First Published: August 2006
Contents: Batman #164 (June 1964) to #174 (September 1965), Batman stories from Detective Comics #327 (May 1964) to #342 (August 1965)
Key Creator Credits: John Broome, Carmine Infantino, Gardner Fox, Sheldon Moldoff, Bob Kane, France Herron, Bill Finger, Murphy Anderson
Key First Appearances: Aunt Harriet Cooper, Outsider (heard but not seen in several issues. His first actual appearance will occur in Detective Comics #356, collected in Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2), Mystery Analysts of Gotham City
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 2
Overview: Welcome to the Silver Age of Batman comics. These issues are considered to be the point where Batman and Robin crossed over from the Golden Age adventures to the Silver Age. This is notably shown by the change to Batman’s costume, with the yellow oval added to the chest behind the bat emblem.
While most of these stories are one-and-done, we do see the seeds being planted for monthly continuity in the books. The Mystery Analysts of Gotham City are introduced, a team of detectives and novelists that assist Batman with some cases. The Outsider’s name starts coming up as a mysterious villain pulling the strings of many cases for the Dark Knight. As always, the familiar faces of Batman’s rogues gallery, such as the Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler, make multiple appearances in this volume. Friends of Batman show up, like the Elongated Man and Zatanna, for team-ups that would soon become the norm in the pages of The Brave and The Bold.
Finally, for those fans of the 1966 television series, you may be surprised to learn that Harriet Cooper was a character in the comics before she was introduced on the show. Dick Grayson’s aunt moved in to stately Wayne Manor in Detective Comics #328 following the death of Alfred Pennyworth. (No worries, faithful reader! We will see the return of Alfred in the next volume!) Much like the show, Bruce and Dick must often develop wild excuses to get away from Aunt Harriet to respond to the call of the Bat-Signal!
Why should these stories be Showcased?: Batman is an interesting character. Much like Superman, the character changes to more closely reflect the era around him. The 1940s gave us a detective and the 1950s gave us a sci-fi super hero. With this volume, we see Batman start to become the celebrity of Gotham City, bordering on pop culture icon. This is a night and day difference from the Batman we have seen for the last 30 years in comics and film. If you are OK with Batman cracking jokes and smiling, then pick up this collection. If you want the dark and grim detective, hold off for volumes 4 and 5 down the road.
Footnotes: During this era, Bob Kane is credited for the art in several issues in this era. However, Kane often employed “ghost” artists, such as Sheldon Moldoff and Dick Sprang, to draw pages in the style of Kane.
The Robin story from Detective Comics #342 was also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.
If you like this volume, try: Batman: Earth One by Geoff Johns and Gary Frank. Yes, this gives us a version of the “dark detective”, but it also gives the reader an easy introduction to Batman based in a more current era. Bruce Wayne still tragically loses his parents in Crime Alley, but he is then raised by Alfred Pennyworth, who has a Special Forces background to better protect young Bruce. We see a Batman that physically struggles to fight thugs or give chase while wearing a heavy costume complete with cape. Batman faces down a crime organization led by the Penguin, who is more a ruthless businessman and less a waddling bird-man. This is a great way to introduce Batman to a new reader without the 75 years of continuity baggage behind him.