Atomic Batteries to Power

Today we’re looking at Batman: the Silver Age Dailies and Sundays,1966-1967, collected by IDW.

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These newpaper strips represent some of my earliest memories of Batman. they were printed on the front cover of Smash! a weekly b/w comic which was part of the UK’s Power Comics line of the mid-60s. The strip first appeared around June 1966 – having made its debut in the US at the end of May. I was surprised to discover the shortness of that  interval. B&R appears to have run in Smash! until around December 1967- while I was still four years old.

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The IDW book is a solid brick of a book. Here are the serials it contains:

Penguin Perpetrates a Prank: the early strips open with “The Bat Camp” , a terrible pun from B&R. In this juvenile outing, Pengy and masked Girl friday Beulah escape on ostrich-back.

The Nasty Napoleon: The tale of  Field Marshal of Crime, Little Napoleon aka The Bogus Bonaparte is illustrated in the main by Carmine Infantino. The strip is gorgeous but Robin begins the irritating habit of apologising and putting himself down.

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Batchap and Bobbin: my earliest memory of the strip which I conflated with the Fatman & Sparrow spoof in Solo comic (1967). Lord Peter Heathcliff of Lemon Regis and his brother, the Honorable Robert inmpersonate the Dynamic Duo in a Carnaby Street story. They remind me of the Knight and Squire’s set-up and the villainous Gemini Twins taught me the names Castor and Pollux.

Catwoman is a Wily Wench: Catwoman breaks out of jail and swears vengeance . Her acid bath and guillotine traps are in the vein of the tv show but the strip is primitive.

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Two Jokers and a Laughing Girl: Joker is paroled as Bruce Wayne’s butler! This is a highly entertaining idea. Superman guest stars and the art improves with the arrival of Joe Giella. The terrible Indian caricature Laughing Girl turns out to be Bertha Schulz, a chorus girl from Brooklyn. It’s in poor taste by modern standards and a very long serial.

Penguin the Complainant: one of the most popular foes from the 40s returns for a very short sequence followed by the very long…

Flying the Jolly Roger: this piratical villain seems a poor relation to Little Napoleon.

The Sizzling Saga of Poison Ivy: having only appeared in comics six months earlier, the Ivy league dropout Queen of Crime is a surprising inclusion. Ivy Smith and her all-girl gang infiltrate the Bat-Hilton Hotel, disguised as “Robinettes”. Very long and very silly.

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Jack Benny’s Stolen Stradivarius: The celebrity comedian falls victim to the Collector and his gorilla henchmen. Sadly, not the masked bandit of “The Crime of Bruce Wayne” (‘Tec 249)

Batgirl Ain’t Your Sister: concuurent with Babs’ second appearance in ‘Tec 363, the “prim…dowdy…timid-looking” librarian gains a confidant in Ho Say Guy- another racist cariacture. The Commish has a low opinion of his daughter: ” I’m afraid that nothing romantic will ever happen to her”. A Goershin-eque Riddler is the villain.

Shivering Blue Max, Flo and Pretty Boy Floy: the longest sequence in the book, this is really at least two dovetailing plots running from July to December. Blue-skinned pilot Max, a reference to a 1966 George Peppard movie, is another of my early Bat-memories. He causes Bats to develop amnesia. The Caped Crusader’s grim origin is retold, Batgirl learns B&R’s secret i.d.s and even impersonates Batman in a campaign against midget crook. “Big” Trubble.

The strip takes on a darker hue as Elmo the Etcher, a counterfeiter dies in a horrible Roald Dahl twist and Blue Max gets a cement overcoat! The book concludes as “Cheap gunman” Pretty Boy Floy plots against a billionaire industrialist. Floy employs his sister Flo to pose as Madame Zodiac, the rich man’s personal astrologer, to seize control of the business. Interestingly. Madame Zodiac made her comics debut in a 1978 issue of Batman Family. I wonder if Bob Rozakis intended her to be the same character?

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If you are a fan of Batman in the Sixties this book is more fun, in my opinion, than the contemporary Fox/Giella/Moldoff Batman title. Equally, if you have any memories of the Power Comics era, then it’s a nostalgic read. I would advise reading one serial at a time however.

The villains in the strip are obviously in tune with the tv show but make a refreshing change from the four pillars of  United Underworld. It’s good to see Batgirl, even is she is a female Clark Kent and the strip is better drawn latterly than the Batman comic was at the time. In a couple of posts, we’ll look at DC’s current Batman 66 series which recreates the tone and revives the characters of the Adam West series.

Coming soon: The Great Darkness

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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2 comments on “Atomic Batteries to Power

  1. Kid Robson says:

    Well, you’ve told us what’s in the book, Dougie, but would you recommend it as a good buy? What’s it cost anyway? I’ve got most, if not all, of the Smash! BM & R strips, but I was never too impressed by them, to be honest. Nostalgia factor apart, would you say it’s a satisfying read?

    • Dougie says:

      Fair point! I don’t often tend to think of books in terms of recommendation -just in terms of my personal reading experience. But I’ve tried to respond in the edit above.

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