Wednesday being Comic Book Day, like every Wednesday, I bought a bunch of new comics, *and* a collection of Batman stories from the fifties. The fifties were a strange time all around. Superhero comics were at a fairly low ebb, except for DC's two main draws (care to guess?) The stories themselves were all one shots, with no thoughts about continuity or arcs, or even being longer than eight pages. They were also geared towards their readership - young boys. None of this is bad, btw. Given these things, they were pretty good. The boys got action and adventure with a minimum of real violence and no sex (ew!) and the plots were, if silly, appropriate. And, honestly, they were only somewhat different from the comics I read back in the "silver age" - to be precise, the early-mid seventies. Perhaps the art was a little cleaner, and maybe the stories were more socially relevant. I wasn't paying much attention to that at that point, but it does seem that way, looking back through the mists of time.
So, I have this collection of stories from Batman and Detective and World's Finest comics. World's Finest - Superman-Batman pairups -doesn't exist anymore, mores the pity. Although, honestly, it makes sense given Batman today. Sometimes it's hard to figure that Gotham and Metropolis exist in the same universe.
BTW, and as an aside - in the DCU, Metropolis is currently not too far from Gotham, which is not too far from NYC. This is yet another clue that Smallville is in its own, dare we say, pocket universe.
I picked up that same day the latest Batman. The differences are so striking that there is almost no resemblance between the two men. Batman of the Fifities seems sane and adjusted. He's on good terms with the police. He's not even a vigilante - he has an official police position. Even when he's injured, the doctors make no attempt to discover who he is. And, of course, it bothers no one that he has this boy in pixie boots hanging around with him.
Not the current Batman, haunting the rooftops alone in the Gotham night. His alter ego, whom he has discarded, is wanted for murder. He's not seeking the true murderer, he's not worrying about his bodyguard who is also in prison. He's trapped himself,and it shows. No one smiles here; costumed crooks are evil and deadly, not funny. People *die*. This is not written for young boys, who don't buy comics anyway. This is 22 pages and it's not a whole story and there is continuity to worry about.
And the art. I could write a whole thing on comic book art and how things have changed. I think I'll wait on that.
Batman started getting dark before The Dark Knight. I remember from when I was reading it, in 1975 or so - he was already the counterpoint to Superman. It's his proper sphere - darkness, madness, evil.