This week we are going to break down what we believe to be the best Batman covers from each era of comic book history – so expect this to be broken into four different parts encompassing:
Silver Age (1956 – c.1970)
Today we move on to
THE TOP TEN SILVER AGE BATMAN COVERS:
10. Detective Comics #251
Most of the Silver Age Batman stories took a big turn from the standard mobster and crime tales of the Golden Age into pure Science Fiction. This being the case there are a lot of really weird covers from this era, and while most of them seem pretty hokey in retrospect (albeit with a great dollop of nostalgic 50’s/60’s charm) there are definitely some covers, such as the one above, which are just strange enough, without being too silly, to be interesting.
I really like the design of the alien Batman here, with the oddly shaped head which would of course dictate the shape of his cowl. Since this was still in the early days of the Silver Age it was likely quite a compelling issue to see on the newsstands. I really like the colors, the concept and the simplicity of this cover.
9. Detective Comics #367
What can I say, I really like the unique concept of the cover. It’s a silly gimmick, sure, but I’m just a fan of people trying new things and attempting to push the form beyond the rote and expected.
Also worthy of note, this is the first Carmine Infantino cover on my list, this man was not only a great artist who had a brilliant career, but he eventually became the Editorial Director of DC and was basically the person who most dramatically changed the DC world forever by letting people like Joe Orlando, Dick Giordano and Neal Adams have more control over editorial. He also personally hired Mike Kaluta, Bernie Washington, Walt Simonson and some guy named Jack Kirby. Without Carmine Infantino DC never would have had the glorious run it would soon experience throughout the next, amazingly epic era known as the Bronze Age of comics; he basically put all the pieces in place to create the look, feel and tenor of the modern DCU.
Mr. Infantino also created Barry Allen, for what its worth.
8. Batman #153
Ah, the glorious days of Batman constantly experiencing inter-dimensional “hallucinations”. Not only does this cover look great, it’s quite the mind-fuck too; we’re seeing the concept of alternative dimensions played out on the cover of a comic book released in 1963… that’s pretty cool. If you’re a fan of Grant Morrison’s Batman work, this is the exact type of story you need to be reading to catch a bunch of references in his work.
7. Batman #156
This is one of those enduring and famous cover images that has been repeatedly re-done, referenced and copied so many times that people have a hard time being objectively impressed at the impact of the original. The image of Batman carrying a dead Robin across the strange alien landscape popping with nice, bright colors is one that has always remained fresh in my mind’s eye, so I suppose that’s a signal to a job well done by Mr. Moldoff.
This is also another story that Grant Morrison re-inserted into the canon (first appearance of Dr. Hurt!) and features elements that are heavily referenced in Batman R.I.P.
6. Detective Comics #327/341
Kind of a cheat, this one is… I just couldn’t help it though. I really like the concept of bringing the paneling to the outside of the book. This is a style you hardly ever see, but I love it. However, the real points come later on, in Detective Comics #341 as Mr. Infantino does a nice call back to the original for all the people paying attention:
Extra points should also go to Issue #327 because it is actually the first cover to debut the new costume design for Batman (the “yellow oval”), and yet, they never even really show the new look… funny stuff.
5. Detective Comics #374
By this time things have started growing darker in the world of Batman. Gone are the lighter depictions of death and gone are the bright colors; we’re seeing the urban, gothic horror of Batman which will dominate the next age of comics blossoming here. The big, beaten body of Robin in the fore is a fantastic image and Batman rushing towards us adds some great, frenetic movement to the cover; your eyes quickly dart around the cover taking all the information in, don’t they? This is simply a great composition of dynamic spatial relations. For some reason, I also get a kick out of the fact that the artist, Irving Novick, put his name on the headline of the newspaper.
4. Detective Comics #388
The Joker shooting lasers out of his eyes to kill Batman and Robin on the moon – that’s good enough for me.
Good, moving on then…
3. Detective Comics #392
Again with the cover paneling, although this time I find it much more intense, visceral and immediately compelling. There is a fantastic sense of movement and timing; the still of the water with the mystery man’s hat floating in the center panel is a great juxtaposition to the quick up and down of the bookends. For three panels and one headline this cover works very well to make me want to open the book to find out who this man is and exactly what led up to this point.
2. Batman #217
I’ll save my Neal Adams speech for the next installment of this list, where he really shines, and for now I’ll just try to explain what this cover really means in the context of the era.
This is technically the last Silver Age issue of the Batman series – and a lot of interesting things happen in this issue; Dick leaves for college, Bruce decides to start using what will later be commonly referred to as “Bat bunkers” and he decides to re-introduce the “old” Batman to Gotham. This is literally a goodbye to the Silver Age and the official introduction of the next era Batman will take; the grim, urbane, darker and more horror-like story-lines which will be the norm for most of the 70’s.
Plus, just look at that Neal Adams art, he blew everyone’s minds back then by the way he drew Batman – I still prefer the design he pioneered here to most of the currently in use designs today.
1. Batman #194
This is the first instance of the Batman logo being changed up and incorporated into the cover art as a dynamic element. It’s a subtle, cracking of the fourth wall and it was totally unique and innovative at the time. The movement and implied force with which Batman is crashing down is just icing on a high-concept and wonderfully executed cake.
And once again – as a quick bonus lets take a look at some of the more ridiculous moments from Silver Age covers
(although with so much wacky sci-fi stuff in this era I couldn’t really focus on those, or the list here would have been endless, so I’ve left all of that sort of silliness out – these are just odd and/or funny in other ways)
A Few Funny Silver Age Batman Covers
The Day Batman sold out. Just that line makes me laugh, but I love all the detail in this cover too; the Batarang and the police hotline phone, etc. hanging from small clothespins, the fact that Batman already sold Robin’s suit and is about to rip his own right off his body, then of course, Alfred and Dick weeping in the corners. Hilarious.
Batman sells out again, although this time it’s a bit different. I love the whole ridiculous, meta concept and the way Infantino drew Batman so worried and perspiring so heavily out of his cowl.
I find this cover awesome for a few reasons:
Batman has a fucking tiger head and feet, but not hands.
Even as part tiger Batman can still sneak upon robin like a boss ass ninja.
This was all a bunch of drug-induced hallucinations.
Batman has a fucking tiger head
And finally, the very special Detective Comics #371
This issue undoubtedly deserves a review all its own – someday I’ll probably oblige it and provide one to the world. Suffice it to say, if you think the cover is ridiculously sexist your head would probably explode with WTF if you read the whole issue.
Coming up later in the week will be
THE TOP TEN BRONZE AGE BATMAN COVERS
So check back soon, same bat-channel, blah-blah, etc.