Monday, February 23, 2009

The Illustrated Conversation From Batman #200

In Batman #200, DC did some very remarkable things. First was the commemorative cover shown above. They also had a reprint of the very first page featuring Batman from Detective #27, and a conversation between two longtime Batman fans, Mike Friedrich, who of course went on to become a comics writer and Biljo White, described at the beginning of the article as the number one all-time Batman fan.

I loved the conversation, but there was one problem. They were describing all these great books that I had no chance of reading at the time. This was in the dark ages, before Archive Editions and Masterworks, heck it was before Famous First Editions. Unless you got lucky and an annual reprinted a particular story, your only option was to buy the originals, and even with the lower prices back then that wasn't an option for me for any more than a few books occasionally.

But with the grace of computers and scanners, that's no longer a problem, and so I would like to present herewith an illustrated version of that conversation from the March 1968 issue:

White, of course, was the creator of the Batmania Fanzine in the 1960s.

And the mayhem Batman inflicts on the crooks responsible is excellent:

Public Enemy No. 1:

As you can probably guess the story's similar to the James Cagney movie, Public Enemy.

The hurricane scene from Batman #11:

And of course, the original Alfred appearance is the story that changed the Dynamic Duo's life.

I mentioned the Christmas Batman stories back around the holidays; as Friedrich says they were gems. It happened in Rome?

The Carter Nichols stories were terrific; I recently discussed the Tiger Man story in Batman #93, which was a Carter Nichols tale.

The Penguin-Joker "team-up" in Batman #25:

As you can probably tell, they're in a competition and whoever loses is supposed to vacate Gotham City. Eventually they realize that they should work together:

But they still come out losers against Batman and Robin.

Vicki Vale's first appearance:

Vicki hung around for a long time, but it would probably be inaccurate to describe her as comparable to Lois Lane as a snoop. For one thing, she was a much smaller character in the Batman series, often disappearing for years at a time.

1000 Secrets of the Batcave:

Birth of Batplane II is certainly in the top ten Batman stories of all time:

The Catwoman's reform era:

Killer Moth:

Killer Moth was definitely one of the oddball villains in the Batman rogues' gallery.

Here was a rare opportunity for me to smile back then, as two issues earlier, in Batman #198, DC had reprinted that story with this famous sequence:

Robin Dies at Dawn was an interesting story. Batman and Robin find themselves suddenly on an alien planet, being chased by monsters. This was not, unfortunately, an uncommon occurrence for them during that era. In the story, Robin is killed by a boulder thrown by a stone giant. Suddenly Batman wakes up. He's been in a chamber simulating space flight for the past few days and that's why he was hallucinating the whole bit with the monsters and the robot. But unfortunately, the hallucinations recur and cause him problems:

And no, those are not gorillas in that first panel, they're men in gorilla suits.

The first "New Look" cover:

The Zero Hour For Earth story:

The Riddler story:

Death Knocks Three Times is indeed an excellent story:

Comments: The interview clearly was focused on stories in the Batman title, so the Detective and World's Finest stories don't get mentioned. As you can see, there's a pretty huge gap between the Golden Age stories discussed and the first Silver Age stories mentioned; Robin Dies at Dawn appeared in 1963. I am not quite as thrilled with the "New Look" as Friedrich and White were; while it was an improvement over the Jack Schiff era, it was not enough of an improvement. I am much more impressed with what happened to Batman after this interview; the character's resurrection in the late 1960s and early 1970s was terrific.