Monday, October 8, 2012

Batman in the 1970s Part 39: December 1975 and the 1975 Wrap-Up

by Jack Seabrook
& Peter Enfantino

Detective Comics 454 (December 1975)

"The Set-Up Caper"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Ernie Chua

Batman confronts Public Enemy #4, Rex Giles, at a public fountain but the fugitive proceeds to be a handful to obtain. He gives The Batman a right old rogering but eventually our hero prevails and dumps the unconscious Giles at the office of Commissioner Gordon. Imagine the surprise of all involved when the man is turned over and discovered to be the heavyweight contender Kid Cobra who, rightfully, promises to sue Batman for every thing he carries in his utility belt and then some. We know better, however, as the scene switches quickly to The Kid giving the full story to Giles at his hideout. It turns out that Giles wants badly to defeat Batman in a hand to hand fight but isn't dumb enough to think he can do without a bit of cheating. The Kid shows him Batman's "tell," the tic The Dark Knight displays just before he's to use one of his fists. With the aid of his new intel, Giles heads off into battle.

PE: Here's another one of those dramas we used to see all too much - Gordo loses all faith in Batman about ten seconds after a supposed error is made, Bats fights to regain his honor and the respect of Gordo, and then goes right back to being the Commish's lapdog, answering the phone for every little emergency the cop deems too laborious for his department.

Jack: This is a pretty cool story, though, and it moves along quickly. It's basically just one fight after another. I think this is the first time we've seen Garcia Lopez's pencils with Chua's inks.

PE: I question why Giles would risk being taken by any one of the thousands of cops who have his picture on their dashboards just to prove he can beat The Batman in a fistfight. Is this DC's answer to Kraven the Hunter?

My, my, my, my, my.
"The Catch-Me-If-You-Can Crook"
Story by E. Nelson Bridwell
Art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez

Hawkman goes up against a small-time hood who suddenly has super powers.

PE: One of the very few back-up two-parters that makes me want to see what happens next, this fun little romp benefits from an entertaining script by Bridwell and art by a fast-essential Garcia-Lopez. If this strip (and the headliner) stay in the hands of JL G-L we're in for a nice ride. And yeah, she's a comic book character and I usually ogle flesh and blood women, but Hawkgirl is pretty fine for a bunch of penciled squiggles.

Jack: I'll admit that it was hard to pay attention to much else after seeing that panel you selected, but this was a fun story and I want to know what the heck is going on! Hawkman remains a favorite character of mine, both for his great costume and for his use of ancient weapons to fight crime.

Batman 270 (December 1975)

"The Menace of the Fiery Heads!"
Story by David V. Reed
Art by Ernie Chua

When assistant D.A. Jim Standish is strangled, Batman must find the killer. He comes close at the home of Judge Bromley, where the villain fights Batman after having dispatched the jurist, but it's not until the Caped Crusader puts together some clues that he realizes the real culprit is Harry Watkins, who threw Batman off the trail of his real goal: to steal a Rembrandt from the Gotham Art Museum.

PE: The story's a lot of fun, filled with puns (some work, some don't), and the running gag of Bruce Wayne continually disappearing in the middle of his meetings with the Youth Club had me rolling in the aisles. Yep, there's a really lame wrap-up but I'll forgive it thanks to its enjoyable build-up. All in all, the best month for Batman comic books in a long, long time.

Jack: The fiery heads were interesting but really had nothing to do with the story. In fact, the cover has nothing to do with the story, and the splash page has nothing to do with the story! I think editor Julius Schwartz may have been up to his old trick again of having the cover first and then having someone come up with a story to match.

1975 Wrap-Up: Flooding the Market

Batman and Detective Comics began 1975 (as far as cover dates go) still being issued bi-monthly in the 100 pages for sixty cents format. This lasted two issues each. The next nine issues of Detective were issued monthly, 36 pages for twenty-five cents. The third issue of Batman, on the other hand, was 68 pages for fifty cents, followed by eight monthly issues of 36 pages for twenty-five cents. The year-plus experiment with 100-page comics was at an end and the result was that DC Comics were now a quarter apiece. It was not only the overall page count that shrunk, however; when the comics went back to monthly status, the new material was reduced from twenty pages to eighteen pages. As a result, in the 22 new issues of Detective and Batman that came out with 1975 cover dates, there was a total of 404 new pages, compared to only 240 new pages in 1974 (when a total of twelve 100-page issues came out).

Batman continued to feature all full-length stories starring the Caped Crusader, while Detective featured only one full-length Batman story, with the other ten issues combining a ten-page Batman lead story with a six- or eight-page backup. Backup features alternated between Robin (4), Hawkman (3) and Elongated Man (3). Batman covers were drawn by Dick Giordano (4), Ernie Chua (3), Nick Cardy (2) and Rich Buckler (1). Detective covers were drawn by Jim Aparo (4), Chua (4) and Giordano (3). Both comics were edited all year by Julius Schwartz.

Stories in Batman were written by Denny O'Neil (7), David V. Reed (3), and Mike Fleischer (1). Pencils were by Chua (6), Irv Novick (4), or Buckler (1), and inks were by Giordano (7), Chua (2), Berni Wrightson (1) or Tex Blaisdell (1). Lead stories in Detective were written by Len Wein (5), David V. Reed (3), Elliot S! Maggin (2), or O'Neil (1). Pencils were by Chua (6), Aparo (3), Walt Simonson (1) or Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez (1), and inks were by Aparo (3), Giordano (2), Mike Royer (2), Chua (1) or Simonson (1).

The creative teams on the backup stories in Detective were varied, and this was a place for DC to let new talent try out their skills. Writers included Bob Rozakis (4), E. Nelson Bridwell (3), Mike Barr (2) and Mary Skrenes (1); pencillers were Al Milgrom (2), Garcia-Lopez (2) and, with one story each: Sergio Garcia, Chua, Buckler, someone just referred to as Martinez, Giordano and Mike Grell.  Backup inkers were Terry Austin (2), Garcia-Lopez (2) and, with one each: Chua, Grell, Klaus Janson, another one-named person called Mazzaroli, Giordano and Frank MacLaughlin.

The letters pages continued, with Batman's Hot Line appearing in Detective and edited by Rozakis (9), Guy H. Lillian III (1) or Schwartz (1); in Batman, the letters page remained Letters to the Batman, and it was edited by Rozakis (10) or Lillian (1).

The first two issues of Detective and the first three issues of Batman continued to pad their length with reprints. Batman reprints featured Batman and Robin (11), or Alfred (1), as well as filler pages such as Strange Old Laws (3) and Comedy Cover Capers. The Batman reprints were from the 1940s (4), the 1950s (2) and the 1960s (5). The reprints in Detective were more varied, featuring many other detectives than the Dark Knight. Reprints were from the 1940s (3), 1950s (8) or 1960s (4). Characters included Robin, Star Hawkins, Ray Foster, Kid Eternity, Roy Raymond, Sierra Smith, Walter Parker, Marty Moran, Manhunters Around the World, Perfect Crime Mystery, Elongated Man, Dave, and Dr. Mid-Mite. There was also filler, such as Bat-Puzzle and Cops of All Trades.

Elsewhere in the DC Universe, Batman continued to appear regularly in Justice League of America (11 issues, with covers by Cardy, Grell, Giordano, Dick Dillin, and Chua), World's Finest Comics (8 issues, with covers by Cardy, Chua and Giordano), and The Brave and the Bold (7 issues, with covers by Aparo). Batman friends/foes the Joker and Man-Bat each appeared in an issue of Brave and the Bold as well.

In September, Limited Collector's Edition C-37 came out, featuring a Batman Special All-Villain Issue that reprinted four Golden Age Batman stories and a 1940s Batman newspaper serial. The Joker premiered in his own comic, with four issues coming out in 1975. Batman Family began in October and put out two issues with a mix of new and reprint material. Super-Team Family began in November and also put out two issues of new and reprint material.

By the end of 1975, Batman or related characters were appearing regularly in Batman, Detective, The Brave and the Bold, World's Finest, Justice League, Batman Family, Super-Team Family, and The Joker. Batman would head into the Bicentennial as one of DC's most popular and heavily promoted characters.


Peter's Picks:

Best Script: Elliott S. Maggin, "The Cape & Cowl Death-Trap"  (Detective 450)
Best Art: Jim Aparo, "Bat-Murderer" (Detective 444)
Best All-Around Story: "Batman's Greatest Failure" (Batman 265)
Best Reprint: "Case of the Martian Witness" (Detective 444)

Worst Script: Denny O'Neil, "Murder Masquerade" (Batman 268)
Worst Art: Sergio Garcia & Frank McLaughlin, "The Case of the Reverse Pickpocket" (Detective 453)
Worst All-Around Story: "The Mystery That Never Was" (Batman 261)
Special Award for Achievement in Bad Writing: Denny O'Neil

Jack's Picks:

Best Script: Mike Fleischer, "Batman's Greatest Failure!" (Batman 265)
Best Art: Rich Buckler and Berni Wrightson, "Batman's Greatest Failure!" (Batman 265)
Best All-Around Story: "Batman's Greatest Failure!" (Batman 265)
Best Reprint: "A Christmas Peril" (Batman 261)

Worst Script: Denny O'Neil, "Murder Masquerade!" (Batman 268)
Worst Art: Sergio Garcia & Frank McLaughlin, "The Case of the Reverse Pickpocket" (Detective 453)
Worst All-Around Story: "Murder Masquerade!" (Batman 268)


Anonymous said...

I love, love, love Jose-Luis Garcia Lopez's pencils. I think I first took note of his work with the 1981 Batman vs The Hulk crossover, and began seeking out his work, only to find too little Batman and a too much stuff that didn't interest me much (Jonah Hex, Cinder and Ashe, Atari Force). Still, there's just something about him -- like Neal Adams without the chiaroscuro, like George Perez without the clutter.

Peter Enfantino said...

>>like George Perez without the clutter.

Fabulous analogy, Ambignostic. I think Garcia Lopez should use that as a title for his bio.