Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Who is YOUR Favorite Silver Age Batman?


It's kind of a funny thing about Batman. There are really two different takes on Batman during the Silver Age. See, when the Silver Age starts, around 1954, Batman is a different comic than it was in the 1940's, but not as different as it will become in 1964.

When DC's Silver Age gets rolling, it's due to the introduction of completely new versions of some of their Golden Age heroes, i.e.: The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, The Atom...

But things were different for the heroes who never went away. Changes were happening, but they were usually subtle. Aquaman got a new origin in 1959. Which was fine, since most of his readers were too young to remember his 1941 origin. Superman's powers had slowly been expanded and now derived from the radiation of Earth's yellow sun. Wonder Woman was still in the Air Force, but was far less about bondage.

And then there's Batman. Batman carried on with his same, cartoony self. Elaborate stories highlighted his need to protect his secret identity, his latest innovations in Bat-themed equipment, his struggles with his bizzarre villains

and showed off his ever-increasing supporting cast which included a Batwoman,


Batgirl,



Bat-Hound and even Bat-Mite.



Batman in the late 50's was a rare treat of bizarre storytelling. Alien worlds, time travel, and an endless string of other hero teams who base their careers on Batman and Robin are common plot ideas. Batman goes through bizarre transformation after bizarre transformation. He is turned into an alien, a macro cephalic genius from the future, and even a baby!


Still, amongst all this brilliant, imaginative fun, nothing could have compared to the weird transformation he was about to undertake.

In 1964, editor Julis Schwartz introduced Batman's "New Look". Carmine Infantino was brought in to make the Caped Crusader look more realistic. Detective Comics regular Shelly Moldoff was told to curb his cartoony enthusiasm and draw a more life-like Batman. To help standardize the look, Inker Joe Giella was brought on to ink both titles . Schwartz fired Batwoman, Batgirl, Bat-Hound and even Bat-Mite. A new Batgirl was introduced and no reference to the previous Batgirl was ever mentioned.

The stories became less fanciful. Batman now fit in better with his Justice League peers- The Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman and The Atom. The Batmobile was made over as an open-top two-seater.

In 1966, Batman was broadcast to the world as a new comedy TV series.
Ironically, it was the weirdness of the earlier Batman that had inspired the show's highly stylized, campy take on the character. The TV show boosted sales of the comic, but the comic was much more staid that the TV show.

Personally, I prefer the pre-New Look Batman. No offense to the brilliant Carmine Infantino, but I prefer the more stylized, moody, noir look of the previous Batman. I really dig the Batmans of Shelly Moldoff, Dick Sprang,

Charles Paris... And more than that, I miss those weird stories and the never-ending string of supporting characters.

Which Batman do you prefer?

19 comments:

  1. I don't know. I love the late 50's weirdness too, but I think I prefer to see it as reinterpreted by Grant Morrison than actually reading those old comics. The New Look stories hold up better as a reading experience, but you can't beat early silver age for hilarious blog fodder.

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  2. I'm going to throw in with Infantino - since he drew so many of the books I dug when I was growing up in the 80s I guess I even have some loyalty for the stuff he was doing twenty years earlier. Not that I don't love the 50s Batman, but every time I see the dynamic duo on the moon or something like that I have to roll my eyes. Sheesh.

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  3. I feel exactly the opposite. I LOVE the 50's batman. For me it is those very stories that I could read over and over again. Every time Batman teams up with Superman to make Lois Lane think she is crazy I feel like everything is right with the world.

    And that Bat-Baby story! HA! Lovely!

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  4. I regard the silver-age Batman as the Schwartz/Infantino 64 version anyway. I don't believe the silver-age affected all DC comics in October 1956. Certainly the Batman of 1956 was not different from the Batman 1955. So the only change we see ia in 1964 and that, for me, is where his silver-age adventures begin.

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  5. I have always been a huge fan of the Schwartz/Infantino Batman era. That's when I first started collecting the comic book...mainly due to the eye-catching covers that Infantino created! IMO, some of the most beautiful, evocative covers in comic book history!

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  6. Infantino all the way. Also, if we're going to include all of the 60's (maybe 1970?) as silver age, of course there are the first Adams (sorry, Aaron) stories. And here's a nice little summation of the Schiff era

    http://dialbforblog.com/archives/136/

    Neill

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  7. Oh, I must add that the "Death of Robin" is a pre-new look classic, just for the drama of the cover(it's actually a typically inane, illogically thought-out plot).It was the first Batman story I ever saw, as part of an 80-page giant.

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  8. I have to go the Infantino era for sentimental reasons. It was the one I grew up with, lo those many years ago. I wish those damn kids would get off my lawn; and where is my sweater? -- Mykal

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  9. Count me among the Infantino/"New Look" Batman contingent.

    As much as I appreciate the Sprang era stuff, when they finally moved away from the 1950's sci-fi kitsch in the Bat-titles, the book was vastly better.

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  10. Okay, I guess I asked for folks to express their opinions and share their feelings on which version of Batman they preferred. I am surprised, however, that the majority of you are wrong.

    You do not, in fact, prefer the Carmine Infantino "New Look" Batman. I mean, seriously, if you guys can't get these answers right, I'm just gonna have to stop asking for your opinions. :)

    Oh! And you only have 8 hours left to vote on my poll and confirm that Magnus, Robot Fighter IS, in fact, a superhero.

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  11. Choosing between these two eras is a very fine distinction, to me. LIke choosing between a butterscotch sundae and a strawberry sundae. (When the later change to the Bronze Age/Neal Adams/Dark Knight/etc/etc came, that's like a choice between an ice cream sundae and a slab of beef jerkey)

    When I was growing up, I happily bought both without making any distinction. I loved the value of a good 80 Page Giant, not realizing at the time they were reprints. But, I'd also buy a brand new issue of the "new look" without realizing the span of years between the two works. I also had the TV show as my main love of Batman. So, in essence, Batman to me was a broad-stroked crimefighter with zany plots and crazy villains.

    As I look back over the distance of years... the difference is still too marginal to much care. Happy, illogical, silly fun. Enjoy it while you can, Caped Crusaders, because in a few years you'll have your sense of humour rudely amputated with a rusty saw and never smile again.

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  12. Blaze: I know you can't hear this, but I am applauding.

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  13. Although I prefer my Batman on the darker side of the force, I agree wholeheartedly with you, Aaron. The 50's look is stylistically superior.

    And Bat-Mite kicks ass. I wish he'd get a monthly series.

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  14. Lonewolf: I know you are serious about the stylistic preference, I'm not sure about the Bat-Mite part. ;)

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  15. The New Look was very much a mixed bag. I don't disagree with the idea of getting rid of Ace or Bat-Mite, but I liked Batwoman and Batgirl (Betty Kane). I don't disagree with getting rid of the cheesier sci-fi elements like aliens and monsters and weird transformations, but the super-powered caveman in Detective #337 isn't much of an improvement. And of course once the Batman TV show started, the stories actually regressed.

    The problem was that Schwartz couldn't get rid of his main interior artist (nominally Bob Kane, but well-known to be Sheldon Moldoff). Moldoff did all the interior art for Batman (the magazine) and half of the Detective Comics stories.

    When the TV show died off and Kane was apparently bought out (early 1968), Schwartz put Irv Novick and others in charge of artwork, and that's the era that really turned the character around.

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  16. Pat: Thanks for commenting. I was wondering when the author of "Nothing But Batman" would weigh in.

    I always find it ironic that the popularity of the TV show fueled the curiosity of the readership, who then were sold a comic that looked somewhat like the show, but didn't deliver the same quirkiness.

    To everyone else out there: I want to be perfectly clear, here. I like the "New Look" Batman just fine... I just prefer the look of the "old look". And I think the weird stories where the writers are suffering from a backlash of the Keefavuer hearings and are trying to find less crime-oriented crime-fighting stories and make sure at the same time that Batman and Robin do not appear at all gay in any way are just entertaining as Hell!

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  17. The whole "Batman Family" concept didn't work as well as the "Superman Family," although Bat-Mite (basically Mxyzptlk in a Bat-suit, right?) has always been a guilty pleasure. I love Infantino's Batman drawings, but some of those stories lack a fun quotient that I think embodies what I love about the Silver Age. It's a tough call, but I have to go with pre-"New Look."

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  18. I love both. I think of 50's Batman as earth 2. Earth 2 Batman in latter years. New Look is of cousre, earth 1 Batman in his early years.

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  19. As long as it's pre-Denny O'Neil, it's all good and fun.

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