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?

Views: 681

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Wouldn’t it be great if we had some sales figures to use?  Wait a minute, we do have some.  The second class mailing statements and they are compiled over at Comichron.  Unfortunately, two of the years we really need, 1963 and 1964, are missing.  With a few exceptions DC did not report sales figures for those years.  And those are the ones we really need to document how much of a sales decline there was.

Well let’s see what we do have, keeping in mind that there is some lag in these reports.

              Batman       Detective     Superman        Action           B&B

1960:    502,000.       314,000.        810,000.       458,000

1961:    485,000.       325,000.        820,000.       485,000

1962:    410,000.       265,000.        740,000.       435,000

1963:    missing.        missing.         missing.        missing

1964:    missing.        missing.         missing.        518,026

1965:    453,745        304,414.        823,829.        525,254

1966:    898,470.       404,339.        719,976.        491,135.       279,406

1967:    805,700.       425,700.        649,300.        420,900.       342,400

1968:    533,450.       309,850.        636,400.        423,000.       290,900

1969:    355,782.       221,267.        511,984.         377,535.      242,501

Typically, the other Superman Family titles outsold Batman, but generally it was DC’s next best seller.  A few others occasionally would outsell ‘Tec  (e.g., JLA).  I’ve included B&B, which became a Batman team-up book with #67 (Aug.-Sept. 1966) only missing issues #72 & 73.

The New Look began in early 1964, so it is definitely represented in the 1965 reports.  1966 reflects the impact of the TV show.  Going by 1965’s numbers the New Look seems to have helped sales.  Egads, 1969 was a disaster.

It’s too bad 1963 and 1964 are missing.  We do see a decline from 1960 to 1962 in both Batman and Detective, but there was also decline in Superman and Action. 

Thanks for posting those. Even those numbers show how drastically the TV show impacted sales, which would never happen today. But they also show how even more dramatically they dropped off when the show stopped. But sales on all comics were falling in the late 1960s, which led to so many new titles and creator changes.

The other part of sales to take into account is that back in those days, *profits* were based on the percentage of the print run that was sold. Sales - returns = level of success. The sales figures by themselves don't tell us if the comic was very profitable.

I don't know what determined the print run (and why it wasn't adjusted down if returns grew) but that's a hidden part of what publishers looked at to determine what to continue or change.

-- MSA

I remember reading that William Dozier was present at the Playboy Mansion when the management ran an episode of one of the 2 Batman serials of the forties and the audience reacted so uproariously that he decided this might make a comedy series. I'll look it up and get back to u.

I'm wondering if DC's deal with Bob Kane prevented them from altering the series much until sales started dropping. The changes were parallels to characters introduced to the Superman titles, so they were probably deemed safe bets.

With the New Look, it was clear that either Julius Schwartz or DC or both had enough of Bob Kane's "input" and began separating him from the Bat-books.

Some random observations/questions based upon your comments:

I guess I always thought that the published sales figures weren't just the print run, but were comics actually sold to readers. Are we sure about this one way or the other?

Wasn't Bob Kane ousted because his contract had expired or been bought out? Did Schwartz have a hand in pushing him out?

As much as I love the Schwartz Flash comics, he was doing crazy death traps and scenery-chewing villains in those books also.

I think Dozier and his writers were also sampling some of the pre-Schwartz Batman annuals when coming up with stories and pre-existing villains.

I wish to Rao that I could remember exactly what magazine that reprinted Bob Kane's rebuttal after the first push to recognize Bill Finger as Batman's co-creator in the mid-60s. It was in the fanzine Batmania but I read it fairly recently. Paraphrasing, he said that there were things about the New Look Batman that he liked and things he didn't. And remember, the non-Infantino Bat-stories of that period were still credited to Bob Kane.

Whatever power Kane had over Batman was over by the late 60s, though I don't know the circumstances. Perhaps the cancellation of the TV show was the final nail in that coffin.

The Flash had the best Rogues Gallery, characterization-wise of all the DC heroes but Batman's foes were better known.

I agree that they must have through at least ten years of Bat-books to get villains like the Mad Hatter, Riddler and Mister Zero/Freeze with the obvious Joker/Penguin/Catwoman trio. Two-Face, both Clayfaces and the Cavalier didn't make the cut though False-Face, the Minstrel and the Archer had hints of them.

The on-going contract with Bob Kane had to have been one of the reasons Julius Schwartz didn't want to take on the Bat books. My understanding is the contract called for Kane (and his ghosts) to produce a certain number of art pages per month which explains his signature on the stories in every other issue of Detective and all of the Batman material. Covers weren't included so Schwartz could assign those to whomever he wished. As soon as Kane's contract was up in 1967 his signature disappeared and Schwartz was able to assume full control. Unfortunately this coincided with the cancellation of the TV show and the fall in sales.

DId Kane's signature really disappear in the late '60s? I thought it was later than that. Maybe I'm thinking of "Created by Bob Kane" credits, which just recently began adding Bill Finger. (Recently in my addled mind. Probably a couple of years by now.

The greatest Bob Kane story I ever read was by Will Eisner, but I rarely repeat it because it's so off-color.

OFF-COLOR WARNING

He said Kane was all superficial and no talent, and used as an example their dating lives. Kane would rent a big car and drive around with a beautiful gal who, Eisner said, wasn't really dating Kane and was just there for show. He said that he dated plainer gals who "put out." IOW, he said, Kane would rather look like he was getting laid rather than do what it took to actually get laid -- which was a metaphor for his comic book career as well, where it looked like he worked to make it look like he was doing Batman but wasn't willing to do the harder work to actually do Batman.

Yeah, it's a pretty rough anecdote. But it did make me laugh.

Philip Portelli said:

I wish to Rao that I could remember exactly what magazine that reprinted Bob Kane's rebuttal after the first push to recognize Bill Finger as Batman's co-creator in the mid-60s.

Bob Kane's rebuttal to Batmania's Biljo White was reprinted in Comic Book Artist # 3 (Winter, 1999), published by TwoMorrows.

Thanks, Commander!

As I recall, Kane was very aggressive to the point of being obnoxious. He actually praised Bill Finger for his creativeness but then said that he had nothing to do with Batman's creation. After all if he did, he would have received a byline like he did!

Not to mention, DC's own whitewashing of events as seen in Real Fact Comics #5 (D'46). Had his mother sew up a Batman costume, indeed!!

Commander Benson said:

Philip Portelli said:

I wish to Rao that I could remember exactly what magazine that reprinted Bob Kane's rebuttal after the first push to recognize Bill Finger as Batman's co-creator in the mid-60s.

Bob Kane's rebuttal to Batmania's Biljo White was reprinted in Comic Book Artist # 3 (Winter, 1999), published by TwoMorrows.

Captain Comics said:

DId Kane's signature really disappear in the late '60s? I thought it was later than that. Maybe I'm thinking of "Created by Bob Kane" credits, which just recently began adding Bill Finger.

In 1968, DC bought out Bob Kane's contract in exchange for providing Kane with a healthy royalty on the character of Batman.  It was a win-win for both sides; DC was no longer saddled with having to pretend that Kane was Batman's artist, and Kane no longer had to pretend that he was still drawing Batman, plus he was free of having to deal with sub-contracted artists.

The most noticeable (to the reader) result of this was the disappearance of the "Bob Kane" signature slug that appeared on the splash pages of the stories in Batman and Detective Comics.  (The Kane signature slug had already been omitted in Detective Comics stories drawn by Carmine Infantino and Gil Kane, ostensibly because their art was already familiar to readers of other comics edited by Julius Schwartz.)

The first non-Infantino, non-Gil Kane Batman story to appear without the Bob Kane signature slug on the splash page was "The Riddler's Prison-Puzzle Problem", from Detective Comics # 377 (Jul., 1968).  The first Batman story in the Batman title to omit the Kane signature was "Operation---Blindfold", from Batman # 204 (Aug., 1968).

In 1977, DC added a "created by Bob Kane" blurb to its Batman stories.

Hope this helps.

Philip Portelli said:

Thanks, Commander!

As I recall, Kane was very aggressive to the point of being obnoxious. He actually praised Bill Finger for his creativeness but then said that he had nothing to do with Batman's creation. After all if he did, he would have received a byline like he did!

That's pretty much a spot-on recollexion of Bob Kane's comments, at least in tone.

Here's a link to the Kane rebuttal reprinted in Comic Book Artist # 3:

http://twomorrows.com/comicbookartist/articles/03kane.html

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Welcome!

No flame wars. No trolls. But a lot of really smart people.The Captain Comics Round Table tries to be the friendliest and most accurate comics website on the Internet.

SOME ESSENTIALS:

RULES OF THE ROUND TABLE

MODERATORS

SMILIES FOLDER

TIPS ON USING THE BOARD

FOLLOW US:

OUR COLUMNISTS:

Groups

© 2019   Captain Comics, board content ©2013 Andrew Smith   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service