03 February 2008

World's Finest Friendship

Since this is a "Super" Sunday, today's weekly Robin addresses the early portrayal of friendship between Robin the Boy Wonder and Superman, the Man of Steel.

In 1939, DC Comics (never lax in chasing marketing opportunities) issued a couple of issues of World's Fair Comics, tied to the New York World's Fair. Those magazines featured new adventures of Superman, Batman, and the company's other top characters. After the fair ended, the anthology magazine continued under the name World's Finest. It always had Superman, Batman, and Robin on the cover since they were DC's biggest brand names.

Not until 1954 did the magazine's editors have the idea of teaming up Superman and Batman (and Robin) in a single adventure. Thereafter World's Finest usually featured such a team-up.

Since the beginning, however, the magazine's covers had depicted Superman, Batman, and Robin as friends. Not just friends--pals! Until 1954, those covers had nothing to do with the stories inside. They rarely showed the three characters fighting crooks or rescuing people from imminent doom, as the regular Superman and Batman magazines did. Instead, World's Finest showed the three heroes having fun.

Superman, Batman, and Robin rode fire engines and raced jalopies. They congratulated servicemen and tended Victory Gardens. They played baseball, basketball, and other sports. They went surfing--in 1948!

Several covers showed Batman and Superman letting Robin win at footraces, tug-of-war, or other competitions. In others, the two men were supporting or praising the Boy Wonder's abilities. In those scenes Robin appears delighted at having the two coolest older brothers ever.

Some covers goofed on the heroes' popularity, as they discovered costumes or dolls modeled after them. In others, they played pranks on each other. I particularly like this cover from 1946, which has a Homer Price vibe.
All Golden Age World's Finest covers can be visited through Cover Browser.


Chris Barton said...

About that baseball cover -- Batman's chest protector and shin guards just seem so out of place. On the one hand, you're Batman -- do you really need that stuff? On the other hand, if Superman plans on pulling a Ty Cobb, is that gear going to help?

J. L. Bell said...

Well, in the basketball cover, Batman's trying a jump ball against a guy who can fly. Which may be evidence that Bruce Wayne didn't play much with other kids when he was growing up.

An earlier baseball cover, with no chest protectors or masks, invites the reader into the game as the pitcher.