I’ve often said that I miss the comics covers of old. Those covers were designed, unlike many of the ones being produced today which are merely mini-posters spotlighting the titular character without giving any indication of the story contained inside, to draw readers in and make them anxious about actually reading the stories contained therein. Of course, this was also a time when comic books could be found all over the place, from newsstands to the local drug store, as opposed to only in specialty comic-book shops, and they were largely focused on catching the eye of someone just passing by the comics rack instead of depending pretty solely on regular readers who are willing to go every Wednesday to get their weekly fix, but that’s a discussion for another time, I suppose. Anyway, “Covering Comics” is going to be a probably irregular series of posts where I take a look at various covers from the past, highlighting some of my personal favorites, or other covers of note for one reason or another.
So last time we looked at the Comics series The Brave and the Bold focusing on the early issues before it became pretty exclusively a Batman team-up book. This time, we’ll look at some of the great covers from the later issues.
First, however, I feel like a word of explanation is due. Back in the day when these were written, the type of close continuity that we see largely in today’s comics, where everything has to fit together and all of the stories are tightly controlled on the editorial side so that they all form one cohesive “DC Universe” just wasn’t as much of a concern. This was also the time of the multiverse (a concept recently reintroduced in the comics) which consisted of different “worlds” where these adventures took place.
Thus, you had Earth One, which was where most of the “modern” stories occurred. Earth Two was where the DC heroes that had been active during WW2 resided. Earth 3 featured an alternative world where the bad guys were the “heroes”. Earth S (for “Shazam”) was where the original Captain Marvel and his cohorts had their adventures. And so on and so on…
And then there was “Earth B”.
Earth B was a very strange place. Basically it was sort of a catch-all concept where stories that really just couldn’t be fit into any continuity were said to have taken place.
The name ‘Earth B” seems to have come from a letter column written by editor and DC Answer Man Bob Rozakis in response to the question of just how certain team-ups, such as the ones between Batman and Sgt. Rock could have taken place when the Batman depicted seemed to be the one in current Earth One continuity, but Sgt. Rock was active during World War 2.
As far as why Rozakis chose the name Earth B in particular, well, that seems to be a matter of debate. Of course, some theorize that it could be “Earth Brave and Bold”. Others say it was likely named after writer Bob Haney, who was the writer on most of these stories and simply seemed to operate under the theory of “Why let something like continuity get in the way of a good story?”
In my mind, that’s actually a really good question, and it’s a shame that there’s not more of an outlet for that kind of an idea today.
Okay, I’m not going to do a lot of commentary on these covers today, preferring to let the speak for themselves, which they do quite eloquently. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be completely silent, either, because let’s face it, that’s just not in my nature. Still, I’m going to try to keep the wordsmithing to a minimum.
Okay, let’s start with issue #67 there had been Batman team-up stories befor in the series, but this was really the first of the truly Batman and … dedicated stories:
BTW, I will point out one iconic feature of the cover of DC books at the time: the black and white checkerboard across the top, as seen on this cover from #69
Bats teaming up with a house? Not completely unthinkable when that house is The House of Mystery.
Sometimes DC wanted there to be some surprise as to who the co-star was:
I’ve noted in the past that 100th issues were considered very special, and this was true for B&B as well…
I mentioned above that being on Earth-B allowed for unusual team-ups such as those between Batman and Sgt. Rock. Here’s the cover for one of those:
At one point, DC experimented with 100 page “Super Spectacular” issues. I personally loved these issues, not only because they were a great bargain, but also because they were an opportunity to see other heroes and read stories from the past that were much harder to actually read in those days before there were all kinds of trade paperbacks reprinting material and before the internet made these stories more readily available. Here’s one example:
This is another example of one of those covers that made the reader wonder what could be going on. Why would The Joker be getting his own logo cover featured with those of the heroes?
Much like the 100 page issues mentioned above, DC also from time to time experimented with “Giant” issues of series which would come out at seemingly variable times and without any warning. (Of course, this was again at a time before the internet meant that anyone interested would know what was coming up months ahead of time)
Issue #146 featured “An untold tale from World War Two”. So how does Batman fit in? Good question:
Here’s another one of those “question mark” covers, directly challenging the reader to figure out who the guest star was:
(By the way, you may notice that the DC logo on this cover looks a bit different. That Whitman logo indicates that this issue was most likely sold in places like Wal-Mart or some other store as opposed to on the regular news stand, usually as part of a grab bag which would have three or more different comics for a dollar or something like that.)
What could possibly cause Batman to team up with his arch-enemy Ras Al-Ghul? Obviously that the question this cover wanted you to pick up the issue to find the answer to:
Again, obviously this next cover is one of those Earth-B “anytime/anywhere” stories. Hey, why not?
Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever read this story from issue #175, but this cover really makes me want to. And that’s just the kind of effect that this whole series of columns is meant to celebrate:
Issue #179 reminds us that time-travel doesn’t just mean journeys to the past:
And once again we get a cover featuring a villain as the co-star. What’s up with that?
And does this one follow that concept too, or could this be an Earth 2 story, where Batman was actually married to Catwoman?