As long time readers will have noticed, I sure like comics. I got my professional start writing comic books and still try to keep my hand in whenever I can. In fact, I can usually tell if I want to work with someone (producers, director, you name it) by their reaction when they find out I've written, well, Superman
. If it's some version of "wow, cool!", we're in good shape. If the reaction is that slightly sour, "oh my, I thought you were a REAL writer" sneer, then that's the WRONG person.
(Slight aside... I had a meeting awhile back with a very famous person from the rock and roll business, not a performer, who was interested in moving into movies and TV. He had an idea for a sprawling science fiction saga that he had spent considerable time developing. Meanwhile, I was in the middle of my run on Battlestar Galactica
and writing Superman/Batman
for DC Comics. When this guy found out I had a background in comics, the meeting immediately went South. I mean, I got this look that said, "my adventure about a cliche hero who fights monsters while stuff blows up is FAR too serious and important a work of drama to trust to someone who would write something as ridiculous as a comical book!" Obviously we did not move forward, but I was struck by the idea of a guy who made his millions off rock and roll records (!) lifting his nose at comic books! I guess it's human nature to want to feel superior to something...)
Anyhow, screw that guy, comics are great. And there was a period in the mid 70's when the companies started floundering a bit and playing with formats to keep readers buying. In 1974, DC briefly made their flagship Batman title, Detective Comics
, into a 100 page-a-month, 60 cent behemoth, and while I'm not that big a fan of a lot of 70's books, these really stand out.
First, Archie Goodwin was the editor. If you know any comics history at all, then that name immediately says "quality", and this brief moment in Detective
history was a real stand out. And Detective Comics
#442 just might be one of the best superhero comics published back then. Just look at this line-up (again, for 60 cents!) --
An Archie Goodwin/Alex Toth Batman story, one of Toth's few forays into modern DC herodom, and one of the best. Just a great adventure story, beautifully drawn.
A Joe Simon/Jack Kirby Newsboy Legion reprint from the '40's...
A classic Hawkman reprint from writer Gardner Fox and artist Murphy Anderson...
A Black Canary story from 1947 with amazing art by Carmine Infantino and Frank Giacoia...
The Elongated Man circa the 60's, by Fox, Infantino and inked by Sid Greene...
Batman and Robin from 1945...
Dr. Fate from 1941 (!)...
And wrapping it up, a new Manhunter story by Archie Goodwin and the amazing Walt Simonson.
Unlike some of the uber-slick hardcover reprints we're getting these days, the reproduction is all immaculate and the golden age stories are just as sweet as the modern stuff. Talk about an afternoon of entertainment! Forget decompressed stories and splash panels, this is a concentrated dose of hardcore comics genius, old and new. And I sure wish there were books out there like it today!