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little kon-el

Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 740
Subj: From the Fantastic Four Board...What if Kirby was brought into DC Comics earlier (Batman-Related)
Posted: Fri Oct 24, 2008 at 10:50:53 pm EDT (Viewed 194 times)

From "Batman: The Kirby Years"

The debut of the Flash in Showcase brought about a fundamental change in the way DC worked. Julie brought in Kane, Anderson, Carmine, and Kirby into the fold, but only Kirby was left without a title to work with.

By 1964, sales on Batman titles had fallen drastically. Bob Kane noted that, as a result, DC was "planning to kill Batman off altogether."[32]

In response to this, Schwartz assigned Jack Kirby to the Batman titles. In the late 1950s Batman stories gradually become more science fiction-oriented, an attempt at mimicking the success of other DC characters that had dabbled in the genre. New characters such as Batwoman, Ace the Bat-Hound, and Bat-Mite were introduced. Batman's adventures often involved odd transformations or bizarre space aliens. Kirby thought those stories were extraordinary, but lacked the heart that comes from both living on the street and understanding the fantastic in the world.

In order to bring Batman to solid ground, Kirby presided over drastic changes, beginning with 1964's Detective Comics #327 (May 1964), which was cover-billed as the "New Look". The Batmobile was redesigned, and Batman's costume was modified to incorporate a yellow ellipse behind the bat-insignia (to signify the "moon"). The space aliens and characters of the 1950s such as Batwoman, Robin, The Batmen of Many Nations, and Bat-girl all returned to the forefront of the comic, as Batman became enamored with beating the Russians in the space-race. Batman's butler Alfred was killed off, and replaced with Major Tom Ross, who became the military liason to the Batmen, mankind's first terrestrial guard in space.

The Batmen, as the new title was being called, was made up of Batman, Batwoman, Robin, and their pilot, Ace Morgan, and Rocky Davis (from Kirby's previous strip, the Challengers of the Unknown). This new Bat-family solved mysteries while trying to beat back space aliens and communists who were trying to stop America's voyages into space.

When investors came to find a property to adapt to a TV show, they attempted to adapt Batman's Campy and Space-like nature, but they failed in capturing the dynamic Kirby tone of the work and instead went with "Who's Afraid of Diana Prince." It would take a few more years, and Sid and Marty Croft, to develop the Batmen into a true science fiction television series.

The debut of the Batman television series in 1967 had a profound influence on the character. The success of the series increased sales throughout the comic book industry, and Batman reached a circulation of close to 900,000 copies. Elements such as a newer Batgirl, the return of Alfred and Bruce Lee as the new Robin were all brought into the comic book.

Although both the comics and TV show were successful for a time, the approach eventually hit its peak in 1969 when David Bowie wrote the Batmen-inspired songs "Space Oddity" (with the famous line "Ground Control to Major Tom" based on the space story "Tragedy in Space" where Major Tom left to float alone in space), "Ashes to Ashes", and "Spaceboy." In the aftermath, the Batman changed its tone again as Kirby began experimenting with more of a psychedelic astronaut Batmen series where Batmen became embroiled in an age-old battles with the Celestials, Starman (a blue-tinged reinvention of the Joker that was patterned after David Bowie), the evil Dr. Darksied and the Deviants, and the planet-devouring Galactus.

The Batmen became more and more a book about the nature of man, as these intrepid heroes discovered further and the further into the origins of man. Kirby's Batmen series got away from the clown princes and Dick Tracy-like antagonists, and concentrated more about vast conspiracies and ancient evils that were ready to erupt and stop man from seeing space. We learned in the 1970s story, "The Origin of the Batmen" that his parents were killed by agents of the Dr. Darksied and the Deviants, a despotic villain from Latvaria, who knew that his parents were investing in human exploration into space. We were also introduced to the "Uni-Mind", a vast mental gestalt that was formed when the Batmen joined hands and summoned the Uni-Mind.

It wouldn't be until the mid-80s when we would get a more focused Batman title written and drawn by Frank Miller. In his work, "The Dark Knight Returns", we get a haunted Batman who could not get over the "Challenger Explosion" where his friends and family were killed. He eventually pulls himself back together and forms a new team to help "pull mankind back into the stars."

This reinvention would be picked up by Chris Carter and made into a new tv show where Bruce Wayne (David Ducuvny) and Kathy Kane (Gillian Anderson) brought more readers to DC Comics in the early 90s with the Batmen Files...

- l.k.

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