This past week, in addition to San Diego Comic Con (coincidentally), was Batman Day, the focal point of the Dark Knight’s 75th anniversary. Being unable to attend SDCC due to my day job (damn you, bills and responsibility!), I looked book on my love of the Caped Crusader, remembering where I discovered the world of Gotham.
When I was a lad, there existed a thing called a comic book digest. The most common use of this now (and then for that matter) was Archie Comics. But back in the day, DC Comics would put together five or six issues of random comics, put them in a digest, and sell them cheaply to promote their current titles.
A couple that I remember vividly are a villains’ origins digest featuring the origins of the Parasite (Superman), Red Dart (Green Arrow), etc. The other, though, was one of my greatest treasures as a child: a Batman digest featuring stories revolving around the five greatest members of his Rogue’s Gallery. They were Joker, Penguin, Two-Face, Catwoman, and the Riddler, each story ending with a one-page origin of the villain.
The one story I remember vividly was the Two-Face story and thanks to the internet, I found the issue. It was Batman No. 234, written by Denny O’Neal and pencilled by Neal Adams, two of the faces on my Batman Mt. Rushmore (along with Bill Finger and Kevin Conroy, because heck with Bob Kane). A piece of trivia for this issue: it’s the Silver Age debut of Two-Face.
Back then, I thought it was gritty and hardcore and now, I’m amazed at how well it has stood the test of time. It’s a true testament of just how good the duo of O’Neal/Adams really was.
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With the success of the Christopher Nolan Dark Knight trilogy, the upcoming Batman vs. Superman movie, and this being the 75th anniversary of the Caped Crusader, I have found it fun and educational to go back and look at the older issues of Batman and Detective Comics. The first issues of the book hold up reasonably well, while the 50s and 60s are pretty campy. The 70s Batman was where I got my start, so they will always hold a place in my heart and with stories like this one and the legendary Batman No. 251, it’s a great example of how quality will truly transcend its time.
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