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Book Review:
BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES

Author: Bill Ramey
Tuesday, October 31, 2006

SYNOPSIS FROM DC COMICS:
In the seventies, Batman began his transformation from the campy Caped Crusader of the sixties television show into the grim Dark Knight of the nineties' motion pictures. This action-packed book includes the greatest adventures of that era which helped to reshape this legendary icon. Featuring Batgirl, Robin, the Joker, Man-Bat, the Huntress, and Ra's al Ghul, BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES is an outstanding opportunity to look back and enjoy the tales of the past that are now the foundation for the future.

First, two short history lessons.

Batman comics were damn near canceled in the early 1960s. Then the campy TV show starring Adam West brought on a short, but huge, burst of “Batmania.” It saved Batman in comics, but once TV's Batman was canceled in 1968, DC Comics was left wondering what the hell to do with the character.

Enter writer Denny O’Neil, artist Neal Adams, and the 1970s.

The creative team made a conscious effort to leave the 60s camp behind. The duo returned The Batman to his dark roots as he was initially conceived by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939. Mr. O’Neil’s writing influenced the tone of Batman comics the entire decade and on into the 1980s. Many fans consider the 70s (including the terrific Englehart/Rogers run in DETECTIVE) the true Golden Age of Batman.

OK, time for history lesson #2.

I was born in the mid-1960s and the old TV show was my personal introduction to The Batman. However, it was c. 1970 when I first started reading comic books (as opposed to simply looking at them) and it was that Batman -- the one from the O’Neil/Adams and Englehart/Rogers stories -- that truly made me the huge Bat-Fan that I am today. These stories also shaped my idea of what Batman “IS.”

Now on to today’s Bat-Review….

BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES was originally published in 1999 and includes several stories from that decade. Another nice touch is that the book features several “classic” comic book covers from BATMAN, DETECTIVE, BATMAN FAMILY, among others. The introduction is by the great Denny O’Neil and is well worth reading.

Frankly, BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES mixed bag. The best stories found in this collection are: “There Is No Hope In Crime Alley” (retells Batman's origin and introduces Leslie Thompkins), “Vow From The Grave,” “Marriage: Impossible” (one of the earlier Man-Bat stories), and “Daughter of The Demon” (featuring Ra's Al Ghul and Talia).

There’s some crap in here as well, such as “Invader From Hell” in which Batgirl and Robin team up against the demonic ghost of Benedict Arnold! Batgirl is drawn quite hot however, so it’s not a total wash.

I should make note of the story “From Each Ending, A Beginning” which tells the story of what happened to the Earth-2 Batman and Catwoman. I remember buying and reading that particular comic book in the late 70s and was a bit confused by the whole multiple Earths deal DC had going back then.

If I had to assign a grade to BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES, I’d have to give it a C+. It’s missing “Secret of the Waiting Graves,” arguably the best O’Neil/Adams collaboration and one of the top Batman stories in history. Also, no 70s compilation is complete without at least one story by Englehart -- and one isn‘t included.

While I give BATMAN IN THE SEVENTIES only an above average mark, I’d recommend it to Bat-Fans, especially those who are new to the character or those who missed that era of The Batman.

And here’s hoping that THE BATMAN CHRONICLES will continue as planned and eventually give us all of the great 70s Bat-Stories in one book.

Bill Ramey, AKA "Jett," is the founder and editor in chief of
BATMAN ON FILM, BATMAN IN COMICS, and ON-FILM.NET.

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