11 January 2009

“Another Bizarre Character with a Fantastic Weapon!”

Yesterday I wrote about the doldrums that the Batman comics seemed to be as the 1960s began. Histories of the character agree that those magazines were in a creative rut, with dire sales, before the visual revamp called the "New Look," which appeared in May 1964.

I have doubts about part of that history, as I'll describe tomorrow. But I won't argue that the creative side of Batman publishing was uninspired as the 1960s began.

Nominal creator Bob Kane was fobbing off his work to ghost artists and focusing on other projects. But there was also a lot of slack in the DC Comics editorial office.

This weekly Robin shows successive issues of Detective magazine, #284 through 287, all on sale in late 1960.

Comic-book editors had the task of designing covers to catch readers' eyeballs and show off the story inside. And the Batman editor of this period, Jack Schiff, appears to have given up on new ideas.

Observe how the acrobatic Batman has only two poses over four covers. Note how three times he exclaims, "Great Scott!" Observe the repeated use of Robin as the readers' stand-in. Covers like these gave rise to the "Shocked Robin" cover generator, which I described back here.

Schiff was apparently a nice man, particularly to writers. This period of Batman stories includes some fine stories, and might be underrated. But there's no doubt Batman comics were starting to look stale as soon as they hit the newsstands.

To be sure, every so often Schiff and his team might shake things up. For instance, on the fourth cover of this run they put Robin on the other side!

Covers courtesy of the Grand Comics Database.

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