Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Obscurity of the Day: Batman

The Batman character certainly holds the record for the number of newspaper series that featured him -- the Caped Crusader was syndicated in four separate series over the years, five if you count his supporting role in The World's Greatest Super-heroes.

Without a doubt the most obscure of these series was in 1953, but we'll cover that one some other day. Today we'll take a look at the last series to date. This one attempted to cash in on the 1989 Batman movie that starring that chinless wonder, Michael Keaton -- more suited to playing Andy Gump than Bruce Wayne imho. This series looked very promising when it debuted on November 6 1989 featuring the art of fan-favorite Batman artist Marshall Rogers. His moody, post-modern deco sensibilities were a perfect match for the Gothic Gotham featured in the movie. Writing was handled by Max Allan Collins, the popular Dick Tracy writer and novelist.

The combination of these two major talents was promising but short-lived. I don't know if the short-term pairing was by design or if these guys were disappointed in the lack of success of the strip, but both dropped out after less than three months, ending January 21 1990. The strip was then taken over by the much less exciting team of writer William Messner-Loebs, penciller Carmine Infantino (credited as 'Cinfa') and inker John Nyberg. The new team presented a much more standard-issue approach to the strip, now resembling some of the less inspired comic books featuring the character.

Creators Syndicate was doubtlessly hoping the strip would duplicate the success of The Amazing Spider-Man, one of the only adventure strips of any type that was still going strong by the 1990s. Alas it was not to be and this latest Batman series lost papers in droves after the creative change. The strip was put to rest on August 3 1991.

Our sampling above ends with that final strip of the series.


Great stuff...I remember the hoopla when the strip started, then the disappointment when Infantino, clearly at the lower end of his career, took over.

Looking at the strips now, though, I sort of have a fondness for that funky Carmine touch!
Don't cry until you have seen some of the later sundays...
In several ways, I liked the course the plot took in this strip, following different lines than we were seeing in the comic books. One of those plotlines I enjoyed was the one you illustrate here, the physical unmasking of Batman/Bruce as the impetus for the psychological unmasking of Harvey Dent. A nice surprise for those of us who had seen the Two-Face story so many times.

But please, DC, PLEASE reprint the 1966 Batman strip!! Such a wonderful blending of the TV show camp and the fun of the mid- to late-sixties comic books. Such cool and quirky takes on the Bat-mythos, such as Poison Ivy leading a gang of Ivy League co-eds, the oh-so-British Batchap and Bobbin, Batgirl discovering the Batcave while Bruce Wayne was battling amnesia. There's also a great Man-Bat storyline, and I seem to remember both Aquaman and Green Arrow guesting. Please join me in begging DC to reprint this!
Surely the final months of the sixties (by then the early seventies) strip qualifies as more obscure. I've never even SEEN a sample strip! I've heard however that there are aliens and the Dynamic Duo out of costume and a bizarre attempot at finding a new direction for the strip.

Oh, and I second the notion that Infantino's stylized art looks kinda nice now although it was jarring at the time. If only that could have gotten Joe Giella to ink it but by then he was well into MARY WORTH.
Regarding the later part of the 1966 run, it certainly is extremely obscure, on a par with the 1953 series. I would be very interested to hear from readers who know of papers where it was running in that rare 1972-74 period. I heard that it was running in a Quebec paper, don't know which, but did it run in any US papers?

I suspect that the last years of the 1960s Batman strip will never be reprinted. This (for those who dont know) was when DC lost control of the strip to the syndicate, who hired non-professionals to produce it. Those of us who saw some of this 'work" know how bad it is...
I cant recall; did it actually become Galaxio?
At least one story from the 1960s Batman strip was reprinted, in issues 4 and 5 of the Amazing World of DC Comics (DC's 1970s magazine/fanzine). One blog posted
the start of this reprint.
Booksteve (above) with the help of Todd Hilmer has found a couple samples featuring the debut of Galexo.
I suspect that the last years of the 1960s Batman strip will never be reprinted.
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