Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Review: 'Batman: The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays 1966-1967'


Batman has existed in a swarm of guises. He’s been a comic book and a campy live-action TV series and a Saturday morning cartoon and a Mego action figure and more than one movie franchise. One of the guy’s lesser-discussed incarnations is his turn as a newspaper comic strip. Batman first popped up in your local paper in 1943, only lasting there a few years before flapping back to the funny books. He had more success during his return run from 1966 to 1970 thanks to Adam West and Burt Ward.

At first the black & white daily and full-color Sunday strips skipped in the TV show’s boot prints quite faithfully. They were zany, funny, corny, campy, peppered with “special guest stars,” and very much of their time. You could see Batman examining a parrot’s rap sheet, foiling a quartet of crooks “dressed in extreme mod fashion,” bumping and grinding with Poison Ivy at a discotheque, opening a hotel with Conrad Hilton, or standing aside while Jack Benny punches a gorilla. He faced off against all of the series’ most memorable fiends: the Joker, Cat Woman, the Penguin, and even the Riddler, who always enjoyed more exposure on the screen than on the page. Then halfway through 1967, the newspaper strip started to shift back to the caped crusader’s more serious side with an epic, winding eight-month storyline that found Batgirl discovering Batman’s secret identity after he loses his memory when Blue Max nearly kills him.

Reading these strips in the first of The Library of American Comics/IDW’s new omnibus series, Batman: The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays, it’s hard to imagine reading the measly three-panels doled out from Monday to Saturday back in the sixties. Whether they’re daffy or dark, these stories demand to be read continuously. As written by Whitney Ellsworth and illustrated by Sheldon Moldoff, Joe Giella, and on a few occasions, the legendary Carmine Infantino (though always credited to Bob Kane), they are as strong as the stories appearing in the Batman comic books of the day. The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays 1966-1967 is the ideal presentation in every imaginable way, compiling the tales in a much more readable fashion than they originally received. The daily stories were independent of the Sunday ones through 1966. In this new book, those particular Sunday stories are grouped together without interruption. It is also a splendidly designed hardcover with ribbon-strip bookmark. The pages are heavy stock and the color Sundays are recreated flawlessly without digital alterations. There’s also a nice splash of additional memorabilia—ads, comic book covers, stills from the TV series, press kit materials, etc.—among Joe Desris’s introductory chapter and the storyline annotations that close the book.

Get Batman: The Silver Age Dailies and Sundays 1966-1967 at Amazon.com here:

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