Friday, April 18

The Beginning of the Modern Titanomachy

Exactly one year ago I commemorated “The Birth of the Modern Mythology” on or about 18 April 1938 [LINK]. I based that date for the release of Action Comics #1 (June 1938) upon a flurry of other websites' and bloggers' celebrations that appeared then although, as I noted, my customary “go to” source for such historical data for DC Comics – Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics – cites 3 May as the “Approx. On Sale Date” for that epochal event [LINK]. Since “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” (Ralph Waldon Emerson via my 9th-grade Algebra teacher Mr. Kemper), this year I am going with Mike's Amazing World for the 75th anniversary of the second most important event in comics history, the appearance on newsstands of Detective Comics #27 (May 1939) [LINK] even though the “flurry of other websites' and bloggers' celebrations” appeared a couple of weeks ago, 'round about 30 March, e.g., at Bleeding Cool [LINK]. That latter posting does give the rationale for the earlier date, basing it upon an official catalogue of copyright entries, and I suspect the mid-April 1938 date for Action Comics #1 comes from a similar source. Bearing in mind what I said last year regarding the haphazard nature of newsstand distribution during the early years of comics publication, however – and based on my virtually nonexistent knowledge of how these things actually work – I imagine the earlier date is when a just-printed, hot-off-the-presses magazine would have been submitted to the copyright authorities and was just entering the distribution chain, which back then would take weeks to ripple copies out across the country. More than likely, however, by two to three weeks later – 18 April 1939 – most outlets would probably have gotten their copies, and grubby little fingers everywhere could be scrounging up dimes to find out about “The Amazing and Unique Adventures of The Batman!” The short story that they would find therein, Bill Finger's and Bob Kane's “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate,” was a barely-disguised rip-off from an adventure of the pulp juggernaut The Shadow of a couple of years before, November 1936's Partners in Peril [LINK], and frankly gave little hint of the greatness that would eventually come – but it's been reprinted many, many times and can be most easily read (for free) via Comixology [LINK]. There was little indication that as the Olympians overthrew the Titans of old, Batman would one day outstrip the previous year's Superman in popularity, although not (I would argue) in historical significance.

Although lacking a high-profile motion-picture release coinciding with the anniversary year like Man of Steel did last year for Superman, Warner Brothers/DC Comics are doing plenty to mark Batman's “birthday,” from a special commemorative poster [at left] to Bruce Timm's wonderful homage to another of the earliest stories in a gothic-noir black-and-white animated short released just last week [see below] – as well as a very good “expandaptation” by Brad Meltzer and Bryan Hitch of “The Case of the Chemical Syndicate” as part of the mega-sized 27th issue of the “New 52” renumbered series of Detective Comics that launched just a couple years ago [LINK]. And, of course, news that Man of Steel 2 will be a “Batman vs. Superman” movie when it finally appears year after next threatens to overshadow the fact that it is indeed a sequel to Man of Steel and not properly speaking a reboot of The Dark Knight trilogy – but the intimated conflict does reflect, despite the long-standing friendship of the "World's Finest" team in the comics, modern readers' sensibilities, for better or worse. Being the bedrock of DC Comics monthly output – between a third and a half of all their comics produced each month are part of the “Bat'verse” of related titles, with Batman itself consistently ranking at or very near the top of the monthly sales charts while the "Super'verse" as a whole, a mere handful of titles, enjoys a mere fraction of the sales – the Dark Knight would seem well poised to celebrate his centennial a generation hence with continued dominance.

Cheers! … and Thanks for reading!

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