To a modern fan, Batman in the Seventies might seem unappealing. If you’ve been weaned on the New 52 approach to the Dark Knight, this book will likely seem almost as foreign as the famous Batman television show from the 60’s. If that’s you, don’t be discouraged. With an open mind, I’m confident you’ll come away at least entertained, and at best appreciative of how guys like Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Dick Giordano (among others) paved the way for Batman to become who he is today.
This volume contains ten stories from a variety of books, with a tendency toward Detective Comics. Here’s what you get:
- “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley”, from Detective Comics #457, with a script by Dennis O’Neil and pencils and inks by Dick Giordano
- “A Vow From the Grave”, from Detective Comics #410, with a script by Dennis O’Neil, pencils by Neal Adams, and inks by Dick Giordano
- “Night of the Reaper”, from Batman #237, with a script by Dennis O’Neil, pencils by Neal Adams, and inks by Dick Giordano
- “The Invader from Hell”, from The Batman Family #1, with a script by Elliot S! Maggin and pencils and inks by Mike Grell
- “Marriage: Impossible”, from Detective Comics #407, with a script by Frank Robbins, pencils by Neal Adams, and inks by Dick Giordano
- “From Each End…A Beginning!”, from DC Super-Stars #17, with a script by Paul Levitz, pencils by Joe Staton, and inks by Bob Layton
- “This One’ll Kill You, Batman”, from Batman #260, with a script by Dennis O’Neil, pencils by Irv Novick, and inks by Dick Giordano
- “Daughter of the Demon”, from Batman #232, with a script by Dennis O’Neil, pencils by Neal Adams, and inks by Dick Giordano
- “Death Flies the Haunted Sky”, from Detective Comics #442, with a script by Archie Goodwin and pencils and inks by Alex Toth
- “Ticket to Tragedy”, from Detective Comics #481, with a script by Dennis O’Neil and pencils and inks by Marshall Rogers
Batman has changed
Ignoring a Spider-Man and Wolverine face-off I read as a young kid, my first experience with comics was reading Mark Waid and Alex Ross’s Kingdom Come. From there, I got into modern comics. And while there are few artists doing what Ross does, most modern comics benefit from decent paper stock and the advantages that paper stock affords a colorist.
The most arresting thing about opening Batman in the Seventies is how dated the art–in particular, the color work–looks. There aren’t any gradients or other sophisticated blends of color, and backgrounds are often rendered so as to have the highest contrast with a panel’s focal point.
That said, it’s interesting to see the various artists working within this limited system. Without the option of leaning heavily on a colorist, Giordano and Adams coax a remarkable amount of emotion out of character faces using nothing but lines and fills. Today’s artists could learn a lot from these guys.
The dread Batman is no stranger to peril
As with the artwork, much of the dialogue here feels old, but once you acclimate, all but a few of the stories are actually pretty engaging. O’Neil knows how to plot a compelling Batman story, and seeing his takes on the death of Bruce’s parents and the Dark Knight’s first encounter with R’as Al Ghul is enough to make this whole book worth a read. Fans of Batman: the Animated Series will recognize “Daughter of the Demon”, and for me at least, having a reference point makes this all the more enjoyable.
What hurts this book the most, at least in my opinion, is that the storytelling is more “one-and-done” than ongoing. There’s a hint at the end of the R’as story that there’s more to come, but each of the issues included in this volume are self-contained stories where everything rises and falls in a single installment. This doesn’t make them bad stories, but it does make it easier to put the book down after a particularly clunky tale (like the one where Batgirl and Robin take on Benedict Arnold, who’s been reanimated by the devil). Multi-issue arcs have their own disadvantages, but they definitely give individual installments–even ones that are far less than perfect–a greater sense of importance.
Batman in the Seventies is loaded with extras. There are pinups featuring Batman, Batgirl & Robin, the Supervillains, and the Batman family. There are also cover galleries featuring commentary on Batman during this decade. Overall, there are about fourteen pages of extras, and they’re all great enhancements to this book’s value.
Value: Sale price
Unfortunately, the cheapest I can find this on Amazon is thirty bucks. There are a few listings on eBay for twenty, but that’s still a high price to pay for the amount of content. I would pick it up if I could find it for fifteen or less.
This Batman speaks in a voice that I find less relatable than more modern takes on the character. As such, I don’t have the emotional investment in these stories that I typically do when reading Batman books. Nevertheless, he’s still Batman, and there are lots of great elements present in Batman in the Seventies. This may not be the first book to hand to a fan of The Dark Knight who’s just getting into comics, but if you already have an appreciation for Batman on the page, there’s plenty here for you to enjoy.