best Batman story of all time) but there was sure a lot of bilge in there. Thanks for the Top 11 list as well. I dig reading these things. Hope you'll follow our mystery and War blogs now.

Ed Howard said...

Peter, I'm eventually going to publish a long series at my comics blog (http://thinkinginpanels.blogspot.com/), but will be waiting until I have more in the can rather than leave weeks or more between posts. It'll be very different in format than what you guys do, not commenting on every issue but giving a lengthy overview of each era, discussing trends, highlighting highs and lows. Each post will cover a few years, plus some sidebars for miniseries and graphic novels and such, so there will probably be 30-something posts if it all pans out. I'll give you a heads up whenever it does come to fruition.

Incidentally, I've just started out with the 80s and wish I could've read you guys reacting to the first "Vengeance Vow" followup being a ridiculous mashup of redneck cliches starring someone named Ma Murder. The disparity between O'Neil's best and worst stories is more baffling than any Batman mystery ever was.

I'll definitely be reading along with whatever else you guys do, even if I'm unlikely to get familiar with the source material anytime soon. I love this blog now, so glad I discovered it for this readthrough.