Contents: Batman #202 (June 1968) to #215 (September 1969); Batman stories from Detective Comics #376 (June 1968) to #390 (August 1969)
Key Creator Credits: Frank Robbins, Gardner Fox, Irv Novick, Bob Brown, and others
Story Continues From: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 3
Story Continues In: Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 5
Overview: The Batmobile is fueled, the Batcopter is set, and the Batcycle is ready to race. Pick your Bat-vehicle of choice, because we got a new collection of adventures featuring Batman, Robin, and Batgirl to talk about. This is Showcase Presents Batman Vol. 4.
As quickly as Batmania took over the country in the mid-1960s, it faded away even quicker with the demise of the Batman TV series. While ABC was able to find other shows to fill the programming schedule, it feels like the DC Comics took a step back without the show to leverage. The colorfully costumed villains are used less frequently, replaced by stories requiring Batman to showcase his detective skills against common gangsters and other ordinary criminals.
The bulk of this volume is written by Frank Robbins, with art duties shared by Irv Novick and Bob Brown, and an occasional cover from Neal Adams. While I am on the record of not being a fan of Robbins’ work later in his career, his stories here are quite serviceable for that era. There wasn’t the demand for multi-issue epic stories. These are one-and-done issues, and everything resets with the next issue. These are predominantly Batman and Robin stories, but some team-ups with Batgirl are scattered in here too.
Why should these stories be Showcased?: I know that it’s an unwritten rule on the Internet that we should not speak (or write) ill of the Batman. But I was really disappointed in this collection. I really felt like the series turned the corner with Vol. 3, as we start getting Batman’s most familiar foes month after month, and we had the addition of Batgirl to the family. But the stories in this collection just feel like a let-down in comparison. There are no significant introductions of new characters during this time. Many of the stories seem to be reinterpretations of stories seen in the prior volumes. For the Batman completist, I understand the need to have this volume on your bookshelf. For the casual fan, I would say go back and get Vol. 3, or look for Volumes 5 and 6 when we get Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, and Jim Aparo more involved with Batman.
Footnotes: Batman #203 and #208 are reprint issues. The covers are included in this collection.
Batman #214 and the lead story from Detective Comics #385 were also reprinted in Showcase Presents Batgirl Vol. 1.
Batman #213 and Detective Comics #386 are also reprinted in Showcase Presents Robin the Boy Wonder Vol. 1.
If you like this volume, try: The Batman Adventures series which started in 1992 in support of the then-new animated show on FOX. As we are all well aware, Batman: The Animated Series is considered to be one of the greatest interpretations of the Batman Universe ever. The show gave us Harley Quinn and cemented in this writer’s head that Kevin Conroy is the voice of Batman. What often got overlooked or dismissed as a kids comic was The Batman Adventures comic series. This is an outstanding series and still remains my favorite run of Batman in the 1990s. The talent that worked on this book read like a Who’s Who of great creators – Kelley Puckett, Ty Templeton, Rick Burchett, Mike Parobeck, and much more. They took the concepts introduced in the series and expanded on them month after month. DC has started a new line of trade paperbacks to reprint this run, as many of these issues are hard to find – see The Batman Adventures #12. If you are a fan of the show, you need to read this series!