06 January 2013

When Batman and Robin Went Sci-Fi

“The Isle That Time Forgot,” from Batman, #10, is one of the first Batman stories that definitely borrowed from science fiction. Earlier tales of the Caped Crusader had touched on the fantastic, but through the genres of Gothic horror and even fairy tales rather than science-inspired tropes.

That story from April-May 1942 showed the Dynamic Duo landing Dick’s new miniature batplane on an island that appears—to the Boy Wonder at least—to be infested with living dinosaurs. Robin keeps saying he’s seen the giant creatures; Batman keeps telling him to stop talking nonsense. (More specifically, he snaps, “Don’t get gay!”) As shown above, Robin also falls down a bit. I’m not spoiling a good story when I ***SPOILER*** this one: there really are dinosaurs on the island, but they’re mechanical.

In Batman, #24 (Aug-Sept 1944), the Dynamic Duo had their first real time-travel adventure. That is, if we accept that Prof. Carter Nichols could actually send Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson back to ancient Rome through nothing but hypnosis. That story has lately been credited to Dr. Joe Samachson. The Nichols character appeared in several more Batman time-travel adventures as recently as this decade’s “Time and the Batman.”

Joseph Greene is credited with scripting “The Year 3000” in Batman, #26 (Dec 1944–Jan 1945). This is an unabashedly futuristic adventure featuring Bruce Wayne’s distant descendant (and his young pal Ricky!) fighting an invasion from Saturn.

Finally, Batman, #41 (June-July 1947), went all out with Batman and Robin running into real extraterrestrial visitors, and on the cover yet. Gardner Fox is usually credited with writing “Batman, Interplanetary Policeman!” He wrote some of the earliest Batman scripts and continued to work for DC Comics until 1968.

Thus, within a decade of his invention, Batman was involved in science-fiction adventures on top of his usual crime-fighting. The idea of Batman in space is usually associated with the “Silver Age” of DC Comics, starting in 1956. And indeed Pat Curley at Silver Age Comics has mapped the peak of stories in which Batman and Robin meet aliens (not including Superman himself) as from 1958 to 1963. But the tradition goes back to the 1940s.

At that peak time, Julius Schwartz was reinventing DC’s superhero universe with new sci-fi versions of old trademarks like the Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkman, and the Atom. Superman editor Mort Weisinger was reportedly leaning on Batman editor Jack Schiff to shift toward science fiction. When Schwartz took over the Batman books in 1964 with the “New Look,” he reversed course back to goofy crime stories, but he also integrated Batman and Robin into the larger, now sci-fi-driven DC Universe.

Thus, it was only a matter of time before Dick Grayson would have a hot alien girlfriend.

1 comment:

Nathan said...

Hey, if Dick Tracy's son can get an alien girlfriend, why not Robin?