Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 8: 1970 wrapup


by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

In 1970, Batman appeared regularly in Detective Comics (12 issues), Batman (10 issues), The Brave and the Bold (6 issues, plus a "best of" giant), The Justice League of America (9 issues), and World's Finest (9 issues). He also made guest appearances in at least one issue each of Lois Lane and The Teen Titans. For Neal Adams fans (and who isn't one?), he drew all 12 of the covers for Detective, 8 of the Batman covers, 3 covers for The Brave and the Bold, 4 covers for The Justice League of America, and 1 cover for World's Finest. His only interior artwork involving Batman was found in Detective (5 stories, totaling 66 pages), and in Batman (one 8 page story).

Batman ran 32 pages, had a cover price of 15 cents, and had cover dates of all months except April and October. The January/February and July/August issues were all-reprint and ran 64 pages for 25 cents, with covers by Murphy Anderson and Curt Swan. The eight "new" issues had a variety of contents, including 3 full-length Batman stories of 22-24 pages; other issues featured a Batman lead story of 15-16 pages and a backup story of 8 pages. Robin co-starred in one of the lead stories and went solo in one of the backup stories. Four issues included non-hero filler reprints of 1-4 pages. All issues featured a letters column, called "Letters to the Batcave," "Giant Batmail," or "Letters to the Batman." The same fans often had letters in every issue.

No significant new characters were introduced this year in Batman. Stories were written by Frank Robbins (5), Mike Friedrich (5 backups) or Denny O'Neil (3). Art was by Irv Novick and Dick Giordano (10), Novick and Mike Esposito (2), and Neal Adams and Dick Giordano (the backup Christmas story in the February issue). Detective also ran 32 pages and had a 15 cent cover price. Twelve monthly issues of new stories were published, with no giants. Each issue featured a lead story of 15-16 pages with Batman, as well as a backup story with Robin (5), Batgirl (5) or both (2). Some of the backup stories were two-parters.

The only significant new character to be introduced was Man Bat, who appeared in two lead stories. Batman stories were written by Frank Robbins (6) or Denny O'Neil (6). Backup stories were written by Robbins (8), O'Neil (2) or Friedrich (2). Art on Batman was by Adams and Giordano (5), Bob Brown and Joe Giella (4), or Bob Brown and Frank Giacoia (3). The backup stories with Batgirl or Robin were all pencilled by Gil Kane and inked by Murphy Anderson (3), Vince Colletta (6) or Giacoia (3). Neal Adams illustrated stories by both O'Neil and Robbins; Robbins wrote both Man Bat stories. Each issue included a letters column titled "Batman's Hot Line."

Jack: If we can play favorites for a moment, I'd rank the artists in this order: Adams, Kane, Novick, Brown. I would rank inkers: Giordano, Anderson, and the rest tied. I would rank writers: O'Neil, Robbins, Friedrich, with Robbins edging out Friedrich only due to the Man Bat stories.
PE: I would agree with your choices of order for artists and writers. If there was one aspect of the art that surprised me it would have to be that Neal Adams wasn't the only guy who could draw a hero in a cape this year. All of our residents do an exemplary job depicting a realistic Caped Crusader. That mastery doesn't carry over into drawing "human" characters, however. Bob Brown's version of Bruce Wayne seems to look like Mark Spitz at times, Bob Barker at others. His backgrounds are awful as well. I'll chalk that up to deadlines. But then there's Neal Adams, who had deadlines to consider as well and yet pumped out the volume you've noted, Jack, as well as other work for DC (House of Mystery, Deadman, etc.). How the heck did this guy produce such a mountain of quality work?

Jack: The importance of cover art in selling comics is evident when reviewing these titles. It's no accident that Neal Adams drew all of the covers except for the two giant reprint issues. One complaint I have is that, so often, what appears to be happening on the cover is not exactly what happens in the story. It's a little disappointing, especially when Adams draws the cover but not the story inside. I have the same problem with many comic books--Justice League, in particular, had exciting covers but mediocre inside art.
PE: What always turned me off about the "team" comics that Batman co-starred in was Superman. I could never buy into the Supes Mythos. Boring! I also didn't like the high science fiction content of these titles. The two titles we cover each week are blissfully free of giant space octopi or Earth-3 conundrums (at least so far). Having said that, the cover we've reprinted (JLA #84) is very cool and makes me curious. I'm sure the insides don't live up to the hype.
Jack: One big surprise in reading these comics was the house ads featuring covers from other comics on sale. I was amazed by how many I remembered right away, and with longing!

Note: Research for this article included a good number of pages on the DC database.

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