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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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.

Also Journey Into Mystery skipped the double feature aspect altogether unless you can separate "Tales of Asgard" from "Thor".

In fact, I once theorized that had JIM become a split-book, the other feature might have been...the Angel since he was pushed more than the other X-Men, DC had brought back Hawkman and the Golden Age Angel was the favorite of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman! 

>> I guess Stan Lee couldn't figure out a way to mix super-science with super-sorcery, or just didn't want to.

They didn't lend themselves to the obvious (as you note) quick plot. A combined book of the Doc and Fury was always the wildest shift I could imagine.

My problem with the split books was that so little happened. They worked like comic strips--they'd resolve last issue's cliffhanger in a page or two, do a little something (usually fight henchmen or another hero) and then set up the cliffhanger for the next issue. Kirby did great action sequences, but when that was all I got in a month, it wasn't enough.

-- MSA

I always wondered why this didn't happen to Iron Man more often. He didn't seem to have any place to keep fuel for his boot jets! The movies more or less answered this by making the boot jets and the repulsor rays the same things, whereby he flies by equal/opposite force reaction of an electrically operated system (which is powered by the ARC reactor) rather than an actual jet assembly. Never again will Iron Man's transistors be strained by overuse and need to be plugged into an electrical outlet!

Philip Portelli said:

Also Journey Into Mystery skipped the double feature aspect altogether unless you can separate "Tales of Asgard" from "Thor".

In fact, I once theorized that had JIM become a split-book, the other feature might have been...the Angel since he was pushed more than the other X-Men, DC had brought back Hawkman and the Golden Age Angel was the favorite of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman! 

As far as 60s TV beauties go, we forgot about the lovely Barbara Bain aka Cinnamon Carter from Mission: Impossible, perhaps America's answer to Diana Rigg!

And Petticoat Junction's gimmick was the trio of lovely ladies though I have no real memories of watching the show!

When I went all-in on Marvel books, TOS #49 was my first Iron Man. I think that the "by special arrangement with X-Men magazine" bit may have been Martin Goodman's predilection for having multiple fictional publishing companies on all of his magazines so that if one book was attacked it presumably wouldn't affect all of his books. 

Philip Portelli said:

Also Journey Into Mystery skipped the double feature aspect altogether unless you can separate "Tales of Asgard" from "Thor".

In fact, I once theorized that had JIM become a split-book, the other feature might have been...the Angel since he was pushed more than the other X-Men, DC had brought back Hawkman and the Golden Age Angel was the favorite of Marvel publisher Martin Goodman! 

Philip Portelli said:

And Petticoat Junction's gimmick was the trio of lovely ladies though I have no real memories of watching the show!

Over the years of its run, 1963-70, there were three permutations of Bradley sisters, as various actrresses came and went.  The second grouping---Linda Kaye Henning and Lori Saunders and Gunilla Hutton (in the order shown below)---was the one I found the most comely:

Captain Comics said:

Never again will Iron Man's transistors be strained by overuse and need to be plugged into an electrical outlet!

I think the big thing at that time was plugging himself in so that the shrapnel wouldn't reach his heart and kill him. Plus, I think Stan's "understanding" of transistors was that they provided all of Iron Man's power after just a little AC voltage from a regular outlet.

I know we watched Petticoat Junction but have no memory of any stories. I don't think it was ever heavy on plot.

Philip Portelli said:

And Petticoat Junction's gimmick was the trio of lovely ladies though I have no real memories of watching the show!

All I remember of Petticoat Junction is Uncle Joe (who's movin' kinda slow), played by the great character actor Edgar Buchanan. (I would have been too young for what the obvious selling point was.) Did a lot of plots revolve around Uncle Joe, or did he just assume an outsize importance in my memories due to being the funniest character?

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.

I still use "Uncle Joe" to refer to someone -- usually The Lad -- who's "movin' kind of slow." I'm pretty sure no one around me gets it.
Incidentally, I was definitely Team Betty Jo.

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