Batman is turning 80 on March 30, and it’s time we celebrate the man, the bat, the legend.
Welcome to day five of this series as we tackle Batman in the 1970s. We will break it down by comics, TV, films, and general culture. Because of the breadth of his impact on the world, there is no way we can hit every landmark moment, but we’re going to try our best to bring you an overall history of the infamous Batman.
Batman in the 1970s
Following some confusion with animated adventures in the late 1960s, Batman and Robin next appeared in animated form in The New Scooby-Doo Movies beginning in 1972.
The next animated adventures with a heavy focus on Batman, however, would be one of the most important. Starting on Sept. 8, 1973, 13 seasons of the Super Friends kicked off. This series as well had a confusing history with changing team rosters, different names, and so on.
Where this series is important however is how much it raised the overall recognition of DC characters in homes around the world, and it even helped launch the mid-1980s toy line, Super Powers from Kenner.
Super Friends was an important chapter in the overall history of Batman on TV. Despite it being a team show, he and Robin were always front and center. There was no doubt they were part of the popularity pull of the series.
But, as with anything featuring Batman and Robin at this time on TV, people had to be confused because in 1977 a completely separate Batman animated series launched entitled, The New Adventures of Batman. This series did have the distinction, however, of featuring the voices of Adam West as Batman, and Burt Ward as Robin. It only ran for one season, but there was Batman pretty much anywhere you looked on Saturday morning TV at the time. (Not that this was a bad thing.)
Although their series had ended in the 1960s, West and Ward did dress up yet again as the Dynamic Duo in the 1970s for a two-episode live-action show called Legends of the Superheros. The two specials aired over two weeks and were produced by Hanna-Barbera productions. They were very loosely based on the Super Friends cartoon.
When we left off with Batman in the 1960s, Dick Grayson had gone off to college and Batman had moved into a penthouse to refocus himself. Throughout the very early part of the 1970s, Batman wasn’t taking on his usual assortment of adversaries. This was a time for Batman to get back to basics and he was solving average crimes and taking on street level thugs.
But then, in Batman #232 in 1971, editor Julius Schwartz, writer Dennis O’Neil, and artist Neal Adams created Ra’s al Ghul. It’s doubtful that when he first appeared that anyone had any clue the depth to which this character would impact not only Batman, but the entire DC Universe as well as pretty much every TV and film incarnation for decades to come.
From the get-go, there was so much of this character set up from the story being called “Daughter of the Demon,” to it all being a test to see if Batman would be a worthy husband to Talia al Ghul. This story would surface time and time again throughout the comics, and eventually lead to a son that goes on to be a Robin.
Ra’s al Ghul may not be a household name in the way the Joker is, but in many ways, he is as important to the Dark Knight as the Clown Prince of Crime. Of course, part of his not being a household name may be a by-product of the never-ending debate over how to pronounce his first name.
For a quiet period in the overall history of Batman publishing, this seems like a pretty major new force to introduce to the world. Again, it is highly doubtful anyone had any clue how prominent he would go on to be, but the groundwork was laid solidly to be sure.
The only other major villain introduction during the 1970s was Clayface III (Preston Payne) in Detective Comics #478 in 1978.
Outside of his enemies, however, Batman did grow his army of allies a bit in the 1970s. Silver St. Cloud first appeared in Detective Comics #470 in 1977. While a romantic interest when they first met, she went on to deduce that Bruce Wayne and Batman were one and the same. Eventually, they would go on to just be friends, but she has been a character in out of the titles ever since.
Dr. Leslie Thompkins also first appeared in 1976 in Detective Comics #457. Having been a friend of Thomas Wayne’s, she would serve as a parental figure to a young Bruce. She would later learn his secret identity as Batman and would help him from time to time.
The biggest addition would easily be Lucius Fox who was introduced in Batman #307 in 1979. He has been a part of various comic stories, animated series, and numerous live-action Batman projects ever since. So much so we even did a trivia quiz about him: “How well do you know Lucius Fox and family?” He has become a fixture of many different iterations of Batman, and serves as a secondary father figure to Bruce, despite being closer to his age than Alfred.
While Fox may have more direct interaction with Batman, however, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Harvey Bullock made his first appearance in Detective Comics #441 in 1974.
None of these three – Thompkins, Fox, Bullock – were major players in the comics that often, but all of them would go on to factor heavily in both Batman: The Animated Series, and in significantly changed manners in Gotham.
While the 1970s seemed quiet overall for the Caped Crusader, it was just the proverbial calm before the storm that would be one of his busiest decades yet. Prepare yourself for the 1980s.
Jay Yaws contributed research to this post.
Check out the other installments in this series:
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1930s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1940s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1950s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1960s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1980s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 1990s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 2000s
- Batman 80th Anniversary – The 2010s
Be sure to enter our Batman 80th Anniversary giveaway!