Silver Sightings: Batman's Silver Age: What Took So Long?

Beyond Commander Benson's examination of Batman's "New Look" period which began in 1964, I was always puzzled that the Caped Crusader was so behind the times as far as his Silver Age "entry" in Detective Comics #327 (Ju'64). View the cover of Detective #326 and #327 and Batman #163 and #164 below. They are a month apart but could be years apart for all anyone might know!

The Silver Age proper began with Showcase #4 (O'56) with the revised Flash and it took three years until Flash #105 in 1959. By that time, we saw the debut of the new Green Lantern, changes in Aquaman and Green Arrow and Superman evolve throughout that time with the introduction of Supergirl, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Bizarro and other elements into his mythos.

Yes it could be said of Batman as well with Batwoman, Bat-Hound and Bat-Mite but they corresponded, more or less, to the additions of Superman and were not innovative to the character.

But by 1964, we had the Justice League, Adam Strange, the Atom, Hawkman, Metal Men and Doom Patrol. Lois Lane got her own title. None of the new Bat-spinoffs did. Batman was being left behind despite appearing in both World's Finest Comics and Justice League of America. Indeed, Batman was already "revised" by being in those titles. Yet his own books were hardly on the same level, being stuck as they were in the 1950s. Truth be told, I enjoyed the reprints on those 50s tales but I was given the best of them to read.

So why the five-year wait to something different with Batman? They made changes to Superman albeit not artistically though you could see a maturation to Curt Swan's work. 

When Julius Schwartz began a new age of Super-Heroes in 1956, the higher-ups at DC/National were not convinced. That's why it took the Flash three more tryouts in Showcase (#8, #13, #14) to achieve his solo book again. When he did, Mort Weisinger didn't want Superman to appear staid and boring so he and his writers contrive to introduce something new to the various Super-titles every six months or so to see what was successful or not. But they always could be easily dropped.

With Batman, perhaps they did not want to make such drastic changes to their Number Two Guy. If all these new titles bombed, at least Batman stayed the same, a comforting constant to their readers! But with the stunning books coming out of DC in the early 60s, sales on Batman and especially Detective were getting dangerously low. Rumor had it that Detective might get cancelled! Finally the Caped Crusaders replaced his sci-fi alien adventures and his copycat supporting cast and gained a yellow oval on his chest and more cerebral stories fitting the Darknight Detective!

Could anyone see them doing a TV series based on the Pre-New Look Batman? And did that thematic changes help pave the way for Teen Titans? And if there was no change, would Batman have become DC's Ant-Man?

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MeTV ads seem to show fragments of crossover episodes between the three shows. 

Captain Comics said:

Obviously, from the photo below, Uncle Joe made it out of the Junction now and then, to appear in CBS' other "rural comedies," Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies.

Captain Comics said:

But over in Strange Tales, nothing of the kind occurred. Dr. Strange never fought the Human Torch, nor did S.H.I.E.L.D. have the customary guest appearance in the "host's" strip before the feature started.

I have a feeling that Ditko's heavy involvement/plotting on Dr. Strange made it tough or impossible to combine a story. Plus, I don't think Goodman or Lee ever thought of Dr. Strange as the main feature in Strange Tales. He finally got some attention in the split book when all of the split books started alternating which feature followed the other and even got a couple of solo covers.

I think appearances by Captain America in the Iron Man feature in ToS and by Hulk in Giant-Man in TtA were rather natural as Cap & Shellhead were teammates and Giant-Man and the Hulk were ex-teammates, all over in the Avengers, and although each feature was unique, they all likely appealed to the same readers, although Sub-Mariner was a much better fit as a co-feature with the Hulk than Giant-Man and not just because they were bare-chested, bad-tempered muscle-men, but more because they were Marvel's most prominent anti-heroes of the Silver Age. 

Over in Strange Tales, however, the Human Torch was clearly aimed at the lower age-range of Marvel's fans, while Dr. Strange seemed more aimed at somewhat older readers, not to mention that Dr. Strange started as a 5-page back up strip and wasn't even referenced on the cover of issue #110 when he first appeared and although he was featured in the next issue, he was skipped over in issues 112 & 113, got no reference on the cover until issue #117 and his image didn't start appearing in the cover corner box until #122, over a year after the beginning of his feature, all quite at odds with the greater star treatment given to Captain America and the Hulk when their co-features began, but then they were already established stars of the Marvel universe unlike Dr. Strange, as was Nick Fury when he took over as star of the new S.H.I.E.L.D. co-feature with issue #135.  Even then, however, Fury's feature was treated as the lead as through issue #145, he dominated the cover's of Strange Tales, with only fleeting and subordinate cover appearances by Dr. Strange until #146, which just happened to be Ditko's last Dr. Strange story, after which Nick & Doc regularly traded cover appearances, as did Cap & Iron Man in ToS and Hulk & Subby in TtA.  While both the Nick Fury and Dr. Strange features were aimed at older readers, they were still substantially much more of an odd coupling than Iron Man & Cap and Hulk & Namor and while Lee weaved connecting threads from Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. of Hydra/AIM/Secret Empire into all four of those other features, Dr. Strange was entirely left out and only very rarely connected with other Marvel features for most of the '60s, with Thor being about the only prominent guest star during Doc's Strange Tales run, and, to my recall, Loki and the Juggernaut the only baddies from other features to appear in a Dr. Strange story in the '60s.  Dr. Strange was much more out on his own in a mostly isolated corner of the Marvel Universe during the Silver Age than was the case in the Bronze Age.

Captain Comics said:

Something that always bugged me about the split features when they began in the '60s was that in two of the titles, the new feature had a team-up lead-in, but the third didn't.

That is to say, Captain America guest-starred in the Iron Man feature in Tales of Suspense #58 (where they fought), before his feature officially started in Suspense #59. And the Hulk guest starred in the Giant-Man feature in Tales to Astonish #59 (where they fought), before his feature officially began in Astonish #60. (And, for good measure, the Hulk and Sub-Mariner features were combined in Astonish #100 for a team-up/slugfest.)

But over in Strange Tales, nothing of the kind occurred. Dr. Strange never fought the Human Torch, nor did S.H.I.E.L.D. have the customary guest appearance in the "host's" strip before the feature started.

Had it just been one strip that had the guest appearance I probably wouldn't have noticed. But two following a rigid blueprint suggests intent. But that intent evaporated in Strange Tales. I guess Stan Lee couldn't figure out a way to mix super-science with super-sorcery, or just didn't want to.

Captain Comics said:

Obviously, from the photo below, Uncle Joe made it out of the Junction now and then, to appear in CBS' other "rural comedies," Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies.

Green Acres, débuting in 1965, was set in Hooterville, the same town in which Petticoat Junction took place.  (The town apparently named after the Bradley sisters; how Paul Henning got the name for the town past the CBS censors, I'll never know.)  So, from season three of Petticoat Junction on, there were several cross-overs of characters and plots between it and Green Acres.

The Henning-verse was consolidated to include The Beverly Hillbillies in Petticoat Junction's sixth and seventh seasons, crossing over both shows for the Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1968, and in a pair of episodes from 1970.  It's one of those six shows from which the art you posted stems.

Hope this helps.

This has surely become one of the strangest threads in the MSA Forum, and that's saying something.

Somehow I never caught the town name association. When I was watching it I was too young. I think the censors missed it because that word wasn't in general use at the time (right?).

Commander Benson said:

Green Acres, débuting in 1965, was set in Hooterville, the same town in which Petticoat Junction took place.  (The town apparently named after the Bradley sisters; how Paul Henning got the name for the town past the CBS censors, I'll never know.) 

This is the only scene from Petticoat Junction that I remember.  https://www.facebook.com/2001113813260683/videos/uncle-joe-recites-...

It is Uncle Joe reciting the Gettysburg Address at the Lincoln Memorial.

I don't know that Uncle Joe was especially prominent in a Hooterville show with three young women who start the show naked (albeit behind a fence). But  as I remember (and it's been a few years), he tended to comment on the shenanigans going on around him, which made him kind of the viewer's POV character.

I've seen that Thanksgiving photo before, but I assumed it was a publicity shot, I didn't realize they crossed over beyond a supporting character here and there. Fortunately, they didn't need a gigantic multipart event to bring all their worlds together. Although I'd have watched it.

-- MSA

I don't know that Uncle Joe was especially prominent in a Hooterville show with three young women who start the show naked (albeit behind a fence).  (Actually, the girls were behind the rim of a water tower.) But  as I remember (and it's been a few years), he tended to comment on the shenanigans going on around him, which made him kind of the viewer's POV character.

In the first few seasons, Petticoat Junction served as a sitcom featuring homespun humour, mining it's gentle humour out of its small-town setting.  (Shortly after the introduction of the more satirical Green AcresPetticoat Junction began to paint its characters more broadly.)  In that vein, Bea Benaderet, as "Kate Bradley", was the show's voice of reason (the same rôle served by Sheriff Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show).  The three Bradley sisters were typical sitcom teen-age girls, though each given a definitive personality. 

And, believe it or not, Uncle Joe Carson was intended to be the show's comedy relief.  But, in keeping with the show's gentle approach, he wasn't anything nearly as outlandish as, say, Barney Fife.  Joe Carson was lazy, but full of grandiose ideas that never seemed to run to fruition (or be completely thought through).  However, he had an elevated opinion of himself, which he shared with anyone who cared (or could be pinned) to listen.

When Bea Benaderet died in 1968, Edgar Buchanan became the show's lead and, necessarily, he became more responsible, but not by much.  With the three Bradley girls now in their mid-twenties and one of them married, there was not as much need for the wisdom of a parent figure.  And June Lockhart was brought in as the new town doctor, to serve on the occasions when the advice of an older woman was needed.  So Uncle Joe still had his pie-in-the-sky ideas, but he could measure up when the circumstances warranted it.

I've seen that Thanksgiving photo before, but I assumed it was a publicity shot, I didn't realize they crossed over beyond a supporting character here and there. 

That's a press photo from the November, 1968 Beverly Hillbillies episode "The Thanksgiving Spirit", which brings together the casts of The Beverly Hillbillies and Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.  The most notable sequence in the episode is when all of the characters sit down to Thanksgiving dinner in the dining room of the Shady Rest Hotel.  Uncle Joe asks Jed Clampett to say the grace, and it's a moving moment in which Buddy Ebsen perfectly captures the inherent dignity of the character of Jed Clampett.

Paul Hennings "Henning-verse" was almost completely two-dimensional, but every once in a while, a true moment of feeling would slip in, such as the scene mentioned by Mr. Palmer, at the Lincoln Memorial, when Uncle Joe delivers the Gettysburg Address; or on another occasion which the show, within its fictional conceit, recognised the death of one of its regular cast members, Smiley Burnett, who played the Cannonball engineer, Charley Pratt, for four seasons.

Shooting for gentle humour, Petticoat Junction was rarely ever more than polite-laugh funny.  But sometimes it would surprise you, such as in the last-season episode "The Golden Spike Ceremony".  Here, the show mines a little in-house humour over Uncle Joe's belief that he's struck oil on Shady Rest property:

Come and listen to a story about a man named Joe;

Struck it rich in oil and made a lot of dough;

So he gathered all his kin and his dog upon his knee;

And went to see the Clampetts in the hills of Beverly.

Not that I know that much about the show . . . 

Speaking of scandals in Hooterville, let's not overlook the fact that blonde-haired Kate manages to sire three daughters, all three with different hair colors (assuming none of them use coloration).

I was for Billie Jo all the way, though I mainly knew the Meredith MacRae version.

Commander Benson said:

Captain Comics said:

Obviously, from the photo below, Uncle Joe made it out of the Junction now and then, to appear in CBS' other "rural comedies," Green Acres and Beverly Hillbillies.

Green Acres, débuting in 1965, was set in Hooterville, the same town in which Petticoat Junction took place.  (The town apparently named after the Bradley sisters; how Paul Henning got the name for the town past the CBS censors, I'll never know.)  So, from season three of Petticoat Junction on, there were several cross-overs of characters and plots between it and Green Acres.

The Henning-verse was consolidated to include The Beverly Hillbillies in Petticoat Junction's sixth and seventh seasons, crossing over both shows for the Thanksgiving and Christmas of 1968, and in a pair of episodes from 1970.  It's one of those six shows from which the art you posted stems.

Hope this helps.

Gene Phillips said:

I was for Billie Jo all the way, though I mainly knew the Meredith MacRae version.

I started as a Bobbie Jo booster when she was played by Pat Woodell.  When Miss Woodell left the show after the second season, my hormones shifted toward Billie Jo, who was played in the third season by Gunilla Hutton.  (She remains my favourite "Bradley girl".)  When Miss Hutton was out and Meredith MacRae was in as Billie Jo, with the fourth season, I went back to Bobbie Jo, who, by then, was portrayed by Lori Saunders.

I was a fickle youngster.

In the early Silver Age Lee particularly liked working with Ditko. He even gave Ditko a solo Twilight Zoner(1) title, Amazing Adult Fantasy.

 

When "Dr Strange" was about to start Lee wrote to Jerry Bails that the feature was Ditko's idea. (Link hat-tip: Wikipedia.) This info was a surprise to me, as magician strips were a Golden Age staple and I would have guessed the feature was another go at "Dr Droom", which Kirby drew. Perhaps it skipped two issues because Lee wasn't sure about it, but it could also be Ditko was too busy to do stories for those.

Instead of teaming the Torch and Strange Marvel recurringly teamed the Torch up with Spider-Man.

The Thing was added to the Torch's feature in #123/#124 at about the time the Hulk's and Captain America's new features started. At that point the Mordo/Dormammu/Eternity saga hadn't started and "Dr Strange" wasn't always all that great: #123 has the Loki story, #124 "The Lady from Nowhere".

(1) A lot of the supporting stories from the monster comics are better described this way. Most of the "Tales of the Watcher" stories from Silver Surfer were recycled from Amazing Adult Fantasy. ("The Wonder of the Watcher" retold the origin of the Watchers by Lee (plot) and Lieber. The model for "Run, Roco, Run" was "Run, Rocky, Run", drawn by Bob Forgione.)

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